Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Component of the Month REVEAL!

Woo-hoo! Today, it's time for the Component of the Month reveal for February - and I cannot tell you how much I have been looking forward to this! This past month, I provided one of these enameled and fine silver-accented discs to each of my fellow Art Jewelry Elements contributors and to five of our readers chosen at random.

And now we get to see what everyone has done with them. I'm a little nervous and a lot excited - I've only ever provided my components to other jewelers once before, and have never had a chance to see what was done with them, so while the Component of the Month reveals are always a lot of fun, this one feels like a big deal to me.

So without further ado, please take a moment to "hop" on over to these participating blogs and see the final results!

Participating AJE Contributors

Jenny Davies-Reazor -
Susan Kennedy -
Linda Landig -
Francesca Watson -

Guest Designers

Sandi Volpe -

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spikes, studs, pyramids, and gumdrops.

You must be asking yourself what the heck is she talking about?  Well if you are a bit on the funky side like me you have seen all of these around but if not let me introduce you all to my latest Czech bead obsessions.
First it requires a bit of background though.  I got it straight from Perry "The Spike King" of yorkbeads himself when I asked him to give me a blurb about his inspiration.
"We were a fashion garment district company, in a dwindling mfg world.  I notice the surge in bead embroidery and Laura McCabe was a customer.  Street wear peaking and Laura self inflicted influence got me to push for spike which Czechs were reluctant to make due to breakage
Gumdrops ended being a certain one day visionary after thought again catering to bead embroidery boom. And gumdrop I would say more original idea as less edgy but seem to fit into spike group
And now pyramid and 12mm stud with new 8mm stud in works.  All a progression in a hard economy marketing pressed beads in a more handmade fashion"
These are my absolute favorites.  They are called gumdrops.  Don't they look good enough to eat?  They are 7mm x 10mm Czech glass.  I think they are the sweetest.  Here are a couple of pieces I have made using them.
This design is by Kerrie Slade and is actually offered as a free pattern on the Bead and Button Page here.
And of course because I am all about sets I had to have a necklace to match and this is an adaptation of a pattern by Beads By Becs.
I am also working on finishing my own tutorial for the gumdrops so I will give you a sneaky peak.
See why I am so inspired?  They are fun and oh so funky.
Then there are the spikes.
These are baby spikes they are 5mm x 8mm and I think they are so cute and sweet.  Just enough funky but still able to make cuteness.  (I can not show you my cuteness until July.......)
Then if you are really looking for some more substantial spikey goodness take a peak at these.
The other ranges in size for spikes are 5x13, 7x17 and even a 12x18 mega spike.  Oh yeah baby!!
I used the 7mmx17mm to make this pendant using Beads by Becs pattern.
And now the latest coming out are Studs and Pyramids!  Yep I nearly fell out of my chair when I got a peek at these! I can not wait to get my hands on these!!!!
So where can you get these amazing fun beads?
Yorkbeads which is a wholesale company or at Beadstalkers.  I know there are more places but I haven't had the pleasure of purchasing from others so I listed those I have.
I hope you enjoyed this little journey.  I would love to hear your thoughts on these beads.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

March Component of the Month - Giveaway!

It's my first turn at the Component of the Month challenge, and I'm really excited! I've been thinking about what I was going to make for you since Christmas - at first I thought that I'd make a spring-themed clasp or connector, maybe a leaf shape, but, well, I kind of already covered that in my Soldering Tips blog post last week! So I decided to make some hollow beads instead. I've got addicted to making hollow beads in all shapes and sizes recently. One of my college evening classes have to make a hollow bead pendant as one of their assessment pieces, and teaching them how to make them made me get really interested again in all the different ways they can be created. So, here they are!

These lentil-shaped beads started life as pairs of textured discs. They have holes on opposite sides, and measure approximately 15mm in diameter. I've given them a soft antiqued patina, which is my favourite finish on copper. There are four different textures - circles, hammered, flowers and dotty.

So the question is, would you like to win one?!

Here's how the giveaway, challenge, and blog-hop will work (please read all the information carefully!):

  • I will give away 1 component to each of 5 winners selected randomly from those who leave comments below this post before Friday midday eastern time. I'll choose the pattern, so you'll be surprised!
  • Please include your EMAIL address in your comment so that I can contact you ASAP should you win.
  • Please (PLEASE) only leave a comment if you can commit to creating a finished piece and blogging about it on the reveal date.
  • The names of the 5 winners will be announced on Friday evening, 1st March 2013.
  • The blog reveal will be on Sunday morning, 31st March 2013.
So if you want to be entered to receive one of these discs, leave a comment below (with your e-mail address, please!) and check back here on Friday evening to see if you've been selected!
Good luck!

