Sunday, October 30, 2016

How to Make Hammered Hoops

How to Make Hoops
These Hammered Hoops began life as a piece of sheet metal, but with a little texture, cutting and antiquing, they magically transform into earrings.

To make them:
First, gather the supplies you will need, these are the basics:
Sheet Metal-Here I used 22 gauge copper sheet metal

A steel bench block- You will need this for hammering the texture into the metal

A disc cutter-To make the discs. You can also buy them pre-cut if you don't want to invest in a disc cutter.

A Ballpeen hammer-You can't see it in the photo, but it has a ball shape on one end. This is the end you will use to create the texture.

Liver of Sulfur-I like the gel form. This is to create an aged patina on your jewelry. I use it on almost everything I make.

Metal File

Sand paper 

Fine steel wool "0000" grit

Polishing pad

Some of the Supplies Needed

Additional Supplies: 
If you want to add a curve to your earrings, you can use a doming and dapping set. I also used my rotary tumbler to smooth out the edges and remove the fine scratch marks. These are nice extras to have, but you can get a similar result without them.

Now that you've gathered, you're ready to begin:
Step 1: Create texture in your sheet metal
To begin with, you need to add texture to your metal. There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorites is using the balled and of the ballpeen hammer. Just place your metal on the steel bench block and hammer about a 2 inch section, depending on how large you want your hoops. 
Add texture with the hammer
Step 2: Cut the smaller hole using the disc cutter 
(Alternate option: Use pre-cut blanks and add the texture directly to them.)
After you have textured a section of the sheet metal,insert the hammered section into the smallest hole in the disc cutter that you want to use. You will cut the small opening first, then the larger hole around it. I used the 1/2 inch punch for my smaller disc.

Cut small hole first

Use a Hammer and ideally 2-3 firm strikes will punch it though. A brass mallet is best but I just used my ballpeen.

The first hole is complete-save the little disc for another project
Step 3: Cut the second disc.
Once you have the first opening, reinsert the metal into the disc cutter and center the smaller hole where you want it lined up, taking care not to cut it too close to the edge of the metal or it will tear.
I like to position the opening close to the top of the larger disc-not right in the center Once you have your position, cut the second, larger ring. I used the 7/8 size punch for my second cut.

You now have your hoop

Repeat the process with the second ring. If you're meticulous, you may want to mark where you want your discs cut so that the pieces are identical. I just eyeball it myself. To duplicate your first disc you could use a sharpie marker and trace the inner and outer circle on your sheet metal prior to cutting it, as a guide.

Step 4-optional-Add curve to your discs. (if you do not want to add the curve, skip to step 5)
If you want to add a curve to your metal, the doming block is perfect for this.

Just drop your disc into one of the larger cups and use the dapping tool to begin creating a curve on your disc by hammering the dap with a rawhide mallet. 

Place disc in the recessed area
Hammer the dap to create dimension
You'll now have some curve in your discs

Step 5:
Smooth out the edges with a metal file and sand paper, making sure to smooth out both the outside edge and inside the circle. A half-round metal file is helpful for this. 
File, then sand the edges with sandpaper
Step 6: Add Patina
Once smooth, it's time to add the patina to show off the texture you created. I use liver of sulfur in a plastic gelato container and fill it up about half way with hot tap water. I then add a few drops of liver of sulfur (follow the directions on the container) and drop in my discs for a few minutes, checking them periodically.

Drop the discs in a nixture of Liver of sulfur and water

They will come out looking like this:

Step 7: Buff and polish
Buff off the excess with a fine steel wool and then polish with a polishing cloth or drop them in a rotary tumbler after removing the excess patina to smooth and shine them.

Step 8: Add earwires 
and you have your finished product!

If you don't want to go through the trouble of making them, you can buy them as components in my Etsy shop.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

You Don't Need a Fancy Torch to Make Great Jewelry

As my metalsmithing skills grow, I've been toying with the idea of buying a grown-up torch, but to be honest, I'm a little scared to keep it in the house. My studio is a second floor, extra-bedroom I've taken over and the thought of keeping something that could blow us all up when we sleep, is a little unsettling. 

A big-girl torch is not off the table, but for the moment, let me sing the praises of what I have been using.

The Micro-Torch, aka the Creme Brulee Torch or the Butane Torch. It's mini, but it's mighty. 

