Tucson, the place to “bead” in February 2015

The Tucson Bead Show is just around the corner. If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of these shows, you are in for a big surprise. I will be teaching several classes this year including a Prometheus Clay boot camp to a more advance project making shawl pins…designed for a beginner. Check out my classes at the Tucson Bead Show here and be sure to sign up early…they fill up very fast once January rolls around.  To sign up, go to Divine Ornaments, where you will find all of my classes along with those that Carrie Story will be teaching.

I also want to let you know that you can find me at JOGS at the JewelryTools’ Education Center.  I will be teaching classes here, as well.

Plus, I have discount codes you can use to save on taking class!

  • Buy 1 class, get $20 off
  • Buy 3 classes, get $75 off
  • Buy 6 classes, get $175 off

You can see all the classes and days I’m teaching at this link.  You can find directions to JOGS here: http://www.jewelrytools.com/classes/tucson-classes-directions

Our sponsor, JewelryTools.com, is an online tools supplier that carries the entire EURO TOOL catalog, including brands such as Wubbers, Lindstrom, Wolf, Lortone, and many more. Based in Utah, you may be familiar with their sister company, Wire-Sculpture.com. JewelryTools.com is extremely proud to present 18 world-class instructors in the biggest jewelry event of the year, the Tucson gem shows!

Hope to see you there!


Shawl Pins

Tucson Bead Show, Feb. 2-7, 2015

The grandest bead show ever!  And I’ve been asked to teach classes!  So looking forward to going out to Tucson next February. If you’re into beads and jewelry, you might want to make this road trip.  There are so many opportunities to take classes, shop for all sorts of beads and pearls and crystals and silver and gold and anything bling.  I’ll be teaching a few classes for Carrie Story at the Tucson Bead Show and teaching a couple of classes for Jewelry Tools, JOGS classes.   You can see the JOGS classes here…and the Tuscon Bead Show classes are here, listed at Carrie’s site, Divine Ornaments.

What I’ll be teaching…. Bronze shawl pins, heart charm bracelets, and bronze journals along with a beginners metal clay class and a couple Prometheus Clay Boot Camps.  Check out the links above to register and for more information.

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Christmas In July

For the first time, I think I understand “Christmas in July.”  I am teaching a class in late October and we’re making a Christmas ornament with metal clay.  So during the last days of July and throughout August, I’ve been working on the prototype.  There are some challenges!  The class kit contains only 20 grams of copper clay and my objective is to figure out how to make an ornament with that amount that you can actually see on the tree.

I’ve figured we need to keep the ornament at about four cards thick. Getting funky with different shapes can be a bit frustrating for the new clay-mates so I’m thinking a 4mm thick,  two inch round circle.  I haven’t really seen any “Christmas” designs on texture sheets so I’m using a mold of a cedar branch that I made with Easy Mold Silicone Putty. I may decide to include making the mold as part of the class.

So my metal clay ornament is drying and looks pretty nice with the cedar imprint, but I will have a bit of clay left.  We could do an ornamental bail for it,  a red bird, or a holly leaf with berries would be a great accent to it.  I don’t think there will be enough clay left  to squeeze out three holly leaves.  I think we’ll go with the bird. Oh wow, another new technique to learn, “how to form a bird from clay.”  The challenge is that the bird will be no larger than a dime, maybe not that big.  We can do this!  (For the under challenged, I could have some premade cardinal beads.)

So, with nimble fingers, I begin to shape away with my dot of Prometheus Metal  Clay to shape my bird.  My first bird looks more like a duck … back to the bench.  There is enough clay left for a bird and a small  bead.  The bird needs some color but we will not add enameling to this beginner class!  I think a red and black model car paint might do the trick.

Once the pieces are dried, they all need to be smoothed perfectly and gently brushed.  These will be fired in the kiln wrapped in a paper towel and a fiber blanket.   I’ll follow with the finished piece in the next post.



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Prometheus, the Golden Boy of Clay

Prometheus Clay is manufactured in Turkey, and until just recently, wasn’t sold in the US, although it has been around for a few years.  The golden boy of clay has come home!

It comes in bronze and copper, both of which can be torch fired or kiln fired, with or without the charcoal.  I love bronze but I do not love the mess that comes with the charcoal needed to fire it so I am very excited to have a chance to test with Prometheus.

My first piece was a bronze oval medallion, rolled to a 4 card thickness and textured with a pretty deep texture sheet, making it closer to 3 or 2 cards thick in places.  The oval was then cut along with two smaller ovals on each end.

imageThis was kiln fired directly on a mesh wire at 1500°, a FULL ramp and HOLD for 20 minutes.  The piece came out of the kiln warped and a bit distorted, along with a break.  Immediately after firing, it was quenched in water which removed most of the fire scale.  The break was on the narrow strip between one of the smaller ovals and the outer edge.  I will assume, at this point, the break happened because it shrank and pulled apart at a weak place in the clay.  After quenching, it was still “pink” so before going in the pickle, I chose to use my brass brush.  It cleaned up beautifully, giving the piece a nice antique bronze color.  I put my leather mallet to it and was able to flatten out the piece.  Nice job!   With the exception of the break and warping, I am very pleased with this piece.   I know, the break ruined it, but it was the first firing.

