Friday, December 25, 2009

Wonderful Christmas Gift!

My younger, creative twin wrote and illustrated the following political holiday cartoon for my Christmas gift. I absolutely love it and he has given me permission to share it with my blog visitors. I hope that you enjoy it.

'Santa was forced to ask the government for a bailout of the North Pole because...'

'He had to pay a $100.00 ticket after talking on a cell phone while flying over Philadelphia'

(Those not from the Philadelphia area need to know about Michael Vick to fully appreciate the above commentary)

'He was believed to have "played" with Tooth Fairy. After learning this, Mrs. Claus attacked him with a golf club, causing him to crash his slay (that's my son's spelling) as he fled, and she is now filing for a divorce.'

'Was sued by parents for giving out Zhu-Zhu pets that contained high traces of lead'
I think my creative, younger twin is one funny young man!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

All Right, That's Enough!

It's 8:00pm and I just came in from my 4th round of shoveling today (in addition to my kind neighbors who cleared my walk twice with their snowblowers). Please....enough already!!
Oh, all right. It is rather pretty, and we will most likely have a 'White Christmas' this year. I like the thought of that as long as the shoveling comes to an end.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Going to the Dogs

I recently started making brass dog tags. I've added texture to the edges by using chisels and center punches. I'll add the personal information (pooch name and telephone number) by hand stamping with my sets of steel alphabets and numbers.

I thought it would be nice to offer an accompanying handmade item and spent last night baking dog treats which I have named 'BOW WOW BISCUITS'. I made them with whole wheat flour, wheat germ, oats, corn meal, eggs and flavoring and cut them out with a dog bone shaped cookie cutter. The house smelled fabulous while these biscuits were baking!

We are a dogless household, so my one son and I were the taste testers. We are in agreement that 'BOW WOW BISCUITS' are pretty darn good. However, my son has warned me that he might tell people at school that I make him eat dog food. That little stinker!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home Show Preparation

I am busy preparing for my holiday home show this upcoming weekend.
Thinking that an all-jewelry show would be lacking dimension, I dragged out my trusty and lately-neglected sewing machine to quickly make some other items.
I found this second-hand Bernina machine a few years ago and it is a beauty that probably deserves to be in the hands of a more accomplished sewer.

I began sewing when I was in college, but should have learned when I was an 8th grader in middle school.
During the second half of 8th grade, all girls took cooking and sewing while the boys took wood and metal shop.
I didn't mind the cooking class, but took offense with being forced to take sewing.
I was 13 years old and aware that at my middle school, injustice took the form of of an A-line skirt.
Every year, the sewing teacher had the girls make an A-line skirt and a drawstring purse.
At the conclusion of the class, everyone was expected to wear their skirt to school.
I was definitely no fashionista, but after 3 years of witnessing the display of unflattering skirts with uneven hems, I was determined to not take part in this unfortunate tradition.
Also....a drawstring purse?
I had no need for a shaman's medicine bag.

I met with Mr. Stevens, my guidance counselor, and told him that I wanted to take wood shop instead of sewing.
Mr. Stevens was a very kind man, and his blank stare made me think that I had caught him by surprise.
He told me that I was expected to take sewing with all the other girls, and I believe he imagined that was the end of our discussion.

Poor Mr. Stevens.

His mistake was not answering my initial question with an emphatic "No!"
He said he would "look into the matter",
but what I chose to hear was,
"Please..... pester me until I will do anything to get you out of my office!"

Mr. Stevens did try hard to ignore my request.
He began to avoid me.
I remain convinced that he was actually in his office hiding from me some of those times that I knocked on his door, determined to continue my wood shop campaign.
I came to realize that there is power in numbers so I recruited my friends Betsy and Cheryl.
I don't know what their personal reasons were for wanting wood shop or, more likely, not wanting sewing,
but I know that whatever resolve Mr. Stevens might have had was eroding as he was now being confronted by three annoyingly determined 13 year old females.

So, I ended up making a knock-hockey board game, a set of shelves and a tic-tac-toe game and avoided the dreaded A-line skirt.
When I was teaching myself how to sew in college,
I came to appreciate that I probably would have learned something useful in that middle school sewing class.
Mr. Stevens might find it amusing that I do enjoy sewing,
but I now wish that I had also pestered him for the metal shop class as well.