The Pros: It's inexpensive, low maintenance, doesn't take up a lot of space and is less likely to blow your house up then an oxygen/acetylene torch. 

The Cons: It's really best for small pieces, as in an inch diameter or less. For larger pieces you need more heat, although you can also use two micro torches at the same time for some things...awesome, I know.

Here are 3 things I have done and continue to do with my Butane Torch:

1. Enamel. You can enamel small pieces with your micro-torch. I started with pennies. Copper is a great metal for enameling. You clean it with Penny Brite, sift the enamel on, position it on your firing station and then use your micro torch to heat it from underneath. Here's a video from Stephen James, the teacher I learned from.

2. Fuse. I am obsessed with fusing fine silver and I've based a whole new collection on this technique. I've been making earrings, bracelets and today I began working on a necklace design. The Earrings at the top of the post are made from 16 gauge fine silver wire that is fused with a micro torch and then hammered, textured and adorned with crystals. You can find them in my Etsy Shop.

If you want to learn how to fuse fine silver, this is a great video:

3. Solder. Yes, you can solder with a Micro-torch. I particularly like to use it to create earring posts, but I've also used it for joining sterling silver wire and copper wire. Again, for larger pieces you may need two torches, but for my needs, I only have used one.
Here's a video on how to add posts to your earrings. The instuctor doesn't use a micro torch, but I have used the process she describes successfully with a micro torch:

There are many more things you can do with your Butane Torch, other than just browning the top of a dessert, but this is probably enough to digest for today.

Happy flaming!

ps: There are also many ways to make great jewelry without a torch. Check out my upcoming classes in the Syracuse Area right here.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tips for Teaching Wine and Paint Classes

Here's a Question I received this week:
Q: "We are doing a "Paint 'n Sip" in our church basement as an appreciation event. I am not planning to make this into a business because I already have a day job.

Do you have any tips?"

A: Why yes, yes I do:
  • Have a sample painting prepared and know how to break it down into easy steps. Keep the sample visible throughout the class. I keep mine up on an easel.
  • Practice ahead of time as if you were teaching it. Note how long it takes you to paint and add lots of extra time as your students will move more slowly as a group.
  • Have enough canvas or painting surfaces and paint for each person. Bring extra-always have more of everything than you think you will need.
  • Use paper plates for palettes and plastic cups for water and paper towels are a must.
  • Use paint brushes appropriate for the painting you're doing and have enough for each person.
  • You may need a hair dryer or two set up to dry the painting in between stages. I typically use these in my classes to keep things moving along.
Check out my post here for more detail on what I usually bring to class with me. If you're not teaching for your business, you won't need to get so fancy with supplies, but it gives you the basics like a pitcher to fill up the water cups, a camera, etc... 
Keep the steps simple and continue to focus on the fun-it doesn't have to be perfect, just an opportunity to relax and enjoy.
Let me know if you have any specific questions and good luck! I'd love to see pictures of your classes! 
Please post links to them in the comments. Let us know where can we find you on Instagram or Pinterest? 
(Those are links to my sites, come and join me!)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Evolution of a Sample Painting

Wine and Paint Class Demo-Checkered Daisy

On June 16th, I will be teaming up with The Gift Box to teach a Wine and Paint Class.

Owner Jan Constas and I worked on coming up with a painting that would speak to her customers. 

While I was at the store, we were chatting about how any items with black and white checks are hugely popular, so we decided to include black and white checks in the painting.

Jan also mentioned that she liked daisy's and wondered if we could include them as well.

Here was my first attempt:

It's a little painting on a notebook and although I love it on the notebook, I thought it was a little too Dr. Suessy for the class.

Take 2 was also on a notebook that I lambasted with tar gel when it was done:

This too, is a little cartoony, but you can see I kept with the same colors and themes. This time went messy with the background painting, added some falling petals and made the flowers more daisy-like.

After these two practice mini-paintings, I was ready to move to the canvas for the actual demo-painting that we will use in the class:

And voila! The background stayed messy (I will probably make it even messier when we do it in class) and the flowers became more realistic and abundant. 

This painting will take about 2 hours, start to finish and although it looks tricky, it can be broken down into 4 simple stages:
  1. Background
  2. Vase
  3. Flowers
  4. Checkerboard

The flowers are quick and easy-you can watch my 5-minute tutorial right here to see how it's done.

