Sunday, June 29, 2014


I've done three of the "no bail" pieces so far. The last one came out so beautifully that I couldn't wait to share it with the world. I listed it on Etsy last night.

Each of the three pieces have been a little different, in terms of technique. By the third one, I had worked out the best way to make a very functional and visually pleasing bail. It is also a little smaller. My first two were larger than they needed to be. As a result, the pendant hangs even more beautifully. I'm really pleased with the last revision. But, I will make a few more to see if I need or want to make any further refinements before I start thinking about a tutorial.

Is this style called a "slide" pendant? I can't quite figure this out for myself, despite looking online for an answer. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place.

Beautiful Willow Creek Jasper
(I don't know why blogger darkens my images!)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Inspiration or Theft? Intellectual Property Rights

According to Merriam Webster online-- Inspiration : something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone

I was inspired by a post on facebook by Perri Jackson, of ShaktipajDesigns, wire wrapper extraordinaire and super hero for Intellectual Property Rights. (You know you are, Perri! :) ) Though, I am not as eloquent as she, I'd like to finally make a post on the subject myself.

When I began wire wrapping, there weren't the resources there are now. (There also weren't as many styles of wire working!) As I have said before, I started with Preston Reuther and some of his videotapes on wire sculpting. However, the true worth of those old videos were to inspire me to do my own thing.

Early in my career and still to this day, to a lesser extent, I collected online images of work that I liked. I never had a conscious notion of copying any of them. I just liked them. They were eye candy. They were inspiring. I'm sure most of you have a folder or two on your hard drive with images that just struck you for one reason or another.

The problem with my images, is that over time, I have forgotten who did what and where I got what image. Now, I save webpages instead. They give me more information about the artist. Why is that important? Because I want to give credit to an artist, if an artist has inspired something that I do.

But, that was not always the case. Early on, I had no real clear ideas about what Intellectual Property Rights were. It, honestly, never occurred to me that there was a human being behind that creative thought along with many hours of brainstorming, frustration and work. They were just images. No more, no less. I mean, I did stop and think, "Man, I really like this girl's work." But, I didn't put two and two together that she OWNED that idea.

It's not because I am a bad person that I ignored the effort and time that someone else invested in their work. Rather, I was ignorant. I was in my own little corner of the planet, harmlessly collecting eye candy and hopefully being inspired by some to create something of my own.

I never deliberately copied anyone. Just as a child knows not to steal, I knew not to outright copy someone else's work. To me it is the same as cheating in a game. If you win, it's not really much fun, is it? I mean, did you really win? No. You didn't. The same is true if you copy someone's work. It's cheating and you can't claim any credit for winning. That much probably seems clear to a lot of people- at least the honest ones.

What happens when some of that eye candy influences what you do? Maybe, the image was in the back of your mind while your hands were busy working and you aren't even really aware of it. Maybe, when you were finished with your piece, bells started going off and you realized that you have seen something like that before? It happens. It happens more often than most people will admit.

What do you do? Well, if you have the name of the artist, you only share your work with the caveat that it was inspired by so and so. Hopefully, the only thing you did was unconsciously duplicate a technique to use in your own work. That is, actually and legally, acceptable because you can not claim a technique as your own. You can claim your design as your own, though.

The tricky part comes in when you look objectively at your work. If someone didn't know it was yours, would they recognize it as the other artist's work? If so, you have copied their work. Yup, you did. Maybe you didn't realize it, but you did. If not, then congratulations! You have taken eye candy from another artist and used it to create something truly your own. You should still give the artist credit for inspiring you. Yes. Because it is the right thing to do and, believe you me, you would want the same thing done for you.

With the explosion of handmade jewelry and the availability of the internet to virtually everyone, sharing your work online can be frustrating and sometimes down right heart breaking. I have a unique style. One that is immediately recognizable. Lots of people are inspired by it. I get very nice emails on a daily basis from fellow wire artists.

Some messages are not so nice. Consider one email that I got that threatened that if I didn't want to sell my book or tutorials anymore then she would just have to steal them online somewhere. Or, how about the people that want more pictures because they ADMITTEDLY want to duplicate your work? I have had people who, at first, loved my work until I declined a custom job at their price, only to be personally and professionally berated and belittled for it. Or, how about the people who ask specific questions about a technique, get a time involved, detailed, generous explanation-- without so much as a thank you?? Yes, some people are nasty.

