Monday, June 29, 2009

Working with CopprClay - finishing

These three pictures show the process of taking CopprClay from raw to finished. It can take several days for the clay to dry out, or you can hasten the process by warming it in your oven at about 200 F. Even after allowing my pieces to sit out and dry naturally for a few days, I still took this added precaution to ensure they were all completely dry.

After firing, the pieces have the look of the one above on the left. The ammonite pendant on the right has been cleaned with a brass brush. I would have finished it with burnishing and a red rouge polish, but I decided to try an iridescent patina on it, so I wanted there to be more tooth available.

The liver of sulfur formula I used was provided by Katherine Palochak on Ganoksin. She has written up wonderful directions, which I followed pretty much to the letter. I can't think of any way to improve on them, and even though they are a bit of work, please try them out...I think you'll be very pleased!

After dousing this piece four times in the liver of sulfur mixture, I used the brass brush again lightly to clean off the high places. It leaves a wonderful oil-on-water luster, which is hard to capture in photographs, but I believe that you can sort of catch the glint in the photo above.

I mentioned the piece that I hit with Thompson's enamels before firing the other day. It's interesting that after being cleaned up, it much more closely appears bronze than copper. Here's a picture for comparison. I won't be doing this again anytime soon, but it's nice to know!

Copyright 2009 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Bead & jewelry blogging round-up!

A Bead A Day
Lisa shares her selection of summery pink beads and crystals. The "Watermelon Crawl" bead mix is sure to conjure up visions of a family picnic on a warm summer day! Jewelry Making
Take these quick polls about wearing and making jewelry. Which are your favorite pieces?

Art Bead Scene
The Trendy Bead shows off wood filigree pendants.

Barbe Saint John
Read Barbe's interview on the Objects and Elements blog

Carmi's Art/Life World
Carmi hand felts a pretty bead from wool roving.

Cindy Gimbrone aka The Lampwork Diva
A trip to glass city doesn't go as well as planned. Yet Cindy finds inspiration and few new tools!

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
Melanie mixes up gunmetal chains and components with brass to make a necklace with one of her Toolbox Treasure pendants

Heather sketches out some new designs using this summer's hottest color.

Jean Campbell Ink: Eureka!
Beading in the fresh air clears the mind, bringing fresh creativity

Lorelei's Blog: Inside the Studio
Searching for some new inspiration? Lorelei's got just the place for you to find it!
Snap out of it, Jean! There's beading to be done!
Jean reviews Wirework, a new book by the famous Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

Strands of Beads
Melissa shows off her new lunar phases and compass rose designs

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
While traveling in Florida, Andrew shares a new variation on a favorite skull bracelet.

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Working with CopprClay - firing

I was very pleasantly surprised by how easy CopprClay is to work with. After receiving some packages from Rio Grande to test out, I found it hard to stop! The clay feels very good, and I found it much more user-friendly than the silver clay that I've worked with before.

A little olive oil to keep it from sticking to your hands or to the molds that you use, and you're pretty much set. Keep it well-wrapped when you're not using it. I cleaned out a small bottle to use as a slip jar, and little dried out bits (including filings) go in there. I used the slip to paint over then sea shells and to repair cracks in other pieces.

The clay must be completely dry before firing, and unlike silver clay, it doesn't seem to dry out all on its own. I put all the pieces on a sheet of parchment paper, and stuck them in my oven at 200 F for about 20 minutes. If they go into the kiln wet, you run the risk of blisters and cracking.

Firing the clay is a bit more work than silver. Copper and Bronze must both be kept from too much oxidation or you'll just end up with a black burnt-looking surface. Therefore, these clays must be kiln fired in a pan of charcoal. I used the recommended coconut shell-based granulated activated charcoal and a steel firing pan. (All tools can be found on Rio Grande's website.)

In the picture above, they are sitting on about an inch of charcoal, which will then be covered almost to the top with more charcoal. The pieces need to be spaced out, but you can add more layers of pieces if you keep them properly spaced.

I fired my first set of pieces all in one run, ramping up my kiln to 1700 F and holding for 3 hours. I didn't use any special schedule for ramping up, and actually the temperature ended up going a bit too high on the first go, but it didn't seem to affect the pieces except maybe the key. I was afraid that when I opened the kiln I'd find melted puddles in the firing box!

