Monday, December 22, 2014

Watch Your Copper!

If you pay attention to the fluctuating prices of metal like I do, you are probably aware that even though the value of gold, silver and copper has dropped in the last 2 years, the 10 year trajectory for the three metals has been in the positive direction.
Trading at less than $3.00 per ounce, copper is definitely the humble relative of silver and gold.
It is also the metal that frequently goes missing because it's easily accessible in the form of downspouts, flashing and water pipes.
Friends of mine came home to their beautiful, century-old home in a lovely neighborhood one day and found that, while they were at work, someone had stolen all of their copper downspouts.
Another friend who builds and remodels homes, has come to job sites only to find that the newly installed copper plumbing has disappeared overnight.
Pretty brazen and, unfortunately, pretty common.
I recently had to have my roof redone, and a dumpster sat in my driveway, collecting all of the related debris.
I knew there was some copper on my house which I planned to salvage for future projects.
The roofing crew had just left and I went outside to find my neighbor rooting through the dumpster.
"What are you doing?", I asked.
"The metal is only going to the dump, so I'm taking it out."
I explained that I was going to be salvaging the metal myself and could he please go home.
He was definitely disappointed as he turned to leave, but he was carrying an armful of metal.
I realized I needed to be more blunt.
"You go home, please...the metal stays."
Even more disappointed, he reluctantly put the metal back in the dumpster.
After he left, I realized he had tucked the copper in the groundcover instead of the dumpster.
Maybe he was hoping to come back to retrieve the copper.
I don't know, but it's now at my workbench waiting for the proper inspiration.
Watch your copper!
Turn your back, and it might be gone.
But if you're lucky, you might get someone else to do your dumpster diving for you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shop on the Square

Don't forget...
this is the weekend of the fabulous holiday sale
curated by the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
Original work by more than 40 local artists will be available for sale for those special holiday gifts for loved ones....
or for yourself.
Yes, I'm one of the local artists.
Happy Handmade Holidays!

Holiday Show at Wallingford

I just finished working one of my shifts at the Wallingford Community Arts Center Fine Craft & Pottery Holiday Sale.
One of the nice benefits of working at the show is getting to meet some of the other artists.
It's a comforting feeling to be part of a community of creative people who enjoy each other's unique expression of artistic talent.
The Duke Gallery is a beautiful setting made even more wonderful with a great selection of locally crafted items.
If you live near me and want to go....hurry!
The show concludes this Saturday, December 13, at 5:00pm.
When you're there, check out my display.
Happy Handmade Holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I'm Inspired by Fungus

I try to keep my mind open for possibilities so that I'll recognize potential inspiration when it appears.... 
(photo by Pat Zafian)
like when a friend posted this picture on Facebook.
Back in October, Pat went out of her house, looked down and saw an interesting growth of fungus on her planting bed mulch.
Luckily, Pat has an interest in horticulture and identified the growth as Little Bird's Nest Fungus, or Cyathus striatus.
My reaction was similar to Pat's....
'Oooooh, that's pretty!'
Probably unlike Pat, my next thought was,
'That would be a great design for earrings!'
I like the depth and texture of each cup, and the small 'eggs' (actually, they're peridioles) are a wonderful, almost whimsical detail.
Within a few days, I was at my workbench figuring out my interpretation of the Little Bird's Nest Fungus.
I made the deliberate decision to not look at Pat's photo again as I considered the techniques to use.
Instead, I was more interested in capturing the inspiration and moving it in my own direction.
Brass seemed like the natural choice of metal.
Discs were cut and then textured with one of my old chisels.
After filing the edges to develop some irregularity, the discs were annealed and formed with a series of dapping punches.
Small piles of sterling silver scrap from my workbench were then melted into little balls which were pickled and soldered to the formed discs.
Another pickle soaking and some selective cleaning with my flex shaft and the discs were ready to become earrings. my earrings look like Little Bird's Nest Fungus?
Sort of, kind of.
The cups of the fungus are actually a cone shape.
While I could make a cone shape out of brass, it would require significantly more work, the value of which I would have trouble recouping with a realistic selling price.
This is my interpretation and I'm sticking with it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