Canvas aprons with yard sale photo
(gasp!!!...why would you sell your family photos at your yard sale!!!)
images transferred onto fabric.
I basted the images onto interface and then zig-zag stiched them onto the apron.

Assortment of fleece hats with trim.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Platter Possibilities

I recently found a small brass platter with a lovely etched pattern and paid the fabulous price of 50 cents. 

I thought the pattern had an abstract dream-like quality that would work nicely in some jewelry projects. 
I cut the rolled rim off with my shears and then began cutting out different sized discs. 
The discs shown above were sanded with a fine sanding block to finish the edges 
and to clean and brighten the surface.
The discs were then drilled top and bottom and domed in my dapping block. I like mixing metals, so the above earrings were made with sterling wire (that was balled) wrapped aventurine beads and niobium ear wires.

This pair used balled sterling wire with yellow Swarovski crystals and faceted carnelian beads and sterling ear wires. 
I like how the brass discs are not exactly the same but complement each other. 
I also like how I finally put my vintage floral frog to use and no flowers were involved.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fabulous Fall Color

Back out to the garden to appreciate the abundance of fall color. Maples and ash are reliably beautiful at this time of year, and are frequently planted for that reason. This Japanese maple in my front yard is spectacular for several weeks in October when the leaves range from deep orange to rich burgundy. The leaves also look fabulous as they lay on the Pachysandra bed and in the bird bath giving me the perfect excuse for not raking.

There are so many other plants that have wonderful fall color, and I am fortunate to have a few on our property. Above are the leaves of a Koelreuteria paniculata in the front yard. The yellows and oranges are so vibrant that the tree appears to glow, especially in the late afternoon sun.

At the corner of our back yard is a cluster of Sassafras albidum that are reliable fall color beauties.

Most years there is also a range of reds and oranges, but this year the Sassafras are awash in brilliant yellow.

A crabapple in the front yard that is covered in delicate white flowers in the spring is now covered with lemon-yellow fruit that the birds love.

Lysimachia, a somewhat invasive perennial, fills a corner of the front porch planting bed. I love how this plant looks from spring until the killing frost. The plants were covered with delicate yellow flowers in early summer, and in October, the leaves develop a lovely red/wine color.

While I greatly appreciate the abundance of flowers in the spring, my Japanese azaleas (Rhododendron japonicum) also have a wonderful blush of fall color.

I planted 5 blueberry bushes (Vaccinium corymbosum) with the hope of harvesting an abundance of berries. The birds always get all of the berries, so thank goodness the bushes have such beautifully vibrant fall color.

The oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) are some of my favorite plants in the garden. The summer flowers are followed by a deep purple leaf display helping to make this an all-season beauty.

Even the Hydrangea macrophylla gets a little showy at this time of year.

And at the back of my yard is a lovely tawny color. Too bad it's a dead boxwood. Little by little the boxwood that were inherited with the property are inexplicably dying off. I should get out the loppers, but maybe I'll play Martha Schwartz and paint them purple.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Story Behind the Piece

I like to make pieces that suggest a story, open for anyone's interpretation. Sometimes, there is an actual story of mine that I used for inspiration, as with this piece. The bird in this pendant is sterling with abalone inlay. In it's previous life it was a pin, but it was a broken pin. My mother found it during one of her thrift store outings (this thrifting thing is most certainly genetic) and passed it on to me.

I sometimes have to hold onto interesting materials until I am properly motivated, but I knew right away how to use this bird. It made me think of a day that my one son and I spent in Philadelphia with relatives visiting from Illinois. We spent part of the day in the historic area seeing the Liberty Bell (in spite of the alarm going off just after we got into the pavillion), the Betsy Ross House (in spite of the on-going debate over whether or not she actually lived in the designated house) and Independence Hall.

We also took advantage of a charming program, Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches, that Philadelphia started a few years ago. Large, semi-circular benches are scattered throughout the historic part of the city and each is hosted by a storyteller during the summer months to entertain visitors with unique stories about the history of Philadelphia and the Founding Fathers. The six of us walked by one empty bench and were coaxed (some might say badgered) by the storyteller to sit and hear his tale.

