About Me

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I am an artist, wife and mother, paraeducator, yo-yo dieter, and small town country girl. I love singing in my church choir, computer time, beading and making jewelry. And I love enameling! There is something very magical about turning powder into smooth, shiny, and colorful glass.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Base Colors Under Transparents

As I mentioned in my last post I became intrigued by a challenge from the people who write the ArtBeadScene blog. Their newest challenge is to use a beautiful Impressionistic painting as inspiration to create a piece of jewelry using art beads. You can click on the link to see the painting. The colors in this painting are gorgeous and vibrant but also muted. Since my newest interest is enameled art beads, I wanted to create beads in the same colors of the painting. I don't usually make muted colors! I decided to try using a darker opaque color as the base color instead of white, something I've never really tried before.
After I fired on the first coat of clear flux, I sifted on a coat of opaque Nude Gray. I didn't put it on too thick because I like to create a speckled effect.
I don't like this color all by itself! I then used transparent colors I thought were the same color tones as in the painting: yellows, blues, and pinks. I also made a green set. Some beads were made with just one color, some two.
I fired them and a few needed another coat. Although these colors are not what I usually gravitate to, I love how they came out. I think using a light brown or other neutral would work, too. If I manage to finish this challenge and design a piece a jewelry using some of these beads, I will post it.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I found these great leaf shaped blanks at Schlaifers Enamels. I made summery earrings from the smaller leaves but I knew the larger leaves would be perfect for a technique called Sgraffito. It's an easy technique with great results!

First I used an awl type of tool to put a dent where I wanted the hole to be and then drilled a hole. I used a chisel I found at a yard sale to make the spine of the leaf and used my dapping block to hammer it into a curved leaf shape.                               
I checked out some actual leaves and discovered the veins were both lighter and darker depending on the plant. For this technique, it's better to use enamels with a contrast of dark to light colors.

                Clean the shaped blanks well and fire one or two coats of your base color which should be light or dark.  Make sure you counter enamel the backs in the same color as the fronts. I did fire one with a medium green and the results were good but the veins did not show up as much as the others. The colors I used were Mistletoe Green, Harvest Green, Lichen Green, Melon Yellow, and Pine Yellow.

             Then sift the contrasting color or colors over the top. Wait for the adhesive to dry completely. Next using a toothpick, scratch off the top layer where you want the leaf veins to be. It will look messy but that's OK.
     Fire again and that's it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Muffin Tin Challenge

I came across an intriguing challenge from the folks at the Art Bead Scene blog. The idea is to fill each section of a muffin tin with the beads and components to create a piece of jewelry. Since the picking and choosing is often the sticky part, this would be a way to have 12 projects already chosen ready to put together. That was the theory anyway. The catch is that all 12 pieces had to be done in a week! But a great bead filled prize was offered so I gave it a try. I admit it took me 3 days just to fill my tin but once I got busy, the jewelry came together fast. I finished all except one bead weaving project and one pendant that I just didn't like. Fortunately they changed the challenge to 6 pieces of jewelry so I can still enter. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

Many Thanks for all my new followers who commented on my blog and facebook page. I put all the names in one of my favorite yard sale finds, mixed them up, closed my eyes and picked.

Congratulations to Nicole!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


One of my customers to my supplies shop ordered extra long head pins from me and then asked for advice on making earrings using bead with holes in the center. I experimented and liked the earring I made and decided to pass the tutorial on to you. And I'm giving these earrings away! Entering this giveaway is easy, you can become a follower of this blog an leave a comment with your email so I can contact you if you're the winner! Or you can like my facebook page and leave a comment there, too. If you do both, you'll get two chances to enter.
       The enameled flowers were made with copper blanks and first enameled with a clear coat. I then put a layer of white, not too heavy, and fired it again. Then came two coats of transparent purple. I seemed to be obsessed with purple lately! The speckled layer of white causes the purple to be mottled and a bit rustic looking. 
       The next step is to make the head pins. I use 20 ga. argentium sterling wire and cut it to 2 1/2 in. long. I then lit my small butane torch. Put the wire into the flame at the edge of blue flame. If you can see a yellow flame behind the wire, you've hit the sweet spot! As the wire melts and balls up, move the wire down into the flame until you've got a 2mm. ball and slowly take it out.
Make two of these. Let the wire cool, then put it into the pickle solution for a few minutes.  Scrub it with the Penny Brite and then polish it by hand or put it into a tumbler.
      Put your head pin through your bead and put a seed bead or small bead behind it. Then bend the head pin at a right angle and down over the seed and focal bead. This will keep the focal bead upright. You may have to fiddle with it to get it just right.
Then create the ear wire above that. I use wire forming tools but you can also bend the wire over mandrel such as a pen. Snip off the ends of the wire until you like the length and smooth the edges. You've got gorgeous hand crafted earrings!

