Thursday, March 21, 2013

What's On My Table? The Best Drill Bits Ever!

I won't be the first person to tell you about getting sick after getting done with a big, stressful event. I am now working through something that's a cross between a cold/bronchitis and tubercu-bola. I'm coughing a lot and my tissues show evidence that my insides are liquifying, so I think it's the latter.

The image is linked to the original source of the base image, but it didn't look horrible enough, so I had to edit it.

Pain and suffering are like manna from Heaven for artists, and an artist I am. So, I'm working until I can't find my bench under the mound of used Kleenex. Fortunately the main project on my bench is for the Bead Soup Blog Party, which I don't plan to sell, so I don't have to worry about how much it will cost to disinfect it. Do they sell hand sanitizer by the gallon?

If you recall, Kristin sent me some really beautiful beads, including some amazingly enticing drilled stones. I sketched out my design earlier this month and am now starting to fabricate the components I'll need: sterling silver bezels, bezel-capped rivets, and more drilled stones. One hint I'll offer is that I'm borrowing from some of Michael Boyd's techniques laid out in two articles from the March 2004 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

New drilled stones for my Bead Soup Blog Party design
The new rocks I drilled. There's something amazing about making permanent changes to a material that might be 5 million years old! It reminds me of my responsibility to be a careful, thoughtful craftswoman.

For those of you who are already drilling stones, or for anyone who is interested in starting, I wanted to tell you how much I love William Beekman's Badger Sintered diamond drill bits. Sintered is the key word here, because it means that diamonds are embedded throughout the drill head, and are not just plated to the surface. Not only have I drilled through all of the rocks in the picture with one drill bit, but twice more that amount of rock.

If you haven't done any drilling yet, let me explain why that's a big deal. The recommended procedure for drilling stones with a diamond drill bit is to submerge the rock in a shallow pan of water using a slow drill speed, light pressure, and using short intervals of drilling and backing out the drill bit to flush the hole. Even with this careful technique, as you drill you wear down the metal on a diamond drill bit. If you're working with a plated drill, as soon as you wear down the plating you also lose all of your diamonds, therefore all your cutting power. With the sintered drill bits, as the metal wears down, new diamonds are revealed and the bit continues to cut.

The least amount of money I've ever paid for a diamond drill bit was probably $2usd for a Chinese-produced 1mm bit that lasted - generously - through 10 rocks. So, $0.20 per rock. Most good quality plated drill bits are in the $6 to $15 range. I've paid that for some drill bits and haven't had them last as long as 10 rocks. So, if I drill three rocks on a $6 drill bit, that's now $2 per rock. I wouldn't claim that's crazy-outrageous, but it's not cost effective, either.

So, how do those compare with the Badger Sintered drill bits? For your first order, Bill gives you two drill bits for the price of one. So, instead of one for $15, you get two. On my first drill bit, which happens to be a 1.75mm bit, I've drilled approximately 30 rocks so far - most of them small, around 5mm in depth; the average size rock I normally drill. I have also drilled a few 10mm rocks and a couple 15mm rocks. So, for my initial $7.50 investment on this drill bit it's cost me $0.25 per rock (about $0.18 per hole) and this bit is far from the end of it's life. Besides that, Bill just provides awesome customer service. In fact, this morning I placed a new order for three more drill bits and, since I only ordered one drill bit the first time, he told me he'd still double this order, and the two orders I've placed with him so far have both shipped the same day. Plus, Bill makes each drill bit by hand "from cutting of the shaft material, to the brazing of the diamonds and the sizing...rather tedious work, but worth it." Bill knows exactly how many diamonds he puts on the cutting tip and says that is why they last. That's the kind of quality and ingenuity that we expect from products made in the USA and Bill delivers!

Rocks I've Drilled
A few more of the rocks I've drilled with my first drill bit from Bill, including the 30mm rock in the middle.

I don't get compensated for promoting these drill bits. I just wanted to share my experience in the spirit of promoting a great product. If word of mouth can help my business, I want to use it to help others, too!

