Dancing Mermaid and Dolphin

My obsession continues!  It’s most recent manifestation is this dancing mermaid and dolphin necklace in sea-foamy  greens and beryl blues.  The beads were torch fired to match, and this time I even enameled the headpins to match!  I think that one little detail makes for a very lovely pair of earrings.

I decided I wanted to share more pictures of the process with you.  Unfortunately I relied on my camera phone for convenience and I didn’t get many well focused pictures.  I will likely redo a series of pictures in a future piece to get better quality pictures, but for now I’ll share these with you.

Step 1:  BUILDING THE DESIGN:  After preparing the base with a counter enamel and a base coat of foundation white on the front, I built the design using fine, flat cloisonné wire and literally glued the wires into place using blu-stic.

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Step 2: FIRING THE WIRES INTO PLACE

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Step 3: BREATH!  The first time I used the blu-stic to hold the wires in place, as I fired the piece started to look dirty, and then BAM!  It started to turn black.  I panicked!  I thought I had done something wrong and ruined it.  Foolishly, I almost stopped.  Ultimately I decided to fire forward and as I did it began to clear up.  My pulse and breathing returned to normal and I wiped the sweat from my brow. 🙂  I share this with you to now so that if the day comes you are in the same position, your heart won’t stop like mine did. 🙂

FIRST the blu-stic burns black.

As the blu-stic burns off it blackens ... don't panic!

NEXT as the organic material in the blu-stic continues to burn the black begins to recede and breathing and pulse return to normal.

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Step 3:  WET PACKING.  This is the stage where you select your colors and begin painting or wet packing your design cells.  I failed to take a picture of the wet packing before I began firing, but I do have a blurry pic of the piece firing in the flame in the first round of torching.  A better picture of this phase can be found in my previous post ‘Fabulous Fire and the Quantum Carp’.  Here I include my very blurry phone pic.

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Step 4: FIRE!    Multiple layers are fired upon the surface to fill in the cells of the design until it is flush across the face of the piece.  Here is a picture of the piece after the first firing balanced on the trivit.

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Step 5: SHOW AND TELL.  And finally, full pictures of the piece after the final firing.  I even created some torch fired beads with color coordinated enameled head pins for the matching earrings.  I love the extra detail that the enameled headpins add.  When I first started torch firing the beads with Barbara’s  technique I didn’t know what to do with the beads as they were larger than I was used to working with.  I finally found some that were a size that fit nicely into my comfort zone for designing with, just in time for my cloisonné fever to strike.  I have to say that being able to create torch fired enamel beads to match is PRICELESS!

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And now a week of withdraw as I impatiently await the arrival of more cloisonné wire …

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Faublous Fire and the Quantum Karp

Have I mentioned to you yet that I am TOTALLY addicted to enamels? Oh my have I been having fun! My journey to addiction began when I tried my hand at some simple sifted enamel pendants. I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with sgrafitto in enamels early on. If that wasn’t fun enough I then discovered Barbara Lewis’ immersion method of torch firing beads and other jewelry components. It helped me to re-familiarize myself with the torch (it’s been a while since I did any serious work with a torch) and gain confidence in my enameling capabilities. I loved watching the enamel fuse to the bead in the flame and playing in all the wonderful color. I find this new art form to be very soothing to the spirit. Therapeutic if you will, though dangerously addictive. After a long period of torch firing beads and emboldened by my success I decided to dip my toe into the world of cloisonné … and I’ve decided I’m never coming back.
After playing around with some 20 gauge round wire to make my first pieces I finally invested in some proper fine silver cloisonné wire, and what a world of difference it has made. I can hardly believe how quickly I’m going through the stuff… I already feel panic setting into my heart as I realized I have less than a foot left today. I’ll have to wait a week to get more. I can’t imagine how I’ll cope when I run out. Did I mention that this art form is like the crack of the jewelry arts? Oh yeah … I’m sick. 🙂
After admiring several pieces of Japanese themed pieces from other artists online I found myself inspired to attempt to make a Karp, or Koi in a pond with a lily pad. I started it yesterday about 5:00 and was a woman possessed, working until 1:00 a.m. to finish it. I had to be up at the crack of dawn, and through I tried to convince myself that getting sleep was the wiser course of action it was impossible to get my mind off of the little carp painting that was coming to life before my eyes.
In the first phase I prepared my copper base by fusing a couple of layers of counter enamel to the back and a base of white to the front. Once the base was prepared I drew my design out to scale in my notebook then I cut and shaped the cloisonné wire to form every detail of my carp and little lily pad. I use a product called Blu-Stick to glue the wires in place as I am setting them. It looks like blue elmers glue and is about the same consistency but it burns off clean in the firing process. You can see some traces of it in the picture. I had not yet fired the wires into place.

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     In the next phase I pick my pallet of colors and begin wet packing them into the cells created by the cloisonné wire.  I add enamel to the cells, fire it in the torch to fuse that layer and then wet pack again.  This is a process repeated many times, fusing layer upon layer of glass until all of the cells are full.  The wet packed enamel is allowed to dry before firing.  The dry enamel looks like colorful sand.  The coloring is much lighter before the enamel is fired, and then it darkens with beautiful effects.