I will encourage students to practice on paper to get the hang of it first and then move to the canvas. The brush really does all of the work for you, once you get used to the motion.

Ready to start teaching yourself? Sign up below to kickstart your classes

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Where To Buy Art Supplies for Your Classes

I've been asked a lot lately where I buy the supplies for my painting classes. If you've been to wine and paint classes before or are thinking of teaching yourself, you may wonder where all of the lovely items come from.

Well, the suspense is is the list of what I take to every class, where I buy them and how much they cost:

Canvas: I've been buying the flat 16X20 canvas panels through Blick Art Supply because the flatness makes it easier to transport them, especially for classes of 20+ people. I also think they are easy to mount in a frame and add that professional touch to your work. I recently bought 48 of them for $123 (including shipping) for a class of 30. If you're doing smaller classes, it's fine to buy them at Michael's or AC Moore when they go on sale, if you have those near you. I like to buy mine in bulk, so I often just Google what I'm looking for and compare prices online.

Do I always use 16"x20"? No. If I'm hiking up to the Yurt for a Painting Class I go smaller. If I'm squeezing a large group into a small space, I go smaller. If the painting just plain looks better smaller, I go with that. Students do not seem to care much about the size of the painting, but that would be something to evaluate at the end of classes.

Easels: I just stocked up on these for a large class. I bought 30 "Strokes Art Tables" for a total of $218 from Amazon. The price was so low because I signed up for an Amazon credit card and received an $80.00 credit toward the purchase. You can typically find these for around $10 each, but I got mine for about $7.25 each with the credit.

Paint Brushes: Who needs them when you have fingers? Depending on the class, I may use the foam brushes for an intuitive art class, but for the sip and paint classes, I get them from local craft stores.  I like the Royal brand brushes for classes. I've been building up a collection, but depending on the painting, we may need different types of brushes.

Paint: My 2 favorites are Premiere from AC Moore and Liquitex wherever I can find it on sale. You may be able to get good sales on bulk orders online (Blick or Jerry's Artorama) and you can also get economy sizes online. When I plan my paintings, I try to not get too carried away with a lot of colors, because it adds to the cost of running the class.

Aprons: I just ordered 30 lime green aprons from KNG for $130.00. You have the option of adding your logo to the aprons. However, these have a tendency to walk away with people after class (students forget they have them on.) I just lost 5 of them at my most recent class so you may not want to spend a lot on them.(I need to find a good way to collect them as people are leaving-ideas welcome!)

Paper Plates, Cups, Paper Towels and Table Cloths: I typically get these at the dollar store or anywhere they are on sale and I reuse the plastic cups and table cloths until they can be used no more. I did go to a paint class where the teacher used Styrofoam plates with compartments for the paint, which is a great idea, but I don't feel good about putting more Styrofoam into our world, so I stick with paper. I'm looking at more earth friendly ways to furnish my classes.

Other things I take with me: 
  • Pitchers for transporting water and filling cups
  • My real camera
  • My cell phone for keeping track of the time and getting me to the locations
  • More than I think I will need of all supplies for last minute students who may show up
  • Scissors for opening things
  • Plastic Grocery bags to put the wet paintbrushes in after class
  • Any paperwork needed for the site 
  • My Square for accepting credit cards of people who didn't register ahead and change in case they are paying in cash
  • My Easel and my real paint palette (it gives me comfort and strength!) for demonstrations
  • A sample finished painting for guidance (for both me and my students!)
  • Individual print-outs of the painting for students to refer to at their stations (optional and depends on complexity)
  • Any other tools or supplies we may be using for the particular class such as stencils, stamps, markers, collage papers, glue, etc...
  • Email sign-up sheet, if I haven't already collected email during the registration process
  • Satisfaction Surveys-I sometimes ask for feedback on the class, so I can continue to make it better. I find this is best to do during class so you have the greatest chance of getting responses. If you wait until after class and email people, your response rate will be lower.
I transport the smaller items in 2 plastic bins and then bring the random things that don't fit in separately.

Well, I think that's it! I would love to hear if you have found any good deals on supplies or have favorite supplies that you use in classes.

Happy Painting!  Now, off to make some jewelry...


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Love Fest and Free Book Giveaway!

Since my very romantic husband has declared Valentine's Day to be a "Hallmark Holiday" I thought it would be fun to share a little love with you instead.