I want people to understand- there are human beings behind the work you see. We feel. We work hard. We think, plan and practice. We do not have to share anything, but we do. And it hurts our feelings to know that we get so little respect for our humanity and creations that people would blatantly steal from us and, in some cases, gloat about it, right to our face. I use the plural because I know, for a fact, that I am not the only artist that this happens to.

Yes, we have heard that we need a tougher skin. (As if we are guilty of something and need to be fixed.) No. We don't need to suck it up. People should just NOT steal from us or be mean spirited for no good reason. My mother didn't spend all that time in labor just so someone can abuse me, my work and my intellectual property rights.

You should not put up with abuse, either. Put your name on your images. If you see someone whose work is just a little too close to your own, send them a simple, polite note stating that you are happy to have inspired them and that you would appreciate credit for it. Yes, I have done it. I have also contacted other artists whose work was being copied and let them know about it. Many really big artists are copied all the time. It is easy to spot. It is much easier than the guilty party imagines. 

You know what? Just remember the Golden Rule- Treat others as you would have them treat you. Be honest and expect honesty from others.


My admission:

Years ago, I ran across a style on eBay that really intrigued me. I downloaded an image and forgot about it. Then one day, I was perusing my eye candy and decided to give the technique a try. At first, I didn't think to give credit because I didn't know any better. After I realized that I should, I was confronted with the fact that I didn't know the artist's name. It wasn't on the image. I had no idea how to find the name, so I gave credit to an unnamed artist from eBay.

Please! Put some kind of information on your images.

The original eye candy
My inspired piece

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wire Wrapped Bails and Not

Bet y'all thought I was gone for good, huh? LOL! Well, I'm baaaaaack....

I'm sure you can relate. I was in a slump. I wasn't making anything new. I was boring myself to death. Cabbing was taking up a lot of my time and energy and then I got bored with that and felt a renewed interest in wire work. I decided that I would try to take a new approach to break from my shell. As y'all know, my work doesn't incorporate a lot of coiling, weaving and curls. So, my options were pretty limited. Time to think outside the box. What can I do that is even more minimal?

Enter- the "bailess pendant". Yes, of course, it has a bail, but it is behind the piece. It hangs very well, too. Then I thought- OK, what about a different kind of bail?

Enter- the double bail. This was murder to do! But, the next one will be easier and I have a few things I want to try differently, too. 

For the first time in a very, very long time, I am considering doing another tutorial. But, since they are so time consuming for me, I can't predict when it will happen. I was thinking of doing one for the bailess pendant. I think it has a lot of possibilities, which I intend to explore. And that's just what I am off to do.

Thanks for reading along. :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

When Will It End?????

Some of you reading this may think that I, being barely in the South, have no good reason to complain about this past Winter (or is it?). But, I assure you, though we didn't get snow in high double digits, it has been brutal, nonetheless. Winters are tough on me with this one being downright unbearable. I need to move out to the sunny West where I can cab when ever I want to.

We did have a small break in the cold temps. I thought the cold days were behind us. Yay! I was cabbing every second I could get. I was happy to cut into all the slabs I have been collecting during the past few months. I have some really special ones calling my name. But, just when I get into the swing of it... it turns cold again! Wouldn't you know it- it turned just after I packed the cold weather clothes and coats. (I shoulda known better!)

I cabbed a lot of nice cabs and realized that I needed a shop just for my rocks, so I opened a new rock shop on etsy. It's been doing really well, which encourages me to cab even more.

I have many categories of cabs. I have my personal collection, which I can't bear to part with; my stack to turn into jewelry; my stack to sell and my stack to give as gifts to purchasers. I try to send a free cab with every order. These aren't throw aways, but ones I know I'll never use and don't want to list. The habit is not unique to me, many rocks hounds follow this tradition of lagniappe. I've been the lucky recipient of quite a few nice rocks myself. :) It makes me happy to do this and I like to think the recipient is happy, too.

I don't have any pictures today. But, you can see some of my recent cabs in my shop. If you have a look, check my sold ones, too. A few top shelf ones already sold.

