Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NEW Handmade Ceramic Buttons!

Well, this is very exciting for me: I just unloaded my first batch of handmade ceramic buttons that I fired myself in my new kiln! I'm sharing just a selection here in this post, as there are far too many to display at once...
Until last week, I have been using studio kilns to fire my pendants and buttons. Working in a studio is great because you get to socialize with other like-minded artists, and you learn from each other.
But working in a studio can have its limitations: In my case, I had to work with cone-10 clay and glazes, and fire in a gas kiln. The colors just weren't my favorites (mostly browns)—not to say they weren't pretty, but I was kind of hoping to make ceramic art with brighter hues.
Naturally, some grunge is always acceptable in my world! Anyway, a few weeks ago I found a used Skutt kiln for sale in my neighborhood, and the very kind lady who was selling it actually delivered it to my house at no charge. I then had to hire an electrician to wire me up for 240 voltage, which cost more than twice what I paid for my kiln!
I also had to purchase some extra shelves and posts, glazes, and cone-5 clay. But once everything was set, I was in business.
Last week I fired two kiln-loads of bisque. I had previously spent weeks (yes, weeks) making hundreds of buttons, and they were all nice and dry by the time I was ready to test-fire them in my kiln for the first time. Both bisque firings went well. I used white porcelain and brown stoneware, and a really cool super-black clay too. The buttons shown above were made with Basaltic Black clay and glazed with "crawl" glazes for a super-grungy look. The glaze looks like it's going to flake off, but it's actually quite durable. Reminds me of tree bark...
I also worked with some lighter glaze colors. Lots of blues, yellows, greens, and whites.
The color of clay you use has a huge effect on the outcome of your glaze firings. As the glaze melts and interacts with the clay, chemistry takes over and you get lots of results you were not expecting!
The buttons shown here are from my very first glaze firing, which I unloaded from the kiln early this morning. And naturally, I've already reloaded the kiln with hundreds more buttons, and they're in a firing cycle right now.
It's simply wonderful having my own kiln. I feel that my creativity has been freed up and I'm ready to rock it now! I love experimenting with clay and glaze. You just never know for sure what you're gonna get...
In a few days I'll start putting my buttons in my etsy shop, but right now I have to get back to work and paint more glaze on my next batch of buttons!
I hope you've enjoyed this little preview of my latest work. I love making buttons!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New "Tibetan Treasures" Bracelet in my Etsy Shop!

New in my etsy shop: A gorgeous Tibetan Treasures bracelet with a big naga-shell focal bead (made in India), turquoise beads, coral beads, a 1-Frank coin, handmade Celtic knot links and big silver leaf charm, and a handmade silver hook clasp.
This is a big, bold bracelet. It measures 9-1/2 inches in length and the beads used are big and chunky! To make it shorter, simply remove some of the links.
I love the hook clasp on this bracelet. I enjoyed shaping it with 14-gauge sterling silver wire and beating it up with three different texturing hammers. Love it!
Like all of my jewelry in my etsy shop, this bracelet is one-of-a-kind. I can made similar bracelets, but no two will ever be identical due to the rarity of the beads and coins I use. Included in this bracelet: a gorgeous (and now rare) authentic Tibetan turquoise bead embellished with brass filigree and red coral chips, naga-shell beads, chunky turquoise and red coral beads, Thai silver bead caps, and an old French coin dated 1938.
Note: I never use silver-filled wire in my jewelry. The wire I used in this bracelet is solid sterling silver. And guess what? With the purchase of this bracelet, I will include a FREE copy of my Tribal Treasures Bracelet Workshop DVD.
Here's the link to this bracelet in my shop: Tibetan Treasures.

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Pendant Sets at Mountain Beadworks!

I have some exciting news: Mountain Beadworks in Julian (about an hour's drive from San Diego) is now carrying my handmade ceramic pendants! They already carry some of my books and soon they'll also offer my DVDs, too.
Before shipping them a big box with 150 black cards with ceramic pendants attached, I thought I should take a few pix of the new items on offer and share them with you.
As you can see, most cards have two small pendants attached (they are about 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches square), but a few have just one large (approx. 3-inch square) pendant.
Each card retails for $15. I think that's an incredible value.
To texture my pendants, I use hand-carved rubber stamps, commercial art stamps, lace, natural items such as leaves and shells, found objects, and various texturing tools.
Each and every pendant is hand-shaped, stamped, and textured by me. There are some similarities, but each pendant is unique. There are no exact duplicates because I never use push-molds.
After bisque-firing, I hand-paint each pendant with different glaze colors and the pendants go into the kiln for a second time. They are all high-fired to full vitrification, making them very durable.
Many of the pendants in this new batch came out a toasty-cinnamon color. I painted these with a Shino glaze, expecting them to come out a sort of golden-green. But since these pendants were fired at cone-10 in a gas kiln, the glaze didn't come out exactly as planned! This is what happens when you work with ceramics. Each kiln load is a surprise.
Many of the pendants in this series were only partially glazed. This was done on purpose, because I wanted to rub them with bronze metallic waxes and buff them to a high shine, emphasizing the lovely textures.
I really enjoy making these pendants and I'd love to see what you make out of them!
Necklaces, bracelets, chokers, bangles, even earrings—you can make lots of gorgeous jewelry pieces with these pendants. Use wire, sheet metal, fibers, leather, commercial beads, and more.
Now that I have some free time, I'm going to make a few sample jewelry pieces using some of my pendants just to see how they can be used with various materials that I love. Fibers, wire and sheet metal figure high on my list! I'm looking forward to the challenge.
I also wanted to mention that Brea Bead Works in North Orange County, California, also has a fine selection of my ceramic pendants in their store. They've been hosting a trunk show for me for the last several weeks, and I sent them a new shipment of pendants a couple of weeks ago. If you find it more convenient to shop in Brea than in Julian, be sure to check them out.
On September 7, I'll be visiting Mountain Beadworks in Julian to take part in the Southern California "Bead Shop Hop," signing books and DVDs, and meeting the customers who frequent this wonderful bead store in the mountains. Oh, and of course I must take time out to sample some of the famously delicious Julian apple pie!
I'll be in the store at about 11 am on Sept. 7 (Saturday), so if you have time to come by please do. I'd love to meet you and see your jewelry, and sign your books!
Happy wrapping,

