Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Halloween Treat - Swirling Wire Earring Tutorial: Part One

A joyous All Hallow's Eve to you, or as we say in America (and not my imagination), Happy Halloween! As a treat for you on this day of tricks and treats I thought I'd actually get my act together and publish this for you. Enjoy!

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

These earrings began as a project to figure out what to do with a fabricated pair of etched and soldered rectangles I made out of copper, brass, and sterling silver.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

I wanted to do something really striking with it. One of my first ideas was to solder bezels and set a pair of pretty cabochons, but that seemed too mundane. "What if," I thought to myself, "I put the cabochon on swirly wire in front of it?" My brain perked up immediately. "Oh, yes!" I responded, to myself, in a Smeagol-like voice. "We likes swirlies, we does!" After acknowledging I had too much caffeine in my system I set out to create this imagined earring.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earrings

soldering kit
Fine tip permanent marker
round nose pliers
chain nose pliers
bail-making pliers
wire cutter
flat metal file
20" (inches) 20 gauge (g) wire
two 4mm silver bezel cups
two 4mm cabochons
two 1/2" x 1" etched and soldered metal rectangles

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step One: Cut two 6" lengths of 20g wire. File flat both ends of each wire. Using a round nose pliers make a partial loop with a diameter of 4mm on one end of each wire.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step Two: Laying the two wires so they are mirror-images of each other, Solder a 4mm bezel cup to the inside of each loop you just created. Make sure the wire sits at the bottom of each cup so that it doesn't interfere with setting the cabochon later on. When I first lit my torch I focused the heat of the flame on the charcoal around the bezel before heating the wire to make sure there was enough residual heat beneath the cup to help the solder flow. Using radiant heat is an great trick for soldering delicate parts. It also helps to make sure you are able to heat your copper to soldering temperature quickly enough to minimize the oxidation that interferes with the capillary action of the solder.

Here's the blog post about Flux that I mention.

Alternatively: you can wirewrap a small bead in the 4mm loop instead of soldering.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step Three: Using a fine tipped permanent marker mark the wire 3/8 of an inch up from the bezel.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework EarringEtched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring
TIP: Use the fine tipped permanent marker to mark your round nose pliers where you will be making your small loops so the loops on each earring will look the same. Where you mark the pliers is up to personal preference, but for a standard pair of round nose pliers I usually mark mine somewhere around 1/4 the way from the tip.

Step Four: Using your round nose pliers gently grasp the wire at the mark you made. Make a loop - between 3/4 and one complete loop.

Repeat for the second earring, making sure to make the loop a mirror image (reverse direction) of the first one you did.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step Five: Move the round nose pliers to your non-dominant hand and use them to gently hold the loop. You will now use downward, inward pressure from both the plier hand and your dominant hand to begin to form an open spiral - one more revolution around the loop you made with the pliers. Notice below that the spacing between the wires of the spiral is about the same as the diameter of the initial loop you made. Repeat for the second earring.

TIP: Making open spirals, freeform, by hand, takes practice. If you've never done this (successfully) before, practice first on some scrap wire. Once you've formed the first revolution of the spiral you can put down your round nose pliers and use a chain nose pliers to gently hold the new portion of the spiral to give you more leverage to form the next part of the spiral. Just make sure you're holding a portion of the wire that has already been formed the way you want, otherwise the wire will bend rather than curve at that point.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step Six: You should, ideally, have around 3 1/2" of wire left. Make a mark 3 3/8" from the end of the wire.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step Seven: Like with the previous spiral, place your round nose pliers at the new mark you made and make another loop (with pliers) and open spiral (with both plier- and non-plier hands) above the open spiral you just finished.

Repeat for the second earring, making sure to make the loop a mirror image (reverse direction) of the first one you did.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step Eight: Just to be pretty, use a bail-making pliers or 1/4" to 3/8" wood dowel to put a slight curve in the wire between the bottom spiral and the bezel cup at the end of the wire. Remember to make the curves on each earring mirror images of each other.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Step Nine: You should now have about 1 1/2" of wire left.

