JAC Blog Hop – Spring Cleaning

March 30, 2015

spring cleaning suppliesEach month, some of the members of the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic.  No secret about today’s topic, it’s spring cleaning.

I don’t normally do spring cleaning as such, as I clean my studio whenever it either gets too messy to work, or I am stuck for inspiration, but this year the timing was perfect as I’m in the process of moving back into my home. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed my little studio with it’s four windows and a skylight.  I’ve been working in a basement with one meager window and poor overhead lighting, so this is a blessing.

Since the house has been unoccupied for two years, there was plenty of cleaning to be done, mostly dusting (microfiber is my friend), but I’ve also wiped down all the shelves and tables with some Clorox just to be on the safe side.  You’d think it would be easy to just put all my stuff back where it was, but the thing is, in the time that I’ve been gone, I’ve changed.

I still have my giant bead collection, which goes on the shelf units hubby made for me.  If I space the shelves every two holes, my shoeboxes fit perfectly without wasting any space. (Plug for shoeboxes from the Container Store, they are sturdy and stand up to the weight of the beads.)

shelves 2

I’m not sure what is going to go on the lower shelf of each unit.  I originally intended to store my kiln on one of them, but I have decided not to pursue metal clay anymore, so I don’t think I need the kiln handy; it can go in the basement shop.

I have a long built-in desk that runs the width of the room.  Right now it is set up for working with polymer clay, because I needed to complete a project before my worktable was moved over, but I think I will reserve it for office work going forward.  Here is where my laptop will sit, and I’ll have my paperwork center there too.  I hope to leave a good-sized area of the desk free so I can do larger projects.

office desk

I’m debating regarding painting.  I’ve taken up art journaling and mixed media work as well as polymer clay.  I planned to do that in the downstairs workshop, but I really want to do it in the sunny room.  Maybe I’ll move that downstairs in the winter.  I have 3 Elfa carts filled with polymer clay and painting paraphernalia.  I’m not sure it will all fit in here.

Across from the shelves is my worktable.  You can see my tool rack on the left and the beginnings of my soldering station on the right.  I bought a revolving soldering pan, but I’m not exactly sure where it is at the moment. There are a ton of boxes in this house right now.  Normally my pasta machine is anchored at the right side of the worktable, but I need to make room for my enameling torch, so I might make this the “hot” side and make a clay space on the office desk where it is now.


Last is this corner.  Pay no attention to the chair, it is an antique from my husband’s side of the family, and is only in here to keep it safe from the moving hubbub.  My big lateral filing cabinet used to sit in this corner, but hubby has made a place for it in the adjacent mud room, so I have some extra space to play with.  I think I will put a comfy chair and a reading lamp there, for when I want to leaf through an art book for inspiration.  This will also be my video booth when I get around to making some videos.

corner with chair

As you can see, I still have quite a bit of sprucing up to do, but at least I can work in here now.

Read what other members of the JAC have to say about spring cleaning at these links:

The Crafty Chimp

Cat’s Wire

Jewelry Art by Dawn



Jewelry Artisans Community Blog Hop – Carole Carlson of Beadsophisticate

February 24, 2015
playing with texture and color

playing with texture and color

Each month some of the artists from the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic.  Since many of us are living in areas experiencing unusual weather, we thought we’d discuss how weather affects our creativity.

I live in a moderate climate, but this week the temperature is 30 degrees lower than normal for this time of year.  In fact, we had a snow event on Saturday that 1. caught us by surprise (thanks, Mr. Weather Guy and 2. turned into ice overnight.  The next day, the temperature shot up to 50 degrees. Go figure.

Trying out different shapes

Trying out different shapes

Snow and rain means time to cocoon for me.  I love to watch the snow come down, as long as my family is home, safe and warm.  Since this latest snow day fell on a weekend, it was the perfect time to start working with polymer clay.  I’m working on a line of jewelry for the B’Sue Boutique Build a Line Challenge, and I decided to include some polymer clay items, so I’ve been trying out some different things, just playing around and seeing where that takes me.

Textured beads

Textured beads

See what the other members of the Jewelry Artisans Community have to say here:


Jewelry Artisans Community Blog Hop – Carole Carlson of Beadsophisticate

January 27, 2015

Each month some of the members of the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic.  This month we’re talking about creative block. You know what that is.  Whatever your art form, you just can’t get started.  Writers and art journalers call it blank page syndrome.  We all experience it from time to time.

