Back to Basics


Last year, toward the end of the summer, my sister-in-law, Vicky, asked if I would show her some basic techniques of soldering and fusing silver. “Sure, maybe in the fall when we both have more time,” I said.  Learning to solder or fuse involves putting two ends of metal together and joining them solidly with the heat of a torch. Although Vicky is very proficient with metal clay and beading, she lacked some tools that would be fundamental to metal smithing. “Just order what you think I’ll need. I have one of those butane torches, but that’s about it,” she told me. Last September I ordered a set of needle nose pliers, a set of needle files, a chasing hammer, a steel bench block, a bench pin, a jeweler’s saw, some saw blades, and some silver sheet and wire. Then our lives stayed too busy to follow through with our plan, until today. 



I admit that any teaching situation makes me nervous, even when I’m with people I like to see, but I do like the planning part, and thinking about why I would teach one technique before another. As we got going I forgot about my nerves.  I had Vicky get a feel for the saw by cutting into some 22 ga. copper sheet. The sheet is supported by a thin block of wood, called a bench pin, that is clamped to the work bench creating room to move the metal around while keeping the saw in one spot. She traced two ovals on the copper sheet and cut them out. I love hearing the change in sound when someone starts to get more comfortable with the saw. Vicky got there very quickly. She filed the edges of the ovals to smooth them and them drilled holes near the tops. Lastly, she hammered the pieces with the small end of the chasing hammer to texture them. Ta da! Two dangles for a pair of earrings. 


(Okay, right here is where I am kicking myself for not taking ANY photos all day. I apologize. The evening pictures of my workbench and tools are a pitiful compensation for showing you Vicky’s work.)

On to the silver sheet. Vicky cut out two triangles for the top part of her earrings. She drilled holes in the middle of the long sides, with plans to solder posts on the backs. She designed the earrings to connect the copper and silver parts with a jump ring. Then I had Vicky wrap 16 ga. Argentium sterling wire around a round mandrel to make a coil. She cut down through the coil with the saw which makes clean edges on each side of the open ring. (You need a tight clean fit between the pieces when you are soldering or fusing metal.) She also made some square rings.

Ready for the torch! To get comfortable with the torch Vicky started balling up the ends of wire with the flame. This is a basic technique I use all the time to make my own head pins for earrings. Vicky closed the ends on her square links by fusing them with the torch. No solder is required, but a tight join is needed if you want those two ends to flow together. She connected the squares links with the smaller round links between and soon had the makings of a cool little bracelet. Vicky was ready to try the solder. In no time, the posts were on the back of her earrings, the two pieces of each earring were linked with a fused 20 ga. jump ring, and my sister-in-law was comfortable with the torch. She even pulled out a broken ring that she brought along hoping to repair, and soldered it back together!

For me, it has been an “off” summer, creatively. I haven’t spent much time in the studio and I have had a hard time wanting to. Vicky, too, said she hadn’t been making anything for a very long time.  Before today, each work space on my bench was a messy pile and I just didn’t feel focused when I walked into my favorite room. It’s a small space (8 x10) and I needed to clean it up to make it workable for 2 people today. I felt focused for the first time in a while as I wrote a little outline for myself to think through the progression of what I would teach Vicky. Her enthusiasm for learning something new and her success with mastering several new tools filled my studio with fresh positive energy. She left wearing a new bracelet, a new pair of earrings, a broken ring repaired, and carrying a box of new tools that she’d learned how to use. I was left with huge satisfaction at her success, optimism for the return of my own creativity, and a clean studio!


  I think this day, in the midst of a crazy busy August, was exactly what each of us needed.


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Claws for the cause

Sponsored by Marian Baker and Islesford Pottery it’s time again for the super cool bi-annual fund raising silent auction to benefit the Islesford Neighborhood House. This year’s theme is, of course, lobstahs! If you’re anywhere near Little Cranberry Island you’d better plan on coming to the Islesford Dock tomorrow (Sunday, August 17) from 1 to 3 p.m. or you will miss out on seeing and bidding on some wacky and beautiful crustaceans.

