Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pussywillow Jewelry

My newest design, Pussywillow Earrings and Bracelet, featuring needlefelted white fuzzies from Nikki at Moondog Farm (thanks, Nikki!)

These will debut at the Etsy Maine Team craft fair this weekend.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Miscellaneous Awesome Happenings

Miscellaneous awesome happenings to report:

50th Shop Heart: I have received my 50th shop heart. Thank you so much to emptynestegg! As a thank you, I have offered her 50% off any one item in my shop. Check out her shop, too! She does some awesome beading for which I would never have the patience.

I'm in a new treasury: Check it out here: My Charlotte Necklace is in this awesome treasury by knitster23.

Tooting my own horn: Recently the Etsy Maine Team, of which I am a new member, changed their logo. We voted on submissions and the winner was an awesome design by
thecleverkitty, which you can see on the Maine Team Website. Where do I come in? Well, we had also tossed around some ideas for taglines. I suggested The way handmade should be, a play on the motto posted on the huge sign as you come into our lovely state. I had absolutely no idea that my idea had been picked until I saw the new website with my tagline idea right there for all to see.

Featured in a Blog: Lastly for today, thank you to Peggy, aka
threebridgessewingco for including me in her latest Twos Day Morning article. I am honored to be in the same article with Dory aka the awesome worthygoods!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weekend Deals in my Etsy Shop

In celebration of the beginning of summer, 10% off any piece with flowers in it. I will refund the amount through Pay Pal. Because of the holiday, the sale will run through Monday. Also, free U.S. shipping through Monday.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flower Power

My newest listings show my love for flowers. I can't grow them to save my life, so I do this instead. The lupine one took a lot longer than I thought it would to make.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Notes from a tool junkie: The most important tool

One of the definitions of tool in the American Heritage Dictionary is: Something regarded as necessary to the carrying out of one's occupation or profession.

Following that definition, what is your most important tool? What defines important? Something that you can’t do without? Something you use a lot? Something that would be hard to replace? There are many things that fall under those categories for me: my magnifying glasses, my Ott light, my flex-shaft machine; but one of the newest I have acquired, and surely the most difficult to replace, is the Etsy Maine Team.

How can a group of people be a tool? The team has become invaluable as a source of support and advice. And, like most things, a tool is only as good as its component parts. Those on the Maine Team are the highest quality components, each one offering his or her own special skills and gifts to make this team what it is. I cannot say enough about the talent that the Etsy Maine Team possesses. Among our membership are world-class crafters and artists.

More important than their talents and skills is their sense of community and caring for other members. It may be like this on other teams, I do not know as I don’t belong to any other, but I have a feeling a lot of it has to do with the location in which we live. Mainers have a reputation for helping their neighbors. In this case, neighbors may be as far away from one another as Fort Kent is to Kittery, but each member has been willing to offer support and guidance.

When I joined the group, not so long ago, I was welcomed in with open arms. I have been going through a difficult time lately and the people on the team have offered support and caring. When I was at a point where I wanted to just close up my Etsy shop, many members jumped in to give me constructive criticism for improving my shop. When a member, who has been ill, hadn’t been seen on the chat thread for a while, another member located her (in the hospital), and let all of us know how she was doing.

There seems to be no rivalry in the Maine Team. Many of us make the same types of things, but I have never had a feeling of competitiveness with others who make jewelry. I believe there is room in the world (and this state) for many different expressions of the same craft, and it seems that those on the team feel comfortable enough with one another to share ideas and opportunities, tips and tricks, and techniques without fear of being undermined.

This past weekend, I had the good fortune to meet many of these wonderful people. It was a long drive to the team meeting, and people were surprised that I would make that drive, but it was important to me to meet the people who have offered their friendship and support to someone they barely knew. I hope to be able to meet even more of these people over the upcoming months.

It’s not often one has the opportunity to thank one’s tools. In this case, however, it’s not only possible, but necessary. Thank you to all the members of the Etsy Maine Team for your support, caring, advice and friendship. You are certainly my most valuable tool, and impossible to replace.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yay for Maine Etsiers!

