Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Merry-go-round

It's time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's question that myself and 7 other women will answer is - in line with it being Halloween - "What is the scariest part of your art/craft?"
That's easy for me! The scariest part is the firing of my metal clay in the kiln.

The process of my creations is that I take metal clay and form it into the shape I want by sculpting, cutting, texturing etc. I then let it dry and refine it and add parts and sand it etc etc. By this stage, I've spent quite a lot of time on it and have figured out how it will hang... how it will move.... etc etc.

Then I need to fire it in the kiln for 2 hours at 1650 degrees Farenheit. During the firing, the binder that makes it clay-like burns away and the metal sinters together to form the fine silver or bronze. As the binder burns, the piece shrinks - from 18% to 30 % depending on which clay I am using. I normally use the 30% shrinkage clay, as it's nicer to sculpt.

As it shrinks, it can also collapse if not supported correctly, it can also patina if the patina gods are shining down on the kiln that day, it can also warp, the joints can come apart as it moves in the shrinking........

With the silver, I have done enough so that I now can predict pretty successfully what will happen and how I need to support things etc. But when I started out, this wasn't always the case and I had a couple of collapses...

With new products however - like the bronze clay and copper clay that I am experimenting with - things are much less predictable. As they are both new - especially the copper, I don't think we have done enough testing yet to be sure of the best firing schedule to produce reproducible results, so it is always a gamble.

This post is most timely, as I have just spent this week working with the bronze and copper and my fears were realized!!! I spent alot of time and energy and the firings weren't totally successful. Some pieces in the kiln came out fine, while others didn't sinter.

But one piece of bronze I did came out with the most beautiful of patinas.... And the other pieces that worked look great and I have enough of the copper and bronze and silver to make the bracelet I had planned.

There are additional issues with the bronze and copper as they have to be fired without oxygen - so buried in charcoal. The formulations are still being refined and until such time as things are consistent with each firing - the firing will be scary and I will open the cooled kiln with trepidation.....

But - with my background of experimenting as a scientist - I do have to say that I enjoy it. Scary - but a good challenge too!

Happy Halloween - hope the scary things in your life can be seen as just a challenge!

Here are the links to read the other artists' blogs and find out about their fears:

And remember - we all enjoy getting comments!

Front page of Etsy!

The trunk show is fun. Still going on and while it's going on, a few of us from the Etsy Metal Clay team got on the front page of Etsy. For those of you who don't know Etsy - it's quite something to get front page! Good old Rapunzel!

More than 100 people came to the trunk show - and some were in and out - so don't know a final total yet..... It was an interesting experience. I think next time we do one, we'll all know more about how it goes and how you can post and answer questions and add photos and........ Bit of juggling involved!

It was nice to see some familiar faces there.

Merry go round coming up next.....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Etsy Metal Clay Trunk Show

Here are some examples of the work that will be showcased in the Etsy Metal Clay team trunk show tomorrow. Each participant will select three items of their work to discuss.

There will also be a quiz, door prizes and special offers. And its a great way to get to know the artists better.

So, hope to see you - Tomorrow, Thursday October 30 at 4:00 Pacific / 7:00 Eastern in the Treehouse! Just go to Etsy, click on Community and then Virtual Labs. Then enter the Treehouse and enjoy the fun!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Live like there is no tomorrow

I've been working hard on a commission and haven't had time to do much else. The commission started out as being 2 bracelets each with a dog tag with an inscription and ended up being 7 bracelets, a lariat necklace and 4 key rings.

The dogs tags have a loved one's name on one side and then "live like there is no tomorrow" on the other side. It's a sad story, that I won't go into but it was an interesting experience making these.

It was very labour intensive for the finishing part to get a mirror finish on all of these. It took alot of hard polishing and my fingers were so sore. They literally did bleed as I was filing away so I was glad when they were finished. I am just waiting for the sterling silver key rings to arrive and then I can pass them on.

But what surprised me in doing this was that despite all this repetitive work, by knowing the story behind them, it didn't turn out to be a mindless task. All the time, my thoughts were with the lady who commissioned these - someone I had only met to design these, and her family......

And then it got me to thinking how we use items such as these dog tags to remember people by and feel close to people. It seems to be very much a tactile thing. Touching something that links us to a person seems to have a lot of power. I know I see it in my mum. A few years ago, before I was making jewelry, I bought her a globe necklace, as I live around the world from her, whenever she wears it, she holds onto the globe and thinks of me. That tactile connection is powerful and also comforting.

