Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New photos of student work online

Finally got off my butt and posted some pics of great work by my students - from class and outside class. You can find them on my Flickr page. Hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Helping a couple make their wedding rings

I had the honor to help a sweet young couple to make their very own wedding bands - and not just simple bands, mokume wedding bands.

Mokume gane is a Japanese technique. Different metals are stacked in layers, fused or soldered together, and then forged or rolled down to compress the layers together. The stack is split, the two halves are stacked, soldered and compressed again. This is repeated several times, and each time it multiplies the layers of metal. When the metal is later twisted, punched, forged and/or ground, it reveals the layers of metal in a pattern that often resembles wood grain or burls.

Cindy and Erwin came to the studio for the day and they had never made any jewelry before this class. They personally made each other's rings - every step! The first thing we did is to use our rolling mill to roll their mokume rod, composed of alternating layers of 22kt gold and sterling, from 1/4"x 2" pieces down to smaller square rods for the rings. The rolling mill compresses and elongates the thick billet down to a slender, smooth square rod.

Here you can see the layers of gold and silver in the rod.

Once the rod was a more manageable thickness, we twisted them in a vice to make the pattern for the ring, twisting the layers of metal.

The rod was then annealed and forged back to round, and then rolled into rectangular ring stock. In the picture below, you can see how the once straight layers of silver and gold are now twisted into beautiful angles.

Cindy and Erwin next formed their rings and soldered them closed.

Then I helped them to make the rings round with a ring mandrel and mallet. They had carefully measured their ring blanks, so after soldering and reshaping, and just a little stretching, they were exactly the right sizes.

After all the fabrication was done, I showed them how to file their rings to make them half round, for a more comfortable fit on the inside and to reveal more of the layers and pattern of the mokume.

To bring out more of the pattern, we etched the rings in a dilute solution of nitric acid, which etched the silver faster than the gold, leaving raised lines of gold around their bands. Then we increased the contrast by applying a patina of liver of sulphur, which darkened the silver, but left the gold untouched. A little polishing to relieve the highlights and leave the recesses antiqued, made for a great pair of mokume rings and a very sweet picture.

Cindy and Erwin were great students and did a fantastic job making each other's wedding rings. I'm proud of their work and it was a lot of fun to help them. Thanks to both of them for not only signing up to make their rings, but also bringing not just one, but two cameras to record the whole process, and for sharing those photos with me. Thank you!

If you're interested in booking your own private lesson or in making your own wedding rings, visit my website: SilveraJewelry.com. Follow the links to email me or call the studio to find out more about how I can help you make your own rings.

If you like these rings and want one of your own, Cindy and Erwin have some left over mokume stock that I think they'd be willing to sell. Get in contact with me and let me know. I can make it for you or help you make it into a ring, too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Student work from the 5 Day Metalsmithing Retreat

Whew! 5 days of teaching the basics of metalsmithing done! Students came in, some completely new to metalsmithing, and learned how to saw, file, sand, hammer, texture, rivet, solder, make a ring, bezel set a stone and polish with power tools. This was the first group to take this new course and we had a lot of fun - intense! But a lot of fun. Check out more of their work (mostly the finished rings they made at the end) on my Flickr page. They each made 1 or more sawn and stamped pendants, 1 riveted pendant, 1 or more basic soldered pendants, and a ring with a stone setting that brought all of their new skills together in one project.

You can find more fun upcoming workshops at SilveraJewelry.com.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Check out the samples for the Intermediate Soldering retreat

Just finished and updated some great new samples for the Intermediate Soldering retreat - and yes, I made them, so I'm saying so myself: they're great!

There's a koi fish broach, a gorgeous jumbo size hollow cylinder bead and a hollow ring - all made to teach students more soldering skills, including working with hard solder, using firescale retardant fluxes and strategies for positioning pieces for soldering. All of which helps to reduce scale and discoloration of the metal and makes for a much easier time polishing.

There's still a few spaces left - sign up up soon!

Friday, July 15, 2011

New samples for 5 Day Metalsmithing Class

Just finished some new samples for my upcoming 5 Day Metalsmithing Intensive workshop in Berkeley. 5 days from 0 knowledge to sawing, filing, sanding, polishing, hammering, stamping, texturing, soldering, making rings and bezel setting. Whew!

Browse this and more classes at my website.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A few pics from Bead & Button 2011

This is one of the pieces made by a student during my basic metalsmithing workshop, Saw, File and Stamp. The patina on this copper flower pendant and her hard work are not done justice by my grainy iPhone photo. I need a better camera at the show, because so many pieces were fantastic and the photos didn't turn out at all.

Here are a couple of pics of students making prong settings during one of my stone setting workshops. All of our students made great pieces and were wonderful to work with, in every class. Thanks and gratitude to all of you!

Teacher flustered by flux during demo. But the show goes on!

Friday night I gave a free demonstration of soldering at my publisher's booth at Bead & Button.

We packed up our supplies, the tv and video camera and rolled into the booth. I set up a big screen with a live, magnified view of the demo, huge up close images of solder flowing, just like I use in my classes at our studio and when we travel. Students love it. They can actually see exactly how it works! Smart.

As the clock ticks 5 on the dot and I do a final check on my tools and materials, I realize that I'm missing my flux. Oh yeah, do you need flux to solder? Did I write a book about soldering?! Not smart.

