Monthly Archives: February 2010

Magnet school

My first attempt at designing my own magnetic clasps had mixed results. When it came time to epoxy the magnets in place, there were more failures than successes. But I learned a LOT! I followed the instructions from Hattie Sanderson’s  Maglette kit, and I fully expected that the fired metal clay would shrink to the right size to hold the magnet in place and close the clasp. What I did not think about was the fact that the clay might shrink too much and the magnets would show.  I fired the pieces for 2 hours at 1650º to insure the most strength in the clasps. I now know that there is more shrinkage than I am used to when I fire pieces this way. It might be a good idea to design a little collar, for one side of the clasp to overlap the other. That would insure the magnet coverage, even with the clay shrinkage.

Below, an example of putting one of the magnets in upside down. Duh. The clasp could not close because the two magnets repelled each other.

Below, again with too much shrinkage to accommodate the magnets. (These strong magnets are pretty thin by the way.) These clasps made me think about having mussels or clams for dinner sometime soon.

One that worked:

So, back to the drawing board. Necklaces with a magnetic clasp are one of my best sellers. Especially for people with arthritis. Undaunted, I  will work on improving these designs!


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I’ll never look at a dead fly the same way again

I don’t know who the original artist is, but these were sent to me in an e-mail by my friend Stevie Quinn, mom of Meg. I was looking for something fun to post as I work on oxidizing and finishing the clasps I fired before my trip to Boston. These fit the bill!

Next time you have some extra time and dead flies, why not make some art?


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A late afternoon walk on the beach… …

…made me forget whatever was bothering me earlier today. As the tide went out, miniature rivers showed up in the sand; their banks catching the  light of the setting sun. Balm for the soul.


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The long tale of learning to make friends with 14 gauge fine silver wire

Last night I became encouraged by additional success with fusing fine silver  jump rings.

I attached one to a PMC3 oval to use as a clasp. Rather than fuse the jump ring in place, after firing the PMC clasp, I tried cutting a small wedge out of the leather hard PMC oval,  placed the jump ring on, and then moistened the wedge’s edges and slid  it back into place. This is a technique from Kate McKinnon’s book  Structural Metal Clay that I wanted to try.

So far so good, but I needed a hook for the other half of this clasp, and this is where the 14 gauge wire felt less than friendly. In trying to make a simple wire-wrapped loop with thicker wire, my pliers felt foreign. I tried to correct  the curves I didn’t like, and the hook looked worse! I can make these wrapped loops in my sleep with 20 gauge wire, but I remember how frustrating it was to learn at first. What is easy now, I had to do many times, before it became that way. So I kept trying, making what looked like super-sized French ear wires, until I thought to try fusing the end loop instead of wrapping it.

The humble progression:

And the as-yet-unfired PMC clasp:

I went to bed last night thinking that Mr. 14 gauge and I were great friends. This morning I made 11 hooks to fuse, and 11 figure-8 loops to match them. I had fusing confidence as I lit my torch after lunch. It turned out that the hook with the perfect little fused loop on the end was a nice piece of beginner’s luck.

Another humble progression:

Undaunted, I knew I could drill out the spots where the wire had melted to completely fill in the smaller loop. And my work-hardened friend was once again pliant after being annealed by the heat from the fusing process. With some shaping and hammering I ended up with a few new clasps I will be happy to use. I imagine I will learn to be more comfortable in using this heavier gauge wire, and  alreay I’m not in such a rush to order the 16 gauge I thought I was missing.

After fusing my way through these clasps, I tried a few more jump rings to have on hand. I’m happy to say they are getting a little easier each time.

It has been a while since I’ve spent this much time with my torch. I keep it in my basement work room, where I also do my soldering and keep my drill press for drilling rocks. Today I picked up some fired copper clay pieces that had been sitting on this workbench since early last fall. Abandoned earring components. Maybe I though they were too thin? Maybe the rest of that kiln batch had not sintered properly? I couldn’t really remember how I had planned to use them. Perhaps they just seemed too plain. I decided to take them upstairs to my studio to see what would happen if I hammered them. Would they harden, crumble, or crack?  Well, they hardened quite nicely. And as I set them down on my bench, next to the rest of my work from today, darned if they didn’t become another idea for a clasp!


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I like tiny.

Things that are smaller than life, yet have all the right details. Like my tiny refrigerator. (My husband added the tiny grocery list and tiny photo of the Dali Lama as a tiny joke when I was out of the room!)

With its tiny food inside:

And a vintage set of tiny pots and pans from my friends Miklos and Clare:

Now that I have my Etsy shop up and running. I needed some new business cards that listed my blog site and my Etsy site. I had seen some small business cards in a shop in Baltimore, and then saw a comment about small cards on someone’s blog.  I didn’t remember where I saw the company mentioned,  but I did remember the name.  Moo Cards.  These were just what I was looking for and more. Photo business cards that would fit inside a small jewelry box with a pair of earrings.  I chose 16 different photos to use, but I could have chosen up to 100 different images and it still would have only cost $19.99.  I am super happy with the weight of the card stock and how these cards turned out. And they’re tiny!


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Visual for my friend Holly

All of the 14 gauge rings (in the back) fused.  But they are too chunky for me right now. (Soon to be hammered and become some stand-by necklace or earring element.)  The rings in front are 18 gauge wire, I then hammered them with one or two strikes. The ones that didn’t fuse broke right apart at the seam.  The others…usable, but OMG they weren’t perfect on my first try! (Ha ha) If I had tried 20 gauge, it would have melted for sure.  Yup. The 16 gauge will be the one to try. Practice should help too.