Monday, February 25, 2013


This isn't what I was originally going to post about, I was actually trying a completely different Polymer Clay technique but I couldn't get it to work. I got sort of close but not close enough to to be successful. I'm not a polymer clay artist and I think I was biting off way more than I could chew, maybe I'll try it again after I have more experience under my belt.
 Sometimes things just don't go as planned

This morning I was working on my Copper Clay and came up with something new!!

I First made them in Copper, but they use a lot of Clay so may not be cost effective, but they are so cool!!! So I thought try them in Polymer Clay!!
So that's what I did!

I started with Neutrals

Then I started playing with colors.
Some I already had mixed for other projects.

Very neutral, I think I may end up painting these or using alcohol inks for different color effects.

I'm really excited about these new pieces,
 I've been wanting to try some PC for a long time so I'm really happy to have finally done it!
I have a million bead ideas swirling around in my head I can't wait to play some more!

I'd love to know what you think?
Like don't like, colors, shapes sizes, too thick too thin??? Lay it on me!!

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed seeing more of my never ending experimentations!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Nice to meet you.... the ACC Fine Craft Show in Baltimore

This past Friday I had the chance to attend the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, MD. If you are not familiar with the ACC they are " national, nonprofit educational organization founded in 1943...  to promote understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft... Their website is a wealth of fantastic articles and resources. Their shows - 4 across the country annually - are premier events. And the ACC publishes the magazine "American Craft" which I find interesting and inspiration across mediums. 

My friend Marsha and I headed up Friday morning, and spent a full day there - managing to walk the whole show of 650 artists. Marsha and I both work in clay, so clay and jewelry were our focus - and we neglected giving a detailed look to many fabulous fiber, wood, and glass artists. There simply wasn't time.... 

It is a wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with the artists. When I do arts festivals - I meet and chat with my customers; we all do... so when the shoe is on the other foot! When I get to talk glaze with Valerie Bunnell, or ivory with Lisa Cylinder... what a treat! Let me introduce you to some of the jewelry artists I had the pleasure of meeting. Some I knew previously through their work, others were brand new to me... 

Kathleen Dustin - If there was a Queen of Polymer I think it would be Kathleen. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to her - and we never even discussed the clay! But I have known her work since the late 80's and to chat - a pleasure!
real wood, polymer faux stones. 
"Seed Bead" - polymer and pearls. 

"Nigella pod" wrist purse. 8"

Lisa and Scott Cylinder/Chickenscratch Jewelry  - Whimsical, intelligent pieces with a focus on reclaimed materials. There was a story in each piece - and it enriched the experience to hear them! The reclaimed piano parts, ivory and the challenges it presents, we even talked music, and hair... 
Vintage enameled watch face as birds head - pierced on the back to reveal numbers. 

Jackie Haines - Lovely seed bead work, at times incorporating PMC components also. 

Brandon Holschuh - Organic designs in metal, reminiscent of pods and geodes. His booth and display was one of the best of the day. I flipped through his book -The Jeweler's Studio Handbook -  while Marsha was chatting with him. Clear, interesting, may have to add it to my wish list. 

Stacey Lee Webber - jeweler/sculptor working with coinage and hardware... 
Mercury Dime pendant
Screw necklace. 
Abe's lucky locket ring

Roberta and David Williamson - Fantastical, stunning mixed media pieces integrating antique images, found objects... 

There was so much to see, and just fantastic work exhibited. If you are in the mood for more, browse the list of artists at the ACC site. And I will be doing a series of posts on my blog with more artists and more work from  the show - please stop by!

Do you ever attend shows like these? Tell me your thoughts.  What artists do you wish you could meet and chat with? 


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Share - Embossing Metal with the Sizzix BigShot

It's no secret I love textured metal...hammered, punched, stamped, etched, embossed. My 1st foray into the arena of texturing metal was by hitting it really hard with my chasing hammer...I didn't really know what I was doing, but it made cool divots in the surface, and I was immediately addicted.  Plus, it felt really good to pound the hammer against the poor metal, leaving a lasting mark!

I eventually went to metal stamps, which deceptively a lot harder than it looked...I could never get a complete design, and when I would try a second hit, I got a lot of shadow images!

Next was etching...I like the result, but it is messy. 

Next, after falling in love with Keirsten Giles' gorgeous stamped designs, came hammering brass texture plates directly onto the metal.  Her generous posts on using vintage coins actually opened my eyes to more possibilities...also, she stressed the fact that you needed to anneal the metal and tape it down to your steel block so it doesn't move!  Why didn't I think of that!  I still love this technique and use it frequently!

