The Litter Box

Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« August 2018 »
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics
A Bonus in the Box!
blast from the past!
Busy Day in the Box!
Cats, Catz and Kats
Fashionable Kat
fun with fabric friday
Graph Paper Patterns
grumble grumble
Happy Kat!
I can has topik?
I Made It!
I need a topic?
Jeebus sightings!
Jewelry and Beads  «
No Topic Today!
odds and ends
Project Runway Canada II
Random KatBox Droppings
Rants and Raves
Really Important Stuff
Retro Rules!
Sewing FAQ's
Squirrels in the news
The Fungus AmungUs
The Kreative Kat
The New Box!
The weekly flower report!
Things to make.
this 'n that 'n the other
Throwback Thurdays
Web Insanity
Weird Science
What I Did This Weekend
Works in Progress
Tuesday, 12 April 2016
New Things!
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

As you can see my adventures in wire wrapping are going much better than before! This is a heart of jasper and it looks worlds better than my previous attempts at heart wraps. 

Her's another Heart of Stars and it looks even better than my previous attempt. Now I want to get some square gold and half round gold and re-do my orginal vanGogh inspired Heart of the Starry Night.

this is a set I just finished. I got a strand of irradiated quartz and combined it with crystal, stoneware and assorted beads to make this statement piece. I don't always go all artsy and high concept, but as I was working on this and putting the different bead combos together it made me think of a cold cloudy sky fractured by the sun and the light broken upon the suface of a lake. I then knew this piece required a title. This set in now know as "The Lake is too Cold for Swimming."

Here's a close-up. The lowest quartz is an an aqua aura angel quartz wrapped in square silver. The upper one is a grey-blue aura quartz. There's plenty of crystals and stoneware and other beads. These beads are from a wide variuety of sources including necklaces bought elsewhere and taken apart for their beads.

I have more things in varieous stages of completion. As each is finished I will try to post a picture.

Posted by lincatz at 10:17 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Bracelets and other wirework!
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

As mentioned before I messed up my left leg quite badly this winter. It's bad because I am quite out of shape from all the sitting I've been doing but it's good because I've been able to further experiment with cold metal manipulation techniques I've just learned.

Cold metal work is when you take wire or sheets twist it, curl it, dent it, poke holes in it and more and then hammer it to take the metal from soft and workable to hard and unworkable. As a beginner I couldn't figure out why I could only do so much with wires before they became hard and brittle. Now I know. The term the pros use is "work hardened" Using a hammer and anvil makes sof jewelry wire hard but not as brittle. It's all quite science-y and involves arranging the atoms and molecules of the metal. Hammering shocks it into place and arranges the atoms so they are hard while work-hardeneing confuses the metal and only some of the atoms are arranged correctly.  Or soething like that -it's all so science-y and my 190 IQ can only handle so much science before it get confused. 

Here are a few examples. The large copper bangles are made with 14 guage copper wire It was tossed in the barbecue at high flame for a while to soften the metal. After softening I buffed off the charred color so my workspace wouldn't be greasy and black.  I curled one end inot a spiral shape and hammered it until hard. I shaped it into a bracelet shape and hammered the curve. I strung bead onto the thick wire and wrapped fiver 20 guage wire at the start and between the beads and at the end to secure them in place. I made another spiral at the end, cut off any excess wire and hammered the spiral. This bracelt is now hard and inflexible. The one I left unspiralled and plan to epoxy glue a stopper bead on the end. A metal file is essentail to file the sharp edges of the cut ends.

Close up of the starting wrap. the cut end is buried in the first bead and the first wraps are over the start of the finer wire and then over the bead. the wire over the round nose pliers is 12 guage wire. Too thick and hard even after a toss in the heat.

this is a neckalce. It's the same wrapping technique for hoding the beads on the thick wire. This is only 18 guage so it's easier to work than the 16. I love the little turquose skull. It came in a "bead soup" bag from the bead store and I think the rough copper and hand made glass gives it a rough primative look. I hammered the curve in the wire first, strung and wired the beads in place and then cut leaving enough for loops.  I curled loops in each end and hammered them hard after I strung the beads. I placed a jump ring for adding a chain on each loop.

It can also be worked in a shiny elegant gold wire. I love this whimsical glass cat and heart. The matte pink beads are sandblasted agates. I hammered the ends of the gold wire flat and curled them into a little clasp. This one is elegant and cute. 

Here are a couple pieces made in silver wire. I love the icy blue with the cold silver. The silver is an 18 guage wire with 22 guage wire for wrapping. The little dangle on the necklace is made with the 22 guage wrapping wire.

And lastly this is one of several that I made with copper and bronze wire with turquoise andamber colored glass beads. This is the very first one that I made after a few experiments with hammering the wire and working out the wrapping method. This is earthy and watery and totally beachy boho!

