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!!!

Getting there…

So, the thrift shop buys I showed you a couple of days ago?

They’re now some super cool displays.

Once I get all set up this weekend, I’ll show you the final versions in my booth, but for now, I’ll show you a couple that I’ve finished up.

Business card holder – the little wooden box cost me a buck.  The rings were some that I wasn’t going to use for jewelry because they weren’t shiny enough.  But I LOVE LOVE LOVE how this turned out!


I can’t wait to put some C-My Designs business cards in it on my table.

And….that totally ugly Christmas themed wall hanging?  After shooting it with black spray paint, taking off the extra “hangings”, and doing some magic, it’s going to showcase some very special necklaces.


Who wouldn’t want to bring one of these guys home?  (After I took this picture, I added little cards that show the name and price, and hide the excess chain a little…I’ll post that picture after I set up!)

I’m really excited about the Grand Cities Art Fest…I can’t wait to get there!

Show Prep!

Doing my first major show next week, after taking a couple of years off from art shows.

I’d forgotten how much behind the scenes prep there is!  But it’s all stuff I have fun doing, and designing new displays is creative in and of itself.  I’m doing quite a bit of re-purposing….an old frame is going to be a brand new earring display for example!

A couple of weekends ago, I visited a local thrift store and picked up a few items that were pretty awful in their original state, but I’m hoping with some spray paint and love, they’ll become something awesome.

Thrift shop treasures

They’re pretty ugly right now….but wait!

On the left is a little wooden box, about 3″ square and 2 1/2″ tall.  It’s going to make a perfect business card holder when I’m done with it.  In the middle is a really horrible Halloween themed box – I cut off the wire handle and it’s going to hold extra earrings on cards.  And on the right is a wall hanging that is made from some tin dishes…I cut off the “celebrate” sign on the bottom and may use it like a hanging shadowbox for necklaces.  We’ll see…

A little black spray paint to all of them, and a little more work.  Hopefully I can put the finishing touches on them over the weekend!


Stamping Samplers

Last week I experimented with an idea I’d had.  I have several sets of alphabet stamps for stamping on metal, and when I’m working on a project, I’m always having to stamp out on a scrap piece of metal because I don’t remember exactly what the font looks like.

I’ve done a few classes in stamping, and we run into the same problem.  Students can’t really tell what it’s going to look like because it’s kind of hard to imagine what this will look like when it’s stamped into metal.

I thought back to when I was a kid, and learning to cross-stitch.  We’d made “samplers” (I’m sure they came from a kit) that were based on early American (think pioneers!) samplers.  I did some quick Googling and found a number of patterns that gave me some ideas.

Of course, this was WAY more complicated than I wanted to create with my little metal stamps, but I figured the concept would work nicely.  I still have a boatload of copper tiles from Mom & Dad’s old kitchen, and I thought they would be perfect for making a little copper sampler using my letter stamps.

The tiles are a little over 4″ square, and unfortunately, covered in some kind of sealant.  They also have some glue on the back.  I’ve found the easiest and fastest way to remove the layer of sealer and glue are to torch them.  It smells terrible, and I’m sure it’s not the best thing to breathe in, so I try not to do too many of them at a time.  For this project, I decided to just clean up a few tiles.

After torching, the tiles get cleaned up a little in some pickle and then get quenched.  One of the good things about running the torch on them to clean them up is that they are annealed  – this means that the metal is nice and soft, and is easier to stamp.

I worked out my first design, bordering the tile with 4 different fonts and “cross-stitching” in the center.  Not sure if I like that bit in the center or not, but that’s what experimentation is for!

The second tile I tried, I was happier with.  I used all of the different fonts that I have and a few more of the design stamps to create borders.  The only thing is…I messed up!  One of the alphabets is out of order, and I’m missing an “S” in “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” because it should be jumps, not jumped!  I guess I could just make the “dog” plural, lol.

The last thing I wanted to do was to display them nicely.  I stopped at the Salvation Army on my way home one day, and found two square frames for .99 each.  What a bargain!  I think they turned out pretty nicely, even with the mistakes.


