Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NEW Workshop: Green Heart of Envy Necklace

I apologize for the poor quality of this photo, but I took it in Monica's store under some bad lighting using my iPhone! This is the sample "Green Heart of Envy" necklace displayed near my high-fired porcelain pendants that are still on sale in the shop, through the end of January. About half of the pendants have been sold, so make sure you get to the store before they're all gone...
On Sunday, I'm teaching a workshop from 10 am to 4 pm that features my pendants; it's called the Green Heart of Envy necklace workshop and I think it's pretty terrific. One caveat: Unless you're very experienced with wire working, you will NOT finish this necklace in class. If you're the type of student who absolutely must finish her necklace during class-time, please, do NOT sign up for this one.
If, on the other hand, you're a student who's seeking new wire working techniques and skills and your main objective is to learn, not necessarily finish a jewelry piece, then you will love this class! Here are some techniques we'll cover:
• Celtic knot link made with 16ga wire
• Knotless netting on a pendant bead
• Coil-wrapped beads
• Double-wrapped eye-pin loops
• Coiled, single-wrapped eye-pin loops
• My signature "Twining Vines" technique
• Handmade chain links
Whew! That's a lot of learning for one day, so this class is rather intensive. Thus, the prediction that virtually no one will finish a necklace in class! Just being honest.
We already have several ambitious students signed up for the class on Sunday, but we have room for a couple more. If you're up for the challenge, you can sign up on Monica's web site or call the store:
Happy wrapping,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

NEW: Coptic-Bound Star Book

I'm still having fun making Little Metal Books for my new workshop series on this subject. Above you can see my latest little book (less than three inches square), the Star Book. I loved making it.
I don't know of very many artists who are teaching bookbinding with metal covers, and since I am primarily a jewelry artist, I naturally gravitate toward the metalsmith's approach to making my own little artist books.
I love these; they're just the right size for a pocket or purse for quick on-the-spot sketching or journaling. Here's the backside of my Star Book:
I used starfish images from Fred Mullett's rubber stamp catalog. To visit his web site, click here.
My Little Metal Books workshop is a two-day class (it simply can't be done in just one day!), and I already have two ladies signed up for it during one of my Wild Wire Women artist retreats held May 2-6 in Idyllwild, Southern California. For more information on my jewelry and art retreats, click here. We have four openings in that particular retreat weekend; all of my retreats are restricted to six adult female students.
I hope to see you in Idyllwild someday. In the meantime, keep on creating!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Colorful Tribal Necklace Workshop a Terrific Success!

The class I taught on Saturday at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations was the Colorful Tribal Necklace. To make my sample, I changed things up a bit and used my own high-fired porcelain pendants and some beads and wire. Students learned how to make wrapped eye-pin loops, wire chains, coil-wrapped beads, caged beads, bead dangles, and a handmade clasp.
Lots of fun, and many beautiful necklaces were the result.
Here we are in class, happy to be creating beautiful things together! Wait: we're missing one student:
And here she is, working hard!
Pictured below: Patricia Paz-Altschul, who also teaches wire jewelry workshops at Monica's store. Notice the beautiful necklace Patricia's wearing: She made it last year during my Embellished Pendants workshop, and it came out just gorgeous.
My next workshop at Monica's store will be held this Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. It's the Green Heart of Envy necklace workshop, featuring my handmade pendants which are still available for sale at the store through the end of this month. About half the pendants I made for the sale are gone! Be sure to come out to Monica's soon, before they're all sold out. I hope to see YOU on Sunday...
Call to register: 760-772-2400
Happy wrapping,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day of Earrings Workshop Samples