Here is the wet packed design unfired:

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And here is the design after firing when the enamels have darkened:

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     After several layers are fused and the cells are full the image is ground back with an alundum stone to level the surface and remove excess glass that may be covering the wire design.  I was very pleased with my little coy!  I then torch fired beads in matching colors to create a necklace to show off my new friend.  I absolutely love the colors, the design and everything about my latest piece.   I cannot wait to see what my efforts over the next year will yield if I remain steadfast in my enameling experiments.  I am enamored with enameling, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

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Supplier Review: Steer Clear of Lonnie’s Inc.

Given that so many of you often ask me for suppliers for tools, materials and general supplies I wanted to share my experience with Lonnie’s, Inc. Twice now I have attempted to become a customer – and twice thwarted by their complete lack of customer service. By customer service I mean little things … like actually shipping out your order … ever. Early in January of this year I placed an order with them. Three weeks after having placed the order and receiving my confirmation via email, the items still hadn’t shown up. I had called and left a message as it’s nearly impossible to get through on their phone in my relatively short lived experience with this company. Upon FINALLY getting a live person on the phone three weeks after having placed my order I was told that it was still sitting in the warehouse. This was at the beginning of my foray into enamels and I was waiting on my first trivet, along with many other items I had added to my cart. Without the trivet I really couldn’t move forward. I needed my trivet to counter enamel. Three weeks they held me up. Their excuse? An item was backordered. One item out of many, backordered, so they sent nothing. Nice. I was, understandably upset. I have never heard of a company doing such a thing – for three weeks. I cancelled my order with the company, thinking I was better off dealing with a more reliable supplier.
After a while I thought that perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Compost happens. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’m sure many of you have as well. Perhaps that was just a fluke, I thought, so I decided to give them another try. I placed a second order with Lonnie’s Inc on March 27th to give them another shot. Today, April 11th I still have not received my order. Two weeks later. Again I attempted to call them and again could not get through to a real person. Finally, having given into my frustration and no longer being willing to sit on my phone, burning up minutes pointlessly, I emailed the company expressing my dissatisfaction and to check the status of my order. Finally, I received a call from Carla from Lonnie’s who informed me that once again my order was still in the warehouse and had not been shipped. Of course they had multiple excuses to offer for their complete lack of service. Let me say that again: COMPLETE LACK OF SERVICE. She informed me that they were very behind in their shipping (DUH!) and asked me if I wanted them to keep the order. I told them that I wanted to know when it would ship, when I would get it and that I’d like it upgraded to priority mail shipping at no cost. “I don’t know what you want from me” Carla said. I was pretty sure I just told her what I wanted – I wanted to be upgraded to priority mail at no cost and I wanted a timeline for shipping and delivery. “No” they said. They couldn’t do that. They couldn’t go out of their way (in such a small way) to make up for completely and utterly screwing up my order. Keep in mind, despite the many excuses they had for BOTH failures to deliver and the fact that they never once called me to tell me that the packages were delayed on their own initiative (both times I had to contact them). I told Carla their unwillingness to go out of their way to make it up to their customers was unfortunate because I had a large student base who often asked me for suppliers and that I could not in good conscience ever recommend them as a supplier. Carla’s professional response? Carla said quite nastily “If you want to retaliate, go ahead!” And then she hung up on me. This my friends, is the level of ‘customer service’ you can expect from Lonnies Inc. If this is what you’re seeking in a supplier, check out Lonniesinc.com. If you actually expect customer service, stick to Thompson’s Enamel. They’ve got everything Lonnie’s has and they actually ARE professional, bend over backward to make their customers happy, are educated in the art forms and are happy to offer advice when they can. I have learned a lot from Thompsons just by talking to the rep on the phone – AND they actually deliver their product after you order it. The only recommendation I can give to Lonnie’s Inc is to steer clear of them.

More fun with Enamels

Well, it’s official. I have a new addiction. I can’t stop playing with enamels – and don’t want to. I made another cloisonné piece recently. I call this one Patron of the Arts. It’s a tribute to the art patrons out there whose support makes it possible for artists to live creative lives and continue their work to put beautiful things out into the world. Without the art patron, we would not be able to do what we do. While it’s fun, it also serves as a sort of badge of honor telling the world that the person wearing it is a supporter of the arts.  Buy Art!

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My latest enameling adventures led me to create these cute little pendants in a copper setting.  The setting is made from copper sheet.  After the enamel disk is set I sealed the copper so that it would not turn one’s skin when worn.  I absolutely ADORE these fun little pendants and will be making many more to come.  Please forgive the low quality of pics.  My camera seems to have disappeared so these were taken with my camera phone.

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Keep an eye out on my blog.  I forsee some workshops and possibly even some tutorials in enameling techniques to come!  Thanks for following me.