Making Your Own Simple Stamping or Chasing Tools    Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I say "simple" because I don't know what these are really called and they aren't anything fancy.  Just don't want anyone getting the wrong idea about this blog post.  I'm going to show you how to make a set of chasing tools in a graduating range of sizes.  I use these CONSTANTLY in my workshop.  Hope you find this post useful.

First I got this inexpensive set of pin punches from Harbor Freight (Pin Punch Set 8 Pc Pittsburgh Item #93424)

They are four inches long, made of carbon steel with a black oxide finish to prevent corrosion, and have knurled handles for good grip.  (Pin sizes: 1/16 in., 3/32 in., 1/8 in., 5/32 in., 3/16 in., 7/32 in., 1/4 in., 5/16 in.)

 

Then I use a large grinder to shape the ends...



Then used the belt sander to remove the razor edge top and to slightly round the corners...

 

And last, I buffed each piece with tripoli...


 

Tada!  My own set of chasing tools for $7!
 


Here are some of the ways I've used these.  It's really nice having just the right width of "line" tool for any particular small space I need to get into to stamp.

As well as my actual first and only attempt at repoussé. 

Edited to add:  I don't own those tools shown above. A community shop (lapidary club, junior college welding, etc) should have these tools. While I don't have the exact machinery shown in this blog (because I did in fact make these while taking a welding class at my local community college), I have made some at home on smaller scale equipment (very small) that I think a lot of metalsmiths have. Same tools... just smaller versions (grinder, sander, buffer).

 

The Lighter Side of Doing Art Shows    Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I think most of us have seen variations of this booth neighbor.  All in good fun.  Enjoy.

[I did not create this video...merely sharing it.]

Why Buy Handmade and the Benefits to Buying Directly From the Artist    Monday, January 8, 2018

The benefits of buying handmade and particularly buying directly from the artist are many.

Buying directly from the artist, you can have all your questions answered by the exact person who made or is making your jewelry. The person with the knowledge of the materials and techniques used, the proper wear and care for this piece, and the person to turn to for special requests or if problems arise.

Customer service and support is unparalleled when the only two people involved are the customer and the creator of the jewelry.

Working directly with the artist allows for special requests as well as being able to communicate design decisions clearly between customer and artist.

While handmade and quality will always cost more than mass-produced imports, when you purchase your jewelry directly from the artist you cut out the middle man and the price increase that usually accompanies the use of a middle man.

Many if not the majority of self-representing artists care about the environment and take proactive measures to keep their designs in line with repurposing, recycling, and sustainability.

Independent artists also care more about how well their products are made and what materials they're made of. So buying handmade directly from the artist almost always ensures higher quality, longer lasing jewelry.

There's usually a story to tell, too. Buying a bracelet that came off a factory assembly line won't garner you as much conversation with admirers as being able to retell how the artist carved this charm from a nut that grows in Hawaii and how the artist used a saw to cut the design in this piece of copper, how this piece was made by firing powdered glass in a kiln, or that this piece was inspired by the artist's childhood memory of going to the Grand Canyon.

There are so many more reasons, and when all is said and done you also may feel a little joy knowing that you're helping small business and independent artists. We are certainly grateful of your business and do our utmost to deserve your consideration.

 

Keeping Up With or Rather Ahead of The Joneses    Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle when you go to a show and every other booth is selling mass-produced imports that to the untrained eye may LOOK like a good deal, but we all know the difference between value and bargain, right?

So what can you do?

Keep moving, forward if possible.

Ask yourself, "What can I do that they can’t?" 

If someone's already making something that you'd like to make, but they're making it faster and cheaper than you ever could, think about letting it go and moving on to the next idea.

No moss grows on a rolling stone.  Let's roll!  

Preparing for a Happier Me    Saturday, January 6, 2018

This is a revision of an old blog post that used to be called “Preparing for a Better Me”, but I think I’m changing it to “Preparing for a Happier Me”.

I posted something on Facebook once for people who tend to over commit. 

  1. "Thanks, but I'll have to pass on that."
  2. "I really appreciate your asking, but my time is already committed."
  3. "I wish I could, but it's just not convenient."
  4. "I promised my kids (my husband, my wife, etc) that I wouldn't take on any more commitments without consulting them first."
  5. "I'd be happy to do that for you, but this month is quite hectic. Can we talk about this project sometime in the future?"
  6. "I don't have the time, but (name of someone else) would probably be the better person to ask."

