Author Archives: Helen Driggs

About Helen Driggs

Metalsmith, Teaching Artist, Writer, Maker of things. Former Senior Editor of Lapidary Jewelry Artist Magazine

News You Can Use!

Hi all! It’s been a busy summer and I have a bunch of updates…

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First, and most exciting, my new book goes to press this week!!! TA DA!!!!!
That’s a photo of it at left, and you can pre-order it here: Metal Jewelry Workshop on Amazon.com, or if you are more patient, find it at most brick-and-mortar booksellers, in large chain craft stores and at many other book vendors in late fall when it arrives from the printer.
I am really very happy with this book and it was a huge pleasure to work with the amazing editorial and design teams at Fox Chapel Publishing.

 

Next, and just as exciting : BeadFest Philadelphia is just around the corner and I will be teaching a load of new classes from August 15 – 19 at the Oaks Expo Center. We are packed, printed, prepared and my little store is fully loaded with tools, media, supplies and materials you’ll need for a week or more of jewelry making fun. Check into my classes here, and read about the annual BeadFest Event here.

Shortly after BeadFest, I will be jetting over to Tucson, Arizona for a stint at the JOGS Summer Restock Show  between August 31 – Sept. 3, 2016. We are currently solidifying the actual class schedule, but I intend to be there teaching some fun new fashion-forward object-making classes for 4 sunny days. JOGS is a great place to stock up on supplies before the busy holiday crush, and the fall show is much less frenetic than the winter one. If you’ll be there, swing by, take a class or just say hi!

I’ve also been contracted to teach several workshops for 2019, and I am currently developing an entire slate of new classes for next year. I also continue to write Cool Tools & Hip Tips for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, and keep an eye open for my At the Bench column in every issue of the MJSA Journal – PS: You can get a free 4-month trial subscription here, so sign up today!

Other than that, the garden is calling, every flat surface in the studio is covered with student kits, partially finished demo pieces, UFOs (unfinished objects) and workshop proposal folders. In other words, life is normal, lol! Have a great day, and I will see you next time!

 

 

 

 

 

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A dispatch from jewelry making frontier

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a bit, but I have good news: the manuscript for my second book has been delivered (on time!) and all of the object step-outs for the photography plus the final jewelry objects are completed. Woot-Woot, Ra-Ra, Ya-Hoo!

I am so very happy with this book, and it was a total pleasure to write it. Photo sessions are tentatively scheduled for the beginning of April, and as soon as there are some PR images to share, I will post them here. Some preliminary information that I can share without revealing any state secrets is this: Metal Jewelry Workshop will be published by Fox Chapel and released in the Fall of 2018. The book should be on sale in large chain craft and hobby stores and available from traditional booksellers soon after that. There should be pre-sale information soon from major online sellers and I’m happy it will be out just in time for holiday shopping. Best of all, I can finally, finally change that old news picture of my first book that’s been sitting over there on the right sidebar of this blog for almost 5 years, lol!

In other news, I thought I might be teaching in the next week or so at Innovative Bead Expo in Oaks, Pa. but alas, I had no advance sign-ups. I decided I should be making some new work for myself that is non-book, non-curriculum and non-workshop for a change and cancelled those classes, because, sometimes, you just need to make something for yourself. No guilt here at all. You see I know that very soon, those never-ending garden tasks will come, jewelry workshop season will swing into high gear, I’ll need to get ready for Fall Adult School courses and life will get too, too crazy again so I am grabbing this time slot while it’s there.

Before I go any further, it’s way past time for me to send some shout outs I missed in the flurry of life over the past weeks: thank you, Alison Lee of Craftcast for an incredibly fun experience creating my Color on Metal with Cold Connections Webinar just before I went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows to teach five workshops, including a live webcast from JOGS Show Tucson that was recorded for Jewelry Tools. It was great to see everyone I caught up with there, make future plans for some new classes and most of all to get out of the freezing weather for several days. Again, Thank yous go to Alec and Debbie at JT.com and to Vitaliy and Yelena plus the whole JOGS crew for making it happen every Tucson.