So, how to deal with it.  I have a few different techniques I try.  The first thing I do is clean my studio.  That usually generates some ideas as I find things I forgot I had.  If not, at least I now have a tidy space to work with.

Whenever I buy several beads that I think will work together, I put them in a Ziploc bag and put them in a box.  Then when I want to make something but don’t have a particular idea, I’ll go to the box and see if there is anything I want to work with.

turquoises and blues

turquoises and blues

If that fails, I’ll pull out my sketchbook and flip through it to see if anything strikes a spark.  Sometimes I’ll choose a particular technique to try out.  Of course, there’s always perusing books or magazines from my collection.

If I really just can’t think of anything, I will put my beads away and pull out my art supplies and work in my journal.  Sometimes the best thing is to just give your brain a change of pace. See what other members of the forum do here:



Year in Review – JAC December blog hop

December 30, 2014

Each month some of the members of the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic.  For December, we are reflecting on how 2014 went.

For me, there were ups and downs.  A huge positive was that I was able to take Barbara Lewis’ Painting With Fire certification course back in February, and I’ve been able to get in a bit of practice.  I located a venue to teach classes, but wasn’t able to find time to set any up.  I plan to correct that in 2015.

I had hoped to set up my own web site this year, which did not happen.  Realistically, I don’t see it happening until maybe summer of 2015 – if I’m lucky.

I wanted to make more jewelry this year, and to that end signed up for some of Andrew  Thornton’s challenges.  I think I completed about 60% of them.  This evidently happens to other people, because Andrew’s decided to give us a catch-up blog hop in February.  I missed a couple either because I failed to write down the hop date, or because I couldn’t tell which kit I was looking at. Andrew doesn’t include a label, probably because he figures we’re on top of things. However, some periods were so hectic for me that sometimes I didn’t open the box for weeks, by which time I had more than one.  Gotta stay on top of that going forward.

I missed a few JAC blog hops, too.  I think my creativity well was running a bit dry this year, although I had a great idea for the fashion period post, and even made some polymer clay beads for it, but then got sick for 2 weeks and did not dare descend to my freezing basement studio.  One thing I will be working on next year is creative “play dates” to help me with ideas.

Great news!  I’ll be moving back to my own home with my two workshops and sunlight.  That in itself will probably boost the creative juices.

Lastly, I had a wonderful experience in October, taking a three-day intensive class working in polymer clay with Christine Damm.  Incredibly inspirational!  Check out Christine’s blog at http://storiestheytell.blogspot.com/ if you have some time.  She is a true artist.  The other people taking the class were great as well.

Due to illness and the holidays, I accomplished very little in November and December, but I feel much better now and am raring to go in 2015.

See what other members of the JAC have to say here:


JAC Blog Hop – The Design Process

June 24, 2014

Each month some of the artists from the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic. This month is about our design process.

I had to really think about this one, because I don’t consider that I have a “process”, but then I realized it is the same thing when people don’t think of themselves as “artists”. So I set about thinking through what I do when I make a piece of jewelry – that is my process, isn’t it?

Most of the time I have either a focal bead or a strand of unusual beads that I want to make something out of. With me it is usually a necklace, and it is almost always a multi-strand piece. The first thing I do is decide how many strands the necklace will be. I always choose an odd number, and most frequently, I make it five strands.

Next comes the selection phase. I go through my trays of Czech glass beads and boxes of seed beads, pulling out anything that I think might go with my chosen focus beads, and pile them up on my worktable. This is the fun part. It gives me another chance to play with my stash. At this point I will also decide which metal best goes with the piece, and get out my metal beads, findings, etc.

Now comes the hard part. I’ve got all this bling laid out in front of me, but I can’t use it all in one piece. Most things will work with the focus beads, but not necessarily with each other, and anyway, the piece would be too busy with all this variety. I have to edit the selection. This is the hardest, but also the most critical part of my process. It can take days. I’ve even been known to stop a piece in the middle and go shopping because it wasn’t working.

Over the years I have developed a trick or two to help me with the editing process. A multi-strand piece requires careful balancing among the strands so that it hangs correctly, so what I do is select a largish bead for each strand, and then two to three coordinating beads to go with it. Sometimes I repeat a group of beads on a second strand, depending on the beads and what I’m doing. This helps me narrow my focus so I’m not overwhelmed with so many choices at once.

