Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Something Sweet For Holiday Mornings

Yes, this is the busiest time of year for my Etsy shop and also for my family. Family birthdays begin in October and gather speed through November and December. It does seem like somewhere in the past there was some really poor planning!

Now that the holidays are upon us, it is quite pleasant to slow down for a few days, stop fabricating and shipping, and try some old family recipes.

One of the things I used to bake often is a pecan coffee roll with maple icing. Most of my old recipes ask for lots of butter and this is not an exception, so I don't bake it more than once a year. We all really enjoy it and this was our lucky year! Coffee roll time! You'll find the recipe at the bottom of this post. It's a simple way to instantly raise your cholesterol level, so you have been warned.

Place the Roll on a Cookie Pan and Cut Wedges With Scissors
Turn The Wedges On Their Sides And Top With Whole Pecans

Bake at 350-375 Until Golden Brown. Dribble Maple Flavored Glaze Icing On Them While Hot

Coffee Roll Recipe:
1 package of dry, fast rise yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3.5 cups flour
3 eggs
1 cube margarine or butter, melted

2/3 cup warm water
Butter, enough to spread
Cinnamon, enough to sprinkle
1/2 box dark brown sugar to sprinkle
1 package whole pecans
1 cup glaze icing flavored with maple (powdered sugar, a little milk, maple flavoring)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, add the other ingredients and allow to raise in covered bowl.
Punch the dough down and roll out 1/2 inch thick. Spread with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Roll, place in ring on cookie sheet. Cut with scissors and place in a fan shape. I turn each piece so the layers show on top, then add whole pecans. Bake until golden brown (I think you bake it at 375 until brown) and frost while hot.

A big piece of this is delicious eaten warm, with a glass of milk to offset the sugar.
Remember, I am not responsible for increased weight or cholesterol levels. I will accept responsibility for contented sighs, however.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Soup Weather!

Even in California, it's finally cool enough to plan soup dinners. Today I want to share one of our family favorites--Tortilla Soup. The recipe we use is the tastiest tortilla soup I have ever, well. . . . tasted. It's not a family recipe but is one found by searching the internet. We found it on a website for Pastor Tom's Ministries. Please know that we have absolutely no affiliation with this religious sect, nor are we even sure what it is. We do, however, love this soup!
Our Best Tortilla Soup With Avocado and Sour Cream Garnish

Combine In Blender: Canned Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, Cilantro, and Sugar. Blend Until Smooth.
Pour Chicken Broth And Chipotle Peppers Into Large Pot.

Add Chicken and Tomato Mixture From Blender. 

 Bring to boil and simmer for twenty minutes. You can control the level of spice by adding or removing chipotle peppers. I suggest you take some out, taste the soup and adjust the amount of peppers. At the finish, remove all of the peppers unless you are really seeking revenge on those who will be eating the soup!

While the soup is simmering, shred some cheese. Peel the avocados and cut into chunks. Crumble some tortilla chips and open the sour cream! You will want to layer these in serving bowls--add chips, top with cheese, garnish with avocado, spoon soup over this and add a dollop of sour cream.

One More Time. The Best Tortilla Soup Ever. It's The Peppers!
  • 16 ounce can tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons snipped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken breast cut up
  • 2 or 3 chipotle peppers and a little adobo sauce

  • shredded cheese
  • avocados cut up
  • tortilla chips
  • sour cream

Guaranteed to warm you up!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Buyer Beware

I have wanted to write this educational post for a few weeks. Lately, friends have been offering me jewelry pieces that are thought to be sterling.  Even the piece below, which was identified as a knock-off, was still thought to be sterling. It is not. But, you say, it is stamped .925--it must be sterling! The truth is, .925 can be stamped on anything and some countries exert no control or penalties for misuse of quality standards.  One writer stated that their experience in buying beads from one of these countries included being told that beads stamped with .925 were cheaper than those without the stamp proving the demand for fakes is large.

Tiffany Knock Off Sold On Internet

"Silver" Chain Before and After Use of Torch
A link from the fake chain in the top picture was melted with an acetylene torch and it immediately turned a bright brassy color as it melted quickly. The problem with imports is explained in detail in the article linked here:

It seems important to understand the misuse of the quality mark since precious metals now sell at record highs. It gives you one more bit of information with which you can educate your friends and customers. I hope this is helpful to you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Becoming An American

September 27, 2011 was a special day and I want to tell you about it.  It probably isn't connected to metalsmithing but it did affect me and in that way, it was connected.

