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.




Western Inspiration

Last weekend, hubby and I took a little time off for a fun weekend away.  If you’ve never been on a trail ride, it’s a great time.  We’ve been going to this one for a number of years – Dan rides his horse and I ride in a wagon pulled by a great team of horses:  Bonnie and Frank.

The team out for a practice run before we load up and hit the trail!

The team out for a practice run before we load up and hit the trail!

The trails wind around a lake and countryside just south of Tekamah, NE…and this year we were fortunate to have almost perfect weather!  Rex rides in the wagon with me, he loved watching everything going past.  This year, there were a couple hundred riders and 4-5 wagons.  In the evening, live music and a bonfire…it’s a great way to get away and relax for a while.

These two decided they wanted to ride Bonnie and Frank!

These two decided they wanted to ride Bonnie and Frank!

Sunday morning came along, it was ridiculously cold, so I gathered up the dog and headed back into the studio for a couple of hours.  I had an idea in my head, and I wanted to see what I could do with it.  I gathered up my tools and some wire, and started fiddling around.

Hammer, wire cutters and half round wire....

Hammer, wire cutters and half round wire….

After a few misses with the torch, I managed to make a few of the components I was picturing in my mind.  I’m still working out the final piece in my mind, but I’m pretty happy with what I have so far.

Using the torch to ball up both ends of the wire was tricky!

Using the torch to ball up both ends of the wire was tricky!

Maybe you can see where my inspiration came from…they look like tiny little stirrups to me!  My weekend on the trail spilled right over into my jewelry making. 🙂

Big day tomorrow!

Studio open house is finally here!  Sunday, October 6 from 12-4…we’re having to punt on music, but we’ll get by.  There’s going to be cheese & crackers, wine & beer, hot apple cider (might need it, going to be chilly!) spiked with cinnamon, and of course PI(e)!

I finished up a great pair of earrings and a pendant to go with the LBD bracelet today.  Pictures didn’t turn out well at all, so I’m going to try again tomorrow.

I also worked on a couple of Byzantine weave pieces – a big chunky copper bracelet, and a section for a popular necklace (in copper as well).  The necklace gets finished with black Greek leather and is perfect with an open collar shirt.

It’s interesting working in the art center…people stop in periodically, and I greet them and let them know to ask if they have questions.  Inevitably, they end up in the back of the studio with me, watching what I’m working on.  There are usually some questions, and I explain the process of creating chainmaille jewelry.

It all starts with a big pile of rings.

Copper jump rings...lots of them!

Copper jump rings…lots of them!

Depending on the weave I’m working on, I line up my rings, opening and closing them in preparation for weaving.  With Byzantine, I ALWAYS work in groups of 10, 60 rings in each row with two closed and four open.

My trusty Wubbers pliers and the beginnings of a Byzantine section.

My trusty Wubbers pliers and the beginnings of a Byzantine section.

When I close those rings, I CLOSE them.  Sometimes when I have to resize something, it’s hard to find the join to take rings off!

Closed rings

Closed rings

At the beginning of the chain, I use a special tool to help me hang on to the end.

Yeah, it's just a bread tie....but they work great and don't cost anything!

Yeah, it’s just a bread tie….but they work great and don’t cost anything!

Because of the way this weave is constructed, it ends up being a little square.  Someone noticed this today while they were looking at my work, and was amazed!IMG_2526

After weaving all 180 rings, making a clasp, tumbling it so that it’s nice and shiny and clean, I end up with something like this:

This one is actually sterling silver, but you get the idea.

This one is actually sterling silver, but you get the idea.