Once the bead selection is done, stringing the piece is almost anticlimactic. I do have to pay attention to balancing and placement. I do this by stringing a few inches of each strand at a time, and then holding the necklace up on my neck to see how it is lying. (Bead stoppers are essential for this step.) Sometimes I have to unstring a section because it doesn’t look right with the other strands. Rarely do I have to change bead selections, but occasionally I have done so. Sometimes it is just a matter of switching a bead to another strand, but sometimes a bead that made it through the editing process turns out to have been a wrong move, and I have to go back through my stash – or go shopping.

I have taken up metalsmithing and follow a different process for designing pieces in metal, but I haven’t done enough to talk about it yet. Another time!

See what other members of the JAC have to say about the design process here:




Caroline – The Crafty Chimp

JAC Blog Hop: Metal Mania

April 28, 2014

Each month some of the members of the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic.  This month the topic is our favorite metal (or bead, for non-metalworkers).  I work with both metal and beads, but I’ll stick with metal this time around.

To my mind, there are two kinds of metal: precious and base.  Precious metals include gold, silver, and platinum.  Base metals include copper, iron and nickel.  In practice, many of us call any metal that isn’t precious, base metal.

Of the precious metals, I have only used silver.  I’ve worked with both fine silver (99% pure) and sterling silver (92.5% silver), and I like them both.  Each has its particular useful attributes.  Sterling silver has to be soldered together, whereas fine silver can be fused to itself with no solder needed.  Of course, one need not apply heat at all; in wire form you can make all kinds of fanciful shapes with hand tools alone.

For years I only worked in silver, and turned my nose up at the base metals.  However, when silver prices skyrocketed, I was associated with a bricks-and-mortar bead store, and our customers needed solutions that were not as expensive, and the store manager asked us to start making samples in other metals.  The metals generally available at bead stores and shows are copper, gunmetal and brass.  I am not an expert in these matters and I suspect some of the metals are coated something else, but don’t ask me what – I don’t know.  As I started working with these base metals, they started to grow on me.  Which one I work with is dictated by the colors of the beads I’m using.  In looking over my work, I see that quite a bit of it is made up with gunmetal, probably because the blues I like to work with go best with it.  To my surprise, though, my favorite pieces are not the gunmetal ones.  Check out these pictures:


brass necklace 2
These  necklaces are the same design.  The top one is made up in silver, with onyx beads, and the lower one is made with brass chain and coated wire, and kyanite beads.  The silver one sold for three times what the brass one did, incidentally, due to the cost of the materials.

Despite my earlier silver snobbery, I actually like the brass and kyanite one better!

See what other members of the JAC have to say here:


JAC Blog Hop – Inspiration Strikes

March 25, 2014

Each month some of the artists of the Jewelry Artisans Community participate in a blog hop. This month’s topic is about where we find our inspiration.

Many of my creative friends are inspired by specific things, such as nature, culture or a type of art. I find it hard to translate such abstract themes into jewelry. What drew me into the jewelry arts initially was the gorgeous glass, and that’s where I usually start, with the beads.

Take this sea glass. This is real sea glass, found on a beach in North Carolina. Isn’t it fabulous? I’m pretty sure I will wire wrap it into a pendant. I want to make it into a memory of the trip to the beach, so when I found these sand-colored lampworked beads, I was thrilled. Together, these will form the basis of the necklace.

sea glass

Sometimes what takes my fancy is a bead that is really different from anything I’ve seen before. On occasion it isn’t even a bead that gets my juices flowing. In the picture below, I’ve collected a group of things I might use in the final piece, but what started the project was the brass bells.

brass bells

Once I find an item that sparks an idea, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for the supporting cast of beads to go with it. I like to have an excess of beads from which I can pull a selection. That’s when the agony starts. What to put in, what to leave out. So painful. The actual construction of the necklace is almost anticlimactic. Still fun, though.

See what other members of the JAC have to say here:


Jewelry Artisans Community Earring Challenge

October 28, 2013

I participate in a forum for jewelry-makers known as the Jewelry Artisans Community. The group runs challenges at least monthly, in an effort to stretch our designing muscles. Every so often we’ll host a special challenge, like this Earring Challenge sponsored by forum member Nicole from NValentine Studios.

