Torches I Use and Why

This post was originally in Love My Art Jewelry where I am a contributor, and I write about the torches I use in my metalsmith studio.

I thought I would write about torches that I use in jewelry fabrication, and share with you why I have two of them and what I use them for in my studio, along with some other tools I like.

I have been using the Gentec Portable Mixed Gas Torch for years. It uses 1 lb bottles of propane and oxygen that you can get at any hardware store. The regulators screw onto the top of the canisters, and after checking for any leaks with soapy water and a sponge, I am ready to roll.

The Gentec comes with a number 4 torch tip. That is the tip that I use for pretty much everything. I do have a number 6 tip, which gives me a bushier flame; but, I don't use that very often now that I have a Blazer micro-torch, which is fueled with Butane.  I primarily use the Gentec for making stirrup pins, and the Blazer for any soldering or annealing that I have to do.

Frankly, for soldering, I use the Blazer because the fuel is so much cheaper and lasts longer. Bottled oxygen is expensive at about 8 bucks a bottle. The butane seems to last a lot longer and is cheaper for me in the long run.

With these two torches, I can pretty much make anything that I can imagine.  While at artBLISS, I had  3 mixed gas torches, and 3 Butane torches for the participants to use in class. Two of the mixed gas torches were Gentecs, but the other one was a Little Smith. Jeanette Ryan let me borrow her Little Smith, which is a more expensive version of the Gentec that I use.

I did notice some differences between the two that I thought I would mention.

I like the torch handle better on the Gentec. The Little Smith's handle has a hard plastic covering that I was not fond of at all. It slides around, which is in contrast to the all metal handle of the Gentec.  However, the Little Smith's fuel and oxygen knobs seem to work smoother then the Gentec, and it was much easier to light, as well as add oxygen to the flame.

For a beginner, the Little Smith was easier to use then my Gentec's were, since the most trepidation from using a torch to begin with is in the lighting of it. So that was super to know and understand from a workshop point of view.

Another thing that I had the chance to use was an automatic lighter for the torch. I use a Flint lighter in my home studio. I am used to it, so it never occurred to me that beginning torch users would find that stressful when learning. Again, Jeanette had an automatic lighter that was amazingly easy to use, and when using it, your hands are out of the flame range when lighting it.  If I facilitate a workshop again, I will make sure to have a Little Smith torch as well as the automatic lighter. Jeanette's generosity was a complete blessing, because I didn't even think about the fears of the mixed gas torch lighting being a huge thing to overcome as a beginner. I really think the workshops were helped tremendously by these two additions to the equipment we had in class.

I have recently acquired an annealing pan that rotates and that has been one of the best additions to my studio in recent memory. It's especially helpful for annealing the larger pieces of thin gauge metal that I am fold forming for a new direction in my work.  I have some annealing medium that looks like cat litter that I use, but I can also put a flat soldering board on top of it, and it works super for soldering a bigger piece that needs to be rotated.

artBLISS was...amazing. I had never been to an art retreat before, and from that standpoint, I get why they are so popular. It was so much fun being around women that understand why I love to make jewelry so much..why I feel the need to create.  From an 'instructor' point of view, it was life changing for me. I don't think of myself as a teacher at all. And I was pretty open about that fact in the workshop. My job, as I see it, is to help provide a safe and fun environment for sharing what we all bring to the space.  My hope was that I would learn as much from everyone as they would learn from me. I feel like we all did just that.

Here is a link list regarding the tools I mention in this post. The links are provided for your reference. I don't receive anything for these specific recommendations..I just like them and use them.

I hope this helps if you are on the fence about adding torch work to your studio...

Joy of Teaching One on One

True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”— NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sharing what I know about soldering with Linda, a warm and wonderful soul from Tennessee. 

She was the last student in my studio, and I am so excited for her as she starts out her own journey with shaping metal into wearable art. 

I remember when I first learned how to solder. Years ago, Mary Helen, my studio partner in Chattanooga, and I bought a propane plumber's torch with a huge head from the local hardware store. We went down into the basement of the old bank building where our studio was located, and found Pops-- a big and burly man, who was the building's handyman. 

Pops walked us through the process of attaching the gas canister to the torch head and how to light the thing. Then we proceeded upstairs to our space and promptly began our experimentation into soldering. Back then, there weren't as many videos and books available to the novice metal manglers as there are now, and we were pretty much on our own to learn the finesse required when applying lots of heat to metal and hoping for something exciting to happen. 

It helps to have a buddy when learning something new. I hemmed and hawed for months before I was brave enough to give it a go. And I was talked into it by Mary Helen, a fearless artist turned compassionate healer, not having the confidence to approach it on my own at that stage of my artistic development. 