I hope these dog tags will offer the same comfort and strength to all the recipients. I was honored to make them.

Events this week.....

The Etsy Metal Clay team that I am a member of, is having a Trunk show on Etsy this Thursday at 4pm PCT. If you don't know what a trunk show is - especially an online one, you are not alone!!! I have been trying to figure it out too - but the best way to find out, will be to show up!!! Go to and then click on Virtual Labs and all will be revealed!

Basically, members of the team will showcase their jewelry and offer prizes and tell you a little bit about what they do and how etc etc. It will be fun - so drop by and get some offers and prizes.

Hope to see you there!

And it is Merry-go-round time again this week - where a group of us all write about the same topic and link to each others posts. They will go up Thursday/Friday depending on time differences. The topic, as it is Halloween, is "what is the scariest part of your art/craft?". Should make for interesting reading.....

Competition winner!

Yes, and the winner is.......(drum roll....)......Christine from Chocolate and Steel!!!

She got the idea straight away. The title is:

"The three wise men" aka the sages.

The necklace was made using three sage leaves.

Christine, please email me your mailing address and I'll be sending your prize to you.

Other guesses were "Mary, Joseph and Jesus", "Partridge in a pear tree", something related to mistletoe......

Well now you know what my competitions are like - so maybe you'll get tuned into them. Thanks for your guesses! And well done, again, Christine.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


No more guesses for the competition then? Too tricky or too easy??!!!! Go on - give it a try....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Competition Friday

Well, here is my little competition for you. You can either post your answers here in the comments section or send me an email. The winner will receive something.........

Speaking on the phone with my sister a few weeks ago, we were talking about designs of my jewelry and she suggested that I did some Christmas items. We discussed this a bit as I feel that people only wear Christmas jewelry for such a short period of time, that they don't want to spend alot of money on it so just get something cheap........ There isn't really a market for "special" jewelry just for Christmas so it isn't something I have been inclined to do.....

But the discussion sparked my interest and I wondered if I could come up with some Christmas jewelry that you could wear year round. There is a Christmas something to it - but also, a general something......

So here is the competition. I have created a Christmas necklace which I have named and your job is to guess the name. Yes, it doesn't overtly look Christmassy but what is the little secret/surprise??? You know how much I love secrets and surprises and little jokes.........

Let me know your guesses!! No other hints - unless it's too tricky..... And yes, if English isn't your first language, you may be at a disadvantage and it may be a little obtuse for you. Here's the necklace:
What a giveaway!!!
Oh - it's just too easy!!! Heh, heh!
Send your answers!
( PS My sister Mary, Angie, and Marly, and not eligible to participate as they know the answer! Don't want you three giving any hints either!!!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


You know those days when you just feel down; sad for no real reason; not depressed, but need a little love...or someone to comfort you....

I had a couple of those days last week. And maybe this was why this necklace came about. I had originally thought it was going to be a shaking hands necklace, but then as I did it, it became two nestling hands, as though they were there for comfort. And as it came about, it seemed like it was my own hands, comforting myself....

The necklace is reversible, so the hands can be palm out or in. Palm out, it looks to me like they are just waiting to do their comforting - offering up their loving care. Palm in, they are already working - soothing and comforting as needed.

So if you are feeling in need of comfort - know that I am sending you comforting thoughts.....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Etsy Treasury Feature

My Rapunzel's tower necklace is featured in a treasury on Etsy created by Riskybeads. The treasury is entitled:

"Subprime Princess" and she wrote a great little poem to go with it.

There once was a princess called Kate
Who began to pay her bills late
Bit by bit she lost her composure
As her castles fell to foreclosure
And so Kate with no prince to be found
Refused to let herself drown
She gathered her gowns and her one magic shoe
Set up shop here on Etsy and sold them to YOU

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Question for you....

So remember my recent blog about "I've been tagged" did any of your get why I chose that photo to go with it?

One friend of mine emailed me and guessed correctly (yeah Caulie - well done!!!) - but I didn't hear from anyone else. Can you figure the connection?

This is a warm up for a competition that my husband and sister say is too obtuse - so see how you get on with the bird first..........Maybe my competitions are a bit like my vegetarian bracelet where you had to guess the vegetables - it's easy and obvious when you know you answers!!!