Who has had their hands in clay in the past few weeks? Who has been making lobsters from alternative materials? Who is bringing back the “Barbie Lobster?” Who will have the winning raffle ticket for Ashley’s lobster plate?


I can tell you who has been up late tonight making lobster cookies… The mug I’m contributing to the show is a collaborative piece. Marian made the mug and I did the lobster design.


If you want to preview a few more  pieces that will be in the show, check out the Islesford Pottery facebook page. See you on the dock!


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Bracelet Bonanza

at Winters Work on the Islesford Dock!

Summer is in full swing in the Cranberry Isles. Life is very busy because it’s full of good things. You don’t want to miss the Ashley Bryan exhibit at the Islesford Museum. It will certainly entice you to buy one or several of Ashley’s books at Sue’s shop, Winters Work. While you are there, why not try on a bracelet or two. You just might want several reminders of your happy time on Islesford. Books and bracelets and more!



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Does your earring collection need a fix?

There’s nothing like a new accessory to spruce up your wardrobe. I have many different styles at Winters Work on the Islesford Dock. The restaurant may be closed for lunch on Monday and Tuesday, but Sue Hill’s shop is open! Here is a sampling of what is available:



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Summer season at Winters Work






New year, new necklaces, old friends. Come to the Islesford Dock and check out Sue’s shop; Winters Work.


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960 sterling metal clay

(Yes, I’m still hopping to read all of the bead soup blogs. I have about 50 to go. If you’re still hopping too and are looking for my post about bead soup, click here.)



Way back in February, Celie Fago introduced a new  alloy of sterling PMC.  (Click link to read her blog post about it.) One reason I had never jumped on the PMC sterling bandwagon is that I really don’t like the mess of firing in carbon. (Sterling silver, by definition, is an alloy of  92.5% fine silver and 7.5% copper or germanium in the case of Argentium™ sterling silver.) PMC sterling has just enough copper in it to require the carbon firing that one must use with other base metal clays like copper and bronze. I use carbon firing for those because I have to, not because I like it. When it comes to precious metal clay, my favorite version is PMC+, which is 99% fine silver. It can be fired on an open shelf, which means I can fire many more pieces at one time.  The only drawback to fine silver is that it is soft. It can be work hardened, but it still won’t have the strength of sterling silver. For some components  I make, it would be great to have the strength of sterling with the ease of firing without carbon.

When Tim McCreight wondered what would happen if PMC sterling were enriched with more fine silver, Celie decided to give it a try. The result was an enriched sterling clay that could be fired on an open shelf. Look Ma, no charcoal! Thank you Celie! The new sterling clay is creating quite a buzz in the metal clay community and I knew I wanted to give it a try too.
I started by making some simple toggle clasps using rolled “snakes” of clay, some washer shapes to use in multi-strand necklaces, some cone ends, and a bangle. I also wondered about firing synthetic stones in place. (The suggested temperature for using these in fine silver clay is lower than the 1500º needed to fire the enriched sterling clay.) And, I made a few of my usual “rock” beads to see if I noticed any difference in them with the 960 sterling clay. Results after firing:
The stones I tried withstood the temperature, and everything else seemed to have fired well. A few of the pieces have added details made from PMC sheet. There was no problem using that on top of the 960 clay.
I did run into a little trouble with cracking on the bangle and with the seam on one of my “rock” beads.
I have never made a bangle with fine silver clay, so I’m not sure if this was a design flaw on my part. I wanted to test the strength of the 960 clay by making this type of bracelet.  I may have over supported it by dropping it into a pile of investment rather than putting it flat on a tile to fire it. (I use investment to support my pieces in the kiln rather than vermiculite.) I think the investment prevented some of the shrinkage as the piece fired, causing cracks and stress spots.
The bead is a different story, and something I learned while trying the 960. When I put two pieces of unfired PMC together, I do not use slip. I use water on each edge and squidge them together. This technique has worked well for me. However, the 960 does not seem quite as able to make enough of its own slip on the surface to work like this when putting two pieces together. I would definitely try using slip instead of water, next time, or I would go over the seams with another smudge of clay and then sand it down when dry. Below, one of the rings for the toggle that did not bond like I had hoped when using water along the seam.
Another indication that the bangle was affected by the investment is that it is slightly wider at the bottom.
I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to reshape  this on a mandrel. The bracelet seemed to take the hammering okay. It had the sound of a work-hardened piece of silver. But, when I tried to squeeze it a little bit, to see just how hard it was, it cracked and broke. It became a good test piece at that point, and this is how many stress points there were:
I will have to try this again, firing flat on a tile, to see if it happens again.  I really don’t think it’s the fault of the clay. The pieces were all sintered, and I could not snap the smaller pieces. Even the seam of the bracelet did not break, though it was starting to crack.
I hammered the heck out of this one piece just to see what it would do to the look of the PMC sheet triangles on the surface. I kind of like the effect.
PMC+ (on the left) and 960 PMC (on the right) look a little different when they come out of the kiln. Actually, these pieces have also been in the tumbler and you can still see the difference.
But, after applying liver of sulphur, tumbling and then buffing, I see no difference in their appearance.
All in all it felt like a good first experiment with 960. There are a lot of other things I would like to try with it, including carving before firing. Right now I’m giving the unused portion of the 960 a test to see how it well it stores in a plastic container while I am busy using the components I made in pieces I’m finishing up for galleries this summer. Stay tuned!