I’ll continue to play around with these…maybe even offer up a class to make your own “sampler”.  It was a lot of fun, and I got to play with fire, hammers, and metal.  Lots of my favorite things.


Welcome to 2015!

I don’t normally do resolutions, but I’m going to give it my best shot this year.

I’m going to try my hardest to keep this blog up to date – first step was getting my password reset so that I could actually access my account.


Next step is to remind myself daily that blogging and keeping my website up to date isn’t all that hard.  I updated my calendar page with current events, and it was pretty easy.

So I’ll count that one as done too.

I had a bit of time off from the studio over the holidays – Thanksgiving was spent on a holiday in Mississippi, and over Christmas our son was home, so I spent time with him instead of at the studio.  I think the time off refreshed me, because I feel ready to kick in the door on the new year and start up some new projects.

So let’s go.  Let’s start this journey into 2015.  I’m looking forward to moving back into shows this year, and I’ve got some new directions that I want to take with art in general.

Happy New Year…stick with me and let’s see what it brings. 🙂

A splash of color

I have this horrible habit of not being very focused.

For example, right now, there’s a spot in my bathroom that needs to be painted, and it’s needed to be painted for probably 8 years. I just sort of forgot it needed to be painted (it was fine until we installed a new medicine cabinet), and every time I notice it and think “I really should paint that”, something else catches my attention and


I forget what I’m supposed to be focused on.  Was it the laundry that needed to be folded?  Or perhaps the email I forgot to send to the lady who is supposed to send me a show application.  Wait, no….it’s that bathroom wall that needs to be painted, right?


So I decided in 2014, I’m going to be more focused in my studio.  I’m going to have a plan, have some specific things I’m going to explore, and stick with them until I have them mastered.  First thing up:  etching.

I love to etch copper and brass.  I’ve done a few projects in the past, and they turned out pretty well.  Here’s a clasp for a Dragonscale bracelet that I fabricated quite a few years ago.


I kept this one for myself, but it was so popular, I ended up making a couple of others for people who requested them.  That was before I decided I was done drawing dragons, and made it a limited edition.

I also etched the backplate for a necklace that was titled “Looking In” after a photo taken at my daughter’s wedding.



This is easily one of my favorite pieces, because of the sentimental value.

I haven’t etched for several years, and after deciding it was going to be my focus (at least for the first quarter of the year), I got to work.  I researched etching, and decided to stick with the methods I’d used before (ferric chloride etching solution).  I did find some different “resist” ideas (I did both of the examples above with a simple black Sharpie marker), and got to work on experimenting.

You may remember last fall, I started working on a Dragonscale weave in 20g wire.  It was slow going, and I picked away at it a little at a time.


Very little at a time.


It’s growing, but not very quickly.

I decided I really needed to finish this baby up…it had been hanging around my work bench for entirely too long.  I cut a piece of copper sheet that would fit as a nice center, and finished up one side of the chain.  While I did the weaving, I thought about what I wanted to put on the center piece, and came up with a modified Yin Yang design.

Ugh.  I won’t even post a picture of it, total fail….I did finally come up with a good design I was happy with, did the etching and finishing on the center piece, and put it away for the night.

This morning, after I got to the studio, I finished up the chain portion of the bracelet, drilled holes in the center piece so it could be hooked onto the chain, and grabbed my torch.

Putting patina on copper is soooo much fun. It’s like painting with fire.  You never really know what you’ll end up with, so I was really pleased with the final result.  I’d like more color on the center piece, so I may work on it a bit more next week.


The etching turned out nicely, but oooohhhh, look at that color!


Little better look at the etching – my version of a Tree of Life.

I’ve got more playing to do…I did purchase a few of these today and they are supposed to be even better to use as my resist.  

I picked up black markers in Ultra Fine, Fine, and Medium for variety.

I picked up black markers in Ultra Fine, Fine, and Medium for variety.