There were two pieces that didn't turn out quite as I was hoping: the shaft of the key ended up bending, which may have been because of the excessive heat, and the shell that I treated with blue enamel looked crusty and burned. When I brushed it off, it looked more like BronzClay than copper!

My next step will be to experiment with some different finishing techniques. I'm going to use a brass brush, and then burnish and buff these pieces. Maybe a few of them will go into the experiment pile for patination.

Copyright 2009 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book review: Jewelry & Beading Designs for Dummies

Jewelry & Beading Designs for Dummies
by Heather H Dismore & Tammy Powley

Another wonderful entry in the Dummies series! This one, Jewelry and Beading Designs for Dummies was co-written by Heather H Dismore and my friend Tammy Powley. Both have extensive experience with writing directions for beginner projects, making both simple and complicated steps clear.

This book is a follow up to the original Jewelry Making and Beading for Dummies, so if you are a complete beginner, you will probably need this book first. The current book is focused more on designs and creating finished pieces, although they do cover many basic techniques quite thoroughly.

There are hundreds of illustrations and photographs to help you as you stretch your skills and create all different types of beaded accessories using lots of different materials. Yes, there are projects as well as techniques, and they will help you master skills while you end up with lots of fun new wearables for yourself or for gifts.

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More CopprClay pieces

I'll be sharing the details about these projects one at a time after I get them fired!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

CopprClay experiments

I received some packages of the new CopprClay from Rio Grande a few weeks ago. Since then, I've been experimenting like crazy with this exciting new medium. While I've previously had some experience with both Silver Art Clay and with Precious Metal Clay in Silver, I have to say that I'm more interested in the copper, both for it's color and for the added measure of "workability" that I think it has. And its price!!

Above and below are some press molds that I made with polymer clay (they were cooked hard before using). Slick up the mold and your hands with olive oil and press the clay in. If the clay won't come out the mold easily, just let it sit for awhile until it hardens slightly, and then it will pop right out. Clean up the edges before it gets too hard. Even after it's completely dry, I found it was still pretty easy to shape and file. I used an Exacto knife and a small jeweler's file. Here's a shot of the tools I assembled, including a brass brush and some buffing compound that won't be used until later.

For projects that need to have the clay rolled out, I used a piece of parchment paper underneath and just a little bit of oil. I tried parchment paper on top too, but found it wasn't really necessary as long as I worked quickly.

Place any scraps into a small bottle with some distilled water to make paste or slip. I used a bit of slip to smooth the shaft of the key, but decided to leave a few of the pits so it would look a bit rustic.

I haven't yet fired these pieces. It seems that firing CopprClay is a little trickier than Silver, so I'm going to be experimenting with that over the course of a few days. But I didn't want to delay in showing you a couple of the pieces that will be fired soon!

Copyright 2009 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Bead & jewelry blogging round-up!

Barbe Saint John
Barbe reviews Ancient Modern Polymer Clay book.

Carmi’s Art/Life World
A vintage comic book becomes the inspiration for a necklace. Jewelry Making
Summer time is affecting Tammy’s jewelry designs. How about yours? Check out her summer jewelry plans so far.

Art Bead Scene
Kandinsky inspires this month’s challenge. The ABS editors suggest a selection of their handmade art beads for a Kandinsky inspired jewelry piece.

Earthenwood Studio Chronicles
A new shipment of copper blanks has Melanie plotting for some metal playtime!

Snap out of it,Jean! There’s beading to be done!
Pink, gold,and cream! Jean creates a lovely necklace and earring set featuring a beautiful Russian hand painted focal from

Strands of Beads
Melissa shows off her work in progress - an eerie lock and key design.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book review: Designing Jewelry with Semiprecious Beads

More than 75 different designs, with fool proof instructions and lots of backstory information on the materials, Designing Jewelry with Semiprecious Beads is a book that stone enthusiasts will love!

There are so many features that make this a useful book, starting with the bead directory that teaches you about the characteristics and best companions for each stone covered. A project selector will help you to quickly eyeball the design that you wanted to try next. Next you move on to the actual projects, with amazing diagrams and more information. These are each cross-referenced to the techniques used, which are covered in the last section at the end of the book.

I love the organization of this book, and I also love the way London-based author Kim Gover has included projects by many talented designers. You won’t feel it’s the same old thing over and over with this book.