Friday, August 16, 2013

WWW Retreats: Choosing Workshops!

The first question most participants of a Wild Wire Women retreat ask me prior to our weekend together is this: Which workshops will we be taking? A good question, given that we spend three very intensive days making jewelry during a retreat—using wire, sheet metal, enamels, rivets, beads, found objects, and various tools and techniques.
My answer is always the same: You get to choose! Instead of creating an itinerary for you, I ask each participant to send me a list of her three top-favorite projects/workshops taken from my web site, books, DVDs, etc.
Once I have lists from each student, I go over them to see if we have any overlap: two or more ladies requesting the same workshop. This makes it much easier for me to narrow down our choices to the few that we can reasonably expect to cover in three days. We can take three full-day workshops or six half-day workshops, or a combination of the above, such as one full-day workshop plus four half-day workshops.
For my retreat taking place September 26-30, I got two lists but each one was entirely different... so some juggling will commence! One student asked for fold-formed pins or earrings (see the two photos at the top of this post), which we can easily cover in a half-day. She also wanted to make a wire-woven dolly pendant like the one pictured above. This is a full-day workshop, so I suggested that perhaps we might make a wire-woven ring instead. Same techniques, different results, but the learning opportunity is the same. We'll see how that works out.
An introduction to torch enameling was another request; this can include small charms like the ones in the enameled penny bracelet pictured above, or other items such as enameled headpins, filigree beads, and copper metal charms. It would be ideal to spend an entire day on this, but if a brief introduction is all that's needed, we'll keep it to a half day.
Worm beads were the number-1 request of my second retreat participant. We could spend a day making a worm-bead bracelet with bead charms like the one pictured above, or we can spend a half day simply making a couple beads to incorporate into other projects. We're still mulling it over.
Earrings are another top request of many of my students. It's one of those techniques that can be briefly touched on in a half-day workshop, resulting on one great pair of earrings, or it can be explored in-depth over the course of many days. It's really up to my students to determine how much time they want to devote to this art form.
As a final request, I was asked if we could make altered penny charm bracelets (pictured above) and/or altered tubing bead bracelets (pictured below). Both workshops take an entire day to finish a completed piece; however, this is one of those instances where we can actually combine the two workshops into one. We could make a truly spectacular bracelet or necklace with altered pennies, tubing beads, wire charms, bead charms, twisted-wire jump rings, and a handmade clasp.
At this point, I've thrown the ball back into my students' court, asking them to reconsider their options—including combining some workshops into one, reducing some to a half-day, or even eliminating a class. This is the really, really tough part of the retreat! So many workshop choices, so little time to fit them all in...
How about you? If you were attending my retreat on Sept. 26-30 (we still have four openings!), which workshops would you choose? I'd love to hear your opinions!
Happy wrapping,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zazu Models PURE Knit Shawl

My close friend Susi (who's more like a sister than a friend) sent me a couple of photos of her kitty, Zazu, modeling a PURE knit shawl that Susi purchased last year when she came out to Idyllwild for a visit.
The shawl comes with three large coconut buttons, and they are cute. But once Susi saw my recent post about my mother modeling a new PURE knit shawl that I had purchased for her, adorned with my own handmade ceramic buttons, Susi simply had to have three similar buttons to embellish her turquoise treasure.
Naturally, Susi's beloved Zazu took possession of the new garment. Hand-knit of soft cotton fibers dyed in delicious colors, PURE knit garments are deceptively simple in design. But they drape in so many different ways, you really feel as though you're getting several shawls-wraps-scarves in one.
I was so thrilled to see how Susi's shawl looks with my new buttons! If you want to make a dramatic change to your hand-knit, quilted, or crocheted garments, try adding some fancy buttons. Right now Monica is hosting a trunk show of my handmade buttons in her store, Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations, in Palm Desert:
77780 Country Club Drive, Suite C-D
Palm Desert CA 92211
Phone: 760.772.2400
Happy embellishing,