Tag Archives: jewelry maker

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!


Touching Base from Touchstone


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!


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.


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!


Head above the water

This weekend is the first one I have had free — relatively speaking — since mid-May. It is amazing to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you have been in it for so long you forget what daylight is like. I am 2 objects away from done on the book, I’ve got most of my teacher proposals and paperwork in the can for 2013, and all of my Cool Tools & Hip Tips columns for this year and most of next year have been either written, filed or settled on. Can somebody say, “Whew?”

I haven’t seen my friends or family except for absolute dire necessities for almost 9 months. No dance classes, no workshops, no gym, no vacation, no fun, no nothing but work for 24/7. Boy am I tired! But now that there is light streaming into the tunnel, I can finally reflect on what I have finished this year, and all I can say is I have no clue how I managed to get it all done.

So here is the scoop on the fruits of all this labor: The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide: Tools and Essential Techniques book is in the design/photography/editing phase and is scheduled to be out around this time next year. I will be filming my 6th Metalsmith Essentials DVD: Spirals, Tubes and Serpentine Forms in late April, and I am already scheduled to teach at workshops in Tucson, Arizona in February, and Pennsylvania in April and probably August. My Cool Tools & Hip Tips columns promise to get you involved creating content too in 2013, so stand by.

I will post more here as I know more, and thanks for hanging in there with me.

PS: You know, there is something to be said for a long weekend of bad junk food and crappy, tacky 1960s horror movies after a long, long, long hard period of seemingly endless work…

Micro-torch Fired Enamels on Copper?

I was lucky yesterday. I had an open space to play for a while in the studio without a crushing deadline, so I decided to experiment with some torch fired enamels, using a new torch system I recently reviewed for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. I was blown away by the heat that little torch — The Mini Flam — could throw out after I soldered with it for a while, and I have a project due in a few issues that has to feature enamel in some way. So, in my normal hyper-efficient approach to life, I figured why not try the new torch on the enamel tests I have to create anyway before I can start the project? Makes sense to me.

These are the preliminary tests for hard clear Thompson’s enamel on 26g copper; some roll printed. I used Garnier liquid hairspray as a flux.

Normally, I torch fire using a city gas and oxygen fuel combo, which is about as hot as it gets — like surface of planet Venus hot. Plus, city gas is clean, which matters with enamel. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the propane/butane fuel mix of the Mini Flam. Well, so far, so good. I got four nice little hemispheres, and the enamel behaved somewhat predictably. I love the way copper oxides leach into the glass during regular torch firing with city gas, so I was happy to see little tinges of green and chocolate develop as it cooled, after using the micro torch. It got the metal very hot, very fast — a great thing with torch firing, because the sooner the glass gets past the orange peel stage, the better. And, I was able to hold the copper at angry orange for a minute or two, which is essential to melt and spread the enamel grains and give the richest color.
I am going to try the bench torch version of the Mini Flam torch now, to see what the oxygen boost and tiny torch tip will do. And some silver, too. And thicker metal and larger forms. This is kind of exciting, because the owner of the company told me he hadn’t heard of anyone trying to use it with enamels before. I love being a pioneer. As I get some more samples, I’ll post them here, so stay tuned!

Todays tip: When you are sifting enamel onto a piece, keep at least 4 inches between the work and the mesh sifter. That will allow the grains of enamel to spread apart as they fall on to the piece. You will get a much more even surface that way.