Monday, October 12, 2009

Silver, Copper and Polymer Treats

I’m overwhelmed this week, so to both torture and treat myself I spent some time surfing the net to look at lovely blogs that portray perfectly presented gourmet dishes and fairytale lifestyles. To anyone out there that has one of these blogs, Can I please see what is behind the camera?? is it a mess back there and are you wearing your sweats when you post that stuff? Did you all come down from a planet I don’t know about? I’m not kidding I really need to know. Well, however you do this, I enjoy the endless eye candy that is presented for us to dream over.
I got some eye candy in my email this past week that came at a welcome time. Hope you enjoy the etched jewelry pieces here:

Nancy Hamilton sent me a few pictures of pieces she made using our E3 Etch controller. I was blown away! Her work is so well crafted and simply beautiful. She tells me she has developed a system to mass produce pieces, and since each silver piece takes less than an hour to etch she can move quickly to the next piece.

Nancy’s copper etched pieces are richly designed by hand using beeswax as a resist. The center of this copper piece is filled with transparent resin, and has an etched design you can see through the resin.

Another treat this week was to find that my friend, Wendy Wallin Malinow, has her own website up along with her Etsy shop. She is one of the most creative people I know and her style is unmistakable- I love it! I predict anything she touches will be highly collectable, check out her new site.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Whether you live in Utah or elsewhere, this is a fun blog to visit. They recently posted a feature on my work under Business Savvy

Speaking of crazy beautiful, my goal is to feature more student work on my blog and website because I get to see fantastic pieces from students that needs to be celebrated. This crocheted bracelet was made by Jeannie Thorn who took my crocheted bracelet class at Art Unraveled this summer. Jeannie Thorn Silver Crocheted BraceletCheck out Jeannie’s site and also Adorn Me, which is a brand new jewelry making venue from Art Unraveled. The classes are up now!

I have about 800 other things to post, but for now here is a picture of bronze and copper clay beads. I have been testing and trying to refine the process for making bronze and copper beads. Copper and bronze clay is challenging enough, and so beads are extra hard to make successfully. I found one method for using slip that is so easy. I will publish this idea soon.

and lastly, I hope to catch as many of you as possible about an etching update. If you use a paint pen as a resist for etching, it helps to heat set it with an embossing heat gun prior to etching. It makes a huge difference and the paint holds up under electrical etching without flaking off! I am so excited about this development, since drawing on metal is a great way to make original designs to etch.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Martha Radio Show - Polymer Clay Ponytails

I was a guest on the Martha Stewart morning radio show yesterday while I was in San Diego (6AM PST). The topic was back to school and so I described the how-tos over the air for how to make these easy polymer clay ponytail holders. They are made by simply covering metal upholstery button blanks with a sheet of decorated polymer clay and then attaching a hair elastic to finish. Complete instructions can be found in my new book, “Clay So Cute”. First time ever teaching a technique at that early hour!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My New Book

My new book, “Clay So Cute” was released today. The book contains projects for tweens and kids but I suspect some adults will find it inspiring too. My history with polymer clay goes way back, it was my medium of choice for making jewelry and miniatures. Very few people even knew what it was back then. It’s been almost 20 years since my sister and I wrote our first book together, titled “The Incredible Clay Book”, it turned out to be one of the best selling kids crafts books on the market and is still in print today. It was the book that launched both of our careers. The “kids” that remember the first book are now in their mid-30s and its a bit weird to hear adults tell me they had the book when they were young-how is that possible? I am very excited to have a new book in print for a whole new generation of crafty kids. My favorite projects are the claybots and of course- candy bracelets.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Bead Shows 2009

Summer has been a busy time with our new store and line of products. Our crew went to exhibit at the Bead and Button Show for the first time. This is a picture of Camille at our neat and tidy booth ready for customers.

The girls worked so hard at the Bead and Button show. The booth was quite busy with demonstrations on Image Tranfer and our E3 Etch controller. Customers got to scratch off ITS images and we had fun giveaways. All 3 lost their voices at the end of each day and I’m sure were exhausted. thank you to everyone who stopped by and said hi at the show!

In July we attended the PSBF in Tacoma, WA. I love the northwest and it makes me homesick every time we go up there. One class that was very fun to teach was the Pandora style silver metal clay beads. These are metal clay beads you can make yourself for the popular interchangeable bracelets (they are popular in the East and Europe, the West is a little slow to catch on). The students in this class were so excited, a few didn’t sleep the night before. I love their creativity with the beads, with so many design options available. I will be teaching this again in the future and hopefully the bracelets will catch on here.