Sadly, I don’t recall where I got these brilliant examples of saying “no”.  I’d love to give the original author credit.  Maybe I’ll find it again someday. 

Anyway, the reason I’m mentioning it here is because I noticed that a lot of my friends were “sharing” this status on their own timelines.  This leads me to believe there are many of us who struggle with over-committing and/or being able to say “no” graciously (I can’t do it graciously or non-graciously).

So let’s take a moment and think about what our time is worth and about how it won’t make us bad people if we can’t help everyone who asks something of us. 

This kind of reminds me of that quote that was falsely attributed to Meryl Streep, but is in fact from José Micard Teixeira, a Portuguese self-help author and life coach (and regardless who said it, I think it is worth sharing):

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.

I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”

How many of us know how we want to live, know what actions we want to perform, but still fall into the traps we’ve fallen in to all our lives?  Habits are hard to break. 

They say taking one thing at a time works best.  And the first step, as far as I’m concerned, is in keeping our goal in the forefront of our conscious minds.   That is, btw, one reason I like making “reminder jewelry”.  These are pieces that to the outside world look just like ordinary jewelry, but the wearer knows about the secret message contained within.

There’s no shortage of “message” jewelry out there, that’s for sure.  A good indication it’s a concept people are embracing by the millions. 

I think the idea of wearing a secret reminder gives more strength and power to the issue you’re trying to resolve.

Let’s take one for example.  You could have a simple necklace pendant with a beautiful bezel set stone on the front and stamped on the back is one word “NOW”.  So as your wear this lovely piece of jewelry, no one’s going to question you about the back of it, but throughout the day, you fiddle with it, place your fingers on it, move it around on the chain… and each time you touch it there’s a reminder for you.  Be in the moment.

Be mindfully aware of what is going on around you.  Be immersed in the situation at hand.  For that moment you stop worrying about the test you have to take tomorrow or the lecture you got from your boss yesterday.  You’re not planning out your grocery list or thinking about whose birthday you missed.  You are in the moment.  Whatever you are doing is taking your full attention and you are feeling the emotions of only that moment.

Sometimes it helps to break a habit if you can (temporarily or permanently) replace the habit with another action.

Say for example you’re a chronic worrier.  Each time you become conscious of yourself worrying about something, you acknowledge it and replace it with something not harmful to you… taking a deep breath, saying a mantra or quote, bringing a positive memory to mind, etc.  If you touch your jewelry, every time you use the replacement action, the jewelry soon becomes a catalyst for the replacement (these are called “triggers” and work the same way as my meditation spinner rings). 

It’s like performing an action (or trigger) while practicing deep muscle relaxation.  Soon, performing the action can bring about the same calm state of DMR (deep muscle relaxation) because your body associates one with the other. 

People are ready, willing, and able to change the things in their lives that have control over.  Things that will bring more positivity and peace to them on a daily basis.

The new year seems like as good a time as any for new beginnings.  What one thing would you like to change and what steps are you taking to change it?

 

The Collective Consciousness of Jewelry Making    Friday, January 5, 2018

The Collective Consciousness of Jewelry Making

You know what’s worse than discovering someone out there is selling jewelry almost identical to yours? Finding out they’ve been doing it longer than you. 

Just goes to show that more than one person can come up with the same idea. 

Sometimes people think in similar ways.  It just happens.

There’s a thing called “multiple discovery” that is described as: “… the hypothesis that most scientific discoveries and inventions are made independently and more or less simultaneously by multiple scientists and inventors”. 

I would think all forms of art would work in the same way. 

BTW, I’m not talking about stealing or copying ideas. I’m talking about two people who just happen to create remarkably similar designs.  I'm assuming it's more likely with less complex designs but it sure as heck happens with simple designs a lot.
 

I think it can happen randomly (just happen) and I think it can happen subconsciously (you get an idea seemingly from nowhere but in truth it could be inspired by something you saw months or years ago that you’ve forgotten about). 

Don’t wig out. This has been happening since the beginning of people. 

My best advice is that if you have an idea, implement it without delay.  It could behoove you to be the first or one of the first to get it out into the world before the other people who come up with the same idea do. 

Linking Pinterest and Facebook    Thursday, January 4, 2018

With social media marketing being both important and time-consuming, I wanted to share with you a tip that you may or may not feel like enlisting. 

