Sunday, March 31, 2013

New Enameled Bead Jewelry!

For the past week or so I've been working on some new jewelry designs using my hand-painted porcelain pendants and my torch-enameled beads. In honor of the occasion I broke out my precious sterling-silver wire and used a few Thai-silver beads and caps, too. It's been fun and quite liberating to use my own beads and pendants in jewelry designs, something that I've never done before.
You could say that I'm thoroughly hooked on making torch-enameled beads. Caps, too! It's easy and fun to make your own enameled bead caps, and being able to color-coordinate findings with your beads adds greatly to your design options. Of course, I'll always use gemstones, handmade glass beads and pearls in my designs as well.
Mother's Day is just around the corner, so I'm motivated to make some new items for Mom and also to tempt my students who are always wanting to learn something new. Me, too! This July I'll be taking a course in ceramics where I hope to learn much more about making unusual beads and pendants to use in my jewelry. And I look forward to experimenting more with torch enameling.
I had fun creating a brand-new hook clasp to add to my new jewelry designs. Lots of silver was used in these pieces, but I think it was a worthwhile investment.
It's important for jewelry artists to continue adding to their repertoire of skills. I'm grateful to have had many opportunities to learn wire jewelry techniques, metalsmithing methods, torch and kiln enameling, and now ceramic-bead making. Who knows what's next?
Happy wrapping,
p.s. I have several openings in my spring/summer workshop schedule. For more information, click here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Final 2013 Workshop at Monica's in Palm Desert!

This is it, folks: the last opportunity for you to take a workshop from me this year at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations in Palm Desert, California. On Thursday, March 28, I'm teaching my popular Metallo del Fiore bangle bracelet from 10 am to 4 pm. It will be my very last class at this store until January 2014.
The workshop is jam-packed with metal working and wire wrapping techniques, and it's ideal for novice metalsmiths or for anyone who would like to learn how to use a jeweler's saw properly. We start with designing our metal motif and discuss different shapes and sizes that work well for a bracelet. Then we transfer our own original designs (or you can use my templates provided) to the metal and learn how to saw it out.
Filing, texturing and metal engraving follow, along with metal punching and dapping (optional). After a break for lunch, we'll switch to wirework and make a coil-wrapped bangle bracelet with beads, a handmade clasp, and handmade wire charms.
To finish, we'll put it all together using a button—and if you don't have a great vintage button, Monica has lots of them for sale in her store. I will also show you how to make your own button using flat center-drilled beads.
Here's a picture of the Metallo del Fiore bangles made by my students during one of my Wild Wire Women retreats:
You can make your bracelet using flowers, butterflies, hearts, stars, geometric shapes, or whatever you fancy. And I will also show you how easy it is to convert your bangle into a pendant for a beautiful metal-art necklace.
To register for this class online, click here.
To call the store: 760-772-2400
Hope to see you in the desert this Thursday!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Creating New Enameled Beads

This week I've been having a lot of fun playing with the torch, enameling some iron-filigree beads I've had for about a year and also a few big copper beads that I am ashamed to admit I've been hoarding for about 12 years. Well, I never really had much inspiration until lately, so the copper beads just sat there in a big bag taunting me for the longest time.
Things changed in the last couple of weeks because suddenly I've been very busy teaching workshops and classes at some local bead stores, and I've found myself feeling exhausted and empty. This can happen when you teach a lot but you aren't creating new things. The only thing I know to do when I'm feeling out of sorts is to try something I've never attempted before. For me, that was making enameled beads using metal beads as a base and enamels with glass frit to decorate them.
I really liked how they came out, so I dug out some Thai silver bead caps hidden away in my stash and some sterling silver wire that I can't afford to use right now and shouldn't.... and said the heck with it, I'm going to use my silver! I love the results, and I'm looking forward to incorporating my new beads into a necklace or two.
Whatever I come up with, I'll be sure to share it here. I hope you're all feeding the fires of creativity, wherever that may take you!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Enameled Penny Charm Bracelet