Today my Swedish son-in-law became an American citizen. He did not just arrive in this country but has been here for 34 years, raised a family, and worked in international sales.  Until just a few years ago, Sweden would not allow dual citizenship and Anders traveled extensively in Europe on his Swedish passport. He began the journey to US citizenship as soon as possible when dual citizenship was an option. Each exit from the US and entry into the US that he had made in the past 34 years required accurate documentation. This documentation process was a daunting undertaking but he kept at it and finally, this year everything was in order.

A Fraction of the 1,232 Candidates For US Citizenship
We arrived at the Paramount Theater where 1,232 about-to-be new United States citizens waited in line to be seated. This was an intricately organized gathering and was critical to the efficiency of everything that followed. The candidates for citizenship were guided into predetermined sections and seated together by country of origin to facilitate the certificate distribution. In the picture above, Anders is in the upper left hand corner, three in from the door, standing between a red jacket and a blue shirt. His big smile makes him easy to identify.
The Wall of the Paramount Theater
Some of you know by now that I like to take pictures of beautiful designs.  So, it makes sense that I would take a picture of this gorgeous ceiling at the Paramount and the wall in the picture above. The colors are true and the designs are mesmerizing. We were not bored while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

The Wall and Ceiling of the Paramount Theater
The interior of the Paramount Theater creates a grand atmosphere for this ceremony and communicates the importance of this moment. The government officials spoke warmly and respectfully to the new citizens. The man who introduced the procedures spoke fluently in the languages of seven countries as he welcomed the candidates. (Swedish was not one of them.) He also had a dry sense of humor with which he peppered his comments. At the end, 1,232 candidates from 104 countries received their certificates of citizenship in a timely, orderly fashion. Over half of them ordered passports in the lobby. All of this finished in a little over an hour renewing my faith, ever so slightly, in government efficiency.

I almost stayed home and worked on some bracelets today but I'm so glad I didn't! I was reminded of my days managing Vocational English As A Second Language Programs in business. The people I interacted with in those classes believed in the promise of America. Many had left everything to come to a better place and participate in the American Dream. Their love for the United States should remind us to stand up for the country we believe in and to vote, vote, vote. These new citizens bring fresh enthusiasm and dedication with them. Let's welcome them.

Thank you, Anders and 1,231 others. We need you here.

New American--One of the Best

Monday, September 26, 2011

Phoenix Pendant-Arising From The Ashes

Wikipedia describes the Phoenix as a bird who: 
 "has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young Phoenix or Phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again." This pendant is a Phoenix.

Finally,  For The Teal Blue Druzy From New Mexico
I worked diligently on a new type of setting for the base, making a seat out of 12 gauge square fine silver wire and then filing out the edge on the top so the odd shaped stone would fit. At this point, I used too much flame and the base fell apart.

That was the first time it fell apart. I soldered it back together and then I set up prongs around the edges
by pushing them into my new Cotronics brazing board--more about this board in a later post. Again, I used an acetylene torch and some of the prongs fell off. At this point, I walked away for a couple of weeks.
After a brief vacation from the heavy prong setting on a square wire seat, I picked up the pieces and started again. I was beginning to understand this strange, exotic cabochon. First, it is not symmetrical and one side is higher than the other. Second, the bottom is not flat as its beveled edge connects the curved top to the flatter base. It would be hard to set without prongs and without the thick wire seat. The dark bottom of the stone presented another issue. Since the bottom looked more like teal blue polymer than stone, it really needed to be hidden. For this reason, I decided to solder the square wire seat to a sterling backing and make it solid in back. Once this decision was made, the rest of the setting went together easier.

I then split a double half-round sterling wire for the bail and placed it so the tip of the stone would fit just at the bottom of the bail. All that was left was to place the stone and bend the prongs. This was a gift for my daughter as she selected the stone in New Mexico. It looks great on the 18" patterned sterling chain that I finished with a double S hook. So there you have it--a blue teal druzy, shot with titanium and set in a heavy prong, heavy seat setting dangling from an 18" sterling chain. A Phoenix pendant--risen from the flame and destruction to beautify a simple outfit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bath To Bench Upcycled Organization Solution

Everyone that purchases a blow dryer--you know the kind--for blow drying hair, has received an additional attachment in the box. One of the more common of these is the diffuser pictured below.  I'm not sure what the diffuser is used for in this day and age but I do know, I hate to throw it out. It is such a well-formed piece of plastic with its little spikes and perfect holes all placed at even intervals.

