handmade jewelry & metalsmithing

New Metalwork

Handmade Men’s Ring, Hammered Silver and Gold

To begin this ring, I saw the band from a sheet of sterling silver. I snip off chips of 14k gold wire and heat them with a hand torch until they spin into little granules. Using tweezers, flux and gold solder, I place them in line and solder them with a hand torch.

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After pickling it in a warm citric acid bath, It is ready to be shaped into a ring. I first bend it with my fingers and flat nose pliers to bring the ends flush for soldering.

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After soldering and cleaning the solder joint with sandpaper, it is ready to be shaped on the ring mandrel with a rawhide mallet. Then I will use a ball peen jeweler’s hammer to create texture and flare out the edges.

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I polish the ring with white diamond, tripoli and rouge on the buffing wheel. Next, I mix a warm solution of liver of sulphur to darken the polished silver to a purplish black.

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The gold is not affected by the liver of sulphur. I tumble the ring with steel shot for a few hours to add a luster to the black finish. This also work-hardens the ring for wear.

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This ring and more original handmade works are available in my Etsy shop.


Custom Handmade Banjo Fingerpicks

I got a banjo for my birthday. The happiest most fun instrument there is. I thought the ukulele was the coolest, but since a banjo requires jewelry-it wins!
How long did it take me to start making my own banjo picks? Not long. Almost instantly. I am allergic to nickel, and I have the tiniest fingers ever, so it was a mix of necessity and artistic opportunity, which often combine to mean the same thing.
How many mock-ups before I settled on the best? Countless! I made banjo picks different ways in silver, copper, aluminum, paper and foil for 2 months until I found my sweet spot.
Finally, I nailed a design that is completely original and fits like it isn’t there at all. The bonus is that sterling silver is not only beautiful, but sounds like heaven. I was playing on a pair of National’s that I inherited from my Dad. Not only were they too big and uncomfortable on my skin due to the nickel, the sound of the nickel on the strings is awful and scratchy. You don’t really notice it until you’ve heard the sound of the silver. But, once you do there’s absolutely no going back.

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Here’s a view if the process, from copper mock-up to the finished product. You can purchase a pair of these from my Etsy shop. You can even add a custom design and inscription.
Here’s a view of the process in making the design, from copper mock-up to finished product.

First, it’s just copper sheet.

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Then, I apply masking tape so that I can draw my design.

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I trace my design from a paper mock-up.

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I saw it from the sheet with a jeweler’s saw.

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Banjo fingerpicks come in pairs, just like making earrings. They have to match.

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Next, I file away the rough edges.

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Then, I draw the star.

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I drill a hole for the saw blade, then carefully excise the design in the metal. I add the stamps for sterling silver, my maker’s mark and copyrights.

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I tap the ring shanks around the mandrel.

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They are now beginning to take shape, but still require a lot of filing, sanding and polishing.

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Here’s how they line up to an old National.

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Here’s how they would fit if your fingers are batteries.

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Now here are some various glamour shots because they are so beautiful.

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Adventures in Torch-Fired Enameling

It’s the start of a good day- going to explore and experiment with the contents of this box!

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After ten years of metalsmithing, I’ve finally become curious about trying my luck with enameling. I’m looking forward to seeing shiny colors and experimenting with torch-firing. I’ve ordered sifters, trivets and colors. No kiln though- I want to be up close for the changing colors and molten glass!

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I’m excited-blue, yellow, black and white opaque enamel to play with!
But first, I will make copper earrings to hold the enamel.

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I love the potential of the copper to be shiny pink, black, purple and red-and the way that plays against the colors of the enamel. So much fun!


Amethyst Earrings

My first time ‘smithing in my new place, and my first fully iphoned post! Let’s hope for the best! I’m sharing space with my bunny buddy Moops-rocking out to Devo radio on Spotify- sipping tart bubbly apple cider…all in all I am in heaven.

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First I saw out the shape in copper.

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Then I hammer the edges for texture, and file it to correct the shape.

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After that, the bezel setting is soldered into place.

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But first it has to be fitted to the stone.

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And with earrings, you do things twice.
After you take a hay-break!

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After pickling the metal overnight, I’m ready for the torch!

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After some clean up, it is time to set the amethyst into the silver bezel.

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All done and ready for polishing. I’ll have these up on ETSY soon-ish. Thanks for watching me work! Let me know if you have any questions it would like to see a particular item or technique!


happy hearts and happy cephalopods

Heart Earrings! One for me, one for Etsy-these are a larger size than my skulls and flowers. The size reminds me of being a kid and wearing big clip-on earrings from the Sanrio store. These are probably about the width of the yummy candy hearts as well-all adding up to something that makes me very happy to wear!

These were a nice impromptu design. Using the metal stamps, I noticed that I never really use them for their non-intended purpose, so I played around to see what I could do. Deciding on smiley/frowny faces was in part because for our first Valentines together, my husband had given me little silver frog studs that were adorably frowning. Smiles are nice, but frowns get a hug and kiss. So, easily enough, I hammered up some silver, sawed out a heart, stamped in a face, and polished it up!

