Monday, March 2, 2015

Allow Me to Introduce Myself.....

Hello!  I am Patti Vanderbloemen – the newest member of the Love My Art Jewelry community!  I am humbled and honored to be included in among this group of truly talented artists, whose work I have admired (and coveted!) for years!  This is my first posting – I do hope you will stick around to the end (I was a writer in my "past life" and my blog posts tend to be lengthy)!

I fell into this medium by accident – my mother, who lived in Florida at the time, had been creating all types of jewelry through the on site lapidary store located in her community.  She came up North for a visit and wanted to make a “quick trip” to the local bead store.  Quick – ha!  As I watched her stare at the hundreds and thousands of findings on the wall, my eye caught a book on the counter.  This book, by Irina Miech, is what did it for me.  It was not just the beads – but the METAL elements that drew me in.

I bought the book that day, spent HOURS (could have been DAYS) on the Fire Mountain Gems website, and patiently waited for my order to arrive.  In the weeks/months that followed, I attempted (notice the key word is attempted) each and every design in that book. That was December 2009.

The experience of working through the projects was an eye opener.  Most ended up in what I now call the "scrap pile" - but it did not deter me as I was intrigued.  The picture below (I am cringing here) is my first completed jewelry project.  I only wanted to make the bracelet, but there were so many extra beads!  The bracelet took me FOREVER!  The loops on those "handmade" eye pins are not even round!

It was not long before I discovered art beads.  I immediately fell in love with lampwork beads, and I once again bought book after book so that I could understand the process.  This bracelet below is one of my first creations that I sold in 2011 using gorgeous filigree lampwork beads by Susan Kennedy.

Lampwork Beads by Susan Kennedy of Sue Beads

On a side note, since I began selling my jewelry online in 2011, my least favorite thing to do is take pictures – it has always been such a struggle to find the right lighting, background, layout, props – you name it.  I have no idea “how” this bracelet above sold, as the picture is awful!  I have spent so much time researching how to take an adequate picture of jewelry.  I have done the foray of using an all-white background (HATE IT- so much editing involved and my jewelry looked altered in some way).  I have tons of scrap paper to be used as a background, which meant the background always seemed to distract the eye from the actual piece of jewelry.

I have tried natural light – both inside and outside – but never seemed to find the right “angle”.  The picture of the earrings below, circa 2012, were taken on my back porch stoop.  As I look back on this photo, I see the reflection of my patio furniture umbrella – ha!  I did however, prefer the gray color of my concrete stoop to the all-white background.

Lampwork by Pomegranate Glass - Enameled Bead Caps by Susan Kennedy

So, I tried taking photos at a different time of day – look at the horrible shadows!

Lampwork Beads by Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens of GlassBeadArt

Anyway, because I just could not find the right time of day (if the sun even made an appearance), I went back indoors.  I made a trip to the local nursery and picked up a HUGE slab of granite, and purchased two photography lamps.  I used this slab for well over 2 years – maybe 3.  Last year, it finally dawned on me (I am a slow learner) that the granite has a “green” tinge to it and made all the colors of the beads blend into the background. 
Basha Lampwork Beads

I am surprised that the earrings above actually sold – one cannot even begin to appreciate the beauty of those opal Basha Beads with the granite background – it blends right in! After years of trial and error with my photos – and lots of research – I now use an 18% Photo Gray card (link here) and photography lights (link here).  My studio is in my basement, and there is no natural daylight. It is also too cumbersome to drag everything outside to take photos (this translates to being lazy).  So for now, I am happy with the pictures. 

For the first couple of years, I only used sterling silver - I did not even try using copper until late 2012.  I am so sorry I waited that long!  While I loved the look of "antiqued copper", I had never used liver of sulfur and wasn't even sure of the complete process.  Everything I read said it smelled of rotten eggs (it does!) and I wasn’t sure I could handle the techniques required to achieve the antiqued look that I wanted.  But, I have to say – I am used to that smell and using it on a daily basis is now second nature.
Lampwork Beads by Donna Millard

Since the beginning, my journey in jewelry design has incorporated wire, usually with art beads.  I have taken a handful of jewelry classes through ArtBliss Workshops, a local (Northern Virginia) retreat that was the brain child of Jeannette Blix Oliverio-Ryan and Cindy Wimmer.  It was cancelled last year, and I am not sure if/when it will be resurrected.  Regardless, I am forever grateful for the few classes I did take with Richard Sally, Jessica Jordan, Kerry Bogert, and Stacie Florer.    These classes have proven invaluable to me for learning specific techniques and tips that I could not glean from a book or a video.  Soldering is the perfect example here.