I’ll share some upcoming workshop news soon, so thanks for reading, try to stay warm for a few weeks more, make some cool work, and don’t forget to check my upcoming class schedule for breaking news on the workshop front. Ciao!

 

 

 


Winter means Tucson and more!

In the feast-or-famine rhythm of my life, I am happy to report that feast season has entered the building.

To a teaching artist, the time between late September and end of January equals a constant stream of work. Instead of getting that quiet transition into early winter, a peaceful holiday with maybe some snow, cocoa, good food and darkening days, it’s just BAM, BAM BAM! For the past few weeks life has been proposals, photos, class descriptions, kit packing, tool repair, orders, handouts, meetings and early writing deadlines 24/7. This is the time the proverbial doo-doo hits the fan, and with the arrival of Tucson I’ve got a severe case of non-stop run, run, run.

Believe it or not, I actually thrive in that kind of situation, unlike most people. That old saying, “If you want something done right, give it to a busy person” is my Modus Operandi. So, some quick news in bullet form:

• If you will be in Tucson, come check out my in-person classes at the JOGS Show between Jan. 28 and Jan. 31., I’d be happy to have you in class!
• If you will not be in Tucson, but would still like to take my class there, you can sign up for a live stream version of my Beachcomber’s Bonanza class on Jan. 28!
• You can also take a different online class before Tucson, if you check out my Color on Metal with Cold Connections webcast with Alison Lee and CraftCast on Jan. 27!
• Join GemCrowd – the new and exciting B2B community that is currently under development and soon to launch. I am working with them now, and this community will be geared specifically to lovers of Gems, Jewelry and Minerals. It’s free to sign up, and you can follow me via GemCrowd on Instagram and Facebook, too!

And now, some pictures of my upcoming live classes for 2018 just to get your heart rate elevated … enjoy, have fun, and I will see you in the desert.

 

 

 

 


Busy? Yes, busy…

Hi all! I have been missing for a month (almost 2!?!) due to a very full teaching schedule and lots of work – which I am NOT complaining about! I have successfully pitched a load of new spring classes for my local evening gig, at the Innovative Bead Expo in April, and Tucson, of course. I will also be doing a live webcast on January 28, 2018 for CraftCast and also live from the JewelryTools.com classrooms at the JOGSShow in Tucson just a few days later. It’s been a busy but delightful fall full of creating demo objects, class proposals, handout design and creation and all the other fun stuff that goes with being a jewelry instructor and having a full, rich and rewarding life. If you are interested in whats on deck, my current teaching schedule is posted here.

So sorry, but this post is a quick hit, because I am on deadline for my latest At the Bench column for the MJSA Journal, and one other secret: I am writing my second book as we speak. It is scheduled for a Fall 2018 release, will be a jewelry making book, and I am really thrilled with it so far. I took a break to blog because I reached the halfway point late yesterday, and now the fun begins: creation of the jewelry objects and project pieces, WHOO HOO! Watch my Instagram feed for photo updates…

So, hang in everybody, I hope you are all keeping sane, resisting lunacy, keeping busy and having fun making work. I know I am. I’ll try harder to post more often, so see you sooner next time… I hope!


2017 Denver Gem & Mineral Showcase report

I was so lucky to have a chance to cover the Denver Shows in conjunction with a wonderful writing assignment I have been engaged in for the JOGS International Gem & Jewelry Shows. It was a busy, fantastic weekend with the team — covering 8 out of 11 shows over 4 days — culminating in a red-eye flight back east. For me, this Denver Showcase was a whirlwind trip, but I somehow still managed to hunt down and catch up with my friends to collect the many hugs that I’ve been missing out on for a few years since I last attended the shows in Colorado. So first, shout-outs to my Denver peeps!