Next, I became drawn to gorgeous designs by various artists created by using ordinary textures found in nature...leaves, lace, screen mesh, etc.  This, I found out, entails using a rolling mill.  Want!  But, yikes, the least expensive ones are expensive!  Like so many of us, I was/am broke! 

Fast forward to seeing a blog posts by Erin Prais-Hintz about her Vintaj Big Kick.  I was intrigued and interested, but not so much in using the thin brass Vintaj blanks that were recommended.  I wanted to use metal sheet, and I wanted it to be more durable.  Then, this past fall I came across a blog post at Cinnamon Jewellery on her experiments with the Sizzix Big Shot.  I immediately decided I wanted to give this a go.  Right before Christmas, I found it on sale at Amazon and told Hubby that he could get it for me to put under the tree or I would get it for myself.  Nice, obedient (snort) guy that he is, he got it, but wouldn't let me play with it until after Christmas!

Here it is...

 Basically, it is a rolling mill originally created for embossing paper goods and other scrapbooking crafts.  It comes with this sort of folder that enables you to place media in with the embossing templates and create a layered stack that is thick enough to press the images into the media, be it paper or metal.  The embossing folders to use are also created by Sizzix, or you can use other similar ones by other companies.  I actually found the 2 I currently have at Michaels, but there are lots more on line.

I have tried up to 22 gauge metal with great success.  The trick is to anneal the metal very well.  I usually pickle afterward so as not to stain the embossing folders with firescale and grunge!  The cool thing about these folders is that they are a bit transparent so you can see the design on top of the metal and line up the metal exactly where you want the embossing to happen.  The folder has a positive and negative design, so the finished piece is 2-sided, unlike etching and stamping.

Here are a few pieces I have created since using mine...

That's all for today...I want to do some more experimenting using texture plates and maybe some found object textures, but that will have to wait...I have an 11 yo with the dreaded flu, and 3 new baby guinea pigs to figure out!  Please share any experiences you have had with using the Big Shot or Big Kick with metal...especially non-Vintaj brass!

Happy Saturday!

Melissa Meman
Melismatic Art Jewelry
Art. Life. Love.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Freeform Friday - Sketchbooks

 Freeform Friday - just a journal, simply a sketchbook....

My current sketchbooks and journals. Yes, I have three going at once. 

My personal history. 
Metals sketchbook from college. Fall semester  1987. 

I have kept journals and sketchbooks since college - where I actually kept one for each studio class, like a kid with notebooks... And I have them all still - or most of them. When I have a creative block, when I feel my ideas are creatively stalled, I make a cup of coffee and browse. Each page, each assignment, each collage of word and image is a veritable time machine. 

The page pictured above - metals circa 1987? It was a Georgia O'Keefe inspired brooch, inlaid ebony and sterling. It was stunning - the piece was lost off the lapel of my Dads old tux jacket I wore continuously... but I am glad to have the sketch. I can recall the process, the hours put in to sanding the ebony to fit... That was my first semester of metals, too. 
Everyday everywhere sketchbook

 I carry a sketchbook with me everywhere. (above). I try to draw everyday. That lasts about a week each time I resolve to start anew. I make lists. Compulsively. I currently am using a grid pattern book, and do display layouts for shows...and I do sketch ideas! I really love my bandolier - fits the Moleskine book perfectly and holds a selection of pens. I have a smart phone - with note apps, drawing apps... and its not the same. Sure, my Iphone changed my life <tongue in cheek> but paper still is Queen!

I tend to have a journal that remains at home as well. This one will often contain collages, pictures "clipped & saved" from magazines for future reference, and true journaling if I feel the need to vent, or work through something I will write. And yes, its covered with stickers! Each book gets personalized, a collage in the front, stickers, tape tabs on pages so they are easily found. 
My current journal
collage page

This week I was thinking about books, journals, ideas, receptacles... as my current jewelry notebook is down to its last few pages. This is the book I keep on my worktable and sketch out ideas as I am working, design, solve problems, record options or variations that come to mind as I am sawing, beading....I couldn't bring myself to use the last few pages. I felt compelled to start the next book. I was going to start my Bead Soup piece, and my Challenge of Music piece - and I wanted to be free to have ideas evolve and expand. Those last few pages were limiting, finite. The new book with plenty of pages was full of possibilities, potential and room to grow. I don't have trouble finishing things in any other aspect of life - this was much more philosophical! So a new start, new ideas, and time at the bench!