Tiger Eye Cab and Ceramic by Karen Totten of Starry Road Studio

Now, as my work evolves, it includes almost all components made by me (except the beads, of course)!  Sheet metal has become a recent favorite as well – there are so many things that can be made from a simple sheet of metal!  And texture – oh my goodness – next to the caramel color achieved through the oxidation process, my favorite techniques ALWAYS incorporate some sort of texture.

I feel very blessed that I am able to create “what I want”.  As such, I donate the proceeds of my sales to Miracle Horse Rescue, a wonderful organization located in Idaho dedicated to saving abused and neglected horses. 

I am always excited by the possibilities of “the next” piece of jewelry that I am able to create and am so grateful for the support of the total online experience of like-artisans  -- from blogs, to Face book, to You Tube videos - who share, encourage, and contribute their knowledge of this fabulous medium we call jewelry design.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Biting the Bullet

by Staci Louise Smith

Last week we lost two members of our family.  It was a very tough week.  I was honored when I was asked to make a memorial pendant to honor my uncle.  His children were looking for something that could hold ashes but also be made without.  His daughter said it would be cool if we could do something like a bullet, since he loved weapons.

And I was off...................

I have been saving brass casings thinking someday I will make something jewelry related with them and I have just never done it.

I figured to make an easy pendant, by adding a hole, a bail, and polymer clay.  But as I thought about it, I wanted to make it extra special, and I know you can etch the brass

I messaged Karen since I know she etches all the time.  She walked me through the basics as I was terrified to use acid in my house.

I also Googled etching brass casings since they are an odd shape.  I got some great tips.  I thought I'd walk you through the process with pictures.  By no means is this a tutorial, but I thought it was cool to see them come together!

I am so glad I "bit the bullet" and dove into etching brass!  I am hooked.

first I drilled each one through the top.  some did NOT drill well and got tossed aside.  I also broke one drill bit during the process.

then I used my Dremel to clean up the drill holes

Then I cleaned the surface of each bullet casing with a scrubbie to remove any oils and made it ready to take the ink

I used both sharpies to draw on designs and stayz on ink.  I definitely prefered the stayz on designs best and did them for most.

I strung them on wire so I could dunk them in the acid and remove them easily.

acid bath for about 20 minutes

Then they got taken out, neutralized and rinsed.  this was a painstaking part for me, and I used a TON of baking soda because I am so paranoid!  It was messier then I expected as well, and next time, I will probably do this outside- although I manage to contain all that needed to be.  I also bought a plastic place mat to put under everything in case of mess and to protect my counter.  It worked great!

After they were all etched, then I used a brass brush to remove any ink, and rinsed them again, and threw them into the tumbler to shine them up and clean them thoroughly.

post brass brush, pre-tumbler

After the tumbler they got antiqued with liver of sulfur, polished with polish pads and were ready for the next phase.

(I made over 50 of these, so it took me all week)

I torched some brass wire to antique it a bit, and made bails through each of the holes at the top.

After they had bails, I added black polymer clay to the inside.  I stuffed it way in so it went around the wire inside to grab it- and formed the bottom like a bullet shape.

That is the finished product.  I did run into some problems with the polymer in the brass though.  It kept cracking at the edge of the bullet casing....sometimes it just made a ridge and other times a huge crack that made the entire tip break off.  So I filled the ridges with more clay and re-baked.  The broken ones I dug out some of the center, and added sculpey glue and more sculpey and re-baked.  they were better.  I spoke with Ginger of Blue Bottle Tree and she thought perhaps the clay was packed so tight the gasses couldn't ecaspe. I never even thought of that, plus, the brass gets hotter then the clay.......

