Sunday, February 28, 2010

Photo Meme the Third - "Handcrafted Hurts"

I don't know about you but I've really enjoy our photo memes like the Meet the Artist and Ugly Desk Competition. They're easy and fun and I generally gain some sort of insight along with the entertainment value. So I propose another photo game to keep us amused while we're working on the next team challenge.

It's called "Handcrafted Hurts" and all you have to do to play is take a picture of your hands after your next day at the bench. Just as they are, complete with bandaids, polishing compound, burns, bruises, stab marks, missing skin and all. Post it on the Flickr pool with the tag "Handcrafted Hurts", and if you are so inclined and can figure out how, make notes on your picture to tell us how your war wounds happened. You have all week to get your picture in, from now until Midnight on Friday March 5th. Saturday morning, March 6th I'll put up the 10 worst hands based upon number and severity of notes/wounds here on the blog and post a poll on the side for us to vote for a winner.

Who wants to play??! If you have more than one picture (since we do have 2 hands) put a note to see your Flickr stream for more pics, but only put one in the flickr pool.

Updated!! The winner will receive a complimentary bar of this incredible soothing hand balm from our generous and talented teamie Esmeralda of Silver Blueberry. Thanks SB!

In addition to my usual lizard-skin, I have a quarter inch stab wound from a needle file, some missing skin on my index finger from a drill bit, a sawed and sandpapered thumbnail, and a chunk missing out my thumb cuticle from some disaster I don't even remember. Oh and a blister on my pinky from the house. But STILL!! I think I might actually win this one :D

Can't wait to see your hands!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's Time for Team Challenge # 2!

Are you up for it?

Here it is:
Interpret this lovely and classic limerick about spring -

"Spring has sprung,
The grass is riz.
I wonder where
the birdies is?"

Let your imagination soar (with the birdies?) and make anything your metalsmithing heart desires!

Enter any time until Friday March 19th at midnight.

Post your creation on our Flickr page and then be sure to post a link on our Etsy thread so we can all be awed and amazed!

Because last time we all whined about how difficult it was to vote for just one favourite (or favorite), this time there will be two categories:
1) The creation which best embodies, expresses, and otherwise personifies the chosen theme,
2) The creation which best demonstrates creativity and thinking-out-of-the-boxness.

So spread your wings a little or a lot, create something big or something small. It's up to you!

Well, what are you waiting for? Spring??

Disasters, Injuries, and What Not To Do!

Our next collaborative blog subject was chosen by the lovely and talented Thirtysixten who proposed a series of posts on our greatest bench mistakes and what we've learned. I think it's a wonderful way to learn from others' mistakes instead of our own for a change, and I died laughing while reading her witty and oh-so-accurate post on her blog Check her out folks and give her some love!

If you have a free moment and some horror stories of your own to share, please either link me to your blog post about it or shoot me your email address and I'll send you an invite to be an author here. Can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Tool Time Again!

Here is my contribution to our ongoing posts on our five favourite tools. It was difficult to narrow my favourites down to just five (I do love my tools!). If asked tomorrow, I might choose differently (decisiveness is not one of my character traits), but as of today, these are my top five:

My ring clamp-

I love my new ring clamp!

I love my new ring clamp!

This is one of many tools that I put off buying for a long time. It was something I didn’t think I really needed. Was I wrong! I bought this little gizmo a month ago, and now I don’t know how I ever managed without it. It makes holding small objects like rings and pieces of sheet so much easier and less painful for my beat up middle-aged wrists and hands. I can hold things in it while polishing with my dremel wannabe (which, by the way did not make my top 5 list – see below), thereby saying goodbye to burned fingers.

Size 6/0 blades and my saw-

Sawing is much more fun with my new #6 blades!

Sawing is much more fun with my new 6/0 blades!