And an update - 12,836 bloggers participated in Blog Action Day 2008 yesterday! It is estimated that that is equivalent to 13,498, 532 readers! Quite an audience!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

It's Blog action day today - what's it all about?
Today, Bloggers unite and will publish posts that discuss poverty in some way. By all posting on the same day we aim to change the conversation that day, to raise awareness, start a global discussion and add momentum to an important cause. And from discussion springs action.

So today I thought I'd tell you about what I am starting to do to make a difference in the world, through my creations. Maybe my actions will encourage others to look and see what actions they can take.....

I've recently decided to join Nest. Nest is a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of women in developing countries.

The mission of Nest is to support women artists and artisans in the developing world by helping them create sustainable entrepreneurial businesses. To do this, Nest provides micro-credit loans to be used for the purchase of the supplies and materials necessary to begin and/or maintain art or craft-based businesses.

Micro-credit loans are a financial innovation that allows poor women the opportunity to become self-sufficient by providing them with small business loans to create sustainable entrepreneurial businesses.

Since the inception of micro-credit in early 1970s, loans of this type, made to women, have had remarkable success. Women are more likely to both repay their loans and devote their earnings to assisting the family. Furthermore, when women are given the opportunity to create their own businesses and earn a stable income, their social standing in the family and in the community improves. By giving women the tools they need to provide for their families, micro-credit loans give stability and hope to families and communities.

The women who will benefit from Nest live in developing countries and face many hardships. And when women are poor or undernourished, children and families are also deprived, resulting in a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break. You can read about some of the women who have received microloans from Nest on the website

There are a few ways I will get involved with Nest. The first way is that I will join their "Shop to save the world" event. I will have an open studio day at the end of November - Sunday 30th November and a percentage of all that I take that day will be donated to Nest. Anyone who visits me that day, will be encouraged to 'shop to save the world', so that gifts they may buy for Christmas presents will also help fight poverty for women in developing countries.

As an ongoing project with Nest, I will select a couple of my pieces - pieces that I make more of one of - like the "you are the missing piece" bracelet - and everytime I sell one of these, I will donate 25% of the sale price to Nest.

And thirdly, Nest are going to have sales on their website, where a proportion of all items sold through them will again go to Nest.

So, I'm hoping to make a difference through my creations. Is there a way you can help?

Are you are the missing piece?....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Last day of harvest

The tractor is going back and forth, as the last of the grapes are being harvested.

It always seems sad to see them go. Like an "empty nest". We've been watching these little grapes grow...from tiny flowers, to little green berries, to larger fruit, then as they change colour, then we've tasted them along to the way to see how their flavour develops and in an hour or so, they'll be all gone!

And then the leaves will finish changing colour and drop off and then we'll be back to a garden full of dead looking sticks!!!

But meanwhile, the grapes will be turning into something even better, so I guess it's not toooooooo sad!

This is a merlot leaf necklace I made pretty soon after I started with metal clay. Each different grape varietal has a different shape leaf - so you probably knew this was merlot :-D

A new spring leaf was impressed into the silver clay and fired in place. The leaf obviously burnt away but the clear impression remained. I then added a small amount of green resin to highlight the leaf markings.

But for know, it's farewell little grapes! You did well. Hope you enjoy your journey............and look forward to seeing you again in a couple of years....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Anyone can bring me flowers....

There is a little challenge going on at Etsy right now from one of the jewelry magazines. They are asking artists to submit items that they have made using 10g of metal clay or less......The 5 pieces they select, they will feature in their magazine....

So it got me thinking as to how small my "anyone" figure could be...... 10g of metal clay results in even less weight when the clay is fired......My largest anyone is "Anyone can whistle" as I needed the length for the whistle. The smallest so far is the anyone on "Anyone can fall in love". He is 24 mm tall and doesn't really seem small.....

Well - always up for a challenge, so I thought I'd make some anyone earrings.

The result is "Anyone can bring me flowers" and anyone is 15 mm tall. I guess I could go smaller - but I think 15mm is small enough!!! You wouldn't really see anyone if he was any smaller!

So this is a pair of anyone's - each is individual as I hand form them - are bringing you a sweet little flower held in both hands. Even though they don't have features, they look happy to be giving a flower. One looks proud - the one on the left and the other anyone looks a little more coy! What do you think?

And who doesn't love receiving flowers? From a single wildflower plucked from the garden to the most lavish of bouquets - receiving flowers is just one of those wonderful things.