Yesterday I had a great time sharing my techniques for altering pennies and turning them into charm bracelets. My students at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations made it through the full-day workshop and, although nobody finished a bracelet in class, we all had fun and learned quite a lot from one another.
Together we hammered out pennies (nickels and dimes too) to make thin metal disks for texturing and hole-punching. The disks were then turned into hanging charms with double-wrapped eye-pin loops and attached to a bracelet of twisted wire jump rings and figure-8 links, which we made ourselves. A handmade hook clasp finishes the piece.
What made this class super-fun for me was being able to share my latest endeavors with torch-fire enameling on altered coins. I had stayed up late on Wednesday night, hammering out pennies and punching holes in them, and then torch-fire enameling them with some of my favorite opaque colors. I love the results, and I was especially pleased to be able to incorporate some fruity beads into the charm bracelet. (I bought these beads many years ago in a bead shop in Laguna Beach, and never found a use for them—until now.)
After fashioning a bracelet with my beads and enameled charms, I did some research and discovered that newer American pennies minted after 1981 are very different from the pennies made in days gone by! Back in the late 1700s and early 1800s, our pennies were made of pure copper. The composition changed over the years, from bronze to zinc-coated steel (1943) to a metal composition of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc (1962-1981), and finally in 1982 to 97.5 percent zinc and only 2.5 percent copper. Essentially, newly minted American pennies are made of copper-coated zinc. Yuck!
Why should this matter to someone who wishes to enamel her pennies?
Again, research has revealed that heating zinc with a torch will release dangerous, toxic fumes. If you torch-enamel outside, this may not pose a problem, but I generally torch-fire in my studio. I have a professional fume-hood that sucks all the gasses outside, but still... now that I know what I know, I would never, ever use a torch on an American penny made after 1981.
Turns out, all the pennies I had torched last Wednesday were older—from the 1950s through the 1970s—so I was never in any danger of poisoning myself. But it rattled me a bit to learn this information only after I had already torched my pennies!
Anyway, I'm just thrilled with the results. I love enamels and using them in an artistic way to alter an ordinary piece of copper, turning it into a little work of art that can be worn and enjoyed for years. It just doesn't get much better than that.
If you'd like to learn the basics of torch-firing with enamels on copper, I offer an introductory course in using this creative method to make beautiful charms. I can't teach this class at a bead store because they're not set up for that, but if you sign up for one of my Wild Wire Women retreats in Idyllwild, California, you'll have the opportunity to try enameling in a safe environment. It's so much fun, it's truly addictive! But getting into enameling can be very costly at first, so it's nice to have the opportunity to take a workshop where everything is included in your retreat fee, including copper sheet, enamels, the use of my torch and mapp gas, and a professional enameling kiln.
If you'd like more information on my Wild Wire Women retreats, click here.
I hope to see you in Idyllwild soon.
By the way, for a great FREE video on torch-enameling beads with Barbara Lewis, click here!
And on Sunday (March 17) I'm teaching my popular Worm Bead Bracelet over at Brea Bead Works, in North Orange County, California. I'd love to meet you in this creative class. I believe there are still a couple of openings, so sign up soon...
Phone: 714-671-9976
Happy enameling,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Two Workshops This Week!

I'm teaching two fun workshops this week at two different locations in Southern California, so I wanted to give everyone a heads-up:
First, the Altered Penny Charm Bracelet pictured above, which will take place this Thursday (March 14) at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations in Palm Desert. The class runs from 10 am to about 4 pm, with a short break for lunch. This is the workshop that sold out in a few hours at Brea Bead Works last month!
What fun we'll have, using different tools to alter our pennies and turn them into pretty charms for a bracelet that also includes bead dangles, twisted-wire jump rings, figure-8 links, and a handmade clasp. Believe me, this project will keep you busy all day. Those who work a bit faster will find time to make a matching pair of earrings.
To sign up online with a credit card, visit Monica's site here. Or to phone in your registration, call:
I should add that the materials needed to make this bracelet are very inexpensive, so this project won't break your bank!
On Sunday, March 17, I'm teaching the Worm Bead Bracelet (pictured above) at Brea Bead Works, a wonderful bead store located just across the street from the Brea Mall in Orange County, near the freeway—very easy to get to. Well, not for me! It takes me almost two hours to drive to Brea, all the way from Idyllwild. So I hope that a few more students will sign up between now and Sunday; currently we have five students, and it would be great to add up to five more. We max out at 10 students, which is a good number for their spacious studio loft.
In addition to the bracelet, I'm also going to show you how to make a pair of earrings as pictured above. And for those of you who are really ambitious, I'll get you started on a beautiful necklace like the one featured in my latest book from Interweave Press: Wire Art Jewelry Workshop. There won't be time to finish a necklace in class—it's too complex—but you'll get a good start on one if you prefer this to making a bracelet.
I also wanted to add that registration for all the April-May workshops at Brea Bead Works will be held on Saturday, March 16. Some classes are selling out in a few hours on registration day, so please don't miss your opportunity to take the best workshops! I hope you'll sign up for a few of mine; for more on that, visit my previous post here.
You can register anytime for this Sunday's class, and we still have five openings, so I hope to see some of you there! Just give the store a call:
See you on Sunday!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Not-So-Tribal Necklace