So I did a batch packing a little at a time, and I cooked the first two fillings at a lower temp to set them but hopefully not overheat it......and they still had some ridges to fill, but not as bad.

Just something to think about and be ready for if you fill bullet casings with polymer.
ready to bake

The last batch had the ashes mixed in with the clay for those who wanted it that way.  That was emotionally tougher for me then I thought it would be.  How I did it was, I put some bigger pieces inside and mixed some thinner ash into the clay, then proceeded as I had for the others.

In the end, I was so happy with them, as was everyone else.  If they didn't want them as a necklace, they could use them as a key chain, or hang it from a car mirror.  I think my uncle would have been pleased and got a kick out of it.  I am so happy I had a chance to go outside my comfort zone and make something special like this.
you could pick a ball chain and pendant off the memorial table, since each one was a little bit different.

Of course, everyone got a ball chain to put it on, but I had to make something I'd wear more often, so I make another charm necklace.

And since there were extra's I put one on my key chain too.

Art really is healing, and it was nice to listen to music and make these throughout the week.  

Have you ever made something special for someone?  A keepsake, or memento?  Jewelry is such a great way to wear a remembrance, that I am sure you all have.  I'd love to hear about what you made- and if you want to share the story and a picture on the groups facebook page, I think that would be really great- and a way to honor those they were made for as well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TUTORIAL TUESDAY! Etching Aluminum by Karen McGovern

Want to come over to my place to see my etchings?

I recently had a virtual conversation with Staci Louise Smith about etching.  She is going to describe her project in a later post—it’s amazing and beautiful and you all will love it.

In the course of the conversation I decided to do a tutorial on etching aluminum.  There are many ways to etch brass, copper and silver, but few options when etching aluminum.  I will be showing how to etch with ferric chloride. 

YES, ferric chloride is a caustic material that has to be disposed of in a VERY RESPONSIBLE MANNER, and yes, there are “green” etch recipes all over the web, but many do not work with aluminum.  I do have the recipe for a green etchant that works with aluminum, but haven’t tried it yet because I haven’t found a source for some of the ingredients.  When I do, I’ll be sure to post it.  This tutorial will discuss the proper handling and disposal of ferric chloride, which easily etches copper, brass and aluminum beautifully.

Etching has been around forever.  Ferric chloride historically has been used in the computer and electronics world to etch copper mother boards, among its many uses. Use the Google Machine and you will find loads of videos and tutorials on how to etch copper and brass with it.

Aluminum is a whole other ball game.  If you were/are into crazy science experiments, you will love etching aluminum.  It’s FAST (less than two minutes usually) and a bit scary (can you say CHEMICAL REACTION?), and the results are pretty great.

Aluminum will not patina conventionally like other metals.  By its very nature it will not rust, tarnish or discolor. Coloring this material is difficult using conventional methods and requires effort to keep the color you achieve if you use inks, dye patinas, etc.  Ferric chloride will permanently color and etch aluminum in a dreamy, monochromatic way.  Let’s give it a go, shall we????

First, the scary disclaimers and safety stuff:

1.    WORK IN A VENTILATED AREA, LIKE OUTDOORS.  For real.  Do not use ferric chloride in a room without TONS of ventilation because, HYDROGEN GAS.  Hydrogen gas is NOT TOXIC, and a small amount is produced when you etch aluminum with ferric chloride and it is pretty startling the first few times you do this.  EXCITED YET?  I etch in my garage with the doors wide open.

2   Use rubber gloves (I use surgical gloves which you can get at any pharmacy) because you will be handling the ferric chloride coated metal more than you would etching copper or brass.  Ferric chloride won’t burn you on contact or anything like that, but it isn't the best thing to have on your skin for prolonged periods and it does stain EVERYTHING (clothes, counter-tops, concrete, you name it) so bear that in mind.

3.   Wear a mask if you have one, just to be extra safe. You can find bulk, inexpensive  disposable painter’s masks at any hardware store.