Anat rushes back downstairs to the classroom but the door is locked. She somehow manages to find flux anyway, borrows a jar of it and runs back upstairs. Meanwhile, Tania from the camera crew (yup, this flub is live on film too for the show website), manages to borrow another jar simultaneously from one of the vendors at the show. Now I have two jars of flux and the show goes on. I think it took 5 - 10 minutes to sort out, while I stalled for time. But those were 20 of the longest red faced 10 minutes in my life. Can't wait to see the movie!

The rest of the demo was great, btw. But the gaffs are way more interesting to read about, aren't they?

Meet the Teachers

Every year at Bead & Button, people actually pay admission just to meet jewelry teachers. It's still hard to believe, and we were there.

And not just a few people - hundreds! At least hundreds. For one short night we the teachers are rock stars. People line up and wait, winding deep into the halls of the convention center. They pay. The floor shakes. It shakes with the thunder of their stampede as the doors open.

Usually this is a slow night for us as students prowl for wire and bead kits (or so it seems to me). My metalsmithing stuff is great, but soldering is often too intimidating for raw beginners. Not so this year! This year I'm an author and we were swarmed with fans and people interested in soldering. Books sold out. DVDs were sucked up and money, smiles, autographs, questions and answers exchanged with people from all over the country and beyond like Australia, France, Israel and the UK. Amazing. So grateful.

The kindness of strangers still exists in Milwaukee

We had something strange, rare and wonderful in our life on Thursday: a day off. Imagine that? And in the midst of teaching at the biggest consumer bead show in the world, too. So we took a trip out to Alterra Coffee by the lake, as illustrated here by my latest over used app, Hipstamatic. Old news, old app, but new to me.

Anat found a coffee brew here in Milwaukee named "El Cerrito", as in our neighborhood in the East Bay, so we had to try that. I ordered a honey latte and scrumptious grilled triple cheese sandwich - they definitely do cheese right in Wisconsin. After my lip smacking eye rolling fit of delight subsided (because as I become an older, wider male, more and more of my pleasure center is getting hard wired into my stomach), we got to chatting with our table neighbor, Josh.

We told him about our mildly harrowing bus ride to the lake. I'm not a complete public transit virgin. I've been on subways, metros, tubes and now the elevated trains in Chicago. I took the bus everywhere in L.A. for one long year, and been for bus rides in Paris and New York. I'll never forget our experience in a taxi in Manhattan, when I looked at Anat and told her I loved her because I really thought we were going to crash and die at any second. So on the scale of vehicular mayhem, this was about a 6. Still, when a massive bus takes multiple hard stomach lurching turns through pedestrian infested streets, narrowly missing cars, sending passengers sliding in their seats from side to side like it's some kind of Speed ride at Universal Studios, you make a mental note: if we live through this, think about other forms of transport. Did I mention the bus driver was laughing the whole time?

Turns out Josh is a real good samaritan, and he offers us a ride back downtown. It did cross our mind that Milwaukee is Dahmer's home town, and rumor has it he was one suave murderer, but obviously we didn't end up as leftovers in the freezer, because I lived to blog about it. Josh was the real thing, a good human being, someone who goes out and helps others, even a social minded, save the world entrepreneur. Really nice to meet one in person and not just read about them.

Hipstamatic strikes again. The photo doesn't do him justice, but at least you can see his smile as he dropped us off back at the hotel. Nice guy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teaching Prong Setting in Milwaukee

Well, I had no idea my bald head was so damn shiny while I was teaching. Thankfully I have the tv to distract the students from their reflections on my head! Instead they can enjoy close ups of my ugly fingers. "Pssst.... Joe needs a freakin' manicure!!"

This was a busy class. 18 students made a pedestal prong setting from scratch, including a custom bail - I worked my class to the bone and filled their heads with lots of information about soldering and stone setting. But almost everyone walked out with a set stone despite a few last minute melted bails and crooked settings. Nice thing about prong settings is that you can take the stone out and reset it or repair the setting.

One thing I'm proud of in these photos - my work area doesn't look like a complete disaster area on day three of our teaching marathon. Anat has been a huge help, taking orders, and helping students with soldering, etc.

Thanks to Patti from Wubbers - awesome awesome pliers - for the photos from class.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated!

We're in Milwaukee for the Bead & Button Show, teaching for 8 days. We arrived a day early to set up our classroom and had some time to visit the local sites.

There's a lot to see within a short walk of the show. Downtown is a mixture of old world influenced architecture and modern. We took our traditional walk down to the Public Market - a great indoor market full of different food stalls. But the weather is great - warm with a nice cool breeze from the lake.

Tonight we ate outside at Mo's Irish Pub. The weather is great, warm with a nice breeze. Last night we went out with my editor and friend, Mary, who showed us a great time at the Saint Francis Brewery - their Kolsch amber ale is my new favorite brew. One of the best beers I've ever had.

Check out more pics on my Flickr page.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Got Fumes?

Soldering can produce fumes that overtime can lead to sensitivities or health problems. I always recommend that students have adequate ventilation in their work area, like open windows, a small table fan, even an exhaust hood. But it's not always easy to set up and an exhaust system can be expensive.

My wife Anat ordered a neat little device for her enameling - a bench fan from Whole Lotta Whimsey. This small fan - 6 1/2" tall - pulls fumes away from your work area and through a filter.

Anat tried soldering without it and then tried again, using the bench fan. She noticed a marked difference - less odor when she used the fan. Something to think about when making a safe work area, and the small foot print and price tag make it an easy choice.

Now I just hope that they have enough in stock for all of us!