Every time I share what I have learned with someone, I grow so much within the interaction itself.  Teaching forces you to slow down, and appreciate what you already know. In the slowing down, a space opens up within you that allows wonder and awe to enter again. I love that's the feeling that drove me to explore making metal jewelry in the first place.

Over the past year, I opened up my studio to those that needed a short term buddy to witness their growth and understanding of the medium. We didn't really work too much on a take home project during these one-on-one interludes into the practical application of tools and supplies. It really was more of a confidence booster, a try-before-you buy sort of experience. 

I really loved it. 

Monica, another student that came in, allowed me to witness her ideas about combining metal with wood.  I know metal, and she knows wood. It was a fantastic collaborative experience that allowed me to learn something brand new to me. She was already on her way to great things artistically, but needed a little help to get her idea actualized. 

I like being that chirpy bird that is hanging out just outside of the nest yelling, "Jump! Flap your wings! The weather is fine out here!" to those that are ready to leap out into the great unknown. 

I see that more as my role rather than doing videos and such. I was approached by a company that wanted me to do videos this year and at first, I was gung-ho and excited for the 'opportunity'. But after a few weeks into the project, I changed my mind and declined.

I pulled the plug on that because I want to share physical space with those that need a push out of their comfort zone. That was a big realization for me...and although I know it would have been a nice 'feather in my cap', I'd rather keep flapping my wings to my own beat.  Besides, since I was true to myself, my bowing out opened up a space for someone else that was truly aligned to expressing themselves in that particular way. 

Win-win, and that teaching energy spreads out in the correct way for all those involved. 

My tag line has changed to Be...Who You Are. From here on out, I will be exploring just what that means in relation to my evolution as an artist and person.  Knowing that I need to share physical space with those that I chirp to about making jewelry was one important realization that I made this year about my own next steps. 

I have no idea how this will end up playing out. Maybe it means I will start applying for teaching opportunities around the country or try and teach out of my next studio on a small scale. I've no idea...but I'm excited about the possibilities and how it will all unfold. 

Now that Shayne and I will have a reliable and fixed place to rest our heads, planning for things becomes a lot easier.  Another perk to having a home. 

I want to close out with these nice words from my last student...and to say thank you to all those that came through our studio door this year. You all taught me so much...and I am so happy that you found your own wings and are flying around, making beautiful things that come from your own experiences and heart space. That is what I want most for those that cross my path...

Be....Who You Are. 

I recently had the privilege of taking a private lesson with Stacie at her Asheville, NC studio. Living in Knoxville, TN and having recently retired I knew that I wanted to follow my dream of creating art jewelry. After an extensive research of private metalsmith teachers in my area to no avail I happened upon the website of Stacie Florer. I was instantly impressed and could feel her passion for the art and teaching. She phoned me promptly after an email inquiry and we had a wonderful discussion about my goals and the techniques that I was particularly interested in. After talking with her I instantly felt a connection and new since of energy.
The day of my class finally arrived. I was so anxious and a little nervous. The moment we met all of my nerves were calmed. She just beams with personality and a since of calmness. She had already organized materials, supplies and equipment prior to the lesson. She talked about the importance of setting a calm work environment and more importantly working safely. She explained and demonstrated each technique in a clear and concise manner making sure I understood before moving on. When I got frustrated and my hands wouldn’t do what they were supposed to she calmly would show me how to tweak my technique to make it easier. The lesson went by so quickly and I didn’t want it to end. I truly had one of the best days and left so full of renewed energy and excitement. I knew with confidence that I could take what I learned that day and start creating. Stacie makes all the class notes so you only have to concentrate on learning. The next day I received an email with a comprehensive list of all of the techniques I learned, tools and equipment used and list of vendors. 
It is clear that Stacie has not only the artistic talent but a passion for teaching others. I can’t wait until I need another lesson even if it does mean driving a little further to Roanoke. ”


Disc Cutter I use and Why

This week I was excited to receive my new disc cutter that I ordered from Otto Frei, and I have not been disappointed! I know purchasing new tools, especially ones that you use a lot and that are relatively expensive, can be a chore. So, I thought I would share with you my experience with disc cutters: what I like, how I use discs in my work and what to consider when purchasing your first disc cutter!

What I Like

When I bought my first disc cutter eight years ago, I really didn't know what I needed to consider. I was in an old rock shop in New Orleans, and made a mega purchase of heavy tools from the owner. He had a metalworking section, and I pretty much bought what he had. My first disc cutter was a Pepe. As with most tools, especially back then, there wasn't really that much information about how to use them on the internet. No videos that I can remember, and the instructions were so basic that for the most part, I would take a new tool and fiddle around with it to see what it was capable of.