So, without further ado, here are some of the things that make my heart beat a little faster:

Hand Crafted Chocolates. 
We have a little Chocolate Shop known as Lune Chocolat that sells what I think are THE BEST CHOCOLATES EVER. Sorry for shouting, but they're simply shout-worthy. Each piece is a delicacy to be savored like a fine wine (which I have also been known to savor from time to time...) There is such a huge difference in chocolate that is hand-crafted with beautiful ingredients. Each piece is a work of art in itself.

Here's a little about Lune from their website: 
"Twenty miles away from our shop in a little house came many ideas related to owning our own business. Some we tried, others we let go. This one held onto us. It has woven itself into our daily life. We love chocolate. Our research for this was an incredibly wonderful experience. The history and the whole process of chocolate was so interesting to us that we wanted to share it with as many people as we could. Lune Chocolat is a result of us tasting real chocolate. We have a love for being together and a love for being in the kitchen. Our chocolates are created to bring you peace and love. They are created to bring you to another place while you eat them. Come and fill your soul with chocolate."

I for one, have plenty of room in my soul for Lune Chocolat.

Artist Dates.
Every other month or so, I invite friends to attend artsy events with me. This really fires up my creativity and inspires me. Some of our recent events:
  • We attended an open house at the Delavan Center of the Arts that is home to many local art studios. Every year they open their doors to guests and have food, wine, music and of course, beautiful, mouth-watering art.
  • We went to a Golden Paint Demo and giveaway at The Art Store. We received FREE Golden paints-also shout worthy but I don't want to upset your hearing, along with a live demo of how to use the different types of paint Golden makes. It opened up worlds of paint that I did not know existed.
  • We attended a fund-raising painting class to reduce hunger where we painted a bowl of soup and the funds raised went to a soup kitchen. 
These dates FUEL me and it's good, quality time with friends. Next week I'm going to an Encaustic demo. (painting with hot wax!) with my friend Shannon Crandall. I have always wanted to learn encaustic, so as soon as I saw it, I signed us up for 2 of the 6 available spots.

I found this little treasure propped against a tree

Finding Beauty in the Everyday.
Dirty Footprints Studio posted a treasure hunt challenge to photograph little bits of beauty that you find every day, all around you. I decided to go for a walk in my hometown of Ithaca and take photos of things that I found. I stopped to take photos of cracks in the sidewalk, moss growing on rocks, the texture of trees. I was walking up to trees and standing very close to take a picture, which in any other town would seem strange. In Ithaca, people do not look twice at you. It's perfectly acceptable to walk up to a tree and take a picture from an inch away. This challenge opened up a new way of looking for me and in fact, I will write a future post about it. Good, good stuff-I highly recommend it. Thank you Mixy Gregory for sharing!

Clearing Out Space.
I am totally smitten with the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. 

Mind you, I despise cleaning. My general cleaning philosophy is to hope the spiderwebs will trap the dustballs. It's all-natural cleaning. 

I have, however, been feeling unsettled by the state of clutter in our home and this has caused many a discussion with the husband and daughter about picking up your stuff. I often feel the weight of too much stuff as I mentioned in this post a while back. Marie teaches you how to systematically sort through your stuff and discard anything that does not bring you joy. 

You begin with gathering every item of clothing in your home and then physically picking up each item to sense whether it brings you joy or not. Mind you, Marie does not strike me as woo-woo, she is a serious, Japanese business woman who is reaching celebrity status with her ability to transform people's lives and homes by getting rid of that which no longer serves you. You thank the items that have served you in the past and respectfully send them on to serve someone else.

You are left with only items that bring you joy to wear, to read, to look at. I'm currently working on books, which is only step 2, but already I have noticed a difference in my environment, just from getting rid of clothes.

I have donated at least 12 giant bags of clothing (only mine) to the Salvation Army. Coats, shoes, sweaters. My closets and drawers now have room to breathe.

This book is a gift that I would like to share, which is why I'm going to give away one for free. Anything that helps people cultivate more joy in their lives is worth sharing.

So tell me in the comments below, what are you loving right now? What is bringing a little joy into your life? I will pick one response on February 29th (it only happens every 4 years, so why not?) and send you a free copy of Marie's book.

Let's clear out the clutter and make room for what we truly love.