These bracelets take anywhere from fifteen to 30 minutes to make. Hammering is essential. It hardens the wire so it holds its shape and doesn't become deformed while wearing. You can see a few of my tools in the pictures. The bottom one has my wire file in it. This files and dulls the cut ends of the wire. I use it all the time, even on head and eye pins. Above that is my ballpeen hammer and jeweler's anvil. I have a hard rubber block for times I don't want the wire flattened. It's actually an old hockey puck. It's the same size as a rubber dapping block and 10$ cheaper.  You can also see my favourite round nose pliers. They have a padded cushioned grip and I use them all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. round nose pliers and the single most important tool in my box, even more important than a wire cutter. 

Posted by lincatz at 10:54 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Monday, 22 February 2016
Super Easy Super Fast Five Minute Stick Pin!
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

Do you have five minutes? If you have five minutes you can make a beaded stick pin. All you need aside from five minutes is:

a long stick pin
a large focal point bead
a few assorted beads (mine are leftovers from other projects)
a crimp bead
crimping pliers

Begin by threading the large focal bead on the stick pin. Arrange the other beads pleasingly under the lartge bead. Slide the crimp bead tigh against the lowest bead. Crimp the living %^*@ out of the crimp bead. It needs to be super tight and immobile agaist the pin. You are done. 

The pin on the left used a bead with an open center. For that one I placed a bead in the center of the bead.  Looks Kewl. Adds maybe a couple seconds to the time it takes to make the pin. Here's a close up:

Don't be too fussy about the crimp bead on the bottom. It needs to be tight, not pretty. I used assorted agates for mine. The colors are meant to be bright and summery. You can make them in whatever color you want. Using a large bead at the top has the most visual impact.

And that's it. Five minutes. 

Stick pins come in several lengths: from the short ones of 2 and half inches to extra long 8 inch "hat pins" I used 6 inch pins because that's what was available at the bead store. Sometimes they come with the stopper on the bottom but of you buy in bulk the stopper is sold seperately. There's a wide assortment of stoppers, from the simple capsule shape I use to fancy metal ones. A simple stopper keeps the beads the focus of attention but one like this here adds a bit more pizzazz.

And that's it. A few big focal point beads, a few stick pins and a few leftover from other projects beads and a few minutes of time is all you need. 

Posted by lincatz at 9:45 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Monday, 22 July 2013
How to Dye Seashells and Shell Beads
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

Notice that I didn't use the word easy in the title? There's a reason!  I like using natural elements in my jewelry designs.  I love semi precious stones both natural, tumbled and faceted; I use feathers all the time; and I have been known to use squirrel fur an other found objects.  And for a touch of beachy summery freshness all year long nothing is better than shell beads, shell paillettes and small seashells.  If you've ever bought shell jewelry at beach themed stores you've noticed that some come in colors such as blue, pink, green and other not-found-in-nature colors.  And you've probably noticed that dyed shells tend to be a bit more expensive than the non-dyed counterparts.  Being the thrifty type I bought a few large bulk packs of paillette style shell bead in natural colors.  I used them, but wished that I had more colors than just oyster grey, clam beige and scallop brown. 

Finding plain shells and shell beads isn't difficult.  You can get them pre-drilled and shaped at bead stores or simply gather shells from the beach. Be sure that you collect half shells only -the ones that are stuck tightly closed together contain a live animal so leave them in the lake to live out the rest of their lives in peace and harmony.  When they die THEN collect them. For this article I used  pre-drilled flat round paillette style shells.  These are easily found and easy to turn into beachy jewelry. Coloring them, however; isn't quite so easy. 

Shells are calcium carbonate based -along with protein and  a few other minerals that add shine, luster and hardness. Getting the dye to penetrate the tough shell would be difficult so I researched alkali, neutral and acid based dye methods.  To test the shells reaction to each I dropped a shell in a solution of lye, a solution of soda ash and a solution of acetic acid -vinegar. The alkali seemingly did nothing and it stunk. The neutral soda ash made the shell foam slightly and didn't damage it.  The acid made the shell foam and form little bubbles on the surface.  The acid seemed to react with the calcium carbonate of the shell.  

For my first test I used powdered fiber reactive dyes with soda ash. I used a bright pink, a bright Bahama blue, a deep purple and indigo blue. Here are the results.  The smaller shells reacted with the dyes a little better than the large shells. Pink and Bahama blue reacted the best, the purple ended up weird and the indigo blue was very pale.  I buffed the shells to see if I could make them shiny and the dye completely wiped off the large purple and it slightly rubbed off the small indigo shells.

Conclusion?  Soda ash and fiber reactive dyes don't work.  There's no fibers to react with and the soda ash is too similar to the shells themselves. 

If you've ever looked up dyeing shells on the interweb you'll see lots of e-how articles saying that it's quick east and permanent using Easter egg dye. No. It's not. While egg shells are similar to sea shells the acid in Easter egg dye tablets isn't strong enough to make the color stick to the sea shell. Eggs are far more porous than mollusk shells.  As you can see above Easter egg purple ended up looking like nothing.  The large shells took none of the color and the small ones look grey.