I'm finally getting the samples from Friday's "Day of Earrings" class posted! We explored three different earring designs, all of them my own originals. First, the Squiggle Earrings pictured above. I like to start out with something simple and easy enough for beginners to attempt, and these earrings fit that description. They're also fun and easy to make and personalize depending on the beads you use.
Similar to my Squiggle-Wrap Bangle bracelet, featured in my eBook Arty Jewelry.
The next earring design we tackled is from Arty Jewelry IV: Winged Things Earrings. Make wire wings in any shape or size, and use them to make whimsical "insects" that dangle from your earlobes. This design is also fairly easy to make, and students enjoy shaping their insect wings and forging and texturing them afterward.
It's hard to tell in a photograph, but the Winged Thing Pendant pictured above is about three times as large as the earring dangles; it also features a large turquoise focal bead with knotless netting. Love this one; it might become part of a fun class the focuses on making different types of pendants. I made the sample pictured above during class, because my students were just whipping along without much help from me and I needed to occupy myself with something.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon making Cleopatra's Earrings (as featured in my eBook, Arty Jewelry III). This earring design appears to be simple and I won't say that it's particularly difficult to make, but it is challenging to make it quickly. We had to make 12 bead dangles on headpins, 18 chain links, two fun forged wire elements with coil-wrapped wire, and handmade earrings. To be honest, none of us completely finished this earring pair in class. It sometimes happens that a jewelry design is simply too involved to complete in the class time allotted, and must be finished at home.
So that's that: Friday's Day of Earring class at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations was great fun, a little bit challenging, and full of creativity. I hope to see you in a workshop sometime soon; my next class at Monica's store in Palm Desert is the Green Heart of Envy necklace workshop to be held on Sunday, Feb. 3. To sign up, call the store at 760-772-2400.
Happy wrapping,

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Kabobz Mediterranean Restaurant

I'm reviewing this place because I want to make sure that it stays open! Kabobz Mediterranean Restaurant has two locations in Palm Desert:
72695 Hwy 111, #A6
77932 Country Club Drive, Suite 2-4
I visited the latter location during lunchtime, while teaching my Colorful Tribal Necklace workshop at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations. Since I love Mediterranean food (Greek, Lebanese, Turkish, etc.) and the restaurant was within an easy walk to Monica's store, I couldn't resist treating myself to a somewhat pricey meal.
I ordered the Kabob Skewer and Saffron Rice dish with chicken pictured above ($11.99), which included five large, juicy (but not at all greasy) pieces of breast meat that had been seasoned in spices first, then skewered with chunks of yellow onion and bell peppers before it was grilled to perfection. The rice was perfect, too: fluffy, dry (not sticky), and lightly flavored with saffron. I also enjoyed the fire-roasted grilled tomato, and the side dish of tzatziki, a Greek cucumber yogurt dip.
This dish looks huge and it was, but believe it or not I found it in the "lighter bites" section of the menu! A full version of this dish includes an additional side salad, bringing the meal up to $13.99. I consider that rather steep for lunch, but as I had skipped breakfast I was willing to treat myself.
One thing that concerned me was that the restaurant was completely empty except for myself, and I was lunching there on a Saturday at 12 noon. The location is ideal, inside a busy, well established shopping center with lots of folks out buying quilt fabrics at Monica's store, visiting Gold's Gym nearby, buying groceries, etc. So seeing this restaurant empty gave me pause. I need not have worried, though, because my dish was yummy!
Kabobz serves a variety of grilled kabobs, including chicken, beef, ground beef, lamb, shrimp, gyro meat, stuffed bell pepper, and shawarma chicken or beef. They offer traditional appetizers like falafels, baba ganouge, dolmades, hummus and pita, and various side dishes I would like to try such as grilled veggies and lentil soup.
Hearty eaters will enjoy the "fresh off the grill" portion of the menu with various kabobs plus rice and salad, or the shawarma and gyro platters. Mediterranean style salads such as Greek, garbanzo, tabouli, fattoosh, and Mediterranean chicken salad are perfect for summer dining. Vegetarian specialties include baba ganouge fire-roasted eggplant with garlic, tahini and onions, stuffed bell peppers, a falafel plate, and the veggie delight: spicy grilled vegetables and potatoes, with rice or pita.
Prices are somewhat high, ranging from about $9 to $15 for lunch. But there are ways around that: Order a wrap (gyro, chicken, shrimp, etc.) for a meal under $10, or select two or three items from the home-style sides menu to create an inexpensive meal. Kabobz also offers traditional desserts like baklava and Mediterranean ice cream.
If you're in the area, I highly recommend giving this restaurant a try. Your meal will be large but healthy, and if you enjoy traditional Mediterranean foods, you won't be disappointed.
Happy eating,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FREE Tutorial: Enameling Balled Headpins

