Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chain Chain Chainmaille

One of the first things I became obsessed with through my rebirthing of creative journey was chainmaille.  I saw a bracelet made by my friend's mom and couldn't believe you can make something so beautiful out of jump rings!  In my usual OCD nature I searched everywhere online about chainmaille.  I learned how to make the Byzantine weave from Beaducation's free online class.  Colin Mahler's instruction was so thorough she gave me a great foundation about how to open and close jump rings.

Then I found Urbanmaille who offers high quality jump rings in Sterling Silver, Argentium Silver, and Copper.  Urbanmaille also offers great tutorials and kits and Aislyn and Gary deliver the highest level of customer service.  One of the key things when making chainmaille is choosing high quality jump rings.  Don't go for cheap jump rings as you will end up with jump rings that won't close tight or have nicks on the rings. 

When I took Tracy Stanley's class at Weekend with Wiremasters in 2010, she raved about Dave Arens' Koil Kutter System.  In my usual self sustaining and tool junkie spirit, I had to get tools to make my own rings. Kevin Potter has since took over the Koil Kutter System and you can purchase it at Potter USA.  I have to admit I was pretty intimidated about using the rotary cutter with my Dremel to cut the jump rings but the blade guard offers total protection and it was much easier than I expected.  This is what the Koil Kutter looks like.  I mounted the coiler on a wooden board so it's nice and stable. My Bead Soup partner, Melissa Muir, posted a great article comparing the Koil Kutter vs. Jump Ringer on her Tool Time Tuesday. If you are deciding on a jump ring maker, this is a must read post.

I chose the Dremel version with the millimeters Koil mandrels.  Dave said the Koil system is easier to work with Dremel rather than the flex shaft.  Luckily I found Desiree's Desired Creations who posted a step by step photos on how to assemble the Koil Kutter on the Dremel.  Once the jump rings were cut, I tumbled them to work harden and polish the rings.  After a couple of hours, the rings come out so shinny.   The cuts were straight and closed nice and tight without gaps.  Success!

 You don't need a lot of tools for chainmaille but having the right pliers is really important especially when you are working with heavier gauges.  I have my trusted Lindstrom pliers which I simply can't live without.  Bent nose in one hand and flat nose in the other. The ring tool is another simple but must have tool to open the hundreds of rings for chainmaille projects.  When working with heavier gauges (16g+)  I dip my plier tips in Tool Magic which coats the tips with a thin rubber cover so you won't mar the rings.  Once I finish the bracelet I tumble it for couple of hours to get rid of any burrs, work harden a little more, and to give it another polish.

Here are some of my favorite weaves.  From left to right, Jens Pind, Byzantine, and Full Persian weaves.  I personally prefer Argentium silver over Sterling silver as it is a lot more tarnish resistant.  Once you have the basics of chainmaille down, CG Maille is the site to go if you want to find out about the 100's of different weaves.  The website hosts tons of tutorials of weave patterns.  Great graphics & photos and it is updated with new weave patterns and tutorials often. Pick up those pliers and open & close, open & close, open & close... So many weaves and so little time!

Friday, June 22, 2012

6th Bead Soup Blog Party!

I saw so many people raving about how much fun they had during the last Bead Soup Party which was held in March 2012, so I decided to join in on the fun!  Lori Anderson is the host of this worldwide blog hop which started in February 2010 and this marks the 6th party.  There will be three reveal dates with a total of 400 participants.  I have to say I was both excited and nervous about joining the party but the Bead Soup Cafe group on Facebook is such a supportive community.

On Friday June 22 we found out who amongst the 400 participants will be our partners.  I received Lori's email during my lunch break and I found out my partner is none other than Melissa Muir.  Yes THE Melissa Muir!  I literally squealed when I read the email as I am a big fan of her blog Kelsi's Closet Jewelbox Design Journal and love her Tool Time Tuesday which is packed with great information about tools!  Happy place for a tool junkie like me :)

After my initial excitement I came to a realization that I'm going to be partnered with a metal master!  Gulp!  My girlfriend Heidi gave me a good idea for the swap.  This is going to be a fun weekend making the focal piece, clasp, and beads!  Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bead & Button Show 2012 Recap

Just got home from Bead & Button Show and what an exhilarating experience it was!  I signed up for 10 classes this year.  It was a crazy schedule with three days of back to back day and night classes but I had to pack in as much as I can while I was there and it was so worth it!

Here is the recap of B&B 2012!
Day 1~Painting with Fire with Barbara Lewis
From the moment I met Barbara I knew I made the right choice to sign up for two of her classes this year.  I've been admiring her work for several years on various magazines, watched her video, read her book from cover to cover so I felt as though I was meeting a celebrity!  Her husband, Jim, and assistant Chris were such huge help during the two workshops not to mention how warm and skillful they were.  It was a full class and the three of them did an incredible job being attentive to all the students.  The immersion method is truly amazing.  Talk about instant gratification.  You can literally make beautifully enameled beads in minutes! The Painting with Fire workshop gave me the solid foundation for the immersion method.  Look at all the beads I made during class!