I don’t always have time to hit up each social media site on a daily basis so I do cross-post a lot and I use whatever technology I can for that. 

There is a feature on Pinterest so that each time you pin something to a board, the post will also become a post on your Facebook timeline. 

The good thing is that this can save you time. 

The bad thing is it posts to your personal FB page, not your business/fan page. 

This is okay by me because I’m not much into separation of art and personal… I’m a personality all rolled into one. But I know a lot of my readers prefer to keep their work/art and their personal lives separate. 

For those who don’t, here’s what you do… 

  1. If you click on your icon/name in the upper right of the Pinterest page, it will show you a drop down menu. 
  2. Click on the second option “SETTINGS”.
  3. Scroll down past Account Basics, past Profile, and past Email Notifications (unless you want to turn that off while you’re here… I personally HATE email notifications for Pinterest and/or Facebook).
  4. On the section for Social Media Networks, just click on the white box next to the word “no” (which would then reveal the word “yes”). If you’re already signed in to Facebook, which most of us are, you should now have a “yes” there and all you have to do is click SAVE SETTINGS at the bottom of this page now. You may also set it up to post to Twitter and others.
  5. When you do a pin and get the PIN pop-up, in the lower left of the pop-up there is a check-mark box and it says posting to Facebook. If you do not want to post that pin to FB, just uncheck the box. Whatever you last do is your new default. Meaning if you remove the checkmark, it will be removed the next time you pin something. And if you HAVE the checkmark, it will be there the next time you pin something.

Encouraging Artists to Feel Good About Their Work    Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The following is a debatable thought and personally, I see both sides of the issue.  While I tend to lean more toward the "encouraging rather than discouraging" side of the fence, I enjoy things that make me think so I’m sharing it with you all.

Many years ago I heard a story...  I think it was supposed to be like a motivational thing.  Anyway, it seems to have stuck with me for some reason and I’ve thought about it on more than one occasion.  I am now going to give you my usual butchered job as I try to paraphrase the anecdote (because I have no idea where the story originated and I only have my memory to go off of).

So there was this student of the violin and he played at a recital one day.  Afterward, he met a violin maestro (is that what they’re called?).  The young violinist asked the master for his opinion of the performance.

“Do I have what it takes to be a professional violinist someday?” he asked the master.

The master looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, son, you don’t.”

The young violinist left and the master’s friend came up to him and said, “That young boy was brilliant.  He has amazing talent.  Why did you tell him he doesn’t have what it takes?”

“Because”, answer the master, “If he has what it takes to be great, he will not care about my opinion.  He will continue to do what he loves and become a master at it.  If he lets my opinion of his talent change the course of his life, he is not passionate enough to become a master in the first place.”

While I don’t agree with everything this story represents, I do get the point of it and ponder on it occasionally.

There’s something to be said for the person who can put his head down and forge ahead without needing the encouragement of others. 

 

A Week Of Activities To Break Creative Block    Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Week Of Activities To Break Creative Block

If you don’t feel creative today, sort your beads, clean your workshop, or rearrange your books. 

But on day two, sit down and sketch.  It doesn’t have to be something you’re going to end up making… just sketch.  Doodle, zentangle, anything.  Write words if they come to your mind, too.  None of this has to be jewelry design related.  You’re just practicing the relationship between your hand, your pencil, and your paper.   Your brain doesn’t have to be overly involved.  Today should be about fun, not work.

On day three, relax.  But didn’t we just do that?  Grab some of your favorite craft or technique books and read.  Just look at the photos and see how you feel about them.   Keep a sketch book by your side and trust me, the ideas will come.  You will see things or read things that will inspire you.  Whether it’s an actual design you can sketch out or just a note that starts out with “what if”.  

A couple of my favorite books when I need to take a brain break:

  • Landmarks of the World’s Art: Prehistoric and Primitive Man (by Andreas Lommel)
  • Jewellery: The Intelligent Layman's Book (by Jack Ogden)
  • Narrative Art (edited by Hess and Ashbery)

 

On day four, realize that being creative doesn’t always mean you have to be wildly innovative or ground-breaking.  That kind of thinking can stop a designer cold in their tracks.  Frozen with fear. 