It’s only January, and I promised I’d stick with one technique for the first quarter.  Excited about what is to come in the next few months!

The Mega Manly Roundmaille chain

A few weeks ago, a friend contacted me to ask if I could make him something special for himself.  He had an idea in mind, and just needed someone to execute on it.  “Big chain, long, with a pendant on it.  In copper.”

I’d just made a roundmaille chain, so I showed him that as well as a Jens Pind Linkage and Byzantine.  He chose the roundmaille, and I whipped up another sample in 19g wire so he could decide what size chain he wanted.


“BIGGER…I was thinking more the size of my thumb.” I shook my head, not sure I’d read correctly, but I went back to my calculations to see what the best A-R* was for the weave in a heavier gauge wire, and tried again.


This one (on the right) passed the test.  Mark sent me the Ankh design he wanted, and I set to creating a 28″ long, endless chain with a 3″ copper pendant.

(Skip ahead if you are bored with How I Create Things a.k.a. “it’s not as simple as going to Kohl’s and buying something out of the bargain bin”.  You can just take a look at the finished piece, which turned out GREAT, if I may say so myself.)

Making maille, as I explained to someone who happened to ask today, is just a matter of process. I always line up my rings (and usually in groups of 10) so I can keep track of what I’m weaving.  With Roundmaille, I speed weave 3 open rings and 3 closed rings (2 rows in one step), so my table looks like this.


10 rows of 6 rings equals around 2″ of completed weave.  By the time this chain was completed, I had 119 rows of 6 rings…that equals…let me think for a second…714 rings that had to be opened and reclosed.  Plus one to hang the pendant from.

That’s a lot of rings.

Someone asked me today when I was showing off the completed chain how long it took me to make it.  Aside from the “Plus 15 years” of just learning how to make jewelry, I’d estimate…quite a few hours.  Even though I’m pretty fast, I have to break every once in a while when my hands start to cramp up or my eye start crossing.

Back to the chain.  I normally measure against a “ruler” I’ve drawn on my table in Sharpie, but it only goes to 15″.  I had to take out the Big Guns to measure this guy.


That’s 28″ of coppery goodness right there.  Now, I have to join it together.  I was a little stymied by this at first, because I’ve never done an endless Roundmaille before, but eventually I figured out an easy way and got it all hooked together.


Mark wanted his chain and pendant to be “new copper penny” color, so the first bath this baby took was in some hot pickle.  This removes all of the oxidization from the metal, and makes it shiny.  After rinsing, I left the chain to dry while I started on the pendant.

A couple of hours before, I’d taken the template and glued it to a sheet of 20g copper.  My first cut was the inside of the Ankh – to do this, I had to drill a small hole in the center that I could insert my saw blade into.


Before the hole was drilled.

Next, I begin to saw out the shape, using a jeweler’s saw.  The blades are super thin and you have to have really good posture when sawing.  It’s not like sawing a log in half – I sometimes laugh because I learned to hold the saw gently and hold out my pinky like I’m having tea with the Queen.


You can’t see my pinky sticking out, but you can see that the saw has to be straight up and down, like a sewing machine needle. Bend or twist it, and TWANG there goes your saw blade.

And in no time, the inside of the Ankh was done.


Next up, the outline.  Like a famed sculptor once said, “Just cut away the part that’s not an Ankh.”  I was really careful to stay right on the line between the black and white so that I didn’t have a ton of clean up to do after I was done sawing.

Sawn Ankh and my trusty saw.

Sawn Ankh and my trusty saw.

I soaked the Ankh for a minute or two to remove the paper template, and then worked on cleaning it up.  This involves a grinder, Foredom, and files.  I also determined the best method of hanging the Ankh from the chain, measured where I should drill a hole, and BAM! drilled that baby and hung it from the chain.


Last step was to tumble polish the entire ensemble for about an hour.  This polishes the chain and pendant to a brilliant shine, and actually help keep it that color longer.  The only problem is that the stainless steel shot that I tumble the chain in ends up INSIDE the chain, and I had to spend some more time picking it out.

