Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm giving everyone a very selfish challenge!

I’m so excited that I won the last challenge….My little egg was a very fun (if time consuming) obsession. Now I get to pick the next one…..and it’s a really selfish one too. Please forgive the Bridezilla moment you are about to witness.

I need ideas for jewelry for my wedding next year. I need ideas for not only me and my groom, but for my bridesmaids, the groomsmen, for our parents and grandmas….you get the idea.

So let me tell you a little about the wedding: It’s taking place in a real 1930’s speakeasy where Dillinger played poker and Cab Calloway played his swinging jazz.

It has a very Art Deco theme (not to be confused with Art Nouveau) with Black and Silver being the main colors, but we are adding real peacock feathers for some rich blues, greens and purples.
We are going to have at least one live band playing great music from the era.
The boys will have Fedora hats, the girls will have very red lips!

Here’s a photo of what my dress will be like….only in PLATINUM silver silk

So think (or Google) Fred and Ginger, Jean Harlow

Think the Chrysler Building (especially the eagle heads!) and Rockefeller Center.

Think Cab Calloway, Satchmo, Big Bad Voodoo Daddies and Squirrel Nut Zippers for music.

Think geometric lines, with a few interesting curves, rhinestones, glass, and stainless steel ….clean lines!!

I’m excited to see what you guys come up with. I think this might be a new style for many, and I hope it's not adding too many restrictions to the challenge....If it is, forgive me for the temporary insanity that comes with planning a wedding!!

Remember this is open to everything from necklaces to hair picks, to cuff links to chunky cuffs and brooches! Let's show every Bride To Be out there that we have what it takes!


oops...forgot...Deadline Midnight on April 23. Yes, I changed it AGAIN....see I told you I was insane!!!

Post it over to the Flickr group so we can all ohhhh and ahhhhh, and I can consider blowing half a wedding budget on all your wonderful creations!!

And the Winner Is.....

After much agonized voting the polls have closed and the results are official:

Asa from ASAP Designs is the winner of our second Aspiring Metalsmiths Team Challenge with her brilliant and beautiful Faberge egg:

I think we all knew the moment we saw her entry that she hit the nail on the head with her totally out-of-the-box design and her flawless execution. I suspect that her entry took a phenomenal amount of patience and perseverance and I'm glad to see that she has been rewarded with the admiration of her peers. CONGRATS ASA, you are the MAN! er..WOman, lol. We'll be looking forward to your pick for the next team challenge with equal parts terror and excitement!

In second place we have Laura from Simply Adorning with her gorgeous Unakite pendant:

If you've seen much of Laura's work you know she has a flawless sense of balance and seamlessly integrates organic elements into her pieces. She's fast developing a signature style and she was able to adapt that style beautifully to meet the challenge criteria.

And third place goes to Pennee from All Wired Up Jewelry with her lovely floral bangles:

If you've been watching Pennee's learing curve you know this artist has come a long way in a short time. She soaks up every bit of info the group has to offer and asks questions on a regular basis and it is most CERTAINLY paying off in her work.

Congrats to each and every artist who participated in the team challenge. If you've gained something from this experience as I know you have then every single one of you is a winner. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Asa will be along shortly to torture us with our next assignment so stay tuned teamies!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Welcome to the Second Aspiring Metalsmiths Team Challenge.

As you remember, this challenge was brought to us by the lovely Julie of Wabi Brooks Studio. She asked us to interpret this lovely and classic limerick about spring:

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

Votes are to be cast on the following critieria:
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 without further ado, here are our entries!

Laura from Simply Adorning

Vicki from Alegra Jewelry

Asa from ASAP Designs

Pennee from All Wired Up Jewelry

Claire from Brightstar109

Lori from LoriCitSay

Anna from Anna's Inspirations

Deb from AWE Shop

Clarity of Scrollwork Designs

Amy of Amy Nicoles

Whoa boy, this is gonna be hard!!

By the way if I've missed your entry, messed up your name, or otherwise totally botched this post please let me know! Otherwise, get to voting because the challenge ends SUNDAY AT MIDNIGHT!!