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It’s Bead Soup Blog Party time!

So, grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in to hop around the internet and get your fill of creativity as you bounce from blog to blog to see just what people were able to make with beads that came as a surprise in the mail.

To review, the rules are that when you are paired with your partner, you get in touch and exchange beads. You must include a focal piece and a clasp along with whatever other beads you want to send. Participants create something with the beads they receive, adding from their own stock if they wish. The only requirement is that you use the clasp and the focal piece in your creations.

My partner, Barbara Mason, lives in Ashland, Oregon, where she divides her time between being a hospice nurse and making jewelry. Her website is called Adorningly Yours, and she makes some very cool things. Be sure to check it out! This is her second time participating in the BSBP and my third time.

Here are the beads she sent to me:  (I apologize for the photo quality, I took the picture in haste!)



And now for the reveal. I don’t tend to use focal pieces much in my work so I have found this part of the Bead Soup to be a challenge in all 3 of the times I have participated. The large focal stone, mushroom jasper, is mesmerizing to look at and I love the green and red aspect of it. Here is the necklace I made with it. It is strung on silk ribbon which ended up being my least favorite part of the necklace.


I’m not satisfied with how this piece came out, but think the components have potential to be reworked into something I like better. For me that is what the Bead Soup project is all about. Trying something new and learning from it.



The second necklace uses one of the two handmade sterling silver clasps from Barbara. Isn’t it interesting that we each sent the other a clasp of silver, featuring dots, that we had made ourselves? This necklace also includes the Moss Agate pieces Barbara sent, to which I added a variety of quartz from my own stash of beads.


Last is a necklace I made when we had the extra week added to the BSBP deadline. (Thank you Lori! Hope you’re feeling better!) I used the striped quartz as a focal for this one and explored going from a double strand to a single strand using hammered silver rings. Those tiny glass beads in the connecting loops are actually from my first bead soup partner3 years ago. Kind of fun to find a way to use them in this future BSBP piece!


Now it’s time for you to hop on over to the other blogs. Take your time. There were 500 of us who signed up for this! It’s going to take me all week, at least, to see what everyone has made. Inspiring and fun. The names and links are below. Make sure you check out my partner Barbara Mason’s blog FIRST.  Here’s a photo of the eclectic soup I sent to her. I can’t wait to see what she chose to use from it!



The every long list of participants and their links:

