Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to make a copper bangle

by MaryAnn Carroll

Like many of you, I am a little crazy busy.  I have found some time to create some copper bangles, however, and consequently they became a little addicting AND a way to avoid everything else that I should have been doing to be a little more efficient. I thought that since I haven't posted in quite some time, I would start off by sharing a tutorial. Next week, I will have some of these to offer in a a giveaway, so stop back.

How to make a basic hammered copper bangle (picture tutorial)

If I were the super organized type, I would have a list of materials 

but I am not, so I will do my best with letting you know what you need. Personally, I like to look at pictures, so that is what I am mostly providing.

Fire is you friend when it comes to making bangles and I like it hot!!!

Materials that you see here: 

Mapp Gas, copper solder, dremel, firing rack (not sure it that is the technical name) and 6 gauge copper wire (right from Lowes)

heavy duty wire cutters (Weiss)

 pickle (1 cup vinegar to 1 tbsp salt), a crock pot (one you will never use again in the kitchen, a ceramic bowl, water, baking soda for the water, plastic tongs,

I have been too cheap (and broke) to invest in a bracelet mandrel. An old baseball bat or, in this case, a maple leg from an old table works great!  They may not hold up as well, but, hell, I have four of them!!

This is fire brick (below). As you can see it has been used multiple times. I would recommend investing in some bricks, so that you don't burn the house down. 

That brings us to.....

STEP 1: Cut a piece of 6 gauge copper wire to approximately 8.5 inches (bigger or smaller depending on your hand size). I cut a little big just in case I make some mistakes and need to trim more than I planned for. Heat the copper to make it pliable. (you can use water for fast cooling if you choose to).


STEP 2: Using a chasing hammer (another material), hammer the wire until you get it flattened. I then use the flip side of the wire for the exterior of the bangle. This part takes some twisting and turning AND a little patience.

STEP 3: File, using you dremel until you get both ends of the wire to meet with as little space in between as possible.

STEP 4: Put the two ends together and place on your firing rack. Place the LONG piece of copper solder behind the connection. This part takes lots of practice and I could not take pictures while I was doing this since my right hand was being used to heat the front of the copper.

The joint isn't perfect, but with a little sanding and possibly a little more solder it will look fine.

STEP 5: Add to pickling solution (heat crock pot until hot.... I would give degrees here, but I have no clue what low is on the crock pot that I have.

 This is a picture AFTER it comes out of the pickling solution.

STEP 6: Using a wooden or rubber mallet, carefully hammer your bangle until you have reached complete roundness (or close to it)!!

There you have it!

 I also add patinas, sometimes textures and usually tumble them for extra strength and shine. Only two of these have patina added.

Stop back next Friday to enter to win a bangle or two!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Solstice

I love this time of year. Clear nights. Crisp clean air. Bare branches silhouetted against a cloudy sky. For me, it's a time of reflection. Although some of us, myself included, find ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of holiday madness. We end up becoming depleted in more ways than one.

So I think it's important, especially for us creatives, to embrace the darker months by turning inward. It's a good time for stillness and reflection. It's an opportunity for us to recharge and prepare for the creative bursts we will have in spring. 

So for now, I am introspective and quiet. 

Every year I look forward to the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night. I celebrate by watching the sunset with my family wrapped in a warm blanket and a hot toddy. 

My family and I will celebrate Christmas in a very simple way this year. Probably no tree, and that's ok. My son doesn't want a dying tree in the living room. I don't blame him. We will cut branches and pick up pine cones for display on the dinner table. Also, some of my sons military friends will join us. They are far from their families, so we will share a delicious home cooked feast, play the guitar and sing, and take a long walk along the river. 

I created this necklace today thinking about the return of light after the winter solstice. I made it as a reminder to embrace the darkness for soon there will be light.

How do you celebrate your holiday season? Do you have any special traditions or rituals that you and your family do every year?

 I hope everyone has a peaceful and love filled holiday!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Last Minute Gifts That Will ROCK Your Christmas! By Karen McGovern

Christmas is, like, a month away....right?

Ah, the joy of realizing the week before Christmas that you still have 25 gifts to magically make appear.  If you are like me, you wait until that golden moment of panic/procrastination hits and you rush to your laptop and order everyone you forgot about something "thoughtful" from Wallgreens like socks with toes in them, or whatever else is left for sale on Amazon in the hours before Christmas.  DON'T BE THIS PERSON!

Even if you find yourself scrambling for last-minute gifts, there is no need to panic or end up buying crap you then have to GIFT WRAP like it's something actually NICE.  No one wants to open a nicely wrapped gift to find A JAR OF PICKLES.  Unless that's your thing...then, YEAH?

So, I am here to give you some super-cool, EASY, and INEXPENSIVE ideas for gifts that will make you KING/QUEEN OF THE HOLIDAY PARTY.  Your welcome....