Bright, colorful headpins are the result of a few extra moments with your torch using an assortment of powdered glass enamels. If you use a butane (a.k.a. “kitchen”) torch to solder small projects and ball up your headpins, you must switch to a different type of gas for enameling. This is because the butane gas is “dirty” and will turn even the prettiest enamels into a yucky gray-green-beige color.
I personally find it easiest to use a map-gas torch with canisters of map gas from the hardware store, but if you’re already set up for torch firing enamels and glass beads with another type of torch, you can use that. Just don’t use butane!
The first step is to ball up your headpins using the method described here, and I recommend doing this with copper wire in gauges 24 through 18. Remove the fire scale using a commercial pickle, citric acid, or pool acid. The copper should turn bright orange in the solution.
Remove the headpins and rinse them in water. To fully stop the acid, you can neutralize your headpins in water with baking soda. Many metal artists do this, but I personally have not felt the need to and I’ve never experienced any adverse effects from eliminating this step.
An optional next step is to put all of your headpins in a jewelry tumbler with stainless steel mixed jewelry shot, water, and burnishing compound. I usually tumble my headpins for a couple of hours. Removing the tangled ball of headpins and then separating them out from the shot, rinsing everything and drying it, takes a very long time! You will have to straighten each headpin by hand, too, because they come out of the tumbler all kinky. But, this tedious process is worthwhile because the end result is a batch of gorgeous, shiny headpins.
To apply enamel to your headpins, first dip the balled ends into Klyr-Fire, which is an organic binder that adheres the enamel to the metal and helps to keep it from chipping off later. (You can substitute a layer of clear fusing enamel if you prefer to use that instead.) Next, heat the headpin to glowing orange.
Tip: Be sure to hold the opposite end of the wire in a pair of junk pliers to avoid heat-annealing a good pair of jewelry pliers.
Immediately dip the headpin into the enamel color of your choice.
Tip: Many artists will go straight for color, but I often dip my headpin into white opaque enamel first, reheat the headpin, and then begin to apply colored enamels in subsequent re-firings.
You can fire several layers of enamel on a headpin, but I usually restrict myself to no more than five layers, including the initial layer of opaque white.
Safety tip: Because you won’t be sifting any enamel, it isn’t strictly necessary to wear a particulate respirator mask. However, you might want to anyway, just to be on the safe side. Even lead-free enamels have tiny particles of chemicals that would be very unhealthy to inhale. Use your best judgment, but when in doubt always wear a particulate respirator mask.
Protecting your eyes: If you find yourself doing lots of torch-fire or kiln-fire enameling, I recommend protecting your eyes by wearing a pair of Solaris IR green-lens glasses, which provides 99 percent UV protection. Prolonged use of a torch or kiln can cause the development of cataracts, so it’s a good idea to wear protective eyeglasses. You can obtain particulate respirators and IR glasses from Thompson Enamels as well as the Creative Arts catalog from Rio Grande. 
The following photo shows a finished headpin that was first enameled in two layers of opaque white, followed by two layers of Robins Egg:
I recommend using opaque, lead-free enamels for this project, and I personally use Thompson Enamels for just about everything. Naturally, if you are familiar with enameling you may use the products of your choice.
Always work in a very well ventilated area, and if you don’t have a commercial hood to remove the gas fumes I recommend using the torch in 15- to 20-minute intervals. Turn off the torch, do something else for a while, and then come back to it. This will help reduce the buildup of toxic gases in your workshop, which can be deadly.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Many more wire jewelry techniques and projects are found in my instructional DVDs and eBooks, including Arty JewelryArty Jewelry IIArty Jewelry III, and Arty Jewelry IV. I also offer day classes in jewelry stores in the Southern California area, and I teach my techniques during Wild Wire Women retreatsheld in my mountain home in Idyllwild, California.
Happy wrapping,

