Tuesday, August 23, 2016

DON'T SCRAP IT - By Karen McGovern

If you are like me, you have a few containers, boxes, drawers, cups, whatever--full of bits and pieces of metal left over from various projects. Considering how expensive copper and silver are these days (I don't even talk about gold--that is WAY outside my skill set and beyond my pocket book's wildest imagination), you don't want to waste a bit of either material. So, what to do with all that scrap? There are practical options, like melting the silver down or sending your scrap to one of several online storefronts that will pay you by the gram for scrap metals (Rio Grande is one of the better known venues for this). Whatever you do--KEEP YOUR SCRAP. 

Beyond basic recycling, there are many other options for scrap and I have just recently begun fooling around with my containers of scrap silver and copper. Number one for me at the moment is fusing scrap silver to copper. I had NO IDEA how EASY this is, how great the results are and how fun the process is. Silver and copper are highly compatible metals. To fuse silver to copper all you need to do is clean your copper (sand, de-grease with soap and water, wipe dry), lay some bits of scrap silver on and heat in the torch till the silver flows and reticulates. I use a hand-held butane torch for this and it works beautifully. It's really amazing! You end up with a very organic silver pattern full of ridges, swirls, bumps, etc. fused fully to the copper base. This is great for SO MANY THINGS. I've been making cuffs, discs and rings and adore the organic look of the molten metal on the copper base. I am a fool for fusing!

To make a sterling silver/copper fused band-style ring I set a copper ring blank (cleaned and sanded) in the jaws of a third hand on my solder board. I snip small lengths of sterling wire (gauges matter--I usually use scrap 16 or 18 gauge), bend the wire and lay it on the ring. Heat everything with the torch until the silver melts! It will run down the ring. Quench, clean a little, add more silver if you want, etc. You never know how it will turn out, which I find really interesting. This is such a quick and easy way to create!! No need for flux or anything...super-cool. I did the same for the cuff. Placed my clean copper cuff blank on the solder board, then added a few pieces of scrap on the length, heated in the torch and watched the metal flow. Quenched, cleaned, then bent in my bracelet bender. A bit of liver of sulfur then VIOLA! The other rings shown were made with scrap sterling and copper wire soldered together then soldered to the band. The pendant was made using scrap copper sheet and washers I made into "pods" lined with fused sterling silver. Most of my designs are rustic--that is what I love to create and working with scrap is a great way to stretch your imagination in a new direction. So far I have made a couple rings, working on a pendant at the  moment. I like the twig "bundle" look and fusing or soldering scraps together creates some really interesting shapes. There will definitely be more of these designs in my future...

This is a real learning process for me--you cannot predict the outcome exactly. I accidentally discovered what happens if you try to fuse a heavier gauge scrap of sterling sheet on a thinner gauge piece of copper...The silver will melt right through the copper while fusing. In the video below you can see what happened when I first fooled around with fusing and put heavier gauge scrap silver on a thinner copper disc. I thought I had messed up and initially hated the result UNTIL I TURNED IT OVER. The silver had melted through to the other side in a really beautiful way. SCIENCE! ALCHEMY! MAGIC! I made a super-cool leather bracelet with that bad boy....


Leather cuff with fused sterling and copper discs. ROCK ON!

Scrap silver and copper are also great to turn into granules--those little balls so wonderful for use as accent on just about anything. I simply snip up scrap wire or sheet into small bits, arrange them on a fire or charcoal board (smooth surface) heat to melting with the torch and they form into balls! Fool around with this--you will see that if you over heat the balls may "boil" and form air pockets (which can result in some interesting shapes) and the longer you work with this technique the better you will get at forming perfectly round balls (learning just when to pull the torch back and when to quench) or balls with a flat back (which I prefer because it's easier to set them later). 

Puff of Smoke ring made with sterling silver granules created from scrap silver.

Bottom line, there are a million things you can do with scrap! Dump out a pile and start playing. Let us know how it goes--we love to hear about and see what you are working on. Now, GO MAKE SOMETHING AMAZING!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stone pendant sandblasting: Step-by-step process

Carol Dekle-Foss
Recently, someone wanted to know how I sandblast my stone pendants. I did a tutorial on my personal blog but not on Love My Art Jewelry, so for this post I thought I would share my process. 

First, it took about a year to even start sandblasting. I did tons of research, and then we went to work building or modifying all the equipment. It was very frustrating for me because I had a hard time understanding the mechanics. Thanks to my husband explaining to me hundreds of times, we finally figured it out! I still get confused with how my OWN equipment works! Then, I had to learn how the special film worked. What a pain! I went through tons because it wouldn't expose or develop right. Luckily, the companies I work with give you samples to experiment with. Even today, after five years, I still have issues with the film.

I really do enjoy this creative process though, and over the years have found many ways to use my sandblaster, including creating stamps for porcelain. (My current new obsession)      

Here is the simplified version: You apply a stencil to a product and then sandblast the stencil image with a special abrasive applied at high pressure. The abrasive then erodes the surface in the open areas of the stencil and leaves a permanent carved impression.

Simple right? Umm, ya right. Here are the visual steps.

Step One

I either draw the image I want or I use a royalty-free graphic.  I then upload the image to Photoshop where I darken it and scale it down to the size I like. Now it is ready to be printed on a special type of vellum paper shown below.

 My father is an electrician, so together with my husband, we built this lightbox to expose the film. These are fluorescent black light bulbs.

Step Two
The next step is to expose. I place the special film (I'm currently using Rayzist as my film supplier) on top of the vellum and turn the light on for 30 seconds.

