Monday, April 20, 2015

Boot Camp: My Adventures Using Fiber

I admit it - I do not use fiber in my jewelry ... with me... it's all about the metal. But, I also love to try new techniques.  So, I was ready, willing, and able to at least try!

I happened to have made several of these adjustable bracelets sitting on my bench. Completely naked of any adornment whatsoever, I was going to add a handmade charm of some sort. It was during my "lack of creative mojo" period where I could not decide what to do. It is during these "lulls of creativity" where I literally just sit at my bench and play with wire.

But, the latest issue of Rena Klinenberg's online newsletter arrived in my email box a few days after I made several of these bracelets. She had a free tutorial on how to make the bracelets, and spice up the look with fiber. As a matter of fact, she used old t-shirts - a most creative use of fiber! You can find her tutorial here. I will note that Rena's tutorial for the bracelet portion of the project uses 16 gauge wire - mine is a bit heavier at 14 gauge.

I received a package of free ribbon with a magazine subscription a few months ago. I almost immediately handed this ribbon over to my mother - a seamstress. 

But instead, I wrapped the adjustable copper bracelets with a couple of strands of ribbon, seed beads, and artistic wire (sorry Mom!)

These whip up quickly and add just the right amount of color to the wrist - so lightweight, too.

This photo of this last bracelet appears to amplify the size of those jasper chips- they really are not as large as they may appear! :)

The bracelets even look nice stacked.

I couldn't stop here. The next project features absolutely gorgeous silk ribbons from our own Marsha Neal - this palette of colors is so beautiful!! (You can find these silks here).

Recently, I have ventured into Precious Metal Clay. While waiting for my kiln to arrive (going on week 4 here....), I have been practicing by firing the clay with my torch. I happened to have a GORGEOUS purple lampwork bead by Susan Kennedy of SueBeads. I thought the purple silk would look beautiful with this bead. So I made a silver connector pendant from the PMC, and cut out a heart shape to mimic the heart-shaped bead.

(Oh how I absolutely HATE photographing necklaces..ugh..)

Anyway, luckily, Staci had just posted her tutorial on how to attach the silk to her necklaces, as I still had no idea how I was going to get that silk on that pendant!

I used 20 gauge sterling and just made additional wraps.  All the silver links have been soldered and textured.  Quite frankly, this was one of the hardest necklaces I have ever made. First, I felt the chain was too short, so I added more links. Then I thought the necklace was too long, so I cut out some of the silk. As it stands now, the necklace is about 18" in length with a 2" extender chain, which has a tiny heart I made from PMC to the end of the extender chain.  But, I am still on the fence with the length.

While on the subject of fiber, I want to share with you a few examples of other artist's work that I truly admire.  

First up is this lovely pair of earrings by Kristy Carrol Abner (Kristy's Kreations). The silk wrapped around the hoops (with lovely lampwork by her husband, I might add!) just screams boho to me. I love this pair of earrings - I wear blue jeans 364 days a year - and these would match my outfit every single day!
The bracelet below (also by Kristy) has just a touch of silk interspersed within the chain to mimic the pink color in the focal bead.  (Note how she fastened the silk to the chain - awesome idea)! My eye continues completely around the bracelet, due to the placement of the silk.

Source: Silk Rose Bracelet by
The pair of earrings below popped up in my Face Book feed just the other day. Linda Landig's jewelry is always the epitome of perfect colorways - love the way she weaved the hand dyed ribbon through the top of these earrings, which by the way, perfectly compliments the colors of the copper clay components by Kristi Bowman-Gruel.


This bangle, by Ann Shroeder of Bead Love, is the perfect blend of softness to me, in color and texture. During the Spring and Summer, I wear very little jewelry - it's just too hot! But I would wear this!

Source: BeadLove Blog

Now this last masterpiece is by Bobbie of Beadsong Jewelry.  It is a soutache masterpiece - I cannot even imagine creating something this beautiful - I just want to TOUCH it!! Can you even imagine the time and patience required?  I cannot!