Lori Anderson, Hostess

Tina Bosh                        

Kristina Hahn Eleniak       

Kari Asbury                     

Kris Binsfield                   

Cheryl Gangle                  

Amber Dawn                   

Michelle Wigginton           

Kayla Potega                    

Becky Pancake                 



Debbie Rogers                   

Jenny Kyrlach                   

Genea Crivello-Knable       

Deborah Read                   

Julianna Cannon                

Lisa Liddy                        

Debbie Rasmussen            

Iveth Caruso                     

Rana Wilson                     

Corrie Williams                 



Linda Anderson                

Miranda Ackerley             

Andra Weber                   

Loretta Carstensen            

Penny Houghton               

Tania Hagen                     

Robin Reed                      

Laurie Vyselaar                 

Rachel Baron                    

Erin Guest                         



Emma Todd                                  

Kelly Schermerhorn                  

Dana Hickey                                  

Rebecca Ednie                             

Marybeth Rich                             

Sherri Levinton                            

RaMona Woolson                      

Jo-Ann Woolverton                   

Audrey Belanger                        

Candida Castleberry                  



Renetha Stanziano                    

Carolyn Chenault                        

Toltec  Jewels                              

Diana Welte                                  

Jean A. Wells                                

Bev Breisinger                             

Autumn Adams                           

DiYana Alcalde                             

Patty Gasparino                          

Karen Mitchell                             



Regina Santerre                          

Dhea Powers                               

Jayne Capps                                 

Keri Lee Sereika                          

Melissa Trudinger                      

Elsie Deliz-Fonseca                    

Jeanne Steck                                

Carolyn Lawson                           

Kay Thomerson                           



Maybeline Tay                             

Jackie Locantore                         

D’Arsie Manzella                         

Jacqueline Marchant                

Beccy Peterson                           

Katie Nielson-Nunez                 

Heidi Kingman                             

Andrea Glick                                 

Rose Johnson                              



Nicole Demore                            

Marti Conrad                                

Marianna Boylan                        

Mitzie Crider                                

Christa Murphy                           

Alisa Siceloff                                 

Maria Rios                                     

Tracy Martin                                 

Nan Emmett                                 
Jelveh Jafarian                                



Ali McCarthy                                 

Jennifer LaVite                            

Dolores Raml                                

Valerie Kravette                         

Bobbie Rafferty                          

Kathleen Breeding                     

Kristi Brokaw                                

Lisa Suver                                      

Natalie Moten                             

Jami Shipp                                     



Diana Shiraishi                             

Heather Otto                               

Ghislaine Kruse-van Erp          

Lisa Knappenberger                  

Charlene Jacka                            

Patty Miller                                   

Sandi James                                  

Marianne Hurley                        

Cris Peacock                                 

Andrea Rivers                              



Gloria Allen                                   

Kandice Seeber                           

Janine Lucas                                 

Sandy Richardson                       

Hajer Waheed                             

Cynthia Abner                             

Peggy Johnson                            

Tina Holden                                   

Julie Bowen                                  

Heather Richter                          



Sarah Strover                               

Kimberly Idalski                           

Sandi Volpe                                  

Tandra Boyer                               

Klaudete Koon                            

Michaela Pabeschitz                 

Mea-B. Uebler                            

Mandi Effron                                

Evelyn Shelby                              

Shai Williams                                



Natalie Davidson                        

Evelyn Duberry                           

Eszter Czibulyas                          

Sylvia Lupberger                         

Divya N                                           

Blanca Medina                             

Ginger Davis Allman                  

Chris Eisenberg                           



Katja Benevol Gabrrijelcic       

Jodie Marshall                             

Margareta Saari                          

Menka Gupta                              

Dian Hierschel                              

Kashmira Patel                            

Christina Miles                             

Inge von Roos                              

Sam Siegel                                     

Gina Hockett                                



Linda Newnham                         

Enikö Fabian                                 

Dorota Żerańska                         

Shalini Austin                               

Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens          

Silke Groeber                               

Birgit Klughardt                           

Rebecca Anderson                    

Niky Sayers                                   

Stefanie Teufel                           



Rosantia Petkova                       

Alenka Obid                                  

Jacqueline Keller                        

Sam Waghorn                              

Jackie Ryan                                   

Kumi Fisher                                   

Joan Williams                               

Stephanie Weiss                         

Elsbeth Fuchs                               

Johanna Nash                                        http://



Natascha Marty                          

Sarah Goode                                

Agata Grygiel                               