4.      Wear safety glasses.  YOU DO NOT WANT FERRIC CHLORIDE IN YOUR EYES!!!

5.     Spent and neutralized ferric chloride must be stored properly and disposed of at a recycling center in the same manner spent oil from your car is recycled.  I keep a few empty plastic jugs in my garage, fill them with spent FC using a plastic funnel, and then take them to my local recycling center when full.  FC must be kept in plastic containers!

My FC storage jug.

 Okay, terrified yet?  Don’t be.  FC is scarier sounding that it is.  I promise.

What you’ll need:

Aluminum bracelet blanks.  I get mine from Gotta Get A Deal on Etsy.
Ferric chloride.  I get mine from Allied Electronics, but you can also find it at places like Radio Shack or other electronic supply stores. (Note: When you get it, take a few minutes to read the information that comes with it.  Familiarize yourself with this liquid as much as you can prior to use.)
Three empty plastic containers with lids large enough for your blank to sit in.
Packing tape
Sharpie marker and/or Staze On Ink (Michaels Crafts)
Rubber stamps of your choice (Michaels)
Sanding sponges and polishing cloths
Baking soda
Old towel or washcloth

Here we go!  Cover your work space with newspaper.  It is nice to have a sink nearby just for easy access to water.  When I etch with aluminum I set up right next to my shop sink in the garage.  The sink itself is heavy plastic and meant for grungy work.  Fill one plastic container with fresh water, one with enough FC to cover your bracelet blank, and leave one empty.  You don’t need to fill the container with FC, just a couple inches in the bottom so that you can immerse the aluminum easily.  Set them up in a row--FC, plain water, then the empty container.

I have found that these Band Aid plastic containers are perfect for etching cuffs!
Left to right, FC, water, and empty container.  Baking soda ready to go!

Clean your bracelet blank using a sanding sponge or fine steel wool. Stamp or draw a pattern with Staze On ink or a Sharpie, let dry completely.  Cover the back of the bracelet blank with packing tape, leaving a long tail on either end.  Fold over a bit of tape on either end to act as “handles” so you can easily dip and lift the bracelet blank in and out of the FC.  Be sure the tape is flat and covers the back of the blank completely.  Use a pen or chopstick to burnish the tape to the back.  You do not want any FC getting under the blank!

Put on your rubber gloves. Hold the tape by either end and immerse the blank, stamped side UP, into the FC, covering completely.  Immediately lift it out of the FC, holding it over the container.  LET THE FIZZING BEGIN!!!  FC reacts instantly with aluminum.  The fizz is the production and release of harmless but kind of scary hydrogen gas.  You will smell it and the metal will actually get warm. I count to between 20-25 seconds in my head..  Basically I wait until the surface of the metal begins to really fizz and the metal gets warm. Immerse the aluminum in the container of clean water.  Lift out immediately, and immerse in the FC again, lifting out right away.  FIZZZZZZZ, count to 20 or o, then dunk in the clean water container.  I do this three or four times depending on the thickness of the aluminum, which will turn BLACK at this point.  Run your gloved finger over the design, you will feel it when it is etched enough.  FC will LITERALLY DISSOLVE ALUMINUM.  I learned this the hard way the first time I etched aluminum.  I left the blank in the FC like you would copper or brass (around 20 MINUTES) because I was too impatient to actually READ ABOUT THE PROCESS.  When I came back I pulled up the tape and THERE WAS NOTHING THERE.  Just a foamy pile of goo on the surface of the FC.  SMH.  Stupid. 

Here are a couple videos of the process. In the first video you will see that I dipped the blank a couple times in the FC to get the FIZZ started. I was using fresh FC and it took a few seconds to "bite" the metal and begin the process.



Anyway, at this point you will say to yourself, “What have I done?” because the aluminum will be a dull, deep black and look ruined.  FEAR NOT!  Place it in the empty plastic container and dump some baking soda on it to completely neutralize the FC.  Some fizzing will occur.  Rinse it in the sink under running water.  You have neutralized the FC on the metal with the baking soda, so it is now harmless and can go down the drain as you rinse. I keep a bristle scrub brush in my sink and use it to scrub the surface of the metal, the black will go away as you scrub.  You can also use a soft wet/dry sanding sponge here. You want all the black to be gone, and the etched surface to begin to shine. Rinse well, remove and discard the packing tape. You can also take your gloves off now.