Someone on the Aspiring Metalsmith Team mentioned using smaller blades to help prevent breaking them while sawing. I had been using 1/0 and 2/0 blades (the smaller the number the bigger the teeth), so I ordered some 6/0 blades to try. They are now my go-to blades. I can saw thin sheet or thick sheet with them and now rarely break a blade. I enjoyed using my saw before, but now even more so!

Digital calipers-

I couldn't be without my digital calipers.  I keep finding new uses for them!

I couldn't be without my digital calipers. I keep finding new uses for them!

These are amazing. So easy to use, and so easy on my middle-aged eyes. They are so much easier to use than my old brass ones. I not only use them for measuring sheet and wire, but beads and stones, and even for measuring the thickness of packages for estimating postage!

Ergonomic Pliers-

Invest in a good pair of pliers.  It is worth every penny.

Invest in a good pair of pliers. It is worth every penny.

My new pliers, on left, are amazing. Old pliers, on right, are not. The difference between the two is incredible. The new pliers are far more comfortable, and I can use them for extended periods without my wrist and hand becoming sore.

Plastic Mallet-

So useful and so easy on metal.

So useful and so easy on metal.

Also a new toy, I mean tool, and one which I don’t know how I did without. Great for work hardening metal without marking it, enlarging rings, and so on. The bright yellow colour brightens up my bench and makes it easier to find amongst the mess, too!

And finally one tool that is NOT a favourite. In fact it is my least favourite tool.

My dremel wannabe-

Save your money.  Buy a flex shaft.

Save your money. Buy a flex shaft.

My dremel wannabe and I are not usually on speaking terms. In fact, we are in the midst of a trial separation. I’m on the prowl for a hot new flexshaft. When I find the right one, I’ll be filing for a divorce.

What are are your favourite tools?

Monday, February 22, 2010

And the Winner Is....

Voting has officially ended for our First Every Team Challenge and I'll be the first to admit it was a seriously difficult vote to cast. I think I agonized more over this than the last 3 presidential elections put together! We had some amazing submissions from incredible artisans, but in the end only one could win.

Therefore without further ado, that winner is.....

The lovely Julie Brown of Wabi Brook Studio!! Julie take a bow my friend, you have earned it! Julie's entry was this astonishing anticlastic ring which really shows her mastery of the metal.

Because she's a savy businesswoman and knew we'd all want to know how on earth she made this beauty, she gave us a peek at the process on her blog

In addition to her Etsy shop, Julie's original artwork and designs can be found on Facebook and Twitter, and she's often around the Etsy thread where her kind and gentle spirit makes her a great friend to all. Be sure to check her out!

Honorable mentions also go out to the following artists who were in a 4 way tie for second place:

Jamauerer with "Spike"

Sandy Toes Jewelry with this beautiful Iolite ring:

ASAP Designs with "Fireworks Every Time We Kiss"

And last but not least, Mccomsey Designs with her Rock Pile Ring, which is especially impressive because it's only her third metalsmithed ring.

Beautiful work everyone, this was so much fun!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Voting Starts At Midnight!


The entries for the FIRST ASPIRING METALSMITHS TEAM CHALLENGE are going up on the Proboards and voting starts AT MIDNIGHT!!

To vote go HERE:

If you don't have an account you'll be prompted to create one. Once you're signed in, look at all the gorgeous work your teammates have done and wrack your brains until you're a quivering ball of indecisive jelly, and then tell us who gets your vote and why. It can be for flawless execution, brilliant design, stretching their limits, or just for having completed their very first metalsmithed ring, whatever carries to most weight with you.

You don't have to have made a ring to vote, but you only have until SUNDAY NIGHT at midnight to cast your vote so get over there!!

Just because I know some of you will need a little eye-candy to get your butts over there and vote, here's some of the entries for your viewing pleasure! I don't have room to include them all, so please do stop by the proboards to see all the entries.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And The Winner of the Ugliest Desk Competition Is....