My Pepe disc cutter has served me well over the years. One thing that is important to me is the ability of a disc cutter to come completely apart. Some disc cutters don't. I like the ones that do, because when I am making a pair of earrings or a pendant, sometimes I want to punch a hole in the design after most of it has been fabricated. 

To do this, one must have a disc cutter that comes completely apart so that it is possible to strategically place the piece between the two plates of the cutter. For the earrings below, I don't want to punch the hole before I have reticulated the metal in order to set this large copper rivet. 

The hole can't be distorted or I won't be able fit the copper tubing into the space it needs to go in. Does this make sense?  Having a disc cutter that comes completely apart is important for many aspects of my design work.

Another thing that is important to me are the punches themselves. 

With my Pepe, the punches were not one solid piece. With the smaller punches, this quickly became a problem. As you can see below, the punch on the right is from my new set. 

The punch on the left is from my old Pepe. The black portion of the slimmer punches bend a little too easily when punched through because it is not one complete piece of metal. I snapped off the black portion of the punch that is one size smaller than the one photographed here a few weeks after I purchased the Pepe. 

Of course, it never occurred to me to check and see if I could buy replacement punches with the Pepe (you can), but the actual disc cutter itself is now no longer aligned right, so it's time for a new tool.

Now, this punch and alignment issue could have been partly user error, since I wasn't using a brass hammer/mallet back then, nor was I using a shim ( a piece of brass that is the same gauge as the metal you are punching that is placed on the other side of the cutter to help distribute the shock of the strike). Back then, I didn't know what a shim was, or why I should use it. 

And again, I wasn't using a brass hammer (you should, by the way!) when I punched metal with my cutter. Additionally, I wasn't aware yet that I didn't need to wallop the hell out of the punch in order for the cutter to do its job. But having the punches made out of all the same metal is important to me after my experience with my first Pepe. But other than that...the Pepe was a great tool for me. I mean, I've used it for eight years!!

What To Consider

Ok, so now you may be convinced that this is a great tool, but what should you consider before purchasing one?

Of course, price is a big issue. My brother was in my studio this week, and he remarked about the money that I have spent over the years on all the tools he was looking at. 

Yes...I have spent a lot of money. But something to consider is how important the tool is in helping you make what you feel compelled to bring forth out of your imagination. You want your tools to last a long time, or even your lifetime. It's important to evaluate what you want a particular tool to do for you, and to understand its limitations.

As for price...there is quite a range in price. My new one is $145, which is about what I wanted to pay for it. I think I purchased my Pepe for around the same amount years ago.

What makes one better than another?

Again, it depends on what you want it to do, and how much you will be using it, as well as what it is made out of.

When my Pepe was beginning to wear out due to my strenuous abuse of it, I started looking around for a new cutter. 

I looked at the Swanstrom round cutter, and even though I understand it to be one of the best on the market, the tool itself had some limitations according to what I want it to do. I don't like a round set-up. I prefer the rectangular shape for my usage. 

I need a lot of wiggle room when placing my mostly fabricated pieces on the cutter. The round one just isn't optimal for my usage.

I thought about getting another Pepe, but the punches aren't as herfy as I would like. I've seen a disc cutter that looks to be made out of some sort of hard, clear plastic at Harbor Freight for 30 bucks, but that thing can't be good for heavier gauge metal over 26 ga. so that wouldn't be a good fit either. 

I recently talked with a new friend online, and she picked it up; but from what she shared with me, it made a mess out of the discs she was able to finally punch out. In the end, I went to Otto Frei and found the disc cutter that you see above in the first photograph that got great reviews, and the price was really attractive too.

Of course, I had no idea about the quality as it is made in India, but I trust Otto Frei.

When I received the Ikohe Disk Cutter, I immediately went to my studio to try it out. Getting it to open up was a bit of a hassle, not because of poor construction, but precisely the opposite. It is made very well...very, very tight and precise!

When you purchase steel tools, usually there will be a layer of oil on them to prevent it from rusting. This oil was between the two plates, and it created a vacuum. I had a friend help me separate the two plates by unscrewing the bolt in the middle and lightly tapping it with my brass hammer. That helped to break the seal, and it separated easily after that.

I have used all the punches, using 22 gauge silver sheet metal, and all of my cuts were clean. The dyes are precision machined, and I believe that this disk cutter to be just exactly what I wanted.

Another thing to consider about a disc cutter is how many different sized punches do you think you will need?