Step Three

After exposing, the next step is to pressure wash with warm water to develop the film. I use Ikonics Triggerjet and it works like a charm. You can buy washout boxes or just use a sink or shower.

Step Four
I then place the stencil in my handy dandy Nesco food dehydrator. The alternative is using a photoresist film dryer or you can also use a blow dryer.

Step Five
After the film is dry, I remove the carrier sheet and apply to the pendant.

I then position the film and remove the protective carrier sheet. I wrap the film around the stone and tape the back so the stone doesn't get damaged in the sandblasting process.

Step Six
The next step is to sandblast the piece. I bought this equipment from a very nice gentleman who hand makes these out of Texas. We modified it to use a foot pedal so there is better control and installed a smaller more fine tuned tip for blasting.
When I sandblast, I use a half mask respirator, eye protection, and cover my hair. I also open the garage door for ample ventilation. 

I use silicon carbide grit which is an extremely fine sand and sandblast at approximately 35 psi. I went through different grit, and different film until I got the exact formula that I use for my process.

Step Seven
The final step is to airbrush, or hand paint the sandblasted piece with the film still on. I use non toxic acrylic paint with metallic colors. I then spray a coating of acrylic top coat to seal in the paint and to give it a shine.

Peacock pendant necklace

I let the piece sit over night so it's nice and dry and then I remove the film and clean the stone.

There you have it! You can buy sandblasting equipment, but at the time I started it was very costly. Maybe the prices are better today? That's why we decided to build our own setup. I'm glad we did because if a part breaks, we can fix it ourselves. Well, my husband. He fixes it. Ha!

Thank you for reading! 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I Love Artisan Beads!

by Patti Vanderbloemen

While I thoroughly enjoy using gemstones in my jewelry designs, I get so much satisfaction when I use an artisan bead or component!  Carol is an amazing metalsmith, but as she showed us a few weeks ago, she (and her husband) makes fabulous porcelain beads and components. I could not resist! This is my recent haul from her shop:

Yummy, right?! I am thrilled --- THRILLED -- to have received a few porcelain cabochons, in addition to beads and components.  I mean, look at that crescent moon!!!!

Anyway, I just received this package late Friday. One of my nieces decided to have her baby two weeks early, so I spent this morning and early afternoon visiting the newest addition to my family.

That is my beautiful Mother and her 4th Great Grandchild, Vivienne Rose. Niece and baby are doing just wonderful! (Sorry for the shameless plug...but this picture brings me so much joy!)

Anyway, I did not get to complete as many of the projects that I wanted to before this blog post. I could very easily have simply attached an ear wire to those gorgeous charms, called them earrings, and been done with it.  But I have other ideas!

Lately, I seem to be completely enamored with tube settings. They are appearing on more and more of my designs. 

The glaze on these charms is the softest of lavender, so I used faceted lavender Cubic Zirconia.  I soldered on a post to the back, and half a jump ring to the bottom so that the porcelain charms dangle freely.

I nearly fell over when Carol first posted pictures of her Cherry Blossom charms. I live very close to Washington DC and the annual Cherry Blossom Festival downtown is a Big Deal around these parts!

Photo courtesy of Carol Dekle-Foss / TerraRusticaStudio
While I have made "flower" style earrings from sterling silver before, I wanted to replicate the cherry blossoms as much as possible.

Carol's cherry blossoms have five petals - with a "notch" on each petal.  How does one divide up a circle accurately into 5 sections? I don't know about you, but 9th grade geometry for me was 1976...yeah...a while ago. And I vividly remember that I did not get an A, or even a B in that class .... ('nuff said).

So, I used my GO-TO book, The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight.

This book is not new, and I am sure that most - or at least many of our readers - have this book on their bench. It is truly one of the best references for a plethora of information. In this case, specifically, page 286.

There is a Circle Divider template (covered up in my photo - don't want to get in trouble for posting the whole image!).  Just slap your piece (in my case, a little disc of silver) in the center, and follow the guidelines on the template to perfectly divide your circle into 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 equal slices.  I love this template, and refer to it often when making bangles that require divided sections with different textures or twists within its circle. With my OCD comes a need for symmetry!

Anyway, much work to be done to use the rest of these gorgeous pieces!  Thank you so much Carol for sharing your art!

Thanks for stopping by today!  Enjoy!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bead Fest Frenzy

by Staci Louise Smith

It's that time of year again- BEAD FEST!  The time of year I get to fill an 8' table with nothing but beads.  

In order to do this, I spend 4-6 weeks in the studio preparing for this event. This year, due to life, I got pushed back to 3.5 weeks to prep.  So, to say that I am burning the candle at both ends is an understatement. 

Thank goodness I love what I do.

So, I have beads everywhere, in all stages of completion.  

I have my mock set up ready to move beads to as they are finished.

I still have quite a few beads to finish painting, and a class to finish prepping for and samples to make, and then I have to price.  But I will do it somehow.

This year I am employing my kids a little bit.  My daughter has helped seal beads, and make my sample blanks for the class.  My youngest son has cut and bent the little wire bails that go into the beads, about 300 of them!!!  I pay them, and they enjoy the time in the studio with me, as I do too.

So, that is that.  I must get back to making the beads.  I do have these GREAT discount passes you can save and print for Bead Fest.  If you are coming, these save you $10 at the door!!!!!

If you are interested in taking my painting on polymer class, there is still time to sign up.  Registration is over Monday, August 15th at 6pm eastern time.  After that, you can sign up at the venue itself.

You can sign up for that HERE.

Wish me luck and I hope to see you at Bead Fest!  I will be at booth 572B- in the back corner of Artisan Alley with Marsha Neal, Nikki Thornburg and Diane Hawkey.  Come and see us!!!

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