(Drumroll PUHleaseeee) The lovely Amy of AmyNicoles and Ruby Mtn Beads is the winner of our ugliest desk competition, mainly because she has a SWEET TV in her workspace and we're all a little jealous. Congratulations Amy, feel free to feel smug and rub it in on every possible occasion, you've earned it.

Did I mention Amy is doing it all right? Not only is she making beautiful original metalsmithed creations on a regular basis, she's also blogging here Facebooking here and generally putting us all to shame. Give her some love people, she's doing a great job.

Wanna see your name up in lights?

THE FIRST ASPIRING METALSMITH CHALLENGE ENDS FRIDAY!!!! If you want to be part of the magic, go post your submission on the Proboards here. Winners will be tallied and announced MONDAY MORNING so we'll have all weekend to vote, ok?

I can't wait to see what everyone's made, and as always thanks for sharing the journey.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'm such a Tool

If you are at all like me, then you have probably read (a lot of) magazines in which a celebrity or artist is interviewed and asked "What are your favorite fill-in-the-blanks?" Because I'm a girl with 30 lists going at all times, I have actually thought about my favorite tools, and fantasized about someone asking me that very question!

And, like Lisa, I'm going to go beyond the things that I would die without: the flexshaft, torch, hammers & files. I'm going to show you the quirky things that I've come to depend on--my secret weapons.

Catalogs are little slices of heaven to me, and nothing in the world compares to the Rio Grande Tools & Equipment catalog. Among the 3,467 things I stickied as desirous in the early days of metalsmithing, were these 3M radial polishing discs, and AdvantEdge rubber polishing wheels. They're sorta pricey little buggers, but I am in total and complete love with the whole spankin' line. And because I'm me, I have every single variety.

This is a relic from my scrapbooking days. A clear ruler that I use every single day. My children know that a painful death awaits them should they touch this ruler. Ever. It is amazing for marking on metal--the scribe slides along the edge beautifully.

Ultimate metalhead fashion accessory. I rock this mask every day in the studio and it leaves a deep crease across the bridge of my nose as a token of its affection--but I look DAMN fine in it. Plus, little boys can make nice Darth Vader sounds with it. (Darth Vader in pink drag). Much less violent coughing since this baby came home!

Yep. Uh huh. Sham wowza. One of those brilliant purchases (embarrassing, however) that has revolutionized my studio experience. Unfortunately you have to buy about a twelve years' supply at once, but I cut the sheets into quarters, lay one by my metallicious sink and tip out my little pretties onto it from the rinsing cup. It's true--they absorb a lot, are lint-free and disposable!

And finally--sticker paper. I have commitment issues in general, but not to intricate patterns for my saw (nor to my husband; hi Kevin!). However, my hands sweat profusely (ask anyone I've ever dated), and ink on metal smears almost instantly. These 40 year old eyes can't see scribe marks well enough on detailed designs, so I draw and print onto sticker paper. The ability to re-size images on my printer before finally printing on the label is phenomenal. Stickers hold onto clean metal through an hour or two of seriously ornate cutting, and peel off easily. Voila!

Tools are the best. They present a challenge, and when mastered, are so friendly. I can feel competent on the worst of days when I pick up my favorite ball peen hammer and remember the good things I've done with it.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Must Have Tools for Under $20

The lovely Amy of Thirtysixten graciously participated in the Favorite Tools game on her blog Give her some love people!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Favorite Tools

Well, getting a bunch of us to write about our favorite tools was my idea, and then my computer went down. My husband, the miracle worker, has fixed it and so I'm back and ready for action!

First, I'm going to share with you what Lori, of LoriCitsay, has picked as "my top 5 favorite tools -- the ones I use almost every time I sit down at the bench-

1. Foredom flexshaft
2. Steel bench block
3. Mallet with a nylon head (for when I need to straighten or form the silver without marring it)
4. Really good flush cutter
5. Third hand (I actually prefer the cheaper ones. My daughter bought me a more expensive one with interchangeable pincher parts and I reach for my cheapo one over the "better" one every time.)"
Thank you so much, Lori!