I can share with you that I use every single size that is available to me...I use the 1" punch and the tiny 1/8" punch too.  Like I mentioned in my last Ten Tiny Things on Tuesday post, if you have room to grow, growth happens. I believe that the more choices you have in sizes, even if you don't think you will use them now, that you probably will later if you continue growing in your craft.

I do have a rubber mat that I use underneath the disc cutter to help distribute the shock from hitting it, as well as a brass hammer. I also just purchased some more Bur-Life from Rio Grande to use on the punches when I use this disk cutter too.  I believe these are three very important things to have in addition to help it last your lifetime.

I hope this helps you decide whether or not a disc cutter is in your future or not! I know there is no way my studio could be without one...and I'm really pleased with my recent purchase too!!

* Please note: I received no compensation monetarily or product-wise from Otto Frei or Rio Grande for this disk cutter post and review. I made my own determinations and bought the products that I feel work best for me and my needs. 

A Co-Creative Friendship

I received a text yesterday from Jessica, "it seems so weird that you aren't in the studio anymore," as I had packed up everything on Saturday, and am no longer there.

It is weird. All day yesterday I had to fight the urge to run to the studio to work out a new design that is percolating just under the surface.

I have no place to go right now, other than here and within.

In my life's journeying, I alternate from being so deeply involved with life that I don't have time to process it until I step out of it.

Then I enter a period of reflection and quietly internalize the experiences I have had so that I can continue to carry the lessons and the insights with me into my next immersive experience.

Sometimes the immersion lasts a couple of years, other time a few months, but the process is the same.  

One of the great things about having a lot of years behind you is you begin to see your personal patterns. 

This happens to be mine.

The last year has been incredible for so many reasons, and I will slowly unpack them here as I enter my reflection time. 

Today I want to give thanks, though, for a deep sister-friendship that was born here in this creative sanctuary that we both built. 

We merged our visions together and built a space that recognized and appreciated our differences and valued our similarities as a bridge to a deep friendship.

Our jewelry styles are so radically different, but we both were able to take our differences and learn and grow from what came easily for the other.  

It was heaven. I am grateful and I will miss my friend as we both head in different directions with our lives as well as with our creative output. 

But as with all great friendships, we don't have to be in the same physical space to continue our growth and share in our triumphs. 

There is texting and travel!

This pendant was from our first class project where we combined our styles into one piece. It really says it all, doesn't it?

Moving to Roanoke, Virginia

I've announced on Instagram that Shayne and I are moving to Roanoke, Virginia but haven't been able to write about the journey of getting to our new home in much detail.

I've been reluctant. 

Shayne and I decided about 4 months ago that Asheville wasn't going to be where we buy a home, and for the first couple of months, I was pretty heartbroken about our conclusion after living here for a year. 

We came back to this part of the country after moving back home to Arkansas, and we were so sure in our decision that Asheville would be our final move. 

But here I am, writing again to announce we are moving, hopefully, next month.

I can share that we have put in an offer on a house, and it was accepted. We are in the middle of the purchasing process now, and if everything happens on time, we will be in our new home around the middle of November. 

I am wrapping up my life here in North Carolina now, and am looking forward to this next stage of my life. 

I'm about to be a homeowner in a city that I really know nothing about, other than it is on the Parkway and the people that I have met so far in our numerous trips to Roanoke have been super. 

I'm trusting that everything is as it should be.

Life really is about change, isn't it?

I am going to be listing jewelry in my shop that I have available for immediate shipment over the next few days, and will begin the process of moving out of my studio in the River Arts District.

So, my made to order line will be taken off-line.

I won't be making any new jewelry probably until sometime in December. I have had such an amazing experience being a working artist in one of the hottest art districts in the country. It was a dream come true, but dreams have a tendency to morph into other things with a flicker of an eye. 

I am so grateful to have had this year to really immerse myself into running a retail shop, along with sharing my working life with Jessica as a studio partner. I know that my time here was essential to my own creative next steps, as well as developing strong friendships with some the people that will continue to call Asheville home. 

I know on a deep level that I was where I needed to be this year...the insights into where I want to go with my creative life moving forward have been profound because of it. 

My plan is to have a home studio again, and that is about as far as I've gotten in the planning stages.  I haven't had a 'home of my own' in over 10 years. There will be some huge adjustments to make, and I am going to take the end of this year to make the transition from living in small, cramped quarters to significantly more space. 

If all goes according to Hoyle, as my beloved grandmother was fond of saying, I will have a rather large home studio, with plenty of room for expansion into other creative directions that have been tapping me on the shoulder.  

I will also have more time to show up here and write. For the last year, working long days led to short nights filled with dinner and time spent with Shayne. I had a hard time finding the few hours necessary weekly to write the way I long to again. I want to create some new tutorials to share, and start building up my online home again. 