More Cicadas

Last year's cicada 'invasion' left me inspired to use the wings for unique pieces of jewelry.
Since the invasion on my property was an army of one, the wings that I keep in a jar at my workbench are from northern New Jersey cicadas which were collected by the 5 year old neighbor of one of my sister's clients.
How's that for team work?
I found it interesting that the northern New Jersey cicadas were very different from the cicada that expired on my patio.
I didn't have the opportunity to see the actual bugs, but based on the wings, the New Jersey variety is significantly smaller than the eastern Pennsylvania variety.
My workbench wings are very fragile and have minimal dimension to the veining that creates the beautiful stained glass appearance.
My first attempt at roll printing the wings was not very successful.
I sandwiched a few wings between two pieces of annealed copper and cranked the layers through my rolling mill.
The result was meh...the impression was a bit too subtle.
I was already using a relatively thin gauge of copper sheet, so the only adjustment I could make was with the rolling mill setting.
I set the rollers as close as I could and cranked that thing which was not easy.
I don't have one of those top-of-the-line rolling mills and cranking my cheapo mill at a close setting means two hands on the crank and feet braced.
The impression is still subtle, but this is as good as it's going to get.
To help guide me, I outlined each wing impression with a Sharpie and then cut them out with metal shears.
The wings were flattened with a plastic mallet...
then filed and sanded to smooth all edges.
My plan is to turn the wings into pendants, so they need more substance.
Each wing is getting riveted with segments of sterling wire to a base of metal that I previously etched.
They then get a treatment with liver of sulfur to highlight the veining...
and are now ready for drilling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


When opportunity knocks,
you need to be ready to open the door and forget about being shy.
I saw an opportunity a few years ago when a large oak tree was being cut down one block away from my house. Finding a stump for one’s jewelry studio is a real coup, and I realized that after years of wanting one, this was my chance to snag my very own stump to have at my workbench…a perfect surface for my more aggressive hammering.  
It might help to clarify that it is not usually the actual ‘stump’ that makes it into metalworking studios…it’s usually a higher section of the tree that isn’t quite so behemoth as is bottom of the trunk, especially when the providing tree is a mature oak.

I got out of my car, approached one of the crew members and asked if it might be possible for me to get a section of the tree, explaining how I wanted it for metalworking. He was very nice and told me, “No problem. How tall do you want it?” I told him that a section around 3’ – 3 ½’ would be perfect. He asked where I lived, and I took off to get my handcart.

As I was opening my garage to pull out the handcart, the Bobcat skid-steer loader from the tree crew pulled in my driveway with a HUGE 3 ½ - 4’ long section of the tree. When the crew member deposited the trunk section at the end of my driveway, the ground shook. While I had no problem asking for a section of the tree, I did have a problem with complaining that this was a bit more tree than I was hoping for.

I gave my thanks and then stood there, staring at this hunk of wood that was more than I could handle. I’m no weakling, but I couldn’t budge this stump. I thought “What can I possibly do with this?”
As it turned out, there was nothing I could do with it for over two years. It sat at the end of my driveway until I finally had a few strong and industrious relatives visiting. They were able to wrangle the stump into my garage without crushing the door’s threshold, and it sits near my soldering station waiting for the mythical anvil.

Yesterday, I saw that a neighbor at the other end of my block had recent tree work done and a pile of wood sat in their front yard…..opportunity!

I knocked on their door and asked if I might be able to take a section of wood, and I now have the ‘stump’ that I originally wanted for my workbench.

I've learned that when opportunity knocks,
you need to be ready to open the door and be specific.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I'm Just Not Flashy

Earlier this week, I tried some new rolling mill textures.
An empty cereal box was removed from the recycling pile, and I cut out a collection of sort-of-flower shapes.
Sandwiched between two pieces of annealed copper, I cranked the flowers through my rolling mill and then cut out discs.
I like how my flowery discs look like a fun kind of currency, but since I want them to make real currency for me, I had to stop admiring these little coins and turn them into something else. 
I sell a lot of earrings during the holiday season, so earrings they shall become.
For a little dimension, I shaped the discs in my wooden dapping block.
I then took some of my sterling silver scrap and melted it into balls using my acetylene torch.
The sterling balls were soldered onto the formed discs and holes were drilled.
Because these discs are on the diminutive side, the drilling was not especially easy.
I probably should have done the drilling before the shaping, but I chose to wait until the sterling was soldered in place so that I could understand and complement the balance of each disc.  
Thinking that a simple design was the way to go, I made simple dangles with sterling wrapped freshwater pearls.
For a few seconds I thought the earrings were done, but then that bright copper spoke to me in an annoying way.
The discs were a little too bright for my liking, so out came the liver of sulfur.
A quick soaking turned both the copper and sterling black....
and cleaning with a fine grit sanding block followed by radial bristle discs highlights the metals in a much more appealing way.....
for me.
When I was at the Media Fine Arts & Crafts Festival in September, a woman stopped by my booth and spent a fair amount of time looking at the earrings in my display.
She told me that I really needed to make my earrings bigger and brighter...
"They need to be flashy!"
She would totally hate these earrings.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Old Frames Become New Frames