While I really enjoy history, I am not too interested in 'play-acting' history. I don't remember the particular story that we were told except that there were sound effects (wind, creaking door, thunder, bird call, etc...) that the six of us were expected to supply at appointed times. I think this could be fun for young children, but we had no young children in our group. Maybe I'm strange and unappreciative, but I have have an expectation that another adult will speak to me like an adult and I think I rolled my eyes when told that I was to supply the sound of a bird when signaled.

My family members were much more gracious than I was and did their sound effects with enthusiasm. When my turn came, I paused and said 'TWEET..........TWEET' probably with a little too much agression, and I was properly chastised by the other five in my group when we left the bench. Sorry, storytelling man............I know you were doing you job. This pendant is my penance for not play-acting well with others.

I cut a rectangle of brass for the base and textured the edges with an old chisel. Holes were drilled at the top to attach the chain and holes were drilled for riveting. I drilled three holes in the bird and riveted it to the base. The text 'balloon' was saw cut from a sheet of brass, stamped with TWEET....TWEET and also attached with rivets.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Transforming a Thrift Store Find

I recently found this pin at a thrift store and thought it could make a wonderful pendant. The brass already had an interesting patina, so all I had to do was remove the pin backing, file the back surface smooth and drill three holes for wire wrapping the chain and dangle connections. The chain, also recycled, is interrupted and embellished with wire wrapped beads. I thought that pale blue would coordinate nicely with the brass and used a combination of aventurine, aquamarine and green cats eye along with an occasional crystal for a bit of sparkle.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Copper is such a versatile material, especially for someone like me (with a somewhat limited studio and still-evolving level of skill). Patinas are easy to create. Balling wire (more on that later) is simple with a plumber's propane torch. And..........etching!!! Etching patterns onto metal inspires such a thrill of accomplishment. I was part of an afternoon workshop on etching and did the above swirl pattern following the instructor's direction. We first photocopied images onto a blue film. The images were then heat-transferred onto our pieces of copper using an iron and a hot plate. The transferred image from the film acts as a resist when the metal is then submerged into a solution of ferric chloride. The ferric chloride basically eats away any portion of the metal surface that has none of the resist film.

My swirl pattern turned out beautifully, but I did have trouble getting the image to transfer using the iron/hot plate. I think that this method reminded me of ironing clothes which I tend to do only when absolutely necessary. Getting my kids ready for school typically involves searching for those clothes with the minimal amount of wrinkles. Finding outfits that are coordinated is just a happy coincidence. So..........wanting to ditch the iron part of the process, I said that I had read (my incessant reading does sometimes yield valuable information, I think) about certain inks that are also resistants to ferric chloride. I came prepared with what I hoped was the proper ink and a variety of stamps.

The above piece of copper was first sanded with a very fine sandpaper which cleaned the surface and also created a subtle texture for binding the ink. I inked my stamp and carefully applied the image to my prepared piece of copper. I covered the back of the copper with packing tape and placed it in the container of ferric chloride. It took around 25 minutes to get the above result. I think it's beautiful, and I didn't have to iron!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Into the Garden

Time to venture out of the jewelry studio and into the garden which has been woefully neglected for the past month. I had to admit defeat to a band of apparently famished rabbits and to the toxic black walnuts in my neighbors yard. Those clever, devious black walnuts send a toxin into the soil that makes it difficult for anything but their offspring to grow and thrive. I know this and yet I continue to believe that my determination and wishful thinking will give my tomatoes and corn immunity. I did get enough tomatoes to make a large batch of sauce, although the tomatoes came from my other neighbors garden.