I had no real direction to go with this post. I thought I would only complain about the lingering season of yuck, but now I see that I really wanted to talk about cabs.

I have taken a break on my silversmithing because I ran into a problem with getting firestain/firescale and I want to make sure that I don't continue with any bad habits before I return to the torch. More on that later.

Some of you may remember that my nephew has leukemia.I have good news on that front. He found 3 matches who were perfect 8 out of 8 matches for him. So, he will be leaving soon for a bone marrow transplant. It will be a very long, rough, painful road for him. We feel confident for the outcome, though. I am eternally grateful to those perfect strangers who volunteer their bone marrow. And, to the hospitality house which he will be able to stay in.

Well, I just wanted to update y'all. I hope you, too, are shaking off the last of the Winter and getting ready for the sunny days ahead. Have a wonderful Holiday weekend. :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Brave Enough

I think, no, I know, I am brave enough to say that I have simple soldering down. I don't think I have done anything terribly complicated, but each new thing sure seems that way! I hold my breath and just do it. (After procrastinating for many minutes.) I hope for the best and jump in with both feet. The idea of ruining some expensive silver and wasting a lot of time just can not enter into the equation. If I think about it too much, I would never do anything. So far, so good. So good, in fact, that I have actually listed 2 pieces in my Etsy shop and I am getting ready to list a third and maybe more.

Here is one that I think is ready for my shop. It is a gorgeous Damsonite or otherwise known as Burro Creek agate.

I love this piece, but let me tell you, I really sweated the load getting those beads on right. Afterwards I thought, "Why didn't I use a centerpunch to mark the spots for the beads?" Duh, live and learn. The cutout back, or, pierced work as it is called, came out brilliantly. I really fretted over that, too. This was a very good project and I learned a lot and got lucky a lot. :)

Here is one that I have listed. It's a wonderful dendritic Montana agate.

This one has pierce work on the back, too. The picture won't upload for some reason. Anyway, this piece is a play on the shape. The front and back have opposing pears, but if you look through the stone you can see another pear, which is oriented the way the stone is. Well, I thought it was clever, anyway. :) I love this piece, it was fun to do and didn't trouble me much.

Did you notice that I have a stamp for .925? Now all I have to do is remember to put it on before I put the bezel wire on.

Just in case anyone is thinking that I quit wire wrapping here are a few recent projects.

Parrotwing Chrysocolla
Blue Dinosaur Bone
Indonesian Petrified Coral
Chrysocolla in Quartz
Ocean Jasper

Thanks for reading- be well and create happily. :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Silversmithed Pieces and Donating Bone Marrow

I admit it. I am addicted to metalsmithing. One of the things I like about it is you can do it in bits and pieces. There are steps involved. Each step can be a session unto itself, if you don't have a lot of time. There is the designing stage, which I really like and find myself doing at night. Then you can make the bezel, which can be done pretty quickly with the micro torch. You can do the sawing of the backplate and any design cut out you may want to do. You can start many projects to this point and then do a bunch of soldering at once, when you have the time. I really enjoy being able to work in spurts. It came in handy when I was away babysitting last weekend. I was away for the day, came home and did a little work, went away again and came home to do some more.

As a side note and a gentle nag..... I was babysitting for my nephew and his two little ones. He and his wife took a much needed break from the chaos and uncertainty that is their life. He is the nephew I once mentioned as having leukemia. Well, folks, he still has it and desperately awaits a bone marrow transplant. Flatly put, if he doesn't get one, his odds of living to see his his kids another year are slim. So, I ask you from the bottom of my heart to please visit a hospital or bone marrow drive to see if you are a donor candidate. Not just for him, but for all of those people who need it to live. My daughter and her fiance went this morning to a donor drive and all they had to do was swab their cheek. Please consider doing this. You will go on a registry for all those that need a transplant. My nephew has a rare type, so as of now there is no match. The more new people that sign up, the better his odds of finding a match. For more information about becoming a donor visit bethematch.

Well, I have finished pieces numbered 6, 7 and 8 and I am working on 9. Each one that I do, I try to add a new skill. The unfinished piece will have some pierced work on the back, meaning a fancy cut out that will allow the back of the stone to be seen. I didn't trust my sawing skills until today. It came out rather nice, though, if I don't say so myself. :)

Here is the 6th piece. A delicious and delectable bruneau jasper.  As with all pieces up to this point, there is a small mistake which I have learned to never make again. There is a tiny section of bezel wire that didn't solder down. I didn't even notice it until I was just about finished with it. It's still structurally fine and quite solid.