Growing up in a family of eight that lived on my father's high school coach/teacher salary, I learned at a young age how to live a frugal life.
Like my mother was, I have developed into an accomplished thrift store shopper.
I am always searching for frames at thrift stores and church sales because framing does not come cheap if one chooses to go the traditional route of actually buying something new at a framing shop.
As I prepared for my October display of artwork at Sweet Mabel, I realized that I did not have a good framing option for my Manayunk Bridge painting.
Leaving the painting at home was not an option, and a frenzied search through my collection of thrift store frames yielded only one that was the correct size.
I fastened the painting, added the hanging wire and loaded my van.
Tracy, the owner of Sweet Mabel, told me that one of her customers really liked the Manayunk Bridge painting, but she didn't like the frame.
I can't blame her...I didn't like it either.
The grainy oak looked dated
(because it is)
and too dark
(because it is).
A frame should enhance a painting, and this one did not.
When I brought my unsold paintings home earlier this week, I decided Manayunk Bridge deserved something better.
Even though I didn't like the color of the frame, I did like the profile.
This was something I could work with.
I went to a local art supply store and bought some gold leaf wax.
So much better!
The frame now complements the warm colors that I used in the bridge and towpath.
I was so pleased with the transformation, I thought I could work a little magic on some frames that recently made their way to my studio at no cost to me.
Free is good, but some of the frames were not completely to my liking.
This frame is very well constructed,
but I was not fond of the faux wood finish.
A careful application of gold leaf wax....
and I now have a frame that I will definitely put to use.
Yes, free is very good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Paintings Away From Home

Some of my paintings are currently away from home.
A selection is on display at Sweet Mabel in Narberth.
(but the sunflowers, the hydrangea and the pear that's underneath the marsh are gone, hopefully already hanging on walls in their new homes)
Also on display at Sweet Mabel....
the wonderful artwork of David Stehman.
I'm so excited that my 'Red Barn' was accepted into the current exhibit in the
Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Gallery
juried by Richard Rosenfeld of The Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia.
The show is pretty wonderful
and I'm very thankful to have my little painting
in the company of such beautiful pieces of artwork.
Also on display at the Art Center are works by the oh so talented faculty
a retrospective exhibition of paintings 
 His paintings fill the Davenport Gallery
and it's a fabulous show.
What a great time to visit

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Inherited With a Twist

I keep a couple of jewelry stashes on my workbench, waiting for inspiration.
One of those stashes is jewelry that I've inherited.
Anything that's inherited is often something other than the actual item.
Sometimes, there are memories and emotions that might have more value than the item itself.
And sometimes it is just an item that has been sitting on your workbench for years.
When my mother passed away several years ago,
my siblings and I each selected some of her jewelry as the estate was divided.
Some of the pieces that I now have are ones that I have no recollection of my mother ever wearing, like the significantly dented sterling locket and the wide band sterling ring.
I do remember my mother wearing the sterling and onyx bracelet once,
and I think it is beautiful.
It's also remarkably uncomfortable so there's a real possibility that my mother only wore it one time.
In addition to being uncomfortable, it was also broken.
The sterling disc earrings, however, were frequently worn by my mother.