FINALLY…I could consider this project done, except, of course, getting in some glamour shots of the mega manly roundmaille before I send it off to it’s new home.



Small Business Saturday, Art Center Open House and more….

It’s been a busy month for me.  I’ve been traveling a LOT for my full time job, which gets in the way of creative time.  But now I’m home for a few weeks, and right after I catch up on vacuuming and doing something with all the fresh apples that have taken over my office, I’ll be gearing up for the holidays.

Small Business Saturday is November 30.  It’s advertised as the alternative to big box store or mall shopping – support your local businesses instead!  At Pi Studio, we’ll have the doors open from 10-5, and I’m planning on some special incentives for folks who stop by.  If you can’t make it to our big event the weekend following, it’s a great chance to see the studio and purchase holiday gifts (before they’re all gone!)  More to come!

Small Business Saturday - stop by and see us!

Small Business Saturday – stop by and see us!

The following weekend is Hot Shops Art Center’s Winter Open House.  This is a fantastic event, and if you are within driving distance of the Omaha area, I’d highly recommend making the trip.  All of the galleries, and most (if not all) of the studios are open, with demos, live music, food, beverages, and fantastic art for sale.  It’s a great way to kick off your holiday gift shopping, or find something amazing for yourself.  

I'll be there, will you?

I’m thinking about making some pumpkin pie bites for the open house…they look yummy, easy, and hey…IT’S PIE.

It's pie.  Little tiny pie.  How cute are those?

It’s pie. Little tiny pie. How cute are those?


Of course, I’ll be making some jewelry too.  My friend Heather has “hinted” several times that I’d better have some of my Christmas earrings made up.  She loves her little trees – I gave them to all of my coworkers years ago.

Sterling silver Christmas tree earrings

Sterling silver Christmas tree earrings

If I get time, I’ll also get some Holly Jolly earrings made up.   The last time I made these, I only put one dangle at the bottom, not sure which way I like better.

Have some Holly Jolly earrings!

Have some Holly Jolly earrings!

Also working on some other non-holiday related pieces to have in time for the big events…I guess I’d better get vacuuming so I can get over to the studio!!

Happy Friday.



Impatiently waiting

I’m waiting on a BIG supply order…UPS said it was supposed to be delivered last week, and then at the last minute, I got a text saying the delivery wouldn’t be until later this week!  Love the technology that allows me to track my packages, but I hate waiting!

In the meantime, I worked on a couple of projects with the supplies I had on hand.

A copper micro Dragonscale weave.  I can only do a few rows of this at a time until my eyes start to cross, so I work on a little each time I’m in the studio.  This will be a bracelet with  cool handmade clasp when it’s done.  I love this weave – it’s one of my favorites (honestly, nearly EVERY weave is my favorite…) – so substantial but flexible. I’ll probably touch this with a torch before polishing it to give it some nice patina.

It takes about an hour to do an inch of this stuff.  But it looks sooo great when it's done.

It takes about an hour to do an inch of this stuff. But it looks sooo great when it’s done.


I got a few more rows done today.  The silver ring on the end helps me to remember which end is the one I’m working on. 😉

Few more rows done, but still a long way to go.

Few more rows done, but still a long way to go.


And the little stirrups I made up last week got a little ring soldered to the top of them.  Again, think tiny tiny…it just takes a kiss from the torch to make the solder flow – I don’t want to melt everything and end up with a blob of silver!


Here they are all finished up…shiny shiny silver earrings!

Stirrup earrings

Stirrup earrings


And the companion necklace.  I like it hung from a simple silver snake chain.

Stirrup pendant

Stirrup pendant


One of the next things I really need to do is either find my camera (it’s SOMEWHERE, I just don’t know where) or get a new one….these phone shots are just not cutting it.

Finally, I worked on some painting at the studio. I’ll never be a painter, but I’m happy with how this turned out. 🙂

Pi Studio...either people will get it, or they'll think we've lost our minds.

Pi Studio…either people will get it, or they’ll think we’ve lost our minds.