Do you keep a journal? Sketchbook? What do you record? I would love to hear your thoughts... 


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Soldering Tips 3 - toggle clasp tutorial

Here it is, the third of my three posts about soldering. Are you ready to put the tips from my first two posts into action? If you haven't read them already I suggest that you read Soldering Tips 1 and Soldering Tips 2 before having a go at this tutorial, but I will take you through everything gently!

This tutorial will show you how to make an unusual toggle clasp - unusual in that the "bar" of the toggle is a daisy with a petal or leaf shaped ring for it to go through, rather than the more usual long bar through a decorated ring or donut of metal. I like my clasps to not look like clasps, as you will probably have noticed if you've visited my Etsy shop!

Anyway, to get started....

You will need:
the basic soldering kit listed in Soldering Tips 1 (although I didn't use third hand tweezers, binding wire or snips, so you can leave those out!)
small blow torch
easy and medium solder paste
chasing hammer
texturing hammer
saw and saw blades
needle file
wire cutters
round nosed pliers mandrel approx 16mm diameter
doming block and wooden punch

You will also need: approx 2cm square piece of 0.8mm sheet metal, 5cm 1.2mm wire and a scrap piece of 0.8mm wire. I have used sterling silver, but as you will see at the end of the tutorial this toggle works wonderfully with copper too.

And here's how to do it!


1. Saw a simple daisy shape from 0.8mm (20 gauge) sheet. My daisy has five petals and measures approximately 1.5cm in diameter. File to neaten the edges and hammer the flower to give it a texture.

2.  Dome the daisy gently. I used the largest cup in my doming block and used a wooden punch to help protect the hammered texture.

 3. Melt some scrap into a small ball and, when it has cooled down squeeze a small amount of medium solder paste onto the bottom of the ball - it is on there honest! You wouldn't believe the number of photos I took to try and get a decent view of the solder! If you need a reminder of how to melt scrap into a ball, have a look at my stud earrings tutorial here.

4. Place the ball in the middle of the daisy and solder it in place. Remember that it is the heat of the metal that causes the solder to melt and flow, not the heat of the flame, and the daisy is a much larger piece of metal than the ball is. Heat the petals first, moving the flame in circles around the flower. As the metal takes on a dark reddish tinge (not bright red, that's getting too hot!) move the flame over the centre but keep it moving until the solder melts and flows. Quench, pickle and rinse the flower.

5. Form a small U from 0.8mm wire and place a tiny amount of easy solder onto each tip - again, it is there, honest!

6. Solder the U in place in the middle of the bottom of the daisy as shown, again remembering to heat the flower first as that's the bigger piece of metal. Use insulated reverse-action tweezers to hold the U in place and (this is the bit that takes the most practice) keep the U still while you remove the heat and the solder becomes solid again otherwise it could slip out of place.

7. Cut two 2.5cm lengths of 1.2mm (16 gauge) wire and bend them around a 16mm mandrel - I've used one of my wooden doming punches. You can see that I'm making lots of leaves at once here!

8. Place the pair of bent wires on a soldering brick to form a leaf or petal as shown.

9. Place a generous amount of easy solder paste at each tip. You have to be generous with the solder here as the joins aren't perfect - this is a rare time to ignore the rule that I gave in Soldering Tips 2!

10. Heat the leaf to melt the solder. Keep the flame moving across the middle of the shape and move to each tip in turn as the metal starts to turn red.

11. Use the torch to direct the solder to where you want it to go. Remember that the solder will flow to the hottest part of the metal. In the case of the join I have circled I obviously had the left hotter than the right and so the solder flowed onto that side of the bottom join. I should have compensated by heating up the bottom right more until the solder flowed over there. I added a little more easy solder, heated again and got a good join second time around. Quench, pickle and rinse your work.

12. Hammer the leaf flat and give it a texture if you wish.

13. File the tips round and smooth, and give it a patina if you wish.

And there you have it! I have added a jump ring to both the daisy toggle and the leaf, and (because I can rarely make just one of any new clasp design!) I have made daisies with different textures, from silver and copper, and given some a lovely shine.

I hope that this tutorial, and my previous two posts, have inspired you to give soldering ago or to pick up your blow torch again. But if you are fan of toggle clasps without the time to make your own you can find the daisy toggles I have made here in my Daisychain Extra etsy shop, and some of the other AJE team members have some beautiful toggle clasps in their shops too -

L to R: Floral Toggle by Karen Totten, Flower Burst Toggle by Kristi Bowman, Moss Green Leaf Toggle by Lesley Watt

Jo Tinley
Daisychain Designs