Back to business now. I’ll post links to my coverage for JOGS as soon as I can, but here are some quick highlights for those of you formulating your “must-haves” list for the upcoming Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows…

New materials to keep an eye on

Denver usually functions as an “early warning” show for the next big thing coming to market. Many dealers buy early in Quartzite and bring those finds to Tucson, but the Denver Show is the place for the post-Tucson discoveries that catch hold and boom in the following winter. Denver’s a great place for rock hounds and lovers of stone of any type to gather, gossip and make predictions plus the fall weather is nearly always perfect. After attending this Showcase, I can say one thing for certain: Blue is the 2018 color to watch! Here are some materials from Denver that I’m most jazzed about, all coming soon to jewelry pieces and mineral collections near you…

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Aquaprase cabs available from Village Silversmith

Aquaprase
This gorgeous, natural, new blue-green chalcedony was discovered in Africa in 2014 and ranges from gemmy-clear to translucent blue green to a more matrixy-mixed white with earth tones combined with baby-blue. The GIA report can be found here, and I shot these stones at the Denver Coliseum Show with a little lighting help from my buddy John Bajoras from Village Silversmith who cut these cabs and was selling there. You can also see and buy his work at gem shows across the US.

 

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Dumortierite on quartz from Brazil.

Dumortierite on Quartz
Pure Dumortierite is rarely found, and most of it is dense and of a dark blue color. Dumortierite is also found as inclusions, splotches or in zones of quartz. Both light and dark blue occurs, and this new material from Brazil is an appealing pale baby blue forming strips, stripes and segments on clear to nearly-clear crystals. The stones are fascinating to look at under magnification, and the more rare, clean and clear crystals with blue Dumortierite encased within are always snapped up first.

 

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Burtis Blue Turquoise by Clinton Cross.

Burtis Blue Turquoise
Miner Clinton Cross has collected a gorgeous, natural, untreated turquoise from Cripple Creek, CO in colors ranging from pale blue to greenish. Named Burtis Blue, this stone has been submitted and certified as 100% natural and untreated by Stone Group Laboratories and is from the North Star mine. Clinton will also be debuting a new Malachite-Chrysocolla-Cuprite find from Australia at the JOGS Show Tucson in 2018.

 

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Colla Wood from Turkey, courtesy John Heusler, G.G.

Colla Wood
This Turkish material was discovered in 2012. It is wood that has fractured during fossil formation, and water containing copper-rich minerals has created beautiful deposits of intense blue azurite, deep green malachite and blue-to blue-green chrysocolla in the fractures. Some sections opalize and the stone surface will change both in the intensity of color and of brightness with some areas of chatoyance. My good friend Gemologist John Heusler, owner of Slabs To Cabs had an amazing chunk of Colla wood displaying every one of these qualities at once, and this particular hunk of rock was probably the most amazing thing I saw at the Coliseum Show.

Other fun from Denver

My focus this trip was hunting for new minerals and gems, but that didn’t stop me from admiring (and acquiring) other treasure, like, tools, stones, slabs, beads, and gifts. At a big collective of shows like Denver, well, you just can’t help yourself. I restocked drills for my student Lapidary Kits at Lasco Diamond, found some great stone and shell cabs for my Wire Jewelry Making class, bought a few presents for my sister, plus some great old slabs for myself. I am ready for my fall teaching schedule now, and eager to start.

Stay tuned for updates, and I’ll just park these other Denver shots here… Enjoy!

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Touching Base from Touchstone

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Touchstone Center for Crafts is located in Farmington, Pa.

Recently I was invited to be a presenter at the Touchstone Center for Crafts for an awesome annual event called The Jim Campbell Hammer-In and Alchemists Picnic. Other presenters included the amazing Eric Burris, Rebecca Strzelec and Laurie Brown on the jewelry track and Caitlin Morris, Bob Rupert and Jerry Veneziano on the blacksmithing track. It was a full, rich, rewarding day and the demos were fun, informative and well-worth attending. I had never been to Touchstone, so when organizer Wayne Werner invited me to present, I jumped at the opportunity.

Touchstone Center for Crafts runs a full schedule of workshops, classes and year-round activities, the metals studio is fully equipped, and the setting could not be more serene and peaceful. Forget your cell and computer, abandon the endless beeps, chirps and never-ending electronic intrusions of daily life and just focus on making work — my idea of heaven on earth. Centrally located for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, DC, Maryland and upstate New York or Ohio residents, it’s worth the drive out the PA Turnpike to attend a class there. And do not miss the food either, because they really, really feed you well and make every effort to meet any dietary restriction or preference!