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Of course it was a better day

Today = Clasps. I bought one of Hattie Sanderson’s  Maglette kits at the Metal Clay World Conference in Chicago last summer and I finally got around to using it, today.  Nothing is fired yet, but I am experimenting and it felt great to spend a whole day in the studio.

Magnet holders have a male and female side, making one of them deeper than the other. Once they are fired, the thin, but very strong magnets will be secured in holders with a chemical bond. (Ha ha. That’s just a fancy way of saying glue or epoxy.)  My own design challenge is to fit them inside a bead or other form. I have a lot to learn about how to best make these work for me.

Inside a lentil bead looks like it will be a good basic design for a lot of the necklaces I make.

I think this one will sit funny when it is strung, but I’ll fire it anyway to try it out. It would have been better to attach “holders” directly to the sides, rather than slipping wires under a decorative top piece.

I have a total of eight magnet holders to work with for this kiln firing. I hope the design below will work out well for some of my beach rock necklaces. This was using one of the smallest magnet holders, which may mean it won’t be strong enough for rocks. But maybe some pearls?


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Just one of those days

This morning I was so excited to be home on the island for three full days; looking at finally settling down to work in the studio. Time to make some clasps and come up with some new designs. But there were phone calls to catch up on after being away, and the 2009 tax info to finish gathering, both mine for my jewelry business and Bruce’s for his lobster business. (Why didn’t I put learning to use Excel or something like it on my list of resolutions? )  Blech. All those numbers and details, and phone conversations. Time consuming in a way I detest.

By the time I got to work in the studio it was after 2 p.m. I sat at my super clean bench and tried to come up with some simple toggle clasp designs. Damned if I didn’t get those little loops in the wrong place, and I just hated everything I made. As I started to finally get settled down, Bruce wanted to go for a walk before it got dark. Yes, I needed some exercise, and I love my walks with my husband, but the fresh air did nothing for my mood, and my walk today was more like going for a stomp. (I’m amazed this man had the patience to walk next to me!)

It is fun to blog about things when they are going well. But on a day like this, when I read other people’s blogs, I feel like I am a total loser who never made a decent piece of jewelry in her life! Who am I to think I can do this?

So, how do I pull something good out of one of those  yucky days? I think the trick is to be a little easier on myself. It wasn’t a whole day, it was just two hours. That was half the problem. I had envisioned much more time to work on my “own” things, so having just two hours was frustrating. Tomorrow morning I will have a fresh start at 8 or 9 a.m. and I’ll have some new sketches to work from. Hmmm…sketches I drew as a result of my  failures this afternoon…. Most likely I will be able to stay in the studio for the whole day, and then really enjoy my walk in the late afternoon. I will also let the answering machine do its job until at least after lunch so I don’t lose time on the phone.

Yup. Today was just one of those days. And if you were having one too, then I’m in good company. Let’s get a good night’s sleep and try for a better day  tomorrow. Misery may love company, but it is also optional.


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A tip for dealing with those tiny pearl holes

As I pack my bags to catch an early flight home from Baltimore tomorrow, I want to center myself on jewelry designs to get ready for work when I get home. One plan is to make some knotted necklaces with the resin beads and freshwater pearls.

I experimented with some of the new resin beads, to make a necklace to bring to Baltimore, only to find out that I was having trouble with my color combinations. Nothing really appealed to me. (Although I really do like the way the afternoon light is shining through that blue resin!!)

Maybe moving away from the rose color into a more peachy tone would help the combination…

Taking another tact with bone beads of brown and white…

I think that the yellow beads were throwing me off. I’m just not someone who can wear yellow. (I have some ideas percolating for those cool yellow resin babies when I get home. They just won’t be worn by me!)

I made this necklace, wore it this weekend, and will probably be taking it apart  when I get home. It’s just  not there yet…

Love the bone beads with the pearls, love the blue resin, just not sure I love them all together.

But the one thing that makes all of this stringing and unstringing tolerable and even fun, is having pearls I can use on the heavy nylon stringing cord I prefer for knotted pieces.

“Where can one find pearls with large enough holes” I used to ask? It is a huge pain in the butt to try to use a bead reamer, even if it has a battery, to ream out larger holes pearl by pearl. And, have you ever tried to hold on to one of those suckers to drill a larger hole with a flex shaft drill  bit? Good luck.

I devised a solution that works well for me, and it helps to hold several pearls in place as I work on them. I line them up on a smaller saw blade (1/0 or 2/0), place it in my jeweler’s saw, and saw in a little circle while holding each pearl. If the pearl slips out of my fingers, it is not going anywhere. I can pick up where I left off and just gently keep working at it. The best part is that it doesn’t require a lot of concentration. It is a “TV job” to work my way through enlarging the holes on a string of pearls. (Meaning I can watch TV while I’m doing it so it hardly feels like work.) It does help to keep a dishtowel or rag in your lap to collect the pearl dust.

This really works for me and I’m glad to share it. Whether making larger holes for stringing or for adding the pearls to 20 gauge wire as earring components, you  might want to try it yourself.

(Yes, it’s the middle one I’ll be able to use in a knotted necklace with #5 Stringth from Rio Grande.)


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Still in Baltimore

Still having a great time. Last night we walked in the snow to go out to dinner at the restaurant, Salt. The duck fat french fries with three kinds of aioli were a hit. So was the rest of the meal. If you’re in Baltimore, don’t miss this gem.

Today we had brunch at Karen and Hugh’s. A chance for Stephanie’s parents to meet Robin’s cousins and their children, before they headed back to Connecticut.

It is firmly established that Robin and Stephanie’s wedding will be on Islesford! Most likely the weekend after Labor Day. Still to be decided whether that will be in the year 2010 or 2011…

Meanwhile, at brunch, a diversion while the love of my life tried to teach his grandniece to wink!


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