While in Seattle visiting my daughter Michelle, we ran into this sculpture of JP Patches. This brings back childhood memories and I just had to take several pictures. I remember my dad working as an audio engineer back in the 70s for the show, I got to be on TV a few times. I love this moment frozen in time for all to admire. It’s in the Freemont district by the UW.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Glass Enameling on Silver and Copper Class

Preparing a brand new class to teach is always a challenge but worth the effort. I taught glass enameling this weekend. We made silver metal clay pieces for Champleve with transparent enamels for the first project and then we switched over to copper and torch fired opaque enamels. It was interesting to see the difference in kiln firing vs. torch firing, each has it’s own advantages. I think I speak for all of us that the little Beehive Kiln we used was especially convenient for enameling, but the torch firing was also very fun.

A few things we learned, I had grabbed pieces that I thought were copper but they were copper plated only and therefore did not work. Poor Senta had her glass pop off twice until we finally figured out that it was another metal underneith. I should have known better when she cleaned the piece and it didn’t look right. The piece pictured above is her Champleve piece which turned out perfect! We also learned that glass takes no prisoners and so patience is required. I was very impressed with everyone’s creativity. AND a big thank you to Rena for her advice to explore torch firing, I think I am going to keep playing with fire now, her pieces took advantage of using firescale as part of the design. Jane and Kelly were new to metal clay, and so the class was a lot to tackle but they made fabulous pieces too.

Glass and metal are really fun to combine, I for one am going to pursue more techniques, well at least that’s the plan anyway.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Electroforming Twigs

Dan completed the process for using our E3 Etch controller to do elecroforming. I made these copper coated twigs with it. This is accomplished by using an adapter with our controller, that will be available for a minimal cost. I can’t wait to try this to plate gold onto copper and bronze. We will have a tutorial and supplies up on our website and shop by next week along with a bunch of other new items.

The puget sound bead festival is coming up fast, so if you are looking for a class in the Northwest this summer I will be there. We will be teaching green methods of etching on metal, even silver! (same controller that does the electroforming) and also a new class I am excited about- making your own Pandora style beads. Here is the direct link to sign up for classes:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Copper Clay

I love copper clay! This is a sneak preview of a bracelet I made using copper clay for my upcoming book. It was textured using etched copper plates I made using Dan’s E3 Etch.

A bunch of people have etching questions from the Bead and Button Show. Here is the link to my site for the information page And Dan is trying to carve out time to build a new model which will do multiple etchings at one time!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Etching on Silver

Dan and I spent some time this weekend experimenting with silver etching using the E3 Etch controller. Here is the story with our findings, we are both pretty excited about the results. To start with, we are using a chemical called Silver Nitrate for etching silver. This worked better than other chemicals we tried and produced nice etchings. This is available in powder form and it is not harmful unless large amounts are ingested, so you have to keep this away from pets and children. It is extremely bitter, which helps that situation, but you should educate yourself on safety. The other caution is that it will stain your skin if you touch it. And I’m not kidding, look at my fingers! All I did was touch a few specs of it as we were measuring and pouring the crystals out of the container.

This won’t hurt me, but I am stained now for a good 2 weeks. I am shooting how-tos for a book right now with close ups including my hands, so now I have a lot of photoshop work to do. I suggest you wear gloves when working with it. Other than staining skin, it doesn’t produce fumes or pose an enviromental hazard in the small amounts we are using here. It is sensitive to light and air, so keep it in a bottle in a dark cupboard between uses. And, like the copper sulfate we are using to etch copper and brass, you can use it for a long time. With sterling, the solution will weaken over time as copper from the sterling dissolves into the solution. With fine sterling this shouldn’t be an issue. Simply strain it through a coffee filter and store in a plastic bottle-PET type (Marked with a POISON! label so no one drinks it).

To etch the silver, we mixed 10g. of silver nitrate with 1/2 liter of distilled water. The first piece we tried was sterling silver. The piece was sanding and then I wrote on it with a fine Shapie oil paint pen, it’s the little square that says “Dan & Sherri”. We etched this piece for 30 min on slow and it etched pretty quick. If left longer, the etch would have gone deeper. The silver etches about 3-4 times faster than copper does. The second piece was a PMC standard silver clay heart bead. This piece was originally overheated and melted a bit as it sintered so the outside was rough and bumpy. I wrote on this one with an extra fine Sharpie oil pen. I put a bent aluminum wire through one of the holes to suspend it and provide contact. I taped around the edge and sealed the back. I found it easier to “hang” the piece rather than using foam spacers because it didn’t have any sides to attach the spacers. Since it was a curved shape with a bumpy surface, I filled the the pan with enough etching solution to cover only the part I wanted to etch. The tape was used mainly to keep the piece level in the solution, and not as a barrier for the solution. We found that the wooden chopsticks did a great job to hold the wire. This piece was etched for 2 hours on slow speed. It was much slower than the sterling piece as it is larger and was suspened quite a bit higher from the bottom of the pan. When removed the metal clay has a very “crystaline” structure where the metal etched away. As soon as the piece was rinsed off and burnished the background was pretty smooth. I need to experiment more with PMC3 or + to see how they compare. This photo shows the set up for etching on the fine silver bead. Now that we have this figured out, I need to make some “wearable” pieces with cool designs.