My 7th piece is one that I will be selling. It came out perfect.... eventually. I soldered on the bail connector and thinking that it was a good join, I tumbled and set the stone only to find out that one side didn't solder down. I considered leaving it as it was, but took the daring step of removing the stone to fix my mistake. Last time I did that, I botched the whole thing. This time, though, it went off without a hitch and everything turned out great. Thank goodness. I really love this piece. It is a Moroccan Bryozoan petrified coral. (Go ahead and enlarge, but don't mind the reflections.)

My 8th piece is a mahogany jasper in copper. I love to work with copper. I always have, with wire wrapping, too. BUT (there is always a but isn't there) there is only one kind of solder for it, so you have to be really careful. For this one, I used wite out brand correction fluid to keep the bezel solder from running onto my backplate. It seemed to work. This is much better in person. Copper usually photographs so well, but these pictures seem dark to me.

I'll show you my pierce work in the next blog post when the whole piece is finished.

Stay well and warm. :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tools For Bezel Setting Stones- A TOOLTORIAL

As I mentioned in my last post, here is my list of some of the things that I got for metalsmithing. Some, I discovered I needed as I was needing them. Others were tools that I had seen other people use. And, others still were recommended to me. Of course, I already had all of my wire wrapping tools and mandrels.

I have tried to include a link from where I purchased, but you can get a lot of this stuff in other places. I have Amazon Prime and use it a lot. You can get things cheaper if you want to wait for it.

I did get some things that I found I have no use for. I haven't included those.

So, here, in no particular order, is my list:


Safety- You will want your usual suspects, safety glasses and gloves, but DO NOT forget a good fire extinguisher. Keep your fire extinguisher near, but placed somewhere along your escape route. It will do you no good if it is behind your fire. Being prepared is not only good for your piece of mind, it is also a potential life and property saver.
Torch - Smith's Handi Heet acetylene/air with 0 and 00 tips separately
I know from experience that I did not want an oxygen/gas torch. This is a great torch and that link has the best price. You may not need the extra tips. I seem to use the #1 the most and it comes with the set. The Handi Heet torch is exactly the same as the Smith's Silversmith torch just with different tips included. Buy a gas bottle from them, too. Then you can swap it at your gas supply and won't have to lease a tank. I chose acetylene over propane because it burns hotter. Propane, however is cleaner. But, I have not noticed any dirty problems with my torch, at all. It seems that gas/air torches rely on different sized tips to produce the flame size you want, whereas oxygen/gas torches have an adjustable flame. I prefer not to use expensive and hazardous oxygen. And lastly, you'll want some chain or bungee to strap your gas bottle to something.

universal tank wrench and key-- Don't forget these! You can get them with your torch or at your gas supply house.

Foredom rotary tool with accessories- I got the kit with accessories and another accessory kit, too. Also, get the hanger with it. I figured I could find a way to hang it. I was wrong. I had to get a hanger after I got the Foredom. If you have a smaller Dremel, it may work for you for awhile, but, at some point, you will want to upgrade. A lot of specialty bits for jewelry won't fit the Dremel.

inverted cone bur - This is really useful for cleaning out the extra solder you might have in your bezel cup. Extra solder can keep your stone from setting correctly.

tube cutter for cutting bezel wire at 90 degrees- This is invaluable and one of the first things that I realized that I needed. It will save you a lot of headaches trying to get perfect bezel joins.

jeweler's saw

bur life - This will lubricate your bur and blades. You can also use wax, like an old candle stub.

saw blades Be sure to get the right size for the gauge of metal you will be using.