Good luck to all, can't wait to see where this takes us :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Regarding Winners and Deadlines!

Hello teamies!

Just a quick reminder that you have until tonight at MIDNIGHT to get your entries in for the Aspiring Metalsmiths Spring Challenge!!

Currently we have 7 entries from:

Alegra Jewelry
Ruby Mountain
Scrollwork Designs

If you're not on this list but would like to play, please put your photo in the Flickr pool and tag them with "Spring Challenge" and I'll check again before I post on Saturday morning in case there's any late entries.

We're going to vote on the blog this time, so I'll put up a post with all the pictures and then on the left hand side of the page we'll have a poll that will allow you to cast your vote for the winner.

And speaking of winners, congratulations to the lovely and talented Hemlock Hollow, who is the winner of our Handcrafted Hurts competition! Enjoy your hand balm Hemlock, hope you heal up well!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Handcrafted Hurts Competition - Vote Now!!

Here are our entries for the Handcrafted Hurts competition. As you know 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!

Here, in no particular order, are your choices. Please use the poll on the left to cast your vote for the winner.

Lori's Pruny Pinchers

Thirtysixten's Flowery Flames

Hemlock's Horrendous Hands

Scrollwork's Sorry Shakers

Thanks to all who played!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Trick is in the Trigger - Let's talk about flame control

As part of our group effort to pool information and brain-dump in a central location, I bring you yet another installment of "Random Things Clarity Thinks Are Important". Our episode today is brought to us by our good friends at Bernzomatic who would like to remind you that fire = fun.

When it comes to fabrication, flame control is key. Too little, your seam looks like sh*t and you risk it falling to pieces halfway through, too much you melt your metal while your flux sticks it's tongue out and laughs. After months of accidentally melting and, perversely NOT melting a frightening amount of things I'm finally starting to get the hang of the flame. So I thought I'd make a brief tutorial to share what I THINK I've learned. Please remember I am in NO way a professional and have been doing this less than a year so take whatever you can and leave the rest. If I have something terribly wrong please tell me, lol.

Oh, because I know someone will ask: I have a Bernzomatic mapp gas pro handheld torch, pics on my flick page.

So first let's talk about bushy flame. Turn your torch on and gently let off the trigger until it's very close to going out, less than 25% of your overall power if you have a decent sized torch. This is an example of a soft, busy flame.

It's soft, it's friendly, it's like a warm hairdryer heating your metal just enough to melt the flux. You couldn't melt your metal or give your piece firescale with this flame if you kept it on here all day.

Now bring it up just a notch to maybe 25-30% of your total flame. That will give you a nice even head that will melt soft solder but doesn't come close to melting metal.

Now you want to melt medium or and gently work up to hard solder without melting overheating. You can smoothly and consciously increase your flame a little more, maybe 45-50% for just a few moments, always be in and out with this type of heat. Warm your piece for a few seconds with a flame like this:

Now that you've got your piece heated to right about annealing temp, hot but nowhere near melting, briefly flare your flame by pressing the trigger for just the briefest of seconds. Pull off the moment you see the sheen of molten solder through your seam and be looking cause it'll be there before you can blink.

Let's say you don't want to solder at all or are fusing or balling. Gently bring it to temp and go up to maybe 75% and you'll see the gleam as it goes molten. Only ever go to 100% if you are truly attempting to melt it down.

I hope this is helpful to you on your journey and I...

What? Seriously?

You still don't get it?'s a video :D

So teamies, your task for the week is a sort of limber up before you solder, the do-ray-me-fa-so-la of metalsmithing. Before you start practice going up and down smoothly and consciously before you solder, envision the one with the flame...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Step Bezel Tutorial

The lovely Julie of Julie A Mauerer Designs has been kind enough to give us a step by step tutorial for making a step bezel. Now that you know how to make a step bezel, please check out her shop for a wonderful pendant tutorial using this technique. Also keep your eyes peeled for a prong setting tutorial she will have available shortly. Julie is an incredible artist and a great teamie so if you get a moment please give her some love!