The other shell dyeing made EZ recipe is food color and vinegar.  I used one tablespoon purple color and two tablespoon vinegar.  I didn't add any water. I dumped the beads into the water and stirred around.  I let them soak for about 15 minutes.  The surface of he water foamed slightly telling me the acid was reacting with the shell.  Above is the end results: the small beads are a nice deep purple, the large beads seemed to absorb the red part of the color but not the blue. Not a fail -but not fully successful.

So I stopped and did a bit of reading and thinking.  An acid is needed and I needed to use a dye that works best on animal products in the acid.  So next I tried some dye powder for silk and wool and vinegar.  Here are the results:

This worked a little better. The small shells dyed a wonderful bright pink and the large shells looked tinted pink.  The color didn't rub off when buffed.  I put away the small pink shells because I was 100% happy with the results.  I used an eighth teaspoon powder dye to two tablespoons vinegar.

After a bit more thought and research I decided to try one more combination.  I wanted to see if a stronger acid would work better and an acid based liquid dye.  I have liquid dye for silk painting and I decided to try that in combination with CLR cleaner.  CLR works like gangbusters of calcium build-up on pots, glasses and in the dishwasher.  Shells are calcium, so the CLR might help the dye get into the shell. Silk comes from an animal -and so do shells -so that might work better!.The CLR is stronger than vinegar but not so strong that it would dissolve the shells completely.

I used one teaspoon of CLR and a quarter teaspoon of silk dye.  Both are very strong  so not much is needed. I could have used less silk dye.   I added the shells and enough cold water so the dye covered the shells.  A layer of foam formed on the surface of the dye.  The acid was etching the shells. Hopefully that meant the dye could penetrate. 


And it worked tons better! The deep blue small shells on top are a perfect denim blue and the large shells are a wonderful Lake Huron turquoise!  The denim blue was deep and denim-ish. The color did not buff off, it stayed lustrous.  I decided to try a dye called Poppy, a warm true red. 

This isn't all of the shells I dyed poppy -the larger ones were drying in the kitchen.  On the floor. More later! The small ones took the dye perfectly.  The larger shells at the top were dyed deep purple and the purple was almost too dark. The large difficult to dye shells turned a deep purple that doesn't quite show up in my cell-phone pictures. 

This is Later! The day I was working was hot, about 31 degrees inside and it was about 10 degrees cooler than outside.  On a day like that it's normal to get sweaty, including sweaty palms.  and it's normal for the sides of glasses to get condensation on them.  So sweaty palms + sweaty glass = bad things.  Like dropping a glass of poppy red dye on the floor and the glass smashing to pieces.  There was no more than a quarter cup of dye in the glass but it still made my kitchen look like I was re-enacting a gory blood soaked scene from CSI.  So word to the wise: don't drop glasses of dye.  It cleaned up. Eventually. Although the rubber sole of the flip-flops I wore are still sort of blood spattered looking.

I had one last project to try.  I had some oval shells that framed some jasper beads.  The shell ovals were a bright turquoise when I bought them but they had faded.  I wanted to refresh the color.  I didn't want to dunk finished jewelry in acid so I had to think of some other way to color the shell.  I got out a fine paint brush, dribbled a little CLR in a small cup and painted some one the shell.  While it foamed slightly I applied silk dye directly to the shell.  I let the one side dry, flipped it and repeated the process. 

After both sides dried I buffed off the excess dye to bring up the shine.  It worked well and the shells are once again tinted a bright Lake Huron Turquoise. I didn't get any color on the jasper or the milk glass bead.

And here's the end result!  Lots of brightly colored shell beads including poppy, pink, indigo, Bahama blue, turquoise, denim, purple, forest green and more.  Universally the large beads were resistant to dye and the smaller ones more receptive to dyeing. 

In conclusion: I don't have a fool proof easy to follow recipe that will make dyeing shells super easy and successful every time.  Some shells are more porous than others and will dye better.  Some are harder and highly polished and won't dye as easily.  You will need an acid stronger than white vinegar -but not so strong it will dissolve the shell. You will need a dye that works on animal proteins such as a silk dye.  A little dye will go a long way. I would like to try powder dye with CLR and warm water to see how that would work -but that project will have to wait for another day.  You have to check the shells as they dye in order to get them out at the right time.  Some colors require a longer dye time than others.  Five minutes might be perfect for some colors on some shells, but nowhere near enough for others.  You need to be willing to check the beads often and experiment with proportions of water dye and acid.  I dyed on a very hot day and the water was very warm -even if I used cool water at the start.

Recipe for dyeing shell beads:

1 tablespoon CLR cleaner (acid)
1/8 teaspoon liquid silk dye
warm water to cover beads.

Be sure that the beads, buttons, shells whatever are clean and free from any dirt or grease. Use a glass cup for dyeing.  The glass won't be affected by either the acid or the dye.  Place acid in cup and drop in beads.  They will foam and hiss slightly.  Add the dye and stir in.  Pour in enough warm water to cover the beads.  Let sit for a minimum of five minutes.  There will be some foam on the top of the dye-bath.  This is a sign that acid is etching the beads.  Check the color after five minutes.  If the beads aren't dark enough then let sit another five minutes.  Check every three minutes after that.  Don't let the beads soak for hours or overnight. You could dissolve them completely!   after dying place beads in a single layer of a couple sheets of paper towels.  Let dry completely before touching them. When dry buff lightly.  Some color will come off but more should stay.  The color will vary from a bright to barely a tint of color depending on the shells.