#2 flat file- More coarse than a #4

#4 flat file You will use this a lot.

needle file set- I just got a cheap set from Sears

file cleaner (called a file card)- keep your fles in good shape.

small Fretz precision hammers for detail work- You don't need these, but they are a nice splurge and useful.

muslin wheels

felt wheels- round and knife edge for foredom

white diamond compound - for prepolishing

bobbing compound - fast cutting- powerful stuff

burnisher set - for smoothing bezel wire

Brass Bezel Roller - I ordered a cheap one first and found out you get what you pay for. This is better.

prong pusher - Another way to push your bezel wire down

solder cutting pliers- Not neccasary but I got tired of snipping sheet solder. Totally worth the money.

a set of solder sheet with stacked cups

400 grit wet dry paper - Good for sanding down bezel wire to the right height.

sanding sponges - Really awesome- Just try them. They are cheap and you will wonder why you never used them before.
tweezer assortment for soldering

scribe - for marking metal

dividers - for marking metal in exact increments

radial bristle brushes - Like the sanding sponges. Once you use them, you'll never look back.

Moores sanding discs for foredom- Convenient, but not necessary

charcoal block - get a small and large for your pumice pan.

revolving pumice pan - Really, really nice to have.

bench pin and holder - You will need a bench pin as much as a torch. Find one that works best for your situation.

solder picks - for pick soldering and moving hot solder pieces

handy flux - Good to start with because you can judge temperature by how it looks. It DOES take getting used to. I put a small amount in a separate jar and thin with water. If it gets contaminated- the whole tub isn't bad.

Paint brush for flux- whatever you might have, but natural hair is better

metal shears - I use mine A LOT, must have

nylon hammer - good for flattening metal sheet among other things

shot plate for fancy beading - You don't need this, but it's super cool to add decoration. See Soham Youtube link for a video he has on using this.

pickle pot-- I use a little dip crock pot

copper tongs - for your pickle pot 

pickle-- PH down or any number of different kinds

parallel pliers - useful for many things

automatic center punch- cause they're cool

center finder

polishing pins - put them directly into your Foredom chuck and sharpen with a file. Used to get into tight spots fo finishing.

marking stamp- Mark your silver

fine point centering punch

metal hole puncher

mechanics square

steel t pins - for holding soldering pieces in place

steel or stainless steel wire for placing items to be soldered 

made a large sanding stick with 400 grit

made a soldering donut/bun with 16g copper - see Lexi Erickson soldering videos

all various handtools for wire wrapping - pliers, cutters, mandrels, etc.

rawhide mallet

steel block with wood base

rubber block base for steel block

small anvil

drill bits


ring mandrel

tumbler Lortone 3a with steel shot for tumbling

glue stick - for gluing down your patterns on your sheet metal

a variety of sheet metal generally 22 and 24g sheet and a variety of bezel wire. I think 1/8th bezel is most often used.

The Complete Metalsmith: An Illustrated Handbook

Super jewelry videos and FREE!

Soham Harrison
Nancy LT Hamilton

Lexi Erickson videos

Bill Fretz video

This is all I can think of at the moment.

Wait! There's more!

Reader, Kathy, noted in the comments some important things that I had forgotten- aside from the dust mask you should use when sanding and polishing. Here they are as she wrote them:

1. Prips Flux - I read a long time ago that this is the secret of soldering copper. It works well for me. I have a little "hairspray" bottle I use to spray it on heated metal. You can also dip or spray and let it dry before soldering. I also use Handy Flux, but this is my main "go to" with copprer. Works for silver too--it is supposed to help with firescale.

2 Fire Brick - This is moderately soft and will accept t-pins. it reflects the heat well and the surface is renewable when it gets gunked up. Rub the block lightly on a concrete sidewalk until it is clean again.

3. Magnesia Soldering Block - This is much softer than the the firebrick. You can actually press a piece down into it so that it is held securely. It's wonderful if you have a two piece design that you need to lock into position. Also good to "level up" pieces that need to touch at a certain angle -such as a bail onto a back plate. Of course you can stick all sorts of pins into it to hold things.

4. GOOD Third Hand - This is worth the money! The "holders" for steel tweezers are mostly worthless. The arms in this articulate to exactly position your work. The Tungsten tips are much more heat resistant than tweezers. I get to use a double one at my class. [I can add that if you have the money (or a birthday coming up) you could get one of these. They are awesome!]

Please comment with your must haves and I'll add them here. I can always use a new tool. :)

AND..... Because this is a visual medium. Here is my latest piece. Cherry Creek jasper necklace in copper with acid etching. You can see the etch pattern better if you enlarge by clicking.