Source:  Beadsong Jewelry
So, there you have it - my initial attempt to incorporate fiber into my designs. I do hope this trend continues!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tutorial: Silk and Fabric Necklace

by Staci Louise Smith

I have always loved fabrics and its a shame I don't sew much.  Imagine how excited I was to try adding them to my jewelry!  I had some reservations, as I know some of you may as well, and I covered some of them here.

I almost exclusively use them as the back part of a necklace.  I really tend to "go big" on the front portion of my necklaces, so I don't usually bead all the way around.  I found that fabric can keep that interest of color and texture in the design without competing with the main focal.  Also, its nice to have something light to balance the visually heavy front.  Anyhow, its simple to use silks and fabrics in your pieces, and you don't even need fancy or specialized connectors (though some do like them, so I will link to them at the end).

All you will need is your necklace focal portion
(mine used one of my uber chunky boho carved focals, Suburban Girl Studio's rustic yellow drop bead, amber, agate, picasso jasper)

Starry Road Studio batik strips and Marsha Neal Studio 3mm silk
(you can use sari silk or many different kinds of silks, but this is what I used)

round nose pliers

chain nose pliers

flush cutters

clasp (I prefer an "s" clasp)


I had fun first laying out the different colors with my beads and figuring out which I liked best.  I really liked the blue added into the purples and yellows, but it just didn't work out when wire wrapping it up, so I switched to a more monochromatic palette.

1.  choose your colors

 2.  Wire together focal

 3.  Take a piece of fabric and a 3mm silk together (like to double them up, especially when I use sari silk, which can be thinner, this just gives a little more color and added support).  Some tips: make sure your fabric has no weak spots by gently pulling on it before using it in your design

 4. Feed both through the wrapped loop on one side and fold over

 5.  Hold them tight together

6.  take a piece of 18g wire, about 3", and hold one end with a tail sticking up, tight against the fabric

7.  begin wrapping the wire around the fabric, pushing it tightly into a coil.  this takes some practice, you need to keep tension on your piece as you wrap, holding each end of the of piece in your hands while still using your fingers

8.  when it is done, make sure you tightly crimp the top and bottom around and into the fabric.  the fact that this is tight is what holds it together

9.  You can trim the little tails off

10. now you have one side halfway done

11.  Time to add the clasp

12.  feed the fabrics through your clasp

13.  Repeat step 7 above

14.  Do the same thing on the other side.  I also added a little seed bead detail to one side, just for some more texture and fun

15. You are done!  

Now, just a word about using silk.  I sometimes like to use it only on one side of the design- as I know others do as well.  Keep in mind, your design MUST be balanced, not just visually, but by weight, or it will slide around on your neck.  I always wear my designs for a day to see how they hang, and make sure the weight is correct!  There is nothing more disappointing to a customer then buying a piece that is made to hang one way and it never does.

I leave you with some other artists who use fibers similar to the way to do, and I just LOVE their work! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sawing and piercing metal tutorial and tips

Carol Dekle-Foss
Does sawing metal seem like a daunting and difficult task? Or have you tried it and decided it wasn't for you for some reason? I hear ya! I used to hate it, the blade would drag on the metal and I would constantly break them. But, I was determined to get better at it and now its one of my favorite things to do in the studio. There are tons of tutorials and videos out there on how its done, but its one of those things you just have to do yourself and practice to master. So for this post, I'm going to share some basic techniques as well as a few things that have helped me along the way.  I hope this motivates you to pick up that jewelers saw for the first time or give it a try again!

What you will need

Jewelers saw
Metal of choice
Bench pin
Music and beverage of choice
My bench pin is a simple pre-notched one from Rio. I use a rusty clamp stolen from my hubby's toolbox to hold it in place. You can also customize your bench pin by cutting out special grooves for different sawing techniques. Here are some modifications I like and will probably do to my next bench pin. Michael David Sturlin's bench pin modifications. One of the most important tips is to have your bench pin placed at eye level so when you are sawing you are comfortable and not straining your back. You're gonna be here awhile, so play some of your favorite tunes and have your drink of choice nearby.

Here are the steps.