A Diffuser Attachment Waiting To Be UpCycled

Instead of throwing this blow dryer attachment away, try using it to organize your dremel mandrels, polishing brushes, rubber wheels, and all other dremel bits and pieces! It will also work for your flex shaft attachments. This dryer attachment can be upcycled from bathroom use to workbench use allowing you to tame that workbench clutter!
Dremel and Flex Shaft Mandrels, Bits, Wheels, and Brushes Stored in a Diffuser

What do you upcycle for your home studio? Give us some ideas. We all need to reuse and upcycle.

Friday, September 2, 2011

More On Etching

I've had so many pieces in the process stage during the last three weeks that I have forgotten to add to my post on etching. Here is my etched bi-metal piece on a handforged copper neck ring:

Bi-Metal Etching of Mimbres Pottery Shard
Another etching design I have used is a print of New Mexico artist Nan Orr's black and white designs. So far, I've only etched these on copper by printing them first on Press N Peel paper and then transferring the designs to copper with heat from an iron.
Copper Etched Pieces on Fused Fine Silver Chain

Two 1"x1/2" Etched Copper Rectangles

Nan Orr's Sunflower Etched on Copper Square

It is really fun to transfer this artist's designs to copper with PnP and then etch them. If the designs don't fill in when transferred, you can fill them in by hand with a Sharpie fine tip, permanent marker. I love having that ability to fix the design before it goes into the etchant.

Annie at A Spinner Weaver blogspot, has a post about an artist in Illinois, George Colin, who paints in a colorful, primitive style. When I saw the post and his work, I thought how it would look when transferred to copper for an etching. Hmmmmmm. Ya never know what will happen next! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Metalsmith Tip #2--Oxidizing With Hardboiled Egg

My bi-weekly tips are very basic, very elementary. Today's is no exception. I first learned to oxidize with an ordinary boiled egg in a plastic bag and I still use this method for small pieces. I am always surprised to learn that some artisans who seem quite accomplished, do not know about or use this easy, chemical-free method to oxidize silver or copper and give it an antique look.

A Warm Hardboiled Egg Squished in a Plastic Ziplock Bag

All you need is a small pot with water, a chicken egg, a small plastic ziplock bag and a piece of metal.
1.  Boil the egg until it's hard boiled.
2.  Crack the egg and shell it while it is hot.
3.  Place it in the plastic bag and mash it up with your fingers.
4.  Place the metal piece in the ziplock bag and seal it.

Some pieces oxidize quickly and others take a little longer. When you're done, there is no harmful chemical waste to throw out--just a squished hardboiled egg!

Fine Silver Rings Oxidized in Hardboiled Egg

Lightly Oxidized Fine Silver Ring
The ring in the above picture was lightly oxidized for about 20 minutes--peridot and all. It is now ready for a polish pad to remove most of the oxidation.

The Final Finish on Textured Rings
Now the textured rings have a chemical free, antique look. Safer for you and safer for--yes--the environment! No messy cleanup. Just throw the bag and the leftover boiled egg in the trash. Good luck. This works great on copper also. How can you use this process?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Metalsmith Tip of the Week--Filling Gaps in Bezel Seam

I promised to post a metalsmith tip regularly but I didn't say what "regular" meant. For now, I'll schedule it for Thursday bi-weekly. That will provide structure for me and maybe it will be helpful for you. I am open to suggestions in the comment section!

Today, I want to tell you about my very own discovery for finding those pesky spots at the base of a bezel you are soldering--you know--the ones where the solder didn't flow or the bezel didn't touch the silver sheet properly. When I began soldering bezels, finding those spots was really hard for me--even tho' I had a lot of them on each bezel. At least it was really hard until I picked up a keychain that had an LED flashlight on the end and used it to light up the interior of the bezel. The blue LED light made the gaps easy to see.

First, clean the bezel by placing it in the warm  pickle.  Then rinse and let dry.  Check the bezel seam with the LED searching for any gaps in the solder.