 This giveaway ends on May 1st and the winner will be contacted by email. Good luck!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Enameled Beads

I finally got around to making some more beads and I was pleased how they came out so I wanted to share the technique I used. These beads are 14mm in diameter. I decided not to put the liquid enamel inside because they were smaller but the down side is that the ash that forms on the copper when you fire them comes out of the holes and it's messy. I bought some Scalex to paint on the mandrels which worked great. The beads didn't stick at all! The first layer of enamel was clear for copper. I put it on fairly thick. The beads come out of the kiln a beautiful copper color and I didn't worry if there were some bare copper spots. The idea was to make something a bit more rustic. I then put on a light layer of foundation white and fired again. I put the beads in the vinegar and salt pickle after each firing to get the firescale out of the inside. The next coat was the transparent color coat.  I only planned on one coat but the colors were just too light so I did a second coat. Much better! It was nice to embrace the little imperfections in the enamel and the speckled white layer gave the colors a variegation that was interesting.

The colors are all Thompsen Enamels and some are vintage leaded I bought on Ebay. The front row is Raspberry, Geranium Pink, Tea Rose Pink and the back row is Concord Purple, Harold Purple, Orchid

My husband's favorite Spring flowers are Hyacinths and we can't wait for them to bloom so I made Hyacinth colored beads instead!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Enameling over Transparents

Interesting and rustic effects can be achieved by enameling over a clear transparent enamel. The clear transparent enamels are "soft" and the color you choose to put on top will sink into the clear layer a bit so the beautiful copper color shines through. Transparent enamel is also called flux not to be confused with the flux that is used in soldering. I use Thompsen medium clear and put a generous coat on the front and back. It's great for smaller pieces because it covers easily when fired and makes a good base for the next layer. For these pieces, I used Foundation white as my second layer and one layer of a transparent color on top. Pretty spring colors with a rustic look!
  I experimented a little by first sifting a small amount of the white on the reverse and letting that dry. Then I sifted the white on the front being careful not to dislodge too much of the enamel on the back. I fired the front and back at the same time and it worked great! The backs have a nice look, simple but interesting. I can't wait to turn these little beauties into earrings. The curved flowers at the top will be layered on hammered and antiqued copper discs with beads and chain. Winter is hanging on here in Vermont so I had to create my own Spring garden!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Beads

my new beads

more disasters
I was very excited by my bead making in my last post and was anxious to try again with some more colors. I heated my kiln to 1500 degrees because I thought the beads took too long to fire the last time around. I quickly discovered that wasn't the answer. The enamel burned around the holes before it got to the smooth stage so I turned the kiln down to 1470 degrees and that seemed the perfect temp for bead making. I tried painting flux on the mandrels but that didn't help, the beads still stuck  and it was very hard to get them off. I need to get some Bead Release or Scalex which I read worked. I tried a darker red since my last try with red didn't go well (see my last post) but that was another disaster! Orange was also a failure, the enamel 'pinged' right off. I'm not sure of the reason for this but I think it's because of the co-expansion rate not being compatible with a curved surface. The third bead in the picture, the one still on the mandrel was a dark purple. For some reason, it come out pitted and a weird color, but I will try a different purple over it. I also want to try some more artistic things on the larger beads I have and I will share these good or bad! All in all I did end up with three more beads that came out smooth and shiny and I consider them a success!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Enameled Beads

  This was the first time I tried to make beads so this blog post is certainly not a tutorial, but the process was fun and interesting so I wanted to write about it. I've wanted to make beads for a long time to add to my Etsy supplies shop, but I believed you needed to use liquid enamels or 60 mesh enamels and I didn't want to buy a whole new set of. I've seen some gorgeous torch fired enameled beads but I wanted to use my kiln. I envisioned smooth shiny beads in bright beautiful colors! Someone I was talking to about beads (and I'm sorry but I can't remember who) told me I could use my 80 mesh powdered enamels as long as I counter enameled the beads with some liquid enamel on the inside. I bought a bead rack, copper blank beads, and white liquid enamel and got ready to experiment!