Etched, Soldered, and Wirework Earring

Aaaaaaaand ... you'll have to come back to see the rest. Next we'll hole-punch the rectangle, attach the wire to the rectangle, create and attach the earwire for the earring, figure out how to keep the earwire and rectangle neatly aligned as they hang, and set the cabochons.

So, are you going to try the project? Do you solder, or are you going to wirewrap a bead into the bottom loop? Do you have other ideas for changes you'd make? Are you excited for part two?

I hope you are enjoying your summer ... errr, Fall (I may have intended to publish this a while ago) ... so far and we'll see you for part two! Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's A Lovefest Out Here!

So, yesterday I told a story about how irrationally competitive I can be. Maybe you thought I was being self-effacing and honest, and maybe I was, but it's still embarrassingly true. When I've worked hard at something I want to be the best. It's something that's always with me in one way or another.

Julie Nordine of Credit River Art Glass is another Minnesota lampworker, a fellow member of The Star Of The North ISGB Chapter, who's been lampworking about as long as I have, and because of that I feel a little competitive about it. I know it's stupid, but I embrace my crazy. Julie makes great beads and I find myself with some envy that she gets to do it full time and does national bead shows and she's super nice and everybody knows her and she deserves every bit of attention she earns.

Now don't get we wrong. I don't think about it a lot, but I think that there are just people in the universe who are similar enough to us in one way or another that we can't help but compare ourselves to them just a little. And I think that it's important, because in my case it definitely pushes me to improve all the time.

About a month ago one of my all-time favorite wire artists, Nicole Hanna posted several amazing pendants she did with lampwork Julie sent her.


That, of course, caught my attention immediately. What an O.M.G. totally perfect idea! Why didn't I think of that? Dangit! So, of course, I immediately started thinking about who I should send MY lampwork beads to. Okay, so the idea's not original, but I was at least capable of thinking of a different artist, one who would make my focal beads look as lovely as Julie and Nicole's.

I didn't have to think long.

When I did the Bead Soup Blog Party this year there were a few artists that truly stood out as having magnificent talent (including my partner, Kristin!). Among them, Nancy Dale was my favorite. And, because she's such a great lady, when she did the hop she left amazing comments for everyone and started following everyone's blog. I mean, she's just such a class act!

As fortune would have it, she's also currently a part of the Art Charm Exchange that's being hosted by Jennifer Cameron right now. So, of course, I thought If I'm brave enough, I'm going to send her a Facebook message and ask if she'd be willing to make something with one of my beads and let me do some promotion with the pictures.

As I was working on building up my courage, I was drawn to the common struggle in the Art Charm Exchange over whether or not the charms people were working on were as amazing as possible, partly because the charm exchange is part of an auction to benefit Beads of Courage. November 15th at Start saving! I was sort of blown away that Nancy was feeling some doubt, too.

I hadn't been nervous about what I sent until I saw that this was the stack of charms that Nancy abandoned in favor of another (to be revealed on the 15th) design.

Not that I don't get nerves. I've ripped apart my fair share of designs, like Stacey's necklace for the third time. But, I worked hard to develop the skills I used to make my charms, so I had been confident about that. Had. Thanks, Nancy ;) But I recognized that I felt inadequacy as an artist in other ways.

So, when people started inquiring about whether Jennifer had a chance to mail our charms, Nancy expressed that she hoped everyone liked her new design. My response?

How could they not? You're crazy talented!

Nancy liked the comment, said it was sweet, and then I got a friend request. Of course I accepted it, but I thought ... that's just Nancy being nice. So, when she said:

OHMYGOSH - I've been following your blog and drooling over everything you make for AGES and here we are just now getting to be friends and I never connected the name with the work! I am now even MORE honored by your lovely comment - thank you sooooo much!!!



Well, gosh nickels, that just made my month! And, needless to say, there is a beautiful bead on it's way to Nancy waiting to become something magnificent.