Something that is working in my garden is the planting of Sedum (mauve/pink), Caryopteris (bluish/purple) and Pennisetum (feathery grass) shown above. I think this is a perfect combination of colors and textures. This is at the front edge of my vegetable garden and it is so lovely that it makes me feel more forgiving towards those dasterdly black walnuts.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Instantly Aged Chinese Coin

A friend of mine recently visited China and humored my request that she bring back some coins for me. When I am fortunate enough to get my hands on worldly coins, I will sometimes incorporate them into jewelry pieces. Some of the Chinese coins that I found waiting for me at my front door yesterday morning (I love surprises like that!) were new and shiny and so not capturing my interest. I decided to try some instant aging and fired up the torch. I started out with a coin like the one on the left. I slowly brought the coin to a bright red glow and let it cool a bit before quenching it in water. I drilled 2 connector holes, removed burs, and domed it slightly in my daping block. I then used a foam sanding block to bring out some of the details and to get a matte finish. much better on the right!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rolling Mill

I love tools! That's one of the reasons why I enjoy making jewelry- I can absolutely justify spending time browsing through my catalogs and spending money on new tools that will let me do really cool things. I recently bought this rolling mill when I found it at a local store at a price that did not make me faint. I had been coveting a mill listed in one of my catalogs, but between the listed price and the considerable shipping cost, I could not bring myself to get beyond the coveting stage. While this is not my DREAM rolling mill, it is doing a fine job for me. I drilled two holes through my work table, did some minimal assemblage and I was ready to roll.

I went to a yard sale last month and found a bin of fabric and trim scraps. There was a piece of lace that had a lovely pattern, and I bought it for 25 cents. The woman told me that the lace had been passed on to her from her mother and she was very fond of it (although being a 25 cent yard sale item suggests she wasn't TOO fond of it). I didn't have the heart to tell her what I was going to do with it since I knew it was destined for the mill. I sandwiched part of the lace between two equal sized pieces of brass and then cranked the 'sandwich' through the mill. The pressure of the two steel rollers compresses the three layers, leaving an imprint of the lace on both pieces of brass. The pressure also destroys the lace. Sorry, yard sale lady.

Years ago, I found an ugly old lamp that surprisingly had a base made out of sterling silver. I dismantled the lamp and cut the base into segments which were then flattened with a plastic mallet. The lower piece in the above photo is how the base looked after the flattening. Using a different type of lace, I ran a couple of the base pieces through the mill and now have a beautiful, imprinted floral pattern.

I had received a card decorated with a dimensional flower and thought it might make a good impression. I placed it between two pieces of brass and got an interesting ghost-like image of the flower. I hammered the brass pieces flat, annealed the metal and cut out discs.

The discs were drilled to create links and then domed in my dapping block. I lightly sanded the surface to get a soft, lustrous matte finish. Some of the discs were used to make the above bracelet. My tools are great!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Salvaged Typewriter

I had been wanting to find an old typewriter for some time when I came across this relic at a local church sale. I wanted to try to use typewriter keys in some of my jewelry pieces but only if I could locate a cheap source. At $5.00, I decided this was my chance.
Oh my goodness..........taking apart this typewriter was a more challenging task than I had imagined it would be. So many screws to locate and loosen! After being tightly wound for probably 60 plus years, some of the screws absolutely refused to cooperate. As I struggled to get to the point where the 'keyboard' keys could be removed, I developed such an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the design and for the amount of workmanship that was required to ensure that I would never figure out how to take this machine apart. It was at around this point of the dissection when my attention shifted from the 'keyboard' to the striker keys. I thought they would be interesting stamps for imprinting text onto some of my metal jewelry.
The battle continued until I finally was able to lift out the connected set of striker keys which have a lovely, older font style.

My salvaged typewriter striker/stamps are now organized and ready for use. Many of the other typewriter pieces are stored for a future necklace that I am picturing in my mind and has already been tentatively named
'You're Just My Type'.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thrift Store Lamp Jewels

I found these lamps at my local thrift store. They are not quite my style, so I did not want them for my living room. I did find myself wondering what the living room where they presumably were prior to the thrift store might have looked like.

I wanted these lamps for all the emerald green cut glass dangles. For the 'firm' price of $5.00, I could get a reasonable number of future jewelry components.

I dismantled the lamps and have this lovely pool of green pendants and links. The brass portions of the lamps have been put away for some future, undetermined project.

This pendant has been wrapped with brass wire and can now be worked into a necklace. Maybe that will be one of this weekend's projects.