Step one
 Print out your artwork and then glue to the front of your metal. I use a very sticky glue made for sandblasting, but I've seen some use Elmer's glue or Rubber cement. You can experiment here and see what works best for you. TIP: If are using a metal that has been work hardened, anneal it first. This will soften the metal and make your sawing much easier.
Sometimes you will have to reapply the glue if the paper starts to lift.

Step Two
Drill holes where you want to pierce. Here's a handy chart courtesy of Rio on blade sizes and how big your drill bit should be for each blade. Be safe and wear your goggles!

Step Three
Select your blade and load it into your saw frame. If you look at the above chart, it shows the different blades and thicknesses. So the 8/0 is the thinnest. For very fine work, you want a thinner blade. I use a 4/0 blade for my detailed designs. The only problem with thinner blades is you run the risk of breakage. This is where practice makes perfect comes in. You will want to start with thicker blades while you are learning and then graduate to thinner. It's also recommended to start with a cheaper metal for practicing. Although, just so you know, it's a dream to saw sterling silver because it cuts like butter.

For loading your blade into your frame, you want the blade teeth facing up and angled down, so when you cut out the metal, it cuts on the downward stroke. First, load the blade in the top and tighten the wing screw. Then thread blade through your pierced piece, keeping the design face up. Now place the frame into the v of your bench pin and press to apply tension. Place blade into bottom of frame and tighten wing screw. The blade should have a nice ping sound.

Step Four

Apply lubricant to the backside of your blade and begin to saw! For the lubricant, you can use a synthetic like Rio's popular Bur Life or bee's wax. I am using Thunderbird's synthetic beeswax block. It's easy for me to apply by just running the back of the blade along the block. The reason I only apply lubricant to the back is I don't want to gum up the teeth.

For sawing, hold the frame in your dominant hand, making sure the blade is straight up and down, or at a 45 degree angle to your piece. Hold the piece with your non-dominant hand. Keep your grip relaxed and your shoulders down while you saw. Try not to push the blade, it will do the cutting on the down stroke. When turning corners, move the piece slowly, keeping the blade moving up and down. You will notice when you need more lubricant because it starts to get harder to saw and the blade noise sounds a bit different.
 Try not to twist the metal because it could break your blade. Also, keep blowing away all the metal dust so you can watch the blade closely.

Step Five
 Remove your design and clean your piece!  Next, you will want to use needle files to file away all the saw marks. Okay, now go saw some metal!
I have yet to complete this piece because my husband and I have been obsessed with ceramics!

In fact, he wants to share these beads and offer them for half off! He thinks because it's his first time that they aren't that good. I think they are gorgeous! So, if you see any sets you like feel free to check them out here for a great price! UPDATE: All beads have already sold. WOW! My husband is really excited! Thank you everyone!

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dyeing Silks for Custom Colors and Patterns

by Barbara Bechtel

Earlier this year, I took a eucalyptus dying class with Kim Mailhot at my favorite local studio, Art More Place. It turns out, that the green eucalyptus we see in floral arrangements and the favorite food of koala bears, when heated and steamed in dye bath turns a beautiful rusty color.

Here, you can see the beautiful rusty leaves and the impressions they left on the silk bags.

Another useful technique that Kim shared with us is that sari silk and other dyed silks can often used to add pops of color as well. When heated in a boiling steam bath, the dye transfers away leaving a beautiful watercolor effect to the formerly solid silks!

See those little lines? Those are made using tiny threads pulled from sari silk! On the left, you can see some faint lime green lines left from a piece of dyed green silk from Marsha Neal Studio.

I can see so many possibilities with this to customizing and dying your own silks for use, can't you?

Here are just a few of the silks that I dyed in my class!

In the same vein, recently I saw this tutorial floating around Pinterest and Facebook for dyeing easter eggs with old silk ties and that really got the wheels turning in my head because it essentially follows the same method that I learned with the sari silks!

These follow a similar approach! I can't wait to try this method with a silk to silk dye transfer!

Have you ever tried to dye your own fibers for your jewelry? I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...