One thing I know I want to pursue more of is sharing what I know in a classroom sort of way. I had an amazing one-on-one jewelry session in my studio over the weekend, and it rekindled my passion for teaching. I am not quite sure what that is going to look like, but I feel like it is definitely on the horizon. 

The handmade jewelry world is a small one, and it is definitely changing. I need to figure out what my place in it will be moving forward. I've learned so much this year about how I want to express my ideas in metal, what it will take and in what direction I want to move toward. Some of this discovery process has been very surprising. Unexpected. It has required me to ask some tough questions and be open enough to receive the answers that I might not have wanted to hear. 

But there is always difficulty in the beginning of things. That I know and accept. This difficulty is something that I have been working with very intimately over the last 10 years or so, and I fully understand that for me, choppy waters always come before the smooth sailing.

I am excited about this next well as sad about the chapter that is closing. But that's how it is with our life's journeying. One thing leads to the other, and we have to trust that at the end, a beautiful book will have been written that will have been worth it. 

I trust that mine will be... 

P.S. After a couple of months of being Facebook free, I decided to re-open my Stacie Florer Jewelry Facebook page. I have a personal account, but I am only using it so that I can have a business account. My personal account isn't active. I love Instagram, and prefer to update there, but I understand that not everyone has the phone that allows for an Instagram account. So...I will be updating my FB page too. As of now, I think I only have 1 FB like :) and Sally, thank you! Actually, it's sort of nice to be starting there again fresh...fresh starts are always quite nice! XO!

I don't have a creative bone in my body...

A friend of mine in Asheville painting this portrait of how he sees me on reclaimed wood he found in the dumpster. It's filled with astrological signs. I love it!

About 10 years ago, I felt a longing to express myself via personal adornment that I couldn't shake. It started out by searching for jewelry and clothing that best expressed how I wanted to present myself to the world. I collected art jewelry...knowing on some deep inner level that it was important for me spiritually to try and individuate into my own person. 

There was another feeling that I couldn't shake that my searching couldn't buy... and that was the fulfillment of my own creative potential. It was a palpable longing that I was able to identify with crystal clear clarity after some serious inner inquiry. I was 37 at the time...and had to personally battle the ideas that it was too late for me to begin to earnestly pursue art-making. 

That was the hardest part of becoming creative on myself permission to start where I was at. 

Fortunately, I had a friend that was 10 years older than me at the time...where I am now, and she started painting for the first time, ever. Her entry into 2-D art-making was via her love of photography. She bought a digital camera and started shooting scenes that moved her as she traveled through her day. She used her photos as a starting place to paint by using them as her subject matter. Eventually, she rented studio space and set up her environment to paint professionally.  Her studio cradled her emerging artist-self by providing her with the space needed to grow with her inner intention to do so. 

She wins awards now for her work...she threw herself into showing up and doing the work necessary to peel away the shit she wasn't; had never been, really-- and like the Phoenix rising from the ashes of its previous self, she is a thriving artist today. 

At least a few times a week, as people come through the studio, I hear someone express to me that they just don't have a creative bone in their body.

I have to restrain myself, usually, from going down 'that' road with them. 

But If I Had All The Space To Share With Them What I Have Learned, And If They Really Wanted To Change That Belief, This Is What I Would Say...

If you have a body, you are inherently creative. To be alive is to be creative. You create the home environment, the work environment and the social environment that you currently experience your life's moments through. If you are alive, you are creative. Your bones, your muscles, your mind, personality and your soul all work together to create the life you are living, right now. 

The only difference between you and me is that I understand that I am responsible for my life and you most likely don't. If you don't know that you are the one creating the life you live, than you are, and will continue to be, a victim of your own thoughts and beliefs, and your life will surely reflect that back to you, over and over again. 

I am in the process of house hunting.  A house has segregated areas...the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedrooms. It's designed, creatively, to support those particular functions of life. I am looking for home that has an art/spiritual room too.

You Have To Make Space For That Which You Want To Experience; Or At Least, Get Yourself To A Particular Place In Space In Order To Have That Experience. 

You will never experience sky diving until you step on a plane and strap on a parachute. To have a sky-diving experience, you have to get to the sky and be willing to throw yourself out into immense space.

You won't experience art-making unless you make a space for it in your life. When people have babies, they don't put the cradle in the bathroom. It's not an appropriate space to care for a baby, right? 

They create a space for the baby to support the baby's needs, as well as the parents. Generally this is called a nursery or the baby's room.

We all create space for what we value. We may also create a lot of space for things that we don't value because we refuse to take responsibility for what we truly desire in our life. 