Gap in Bezel Solder Identified With Led 
Mark the ends of the gap in the solder with a Sharpie.

Gap ID'd With LED and Marked With Sharpie
With the gap in the soldered seam identified, you can strategically place flux and snippets of solder for a quick and efficient cleanup of the bezel seam.

Here's a closeup of my handy, dandy LED flashlight keychain. You can see it's well used and most of that use was not on a keychain. Mine has a blue light and I like to think it's better than a white light!

Keychain LED Light For Checking Bezel Seam
I hope this helps!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Etching Revisited

Once in awhile our jewelry fabrication class at Civic Arts revisits etching. I always enjoy it, get all excited about doing more, purchase the material, try it once--or twice, and then put it away for several months. This time I picked up where I left off the last time and this time I added bimetal which I learned to make during Metals Week. The silver on the bottom of this piece is thicker than the copper piece. They were soldered together with medium silver solder and run through the rolling mill.

Copper Soldered Silver To Make Bi-Metal

After flattening  the bimetal piece with a mallet, I applied a design that was printed on PressNPeel paper. The design was a photograph of an ancient Mimbres Valley Indian Pottery shard from New Mexico. I can't wait to place it in etchant and see what happens!
Silver and Copper Bimetal With Print of Mimbres Pottery on PNP Iron-On

Once the design was printed on the Press N Peel paper, I cut out a geometrical design and placed it, printed side down, on a prepared piece of copper. To prepare the copper, I cleaned it with soap and water, scrubbed it with  steel wool, and cleaned it further with rubbing alcohol. Then, I placed the PNP design on the prepared piece and heated it with an iron. To make the design adhere better, I pushed it (burnished it) with a wood tongue depressor.  

Now it was ready to take a dip in the etchant. Dip is an understatement--it was more like a six hour soak. I have decided that it would have been a shorter time, a neater time, and a much better outcome if I had used thinner copper. It took way too long to etch any part of the design. Plain copper seems to etch much quicker than the homemade bi-metal.

Tomorrow I'm going to try polishing some of the silver edges and dip the piece in Liver of Sulfer. I first used Silver Black on it and am not excited about the results. I also think that it would have been a crisper etching if I had just used copper, so maybe I'll try that again. I think trying something new just to see what happens is fun and exciting! What do you think?

Monday, July 18, 2011

How To Make Finishing Wax For Patinas

I plan to post a regular  piece about a "tip" I've learned for working with metal. This is the first in a series and today, I want to share directions for making finishing wax for any oxidized or patinated metal. I have always used Renaissance Wax which I purchase in small, expensive amounts from a woodworking shop. It isn't readily available in some parts of the USA. So today's tip will show you how to make finishing wax from materials that are easily available.

The first ingredient is beeswax. I found some two ounce cakes of it at our local hardware store.
Cut the beeswax into small chunks (or shred it) and fill a baby food jar with beeswax. This 2 oz. cake will probably fill the jar.

The second ingredient is Turpentine. Just regular old turpentine, again--from the hardware store.

Pour the turpentine over the beeswax to the top of the jar , put the lid on and set it aside.

After a few days, the wax and turpentine will emulsify and you will have a great finishing wax. The jar in this picture holds 4 ounces of beeswax because, obviously, I used what I had and it wasn't a baby food jar! Use a soft cloth to wax the copper bracelet and use another soft cloth to polish it. This recipe was given to us by two instructors at Metals Week so I am confident it will serve you well!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back To Reality

After the car was unpacked, clothes washed, Etsy orders filled, civic arts classes attended, part time job schedule resolved, I began to ruminate on the experiences of Metals Week.

The Canopied Amphitheater
This picture of the amphitheater outside our classroom reminds me of the unusually peaceful and magical setting of Idyllwild.Yes, I did like to take pictures of the canopies.

Fred Zweig, Harold O'Connor and Teaching Assistant Jamie Kunkle With Yellow Pad. Thank you, Jamie!

The participants were serious about learning and they brought high levels of skill and talent with them. Many of them were "lifers" at Idyllwild and most were experienced metalsmiths. With no more than twelve participants in each class, some of the best artists/instructors, and Teaching Assistants available in each classroom, our learning was maximized.