Stop.  Take a step back and do some rote technique all day long.  Set up your soldering station and fuse some silver rings… over and over… make necklace after necklace.  By the end of the day, your fusing or soldering skills should be wildly better than they were in the morning.   Remember “wax on, wax off”?  That’s what we’re doing.  You can also do wire-wraps or torch some beads or do some chain maille or simple enameling… anything that needs a bit of improvement in your skill-set, but nothing that’s so complicated it will be a big stress for you.

On all of these days, set a timer to limit your time on the computer.  Social media can be fantastic for our jewelry business, but in the wrong hands (or for the wrong reasons) it can also be a huge time vacuum, sucking up hours and hours of potentially creative design time.

On day five, shake up your routine.  Take the day off and go exploring.  Drive on a road you’ve never driven on before.  Go to a park and hike where you’ve never been before.  A museum, a zoo, a bike trail… any place you’ve never been before.  If you’re really brave, talk to strangers too.  Just be in the moment and notice what’s around you.  You want to fill your senses with new experience.  Let your brain know it’s not in a rut.

Also, I think one of the most important things you can do is keep a notebook with you at all times.  Write down all those ideas that you’re SURE you’ll remember.  ‘Cause you know what?  We don’t.  We don’t remember lines we saw that made us think of a necklace design or the color combination on that tv ad that made us think of a bead idea.  Write down everything.  And then when you think you have no creative ideas, go to your notebook and remind yourself about all these wonderful things you thought of and can now do.

On day six, search the internet and download a project/tutorial that looks interesting.  Make sure you have the materials on-hand and then go at it.  Don’t download one that you won’t be able to do that same day.  Or open a jewelry making book you have at home that includes a project you can do that day.  Sometimes following someone else’s instructions takes a load of pressure off of us and gives our brains the time to relax and begin thinking again of ideas for us.

On day seven, commit to blogging or sharing on social media on a regular basis.  Pick a project and just start babbling about it (with photos!).  Other jewelry makers love to read about what we’re all up to.  We want to see how it’s done and what you tried and what worked for you and what didn’t work for you.  One of my most popular blog posts is about the day that I tried to learn how to fuse fine silver.  There are tons of videos and tutorials online from people who already knew what they were doing, but a lot of people really enjoy seeing it through the eyes of the explorer.  And sometimes the explorer shares something that a master might not think to mention. 

Also, if you’re interested, here are three Facebook pages that I either run or admin that are excellent for sharing your experiences as well as getting inspiration:

So that’s one week where you don’t have to agonize over your creative block.  And hopefully, something in that week will spark your ignition.

Will this jumpstart week work for everyone?  I should think not since we’re all wired differently.  But you never know until you try.

Report back here.  I’d love to hear how things went for you.

 

Artistic Confidence, Being Nice, and Finding Your Artistic Voice    Monday, January 1, 2018

Can you imagine going up to a jewelry booth at a show and saying to the artist, “You work really sucks.  These people around you are so much better than you.  You shouldn’t even be here.”

Pretty shocking, right?  I mean, even if you THINK it, you’d never SAY it.

But some people do say it… to themselves… on a daily basis.

It breaks my heart.

Ideally, we wouldn’t only NOT say these kinds of things to ourselves or to others, but we wouldn’t even THINK them.  (Yes, I am an idealist.)  Can you imagine accepting everyone’s efforts as worthy?  Everyone. 

I was watching one of those cooking shows the other night and I was mentally trying to give a pep-talk to one of the contestants.

“Don’t worry about it.  Food is about taste and you can’t force people to taste things the way you taste things.  You can’t predict how someone will feel about your food… because it’s just too subjective.”

Granted there are certain things that could be more obvious deal breakers.  If you burn something, odds are you won’t find many takers.  If you accidentally use salt instead of sugar in your cookies, you may not be asked back.  But when we get into the finer differences, a good portion of the judging is subjective opinion. 

I realize this could be open to huge debate.  Cooking, jewelry making, etc.  I’m sure there are people who insist there are standards to be met.  But I ask each of us to look at that and ask why?  We must examine these standards and decide if they are nothing more than mass-opinion consensus.   And I say be careful between judging technique versus artistic value.

I was wondering if I’d rather be in a field that is cut and dried, a job where you win or lose based on ability, not opinion… like (most) sports, for example.   In a math competition, you either get the correct answer or you don’t. 

In cooking, you are making something according to YOUR personal preferences and YOUR taste buds and being judged by people with their own personal preferences and their own taste buds.  OR… people who’ve been trained to believe a certain way.