I have created space for my jewelry-making in every place we have lived over the last 10 years. It was always a priority. I made my living arrangement decisions with it as a priority.

I also make showing up in that space a priority. It takes discipline and time to make art. You have to show up for a few years committed to making shitty art before you will ever start making good art. Or art that is reflective of that which you feel is good and true and authentic. 

Like life...your art evolves. 

Babies learn how to speak one word at a time. They don't even start making that much sense for YEARS. It's the same with art-making. It takes YEARS to start stringing together ideas and concepts combined with skills and technical processes. 

So...In My Hypothetical Conversation With Those That Don't Have A Creative Bone In The Their Body, It Boils Down To This:

  • If you are alive, you are creative
  • Take responsibility for your thoughts and beliefs
  • Intentionally make the space in your life to experience what you desire
  • Show up. 
  • Show up even when the stars and moon aren't in perfect alignment and the house isn't clean
  • Invest in and learn the technical skills to pull off your particular form of self-expression
  • Play with your medium. Repeat over and over until something emerges that you like. 
  • Drill down what that something is that you like and explore it from every angle that you can think of. 
  • Keep doing this process over and over for the rest of your life and extract every ounce of joy you can each time you intentionally show up in your space/place. xo...

How to Make Heat Rivets or Pins

Ok…Here Are My Tips And Tricks Regarding How To Make Heat Rivets, Or Pins For Showcasing Hard-To-Work With Gemstone Daggers…

It is all about the torch set up! I personally use a Gentec mixed gas torch with propane and oxygen. This is really about the only task I use this torch for, but I make a lot of jewelry using these pins, so it was worth having this torch for that reason alone! 

The oxygen acts as a booster for the heat. The trick is to go in very hot and very fast.
I use 20 gauge sterling silver wire for pins, not fine silver. Fine silver is too soft and the pins will bend on you and distort the original design idea if anyone wears them regularly.

I ball up one end of the wire pin FIRST, then insert it through the holes of the stirrup frame and stone.

I use a third hand to hold the frame with the pin end  to be balled up hanging down towards my heat surface. Use gravity to help the balling up process! You want the ball to be straight on the pin like a lollipop, not sideways or asymmetrical.

The size of your torch tip is important. I use my smallest tip which is a size 4. This comes with any Gentec torch set-up you purchase. The flame is hissing hot…not bushy!

As soon as the pin balls up next to the frame, immediately quench in a bowl of water. The stones will be a bit warm. With practice, you will be able to ball up the pin very fast and your eyes will adjust to pulling away the flame and getting perfect little pins.

If your pin balls up too close to the frame, it may make the stone portion too stiff to move in the frame. Cut the pin and start over if this happens, as this will weaken the pin over time, make it too brittle and it will break anyway.

I DON’T BELIEVE YOU CAN DO THIS PROCEDURE WITH A BUTANE TORCH! The flame is simply too big, not hot enough and you will fry your bead.

I use this procedure for pearls and haven’t had any problems with practice. (Burnt pearls really stink!!)

I have this procedure photographed in the Autumn 2012 issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry Magazine with my article Stirrup Connectors for more information! The back issue is still available!

What's the Point?

I have been working with this design for the last few weeks.

I think it comes from a craving to find my own center, my single point of focus.

And when we are fully aware of what our focus is, the ripples that move out concentrically from our point of power affect the world around us.

Hopefully, our point of power works in a positive way-- if our focus is clear, precise and set with an intention that the power we are beckoning for ourselves will also benefit those around us, not at the expense of those around us, meaningful experiences become an everyday thing.

But what happens when your focus is filled with fear-based thoughts?

The focus of my life right now is building my business home, as well as my personal home. The last few months it has been all about my business, and less about my personal home.

But when I do think about finding a home, I get angry by the prices and the condition of the homes in our price range, and daydream that we will have to settle for a piece-of-shit house because we don't want to leverage ourselves to the point of living in a scary place all of the time with the fears associated with too much debt.

And this fear about my home is leaking into my focus on my business. I wake up nervous that I am not doing enough, not making enough, not talented enough to make this work. And this perpetuates the vibe that I am not enough and down the drain I go.

 I'm out of balance, and my body gave me a sharp warning about it this morning around 2:30 am. 

I had heartburn, and it was pretty severe. 

Ulcers, heartburn and the like are often our body's way of saying...

"Hey, get your priorities straight, and stop worrying about getting ahead! Drop the fear that you won't make it, that you will fail and start using your imagination in a productive way to experience what you desire, not what you don't."
After drinking about a quart of milk and taking an acid pill, I pulled out my body/mind books from my bookcase and had some quiet time to contemplate what the hell it is that I am doing to my body via my thoughts.