I finally finished my sample necklace from Thursday's class at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations: the Colorful Tribal Necklace workshop. As you can see, my necklace turned out "not so tribal" because I used sterling silver, a sandblasted agate bead from Monica's store, garnets, pearls, and my enameled cage beads (as demonstrated in my eBook, Arty Jewelry IV).
I liked the necklace so much, I decided to use the same beads and lots of sterling silver wire to make a matching bangle with a huge heart dangle, garnets, and Thai silver bead caps. Just finished both pieces tonight, and then I used liver of sulfur to darken the metal and give it that lovely aged look....
And here they are together, a necklace and bracelet that can be used to dress up a plain blouse or cocktail dress, or worn with jeans and a simple T-shirt. It's not tribal, but it's pretty and I think I'll be wearing this one a lot.
I now only have two more classes at Monica's store for 2013:
Altered Penny Charm Bracelet on March 14 from 10 am to 4 pm
Metallo del Fiore Bangle on March 28 from 10 am to 4 pm
To register for classes, visit the web site here or call:
Happy wrapping,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Final Workshops at Monica's in Palm Desert

We're counting down now: In just a few weeks, the "season" at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations in Palm Desert will be over for the year, and after March 28 I won't be teaching there again until next January (2014)! If you live in the desert area of Southern California or if you'll be visiting on vacation, check out the workshop offerings and please sign up before it's too late...
On Thursday, March 7, I'm teaching a full-day workshop from 10 am to approximately 4 pm: the Colorful Tribal Necklace (pictured above). Depending on the beads and charms you incorporate into your design, you may come out with a very ethnic-style necklace similar to mine, or something more elegant—think crystals, pearls and sterling silver. It's up to you, and although everyone learns the same techniques, no two necklaces are ever alike.
On Thursday, March 14, I'm offering another full-day workshop from 10 am to approximately 4 pm: the Altered Penny Charm Bracelet (pictured above). This has been a very popular sold-out class, and no wonder! It's so much fun to alter coins and turn them into pretty charms for a bracelet, necklace or earrings. Add bead dangles in the colors of your choice, learn to twist heavy-gauge wire to make your own jump rings, add a handmade clasp, and you've not only assembled a gorgeous piece of jewelry but learned a whole host of new metal-art techniques that can be applied to many more designs.
Finally, on March 28, I'm finishing up the 2013 season by teaching my popular Metallo del Fiore workshop that features a unique metal motif that you stamp and engrave to fashion a beautiful focal piece in your jewelry. Pictured above you can see several bracelets made by my students! Believe it or not, this class is suitable for beginners.
During the first half of the class you will learn how to use your jeweler's saw, files, texturing hammers, and Dremel engraver. The second half of the class is devoted to wire-wrapping techniques. Everyone will finish their bracelet in class, which runs from 10 am to approximately 4 pm.
To register for classes at Monica's, you can head over to her web site here to register online with a credit card, or you can call the store and they will be happy to assist you. Supply lists will be given out to students prior to class.
Phone: 760-772-2400
I hope to see YOU there!
Happy wrapping,

Friday, March 1, 2013

New Workshops at Brea Bead Works!

I'm happy to announce that we've chosen four terrific workshops for the April/May session at Brea Bead Works in north Orange County, California!
April 13, 10 am to 5 pm: Metallo del Fiore bangle bracelets (seen above) feature sheet metal, wire, beads, and buttons. Learn to design and saw out sheet metal motifs, texture and engrave them, make a wire-art bangle with a handmade clasp, and wire charms. Pictured above, bracelets by my students!
April 27, 10 am to 5 pm: The Sawn & Pierced Cuff workshop (pictured above) introduces you to your jeweler's saw. You will learn to love this versatile tool as you master sawing and piercing out unique shapes to make a gorgeous cuff bracelet; or, if you prefer, make a pendant or pair of earrings instead. No previous experience with metalsmithing is necessary!
May 11, 10 am to 5 pm: Check out the beautiful Butterfly Girl pictured above! You can make a lovely vintage-style doll pendant for yourself in this fun, creative workshop. We'll use a vintage porcelain doll torso, wire, beads, and antique buttons to fashion our creations. Learn knotless netting and wire weaving, bead embellishment, and more.
May 25, 10 am to 5 pm: The Victorian Netted Cuff bracelet (pictured above) is a very popular workshop and is featured on the cover of the February/March 2013 issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine! Use copper or sterling silver wire plus the beads and vintage buttons of your choice to fashion a unique wire-woven bracelet. The character of your bracelet will differ dramatically, depending on the types of beads and buttons you use—sterling silver and crystals for bling, or aged copper and turquoise or bone beads for an ethnic look!
Registration for my April/May workshops at Brea Bead Works begins at 10 am on March 16. Sign up quickly; my last workshop at this store sold out in hours!
Phone: 714-671-9976
Web site:
Workshop supply lists will be provided as soon as you register.
Hope to see you in class!