Monthly Archives: June 2010

Speeding up bead production

One of the things I like best about using Precious Metal Clay is that it gives me the ability to make fine silver beads without soldering. I make a lot of the same design beads, though I strive to vary the combinations with other beads so that my necklaces are one of a kind or limited editions.

I’m always looking for ways to speed up bead production, especially for hollow formed  lentil-shaped beads.  All over my studio I have a variety of items I use to drape the clay discs, creating the convex shape I want, as they dry.  I use upside down plastic watercolor palette trays. I also use my own silicone domes. These both work very well, though I usually need to leave the clay halves in place for hours waiting for them to dry enough to hold their curve so I can I transfer them to a cup warmer for the final drying process.  I can speed up the initial drying process with a hair dryer, but I always end up blowing stuff around on my bench and creating a mess. I know, I know. A food dehydrator would be very helpful, but I just don’t want to spend the money and I have a tiny studio. Where would I put it? The silicone domes and the watercolor palettes take up enough room already.

Two nights ago I had an Aha! moment. What if I took some 24 gauge silver discs and dapped them to use for the domed draping surfaces? I could use a spatula to transfer them to and from the cup warmer, and the metal domes would transfer heat to the clay, drying the bead halves ever so quickly. They would also be stackable, taking up much less storage space when not in use!  (Lucky for me that I already had a steel dapping block, and some silver discs lying around from my pre metal clay days.)

The combination of  metal domes and cup warmer dried the clay in minutes.

Beads ready to fire:


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Now, where did I put that…..


“Aggravure”   Baptiste Debomburg


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Summer solstice sunset

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Summer begins

(Our internet service went down as I was finishing this post last night. Glad to have it back after what seemed like a long wait this morning.)

I spent part of my day off the island to visit Mom and go to a doctor’s appointment. Bar Harbor was pretty packed with people, creating parking challenges that will last into September. But you know, the energy feels fresh, so bring on summer!  Bring on the lobster eaters and the jewelry buyers!

Once I got home, there was a community dinner at the Islesford Dock Restaurant to discuss the comprehensive plan for the Town of Cranberry Isles. Restaurant owners, Dan and Cynthia Lief treated everyone to a dinner of pasta with bolognese sauce, green salad and chocolate cake for dessert. It was nice to see such a good turnout of people from both of the islands. Thank you Dan and Cynthia, and thank you especially to Lise Pratt  and her committee for sticking with this project for 6 years!

Opening night at the Islesford Dock Restaurant is tomorrow. (Saturday) That means that Sue Hill’s shop, Winter’s Work is open as well.

Here are a few of the necklaces I dropped off at the shop:  (Plenty of earrings too, I just didn’t take time to photograph them.)

Don’t you just love these patina-ted copper components made by Shannon LeVart of Miss Ficklemedia? Her Etsy site is one of my favorite places to shop for beads.

Check out the handsome crew of chefs at the dock. The photo is from last year, but most of this group is back again to whip up some amazing dishes for your dining pleasure at the Islesford Dock.

I’m the proud mother of the guy on the right.

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Photos I meant to take…

…of the Lucite and fine silver earrings from 2 days ago.  When my friend Holly Kellogg asked about the earwires today, I took the opportunity to try for better photos of the earrings, and to show the backs as well.


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Carved Cold Mold

The other day I did this:

So I could make these:

To combine with Lucite flower beads to make these earrings:


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If you stop at the Irving truck stop in Newport, Maine…

…be sure to look for one of my favorite land marks:


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Note to self: NEVER AGAIN put your Argentium wire away, next to your fine silver wire!!    Jeeze what an expensive and frustrating mistake.

After two productive days of making toggle clasps, I had visions of spending some very happy time at my stringing bench. (Where I always keep my Argentium wire…I thought. Its on the other side of the room from my metal clay bench.) I opened the kiln and was shocked to realized that what I thought was fine silver wire had turned black and weak during the 2 hour firing. All of these bits broke off easily from their pieces. There was no resurrecting this mistake.

AArgh! All my own fault too. When I looked at the coils of fine silver wire that I keep by my metal clay bench, I discovered a misplaced coil of Argentium silver in with the fine silver. I had not bothered to read the tag, other than to look at the gauge I wanted. From now on I will never assume that all of the coils of my fine silver wire are not partying with their silent sterling sisters while I am away.  I was sure I had kept them separate….but I should have double checked.

All was not lost, since the 16 gauge wire I used was most definitely fine silver.

But boy, do I hate learning lessons the hard way!


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Necessity, the mother of you know what

I like to make my own texture plates to create an interesting surface design on my metal clay beads. I make most of these plates with Cold Mold from Rio Grande. The two-part silicone molding compound is perfect for picking up textures from leaves, shells, bark, plants, just about anything you can imagine.

When my sister-in-law, Karen, visited me in January, she brought a carving tool and some soft white rubbery substance, that she used to carve blocks for printing. She left them with me, and I carved out a few different designs that I  have used in some metal clay pieces.

I liked the carving enough that, in April, I bought more of what I thought was the same white substance.  When I opened up the package, drew a design on the piece, and started to carve…ICK!  It was defintiely not the same stuff. Little shreds of rubber were rubbing off the block as if it were some kind of super shedding eraser. This would not do at all!

The earrings I was planning to make required a silver clay component with a kind of “viney” design. I knew I wanted to carve it, but the new rubber was a mess. I looked all over my studio to see if I had any more of the carving stuff Karen had given me. I thought to myself, “There must be something here that would be easy to carve, and would not lose surface integrity.  Wouldn’t it be great to also carve a block that wouldn’t stick to metal clay?”

I flipped over several of my Cold Mold™ silicone texture plates to see if any of the surfaces were smooth enough to carve. I might not have thought of it if they weren’t sitting right in front of me. I was determined to have this particular texture at this particular time, so I started to carve the back side.

It worked!  It carved so easily, and I doubled the usability of my original molded texture plate.  The silicone might not be the best material to hold ink for block printing, but it will sure make a nice impression in metal clay, without sticking.

I usually don’t pay much attention to the back side of the silicone when I am making a mold of something. I just plunk a steel block on top to weigh it down while it cures, oblivious to air bubbles, dirt, or whatever might be on the unusable side.  In my future molds, I’ll be careful to put a piece of plexiglass or something smooth on top before placing a weight. That way I’ll have a molded texture on one side with a smooth carving surface on the flip side. Two textures in one piece!

So, I’m wondering. Did I just come upon a whole new use for Cold Mold™ silicone, or am I just getting around to discovering something that everyone else already knew?  Not that it matters. I’m just happy to have figured it out.


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Two-sided oval ring thingy

I made this last month when I was working on some toggle clasps and some fine silver spacer beads. Whenever I work with metal clay, I end up making extra components to have on hand. I might not have a specific design for them at the time, but I’ll get around to figuring out a way to use them. It’s the same with the silver beads I make. One can never have too many extras to choose from.

As I made the piece, and as it sat on my bench waiting for inspiration, I kept thinking about using seed beads for the connecting loops.

Working with the seed beads and trying an asymmetric design for the resulting necklace took me way out of my comfort zone.

But the necklace is not uncomfortable to wear, and I like the mix of handmade silver beads and African glass.

Talk about bead ADD. You should have seen my bench after stringing and restringing this a dozen times or more. What a mess of bead piles!  The next time I make these ovals I will make several. I am planning another necklace with reversible ovals, seed bead loops, and a comfortably repetitious design.


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