Check out this article from the Bangor Daily news, featuring some awesome Etsy people from Maine:

The following Etsy sellers were mentioned. Congrats to them! They deserve it!

Buy My Crap (
Folk Art Tree (
Coco and Milkweed (
Broake and Thumb Studios (
Moth Designs (
Becky Rose Designs (
Long Winter Farms (
Sock Monkey Cards (
Kristina Meyers (
Whimsidoodle (

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I love dragonflies and I have been making a few different kinds lately. Maybe it's just that I wish summer would hurry up and get here. Here are some of the ones I have made lately.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Notes from a tool junkie: Firing PMC

Last week, I talked about my favorite tools for working in PMC, but there were so many, I only covered working with the wet and dry clay before firing. Today I will talk about tools I use for firing.

There are many firing options available for PMC, which is one of the things that makes it so accessible. It’s not necessary to have a special kiln for firing, although that option allows you to fire not only all types of PMC but also the newer Bronze and Copper Clays. The same kiln would also allow enameling, glass fusing and the annealing of glass beads. Most PMC kilns have controls that allow the artist to set the time and temperature and leave the kiln to do its magic.

There are many types of kilns available in a variety of sizes and price ranges. I do not have a kiln and have only used them in the classes I have taken so I will not go into depth here. A PMC kiln is on the top of my tool wish list, however. Kilns can run from about $400 upwards.

Because my budget hasn’t allowed me to get a kiln yet, I have tried some of the other alternatives: Ceramic Hot Pot, torch and the SpeedFire Cone System. I will discuss those below:

The Hot Pot is a small two-piece kiln alternative. The bottom contains a terracotta pot filled with an alcohol based gel, which burns for about 10 or 15 minutes. The Hot Pot is relatively inexpensive, but it’s hard to find the gel fuel. The other problems I found with it were that I had no idea at what temperature the Hot Pot is firing and the firing time was limited to the length of burn of the gel fuel. That amount of time will sinter PMC, but the pieces must be fairly small and thin. The short burn time limits you to firing only PMC3 and I have found that many pieces are simply not strong enough and are prone to cracking and breaking. I wouldn’t recommend this alternative. For the same money, or perhaps even less, a torch is a more viable alternative.

Torch firing can be accomplished with a small torch, like the ones used for crème brulée. They can range in price like anything else, but you can find them in kitchen stores, hardware stores and most stores and websites that sell PMC supplies for $30 or less. They take butane fuel, which is easy to find in hardware and kitchen stores. This is a great way to try out PMC if you don’t have access to a kiln. You will have much more control over the burning than with a Hot Pot.

If this is a firing method you would like to try and you already make jewelry, you may have a torch and supplies for soldering on hand already. When I torch fire, I use the same torch and setup I use for the simple silver soldering that I do. Other than the torch and fuel, you will need a fireproof surface on which to fire the PMC. I use a soldering board that is set on a turntable (handy for soldering, but not necessary for PMC) with a beehive board on top of it. A pair of tweezers is also helpful if you wish to pick up the PMC to quench it in water directly after soldering. I find that this is an excellent way to fire Aura 22 onto already-fired PMC and a great way to fire very small pieces. While you still don’t know the exact temperature of the torch firing, the color of the PMC will help you. If you have never fired with a torch, I would recommend the excellent written and video tutorials at the PMC Guild’s website, which you can find on this page: It takes a bit of practice to recognize the color stages of PMC as it is heated, so it makes sense to first practice a bit on scraps of PMC.

Currently, the method I use most for firing PMC is my SpeedFire Cone System. It is pictured here and is basically a modified campstove with a pyrometer. The cone, made of a fireproof material, concentrates the flame to bring the heat to the proper firing temperature. Any type of PMC can be fired on the SpeedFire. It uses the same propane fuel used in camp stoves, which can be found for about $2.00 in Wal-Mart. It screws right onto the bottle of propane or there is an adapter available so it can be hooked to a larger propane tank, like the ones used on gas grills. The SpeedFire Cone System is around $150.