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Classes at Monica's this Friday-Saturday

I'm happy to be teaching several classes at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations in Palm Desert while the season lasts, which is generally through the end of March.
This week you have an opportunity to take a couple of workshops: on Saturday, I'm offering the Colorful Tribal Necklace pictured above and on Friday I'm teaching three different earring designs during my Day of Earrings workshop. The necklace workshop includes coil-wrapping and caged beads, making your own handmade chain, wire charms, wrapped eye-pin loops, and a handmade clasp.
Both workshops take place from 10 am to about 4 pm, although I will stay longer for those who need extra help finishing up. I recommend these workshops for novices as well as intermediate wire jewelry artists because we will thoroughly cover the basics, but I also have some nice tips and tricks to share with more advanced students.
In the Day of Earrings class, we'll focus on three designs, Cleopatra's Earrings:
Squiggle-Wrap Earrings:
And finally the Winged Things Earrings:
In this workshop you can expect to learn many wire-jewelry skills that also translate into making bracelets and necklaces. We'll hammer and spiral wire, make coils and wrapped eye-pin loops, create lots of bead dangles, and make our own French-style ear hooks. It's a blast, and everyone comes away with three different pairs of earrings depending on their personal bead choices. Use gemstones, fabricated beads, lampwork, crystals or pearls in any shape or color you please!
To sign up for these workshops and obtain a supply list, visit Monica's new web site by clicking here.
Or call the store: 760-772-2400
Happy wrapping,

Monday, January 21, 2013

FREE Tutorial: French Ear Wires

In this free tutorial, I'd like to show you how to make sophisticated French-style ear wires with spirals as pictured above. Start with two bead dangles on head pins (click here for a free tutorial) and two 4-inch pieces of round wire in either 20ga or 22ga, depending on which gauge is most comfortable in your ear lobes. Grasp both wires in the middle of the small round-nose pliers, about one-third of the way down from the top end of the wires:
Bend the wires over and to the right:
Continue bending the wires until they are wrapped one complete rotation around the bottom jaw of the small round-nose pliers; again, note that the wires are wrapped around to the right:
Reposition the tool so that just the tips are inserted into the loops, and use your fingers to bend the bottom, longer wires sharply against the edge of the tool:
Separate the two wires. Place a bead dangle on one of the loops, opening the loop sideways just slightly if necessary to place the wrapped bead dangle on it:
Close the loop, and then insert the round-nose pliers into the loop. Place the pliers in your left hand, with the longest wire facing away from you and the shortest wire pointing to the left:
Use chain-nose pliers to grasp the short, wrapping wire around the "neck" area of the longer wire. Don't be tempted to use your hand for this wrap, as you won't get as tight a wrap around the neck:
Continue wrapping the wire tightly around the neck three times:
To make a tiny spiral, start by grasping the very tip of the wire in the tips of the small round-nose pliers. Bend a tiny loop in the wire end:
Tighten the loop in the tips of the chain-nose pliers:
Spiral in the remaining wire in the middle of the chain-nose pliers, with the spiral facing the tip of the tool:
Press the spiral firmly against the straight wire:
Bend the straight wire over the spiral, at a 45- to 90-degree angle:
Place the straight wire into bail-making pliers or your largest round-nose pliers, and bend the wire up and over the jaw in the tool:
Use chain-nose pliers to bend up a little tail in the wire end to make it easier to insert into your ear lobe:
To work-harden your ear wires, lightly tap them with a chasing hammer or a planishing hammer. Repeat these instructions with the second ear wire, and you have a pair of French-style earrings:
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Many more wire jewelry techniques and projects are found in my instructional DVDs and eBooks, including Arty Jewelry, Arty Jewelry II, Arty Jewelry III, and Arty Jewelry IV.
If you would like live instruction on jewelry making techniques, I offer day classes at some jewelry stores in the Southern California area. I also teach my techniques during Wild Wire Women retreats held in my mountain home in Idyllwild, California.
Happy wrapping,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sparkle!