Good luck and don't be afraid to experiment a little.  And if you come up with the fool proof works on all shells and easy to do with stuff at home method then more power to you!  And don't forget to share your recipe with me! 



Fiber reactive powder dye and CLR was a total fail. the (probably alkali)  powder plus liquid acid equaled a vinegar and baking soda reaction on steroids.

 The brand of silk dye was Deka color -no longer available. I don't think there's any fixative in it -after using it on silk  the instructions stated to soak it in a fixative liquid so the color wouldn't come out when washed. I've been switching to Dupont Classique from France (G&S Dye Supply) and it works very well on silk and also works on shells. I still use acid because it give brighter hues. According to some feedback I recieved Jaquard Green Label silk from in the US works well too. 

And finally, yes, I knowFire Mountain says use RIT. Unfotunately RIT dye just sits on the surface of the beads and wears away quickly/ 

Posted by lincatz at 10:26 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 September 2015 9:59 AM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Friday, 8 March 2013

Topic: Jewelry and Beads

...going through some old blog posts cleaning up spam comments and reminiscing. Fondly remembering the days when my entire bead collection was in one shoebox, one BeadBuddy box and two tupperware boxes:  It was a lot easier to store, I kept it all on one half a shelf in a small closet. Now I have lots more stuff.  And an anvil! I was working on the Heart of Stars piece back then.  Now it's one of my favorites. It's been quite the jewelry making journey. 

Yesterday was quite productive, although I produced nothing.  I spent the day taking apart old stuff so it can be re-fashioned into something new.  My skills in wire working are now to the point where much of my older stuff looks terrible to me.  And to make it worse, I used plated base metal wires -usually brass.  They plate would come off and turn the bead holes black.  To top it all off, there's lots of dirt and gunk on many of the stones so they not longer sparkle, they look dingy and dull. I took apart the smoky quartz lozenge shaped bead piece and I took apart my Triple Moon Goddess pendant, the one with all the loose vintage early 20th century swarovski crystals. Those two were the first I made as an artist rather than a bead stringer.  Both fit into my nascent artist's vision -much of what I make now is an extension of what I wanted to accomplish with those two pieces.  (so why did I take them apart? you ask. Shouldn't I have saved them as part of the journey of an artist? no-not when they were that poorly made, and utterly filthy from years of wear.) 

And now for a little lesson: How To Clean Dirty Swarovski Crystals and Beads, and Various Quartz and Quartz-like Crystal Beads. 

Most un-coated and unpainted crystals and mineral beads can be easily cleaned in a bit of soapy water.  The biggest enemy of these stones is each other, if they bump and bash into each other then you will get chipping and scratching.  You need to ensure that they don't bump around while being cleaned. 

Most fire polished and coated crystals can be cleaned in soapy water.  Again, do not allow the beads to bash against each other and don't scrape while cleaning.  If you aren't sure clean one bead and see how it reacts.  If the coating falls off then don't immerse the rest in water, you will need to gently dry buff them to get the sparkle back. 

To clean crystal, glass and mineral crystal beads you need, a small plastic bowl of warm water, a squirt of gentle dish soap, a strand of wool yarn on a fine needle, a cheap plastic paintbrush (the kind with the stiff plastic bristles from the kids' craft section) and a soft towel.

Squirt a bit of dish liquid into the bowl.  place the beads in the bowl and let then soak for a minute or two.  brush the outsides with the paint brush. try to insert a couple bristles into the hole and swish around.  To clean the inside of the hole string on the rough wool yarn and slide the yarn through the hole a few times.  It's like flossing the teeth! Swish the bead in the soapy water again and inspect, most of the dirt should be gone. if not then repeat with the brush. place clean bead on the soft towel, dab up excess water and let air dry. 

And that's it.  It takes a bit of time but after your crystal beads will look as good as new and they will be ready for re-working. Like the smoky Quartz. The smoky quartz will be re-worked with a few more smoky quartz beads and look very similar to the original.  I liked the design and because it was the first of my artist's statement pieces it does need to be preserved.  My problem back then was that I was a frugal beader, I never let myself spend more than 20$ at one time as Bead Bazaar. I could only afford ten quartz stones and it wasn't quite enough to execute my vision. 

The Goddess piece will be as identical as possible and I want to have it completed soon  -but I do need to start it on the New Moon and finish it at Full Moon so I can do a dedication on it.  I am going to use real silver chains, wires and findings to enhance the purity of both the center moonstone, the pure silver that surrounds it and the pure white magic of the symbol. The Green/Hedge/Kitchen Craft that I do is an extension of White -so there's no contradiction here.