The second attempt was the same oval shape, along with small holes on the ends and a little further in from the outer edge.  This piece was rolled to a 4 card thickness, thinking this would deter the warping.  After a bit of research, I discovered others had determined the high temperature could cause the warp.  Also, I wanted to experiment with another firing technique, the wrapped method.  I wrapped the piece three times in a paper towel, embedded it in a firing blanket and carefully pinched the edges together to prevent any air from hitting it.  I placed in a cold kiln,with a fast ramp to 1500, held for 30 minutes, this piece was bigger and thicker.  Once again, quenching as soon as it is removed from the kiln, and while it is very, very hot (be careful) and all of the fire scale popped off.  Still pink and a much smaller amount of warping, which straightened out with the leather mallet.  I think I’m on to something!  Of course, the brass brushing is a must if you expect to see that beautiful bronze, golden color.


Oh,  and did I say that the price of Prometheus clay is a lot less than the cost of Fine Silver?  Yeah, I can afford to play and experiment with this.

This morning, I did a third firing with three different pieces.  Using the same firing technique, well,  it has worked so far, but used three difference thicknesses,  a lower temperature, and a longer fire time.  I fired these at 1450°, preheated, Full ramp and HOLD for 40 minutes.m

imageOK, call me dumb, but I decided to put a CZ in a quarter sized round disc which was very thin at a 3 card roll with added texture, so it was really 2 cards thick in places.  The second piece was a four card roll with a molded imprint of a sage leaf, yielding a pretty thick piece, and the third a smaller oval, 2 card rolled piece with a mold imprint.

The round disc ruffled from the heat and the CZ melted – pretty neat but not so pretty.  The small oval with the imprint, remained flat but blistered.



And the larger piece, with a four card thickness was perfect!  Unfortunately, I fell asleep during the firing  and when I pulled the pieces from the kiln, they had cooled so the fire scale did not come off.  These had to be pickled, which did the trick but left the pink residue.  After, a bath in the Super Pickle, and a good brass brushing, the bronze color returned.



Bronze Split Pea Soup

During our recent vacation week at the beach, I chose to, lazily, experiment with a couple of projects for the metal clay Masters Registry program even though I haven’t registered yet.  I’m now thinking a few more classes and experiences under the belt should be required.  It seems everything I made last week has flopped when it hit the kiln.  So, last week I made lentils; bronze lentils, copper lentils, silver lentils, round lentils, oval lentils, enough lentils  for lentil soup.  Although, I have made beautiful lentil beads and focal pieces in the past, it seems this project, with a thousand graduated lentils, wasn’t meant to happen right now.  My, oh so beautiful, copper lentils pancaked out after being fired.  The shape was nice, the texture beautiful, but no hollow lentil bead.  And these were a challenge because they were ovals.  I’m thinking that they collapsed because they were laying flat on the charcoal.  I just wish I had fired only one to begin with…two lessons learned!   So what can I do with flat, hollow, copper beads?   Push aside and move on.

Last night I fired my bronze lentils and tried only two in the first firing. (FFB, SC2, Fired @ 1550 for 2 hours.)  They kept their shape but one came out with a small crack.  They were quenched in water but not put in the pickle because I could tell by the “table thud” that they were not fully sintered.   Having worked a lot with bronze, I will often fire it two times.  Don’t know why but that works better and I get a lovely heat patina which I sometimes keep.   It also helps remove some of the oxidation.   So back into the fire box with a couple of new lentils.  The second load was fired using the same schedule, and when I took this load out and the beads being fired for the second time were lovely and sintered.  The new ones looked fine until I quenched them and they exploded!  Of course, I couldn’t believe that happened with the first one so I quenched the second one and it exploded, also.  My lentil saga!  I’m going back to the bench with more bronze, because they are ver lovely.  But first, I’m doing a little research to see what happened with the FF Bronze.

On a positive note, here are some success stories, I just can’t get more than one at a time!

Dragonfly Lentil

Dragonfly Bronze Lentil


Fine Silver Clay Lentil pendant, texture plates

Fine Silver lentil focal bead.

Deviled eggs?