It's Sparkle's 11th birthday today, so I had to post this cute picture of her that my friend Allan Nodelman took last year. Isn't she a darling! Hard to believe she's already 11. What a joy she is (and her little daughter, Rosie, too). I am grateful to have such a funny, silly, gorgeous kitty in my life.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Show Off Your Beads!

I found this announcement online and thought I'd help spread the word!
Lark books (one of my favorite publishers; they produce books with amazing photography) is seeking submissions of original, contemporary beads for publication in a new book entitled Showcase 1000 Beads. The book will be published in January 2014, and you know I have to reserve a copy!
The deadline for submission of photographs of your handmade bead(s) is February 14, 2013. So you still have time to make some beads in glass, metal, polymer clay, wood, stone, ceramics, fiber, etc. and get them professionally photographed by the deadline. There is no entry fee. More detailed information can be found by clicking here.
If your bead is chosen for publication, you'll have the pleasure of seeing it in print and you'll also receive a complimentary copy of the book by way of compensation. Naturally, you retain copyright to your own artwork.
I think it's a great idea for any of us who make handmade beads, especially those who utilize unusual materials. Time to show the world what you've been making lately! Lark appreciates submissions of contemporary beads; that is, nothing made prior to 2010, and preferably beads made in 2011 or (even better) 2012.
Photography: It must be very strong. If you lack the skills to produce high quality digital images, I encourage you to pay someone for this service. It's an investment you won't regret.
To submit your images, click here. Remember, the deadline for submissions is February 14!
Good luck, everybeady!

Friday, January 18, 2013

FREE Tutorial: Pickling Headpins for Jewelry

If you made your own balled headpins using fine silver wire, you can skip this tutorial. Fine silver, which is 99.9 percent pure silver, will not darken in the flame the way that sterling silver and copper will. This is because fire scale is caused by oxygen combining with the copper in metal when it oxidizes through exposure to high temperatures such as a flame from a torch.
Since sterling silver is 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper, the copper alloy in sterling silver oxidizes in the heated flame, producing a blackening effect on the surface of the metal. Some artists like this look and simply leave their darkened headpins as-is. Other artists deliberately heat-darken their metal for various creative effects.
If you wish to remove the fire scale from your headpins, there are a few approaches. For instance, you can try polishing them with a brass brush or with coarse steel wool or sandpaper, or with polishing brushes and buffs on a flex-shaft. Personally, I find this unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming. My preference is to use a simple “pickle” solution to remove fire scale from blackened metal.
Various pickle solutions are possible; I suggest using something that is very safe and non-toxic. I have used citric acid (which can be found in Mediterranean food stores and some grocery stores); it is very inexpensive and effective. Best of all, it's non-toxic so it can be used safely without any worries.
Another alternative is dry acid (sodium bisulfate), the type used to lower the pH in swimming pools and spas. You only need a teaspoon of dry acid and a medium-size bowl of hot (not boiling) water, and a plastic utensil to remove the wire pieces from the solution once they’re cleaned.
Heat water to almost boiling, and pour it into a glass or ceramic bowl. Add a spoonful of dry acid to the water and stir to dissolve it.
Safety tips: NEVER add water to acid, ALWAYS add acid to water.
Avoid hovering over the bowl of acid solution, as the fumes are not safe to inhale. For this reason, never use boiling water, just very hot water.
Work in a well-ventilated area.
Drop the headpins into the acid solution. If necessary, press the wire pieces down into the solution using a plastic utensil:
Within a very short time, you will notice that the fire scale is removed from the wire. Silver turns very bright, almost white. Copper turns bright orange:
Remove the headpins from the acid solution using rubber gloves or a plastic utensil, and rinse them in water. Allow them to air dry, and they’re ready to use.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Many more wire jewelry techniques and projects are found in my instructional DVDs and eBooks, including Arty JewelryArty Jewelry IIArty Jewelry III, and Arty Jewelry IV. I also offer day classes in jewelry stores in the Southern California area, and I teach my techniques during Wild Wire Women retreatsheld in my mountain home in Idyllwild, California.
Happy wrapping,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