And, really, when I started writing this blog entry, I had intended just to write about how serendipitous that connection was yesterday. About how what started in my head as a result of my hot headed competitive spirit, made this connection so much more tremendously meaningful because it allowed me to be in the moment and cherish it.

Then, I started thinking about how precious those moments are because of the relative rarity with which they happen. Sometimes in the relative anonymity of the internet it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we're all just people plugging away, people who want love and attention, people who have insecurities and protect ourselves with the ability to hide away anything we don't want others to know. Connecting with a kindred spirit - even on the internet - keeps me mindful about what it really means to put ourselves out here in cyberspace and share a little about what we do and who we are. Blemishes and all. And that, really, brings us full circle to those people in our lives that we compare ourselves to, who motivate us with their success and our envy. They are imperfect people, too. Plugging away, trying to stay focused.

That got me thinking about why I avoid interacting in this larger community. Because, while I blog and post my things, I don't really interact. A lot of that stems from a feeling of inadequacy, a feeling that people don't see and/or don't like my work, which is, of course, reinforced by not interacting. I think it's important for me - for us - to remember that we all want some recognition, to feel loved and important. Isn't that why we're all on the internet? I think it's more than just a medium for lurking. I know I always feel hesitant to comment on someone's work - someone who probably has no idea who I am, but then I get a comment from someone I don't know and it makes my day. And, of course, discovering that the person to whom you're commenting DOES know who you are, well, that's just priceless, and it doesn't happen unless you do something - something that might be scary.

So, I'm making a commitment to myself - and to this community. I'm going to start interacting more. I'm going to become part of this Lovefest out here, and I'm going to do my part to help enrich it. My competitiveness, and my befriending Nancy, and the circumstances of it all, have helped me to understand that little connections mean more than I allowed myself to imagine, and that I'm allowed to be loved, even with all of my imperfections! So are you!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Jewelry-Making Show Down

My Sister-in-law, Stacey, has known me for ... a while. Let's just put it like that before we start insulting anyone by adding up ages.

Stacey tagged me on a Facebook photo and said, "This necklace is kind of cool Julie Bowen...hint, hint... :)"

Drippy Necklace by Denise Yezbak Moore Designs
posted by Halcraft USA

A friend of hers piped in, "I have all the beads to make that."

Oh. Okay. Super! I don't have to do it then.

But, like I said, Stacey knows me and my psychotic competitiveness. If you saw the post you would read, "Haha! You should both make different could be like a "jewelry-off" kind of competition..."

But what she wanted me to understand is, "Doood! Julie! She totally thinks she's better than you. Lol. She probably is. You suck!" Sure, she means that in a funny just-kidding-I-love-you kind of way ... but she knows how I'll respond.


Here, in the mean streets of Saint Paul, Minnesota we don't let challenges go unanswered! That's RIGHT!

The Mean Streets of Saint Paul
what do you mean you don't see the mean streets?
They're probably just being hidden behind my giant inflatable pumpkin,
the linden trees or, you know, the elementary school.
But they're there. They're there.

So, fine. Challenge on! And I started immediately plotting the minimum amount of work necessary to win the challenge. Just kidding. I totally wanted to dominate ... but I only had a couple of hours to work on it. I always get an icky feeling about straight-up copying someone else's design, so I knew right off that I needed to make it with in a different medium. Beadwork happens to always look majorly impressive, so I thought that I could use some big 8/0 beads with some tiny 15/0 to fill in a bit, and I could have something that I could work up fairly quickly, and have it look great and similar without the icky feeling about copying.

What I came up with was this:
Stacey's An Instigator

Using right angle weave (RAW) I created the front fringed focal in the style of the picture with a little ombre shading, and Japanese drops on the end, like drops of blood. Then I stitched some Swarovski crystals on top to give it some sparkle and sophistication. Then I added simple seed bead straps with a vintage button clasp. So, different techniques, a slightly different aesthetic with picot-looking edges. I think the beaded details give it a more Gothic aesthetic.