1.  The hilarious gag gift.  Anything from Archie McPhee.  How can you resist a website who's tag line is: "Archie McPhee has the best toys, gifts, candy and novelties on the internet. We love the same things you do: unicorns, bacon, mustaches and underpants." My favorite item this year is the Centaur Santa Claus. Cause...SANTA HAS AN AMAZING SIX-PACK!  So, for those on your list with a slightly twisted sense of humor, get them HANDERPANTS and move on.

2. For the person who loves technology.  BOOMFS.  What are Boomfs, you ask?  Only MARSHMALLOWS PRINTED WITH IMAGES YOU UPLOAD TO THE SITE! Serioulsy!  How cool is this?  I bought everyone Boommfs last year and got rave reviews.  This is especially wonderful for Grandparents--imagine how they will love getting a box of marshmallows all with the Grandkids faces on them!!!  Then plopping those adorable faces into a piping hot cup of cocoa and watching them melt....wait, that escalated rather quickly...Anyway, it's a fun, inexpensive gift to give that is easily personalized.  But hurry, they stop shipping SOON.

3. The gift that will make you look far more interesting than you probably are.....AN EXPERIENCE.  What do I mean?  Well, how about giving a gift that actually requires the recipient to DO SOMETHING?  Tickets or passes to a local museum/nature center/science museum/art show/concert/performance.  NOT MOVIE TICKETS, but tickets to an actual event or activity.  AND, throw in a disposable camera so they can share the experience after.  My local nature center offers open ended day passes, and I buy these all the time. I am lucky to live in Florida and can give things like passes that allow folks to go on sea turtle nest walks along the beach or visits to wildlife rehab centers. This type thing is a great stocking stuffer and you will be surprised...people sometimes actually LIKE being forced to leave the home....

Just imagine, this could be YOUR FAMILY...OUTSIDE!

4.  For the DIY-ers.  Put ANYTHING into a clear craft glass Christmas ornament from Michael's.  Seriously. ANYTHING placed inside a clear ornament is instantly ADORABLE. Got a friend with dogs?  Tuck a few dog treats into an ornament.  Cats?  CATNIP, DUH. You can put CHEX-MIX in a clear ornament and have a spectacular hostess gift.  Tea lover?  Cram a few Earl Gray bags inside.  Dried flowers, mini candy canes, lottery tickets, CASH, JEWELRY, it can all be stuffed into these ornaments and you are a HOLIDAY SUPERHERO.  How about wildflower seeds?  Heck, any seed at all!  Perfect for a gardener....A LOVE LETTER!  Photographs!  If I wasn't late and trying to get this post up, I bet I could sit here and think of 12 BILLION things you could tuck into one of these ornaments to create a really thoughtful, cool gift. I am personally making many of these this year.  I would love to tell you what I am putting inside, but I can't because a few of the folks getting this read this blog and well....I want it to be a surprise!

5.  Finally, if you want to totally ROCK Christmas, buy some hand-made, amazing artisan jewelry and more from any of the spectacularly talented artists right here on LMAJ.  Most of us also offer gift certificates, so you don't even have to suffer through looking at all the amazing jewelry and art and trying to decide what to buy.  No one, I mean NO ONE will be less than THRILLED with this gift.  And, I don't have to tell you that you are also giving a gift to the artists you support...your purchase allows us to continue doing what we love, and helps us with other stuff--like supporting our families and such....

So, take a deep breath, all you Secret Santas, you can do this!  I hope your holidays are bright and full of love and peace.  From all of us here at LMAJ....HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

CHEERS! Holiday Polymer- Perfect for Gifts!

by Staci Louise Smith

I am horrible at Christmas Cards.  I never get them done in time, and we take our kids annual Christmas picture, usually on Christmas Eve.  That's how I roll.  

I do however try to make a little something for my friends and family each year.  Usually, its a special Christmas ornament.  This year, I wanted to do something different for them.  Since a few of them are wine drinkers (ok, ok, all of them are!) I thought wine toppers could be cool.  I wasn't sure how they would turn out, but hey, I have polymer, and picked up some corks.

Well, after three leisurely play days in the studio, I have wine toppers-


Here they are before I glued them, all set up ready to go in the studio.  

And here they are all finished and ready for gifts!
(I definitely need to make these to sell as well)

How did I make them?

I created the polymer pieces first, baked and finished them.

Then I drilled a hole in the bottom as well as the cork.  

I fitted in a 14g wire so it attached both of them securely.

Then I mixed up my 2 part epoxy, took them apart one at a time, and glued them.

To ensure a good bond, I tied string around them so the connection was nice and firm.  

I could NOT be more happy, and now they will have something they can use year round...ILO just at the Holidays. 

I never get tired of what you can do with Polymer Clay!
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