Today I finished a few projects, and the biggest one was “The Amethyst”.  The finished piece is here…and it has been told that Amethysts protect the wearer from drunkenness, which is a good thing.  I was ready to take to the bottle after trying to push 14 gauge wire prongs over the beauty without cracking or scratching!  Roll over a photo and press stop to control the slide show. 

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On April 26th I will be teaching a basic class on making ear wires and  head pins at Artascope Studios.  No experience in wire work is necessary, and all the materials for the class are provided.  At the end of class participants will go home with 3 pair of sterling silver ear rings – REALLY!

I hope you can come to this fun night, and if you cannot make it, come back and visit and see photos of the class!

Photo by Catherine Bickford

Sometimes your focus can be so singular and tunneled that you can get stuck either in a rut, OR stuck creatively; at least I do. For a long time my equation was: metalsmithing=jewelry. I now realize this is really simple in thinking. However, the day that I was introduced to a hydraulic press and could see how metal can be gently shaped with thousands of pounds of pressure, I had a WOW moment.  You can make beads, pins, drawer pulls, dishes and probably far more than I can even imagine right now.

My first project was a copper salt/pepper cellar. The very worst part of this project is cutting the shape of the die that you will use to form the metal. You cut a shape out of plexiglass, then file and round the edges. When using a hydraulic press you make a “sandwich” of die+sheet metal+rubber. The hydraulic press is fairly gentle on metal, so if you texture your metal prior to pressing, the texturing will not be damaged.

This sweet spoon will accompany a salt cellar.

The prongs are set, filed and polished.  The last step is to place the stone in the setting and then using a prong set, push to prongs over so that they cradle the stone.

Easier said than done though.  The design for this setting is chunky and modern, leaving delicate in the closet.  The prongs are 14 gauge wire, which are very difficult to push into place, requiring quite a bit of pressure to push them in without damaging the stone.  While I did not damage the stone, I did break one prong off.  I carefully pushed 2 prongs back, slid the stone back and went back to replace the prong.  All this in 3 hours!

I will attempt to finish this piece next week… be patient and stay tuned!

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My mom (and best girlfriend) gave me 2 very large, faceted amethysts a few years ago.  My intention was to take them to a jeweler and have something made for  so that I could wear them.  Time passed, the stones sparkled and I looked at them thinking that maybe I wasn’t worthy of wearing something so beautiful.

Part of  the metalsmithing curriculum this winter is to learn how to do a prong setting.  If I thought I wasn’t worthy of wearing this stone, I certainly didn’t have any business making a setting for it!  My teacher changed my mind and for the last 2 weeks I have been busy forming the base, soldering the prongs and bale.  Tomorrow I get to finally set the stone.

Stay tuned.

Those 2 words pretty much sum up what happens to many people when they WANT to be creative.  You get stuck. Your mind draws a blank. I say to myself “OK, NOW what?”

I had finished my stone necklace, and feeling pretty good, when my instructor said to me “what is your next project?”  Panic sets in as I see my classmates turning out just GORGEOUS pieces.  One person was finishing up a sterling locket shaped and textured like a mussel shell, complete with hinge and a small bezeled opal inside, and another was finishing up a copper box with sterling pieces soldered to resemble the rocks of coastal Maine.  What my next project was going to be was daunting.

My instructor gave me an assignment to assist in this constipated and stilted creativity I was experiencing.  The assignment was to design 5 1×1″ copper squares using one techinque per square.  Once the copper squares were done, I was to select one square to use in a finished piece. This entire assignment had to be completed in 3 hours.  The idea was to simply get the work done, and not to overthink a project.  I used texturing, soldering, riveting, and rolling mill.

The last square completed was the riveted square, which I thought I would  be unhappy with – ended up as my finished piece…a pendant.

In January I started a 12 week metalsmithing course at Warg Studios. Our Instructor gave us an assignment for the first class which was to bring in a small found object(s) and develope a design incorporating the objects. Panic ensued. I had never designed anything, I have always been given an assignment.

I brought in 2 beach stones and decided that I wanted to set them in a bezel and make a necklace. I chose a bezel as that was an area that I wanted to get a little better at. The project to about 9 hours to complete, but I am VERY happy with the result.

My second bezel project

In November of 2009 I taught myself how to make a wire wrapped ring.  I love rings, and asked myself how I could make a ring without the need of a torch.  I played around with a couple of techniques, came across a very cool Swarovski crystal, refined my design and finished a piece that I was happy enough with that I could give one as a gift to my sister-in-law.

While shopping together in the Old Port, my sister-in-law wore her ring, and it sparkled so much that it caught the eye of the manager of a local store.  On the spot she ordered 12 rings for the holiday season.  My jaw was slack with amazement: “You really want to buy my work??”

About thirty rings later, I can say that this is my signature piece.  The modern cocktail “Bling Ring”.

I received my baby “Blazer” butane torch this week.  I have been saving all my soldering jobs for when I am in class or at the Art Studio that I volunteer for in exchange for studio time.  Life being what it is, my time management has been off, and realized that if I could just do some of the easier jobs at home I could continue the creative process and not get stilted.

I used 16″x16 ceramic tiles to protect my work surface, purchased an inexpensive 1.5qt “crock pot” for my pickle, set up my new annealing pan and brick, and I was ready to go.

I started with a simple project last night – a soldered triple ring.  I was in my creative happiness when my husband visited my new space and asked: Do you know what time it is?  Hummmm, no, I don’t!

Time to go to bed.

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