PMC standard on left, Sterling on right

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spring Garden

Our family spent the entire day last Saturday planting flowers and vegetables. We moved 3 truck loads of compost to till into our dirt. We planted a bunch of bulbs, filled flower pots and a vegetable garden. We spent the entire day in the sun until it was completely done. It felt rewarding to accomplish so much. These are close-ups Dan shot of our existing flowers. I'm glad we all work so well together.

The overgrown herb garden needed an overhaul so we started new plants including a lemon balm and lemon mint plant. I love herb teas and the fresh leaves can be steeped in hot water to make a hot tea or chilled down for ice tea. Rachel is watering the new mint plant and David is planting chili peppers. We built cement block boxes to contain our plants and grow enough produce to eat from our garden all summer long.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

23rd Anniversary in Capitol Reef

On May 1 Dan and I celebrated our 23 wedding anniversary. We decided to go away somewhere local in Utah with no certain plans. We ended up in a breathtaking place, Capitol Reef, located in central Utah. I can’t believe we live close to so many notorious locations in Utah and have never bothered to visit! We drove through a quaint little town called Torrey, UT which had some cool galleries, including a “farm girl” style craft shop, a coffee-candy shop and small mom and pop cafes. It was a treat to spend the day driving through.

We stopped at one tourist destination called “The Gifford House” which is an old homestead. They were demontrating pie making, rag rugs and quilting. Dan enjoyed the rhubard pie and then we walked up the cliffs overlooking the homestead. It was a day without computers, cell phones or TV, a much needed break .
For dinner we drove south to a restaurant in Boulder, UT called “Hells Backbone Grill”. I had pecan crusted trout and Dan had Lamb. We ate chocolate desserts to end a perfect weekend and then headed home to face a hectic week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Metal Clay Class 101

Tonight I promised the attendees from the craftcast metal clay101 class that I would post a picture of Michelle’s ring. She made this ring without a mandrel and used only a needle tool to write script in the wet clay. It is very tiny, like a pinky ring.

I etched this brass cuff bracelet this weekend. I used a pen to draw freehand on the brass and then etched it with the E3 Etch controller. I want to make more of these, if only there were more hours in the day.

Here is another view of the etched bracelet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Etching on Metal, going green

Last summer my husband Dan, who is an electrical engineer, observed that many of the bead shows I was teaching at featured metal etching classes. He was surprised to see that all of them were using ferric chloride as a way to chemically etch the metal to create the jewelry pieces. He said, “Why are they still doing it that way?” In recent years this chemical has been harder to come by, it cannot be shipped and is hazardous to dispose of. After some research he decided to experiment with electrical etching (which by the way dates back to the late 1700′s) however, combined with new technology he discovered a better way to accomplish electrical etching. Dan designed a micro-controller, which is a small brain that regulates the voltage to constantly adjust which in turn allows one to safely etch in a predictable fashion.

After countless hours of experimentation and programming, Dan finally came up with a design he was satisfied with. We decided to patent and market this product as a tool that would allow craftspeople to etch on copper, brass, nickel silver or even bronze and copper clay without having to deal with methods that were more problematic. The best part is that it is Green! With today’s emphasis on using products that do not harm the environment, this meets the criteria. With this product, the etching solution can be re-used indefinitely so you never have to think about buying etching supplies other than what you plan to etch on. Or if you decide to dispose of the solution, you simply flush it down the drain (it’s meant to be used this way to keep pipes free of tap roots).

So nine months later, we are starting to sell these from my webstore, which by the way has a new format.

We are pretty anxious to see what bench jewelers and jewelry artists come up with using this product. I was super excited to use it on metal clay, thanks to a suggestion by Kathleen Davis. We are also able to use it for silver etching as well as ectroforming and electroplating. For silver etching, a different etching solution must be used. We are in the process of developing the correct ratio and method for etching on silver. My good friend Cassy Muronaka has been very supportive with ideas and promoting this product, I can’t wait to see how she uses it in her work.