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The Blacksmith shop is one of the best I have ever been to — here are some of many twisted iron samples.

Because I have been screaming busy for several months preparing some grant applications, doing digital housekeeping, creating new work and curriculum work and doing lots of freelance writing and teaching, it was great to just get away from my computer for a weekend, eat food prepared by a talented cook, see other members of the metals tribe, listen to nature and chill out. I did not realize how much I sorely needed a break until after Saturday’s lunch, when my full stomach and tired hit me like a ton of bricks…

Next year, I am planning on attending the Picnic for the fun of it. Or, maybe teaching a workshop there leading into it, or following after. Either way, I intend to be there or be square in 2018.

My favorite part of the weekend was the mokume gane demo by talented Eric Burris (he has workshop openings, I am totally going) who has invented an affordable, ingenious small-scale mokume gane kit that works with an acetylene/air torch in your average home studio. Can somebody say awesome? What a brilliant idea, and what an amazing artist.

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Eric’s amazing setup allows you to create mokume gane in the average home studio.

The metals studio is fully equipped with benches, torches and flex shafts, and situated on the hill down from the blacksmith shop. There is also a secret mosaic studio, spring houses, a kitchen and flower garden, a hot glass studio, the main hall and gallery, dorms and camping facilities, so you can go rough or not. There are bonfires and sand casting at night, plus myriad other ways for metalheads to entertain themselves.

Basically, I can’t recommend Touchstone and the Alchemist Picnic enough. If you live in the region, you owe it to yourself to attend a workshop there, visit the center, or at least join.

So, check out my photos and links, and if you are in the Mid-Atlantic region, make it a point to go to the 2018 Alchemist Picnic next year — I’ll be seeing you there!

 


Keep Making Work

It’s been a rough couple of months for everybody I know. The only thing keeping me sane these days is the commitment I have made to myself to keep working, keep making art, keep writing, and do my best to keep my personal house in order. Being jobless has been difficult for me because I love to work, but I’m hanging in, getting leads here and there, and taking a Teacher certification course with an eye on becoming an elementary school substitute for awhile — just to keep bread on the table, insurance on the docket, and a roof overhead. One thing is certain: I’ve discovered I still struggle with Math as much now as I did when I was younger, so it hasn’t been easy, but it is getting better. I actually search for math problems to solve now just to stay in practice.
After Tucson, it’s the Praxis Core Tests for me.

On the metals front, I have been experimenting with some cool new tools and techniques and have designed a group of fun new classes to teach this year. I am writing for the MJSA Journal now, with my first “At The Bench” feature running in the January 2017 issue, and I’ve contributed some tool content to http://www.wirejewelry.com for the educational section of their website, and will continue to do so all year. I’ve booked some gigs, pitched some classes, submitted a book idea and outline, and have managed to stay afloat so far, so life is good. I desperately hope that things turn for the better soon for me and for everyone, and that the Arts and Education are not hung out to dry by our new administration. I hope that we all find calm soon, as it seems the entire country and every person I know is still in a state of unrest and turmoil. We are all agitated and scared, which makes each day a real challenge, especially for the hypersensitive. Thank goodness for my jeweler’s saw — it is a calm port in the storm, and the place I go when I can’t bear the news any longer. I just map out and saw complex patterns and try to find the peace in my silent studio — to escape from the loathsome behavior, selfish greed, cruelty, paranoia and rage that is just everywhere now. Participating in the Women’s March helped, but I fear it did not turn any tides. I often lie awake at night terrorized by what may come. I know I am not alone in this.

We must continue to notice what is happening, watch out for each other, speak up for what we know is right, carry on, have hope and make work because we are artists and that’s our job. Artists are the sentinels of society and we can’t help but pay attention. Sometimes, it’s hard to do, and it’s difficult to be calm or kind in the face of an aggressor, or someone you believe has done something that takes our country the wrong way, but my friends, hang in there. When you don’t know what to do, pick up a hammer and hit some metal. Maybe it will help to fix something inside of you, or me, or us, or them, or everything and all of us. I just continue to saw, and I still continue to hope. I will remain kind, hold fast to my core values and go on. Because anything else is unthinkable.