As part of my ongoing effort of pretending to keep a degree of organization on my workbench, I decided that some of the inherited pieces that I would never wear had to find a new purpose.
The dented locket was sawn apart and hammered flat.
Discs were then cut for use in a bracelet that is mid-project.
The sterling/onyx bracelet was dismantled with minimal damage, and I already have a plan in mind for repurposing the pieces.
The 2 rings snuck their way into the photo....dented thrift store sterling silver finds that I bought for $1.00 and immediately fixed with my ring mandrel.
Because I can easily picture the earrings being worn by my mother, I decided to take them out of the stash and start wearing them.
But....I wanted to put my own touch on them.
First...the earwires were terrible.
The gauge of wire used for the original earrings was too lightweight, leaving the earwires misshapen.
Easy fix with new, 20 gauge wire.
I wanted the discs to have more interest, so I developed a subtle texture with one of my files.
They were then shaped in my wooden dapping block, creating a slightly curved surface.
I could have stopped there, but of course I didn't.
Thinking that a bit of color would be nice, I soldered a small bezel in the center of each disc and set serpentine cabochons.
The inherited earrings now have the memory of my mother with my personal imprint.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Loving Geology

Supply gathering visits to the annual beads shows typically results in my purchasing strands of faceted gemstones....aquamarine, citrine, amethyst, topaz, iolite and others.
It's hard not to love these incredible gems from the earth.
The rich colors and the alluring way light is reflected speak of luxury and refinement.
Those are the things that I've wanted my jewelry to communicate to whoever might listen.
Until recently.
A few weeks ago, I went to a bead show at the Oaks Expo Center, and it was jasper that caught my attention.
Jasper is a dense and opaque variety of quartz that can be found all over the world, in nearly every color. 
Oxides of iron create deep earthy tones of red, yellow, brown and green, sometimes in shades of blue or purple, often with beautiful contrasts in banding, inclusions and whirls of color.
I bought several strands of jasper, including this variety from Australia.
What I most responded to was the 'earthiness' of the beads.
Some of the offered strands were polished to a high gloss, an effect that I found plastic and unappealing.
I like the matte finish of these beads, the irregular shapes and the beautiful range of colors.
Each time I look at these beads, I'm reminded of the Geology class that I had my freshman year at Cook College of Rutgers University.
A new world opened up to me as I learned about the formation of bedrock.
Time and pressure and an interesting blend of minerals often yields beautiful results.

Even though I purchased jasper beads that are pre-drilled, I decided to treat the selected one like a cabochon.
To create a bezel, I cut a narrow strip of copper which was soldered and formed to the shape of the jasper bead.
The bezel was then soldered on to a piece of etched silver nickel.
Thinking that a 2 piece pendant with some movement might be the way to go, I drilled holes allowing me to make a jump ring connection to another piece of etched silver nickel.
As usual, I like to have design interest on the 'back'.
Links were made with heavy gauge, recycled copper wire, and I finally found a reason to use some brass beads that I've had hanging at my workbench for several years.
A handmade clasp...
fastens this Love-of-Geology necklace.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Holy Grail Part Two

I must have done something really right recently because this appears to be my week of good luck.
I have found two of my holy grail items in five days.
Pinch me!
Taking photos of some of my jewelry can occasionally prove challenging, especially when I want to feature one of my long necklaces.
For years, I have been longing for a vintage dress form, especially one by the Wolf Form Company, to stage necklaces, but apparently many other people want these dress forms as well.
I have been doing regular searches on ebay, craigslist and other sites/shops, and have always shown up to biddings a bit too late or found dress forms that were significantly out of my price range.
After delivering new inventory to Woodmere Art Museum this morning, I stopped at a consignment shop that I passed because of an annoying detour I had to take.
I walked through the door and
in front of me were TWO Wolf Form Co. dress forms.
One was already sold, and the other one is now in my house.
She's going to require some tender care because a packing tape neck just will not do, and she has some unfortunately situated fabric loss.
Otherwise....she's perfect.
I've begun calling her Bertha.
Being a vintage dress form with a commanding presence, I thought an 'old fashioned' name was appropriate.
I'm not too keen on the fact that 'vintage' Bertha, circa 1965, is younger than me.
So....two holy grail items in five days...not bad.
If an anvil shows up at my front door, this will truly be an awesome week.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finding My Holy Grail