I have experimented quite a bit with my SpeedFire Cone. The pyrometer is a big help. It’s probably not as accurate as one on a kiln, but it gives a good idea of firing temperature, so it’s easy to regulate. Just gently adjust the gas higher or lower to increase or decrease the temperature. It seems to hold its temperature well. The recommended firing time for PMC for optimum strength is two hours. I can get at least that much time out of one can of the propane. I am sure it would be even more economical to attach it to the larger propane tanks. When firing, I sit with the SpeedFire for a few minutes to monitor the temperature and then I use a kitchen timer to time the firing, checking on it occasionally. I use mine in the middle of my garage floor with plenty of clearance both around and above.

The SpeedFire Cone fires flat pieces well. I have also fired some round and domed pieces and they retained their shape. Traditionally, when kiln firing, most dimensional pieces are fired either in vermiculite or on a fireproof fiber blanket so that they retain their shape. I don’t know if this would work on the SpeedFire as the heat needs to surround the piece. I have used small bits of the blanket underneath corners and edges which has worked well. I have also fired Cubic Zirconia stones on the SpeedFire with no problems and organic cores seem to burn off just fine. If you intend to use one outdoors, choose a sheltered area. The flame is open enough that a good wind might interfere with firing.

The SpeedFire is also available in a mini version, which uses a refillable canister of butane fuel. I have not tried one. It appears to be quite a bit smaller than the regular SpeedFire and the specs say that the canister holds enough fuel for about 30 minutes of firing. There is no pyrometer. It runs about $90.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Notes from a tool junkie: My favorite tools for working with PMC

Since I began my blog, I have been tossing around ideas for an ongoing series. What should I write about? Should I have tutorials? Obviously, it should be about jewelry making, but what subject do I feel comfortable enough with to do tutorials? I began an article on making a pair of PMC earrings, but there are already many well-written blogs and tutorials on PMC, so I decided to go at it from another angle: Tools. I am a tool junkie. If there was a Tools Anonymous, I would be the leader. Come to think of it, maybe I should start one. I have tools I use all the time and tools that sounded like a good idea when I bought them, but have only used once or twice. And so I have decided that will be my subject: The tools I use, the ones I love, the ones I hate, the ones I want to try if only I had the money to buy them. I’ll throw in information on supplies as well.

My favorite medium to work with is PMC, Precious Metal Clay. Because I have been working with it lately, that is where I will start today: The tools I use while working with PMC, both wet and dry, up to firing.

If you are just starting out with PMC, there are tons of PMC resources on the internet, one of which is the PMC Guild ( Click on the “Getting Started” tab for great beginners’ explanations and instructions. I think the best way to get your feet wet with PMC is to take a PMC class. Usually basic tools are included with your class fee and you don’t have to invest a lot in equipment, in case you decide you don’t like working with it. The PMC Guild also has a list of classes around the country, searchable by state.

To begin, one of the great things about PMC is that you don’t need a lot of special tools. A lot of the things you use can be found around the house. But, because I have to feed my habit, I tend to accumulate way more than I really need.

Here is a photo of my work area, with some of the supplies and tools I use the most, starting in the upper left hand corner and going clockwise:

~Olive oil (a non-stick agent)
~Badger Balm, which is made from olive oil and also can be used for a non-stick agent. (I like the Sleep Balm because I love the smell of lavender.)
~My handmade slip, made from a recipe found in PMC Guild’s quarterly magazine, Fusion. The (not so) secret ingredient is lavender oil. I’ll talk about how I make it in a later article.
~Water, in a tiny ceramic cup (it doesn’t tip easy) and a small spray bottle.
~Roller. Any round thing will do, such as a length of PMC pipe.
~Playing cards. Many people use playing cards to measure thickness of their clay. I found that they warped on me, so I went to plastic thickness guides. I use playing cards to assemble my project on. Then it’s easier to move the project while it’s still wet. Be sure to coat them with a thin layer of olive oil or Badger Balm.
~Plastic measuring guides. I like them because they are long and thin so they are great if you are trying to roll out a longer piece.
~Texture sheet. I have tons of texture sheets. Some I bought were marketed specifically for PMC. The one you see here was actually made for polymer clay. It is rubbery and flexible and makes very deep impressions.
~Tissue blade. One of the most invaluable tools, but also one of the most dangerous. I can’t tell you how many times I have cut myself with it. This particular one was also made for polymer clay and has snap on handles, making it much safer.
~Tiny cookie cutter. You can buy tons of these online. I have found it’s best to buy those specifically marketed for PMC, only because other ones usually aren’t small enough.
~Work surface. I got this work surface pad in my PMC Certification class. They can be purchased at Rio Grande. It is rigid and it has helpful grid markings and firing times.