My husband always says his favourite flowers are those that last the longest so if he buys me some, they'll last for the Proteas we buy at Christmas - they gradually dry but still stay beautiful!! And maybe these earrings would be his perfect gift - the gift of everlasting flowers!

Guinea pigs

I sold my "Welsh the rabbit" charm recently to Anna from Half an acre - (part of our merry go round group). She showed it to a friend and the friend asked if she could commission me to make her a similar charm but of a guinea pig.

Hmmmm I thought..guinea pigs aren't really what you could call a shapely animal!!! Wonder if I could make something distinguishable as a guinea pig......

So I checked some photos online of numerous guinea pigs and then tried in regular polymer clay to see how it would work......

It is interesting to see how you look so much more carefully at something when you have to try and make a likeness. I mean, we all know what a guinea pig looks like - I've certainly seen plenty of guinea pigs - but your memory doesn't hold those little details like that their ears are really more on the side than on the top, that you sometimes see their feet - but not a lot of them, that the largest part of them is their head....and that they don't seem to smile!! :-D (maybe they smile internally!)

Anyhow - after a couple of tries, I went for the silver clay. I hand formed this little guy, dried him, and sanded him then, yes, I'm afraid to say that I had to fire him!! He did pretty well at 1650 degrees and after a little polishing etc - you can see the cute little guy survived it all OK - and, I think, came out looking like a guinea pig!!!

This last photo looks like he's asked to come home with you - "please adopt me......"

I've asked the lady who requested him what her guinea pig is called but haven't heard yet...but maybe you have an idea for a name......poor little nameless guinea...he needs your help.....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Encouraging news!

I had some (potentially) good news this week:

a)I was asked to send in my "Three little pigs" necklace and earrings set for photography for possible selection to appear on a full back page advertisement for a national magazine.

b) Glimpse selected my "Love Birds" barrette as a candidate to appear in the Christmas gift guide for childrens gifts for the Sunday Times Magazine in England.

Both are just possibilities at this time - but fingers crossed x. Would be great to get some free publicity!

I've been tagged!

A friend who also makes metal clay jewelry - Beth at Hint Jewelry Design has just tagged me - so now I get to play!!! Watch out because maybe I'll tag you next and invite you to play!!

If you choose to accept this mission, please read the rules below:
  1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
  2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog -- some weird and some random.
  3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links their blogs.
  4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Here are my facts:

I rode a water buffalo in Vietnam.

Fact: I'm quite untidy!

Fact: I like spoon hanging!

Fact: I used to play the nose flute - a lot!

Fact: I once pretended to my sister that I was posting/mailing our front door keys in the mail box.....but the reflex took over and once my hand went in the slot, I dropped the keys inside! My parents were away at the time and the next collection of mail wasn't until the following morning!!!!

Fact: I'm really into anthropomorphism. Just can't help it!

Fact: I never rode a bike when I was a kid.

Fact: I am the luckiest person alive. (I know that is number 8 - but I couldn't leave it out!)

Thanks for reading my factoids! Now here are some people we can all get to know & their blogs that I'm skipping off to tag:

Mean Bean
Chocolate and Steel

Sorry I could only choose 7 - wanted to add all my merry go round friends....but maybe they'll be tagged next.....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Featured artisan - Magriet from Babushka Jewellery Design

Babushka Jewellery Design
I "met" Magriet through us both being sellers on Dawanda and asked her to write a little about herself and her jewelry. I know you'll enjoy her story. She's is just completing a silversmith class too - so expect to see some new ideas coming to her store!

Why Babushka?

I have been asked many times in the past why I have chosen the name Babushka for my jewellery label.

Babushka is a Russian word meaning "grandmother," or more generally (but quite informally) "old lady." It reminds me of my own grandmother who had lots of trinkets and as a little girl, I used to go through her jewellery box. She owned the most gorgeous jewellery, which she collected from all over the world. I used to adorn myself with all these amazing pieces, wearing them all at once and it made me feel beautiful and very grown up and sophisticated. I have since then inherited some of these beautiful treasures, which I hope to pass on to my own daughter and grandchildren. And perhaps for some of my own designs and creations to be passed on as heirlooms for generations to come.

Babushka for me symbolises beauty, wisdom and love.

Imagine my excitement when I came across some little Babushka beads. I have used them in a few designs, most of which have been commissions. But this is by far my favourite.