Stacey's An Instigator

So, how do you think I did? Did I meet the challenge? Am I still too close to the original design? Now I challenge YOU! How would you remake the necklace in your style?

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Myth of Inexpensive Lampwork

There's a new blog in town and I'm proud to annouce it's arrival. My best friend, Tasha, is an emerging jewelry designer (not like I coerced her ... exactly), and she's the one that took the plunge and bought my 80 bead orphan destash to create her new line of affordable lampwork jewelry.

Obviously she's picked up something about lampworking because she just wrote a spectacular first post. I hope you'll all help me in supporting Tasha by stopping by and taking a look! I may pop in there from time to time to add my two cents.

click on the picture to go to the post

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Teardrop Link Necklace Tutorial Using Lampwork Spacers

I think it's safe to say that every one of us wishes we had a significantly larger lampwork bead budget. Sometime, if we're lucky, we have a few spare dollars to spend on a set of happy colored lampwork spacers (my Etsy store being one source). So, how do we make a few simple beads go a long way? Here's one idea for you!

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Well ... okay. Maybe we wouldn't necessarily have a coordinating pendant, but I created this necklace using lampwork spacers to complement the pendant and I realized that the necklace by itself is still pretty amazing. Here's a simplified version, not using the double-round-link connectors or connecting the teardrops with the rondelle spacers - but those are both things you could figure out after working through this tutorial! So, let's get started!

Teardrop Link Necklace Tutorial

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers
· bail-making pliers or 5/16" dowel
· chain nose pliers
· flat nose pliers
· 1/4" dowel or round nose pliers (optional)
· chasing hammer and bench block (optional)
· ten 10mm round lampwork spacers (for an 18-19" necklace)
· 5" of 20 (or 18g) copper wire for each bead
· 7" of 18g wire for clasp link (optional)
Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

About 1/2 inch from one end use the fat end of your bail-making pliers (or 3/8" dowel) to create a loop in a 5" length of wire. Be sure you keep a 1/2 inch tail as you create your loop.

NOTE: If you want to make the links with two round ends,like some of the links in the top picture, instead of a teardrop loop you'll need a piece of wire that's 3 7/8" (3.875") long using a 5/16" bail making pliers and 10mm spacers. Obviously feel free to experiment on your own.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

We're starting a wrapped loop. As I begin to wrap the tail around the longer length of wire I stop when the tail is half-way around and use the wire tail as a fulcrum on which I can bend my main wire so it will be straight as I finish my wraps.

The aim when doing a wrapped loop is to have the wraps centered under the loop like a helium balloon. You can straighten the wire before starting to wrap and you can also do it later. I just think this particular method is the most efficient and pretty.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Your finished wraps should look like this. For the beginners, remember that you don't have to do anything to move the wraps down the wire. As long as the wire tail is at a 90° right angle from the main wire, pressing the wire straight around the wire is all you need to do. The wire will naturally slide past the previous wrap and settle into place.

Next slide on a bead.

Use your flat nose pliers to create a 90° bend 1/2" from the end of the wire.

Place your bail making pliers or dowel in the approximate center of the wire between the new bend and the bead. Bend the wire around the plier jaw or dowel until the bend touches the wire coming through the bead. Make sure the bead is against the wraps on the other side and make and final adjustments if necessary.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

It is important to remember to leave a space between the bend and the bead about the same size as the wraps on the other side of the bead. If you don't you'll either have a gap because you left too much space, or the wire will push the bead as you finish the wraps and distort the loop on the other side of the bead. Just pay attention. Measure until you can trust your eye.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Use your flat nose pliers to gently but firmly grasp the teardrop loop right next to where the wires intersect. If you have new pliers, be sure to file the edges (called dressing the pliers) before grabbing the wire, otherwise the pliers will leave marks in the wire.