I've been making jewelry now for about 10 years. I know that when my subconscious mind is grappling with something that it shows up in my work first before it hits my body, especially if it's something that has to change for me to progress to my own next step. 

Last week, I was also preoccupied with much so that I felt the need to make a pair of earrings with faceted blue lapis hanging from the toes.

Lapis is considered a truth stone. It calls those that need to discover/uncover their deep personal truths. I specifically wanted my feet earrings to be made with copper, a very earthy metal. Grounding. Feet firmly planted in the ground...with toes that wriggle. That was the feeling that I wanted to have while standing at my table to make these. 

I think, based on my acid-induced communion last night with myself, that my sub-conscious/higher power was working with me in the studio to show me the parts of myself that need attention. That need love and acceptance and priority.

Art does heal. It allows for a pathway of communication to open up between your Personality-self and your Spirit-self.  I suppose some people can hear a direct communication from their Spirit-self; but I have found that I communicate with my Spirit-self best via something tangible that comes through my hands from my heart-space. 

If you are a photographer, what are you drawn to capturing right now? If you sew, what article of clothing is compelling you to make it? As a painter, what subjects are throwing themselves at you? A writer? What is pissing you off so much that you have to get it out or what fills you with so much love that you are about to burst?

I feel like I've turned a personal corner here as it relates to both homes that I want to inhabit fully. Just when I think I am getting the hang of the connection between our thoughts and reality-making, something like this shows up.

And I suppose it will keep on showing up as long as I need to understand creating from all points of view as I continue along my own path towards self-realization. Feet....point of all relates. Every time.

Closing the Circles

I started making circles on Saturday, and as I was busy making rings, these two lovelies came through our door.

"We are looking for rings," they both chimed...

"I am making rings right now," I replied, "so why don't you stick around and let's make your rings, and you can help me texture them?"

And we were off. 

Friends since college, their weekend was adults only with their spouses in another part of the city enjoying a different attraction. 

But these jewels were adventuring in the River Arts District, and they happened upon our door. 

I would like to think that they were attracted like moths to light to the ring-making activity going on, but they didn't know what I was doing, at least not on one level of awareness...but the other levels..well, something was afoot.

We made rings...we shared stories and pictures of their babes at home, and we connected over bits of metal that were soldered shut into circles signifying the commitment of marriage for one, and the memories of a beloved grandmother for the other.  

Metal transmits emotions and feelings...and takes on meaning with one's intentions. These rings  were a way for me to connect to two adorable women that are journeying over some landscapes that I've journeyed through myself. 

Questions and longings for something more...these are things I know something about. I was about their age when my inner voice started yelling at me to be heard and acknowledged, listened to and to start taking action.

While their rings were polishing, they went away for more exploration, and they returned to the studio excited and anxious to see how their rings turned out. 

I was gifted again with a peek inside their dreams and aspirations, and we talked and commingled our stories trying to learn the universal lessons that our combined experiences have left us with...and we shared them.

With each other. 

I hope I see them again...I hope their experience to my little creative oasis quenched their thirst for living more deeply, with more connection and they felt heard and seen.

They made my day so much richer. This is why I love what I am able to do...connecting with breathing jewels in all their splendor. 

My life is so rich.

One on One with Karen Plum of Plum Designs Jewelry

It has been almost two weeks since I had the pleasure of meeting Karen in my studio, and I wanted to give her some time to absorb all that she learned and experienced while we spent time together before I wrote this recap about our experience. 

Karen currently lives in East Tennessee and already had lots of experience making her gorgeous jewelry; however, she thought it was time to start using a mixed gas torch set-up to increase her creative range in metalworking.

It took me about 6 months to gather up the courage to fire up my Gentec mixed-gas torch after I bought it, so I completely understood her desire to have a buddy with her as she contemplated adding this fantastic tool to her collection. 

Specifically, she wanted to learn how to fabricate pinned jewelry, along with some other common metal-smithing techniques that will become second nature with more practice and exposure to torch work. 

First of all, I could not have asked for a better jewelry designer to spend time with. She is super nice, adventurous, patient and very open to learning new stuff. She was really smart to split her day of instruction into two days with a night spent here. 

She arrived around noon on our first day, and we worked hard on the list of techniques she wanted to learn until the afternoon. Intense concentration can wear you out! 

We closed up the studio and went to a fantastic locally-owned restaurant after class where we enjoyed getting to know each other better, along with some tasty food and ambiance in West Asheville.  I got hopelessly lost a few times, (damn that Siri!) but she was able to help me out with her phone and natural sense of direction, which was nice.