This unique bracelet includes a selection of green, red & purple beads, Swarovski crystals and gold plated chain tassels plus two Babushka beads made with durable porcelain, finished with a gold plated toggle clasp.

Turquoise Skies
I am often asked what inspires me when making jewellery. I know a lot of designers might see a lovely flower or a beautiful sunset, and immediately feel inspired to create something to capture what they’ve seen. I almost wish I could work in this way, but I seem to be the complete opposite.

I am very much driven by moods and colours. And I tend to be at my most creative when I just sit down at my workbench with no idea of what I’m going to make and I just reach for the colours that appeal to me at that particular moment. I feel this gives me a lot of freedom with my designs.

When I sat down to make this bright and fun turquoise charm bracelet, I was in one of those moods where I just daydreamed all day long about lying on a beach somewhere really hot, sipping a cocktail and just completely relaxing and letting go. I work in my summerhouse in the back garden which backs onto woodland. It was a beautiful day with the scent of jasmine in the air and birds chirping so it was inevitable for me to create something to capture this summer feeling. This bracelet features turquoise coloured glass beads and Swarovski crystals and each bead has been individually wire wrapped onto the silver plated chain. A matching necklace and earrings are also available.

Magriet lives in Kent, in England and does shows and house parties with her jewelry so if you are interested, do get in touch with her. You can find her and her goodies here:

My website:
My Dawanda shop:
My Folksy shop:
My blog:

Sound of Music....

Do a deer, a female deer,
Re a drop of golden sun,
Mi a name I call myself,
Fa a long long way to go,
So a needle pulling thread,
La a note to follow So,
Te a drink with jam and bread,
That will bring you back to do!
Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.

Now who has never seen the Sound of Music? and enjoyed family Von Trapp...........

And before you think it is my all time favourite movie and that's why I have made cufflinks of the do re mi's, I will have to disappoint you. Sorry. Yes, of course it's a great movie - especially for families! But the cufflinks came about from local choirs.

When I moved to California, and started singing here, I was amazed that the choir directors teach solfege - do, re, mi's - as the method to sight read music. I had never done this - I can sight read pretty well, but we never really had a method....yet I'd go to a rehearsals here and everyone around me would be do, ti, fa-ing and I'd be making this non-descript consonant and vowel sound - hoping no one would notice - but generally singing the correct note......

And when you are doing it quickly, I couldn't even the remember the correct order! And I could go whole rehearsals never singing "so"! Yes, I'd sing the note -but could never remember the "word"!!!!!!

So, solfege isn't my thing - but it seems it is used alot in California - and it really does work. It impresses me - but it seems like adding an additional step for me so something extra instead of a useful tool.

Anyhow, I'm heading down to Grace cathedral shortly to sing there - I sing most Sundays there - so thought today is a good day to be thinking of my solfege.......

I made these cufflinks for my musical guy friends! I can just picture them all dressed up smartly for a concert and as they sing, they keep lifting up their cuffs to see the solfege! I suppose it would have been good if I'd made a solfege necklace for myself for rehearsals, as a little crib sheet - but then I'd have had no excuse for mumbling!!!

I also made them as guys don't get many opportunities to wear "jewelry" - and these have a whimsical style to them. Most men don't wear "whimsy" either but they do occasionally if it is cufflinks.

So for all those male singers who wear cuffs........But beware - observers may well break out into song aka Julie Andrews and the family Von Trapp!!

Mud Bath

Had a great time with my two friends staying with me - including having a mud bath in Calistoga! Made me want to make another Duncan Duck set - but this time instead of having "water" in the tub - just thick brown mud!!! Maybe they would be popular in Calistoga - but not sure of their global appeal.

Anyhow - you'll hear more from my friends soon, as I will feature them here - maybe with a mud bath photo?????

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

EtsyMetalClay Team and Smashing Darling

I mentioned earlier this week about my store on Smashing Darling. If you haven't looked at the general website - they are running a competition right now to win $500. You need to enter by the end of Friday - and then you could spend all $500 in my store :-D - or any of the others. Here is a link with the details and how to enter : $500

The other news of the day is that our recently formed etsy metal clay team has just launched it's blog and it's website. Do go take a look at what our group of 19 metal clay artisans can do. It's all very different work from mine and interesting to see the scope of the product. Here is the website and the blog.

My two friends arrive today from Canada. We met at the Indiana precious metal clay conference. That's me on the left, then Angie then Marly. Looking forward to a few fun days together.