Day 2~Balance Beam Bracelet with Richard Salley
I took Richard's class last year at B&B and really loved his relaxed zen like teaching style.  I wanted to build a solid foundation in soldering and I so appreciated learning the technique from Richard.  His lovely assistant Martina Stein was there too.  She just has such a calming spirit and such a talented jewelry artist.  The two of them make such a perfect teaching duo!

The bracelet required 12 soldering points so it was a great way to dive in and learn the technique.  I was so happy I took this class with my dear friend Julie as we kept telling each other how we couldn't believe we were making this bracelet.  Everyone in class made beautiful bracelets and lots of oooohs and ahhhhs were going on at the end of the class.  Just another reminder not to limit what you can accomplish.  With great teachers like Richard, he makes your dream come true!  See you next year Richard and Martina as I'll be signing up for another class for sure!  

Day 2 Night Class~Soldering a Copper Bezel with Kim St. Jean 
I decided to take advantage of evening classes this year and signed up at a chance to take a class with Kim St. Jean.  It's great to learn the same technique from multiple teachers as inevitably they all have something different to share.  Soldering paste was used for this class which works totally different than solder sheets and wire.  It was so great to see different method and how to use different materials.  I'm used to working with PMC/Art Clay syringe and I was way too stingy in applying the solder paste to my bezel.  Kim finally came over and squeezed a very generous amount of paste and it flowed like a charm.  Note to self...apply more solder paste.  Working with thin copper bezel allowed us to bezel interesting shapes.  I originally picked out a rectangle turquoise but changed it to ammonites to challenge myself during class.  It was a great experience working with odd shapes.  I learned lots of great tips from Kim during the 3 hr class :)

Day 3~Micro Macrame with Joan Babcock
I was really into macrame back in the day but I couldn't remember a single knot (I guess it shows how long ago that was lol!).  When I saw Joan's work, I was so intrigued how she incorporated cords, beads, and wire into her work. But I just couldn't figure out how to do the different steps by reading her book.  I learn best from demonstration.  This class was such a nice change from my usual working with metal and I actually found myself enjoying a quiet soothing class working with threads and seed beads :) It was the most quiet class I took this year lol!   I bought several kits, her book and DVD so I can continue to learn and incorporate macrame into my work.  Joan and her husband Jeff were so sweet and helpful and patiently taught us through the multiple steps.  There are so many color cords to choose from and I quickly added them on my shopping list :)  Joan will be soon offering online classes on her Website and I will definitely be .  As you can see I still need to finish this bracelet but I can see myself doing micro macrame projects while watching TV.  

Day 4~"Soar" Surface Decoration for Enameling with Barbara Lewis
This was a 2nd class with Barbara and boy was I glad I took her Painting with Fire class first.  It really made a huge difference working with multiple shapes of the birdhouse.  I finally figured out how to get better coverage to the area around the mandrel near my hand.  My dear friend Julie and I sat right next to each other and we had a great time as usual.  I originally intended to have the main part of the birdhouse in cobalt blue with millefiori flowers around it but it ended up with specks and the millefiori flowers just turned ugly brown :(  I hate it when your original idea doesn't turn out the way you planned and I had to figure out how to make it work.  So I decided to coat it with layers of white and aqua.  Now with multiple layers of enamels, I used another mandrel and twisted the molten glass to get a unique effect.  I told Julie that this is either going to turn out to be the ugliest piece or surprising beauty.  When the glass cooled I was so happy with the result!  The great thing about working with enamel is you can always coat another layer if you are not happy with what you see :)  Just love working with forgiving materials!  It was a bit tricky putting fusing the floor, body of the birdhouse and the roof together.  We used Eugenia Chan's torching basket for that final process.  It's a must have tool and you can get it from Barbara's Website

Day 4 Night Class~Hand Stamped Spinner Ring with Chris Mode
I wanted to take this class last year but it sold out super fast.  I signed up within the first couple of minutes when the online registration opened and it was one of the first sold out classes this year.  Even though it's a 3 hour class, Chris was so organized and clearly explained the step by step process so I was able to finish this ring and had 30 minutes to spare.  It was a bit tricky to get the base ring aligned perfectly to be soldered but with a little help, the solder flowed so nicely.  I have so many design ideas in my head, I can't wait to start making these rings! 

Day 5~Hinged Treasure Boxes by Linda Larsen
Hinges can add movement, flexibility, and design element that simply can't be accomplish with a flat sheet of metal.  So when I saw Linda offering this class I jumped on the opportunity.  It was a full class and the time flew by quick.  I didn't get to finish the piece but I learned the step by step techniques.  Linda shared a great tip on using your thumb nail as a guide when you start sawing.  I always had a hard time to get the blade make that first cut and this made sawing so much easier to start.  She had many wonderful pieces on display and I just love the way her work looks.  I still need to attach the top part to the box on the bottom, thread the bail, and attach the necklace.  We used mica as the little window which was sandwiched between the two metal sheets and all three were riveted together.  Now I need to decide what treasure to put inside the box which will peak through the window.  What a fun piece to wear when it's all done.  I'll have to make it a point not to add this project on the ever growing "I'll finish that later" pile...  Linda is a fun and energetic teacher and she will keep you moving through the class.  I also had a great time sitting next to my new friend Lucie from Calgary during this class!