Other tools I find useful:

~Paintbrush. I learned that it’s best to spend the money on quality artists’ brushes because the cheaper ones lose their bristles in the clay. You will only need some really small ones – one or two are fine, but use them only for PMC. I also use larger, fluffier ones to brush loose PMC off my piece when sanding and for cleaning up my work area.
~Very thin awl, to use for marking and cutting into wet clay.
~Fine silver wire. Not really a tool, but useful nonetheless. I am horrible at making tiny embellishments with PMC, so I use wire for many embellishments as well as for making jump rings, bails, etc.
~Tweezers for picking up and placing tiny things. I have clumsy hands, so tweezers are essential to me. I probably have 10 pairs in varying sizes and styles.
~A dryer of some sort. This isn’t necessary, but helpful if you are impatient like me. What you use is totally dependent on how much PMC you wish to dry at once and how much money you want to spend. I use a candle warmer, similar to a mug warmer but larger, that I purchased in a craft store. Some people use blow dryers, food dehydrators and in classes where lots of pieces need to be dried at once, large electric skillets.

~A rubber block to rest the dry PMC on when you file it.
~Nail files. Just plain nail files you can purchase anywhere. The kind that are a bit bendable and have foam in the middle. They come in different grits, just like sand paper, they are easy to hold and maneuver, they are plentiful and cheap!
~Carving tools for carving into dry PMC. There are some made specifically for this. I just use a Speedball Linoleum Carver, like the one shown here: I chose this because it was at my local craft store and it was relatively inexpensive.

This is a good point to mention a product I found that I just love: Sanding swabs. They are little match stick style sanders with varying grits on one end. They are just under 3 inches long and they fit into all kinds of little nooks and crannies. I purchased mine at

I will leave you with two little tips for organization. I am a total slob when I work, but I like to be organized. I have found that great things for organizing all these small tools are soap and toothbrush holders you can buy at pretty much any store. The toothbrush holders are great for storing paintbrushes and I even found a squarish one that holds my tissue blades perfectly. And you can just pop them in a bag for traveling.

Finally, I have a bad habit of just dropping my paintbrush down on my desk, which means I get PMC all over the place. The other day I was in a kitchen store and came across little chopstick holders (there’s probably another name for them) and bought one to rest my paintbrush on. So no more dirty desk and no more gunk mixed in with my PMC. I am sure that more resourceful people than I could make one.

I am sure I have forgotten something. Do you have a favorite PMC tool that you use? Please feel free to post it here.

My favorite sources for PMC tools:

Rio Grande
Whole Lotta Whimsy
Cool Tools
Metal Clay Supply

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two more new listings

I have listed two more PMC pieces. Akitsu (Dragonfly) Earrings and Charlotte Necklace.

Coming soon: A tutorial on how I made the Akitsu Earrings.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Newest Listing: Posie Ring

I have listed my first ring. I have been wanting to make one for a while. Every time I open the silverware drawer, I look at the pattern and think about making a piece from it, so I finally did! It worked out pretty well, I think, and I would like to make a bracelet next.

It is made with fine silver from PMC and has a cubic zirconia in the center of the flower.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My new favorite saying

This is a card I found for my sister-in-law's birthday. I liked it so much I bought one to hang on the wall in my office. It's published by Borealis Press, which is in the next town over in Surry.