While relaxing by the beach during our spring break, I’ve started to develop some of my ideas/designs that I’ve been planning for the Masters Registry project.  Even with my notebook full of plans, details all drawn out, I’m reminded of the snags and uh ohs you run into when you actually start a project. When details really matters, I prefer to start with a mockup version.  My first project is very time consuming but will be quite lovely if all goes well.  The mock up project will be in copper and the final project in fine silver.  Maybe, depends on how this turns out, copper can be gorgeous.  The project is a necklace made with graduated hollow beads, A7.  My first snag was not being prepared, I am not at home, with proper oval shapes for drying the beads.  I’ve picked up a deviled egg dish, it is Easter and they are everywhere.  This worked fine for the super large beads.  I tried  a grapefruit spoon, a teaspoon, and a soup spoon.  I have confidence they will turn out fine.  Today was roll and shape, tomorrow, form, file and carve and then pack away until I get home for firing.  In between, I’m trying out an idea for a sleeve container pendant,  A5.  Love being at the beach!image

Creative Spaces



Because my upstairs work space was totally covered with the last project, I had to move to another table to set-up some pieces for a demo I was doing last week-end.

Arghhhh!  Now, look at this!  I’ve continued to work downstairs and things are looking pretty “creatively” messy.  I find it difficult to juggle different techniques on one work table.  I’m working with silver clay one minute, bronze clay the next hour, then it’s on to hammering out that wire necklace or a little alcohol inks on my brass cuff,  soldering that bezel, or maybe the freeform seed bead project, or, or, or…  I work on the projects my muse guides me to and that looks like chaos to others.  I really thrive with the variety, and I know where everything is, we’ll most of the time.  It seems when I  stop to clean and organize, I lose things!

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, the what is an empty desk a sign of?”  Albert Einstein

Retreat, Within

My next step, after watching a metal clay piece disintegrate , will be to jump back in, digging in my heels, and master this thing.  Ironically, “master” has been the big word lately in most of my metal clay conversations.  So, Master is just exactly what I intend to do because I will be registering to complete the Masters Registry program, Level 1, check it out here.  In this program, you must make ten projects according to specified criteria to receive the Level 1 Certification.  I am not trying to prove any level of competency but to engage in a meaningful experience and learn as much as I can about metal clay.  And I certainly do not feel I am anywhere near as proficient as some others starting this same journey.  For me this trip is about learning.  It will involve lots of experimentation, lots of online tutorials, lots of classes with accomplished mc artists, and lots of focus.  This means my sales end will be minimized and my energies directed at “mastering” the art of metal clay.  Right now I’m collecting inspiration pieces, connecting with others involved in the Masters Registry program, and picking my projects. Once I get a good grip on the projects I plan to do, I will send in my money to register and be on my way.  The journey has officially begun, it may be a roller coaster ride or a smooth ride,  but for sure it is the right direction for me.  Now, on to narrow down my projects.


Baffled by Clay

My lasted clay experience was with Hadar’s Smart Bronze.  Being the “step skipper” that I am, I chose to mix the entire vial at one time, which was 50 grams. However, I can go through 50 grams of clay pretty fast especially when testing.  First of all, I made a mistake with the water and my clay was a little wet, more like homemade peanut butter. Other than amt of water, I followed the directions for mixing and resting.  Of course with the excess water, I needed to add more powdered clay which I didn’t have because I used it all.  Lesson learned there.

I made my first piece which was pretty thick, 1/4″ or so and about the size of a belt buckle.  It was nicely textured on both sides and had an embeddable bronze  prong setting in it.  I wasn’t  ready to try firing stones until I had at least done a couple of pieces.  Anyway, it looked nice, gray hands aside!  Although I do like the clay in the dried form, the wet was not so easy to work with but that was probably my fault.  Moving on… I let this air dry for what started out as 3 days but due life and it’s other demands, ended up being 2 full weeks.  Felt  nice and firm, very easy to work with at this stage.

I then made a couple of test strips and three small pendants in a mold.  The clay still a bit wet but easier to manipulate after resting for 2 weeks, wrapped in plastic and in a sealed jar.  These pieces dried for two days.

I test fired the test strip and it was very pitted, but a lovely texture, I tend to prefer organic, natural looks.   (Pictured below).  Firing schedule was as prescribed ramp 1400, hold at 1470 for 2 hours, covered in charcoal in ss vat, no lid in SC2 kiln.  I was happy!  I was ready to fire the other pieces but  a bit concerned because the oval pendant was a lot thicker than the other three pieces. I decided to take a chance.   So now for the main show and firing my big thick piece along with the smaller round pendants…

Ramp 1400, hold 1470 for 2 hours…the large thick pendant disintegrated, the smaller  fired fine except I lost some detail on two.  I can’t figure out why the larger piece evaporated, so to say, and the smaller pieces were fine.  The clay had to be evenly mixed, because I did it all at once, one big blob of clay. Two variables were the drying time and the embeddable prong.  Maybe, forming the piece with wetter clay could be a factor as the clay rested for a couple of weeks before being used to for the three smaller pieces.