And that's all for today.  Not much, I know.  I'm going to be going to Ontario Seed and start my seedlings for my summer garden.  I'll be planting tomatoes and peppers and lots of flowers and things.  I might as well not bother with the rock garden as our gas lines are being replaced and our yard will be dug up and the gas line runs under the rock garden, which means my rock garden is going to be wrecked by a bunch of evil men men who hate garden but love gas pipes.   I'm sort of upset by this. I LOVE my rock garden. It's my special garden.  It's crap ton of work but it's worth it. I don't want it destroyed. Nothing I can do, though.

Posted by lincatz at 10:58 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Thursday, 28 February 2013
Kats Luv Beads part √ of -1
Mood:  happy
Now Playing: Metroland (and more) by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

It's Bead Day! More stuff from the jewelry workshop! I am having way too much fun with this jewelry stuff and the more I make the more new and cooler ideas I get. Some of my ideas are as much as 20% cooler.  It's like a vicious circle -a circle made of 16 gauge half hard silver wire ready to have texture hammered into it.

The Green Heart.  Made of Aventurine. The larger marble-like beads and the smaller beads are also aventurine. It has a rich forest-in-august green color.  It came with a large silver clasp type bail that really didn't go with the rich warm green of the stone.  I made a simple wire bail for it and then a few more wire components.  I love the swirly S shapes. They are made of gold 18 guage half hard and the curved ends are hammered flat.  Hammering makes the half hard full hard and impossible to bend out of shape.

Copper and Blue Skies.  The donut is made of dichroic copper and blue glass.  The teardrops are jasper.  There's also round jaspers, swarovski crystals in a molten blue and some bronze fire-polish beads along with lots of 18 and 20 gauge antique bronze half hard wire. The matching earrings are made with two large jeweled daisy charms from Michael's craft store, two jasper teardrops and leftovers from the necklace. The donut also has some really nice copper and teal artistic wore added to the bail for a bit of color and visual interest.  Because artistic wire can't be hardened the same way it's only used as an accent.

Rose Choker. This delicate little choker length necklace is made with small antiqued copper rose charms, aventurine marbles and tarnish resistant 20 and 18 gauge dead soft copper wire. Very small, very pretty.

Aurora Borealis Heart Anklet.  This incredibly delicate looking piece is an anklet for summer -even though it's shown wrapped around the neck of a jewelry stand.  I spiralled some square staniless steel wire and added some tiny little fire polished hearts. There's more fire polished glass beads as the main links of the anklet. Some of the jump rings need to be smoothed out and it still needs a clasp.

Mystic Crystal Garden. Mobile inspired pendant.  I saved the best for last! Some of the curves still need a bit of rounding out and it needs to be flattened -the spirals are a bit cone-shaped. I used the flutter-by pendant as the inspiration and made this with some butterflies and flowers I got on the dollar wall at The Bead Boutique.   The top bead came for a grab bag from That Bead Lady. It's square stainless steel wire and wrapped with half round stainless steel. Like I said it's not finished and still needs some refining but so far it's just gorgeous! It's so whimsical -and I despise the word whimsical especially when so many people on-line spell it whimsicle.  Like a fudgesicle or popsicle or creamsicle. but I look at it and I have to say it's totally whimsical.

Speaking of whimsicle... This is how TrixieKitty helps Ben while he is working on his stories.  The softest bedding material known to cats is three holed lined binder paper. When Both Dan and ben were doing homework she was in heaven and in turmoil -she couldn't decided whose homework to sit on first.

 have I linked to this yet?

 It's totally my new obsession. I absolutely love this song.  I absolutely love Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. I can't wait for the new  album to come out.  I've been a fan of OMD's since 1980 and the very first imported album I ever bought was Organisation. It was 15$ at a time when most albums were between 5 and 8$  That was the most I had ever spent on a record back then but I loved "Statues" and "Stanlow" the second I heard them and i had to buy it. When I wrote the whole story of how I discovered the band and how they were my first import purchase on OMD's facebook page I got a thumbs up from the band and a personal comment directed to me.  As if I couldn't love the band more! And they aren't content with being a nostalgia act, they put out and perform new stuff too. As I said before, this new album is rumored to be more like Dazzle Ships and Less like Junk Culture and I can hardly wait! 

So that's it for today. Today I finish up the turquoise t-shirt even though warm weather seems to be months away.  

Posted by lincatz at 11:38 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Kats Luv Beads Part Infinity: Metal Is My Friend
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

Carnival Glass Necklace. Hammered Silver wire 20 gauge. Hammered  Silver Wire 18 gauge

As an artist and a designer I am always trying to upgrade my skills and learn new things.  When I find that my pieces don't line up with my ambitions than I ask myself what skill is lacking and what little sliver of knowledge do I need to make my idea a reality.  It was becoming quite obvious that I needed to learn more about the metal parts of jewelry -instead of lumping them together under the generic term "findings" I had to re-examine their importance in the design and the creative process and by extension how to make metal components with the same thought and design considerations as the other components.  I had to make the things that linked the beads and stones as important as the beads and stones themselves. I had to take a technical leap in order to take an aesthetic leap. 