Day 5 Night Class~Metal Etching 101 with Cristina Leonard and Gail Lannum
I've been admiring etched metal for sometime and been wanting to try it but I was timid using ferric chloride so when I saw this class being offered at B&B, it was a perfect timing!  The class was taught by Cristina Leonard and Gail Lannum.  They are two great ladies who kept the class fun and informative.  We learned how to use both the PnP sheet and Sharpie Markers to create the resists.  Each copper were in the etching solution for about 45 minutes and created beautiful images.  Since I don't have a rolling mill (yet), this will be a great way to add designs and texture to metal sheets I use.  The possibilities are endless as you can basically etch any image even photos by using Photoshop.  Cristina and Gail are both talented artists.  It was so nice to be in their first B&B class.  I look forward to seeing what they will be teaching next year :)

Meet the Teachers Event
This is a must attend event at Bead & Button Show!  All the teachers showcasing their work and kits for sale.  I can't imagine a more exciting place to be!  If you want first dibs, come early as you can see the long line to the event.  The place was buzzing with students interacting with teachers.  I purposely avoided getting any seed bead kits this year as I still had some from last year and focused on metal and wire related kits.  It's also a great way to see the classes you may have missed and buy kits, or meet the teachers you may want to take classes from in the future.   It was a long but happy day and many of us left the event with bags of goodies :)

Day 6~Engraved Tapestry Bracelet with Melissa Cable
I took Melissa's class last year at Bead & Button simply because I was fascinated with a material I never heard of called Faux Bone.  When I found out what a great teacher she is, I kept a close eye on what she was going to offer this year and this class was one of my top choices.  Her classes are well organized with handouts with lots of information and she is so attentive.  Faux Bone was developed by Robert Dansik which is a non-toxic PVP which can be heated to form any shape.  It's truly a versatile material and you can use many medium to color it.  I originally cringed at the thought of engraving as I have such a hard time engraving on metal.  The engraver dances all over the metal and I can never get a clean design or lettering let alone intricate designs.  When Melissa told me I'm going to love engraving on Faux Bone, I was skeptical but once I started I was amazed how easy it was!  Everyone in the class had such amazing designs.  She introduced the Frame Flaring Tool which was used to make the bezel and so glad I reserved them during Meet the Teachers as they were sold out by the beginning of this class.
I'm looking forward to what she will be offering next year as she is truly one of my favorite teachers :)

Private Preview Shopping!
I was so much prepared this year for this shopping event.  I had address labels with my name, address, phone number, business license number and copies of my business license.  So many vendors appreciated this so they didn't have to write my information on the invoices.  I also made a list and tried to get to them first.  My first stop was Humblebeads and Heather Powers had so many beautiful beads!  Once I got my stash from Heather, I bought beads and cords to compliment them.  I really wanted to get a bunch of chains but decided to just write down the item numbers and order online as I knew I was close to the weight limit with all the new tools I already bought.  I was there until the closing announcement at 9pm and still had 1/3 of the floor to go.  Finished the rest of the vendors after the last class the following day.  With over 300 vendors, this is truly a beaders/jewelers heaven!

Day 7~Pierced and Stacked Pendant with Julie Sanford
One of my goals this year was to tackle my apprehension about using the jewelry saw.  I was definitely intimidated by this class but Julie has a gentle way of showing the techniques and step by step instructions.  I also contacted her prior to class via e-mail about the jewelry saw and she responded in great detail.  Once I got the rhythm going, I actually enjoyed sawing metal.  I put my headset on and listened to my favorite playlist and sawed out the entire design in one sitting.  I never thought I would say this but it was very relaxing listening to the sawing sound.  This was definitely another milestone reached :) 

After the shopping floor closed I went to the Miller Pub at the bottom of the Hilton and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.  It was soooooooo good and I'm definitely ordering that again next year!  I managed to pack away all the goodies and went to bed with a big smile.  What an amazing week.  My experience this year was better than last year.  May be because I was more familiar with where to go and felt more comfortable.  I also saw many friends from last year and made many more new friends.  I had great teachers and creative fellow students.  My roommate Julie was icing on the cake!  It was so nice to share the day's event with someone at night.  It just wouldn't have been the same without her.

Mahalo Bead & Button Show!  You have once again made my dream come true :)  

Milwaukee you were so good to me once again.  I will see you next year! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bead & Button Registered!

Arrived in Milwaukee and right after I dropped off my luggage in the hotel room I went straight to the registration desk at the Hyatt. Hardly anyone was there and I leisurely picked up my goodie bag and browsed the two vendors near by without nobody else around. Knowing how busy it's going to get at the registration area, I was happy I came early.

After I did a little shopping at Knots Just Beads, I decided to get something to eat at the Miller Pub at the Hilton. This is what I indulged to kick start B&B. Wisconsin Butter Burger!

I rolled back to my room to see what's in the goodie bag. I love the tiny Wubber chain nose pliers!

Need to go to bed so I can be rested for tomorrow!