I'm going off the beaten path just a little to pick my five favorites. The tools that I generally use are the usual jewelry tools: my torch, third hand, pliers, flex shaft, etc. What I've picked as my FAVORITES, though are the ones that go beyond the basics.

1. My titanium solder picks. They say you can use a bicycle spoke or old coat hanger, but NOTHING compares to titanium solder picks. I stuggled away with plain steel for probably 20 years before buying these. Solder DOES NOT STICK to them! I love them! I have a blue one for silver and yellow one for gold (just in case), and one extra, still in the drawer. LOVE THEM!

2. I don't know the name of this tool, but I love it none-the-less. It's wonderful for holding tiny things while you clean them up. This will save your aching joints.

3, I love my hot pickle! (Insert joke here.) You can use pickle cold, but you can never go back once you have a hot pickle. (I know, I know! That sounds really bad!) It just cleans your metal up so quickly!

4. My rotating bur holder. Not only can I find all my burs, but it spins! It's like a toy! I did have to alter mine because all the holes were the same size and some of my burs were larger. I used to keep all of my burs in a drawer or on my bench, which was such a mess! This helps neaten my bench.

5. My doming set. My dad got this for me for Christmas a couple of years ago. I LOVE using domes in my jewelry!

Well, those are my favorites, along with Lori's. So what are yours? Do tell!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Ugliest Bench Competition

I've thoroughly enjoyed our Meet the Artist game, it's been such a pleasure seeing each of your faces and learning more about the person behind the shop!

So now I thought we'd play another one. It's called "The Ugliest Bench Competition", and all you have to do to play is take a picture of your bench/table/desk/lair or other workspace and post it to the Flickr group with the tag "Ugliest Bench Competition."

You have until this Saturday to get your photo uploaded, and we'll all cast our vote in the comments on Flickr.

The winner will receive ultimate bragging rights, the title of Jerry-rigger Extraordinaire, and possibly a cookie, with the understanding of course that the Aspiring Metalsmiths Team is full of heart but short of money so that'll be a virtual cookie TYVM.

Thirtysixten is already on it, so you guys better get cracking! Can't wait to see what you all cook up!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Five Fave Tools

The lovely Lisa of Sandytoesjewelry had a great idea for anyone who's interested to write a post with photos of their Five Fave Tools. I snapped some shots of mine tonight and I look forward to seeing all of yours soon.

TOOL THE FIRST: My trusty torch. Shall I write an ode to my torch?

Oh fire so fair, kept away from my hair
you're perfectly safe as I hunch in my lair
creating true treasures, my favorite things
when I hold onto you my jeweler's heart sings....

TOOL THE SECOND: My sad little saw

See saw, marjorie daw
Johnny shall have a new master
I hate every moment I spend with you saw
Somehow I must learn to saw faster

TOOL THE THIRD: My ball peen hammer

My whole family hates when I hammer
As soon as I start they all clamor
Shut up they all cry
Shut up I reply
I'm busy creating my glamor!

TOOL THE FOURTH: My Bezeling Tools

Bezeling tools, sweet bezeling tools,
You help me to set all my favorite jewels
And if sometimes you slip and ruin my stone
Your good deeds will always your bad ones atone.

TOOL THE FIFTH: My Favorite Pliers

Twas wires and pliers that started all this,
The urge to give something shiny a twist,
To make of the metal just what I wished,
that led me to go from pliered to fired.

So that is the skinny my friends as they say,
And to the poor teacher who reads this one day
I know this whole thing has the rhyme scheme from hell
But I hope that the rest of you will think that it's swell :D


Meet the Artist

Hey Teamies, I wanna see your ugly mugs! I mean, your lovely smiling faces!

I'm terrible with names and will probably still be calling you by your shop names long after it seems appropriate, but I'd really like to see your faces!

