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November 9, 2015

Joy of Teaching One on One

Joy of Teaching One on One
November 9, 2015
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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 feeling..it'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. ”

— LINDA REED, KNOXVILLE, TN


November 4, 2015

Disc Cutter I use and Why

Disc Cutter I use and Why
November 4, 2015
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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. 
November 3, 2015

A Co-Creative Friendship

A Co-Creative Friendship
November 3, 2015
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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?


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