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.

Monday, January 31, 2011


transparents over white with trees created using rubber stamp
transparents used with a stencil

transparent and opaques used together
 Transparent enamels add a new dimension to your enameling. If you're enameling on copper, you'll want to use an opaque white or other light color first and then enamel the transparent over that. But you can get other nice effects with transparents by experimenting.  For transparent enamels to look their  best, you need to wash them first. If you skip this step (which I do when I'm feeling lazy) you may get enamels that look cloudy or dirty. This is how I do it. In a small jar add some enamel and cover with water. Swirl it around, let it settle for about 20 seconds and then pour off the water. Repeat this until the water looks clear and then do it one more time with distilled water. Using a plastic spoon scrape the wet enamel into a cupcake paper and put the paper in a cupcake tin. I write the color on the side of the cupcake paper with a pencil so I don't get the colors mixed up. When you have washed as many enamels as you want, dry them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 325 degrees F. Now your enamels are ready to use without a long drying time. Transparents can require several coats to get the color intensity you want or used over different colors to create new colors. You can use the rubber stamp technique with opaques over transparents to create beautiful depth. Have fun with it!
transparents used over ivory

transparent blue over white and white over transparent flux

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Using Rubber Stamps

     Using rubber stamps is a great and easy way to get a painterly quality on your enameled pendant without having to actually, er, paint! I love ferns and have used lots of combinations of greens, yellow, and ivory to create these woodsy pendants. They look great hanging on a simple chain or with coordinating beads. Pick a rubber stamp that has lots of detail and isn't too big to fit on your pendant. I have two but used only the big one for this project.    

                                                     Now you will need your copper blank which has been enameled twice on the front and counter enameled once on the back. If it has been sitting around for a while clean it again. If you see any imperfections in the enamel, you can stone them down with the alundum stone under water and clean up the edges. 

         Next you will need several colors of green and yellow. If you don't have lots of colors, just two will work fine. You will also need a stamp pad and the stamp. For this project I used Willow Green, Lichen Green, Mistletoe Green, Hunter Green and Pine Yellow. Put your pendant  down on the paper and fill two small sifters with Willow and Lichen. Ink up your stamp and press it on the pendant. If you don't like how it  looks, clean it off and try again untill you're happy with it. Quickly sift the greens on until you can't see any design. Let it dry for a few minutes, then gently knock off the remainder of the enamel by tapping it on the table. If you're happy with how it looks, transfer it the a stilt and place in the kiln for about 2 1/2 min at 1450 degrees F.

      Let it cool and then place in your pickle. Clean off the edges with a scrubbie and Penny Brite.   Now you are ready to do the back. If you mixed two colors on your paper, this is a good place to use that. I like to make the back of my pendant look good, too. Ink your stamp again and sift the mixed enamels on it and repeat the process. 

I want to put another fern on the front because my first one came out so light. Get the Mistletoe, Hunter, and Pine enamels ready in three small sifters. Ink up and stamp the fern again going in another direction.  Quickly sift the three colors on the ink, let dry and gently knock off the excess. Fire again until the top is shiny and glassy.

           And there you have a gorgeous pendant! The first fern lightened up and created a soft background for the second fern. To see some of my other fern designs, check out my etsy shops. There are lots of great rubber stamps out there that can be used for this technique.  Experiment and make sure you let me know how it turns out!                                     

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Studio

About 1 1/2 years ago I turned most of my daughter's room into a studio. She was away at college and gave me her blessing. I have always loved this room. It has three windows so the light is great and the long narrow dimensions are perfect for long work tables. I repainted everything, made new curtains, and bought those cool wire shelves that are so popular in the houses on HGTV. I left one corner intact with a bed and dresser so my daughter wouldn't feel too displaced but believe me I have great plans for that corner. The table on the left has my kiln and all my enameling supplies and metal working tools.
I bought this old heavy table from my church when they were buying some new ones. It takes about four strong people to move it but it's perfect for this purpose. Strong and shabby! The
window behind the kiln is good in the summer to let some of the kiln heat out.                                                                       
 The shelves on the right hold all my beads (I have lots!) and other craft supplies. My tumbler sits on the table and I have plenty of room to work on all the projects I seem to have going at once. I decorated by hanging a Kente cloth which was hand woven by a man from Guana and I bought years ago. It was huge and didn't fit anywhere in my house but it was perfect here. The colors are warm and cheerful.                                                                                 
I also added a happy print I bought on etsy from hjmart .  