Same thing with jewelry.  We make (usually) what WE want, what WE find attractive.  Then we hope that people who have the same taste as us come along and buy our creations.

Have you ever made something you thought was hideous and yet people raved about it? And when you get those compliments on something you made that you don’t’ like, you feel like you can’t say “thank you” because you figure they’re just messing with you… you’ll look like a fool if you take them seriously!

And then something you don’t like sells… and it leaves you scratching your head.  Maybe even questioning a lot of things about your creative direction.

Don’t.

As an artist, I think one of the best things you can do is work on technique.  Because that’s one thing you have the most control over.  You can’t control how many people will love or hate your work, but you can control if it has scratchy wires, rough edges, loose stones, etc.

So tighten up your skill set and make jewelry that makes you happy.  It will most likely change over time anyway.  Evolution is natural and pretty necessary in this industry.

We’re in an industry that relies heavily on the opinions of strangers.  So the least you can do is be gentle with yourself.  Most people I know who are critical of others are twice as critical of themselves.

Have you ever done that thing where you say a word… over and over… and it starts sounding just ridiculous… like not even a real word anymore?

I think we get the same effect with our jewelry.  I made 22 charms for a charm swap a few years ago and by the time I was done I thought, “OMG this thing is so ugly. I can’t give this to people.  I’ll have to start over.” 

But that wasn’t the rational part of me talking.  It was the part that lost all perspective from seeing the same thing, in minute detail, for five days straight, inside and out.  My perspective went in the toilet.  I was too close to the charm, too intimate with it, and had just plain old seen it way too much to have any kind of reasonable opinion.

So not only do people have opinions that differ from one person to the next person, but even within ONE person opinions can change… perception can change.

I decided to opinionate on this topic now because of something someone said to me recently.  One of the ladies in my SRAJD organization (self-representing artists in jewelry design) was comparing her creative work to that of others in the group and making pretty disparaging remarks about her own efforts.

This makes me so sad.  I’d like to think sometimes people are just fishing for compliments or maybe aren’t even paying attention to what they’re saying… but taking it at face value, I sincerely don’t want people to feel this way about their creations.

So for starters: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else.  Go back and read my first paragraph.  How can you be meaner to yourself than to an absolute stranger?  Yet we are, on a daily basis. 

Seriously people, start being nicer to yourselves!  Start talking nicely about your work.  What are you afraid of?

I want each of you who struggles with confidence in your artwork to do the following.  It takes a CONSCIOUS effort, but I have faith in all of you.

The next time someone compliments your work, just say “thanks”. 

  • Don’t say, “Thanks, but I feel I could have done better.”
  • Don’t say, “Thanks, but I was actually going for this other thing.”
  • Don’t say, “Thanks, but I know you’re just trying to be nice.”
  • Don’t say, “Thanks, but I know it doesn’t hold a candle to the real artists who do this.”
  • Don’t say any of that crap!  Just stop yourself!  Say “thanks” and shut your mouth (or stop typing).

It will be hard at first, particularly if you’re used to being down on yourself.  But it gets easier as time goes on.

Be nice to yourself.

Because you know what?  If you keep telling people your work sucks, they’re going to start believing you.

If you can’t love your own work, look at it and define precisely what you don’t like about it.  I had to do this about eleven years ago.  When I started making jewelry, I was trying everything and mostly imitating what I saw around me.  I ended up making lots of different things and not liking it all… not by a long shot.

So I took a hard look at what I did like.  I needed to pinpoint what direction what aesthetics and styles appealed to me.  I made a folder of photos of my few pieces that I really liked and/or was proud of (which usually is synonymous).

Then I started looking around… books, magazines, internet, etc.  I clipped photos, hundreds of photos until I started figuring out what design aesthetics I am attracted to.

Starting to work on pieces that more closely identified with my personal taste made me start to like my own work better. 

So figure out what you like… and then don’t just make jewelry… make the kind of jewelry you want to make.

And don’t compare yourself to others!  There will always be someone better than you.  Should you not do something just because someone else is better than you or even if you know you’ll never ever be as good as they are?  If you say yes, then it makes sense that we should only have one painter in the world, one photographer in the world, one chef in the world, etc.

And that’s too bad because there are always going to be people who don’t like that artist’s work or that chef’s food.

Fear is a prison.  Stop being afraid of the competition.

 

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