Three Dimensional Piece and Reticulated Silver
 OK, I promised over a week ago that I would show you some of my work, so here goes. These are absolutely learning exercises for me. The three dimensional piece in upper-left corner was the most difficult and also provided a great learning experience for me. Yes, I know I needed to clean the solder off better but I learned to carve and fold the silver, solder it to a backing, and frame it. I know what I need to do differently and have already begun another.  The other pieces above are reticulated silver, oxidized with Liver of Sulfur. I'm still working on this also.

That's all the self-disclosure I can handle in this post, so I'll show you more--next time!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Culminating Event At Metals Week

No week-long session would be complete without a closing celebration and Idyllwild Metals Week had much to celebrate. Although many participants left to get a jump on the July 4th traffic, the final display of accomplishments for each of the classes was a huge success. Each class displayed samples of student work on tent boards for all to see. I think each of us wished that we could have also participated in other classes and we have ideas for next year. The following pictures show some of the sample student work from this last week. Others are available at

Student Work From Fred Zweig's Hinges Class

Student Work From Joanna Gollberg's Rings Class

Student Work From Sandra Noble-Goss's Married Metals and Etching Class

Student Work From Pauline Warg's Setting Small Gems Class

Student Work From Harold O'Connor's Surface Embellishment Class
These samples of work are indicators of the fine work that was accomplished in each of the classes. My apologies to Charity Hall whose students created awesome pins and pendants with sugar enameling. I wasn't able to get close enough to her display table to take pictures as it was very popular.

Do check out the shutterfly pictures of each Metals Week class and also the other art classes that were in session ( Seldom do so many talented people gather to spend a week with outstanding artist/teachers where they can breathe, talk and submerge themselves in an artistic environment. It was an inspiring week and I am excited about applying what I learned at Idyllwild Metals Week.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Social Time At Idyllwild Metals Week

Wednesday, June 30th was the "peak" of the week and an auction/potluck dinner was scheduled. It came at a point where a little social time was needed after working intensely for four days. Participants and instructors donated tools, class gift certificates and creations for a silent auction which gave us access to some useful and unique items not usually available.  Fred Zweig donated one of his special forging hammers. Harold O'Connor donated his Instructional DVD set, and there were many others. Proceeds from the auction went to Idyllwild Metals Week to support the program. 

Students living in the residence halls purchased items for the potluck as there were no cooking facilities. Teaching Assistants participated also as well as Staff. Some food was ordered delivered, some was prepared by those living in cabins and liquid refreshment was available. Surprisingly, it came together nicely and the food was tasty. Can there ever be too many dips?

We gathered under one of the airy, apparently nylon canopies on campus. It was the first time I had sat under one of them and looked up. When I did, I found a wonderful hypnotizing pattern of lines around a round hole in the top.

The CanopyAt Idyllwild

Harold O'Connor Must Have Liked It Too!
It was a relaxed time to interact with classmates and instructors.
Marjorie and Jill-- Extraordinary Metalsmiths

Metalsmiths Leslie, Marcia and Lola

It was a successful evening of talk, laughter, food and drink!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 3 Idyllwild Arts Program, Metals Week

I have lost track of which picture belongs to which day and from the very first day, Harold O'Connor demonstrated his skillful use of his breath controlled torch. So here's a good picture of Harold and his torch. He told us this is a European technique and we could tell he is highly skilled at using it.
Harold O'Connor and His Breath Controlled Torch

Copper Laminated to Silver and Carved

After we tried making a 3-dimensional form and then reticulating silver, we were introduced to making our own bi-metal from copper and silver. Here is an example of copper soldered to silver, run through the rolling mill several times and then carved to show the silver design underneath. The color is a torch patina on the copper.

The natural progression in making bi-metal was 18K gold on silver. The gold is a very thin gauge which is then fused to 12 gauge silver. First the silver is annealed three times to build up a layer of fine silver. Fine silver fuses easier than sterling.

Gold sheet fused to Sterling Silver

The bubbles that are visible may disappear in the rolling mill process. If not, then the artist works with them to create a design.

18K Gold Laminated on Sterling Silver

The result can be stunning-- especially if Harold O'Connor is the artist demonstrating the technique. In between these demonstrations we were cutting, filing, annealing, pickling, and working with the metal to create pieces with carved bi-metal designs. The result was quite satisfying and I will be showing you some of my work tomorrow.