Jeannine Vetsch-Bokstaller        

Rebecca Sirevaag                       

Magdalena Sikora                      

Ana Krepel                                    

Saskia Letta                                   

Beth Emery                                   

Lizzie Clarke                                  



Evie and Beth McCord              

Marcia Dunne                              

Agi Kiss                                           

Esterina Jagiella                           

Judith Johnston                          

Jenny Vidberg                             

Klaudia Toth                                 

Merja Sundström                       

Colleen Vinthagen                     

Leah Curtis                                    



Giorgia Rossini                             

Sandra Wollberg                         ‎

Annica Larsson                            

Johana Nunez                              

Krafty Max                                    

Lori Schneider                              

Mary Govaars                              

Mischelle Andrade Fanucchi  

Maddison Langford                   

Ginger Bishop                              



Birgitta Lejonklou                       

Lesley Watt                                   

Doris Stumpf                                

Marjolein Trewavas                  

Silvia Sernicola                             

Roxanne Blanc                             

Wendy Chamberlain                 

Siobhán Keogh                            

Claire Fabian                                 

Katrin Fenzke                               



Eva Wills                                         

Kathy Lindemer                          

Bridget Torres                              

Marina Passarella                       

Christina Hickman                      

Tammie Everly                             

Ana Cravidao                                

Keren Panthaki                           

Jennifer VaBenschoten           



Solange Collin                              

Marina Kosović                            

Michelle Tucker                          

Sue Rennie                                   

Claire Lockwood                         

Barb Solem                                   

Caroline Dewison                       

Noemi Baena Roman                

Marsela Schroth                         



Amy Severino                              

Vonna Maslanka                         

Andra Marasteanu                    

Cherrie Warzocha                      

Amanda Wacasey                      

Marcy Lamberson                      

Lisa Johnson                                 

Gail Vanderster-Zwang            

Laurie Keefe-Cecere                 

Asri Wahyuningsih                     




Laurie Ament                               

Lilik Kristiani                                  

Stephanie Haussler                   

Deb Fortin                                     

Kelly Hosford Patterson          

Katy Heider                                   

Christine Stonefield                  

Dagmar Liebisch                          

Sandra McGriff                            



Sheila Daniels                               

Rossana De Gaspari                   

Cory Tompkins                            

Sonya Stille                                   

Judy Riggs                                      

Lora Bright                                     

Tina Noonan                                 

Shawn Price                                  

April Grinaway                             

Cheryl Roe                                    



Pam Hurst                                     

Shirley Moore                              

Emmanuelle Roué                     

Tammy Adams                            

Kristin Oppold                              

Catie Doman                                

Sheila Prosterman                     

Cheryl Foiles                                 

Stephanie Perry                          

Barbara Fernald                          



Debi Dufrene                               

Kathy Stemke                              

Anne Betenson                           

Chris Haussler                              

Catherine King                             

Andria Poole                                

Sherri Stokey                               

Sharyl King                                    

Donna Millard                              

Gayle Dyck                                    



Gen Smith                                     

Deanna Cox                                  

Beti Horvath                                 

Rose Rushbrooke                       

Arlene Dean                                 

Maria Rosa Sharrow                  

Deborah Apodaca                      

Veralynne Malone                     

Stacy Alderson                            

Eva Sherman                                



Cassi Paslick                                  

Cindy Boissonneault                    

Linda Sadler                                  

Louise Glazier                              

Susan McClelland                       

Kathrin Lembke                          

Susanne Stelljes                          

Terry Jeanette Carter                  

Susan Kelly                                    



Kim Paige                                       

Dyanne Everett-Cantrell         

Annita Wilson                              

Tracey Leeder                              

Elizabeth Bunn                            

Allison Fitzpatrick                       

Tania Spivey                                 

Ilenia Ruzza                                   

Lauren Potts                                 

Lynn Jobber                                  



Lee Koopman                              

Carol Wilson                                 

Elizabeth Woodford                  

Deb McKinnis                               

Rochelle Brisson                         

Shari Replogle                              

Janeen Sorensen                       

Kat Barron Miller                        

Elaine Robitaille                                     http:/

Darlene Fortier                            



Leslie Schenkel                            

Kym Hunter                                  

Leslie Wayment                          

Beckie Robison                            

Hannah Trost                               

Kim Hutchinson                           

Liz Engriser                                    

Diah Anggreni                              

Monique Urquhart                    