How to Create Your Own Stepped Bezel Wire

Materials: strip of bezel, wire, hard solder, flux and steel binding wire (20g)
Tools: torch, solder pick, solder block, pickle

This is a technique I developed out of necessity. It’s fairly simple and it works really well for me.

Start with a strip of fine silver bezel any size and a piece of wire. I cut my pieces at random lengths but they’re about 7 inches. You can use any type of wire: round, square, rectangle, etc. I usually use 2x1mm rectangle wire because it gives the bezel a lot of strength, but in this case I’m using 18g square wire. If you’re setting a lot of faceted stones you want to place the wire at a level that will allow for the pavilion of the stone. However if you’re just setting a low dome cabochon, you can use a low bezel with the wire placed along one edge. Make sure the wire is as straight as possible. Hammer it with a rawhide mallet if it has kinks.

Take a length of steel binding wire (hardware store). This one is 20 gauge.

Apply flux to your silver and begin wrapping the binding wire around the two pieces. Not too tight because the steel can fuse to the silver. If this happens do not put it in the pickle! It will copper plate your silver. Instead, first file off the steel. Usually this doesn’t happen.

After wrapping the two pieces, begin to bend them. I’ve found this will force the pieces together with fewer gaps. They have to be touching when you solder or they won’t solder completely.

Make sure the wire is as straight and level as possible. When you solder the stepped bezel you can always fix small unevenness by lining up the wire, but it’s best to prevent it.

Apply more flux and then feed hard solder into the groove. Straighten it out and check for gaps. If necessary solder again.

Pavilion Fits!

Voila, you're done! Please contact Julie with any questions or comments. Thanks Julie!

Thought for the Day

I recently stumbled upon the blog of one of our followers, and was completely taken by the quote she has at the bottom of her page. I think it sums up the meaning of life perfectly and wanted to share.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble, it's a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

~ written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann

March Madness Sale

Aspiringing metalsmiths team is happy to introduce some of it's members by offering a March Madness sale in selected shops. Use the search tag aspiringmetalsale to look at some of the great items our jewelry artists are offering. Each shop has chosen special items for you and will have their sale specifics in their shop announcement. Please feel free to convo any shop owner with questions- and enjoy some great price reductions on terrific artisan creations!

Team members if you would like to participate simply tag your items with "aspiringmetalsale" and promote on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else you think might help. Please contact Pennee with any questions.

Happy Selling!

Monday, March 8, 2010

What does Handmade mean to you?

I recently completed an artist application that asked me to describe how buying and selling handmade products benefits society. I had no idea how strongly I would feel about that and was surprised to find that it's a subject near and dear to my heart.
So I thought I'd take a moment, pull out my trusty soapbox, and tell you all about it!

Buying handmade is an incredible experience. It allows a consumer to be an active participant in changing someone’s life instead of being just another invisible cog in the wheels of daily commerce. Every time someone spends their hard earned money in my shop they’re giving me an incredible gift, the ability to do what I love. As a buyer you are allowing me to stay home with my children who need me, create beautiful objects, and do something that makes my heart sing and my spirit soar every single day. Your purchase MEANS something to me, it’s the ticket to the life I want to live and I love you for it.

Selling handmade allows me to use every bit of my abilities to make a living. Instead of working for 'the man’ and using a quarter of the smarts and grit I have at my disposal, I’m using every bit of my body and brain to eek out a living. I’m challenged every single day and I love what I do, and it wouldn’t be possible if nobody bought handmade.

As they say in the forums, being a self-supporting artisan is hard work yo. Not only do we put our heart and souls on the line in our art we must also be a one man marketing, accounting, shipping, and sales machine if we hope to earn our daily bread. The customer who makes a simple choice to reward that diligence by buying handmade is a small miracle, and every sale is a victory for the little guy.

So when you get the chance, won't you buy handmade and make someone's day? If you already do, take a moment and tell me about what it means to you, I'd love to hear your thoughts.