Carnival Necklace -close up detail

And it turns out that it's no small leap -it's a giant jump into a whole new world of design possibilities.  And it's not just the design part that is a leap forward. Learning metal manipulation is as much science as art.  Without know what's happening at a molecular level with the metal, I can never hope to make the metal do what I want.

 Milk Glass necklace.  Pastel milk glass beads, 22 gauge silver wire.  Some beads are caged, others have hand worked bails.

The first thing I made isn't worth showing: it's a bracelet made of gold square wire links wrapped with half round wire.  It's large, clunky, and not that great.  What it did do however, is teach me all the basics of working with wire: the gauges, shapes, how to harden wire, how to hammer wire, and how to manipulate wire. Well worth the effort even if the end bracelet sucks the big one. I prefer the look of the hammered wire, it's got more personality.

The second project was The Carnival Glass Necklace.  I used a heavy 18 gauge wire for hammering the links and components.  I wanted the piece to be loopy and playful. the beads are on s-shaped swirls rather than plain old straight head and eye pins. It's like bright balloons in the summer breeze.  It's childhood and summer -the colors are a trip made to the zoo or the circus. Hammering the wire hardens it. It doesn't take long for the molecules of dead soft wire to become ridiculous-hard. Those swirls are never coming un-swirled! I used a jeweler's ball-peen hammer on a small jeweler's anvil. The cats hate the sound of me hammering. Tough titties, little kitties!

The Milk Glass Necklace was made from beads that came in a assorted baggie of milk glass beads.  They were all a wonderful pale pastel color and some were opalescent.  I use a finer 22 gauge silver wire and made all the metal parts -from the rings to the bails to the small wire flowers to the caged beads -everything was made by me! This one has a light fresh spring time look, the wires were hammered with a nylon headed hammer on a softer dapping block. Well, not a real dapping block -I improvised with a hard rubber hockey puck. Same composition and only a dollar at Canadian Tire. A savings of 14$

Moonstone Flutter-By's! 20 gauge silver wire. carved moonstone butterflies and carved moonstone flowers.

I've had these flowers and butterflies in my stash for several years and they were what inspired me to take up wire and metal work.  I had an idea for the butterflies -I wanted them on silver wire but I wanted them to float on the wire.  I didn't want them caged in place or harnessed by beads -I wanted to express the idea of the "flutter-by" what I often call them as the flutter past me and skim over the tops of the flowers on warm summer days. I think this piece  captures the spirit and the movement of the butterfly.Everything was made by me, every loop, swirl, and link. There are no straight lines, only swirls.

Butterfly necklace close up.

A few tweaks are still needed here and there.  A couple things are gewtting hung up on each other.  That center loopy thing is going to need refining so things aren' jumbled so close together.  The way some of the s-curved could dangle from spirals, and the way the spirals found theirown point of balance was inspiring.  I set aside several flowers and butterflies so I could make earrings or perhaps a brooch...take square wire and half round...waps some around the butterfly~~~ curve it to look like it is in mid air---maybe add a swirl or~~suspend a ~~~~ ---- *!* YEAH! THAT'S IT!!!!

Butterfly Mobile Pendant. 20 gauge square wire,  22 gauge half-round wire,moonstone beads, carved, flowers, carved butterflies

I LOVE when I can take myself to a new and unexplored level.  This piece represents a radical shift to a new aesthetic.  This pieces is so unlike anything I have ever done that I can't overstate the change it represents in my vision and expression as an artist.  It's so new and different for me that it leaves me breathless. 

It's inspired by the mobiles (or Kinetic Art) of Alexander Calder.  I first discovered this brilliant artist when I was in Grade 4? 5? and the simple shapes and movements fascinated me.  Was it two dimensional art?  Or was it three dimensional art?  The idea that it could both at once expanded my preteen mind in a way that no teacher or school book even could hope or wish.  It led me to Escher -imagine a grade five kid giving a presentation on the skewed perspectives of Escher! And it led me to a form of paper cutting where small flat paper is folded, cut and opened up to become a large 3 dimensional lattice work.  I learned how to cut a hole in a 3x5 index card in a way that a person could step through the hole.

But I digress: this is such a departure for me because it represents my very first step away from the perfect symmetry and formal balance that permeates all my jewelry work.  It's not even informal balance -this is free form in a way that I have never explored before.  This piece is a mind shift as well as an aesthetic shift.  I no longer have to think in terms of symmetry -I can let a piece find its own balance.

Here it is on a chain along with a pair of earrings that match. The more I see this mobile the more I love it.  It is so new and different for me. Now here's a couple older things:

I mentioned that my Geode Necklace came back a bit damaged?  Here it is all repaired and looking better than new.I've worn it a couple times and it instantly becomes the center of attention.  It's a bit like wearing a painting -it's so unique and eye catching that I tend to get lost behind it.  It's not for anyone who is shy! 

My Heart is Full Of Stars or The Heart of Stars.  I've called it both.  Inspired by VanGogh's Starry Night.  How can one not be inspired by Starry Night?  Was there ever a more beautiful paining of stars?  My very first wire wrapping project done without square wire or half round wire or even a single clue as to what I was doing. It took me two years to find a dark blue goldstone shaped like a heart.  It took me to years to figure out how to turn it into a pendant without having to drill a hole in it.  The finished piece is worth the wait.  And now my heart is full of stars.