FREE Tutorial: Balled Headpins for Jewelry

A headpin is a length of wire with something on one end that acts as a stopper, preventing beads or pearls placed on the wire from slipping off. There are many ways to create beautiful decorative headpins starting with plain wire, and of course there are many retailers offering a wide variety of headpins in different gauges, lengths, and styles.
The advantages to making your own headpins are significant, but they boil down to two issues: cost savings and creative control. Making your own wire headpins takes some time and effort, but it will save you a great deal of money, so it’s worth considering. More importantly, you will gain creative control over your jewelry by making your own findings such as headpins. For example, say you want a few five-inch long headpins made of 20ga copper wire. Or perhaps you need a foot-long 16ga sterling silver headpin for a large pendant stone. Good luck finding these items in a store or online! And it’s very easy to make such things yourself.
The setup is simple: You will need either a kitchen torch or a Micro torch on a stand filled with butane fuel, a small glass or ceramic mug or bowl with tepid water, and cheap needle-nose pliers from the hardware store:
Cut several lengths of wire in the gauges and metal types you need for your designs. I always cut each wire length about an inch longer than I want the finished headpin to be. This way, if the heated ball drops off the wire or if I accidentally ball up more wire than I intended to, I still have plenty of wire in the finished headpin for my project.
I always flush-cut one wire end but not the other, as this is the end that I will ball-up with the torch. Common-sense safety precautions include tying back long hair and not wearing loose clothing.
Turn on the torch until the flame is showing a bright blue cone inside the flame. Use the lever on the side of the torch to adjust the flame; with a fully fueled torch the lever should be about halfway between “off” and fully “on.” Locate the tip of the bright blue cone: This is the hottest part of the flame. Pick up a wire piece in your cheap pair of needle-nose pliers, and hold the wire end in the blue cone’s tip. Note that the wire is hovering over the glass of tepid water; this makes it easy to drop the headpin into the water the moment you see a melted ball forming:
The amount of time it takes to form a melted ball on the end of your wire piece depends on a few factors: the heat of the flame, whether or not you successfully positioned the wire end in the very tip of the blue cone (the hottest part of the flame), the type of wire used (sterling and fine silver melt much faster than copper wire, for example), and the wire gauge. Naturally, the heavier the wire gauge, the longer it takes to heat the metal enough to melt a ball. When you see a ball forming as pictured above, it will have a bright red-orange appearance.
You can make headpins with melted balls of various sizes for different design purposes, but leaving the wire in the flame too long may cause the wire above the ball to melt and release it. In this case, you’ll have to start over with the new wire end. This is why I usually cut my wire lengths at least one inch longer than I wish my finished headpins to be.
As you make each headpin, drop it into tepid water to quench it. Tips: Using icy-cold water will shock the heated metal, so avoid that. Never touch heated metal until it’s been quenched in water.
When you’ve made several headpins, turn off the torch and allow it to stand in a safe place away from flammable items for about half an hour before putting it back in storage.
Test your headpins on the beads you wish to use:

About Fire Scale: Most artists will remove the fire scale (blackened metal) from their wire headpins using a pickle solution (demonstrated next), but some artists deliberately leave the fire scale on their headpins for a more rustic appearance. The choice is yours. If you notice a dimpling effect on your melted headpins, this is natural and will occur when using sterling silver or copper wire. Some artists will dip their sterling silver or copper wire ends in flux prior to melting them, which may help to reduce dimpling and fire scale.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Many more wire jewelry techniques and projects are found in my instructional DVDs and eBooks, including Arty JewelryArty Jewelry IIArty Jewelry III, and Arty Jewelry IV. I also offer day classes in jewelry stores in the Southern California area, and I teach my techniques during Wild Wire Women retreatsheld in my mountain home in Idyllwild, California.
Happy wrapping,