Anyhow ... back to drilling, cutting, soldering, and hammering. I'll try not to get lost in the clutter of my Puffs!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Back From The Bead Bash

The Bead Bash is over! The Bead Bash was an event hosted by Beadniks, held in the east rotunda of the Mall of America, as a bead and jewelry show to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. First off, I'd forgotten how exhausting shows are. Okay, let's be honest, I also forgot how exhausting the prep was. But, I made some sales, I made some new friends, and ran into some old ones and online ones. So, all in all, I'm glad I did it.

That's my table-mate and partner in crime, Julie Libonate, of Burnt Wood Beads

I don't think I did any progress shots of my display as I made it last week, but that's it (finished) in the picture. On the top left is an area for inspiration jewelry designs using lampwork. In the middle top is a slot I built for my tablet so I could show video of the lampworking process. On the top right is an area for simple ready-to-wear lampwork pendant necklaces. In the middle, across the display, is room to display 116 focal beads. At the bottom left and middle is a trough to display items on cards like lampwork earring pairs, lampwork earrings, lampwork headpins, and lampwork buttons. On the bottom right is an area to display ready-to-wear lampwork bracelets or more lampwork bracelet inspiration. In the trays on the table were bead sets.

One of the things Julie and I did at the end of the show today was hand out some swag to the designers who shared the space around us. I was only disappointed that I forgot to grab cards from all of them. I did grab cards from some of them: Robyne Robinson of ROX jewelry, who sat next to me, and is a friendly and talented designer; Heather from Lawrenz Jewelry (and store manager for the Trinket Foundry) whose jewelry just reached out to my soul; Holly and Greg of ISMS who were selling mind-blowingly beautiful resin-set (?) butterfly wings (and might be two of the nicest people on earth), and Sarah from My Olivia Jewelry, who was lucky enough to share the very crowded space behind us. We owe Sarah special thanks for her sense of humor regarding that situation! I think she's now more familiar with my behind than my husband would appreciate. (He always reminds me that I can't be intimate with women unless there are photos.)

Some of ISMS beautiful work. They explain,"The butterflies used are from conserves working to repopulate endangered species around the world. They sell us butterflies that have died of natural causes to help fund their repopulation efforts."

Some of Heather's amazing work.

I know that some artists believe strongly about not buying the work of other artists (even to the point of not buying supplies made by artisans that also produce finished work). I'm the opposite. I make art because I love art. If I struggle to sell my work, I understand that others have trouble, too. So, if I see something I love, supporting that artist is pretty high on my priority list. So, thank you Heather, for the beautiful, fun earrings. Thank you Holly and Greg, for the awe inspiring butterfly wing pair. They were both very special purchases! I only wish I could have purchased work from more of the artists there!

Since this was the first year of Bead Bash, there were some inevitable opportunities for improvement, like unappealingly small aisles that encouraged shoppers to move on quickly, among other issues. However, I decided that, given the show implements improvements next year, that I'd love to be part of it again. The other artists there were really lovely people and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to meet them. So many of the artists and jewelry-aficionados who stopped by to look at our table were so kind, wonderful to talk to, and made made my day brighter - sale or no sale. So, thank you, all, for making the event great. I think I might have to look into a couple other shows to do this year!

As always, thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

April Classes!

First off, I need to give a shout out to my fellow Star of The North Glassworkers lampworker, Heidi Hardner from Aventurine Dream. Heidi will be teaching her last, sold out, lampworking class at the Studio at Rush Creek in Maple Grove next Tuesday, and sent out an e-mail saying that they were looking for another instructor. Today I got to meet with the fabulous Karen, proprietress of said studio, and scheduled five amazing classes for April.

Lampworking I
Saturday, April 6th

Come join Julie as she teaches you how to make your very own glass beads. You'll practice safety and build confidence as you learn what to expect from glass at temperatures from 70°F to 1800°F and how to use that to your advantage making simple beads. There will be demonstrations of different steps in the bead-making process and plenty hands-on time for you to practice, with personal guidance, at your own HotHead torch (provided). You will leave the class having made a handful of your very own handmade beads!