Once you have a hold on the wire use your fingers and/or the chain nose pliers to wrap the tail.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

To finish wrapping the last little bit of tail I use what I like to call the Ice Pick Grip. Instead of having your thumb pointing toward the plier jaws, turn the pliers around in your hand so your pinky is next to the plier jaws. Most people will have a firmer, steadier grip this way. The disadvantage to using this grip all the time is that it has a different range of motion than we normally use, but for finishing a wrap, this is perfect.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

One link down. If you look carefully you can see that I left tool marks on the teardrop side. If you have a problem with this, putting tape (any kind, really) on the jaws will help cushion the wire. Like any tool coating (like Tool Magic) you'll have to replace the coating (tape) sooner than later.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

As before, you'll use the bail making pliers or dowel to create a loop 1/2" from the end of a new wire. Attach the new round loop to the teardrop loop on the last link.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Gently grasp the round loop with the flat nose pliers, with the old link on the opposite side of the pliers from the new tail.

Use your fingers and/or chain nose pliers to wrap the tail as with the previous link, remembering to straighten the main wire.

Finish the wraps and slide on a bead.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

As before, create the tail by bending a 90° angle 1/2" from the wire end. And like with the last link, use the bail making pliers or dowel to bend the wire into a teardrop shape.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers
Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Don't forget to use the Ice Pick grip, turning the pliers as you tighten the grasp of the jaws, to finish wrapping the ends of the tails.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Each link is about 1 7/8" in length. So ten beads will produce a necklace that's between 18 and 19 inches in length.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

To make the clasp (using the 7" piece of wire if you want to keep the necklace a little longer), use the flat nose pliers to carefully flatten the teardrop loop on the last link.

Put a little quarter turn bend in the end of the flattened link.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Place your bail making pliers (or a smaller 1/4" dowel or the fat base of a round nose pliers) at the center of the flattened loop and bend the wire until the end barely touches the wraps next to the bead. A properly formed hook clasp sort of snaps onto the connecting loop, preventing accidental disconnection.

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Now you can, if you wish, carefully forge the loops with your chasing hammer (or planishing hammer) and bench block to harden them and preserve the shape. Here's a little video I did demonstrating the process for this necklace:

Teardrop wire link necklace with 10mm round lampwork spacers

Do you guys have designs you already use for lampwork spacers? Should I post more tutorials like this?

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 21, 2013

eBay Orphan Destash Extravaganza

I love working as an artist. I love the colors, textures, and building something that started as an idea in my head and knowing that I can make it real - something that will last for ages beyond me.

I love knowing that I am part of a long tradition of artists before me. Like them, however, I also struggle to make a regular income doing this work. It's all about cultivating multiple revenue streams! Doing my part to stay out of the poor house, I have two eBay auctions up right now that will be ending this Saturday, October 26th. If you know any jewelry artists or lampwork aficionados, please pass this on!

One is a ten (10) focal bead orphan destash (they need a good home!) with coordinating lampwork headpins.

eBay Destash OCt 2013
Click on the image to go to the eBay auction listing.

The other is an 80 bead orphan destash with beads, focals, a few lampwork buttons, a couple of disks, and a couple of rings.

eBay Destash (80) handmade lampwork beads
Click on the image to go to the eBay auction listing. You know you want to!

eBay Destash (80) handmade lampwork beads
Click on the image to go to the eBay auction listing. Just one little click!

The starting bids are really low. The 10 focal beads is starting at $0.99. The 80 beads and focals is starting at $40. Considering that the average price of one focal bead in my Etsy store is $25 these auctions present an amazing opportunity to score a bargain! These are top quality beads, they just aren't as consistent or as big as I need right now and a girl's gotta pay her bills!

Here are a couple particularly nice shots of some beads in the 80 bead destash:

eBay Destash (80) handmade lampwork beads

eBay Destash (80) handmade lampwork beads

Artists: do you do destashes? Do you have regular sales? What methods do you use when you're trying to increase your sooner-than-later revenue? Leave me a comment and share your insight!

Customers: Does buying beads (or other art) at a discount ever make you feel more confident about buying full-priced art later? Is this the only way you buy art? Do you avoid destashes because of perceived lack of value? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Thanks for stopping by!