First I scrubbed the beads with Penny Brite and while they were drying I mixed the enamel. There were a variety of mixing methods and complicated sounding stuff in the pamphlet so I picked the easiest. You make a well in the powder and fill it with water several times until the top looks wet, then you mix until the consistency of paint. Easy! Then, using an eyedropper, I put some wet enamel in the tiny hole of the bead and rolled it around in my hand hoping to cover the inside. Very messy! I wanted  the enamel to dry completely so I let it the beads sit overnight.
The liquid enamel can be covered and used again. In the future I'm going to experiment with the liquid enamel and see what other interesting effects I can get. When they were dry,I cleaned the white powder off a bead and slid it onto the mandrel. I covered the bead with the liquid adhesive using a small paintbrush. It was very awkward because the bead turned and I couldn't tell if it was covered. Then I sifted on my enamel. I found it worked best when I did the ends first and then the middle. The adhesive dripped a little and caused the powder to do some funny things.

the disaster
Then I placed the mandrel on top of the bead rack to dry. When dry, I fired my beads at 1460 degrees for about 4 minutes until the orange peel stage. Some of the beads had spots where the enamel didn't cover or flaked off and my red bead was a total disaster!!
The next beads I cleaned again with the Penny Brite and they were more successful. I put three coats of enamel on my beads before I got the smooth and shiny surface I was hoping for! I think next time I will increase the temperature of my kiln. It took a long time to fire the beads and the enamel got a little bumpy with some colors, as if it flowed a bit in the kiln. Another problem I had was the beads got stuck to the mandrel. I had to bend and twist and broke off some enamel near the holes. I read that you could use bead release or Scalex on the mandrel. I don't have Scalex but I do have some flux (the kind you use for soldering) so I'll try that on my next batch.  I also want to try some effects with different colors, transparents, and putting a coat of clear on first. I'm pretty happy with my beads!

My colorful finished beads!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Teaching a Class

When I was asked to conduct and teach an earring workshop for our town's Art in the Snow weekend, I was very pleased but also nervous. I teach kids in my day job, but adults are far more intimidating to me. I wanted everyone to feel they got their moneys worth and walk away with a nice pair of earrings no matter what their experience with jewelry making was. I decided on a simple wire wrap design with a choice of stones. I provided my hand crafted ear wires and headpins.
earrings by Kristen Varian from BeadSwede Studios
I had sample earrings for design inspiration and showed several techniques for wire wrapping. I was so impressed with the finished earrings, I wish I took pictures! Here's some things that contributed to a great class experience:

  • have good light. The first spot I planned on setting up was in the back of a wine shop but it turned out the overhead lights didn't work. I moved to the front of the shop next to a large display window. It worked because it was a bright sunny day but it might have been difficult to see what we were doing if it was cloudy out.
  • be organized. I put all the stones in plastic bags and labeled them so it was easier to choose. Each person got a "kit" with ear wires and wrapping wire.
  • make a lesson plan. It's easy to forget something so I had notes to look at while I was teaching.
  • do a demo. I brought my butane micro torch and did a demo on how to make your own ear wires and head pins. It was a small thing but everyone seemed very interested!
  • bring gift packaging. I only wrapped one pair of earrings but she was very appreciative.
  • have a hand out. I printed up a tutorial to hand out at the end of the class.

  • Here are some things I could have done better:
  • Make sure you have enough room. I brought a fold up table from home and although it worked out fine, if I had any last minute registrants, it would have been very tight.
  • Hand out business cards or web addresses. You don't have to sell yourself but someone might be interested in what else you have to sell.
  • bring extra lighting!!
  • don't wait until the last minute to get ready for your class. OK, I admit one of the reasons I was so organized is because we had a snow day (I work in a school) the day before the class which gave me lots of leisurely time to get ready.
  • music would have nice!

  • All in all this was a good experience that I would do again!