For more examples of Julie's lovely lampwork, check out her Flickr Photostream

Beads for Big eBay Lampwork Sale

Lampworking III
Saturday, April 6th

Julie wants to show you how to make your own beautiful lentil focal beads. This class is for anyone who's practiced making beads at home and wants to take their skills to the next level. You'll revisit pulling stringers and twisties, and Julie willl guide you as you make your own basic murrini. You'll learn/practice encasing beads and using brass presses to shape the beads. Julie will be bringing all of her many Zooziis presses for you to try. Julie has studied with world renoun teachers Trey Cornette and Michal Silberberg, so even if you've practiced any of those skills before, chances are you'll still learn a lot of helpful things in this class!

Sunday's Focals

Wire Rings
Thursday, April 11th

Join Julie for her most popular class, where you'll learn to make four ring designs out of wire, learning techniques that can be altered or adapted to create your own ring designs. Embellished with beads or without, these are durable, pretty rings you can wear every day!

Wire Rings

Setting Cabochons in Sterling
Saturday, April 20th

Despite all reason, Julie wants to let you in on a huge secret. You can make your own stunning sterling and cabochon jewelry. Yourself. And it isn't hard. Just see it, heat it, and breathe. She's going to help you get comfortable with a micro torch, then show you how to use it to fabricate your own sterling silver bezels from sheet metal to finished product. You'll learn the entire soldering process: cleaning, fitting, heating, pickling, filing, and polishing. You'll leave with at least one cabochon link finished (or more!), ready to turn into your own cabochon bracelet!


Riveted & Stamped Pendant
Thursday, April 25th

Mother's Day is Sunday, May 12th and chances are good that there's a woman in your life that would love, love to receive a personal gift handmade by you! Julie's going to teach you to use metal stamps to personalize and decorate metal shapes and scraps, then show you how to rivet them together to create a unique, layered, textured, and all-around amazing pendant. No one says you have to give it away.

cold connections: rivets

So, if you're in the Twin Cities area, I'd love to see you join in one of these fantastic classes! Signups are now available on the Rush Creek website.

Thanks for stopping by!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Sunday's Focals

I decided to try some organic beads yesterday. Although fine stringerwork is the technique I most want to master, it is so time consuming that I finally realized that it wasn't an efficient use of my time when facing a deadline. I do really love the way these turned out, so I think more of this type will be on the docket for today.

Sunday's Focals

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Few More Focal Beads

I'm keeping it short and sweet since I need to get into the studio soon. I have a few more focals done from last night, including the dog focal that my sister-in-law requested. The little guy/gal got into the kibble, apparently.

A Few More Focals

This next focal is the result of a challenge to make a compelling bead with clear glass and clear glass alone. I had a vision of a smooth slanted surface with trapped bubbles on the bottom, and a curved top with the texture of fine stringers covering the surface. As I got going it began to look like a flower pot, so I added petals near the middle, at the top of the "pot." Then I did a little shaping at the bottom and added some poked dots ... It's certainly interesting, and hard to see. I'll admit that I like it a lot better in person than in photos, but what do you think? I could flip it upside down and it could be an alien squid creature, too ... lol.

Compellingly Clear?Compellingly Clear?Compellingly Clear?Compellingly Clear?

Thanks for checking in!
Julie :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Yesterday's Beads

yesterday's beads

I think it's a sad testament to my evolving mentality as the Bead Bash approaches when, as I pull the beads out of the kiln, my first thought is, "phew! Not horrible!" It's also pretty indicative my my growing mental malaise that this is all I did yesterday ... besides drop my son off with his grandpa, take a long, hot shower, get an oxygen tank filled, make a few beads, get another oxygen tank and propane tank for my heater filled, and make more beads. With the weekend coming, hopefully I rested my brain enough yesterday to be really productive this weekend!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

March Lampwork So Far ...

March so far ...

Some of the beads I've been making for my show at Bead Bash, Mall of America on the 16th and 17th of March, 2013.