        And I added some inspirational words I bought on etsy from letterhappy.
      After happily devoting so much of my life to raising my beloved three children, this studio has become more than just a place to make my jewelry. It's a place I can feel creative and artistic. I can unwind after a week at work and just be myself and have a little fun with my free time!                                                                               

view out the back window

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting Started

OK, are you ready to start enameling? Get these items ready: kiln, copper blank, Penny Brite, nylon scrubbie, holding agent, small paintbrush, pages torn out from a glossy magazine, face mask, enamels, medium size sifter, stilts, metal mesh stand, large fork, oven mitt, timer, toothpick, plastic spoons, alundum stone, and a jar of pickle made from 3/4 cup vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt. The items in bold print are things you will probably have to buy at a store that sells enameling supplies or online. Turn on your kiln and set the temperature to 1450 degrees F if you have temperature controls.  While it's heating up you're going to clean!
      First, clean your work space very well. Dust and dirt have a way of getting into the enamels and ruining your piece. Put down some of the magazine pages. They work well for catching the excess enamel and returning it to it's container. Next clean your copper blank. It's easier to start with a blank that's not too small. Drill a hole in the top if you're planning on making a pendant. Use the Penny Brite and a nylon scrubbie and clean the copper on both sides thoroughly. When you rinse it off, check to see if the water sheets off the copper. If it beads up, clean it again. If there is any oil or dirt on the copper, the enamels won't stick. Hold it by the edges and place on a stilt, or a stack of pennies. Paint some holding agent over the whole piece making sure you get the edges. 
Put on your mask making sure it covers your mouth and nose. Using your plastic spoon, fill your sifter with the enamel. For this I'm using an opaque ivory. I'll talk about transparent enamels in another post. Starting on the edge, sift enamel on the copper by scraping your fingernail along the twisted handle of the sifter. Go around the edge, then into the middle. Make sure no copper is showing and put more on the edges than the middle. This is one of those things that takes some practice but is easy once you get the hang of it! Use the toothpick to clean out the hole. Now let it dry completely or the holding agent will bubble up in the kiln and enamel will fly everywhere. You can tell how impatient I am by looking at the mess inside my kiln!  Transfer the copper blank to another stilt which is placed on the wire mesh stand.  With the oven  mitt on your hand, use the long handled fork to put the stand into the kiln. Whether you're using a large or small kiln, it works best if the piece you're enameling is in the middle.
Set your timer for 2 1/2 -3 min. You want the enamel to be at the stage where it's melted but not completely smooth. This is called the orange peel stage. This prevents the enamel from getting burned in subsequent firings. It takes time to figure out your own kiln and different colors sometimes need longer to get to the orange peel stage. If yours is fired smooth, don't worry. Let the copper cool completely. Being the impatient person I am, I have "popped off" a lot of enamel by putting it in the pickle before it's cool enough.
When cool, put it in the pickle for a bit. This will help clean off the fire scale from the copper. Now scrub the back and edges with more Penny Brite. Now you have to enamel the back. This is called counter enameling. If you skip this step, the glass will not have equal tension on the front and back and will crack and your piece will warp. You must counter enamel!! You can use an enamel made especially for this. It works well but is not very attractive. It's  dark blue speckled like a very old stove. I use the same colors on the front and back so the tension remains even and the back of my pendants are attractive. Use the same process to counter enamel and clean the edges after it comes out of the pickle. Now is a good time to use the alundum stone to grind out any impurities in the glass and clean off any burned edges. Use the stone under water. Put a second coat of enamel on the front using the same process. Fire this coat a bit longer until it is almost shiny but not quite. Pickle and clean edges. Now your piece is ready for the next step which I will cover in the next blog. 

Wow, another long post and I'm honored you're reading it! I welcome any comments, questions, corrections, or additions.