Nicole donated a pair of her artisan beads to each participant in the challenge; each of us had to make a pair of earrings. There was much good-natured teasing in our challenge thread, as some of us took a bit longer than others to produce our earrings.

Lotty64 (Caroline) was the first to post. These are her earrings:

Here is Michelle’s pair:

And Gayle’s:

Cat made this pair:

Zili’s pair:

These are Nicker’s earrings:

Dawn’s effort:

And these are mine:
Nicole earrings

Aren’t they gorgeous? You’ll notice they are all different. Our community is full of talented artisans of all sorts: wire artists, lampworkers (like Nicole), beadweavers, wire workers and more.

If you want to see the tomfoolery that accompanied this challenge, here is a link to the forum thread:


I started you off at page 9, because that’s when the teasing really got started.

We invite you to check out our forum at http://jewelryartisans.proboards.com/index.cgi. We’d love to have you join us!

Resin Alchemy – JAC Blog Carnival

September 1, 2013

This month’s topic for the Jewelry Artisans Community blog hop is a book review.  I chose a brand new book, Resin Alchemy by Susan Lenart Kazmer.


I have taken a couple of in-person classes from Susan and enjoy her approach to jewelry.  She is a master of cold joinery and non-traditional materials.  I believe she will use literally anything in jewelry if she takes a fancy to it.

It is not surprising that Susan would choose to use resin in her work.  In order to incorporate some of the things she wants to use, such as organic material, she has to find a way to stabilize and protect them, and resin is a perfect way to do that. 

Now, about the book.  The book itself is gorgeous, a little oversized, with big, beautiful photos of the projects and clear, up-close process shots.  It is also well-organized, starting with a chapter on tools and supplies, followed by a chapter on the basics of working with resin.  I liked that Susan included information on safety, as I think that is hugely important, especially if you have children or pets about.  This chapter also discusses adding ephemera and special effects to the resin.

Then there is a chapter on making cold connections, with an emphasis on how to incorporate your resin pieces into jewelry.  One method demonstrated is adding eyelets or rivets to the piece so you can hang it on something.

A chapter on making your own bezels follows, and then she gets into stabilizing organic or fragile material, casting molds and what she calls cold enameling, which is essentially adding color and then sealing it with resin.

Two or three projects are demonstrated after each technique chapter.  I noticed that although specific supplies are listed, Susan also gives ideas of how to handle the project if you aren’t using the same thing she used, so you aren’t limited to copying the project exactly.  I appreciated this feature, because I don’t have a lot of interest in copying other people’s projects, I like to put my own spin on things. 

Throughout the book, Susan discusses design choices, which should be of interest to the serious student.

Overall, I was very pleased with the book.  The projects are fine for a beginner, but those with intermediate skills will find interesting projects and ideas also.  It’s also just a gorgeous book, and one I’m happy to have in my library.



Read what other members of the JAC have to say this month here:


JAC Blog Hop – Improvements

July 28, 2013

Each month some of the artists from the Jewelry Artisans Community forum write about the same topic.  This month’s theme is improving our shops.

To be frank, the best way for me to improve my shop would be for me to put something in it.  I haven’t listed anything in well over a year.  That is due to the world’s longest move (can we get the Guinness people over here?  Oh, wait – I think we’d have to actually complete the move in order to get a count.)  My supplies and tools are slowly making their way over to my new location, but it is taking forever.

So I had to find something else to focus on, and I have decided that I need to spend more time right here on my blog.  To that end I have created a blogging calendar with the aim of posting more frequently.  I have enough ideas to post 3 times a week, but I am going to work up to it slowly, to make sure I can manage it.  The ideas are the easy part, but there is some research involved, and I want to make sure I have enough time to do it right.

I’ve also invested in a WordPress training manual, so I can do things like post links and videos properly.

******Free stuff alert**** The Jewelry Artisans Community is hosting a beading challenge. Participants will receive two beads to use in a pair of earrings (while supplies last). Go to our forum page at http://jewelryartisans.proboards.com/, click on the Contests and Challenges board, and look for Nicker’s Bead Challenge for the rules and to sign up. *********

Now back to our regularly scheduled feature.

Read what the other members have to say here: