Show me your workbench!

Periodically I get asked what my work space looks like.  Well, it’s a mess!  I do sort of know where everything is, or at least where it should be.  Too many times, it’s right in front of my face, on the bench somewhere.

I’ve actually got two work benches.  One is for “hot” – soldering, pickle, but also do most of my forging, sawing, drilling, and polishing on this bench.

The other bench is my “cold” bench – I do most of my maille work here, as well as sketching and designing.

With both of them, I “built in” rulers across the bottom, marking off inch and 1/2 inch increments.  Saves me a lot of time searching for a ruler.  Although I do know exactly where those are!

I probably have too much junk on my benches – bowls full of tumbled stones, dishes with scraps of metal and in-progress projects.  I really don’t think it distracts me too much though. Sometimes having that “thing” sitting in front of me will make me pick it up and re-think how to use it.

If you see anything that you want to ask about, whether it’s a tool or piece of work, let me know in the comments!

Saturday routine

I’m so glad we didn’t end up with the 6″ of snow that was forecast earlier this week today!  Saturdays are my day in the studio, and I was pretty bummed about missing that time.

Instead of 6″ of early March snow, we ended up with nothing.  Well, nothing but cold.  Perfect day for hanging out in the studio and creating.

I finished a brass Euro 4:1 necklace that I’d started last week, and made a Phaedra pendant from a tutorial I’d purchased this morning.  The Phaedra pendant is really cool – I love the way it came together – and I’ll be making more of them!  Mine is sterling with a clear crystal, but here’s the general idea.

After I finished the pendant, I poked through some old silver components I’d made a while back, and used them to make a new bracelet. While the bracelet was in the tumbler, I took photos for my Etsy shop so that I could post a few items (check out the Shop page!).

Spring Forward tonite….looking forward to warmer weather and no threats of snow!

Shop is open!

I’m excited to announce that my online shop is now open!  Click on the Shop tab, and you’ll see links to the pieces I have currently listed in my Etsy shop.  Easy peasy, click on a photo, and you’ll be taken to Etsy to purchase!

I’ll be adding more items soon, both one-of-a-kind and unique chainmaille works of art.  If you are looking for a custom piece, please send me a convo or email and we can work together to design something just for you.

What a weekend!

I’ve been in the Hot Shops Art Center for almost three years now. Every December and May, the Art Center hosts an Open House.  This spring, the center’s managers decided to push our open house back one week so it didn’t have competition with another big event in Omaha (Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Shareholders meeting).

I was a little worried about the date, but I didn’t need to be!  I ended up having the most successful Open House yet…great traffic, lots of sales, and a number of custom orders – some of which are really going to push my creative and technical skills.

So, THANK YOU if you were able to make the Open House.  If you didn’t, make plans to visit Omaha and the Hot Shops the first weekend of December (or sooner!).  We’ll do it all over again. 🙂

THANK YOU on speech bubble price labels

Personal Touch

For years, I’ve put tags on my sterling silver necklaces and bracelets.  The tags are tiny, and actually serve a functional purpose – the wearer can use them to help hold the end of the piece that needs to go in the clasp, making it easier to put on a bracelet or necklace.

They also add a bit of weight to a bracelet on the clasp end, which keeps the clasp inside the wrist when the bracelet is being worn.

Each tag is stamped with “CMY”, symbolizing C-My Designs and “signing” my work.


Sterling Silver Dragon Steps weave bracelet

While I’ve been doing this for a long time with sterling, and added copper tags a couple of years ago, I didn’t have any tags in aluminum, which is one of my best sellers.  I finally found some time aluminum tags, and I was excited to add my “signature” to my anodized aluminum bracelets!

The stamping process is fun!


Aluminum tags

I try to do a bunch of tags at one time so I have them made up when I create a piece that’s going to be tagged.  When I’m stamping, I do it assembly line style.  First, I line up the tags, pull out my stamps, and grab a small hammer.  In the photo above, I’ve stamped the C on all the tags.


These tags are done!  They aren’t all exactly the same, but that’s the beauty of handmade. 🙂

Now my aluminum bracelets have the same personal touch as my sterling silver bracelets.  I love the way they look, and that they are now “signed” too.

Scraps to Treasure

Just a short post today – I worked on a custom request last week, and while I can’t show that project yet, I took a quick video to show how I take little cuttings of silver and turn them into something usable.

Those little scraps?  They are the ends of some silver rings that I had to clip off so the rings would have flat(ter) ends.  I didn’t want them to go to waste, and I’ve been making fun things with silver balls, so I used the torch to heat them to melting point, and they all run together and become one.



I know, it’s not a real word.  But it fits.

I had this vision when I was walking earlier this week. I’d seen some stone cairns in a stream at the park I like to walk at, and I thought they would make awesome pendants.  I didn’t get a picture of those actual cairns, but you get the idea. These are at Jenny Lake, near Jackson, WY.


So I thought, rather than make stones or blobs, I’d try making silver discs, and “flute” them a little.  I cut out 7 discs, annealed them, and drilled holes in the centers.  Here’s a pic of how I get them lined up so I can drill them without drilling my fingers.  The tape holds them in place on the wood block, and there’s a little divot in each disc to drill. I didn’t want them exactly centered, to get the offset and random look.


(Well, technically, I’ve already drilled the holes here.)

Next, I went to town with a pliers. They ended up looking more like petals than stones, but I liked the effect.  After getting a nice little ball on the end of some 18g wire, I threaded all of the discs on it.  My original intent was to have them able to move around, but it really didn’t work out well. So I decided to solder the disc/petals to the wire.

Pretty much disaster. The wire wasn’t flush to the holes I’d drilled, and I couldn’t get the solder to stick. After working with it and getting two discs to stick, but the next one I soldered cause all of the previous ones to unstick, rinse and repeat about 12 times, I decided to try a larger gauge of wire.  16g to the rescue!

Better – I still had some difficulty in keeping previous disc/petals soldered when I heated up subsequent ones (even though I followed the rule of starting out with hard solder and working my way back to medium, and then easy) – but while I had to re-solder a few disc/petals, eventually I was down to the last one.

IMG_2045Here’s where I left it when I locked up the studio tonite.  The top disc/petal still isn’t on there solidly, but I just had to walk away. I REALLY like the concept however, and I’m excited to go back and finish it up.  Going to be a pendant, and I think I’ll work on the concept a bit more and see where I can go with it.

Spring & Summer Shows!


This spring and summer are shaping up to be a busy one for art shows….

spring 2016 open houseApril 23-24 is the Hot Shops (where my studio is located) semi-annual Open House.  The Spring Open House is 2 weeks earlier this year to avoid conflict with the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting.  Lots of free parking.  Be sure to come up to Pi Studio on the 3rd floor and say hi!

grand cities art festNext up, June 10-11 is the Grand Cities Art Fest in Grand Forks, ND.  I look forward to this show every year, and it’s become a family tradition!  My husband, son, and parents will all be there to help out.  This is a FUN outdoor festival that always has great music, food, and of course, great art!

artfestmidwestArtFest Midwest “The Other Art Show” in Des Moines, IA is held the weekend of June 25-26, and I’m excited to announce I’ll be back this year.  Inside the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, this show offers lots of local and regional artists, and is the same weekend as the downtown Des Moines art fair.  Free shuttle buses go between the two locations, and you can park for free at the fairgrounds!

From bad to great in one day…

I went into my studio today expecting great things.  While I’d taken some projects home last week and had gotten some new supplies in the mail, I hadn’t had time to work on anything.  So I anticipated getting in early today, sorting out my new order, and settling in with a couple of new projects.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d find that thieves had struck during the week. 🙁

I had hung my cool frame earring display in the hallway outside my studio with some inexpensive aluminum earrings on it.  It made a nice display, and filled in some blank wall space.  I trusted that anyone wanting my cute earrings would stop in the studio and pay for them, or drop a little cash under the door.

Unfortunately, when I got to the third floor, I discovered there were 4 sets of earrings missing from the display, and nothing under the door.  My studio-mate confirmed that no one had paid her for any earrings.

Double 🙁 .  I moved the display into the studio, considered putting large posters in it’s place (THIS IS WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS, or JERKS WHO STOLE MY EARRINGS I HOPE YOU ENJOY THEM) but finally decided I had to move on, and the posters would likely not reach the guilty parties.  Instead I posted on Facebook, lambasting the a-holes who’d violated my space.  I fumed and fumed, but wanted to get away from the negativity.  Nothing I could do about it, after all.

So I moved on to the projects I had wanted to tackle.  First up, a bracelet for someone special.  (No details…this is a surprise. 🙂 ).  That was fairly quick, and since it was made from sterling silver, I popped it in the tumbler to shine it up a little.

Second project…I’d purchased some rings from a couple of weeks ago for a specific project.  I’ve joined a ChainMaille Facebook group, and have seen some INCREDIBLE work posted.  One of the weaves, Vipera Berus, really intrigued me.  I’d seen a “Kinged” version (double the rings) in rainbow niobium rings, and I knew I wanted to give this one a try.

I’ve seen this weave described as Intermediate/Advanced, and figured I could do it.  I had instructions, and had done the first steps (create a 2 in 2 chain, double the length you wanted).  But…I knew a Kinged version would be more difficult, and figuring out the pattern would be even more difficult with the Rainbox Mix rings I’d chosen.  I practiced with three colors of aluminum rings until I felt confident in the pattern.

Then I started back in with the niobium rings.  Ooh, so pretty…it’s hard to be “random” with the colors (I always seem to pick up seven purples in a row!).  I worked through the pattern for about 2″ and discovered I’d messed up consistently, so I had to go back and figure out the in-and-out pattern again. I ended up ripping out about an inch of what I’d done.  It’s like frogging in knitting, but a little more painful.

kvb begin

So here’s the start of it……

Continue on for a few hours, with some breaks.  I got to points where I literally felt like I was going cross-eyed, or couldn’t see what I was doing.  BUT I WANTED TO FINISH.

And I did.  And I was so happy, because it made me feel better about the whole stinky day.  About losing several pairs of earrings that weren’t all that expensive, but took me time to do.  It made me feel better about myself in learning something new, and feeling like I had not only figured it out, but mastered it.  And the finished bracelet was shiny and colorful and interesting and intricate and beautiful.  It was something that made me feel better about the whole day.

kvb endEven though, in the long run, this weave is based on the scales of a snake (shudder), it’s something I love, and something I’ll wear a lot. Plus, I can’t wait to hear back from the person who gets that first project…I hope it makes their day.

And ultimately, despite the crappy start to the day, all of it makes me happy. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Home again, home again

Last weekend’s show in Grand Forks, North Dakota – Grand Cities Art Fest – was GREAT.  Got to see some old friends, made some new friends, and best of all, hubby and I got to visit with my mom & dad and my son who were all on hand for the show!

I was really pleased with my booth set up.  Hubby and son helped figure out how to get things hanging from the stabilizer bars…it’s perpetually windy in the Midwest, so it’s critical that things don’t go flying if there’s a gust of wind.

grand cities

I can’t say enough good things about the stabilizer bars I got from  You can see the top ones along the edge of the roof of my tent – they were on three sides.  I only put 2 of the bottom ones up since I was on a corner, and didn’t want people tripping on a bar!  The bars kept the tent legs from shifting with the wind, and I have never felt so secure in my tent before!!

I’ve been working on the look and feel of my booth – I kept the color scheme to black and beige, and I think it really worked well.  I’ve never felt like things were as cohesive as they were at this show.

And my re-purposed displays were great!  I had a number of people comment on my maille-covered business card holder, and the little “frames” for my whimsical animal pendants got a lot of attention too.  I was SUPER happy with the earring display that I created from an old picture frame – it got my earrings off the table, and best of all, never had any issue with wind!

earring display

I can’t wait to hang this up in my studio tomorrow.  I think it really makes a slick earring display that is easy to shop…no one had to wait for someone to turn the display, like they do with the tabletop one I usually use.

Thanks to everyone who came to the show….we’ll be back next year!!!