Check out The Bookshop for lots more links to books about jewelry-making in addition to this helpful guide!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Making a necklace with copper findings and beads

I received a wonderful package of copper beads and do-dads from Auntie’s Beads a short while back. My mission was to see what they wanted to become :-) To make a necklace similar to this one, you'll need copper colored wire, some stone rounds and chips (I used turquoise and coral), and lots of cool copper stuff!


Copper colored wire (20 gauge)
Turquoise and coral rounds, 4mm and 6mm
Turquoise and coral chips
Copper colored or red beading wire
Copper chain, hook, crimps, jump rings, and head pins
Copper round bead, floral patterned, 7mm
Copper 2mm rounds, daisy spacers, bead caps, and hammered round links

Round nose pliers
Chain nose pliers
Wire cutters
Measuring tape

1. Create wrapped loop dangles with head pins, 2mm copper rounds, daisy spacers, stone beads, and bead caps. Attach them in clusters to the hammered round links.

2. Cut 5" pieces of wire and make a large wrapped loop at the 2" point.

3. Slide 3 chips onto the long wire and 2 onto the short one. Make a wrap with the short wire and clip off the end. Slide on one more chip.

4. Finish off the wire with a small wrapped loop. Make as many of these links as you desire.

5. Add more dangle clusters to the large wrapped loops, and in between the 2 chips on the bottom of each link.

6. Hook the all together with jump rings.

7. Use crimps to attach beading wire to the ends of the links. Add the number of beads that you need to achieve the length you desire, and crimp to some short segments of copper chain. Add a hook to the short end and a dangle to the long end of the chain.

Copyright 2009 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book review: Fabulous Fabric Beads

Fabulous Fabric Beads
by Kristal Wick

Kristal Wick is the well-known creator of Sassy Silkies, and she has a fun book out now that will teach you how to make the fabric beads that she’s famous for! Kristal says that she first thought up her bead-making methods in response to complaints from people that their earrings were just too heavy. “I wanted to make something colorful yet lightweight that could change each season for my fashion-conscious customers,” she says.

Kristal has 30 different custom bead designs for you to learn to make in this fun book. The colors are sumptuous, and your mind will spin with the possibilities

Monday, June 08, 2009

Autumn Arbor is heading off to FMG

Autumn Arbor

I just received word that Autumn Arbor has made the first cut in the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads 2009 beading contest. Now I have to send it in for the next round of judging.

Last year, my over-the-top piece called Andromeda's Pearls won first place in the pearls category. I don't really think I'm going to have a repeat with Autumn Arbor in the seed beads category, but I guess you never know!

Andromeda's Pearls

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Book review: Custom Cool Jewelry

Custom Cool Jewelry
by Melinda Barta

Melinda Barta came up with a brilliant idea for this fun book. Instead of spreading her many talents out too thinly, she concentrated on just three areas: pendants, charms, and clasps.

It’s often hard to find exactly that perfect piece to customize your jewelry, and if you can make your own pendants, charms, and clasps, you can add them to readily available lain beads to create a masterpiece that is distinctively yours. Melinda includes over 275 quick and easy ideas for mixed media components as well as 7 full stringing projects. Once you start making these components, you’ll never run out of ideas about what to do with them!

Custom Cool Jewelry teaches you how to create personalized, affordable, and unique alternatives to store-bought beading components using a wide range of jewelry and basic crafting materials including embossing powder, collage papers, wire, fibers, glass etching cream, patinas, found objects, fabric, memorabilia and more.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

How to make silver clay leaves

These leaves are really easy to make, but take quite a bit of time. Plan to do them when you've got other projects going on so that you don't have to sit around waiting for the silver to dry. Choose fresh leaves with deep veins: you're going to be applying the paste to the bottom of the leaves, so you want the underside to be textured, but not "fuzzy" the way some leaves can be. Smooth, but bumpy, is good!

  1. Dilute a small amount of silver clay paste and brush it carefully onto the leaves. Allow to dry. Apply a few more coats of the diluted paste, drying between each layer.

  2. Switch to non-diluted paste, and apply around 10 layers altogether.

  3. Let the leaves dry overnight.

  4. Fire them according to the directions in a kiln. (Note: the low-fire clay can be done in a hot pot instead. Also, some folks prefer to use a torch, but I like the even results of the kiln)

Copyright 2009 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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