Hearts and Flowers for you for Valentines Day! These are on Etsy http://www.etsy.com/listing/91059948/heart-studs-sterling-silver-handcrafted

Wrapping the silver sheet in masking tape makes a nice surface to transfer my drawing for the saw.

Flipping my sketch over, I transfer the pencil onto the taped surface. Ouch, my poor wrist is sore-from too much time at the sewing machine, if you can believe it-not used to that!

To get into little nooks and crannies, you must drill a hole to feed your sawblade through.

This is a sawing-intensive piece! The little guys waving all those tentacles around and not holding still!

Then it's needle file time to- knock off those rough edges.

It's a fire-bath for our little mollusk friends, to attach the hinge for the cufflink backings.

And the finished cufflink, also available on Etsy for your fancy-dressing sweetheart http://www.etsy.com/listing/91062556/octopus-cufflinks-handcrafted-sterling We recently gazed at a real octopus at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg, and were absolutely transfixed. Their movements are absolutely mesmerizing. Apparently they are also extremely intelligent, so I've got my eye on them for taking over the planet-if I had eight arms....I could think about that all day, actually.


Springtime=Birds and Candy Colors

Aventurine Owl Pendant

Aventurine Bird Pendant

Everybody knows the spring/Easter-y colors; the colors that M&M's change to and those marshmallow eggs that are great for hiding, but not adequate for eating. I've been laying on the green and purple stones-Aventurines & Amethysts-highlighted by yellow gold accents. And birds are a major inspiration. I sleep in front of a huge window facing a very old oak tree, and assuming theere's no tornado, I leave the windows open pretty much year round. Through the winter, there was only one bird that hung around, but now there's a new bird call adding to the bunch every morning. Since they're such nice harbingers of spring, i believe their image qualifies for totem status.

sawing out a bird

My system for making the birds is to draw out a basic bird shape onto the silver, then I saw him out and change him as I build the piece around him. I might saw off the feet and cut the wings in more, to make a soaring bird, or round out his belly to make a perched bird. No silver's really lost because I refine all my scrap, and I much prefer a way of working that lets me sculpt with the metal, rather than doing all the designing on paper. A three-dimensional final product really calls for a three-dimensional workup.

sanding before setting the stones

These two pendants are being sanded and polished with the flex-shaft-a flying songbird and a perched dove.

Perched Dove Pendant

Amethyst Ring

I really like the way a tiny bit of gold makes the color of these stones more vibrant. Gems have me kinda of hypnotized lately, they play off of their surroundings so much. In the sping, when you're revelling in the sunny days you realize how much you can enjoy something that catches the light. My last studio day was quickly turned into a picnic/nap & draw in the sun-day when the light was making rainbows off my new engagement ring, and it just made me want to stay outside and take in all the new plant life that was popping out over Cara's backyard. First day of the year I could lay in the soft grass, and I had good friend to talk to, kitty batting at her gardening gloves, and adorable baby Alex pulling up grass and crumbling up leaves. Perfect day, I got some very inspired designing done that had been giving me a headache before. I'm making some pieces for the workshop faculty exhibit and silent auction for the Appalachian Center for Craft where I'll be teaching an intro jewelry-making class. It really made me feel like we were back at the Craft Center, as that was pretty much how your time got spent, minus babies & kitties, laying in the grass with a project in mind and all the nature inspiring you and the ideas just flow.

SKull pendant

But I will say that Cadbury eggs are not a sunshine-picnic treat..more of a pudding-without-a-spoon. I'll also attribute Easter-candy longings for the candy-skull bent my skull pendants have taken.


New Year=New Stuff

I'm so happy to have a new year as a reason to make a bunch of big improvements. I revamped my website, made a bunch of new jewelry, and rearranged my studio. I am very pleased to be the proud owner of a new jeweler's bench-handmade by my Dad-best Christmas present ever!

As for jewelry, I've been thinking about more about something I read by a French blacksmith. He was giving advice to aspiring metalworkers and said that new artists should avoid being completely abstract at first-people appreciate recognizable imagery-animals, natures, stories-they like being able to identify what they see & associate their own meanings. Then once you develop your own story as an artist, then they appreciate your work in the same way. I think this is very wise advice-when I see elements that I like in a piece, I like the piece; but as I understand the style of the artist over time, it becomes familiar and complete on its own. So, I'm beginning this new year with design-baby steps, by taking recognizable images that I love aesthetically, and interpreting them in the style that I love in metal.

First step is a little totem of wisdom, the owl. I sketched out my idea of an owl, which is somewhere around a hello kitty shaped head, the tootsie pop owl and the one that gives a hoot about pollution. I decided to stay away from real images of owls, it's an exercise in the subtlety of symbols to dig up the visual cues in your memory that represent an object to you. There's a real difference in the reality of a subjet in nature & the recognizability of a subject in symbols. The most characteristic details are amplified, and all the other elements can be stylized. It's kind of like the pet store-all the creatures there are modified from their wild ancestors to be the most pleasing visual ideal, sometimes almost cartoon-like in contrast to the original.

I have the finished owl pendants up on Etsy now, in black or silver with twisted square wire to bring in the ironwork theme, which I love.