Kim Williams                                 



Theresa Buchle                           

Susan Bowie                                 

Pam DeBoer                                 

Skylar Bre’z                                   

Janet Loomis                                

Tari Kahrs                                       

Nancy Smith                                 

Erin Grant                                      

Barbara Mason                            

Karin King                                      



Mary K. McGraw                        

Mandi Ainsworth                       

Jasvanti Patel                               

Donna Conklin                             

Karen Jones                                  

Lori Finney                                    

Sheila Davis                                   

Sabine Dittrich                             



Nicole Valentine Rimmer        

Marge Beebe                               

Michelle McCarthy                    

Chandra Merod                          

Nancy Olliver                                

Alison Sachs                                  

Kay Mallery                                   

Beth Petricoin                              

Marta Grabalowska                   

Clare Etheridge                           



Heather Marston                       

Ann Rishell                                              Http://

Cece Cormier                               

Shannon German                       

Mary Ellen Merrigan                 

Cheryl Brown                               

Mary Hicks                                    

Judy Robinson                             

Danielle Kelley                             

Cate van Alphen                         



Patricia Buchanan                       

Billi R.S. Rothove                         

Laura Blanck                                 

Pam Traub                                     

Fay Wolfenden                           

Kristi Harrison                              

Karen Martinez                           

Sarah Singer                                 

Megan Tillery                               

Dana James                                  



Rachel Stewart                            

Valerie Cook                                 

Debra Gibson                               

Pat Haight                                      

Rachel Stanley                             

Sandra Pendragon                     

Anja Schultz                                  

Sharon Driscoll                             

Lecia Woessner                           

Kitty Durmaj                                 



Donetta Farrington                    

Bonnie Coursolle                        

Laurie Wirth                                  

Lori Callahan                                 

B.R. Kuhlman                               

Karin Grosset Grange               

Rebekah Payne                           

Lori Bowring Michaud               



Jael Thorp                                      

Patty Woodland                          

Eleanor Burian-Mohr                

Susanna Lehto                             

June Butt                                       

Melissa Muir                                

Laney Mead                                 

Tamera Norris                              

Andrea Trank                               



Marie Covert                                

Valerie Tilghman                         

Jean Baldridge Yates                 

Sierra Barrett                               

Patricia Robitaille                        

Leanne Loftus                              

Sally Russick                                  

Mallory Hoffman                        

Dini Bruinsma                               

Marde Lowe                                 



Hannah Annear                           

Patty Johnson                              

Valerie Norton                            

Ann Sherwood                            

Staci Smith                                    

Jen Purple                                     

Ruth Szapa                                    

CJ Bauschka                                  

Karla Morgan                               

Suz Hamel                                     



Laura Guenther                          

Elisabeth Auld                              

Martha Aleo                                 

Shiraz Biggie                                 

Brendalee Astells                          

Heather d’Entremont                   

Kelly Morgan                                

Lori Blanchard                              



Susan Kennedy                           

Rain Hannah                                 

Janice Warden Bergeron         

Melissa Packer                            

Jana Haverty                                

Cindy Ritchie                                

Marianne Baxter                        

Denise McCabe                           

Sharon Palac                                 

Cathy Buckley                              



Jennifer Van Horn                      

Crystal Rector                              

Susan Walls                                   

Penny Neville                              

Lisa Cone                                       

Heather Davis                              

Michelle Escano                          

Carmen Lau                                  

Janet Borzecki                             

Rhonda Hagerman                     



Katrina Taylor                               

Molly Alexander                         

Nicole Rennell                             

Chris McGilvery                           

Erin Prais-Hintz                            

Dawn Williams                             

Kate Dufour                                  

Robin Lynne Showstack           

Elizabeth Hodges                        



Adlinah Kamsir                            

Carol Dillman                                

Christine Hansen                        

Andrea Frank                               

Tracy Stillman                               

Denise Petersen                         

Veronica Campos-Hallstrom       

Madonna Liza Cruz-Comia      

Suzann Sladcik Wilson              



Terri Gauthier                              

Alicia Marinache                         

Barbara Bechtel                          

Hannah Rosner                           

Keren von Hoeren                      

Lea Avroch                                    

Maire Dodd                                  







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