After the competition piece was finished I had one geode left over.  I made this pendant to wear on the day of the show so everyone would know that I was the Geode Girl.  It worked.

And here's my workspace.  All my tools are a bit scattered as I just finished up this bunch of wire-working 101 projects.  Now that I know what I am doing I can start on some new designs.  Notice my tiny hammer and tiny anvil in the lower right corner of the table?  See the hockey puck beside my wire jig?  See lots of spools and coils of wires?  Now I don't have to buy anything made of wire again -no more jump rings, head pins, eye pins, loops, hooks -and I can make things I couldn't buy! I need more organizers for my beads and things, plastic baggies and shoe boxes don't quite cut it.

Posted by lincatz at 11:03 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Friday, 4 May 2012
My Latest Creations
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

I've been working on a several things lately.  Some, like jeans and shorts, aren't really exciting. A few; like a hand embroidered denim vest and beaded jewelry are a bit more exciting.  Here's a few pictures of what has been occupying my attention (other than gardening)

These are fossil necklaces.  I got them from the annual gemstone, rock and mineral show. They were pre-drilled which made it very easy to string them on hemp cording. I added some earthy looking crystals and antique gold beads for accents and then added a clasp and chain so they could be worn as necklaces.

This short necklace is made with dyed Mother of Pearl heart beads and small fresh water pearls.  I thought the hears looked like butterflies when placed together so I decided to pair them up to look like butterflies when strung. I spaced them with freshwater pearls to emphasize the butterfly shape.



This piece is made with components from Michael's craft store.  The parts are peacocks and peacock inspired.  The feathers are dyed pheasant.  I tried peacock feathers but it was just a little too much, a little too obvious.

These ovals are made from dyed Mother of Pearl.  They are more aqua in reality than in the picture. In the middle I strung some glass beads and a large oval jasper bead.  One has an aqua milk glass drop, this will be the center of the necklace.

This is my favorite.  It's a slices agate geode with some swarovski crystals.  The center was large enough to frame a crystal drop.  It's much more impressive in reality, the camera doesn't catch the sparkle of the crystals.  I'll be wearing it tomorrow to Free Comic Book Day.

This is a key fob made with glass crow beads and some suede lacing.  The beads are woven onto the suede and the ends of the suede are knotted.  Easy as can be!

This one is worked with crow beads and tile beads.

This one is made with tile beads and only one crow bead. 

This is a small MP3player pouch.  The little loop on the back snaps onto the rings or buckles of my purse. There's a second small snap-on-off loop for my headphones.

And if you've been wondering about the fabric in the background; yes, it's more denim with thunderstorms! There was a small less-than-a-yard remnant at Len's so I'm making a sleeveless denim jacket/vest from it.  I'm using seven different spools of Wonderfil rayon embroidery thread for the hand-worked top stitching and lazy-daisy stitch flowers.  The different colors have a tie-dye look about them.  The seams will all be saddle stitched with the embroidery thread and I have some daisy appliques that I can add to the yokes to enhance the retro tie-dye look

And that's what I've been dong these days!  coming soon: shirts! Jeans! Shorts! and my favorite instructions for making a perfect fly front zipper EVERY TIME!

Posted by lincatz at 10:43 AM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Crystal Clay Creations Part Two
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

I'm quite enjoying my Crystal Clay. It sticks to EVERYTHING and I've not only been making new jewelry I've been using it to repair old pieces and add more sparkle to things that I think aren't quite sparkly enough. 

I've also been experimenting with the clay and gold leaf.  It seems to be a matter of timing, you can't leaf a piece too soon when the clay freshly mixed and you can't wait too long, when the clay's surface has started to cure.  The magic time seems to be between -nope!  Not telling!  Not yet! Here are a few things that I've made:

This is my favorite.  I placed a blob of crystal clay on an old metal brooch blank and smoothed it into a dome shape.  I used a plastic tool that's sold as a fimo tool.  When it was smooth I added a large center stone that I recovered from a broken vintage necklace.  I thin arranged an assortment of chatons around the center too look like a large flowering plant sitting on top of a pillar.  After allowing the clay to set up for a while I added some gold leaf.  I used small bits and a soft brush to poke it gently into the nooks and crannies.  I used the round end of a fimo tool to buff the leafing in place around the edges without flattening or denting the dome shape.  I let the clay cure for 24 hours and then brushed off the excess leaf with the soft brush.  It mostly adhered.  The problem spots were the tiny little gaps between the stones.  Any leafing stuck on the stones easily came off with a stiffer bristled brush.

This one I made the same way but without the gold leafing.  I used a large aqua aura crystal in the center, two bronze rounds, for emerald squares and two medium aurora borealis rectangles.  I added smaller rounds near the edge and tied to keep the composition as balanced as possible.  After the clay cured I snipped off the pin back.  I'm going to add some type of tube to the back because I think this would look stunning as a choker on a velvet band.