I'm working on some floral landscape beads, organic silver glass focals, sculpted focals, scrollwork focals, sets of stringerwork rounds, discs, and some random sets of bright beads, and earring pairs. I'm also working on a new graffiti heart style of lampwork focals, and a dog silhouette focal inspired by my sister-in-law, Stacey. Now just to make them available in more colors and quantities ...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Color Inspiration For Beadmaking

As I've been in my lampworking studio every morning and every evening trying to make as many beads as I possibly can before the Bead Bash at Mall of America on March 16th and 17th, I found that I was in desparate need for some color inspiration. So, during one of my son's rare naps yesterday I scoured Etsy for some fresh new lampwork and jewelry to find some. I found some really beautiful things, but significantly, there were many repetitive color themes. I thought I'd share my color finds and the worksheet I made to help me visualize the colors together before I dash out to work on more beads.

sample color palettes
various 4- and 5-color palettes
Lampwork Coloring Worksheet copy
Click on the image to get the full sized copy from my Flickr photostream.

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, March 1, 2013


I'm a Midwestern girl of German heritage. I've got showing humility down pat. But, actually feeling humility? Not so much. I work really hard and I usually get really good results for those efforts. That makes me proud. Apparently the universe felt I needed a smackdown of the ego. The venue? My son's preschool fundraiser this evening.

Donations for Sawyer's Preschool Fundraiser
I donated the two necklaces with gemstone clusters.
The sterling one retails for $78 and the copper one retails for $42.

Donations for Sawyer's Preschool Fundraiser
These are the three pairs of lampwork earrings I donated.
Each retails for $30.

I wrote in a post last week that I was unsure how my intended donations would be received. I mentioned that no one had commented on the blog where I asked for input, but that since I hadn't been blogging long that, perhaps, no one saw it, and that I was going to run with the assumption they were fine. This morning I helped to set up and I talked to the women there about my pieces. They all thought they were lovely, agreed that as long as people understood that they weren't getting Michael's beads, that they couldn't just pick up lampwork pendants in their choice of color and letter, or gem quality beads from a craft store, that they would understand why their retail values were what they were. That I should include a picture of myself at the torch with my artist statement, which I did. Yeah! Artist statement. Also displays, item descriptions with my logo ... I wasn't messing around with presentation. If they wanted a necklace like this, this was the only place to get it.

Well, now I have more definitive data. For the three earrings bids start at $10. Two of them went for single bids of $20. Okay. Not bad. One of those bids was from my mother, though. The black and white pair went for $12. Ouch. The minimum bid for the sterling necklace was $20. One bidder met that. My mom bid $22, some one else bid $24, and my mom (again, yes) won for $30. The copper version of the necklace opened at $12. It was going to go for a single bid of $14 when I bid on my own necklace at the last minute for $20. It COST (not retail, not even wholesale), cost more than $14 to make and I figured it was better to make a donation myself than let it go for less than cost. So, all said and done I donated $210 worth of retail product, they sold for $102, and $32 of that was from people outside my family. Yeah. If my mom and I hadn't bid? All five pieces would have sold for $70 total. Again ... that's less than cost. Yeah.

Please bear in mind that we're not talking about whether or not I feel fortunate. I do. I sincerely count my blessings daily. I know that I'm more fortunate than a lot of people in my neighborhood, let alone country or world. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about ego. Given the resources I have at my disposal, am I able to produce a superior, desirable, highly competitive product? Apparently the majority of people who attended that fundraiser did not think that was the case ... not even to help the preschool.

I did have one woman approach me as I was carrying the displays out. She said that the initial pendants were very cute and that she bid on one ... but "didn't win. Darn it." I did, honestly, feel thankful that she liked them. I was also thankful she liked them enough to bid. I just ... don't know. Wish she had been willing and able to bid more.

The things that did go were, in general, baskets with kid-themed items, or family-themed items like like for game night or movie night. Things where people felt, both, that they were indulging their kids, and doing it for a good price. Those seemed go sell for around $5 under their retail value. So, I don't know. Maybe the economy still doesn't foster people - the average mom - indulging themselves with expensive items, regardless of their quality? Maybe people don't understand the value of lampwork? Maybe they don't understand why the beads I had on my pendants were any better than those they get at Hobby Lobby? Did most people just think they sucked? I don't know. I didn't have the stomach to stalk the people looking at my work and eavesdrop. Maybe I should have.

At this point I really don't feel like I know much. My brain feels a little jumbled. And my ego? Smackdown successful.