I am always on the lookout for unique materials and tools that I can use to make equally unique pieces of jewelry.
I want materials that no one else has so that I can make jewelry that no one else is making, and I want those curious, somewhat hard-to-find tools that will help make it possible.
I've had an idea that's been percolating in my brain for years, and it requires old piano keys.
For over five years, I've been searching for vintage piano keys and they are not easy to find.
I began to feel like I was searching for my own peculiar holy grail and that I would probably continue searching even after forgetting why I had begun the quest.
But then I hit the jackpot.
Over the weekend, I entered 'vintage piano keys' on craigslist like I often do, and....
Someone had a listing for the full set of keys from a 100+ year old piano.
They lived somewhat close by.
They were asking $20.00.
The quest was over.
I confirmed that the keys were still available and arranged to meet the seller at 12:30.
I drove over with that quasi-fearful feeling of going to a strange man's house, found on craigslist, but I was determined to have those piano keys.
Craigslist guy was perfectly nice, and I now own a set of grungy, vintage piano keys.
They are so dirty and grimy that I can believe they are over 100 years old.
They also have that wonderful patina that can only be earned with age.
Some gentle but vigorous cleaning removes the dirt quite nicely.
The project?
I need to do some experimenting and hope that I'll have finished pieces after the holidays.
With that search over, I have to focus on my other holy grail quest...
 an anvil.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Arts Festival

I've been busy making new earrings, bracelets and necklaces in preparation for the
in Media, PA this Saturday, September 27.
This will be the 12th annual festival sponsored by The Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA.
Original artwork, demos and live music....the makings for a great day.
If you're in the area, I hope you'll stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Recycle That Wire!

A few years ago, I got my hands on recycled copper wire....
purchased by the pound.
I've slowly been working my way though the stash and just finished the most recent reappropriation project.
I love that I can cut sections of this recycled material and make something like.....
this necklace.
I cut a variety of lengths which were then soldered and shaped to make a collection of rings.
The rings are joined with links that I made with 16 gauge wire.
All pieces were hammered to make the metal work hardened and to add surface texture.

Small bits of color were added with wire wrapped, faceted beads of aventurine. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

And...Another Leaf Necklace

When I made a fold formed leaf necklace the other night, I opted for a simple chain.
The part of my brain that prefers unique chains with wire wrapped lovely elements, would describe that previous chain as spartan. 
I needed to answer the inner demand for an alternative with more texture.
Fresh off my workbench is this variation of my fold formed leaf necklace.
Again, different sized leaves were wire wrapped to a short section of chain which was wire wrapped to a hand forged copper ring.
This time, I textured the copper ring with one of my wonderful, old chisels.
The chain consists of wire wrapped smoky crystals, long heavy gauge links formed from recycled copper wire and small, textured copper links.
As with the first necklace,
this one also has a handmade clasp.
now both sides of my brain feel satisfied.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to My Workbench

Preparations for hanging my paintings at Burlap & Bean pulled my attention away from the many jewelry projects on my workbench.
The paintings were hung yesterday morning
(with appreciated help from Wayne Art Center friends Mary Lu and Melanie....thank you!!)
and last night I was busy figuring out what to do with some of these fold formed leaves.
I developed this collection of leaves that were actually meant to be a metal interpretation of Koelreuteria seed pods.....
 as I figured out the size and shape for my pattern as well as the preferred hammer and hammer strikes.
I am completely satisfied that my original path ended up veering off in another direction because I am now very fond of these leaves.
With the approach of Fall, I wanted to capture the image of leaves fluttering to the ground and turn that image into a necklace.
Different sized leaves were wire wrapped on to a piece of chain which in turn was wire wrapped to a hand forged copper ring.
I wanted to focus to be on the leaves, so the chain was kept uncharacteristically (for me) gemstones, no beads, nada.
After all connections were made, the entire necklace was treated in a liver of sulfur bath and then cleaned with my favorite sanding block.
A handmade clasp keeps the back simple but elegant.
Ready for Fall.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Artist

Lucky me!
After displaying and selling a selections of my paintings at
during May, 2013, I was invited to hang a new collection of work.
Burlap & Bean is an independent coffeehouse where Fair Trade beans are roasted on site.
They make the best cup of coffee in the region, and they have become an important part of the social fabric for the western suburbs of Philadelphia
The Burlap & Bean owners are great supporters of local and national musical talent with a busy calendar of events.
They also host Delco Story Slam, a monthly evening of storytelling.
And then there's the Artist of the Month program.
Each month, a local artist has the opportunity to display artwork for sale on the walls of this cozy, engaging coffeehouse.
I'm thankful that for September, my paintings will be a small part of the fabric of Burlap & Bean.
Want to stop by and enjoy the intoxicating aromas from the roaster?
Burlap & Bean
is located at
The Shops at Springton Pointe
204 South Newtown Street Road (Route 252)
Newtown Square, PA