Wait...wasn't I supposed to know that stuff already? The Asheville vortex of mixed-up directions hit; but we rolled with it, and had a great time! ( I even got lost taking her to her place to spend the night, which was only about a mile from the studio!)

Karen wanted to get started the next morning around 9:30, and then we hit it hard on torch work. As I referenced earlier, that was really a smart way to go in that she had a good night's sleep and was well rested for some more intense concentration. 

We had gotten to know each other better the previous day and evening, and by then, I had a pretty good idea about how to go about teaching her the torch based on how she learns best. 

And the really cool thing is that since she is left handed, I learned a more efficient way of using my own torch as I had to teach her how to use the torch as a leftie! So I got to learn some new things as well! 

I had a list of things she wanted more instruction with, and I printed that out to have with me in the studio. Everything we went over in class, I wrote it down so that I could type it up and email it to her after class. 

It has been almost two weeks since I had the pleasure of meeting Karen in my studio, and I wanted to give her some time to absorb all that she learned and experienced while we spent time together before I wrote this recap about our experience. 

Here is her online shop!

Karen currently lives in East Tennessee and already had lots of experience making her gorgeous jewelry; however, she thought it was time to start using a mixed gas torch set-up to increase her creative range in metalworking.

It took me about 6 months to gather up the courage to fire up my Gentec mixed-gas torch after I bought it, so I completely understood her desire to have a buddy with her as she contemplated adding this fantastic tool to her collection. 

Specifically, she wanted to learn how to fabricate pinned jewelry, along with some other common metal-smithing techniques that will become second nature with more practice and exposure to torch work. 

First of all, I could not have asked for a better jewelry designer to spend time with. She is super nice, adventurous, patient and very open to learning new stuff. She was really smart to split her day of instruction into two days with a night spent here. 

Karen wanted to get started the next morning around 9:30, and then we hit it hard on torch work. As I referenced earlier, that was really a smart way to go in that she had a good night's sleep and was well rested for some more intense concentration. 

We had gotten to know each other better the previous day and evening, and by then, I had a pretty good idea about how to go about teaching her the torch based on how she learns best. 

And the really cool thing is that since she is left handed, I learned a more efficient way of using my own torch as I had to teach her how to use the torch as a leftie! So I got to learn some new things as well! 

I had a list of things she wanted more instruction with, and I printed that out to have with me in the studio. Everything we went over in class, I wrote it down so that I could type it up and email it to her after class. 

This worked out great, as I am very cognizant of the expense of hourly/daily private instruction. I really believe that total immersion is necessary to learn something new, and I don't want my students writing down stuff while making or learning. I think it is important to maximize our time together with hands-on learning. 

I typed up everything, including tool names, techniques we went over,  other artists and their websites or books I thought would be helpful and compiled it all into a document. She had it in her inbox the day or day after she arrived home. 

I am happy to report that she has written back to let me know of her new tool purchases, and I eagerly await to see what she will be creating next!!

She found an incredible deal on a Little Smith Torch set-up similar to the one that I use in the here is that link!

This torch is only $179.00 from this company!

The really great thing about private instruction is that you can try the tools you think you might want to get, but need a 'hands on' feeling about whether or not it will be a good investment for you. I think that was of great benefit for Karen.

We also touched upon the importance of really knowing what you love and like, and how to translate that into making your jewelry. Karen loves color and her direction is heading more towards color by way of enameling, and combining that with using more sophisticated metal structures in her work to support her use of color. 

I think that is a great direction for her to go in, since I observed her face light up with passion when she showed me examples of color and form that I recognized in myself when I started using more texture and pins in my own work. 

That is what this is really all about...getting comfortable with the tools necessary to support your ability to create what you are emotionally attached to with confidence and skill.
So, in conclusion, it was awesome to meet her, learn with her, from her and about her. I can't believe how fortunate I am to have this big space to share with others on their own passionate journey into creativity. 

And a few words from Karen that she graciously shared with me about our time so that I could share it with you….

Lucky me! I took a private class from Stacie in her well equipped new studio in Asheville, NC.I wasn't sure if a private class was the right venue for me but am so glad I did. I learned much more from Stacie in a short amount of time than I  thought possible. Stacie is centered, professional, personable, relaxed, articulate and dedicated to teaching.  Stacie really made sure I understood every little detail of techniques before we continued onto the next project. She has a wealth of knowledge about jewelry and jewelry techniques that she shared enthusiastically with me.  If you feel you need a push, a new direction or fine tuning in your jewelry journey, consider taking a class with Stacie. Thanks Stacie! You have much Soul and Substance.....