Speaking of putting things on tubes: these beads were made by wrapping crystal clay around boring metal tube beads. After i stuck some small flatbacks and chatons into the clay and added some gold leaf and let cure.  Cool!

This is a small "clutch pin" These are small black disks with a notched pin on the back.  There's a small pinchy-type clasp that goes over the post and latches into the notch.  This is a compliment to the one above with the emerald squares.  This is made with emerald rectangles and a medium size aqua aura center stone.  I really do like symmetry and balance of formal compositions such as this.

This one is made with several variations of jet and grey crystals. I think this one has a true to the era late 1920's early '30's art deco feel to it -like the sets of an old RKO musical film.

This butterfly pin is far more ambitious and not quite as successful, at least in the application of the gold leaf.  The center body is a stone recycled from a single earring that my mom gave me after she lost the mate. There and two large aurora borealis rectangles on the upper wing along with an emerald square.  There are are also a few bits from that old broken necklace. The focal points of the bottom wing are the two daisy shaped stones near the bottom tip and assorted other stones arranged to look like veins of the wing.  The gold leaf didn't stick because the clay's surface was beginning to cure due to the amount of time it took to precisely place all the crystal elements.

And for those who don't like in-yo-face-beeyoch-level bling: This clutch pin is made with crystal clay, teardrop shaped polished stones with a large round center stone accented with tiny crystals?  I wanted it to look like a big puffy daisy, and I think I was successful!


And now for something completely different!  A man with three Buttocks! Oh...we did that already?   The how about one of the very first jewelry projects that I ever made?  I made this necklace from some plastic propeller beads from a long ago craft store that was in the lower level of Waterloo Square back in the 70's and beads from an old broken necklace of my Aunt Linda's.  Back then I used some linen upholstery thread, my Dad had some from his days working at the factory on the corner of Allan and King -it's an office building now -and I've re-strung it several times through the years.  It was the summer of 1970, I was nine years old and I remember making it like it was yesterday.  I wanted both halves to be identical -even then I like formal balance in my jewelry designs -and I wore it from the time I was none until I had kids.  Both kids tried chewing on it when they were babies so I re-strung it and then put it in my jewelry box.  And there's it's stayed ever since.  I don't wear it -it looks rather childish, chap and plastic but I will never get rid of it because it's the first piece of jewelry I made for myself.

And that's all for today.  I have more ideas and I plan to try them out today.  I'm also doing some controlled experiments in leafing so I can zero in on the perfect time for adding the leaf.  See y'all tomorrow!

Posted by lincatz at 12:00 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
Crystal Clay Persuasion
Topic: Jewelry and Beads

Now that the holiday season is over -kids are back in school, the last family party was held on Sunday, and all the lights and decorations are down -it's time to get creative again.  There's lots of time to spend experimenting and trying new ideas, techniques and tools.  So with three months of snow and cold keeping me mostly indoors I brought out my jewelry making tools yesterday and began playing with some of my beads and things.

At the Toronto Creative Festival I got some Crystal Clay and crystal chatons at That Bead Lady's booth.  I have visited the store once while driving to Haliburton.  It's in Newmarket and we pass through Newmarket on the way there, so I made an extra effort to visit their display at the festival.  

Crystal Clay is a two part epoxy putty that sticks to anything and everything. It's air cured and it takes about 24 hours to completely harden. It's pretty much the same ans that "miracle putty" that they were selling through TV pitchman commercials.  Someone must have seen the commercial and though "I bet that would work for jewelry making!" Who ever that person was deserves our undying gratitude, because it works perfectly.  It fact, it's better than perfect.

Here are my first experiments with crystal clay.  I made two rings and two bolo slides.  I like the top left ring and the bottom right bolo the best.  I tried to stay away from what most people do: throw random crystal all over the place and made a balanced and symmetrical pattern with the different sizes and shapes.  

I have several more ideas now.  I want to try to make beads.  First I am going to take some boring beads and cover them with a layer of this clay.  Then I will press some crystal chatons on the clay and let it harden.  Voila! New beads from old boring beads. 

Then I'm going to take some some metal discs that are for making pins and brooches.  I'm going to wire them together and use them as a base for a large focal point bead I've had in mind for a while.  I'm not sure if I need a base, but I think it will add extra strength to the piece. 

I would also like to experiment with gold leafing on the putty.  I put a little flake on the side of one of the bolos and it seems to be sticking well.  So far.  If I can add gold leaf it gives me even more options for design possibilities. I have lots of old broken rhinestone necklaces that can be recycled by embedding in crystal clay and the  leafing over the clay.  It will look like expensive metal, without the expense.  Or the metal. 

And that's what I am working on.  Tomorrow I will have a few more pieces to show off.  I also discovered something called "sliders"  There are three types of sliders, one has to do with beads stitching, one with jewelry making and one with food.  I think you can easily guess which one I'll be talking about. 

Posted by lincatz at 9:16 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2012 10:53 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

Newer | Latest | Older