So I'm gonna propose a little game, I hope you'll play along.

If you're not afraid of putting a picture of yourself on the big bad internet, post a photo of yours truly in the Flickr group and tag it with "Meet the Artist". Mine's there already, I look forward to seeing yours!

Team Tag Info

Alright so we tried the democratic approach to the team tag dilemma and it failed dramatically, lol. I'm sick and tired of voting and I'm sure you are too, so unless it'll make you all hate me and take your balls and go home I'm going to make an executive decision so we can just get this tagging nonsense over with.

doesn't bring up anything and it works for me, so that's what we're going with unless there's a major objection. So if you'd like to play, please tag your items with "Aspiringmetalsteam". If this makes you super cranky please convo me and I'll try to make things right.

For anyone who missed it, the team tag will allow us to search each other's work when we make treasuries or write blog posts or otherwise promote our little hearts out, and it will also allow Etsy to find our stuff when they promote teams. We're growing so fast I think we have a good chance of getting on their radar, and we have kind of a unique story so I'm hoping we can get in on the team grant action as well.

Also, if anyone's worried about not having enough room for all their tags I believe Etsyhacks will let you have unlimited tags.

Happy selling!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Dreaded Learning Curve

One of the most challenging but also the most rewarding aspect of metalsmithing is the gradual evolution of the skill, the way you constantly learn and improve the quality of what you're able to do. Any new skill usually takes me at least 3 attempts to master, or if not master, at least make something I'm not embarrassed to show in public. I usually hide my failures (after much lamentation) deep in my scrap box never to see the light of day again. My good friend Veronica is so much braver than I, and she has been kind enough to document and share pictures of her learning curve with the rest of us. Captions are mine, so don't blame her for any words I've put in her mouth!

Veronica is learning to saw. She's also discovering that learning to saw is harder than it looks. Sometimes what you end up with doesn't look anything like the picture you had in your head, and when you get done you feel like you've made the world's ugliest tin can.

Sometimes, you discover you can't cut metal to save your life, but you would have made a fantastic butcher.

So you clean up the blood, find yourself a bandaid, give yourself a pep talk, and you try again. This time you're happier (read: less horrified) but the straight parts are still a little wavy and the wavy parts a bit too straight.

By now you have a blister to go with your cut and you're wondering just how much blood and skin the Metalsmithing Gods require in sacrifice before they give their blessing. Sometimes, the learning process hurts.

Finally, you try one last time. Before you start you tell yourself that this is the last time, if you can't make something wearable this time around you'll give up. You give it all you've got and do your very best work, and finally you're satisfied with the end result.

The sun shines and the little birdies sing and you sleep the sleep of the righteous that night because you've finally mastered the beast. You head to the forums to brag about your hard-won skillz, and on the way you notice this.

You realize you've just scratched the surface of what can be done with a simple saw and accept that you'll be learning for the rest of your life.

And we could all do worse than to be learning for the rest of our lives. There is nothing more satisfying than climbing a personal Mount Everest, and metalsmithing offers a thousand mountain climbing opportunities every time you turn around.

I'm glad to have each and every one of you along for the ride. Enjoy the climb!

Friday, February 5, 2010

First Team Challenge Begins!

Listen up Teamies!!!! First Official Team Challenge starts NOW!

Rings won the vote hands down and after much discussion we're keeping the first one simple and open, just a metalsmithed ring of the design your choice. Since we are at heart a metalsmithing group submissions should probably include at least some fabrication. That being said, do what you can do. If you don't own a torch and still want to participate feel free to use whatever techniques and materials you have access to. It's just for fun and I don't want to leave anyone out.

Submissions are due the Friday after next, Feb 19th. As soon as you finish your lovely creation post it to the Flickr Page and post a link over on the Etsy thread so we can all ooooh and ahhhh ok?

Looking forward to seeing your gorgeous creations!