Now for the REVEAL.  Dry the metal. Using a very fine grit sanding sponge, clean the surface of the blank.  The black is gone, and your stamped pattern will shine up beautifully. Anywhere the etchant touched will now be a matte misty grey.  Once you have revealed the etched pattern, you can then polish with a polishing cloth.  Bend the cuff using your handy dandy bracelet bender or a bracelet mandrel and you are DONE!!!  I use a steel bracelet bender from Gotta Get A Deal in my vise. Bends a cuff into the perfect oval shape in SECONDS. I love this thing.



Cool!!!  As you can see, I chose a wheat pattern stamp for this cuff.  TIP: I went over the stamped image with a fine line Sharpie, filling in any areas I wanted darker, or that I missed when I stamped the blank. 


Now, you do not have to dispose of all of your FC every time you use it.  The container holding just FC can be closed and saved to use again and again. It is good for multiple etchings.  You will know when it is spent when it takes longer and longer to actually etch.  At that point I dump in some baking soda,then dump the mix into a plastic jug.  You do need to neutralize and dispose the water you used to dunk the bracelet in as you etched.  Add some baking soda and pour this into your storage/recycle jug with any other spent FC.  Seal the jug and keep in the garage until it’s full (which will take a long time unless you etch a million things a day).  When the jugs are full take to a recycling center that also accepts things like paint, oil, etc.

Now, I promised that I would give away the cuff that I created for this tutorial.  Okay, here’s the deal.  You can win this cuff by posting a comment here about the scariest technique you mastered in your artistic journey.  Did you learn how to use a torch even though you are terrified you will burn your house down?  Spend your last buck on a kiln because you JUST HAD TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE CERAMIC BEADS?  Whatever it is, post it here and I will use some sort of computer program to randomly pick a winner on FRIDAY, FEB 27th.  Oh, AND SHARE THIS BLOG POST, OKAY??? Thanks. And good luck.  And don’t be afraid of etching, or kilns, or torches, or anything that stands between you and your artistic dreams.  Read, research, and DO IT. Now, GO MAKE SOMETHING AMAZING!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wire-wrapped double bail for pendants

Carol Dekle-Foss
Last week, I was able to finish my pendants and I wanted to share how I wire-wrap them with a double bail. I like using double bails because they help prevent larger pendants from turning around when worn. For the life of me, I cannot remember where I learned this. Probably a found video somewhere, most likely YouTube.

This is a simple technique that takes just a little bit of practice. I hope you find it helpful in your jewelry creations!

The below video shows how I do this with a side-drilled pendant but this process also works with a front-drilled pendant as well. It's a bit blurry in a few places. Duh, the camera cannot focus when things are so close up.

What you will need:

Pendant: The ones pictured are 30x40mm and the small one is 20x30mm

Wire: I use about 28" of 22 gauge soft wire. It's a bit easier to wrap the pendants with than 20 gauge and to me, it doesn't look as bulky. Although the smaller tree of life necklace in the right hand corner is 24 gauge. Also, I give my wire a bath of liver of sulfur first, and then clean off with a Pro Polish pad before starting the wire wrap process.

Tools: Wire-cutters, chain nose and round nose pliers.

First, put wire through hole about 2 1/2" out the other side. Then fold both wires over the top of the pendant, crossing each other, and twist together. Bend both wires perpendicular to the pendant and wrap them around the round nose pliers to make the loop. Then wrap both wires around the bottom of the loop a few times. Snip off the smaller wire with wire cutters, and then using chain nose pliers, squeeze wire in the back of pendant to hide. Continue to wrap longer wire around pendant holding tight as you go so it it nice and snug to the pendant. Wrap as far down as you would like and then start wrapping back up the pendant. Continue until you reach the top of the pendant and then cut the wire, hiding the end in the back. I then use the round nose pliers to position where I want the bail and separate loops with the chain nose pliers. To finish, I touch up with a Pro Polish pad. Whew! I think the video will help to show the process better.

Once you get the hang of it, it's a fairly easy and fun to do, plus it will give your pendants a simple, rustic feel.

Try it for yourself and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!
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