Monday, June 22, 2015


It's been awhile since I've posted here.  I was sidelined with a rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder that morphed into "frozen shoulder" and I've simply been unable to hammer as I please.  But, hopefully, those days are over and if I begin coming back slowly, maybe I'll be able to get back into chasing and steps for now.

Be back soon!  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chasing & Repousse with Valentin Yotkov

In October, Valentin Yotkov came to Spruill Arts Center for a one-week chasing & repousse workshop.  Just about all of us had taken one of his classes previously, so were able to work on the second project, which is considered a more intermediate level.  

For anyone just beginning to do chasing/repousse, or anyone interested in the process, I'll give a brief synopsis of our week below.

We began by transferring the design via tracing paper onto our piece of copper and then beginning the lining process, working from the outside and moving inwards.  

 Now we move to the inside and line the entire piece, making sure we are pounding hard enough that the design will appear on the opposite side of the piece when turned over.

Once the piece was completely lined, we flipped it over and began to repousse...

...until we had completely finished with the entire design.  One goal was to vary the depths of the design in the proper places.  Another was to use the correct tool for the part of the design we were working on, which can be a little confusing at times.

Then we flipped it back over and did all of the finishing touches (the outside braid, the flattening of the rectangles of the cross, re-lining where needed, adding texture to the background, etc).

At this point it's important to not anneal the piece because you want it to be hard and strong, so it's best to remove it from the pitch with a heat gun and then clean off any excess pitch with the heat gun and/or acetone.

Everyone's pieces came out great!  I'm pretty sure we were all quite pleased with ourselves.  Valentin is an excellent teacher and was as gracious as always, helping us along every step of the way.  A GREAT week!  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hammering out the Details

Glad to be back with Gia for a few weeks!  I've been getting rusty in the chasing and repousse department!   We're all working on a design Gia has drawn up for us.  This is what mine looked like after the first go-round of puffing it up, i.e., repousse.   (Definition of repousse:  Raised in relief by hammering on the reverse side.)  

Gia gave the class a demonstration on how to chase the scalloped edges using my piece.  (Definition of chasing:  To groove, indent.)  Chasing is always done on the front of the piece.

On the left is his demonstration, on the right is what I have to do next.  I find it extremely helpful to have his work right there in front of me as I work and try to replicate what he has done.  

I've discovered a technique for getting the copper off the pitch with very little pitch stuck to the back side.  We already know to cover the side of the copper that will be on the pitch with chapstick.  When you begin heating the copper with your heat gun to remove it from the pitch, almost immediately insert your tweezers under the copper from one edge and start to lift a little.  Moving your heat gun around the copper, off it will pop as soon as the pitch is warm enough to loosen the copper.  The leftover pitch is so minimal, you just need to heat it a little with your heat gun and wipe it off with paper towel.  So easy!

Janice, hammering away...

This is what it looked like after I worked on the right side.  Getting there, slowly but surely...

 And this is where I am at right now.  Just a few more adjustments and I'll be done (I think).  Then I have to come up with own design, which is what I should be doing right now.  But that old "homework" mentality never goes away...just when you need to sit down and do what you are supposed to be doing, you end up doing everything else, like blogging!  

Until next time!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Grandma's Spaghetti Sauce (Gluten-Free)

My Italian mother-in-law has been making this spaghetti sauce forever and it's always a treat when she cooks up a big pot.  She usually makes meatballs for her sauce, which are scrumptious, but I use either ground beef or mushrooms instead.

People often think that making spaghetti sauce from "scratch" is difficult. It's almost as easy as opening a couple of ready-made jars, but tastes a hundred times better.  It's so simple!

2 28 oz. cans Tomato Puree (plus 2 cans water)

2 15 oz. cans Tomato Sauce (plus 2 cans water)
2 6 oz. cans of Tomato Paste
About 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper
1 TBLS. Basil
1 TBLS. Parsley 
1 TBLS Sugar (My mother-in-law uses more)
1 TBLS Baking soda (My mother-in-law uses more)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound of ground hamburger or 1 pkg. sliced mushrooms for a meatless sauce (I like baby portobello)
Olive oil
Tinkyada Pasta Noodles (Whole Foods sells these)

The addition of the sugar and the baking soda remove the tart tomato taste and turn this into a more mellow tasting sauce.

First, saute the garlic in a little olive oil. Add the beef or mushrooms to brown. Then add all the other ingredients except the baking soda. Bring to a good simmer, then turn the heat down and let it lightly simmer for 2 or 3 hours (or more). After an hour or so, add the baking soda.  Taste it at this point and see if it needs more seasoning and add more if needed.  Sometimes I make this around 1:00 in the afternoon and it cooks slowly all day long, making the house smell heavenly.

In the batch I made today, I added sliced mushrooms and some Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Chicken Sausage which I found at Costco. I chopped the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces and threw them into the pot of sauce. This sausage is spicy, so it gave it a nice kick.

I serve over Tinkyada Pasta, my favorite gluten-free pasta (you can use your own favorite gluten-free brand).  Trader Joe's GF Brown Rice Penne is good, too.

I also made a box of  gluten-free Cheenies (30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees), a cheesy roll that is addictive after only one bite. I find these at Whole Foods in the frozen section.

Depending on the size of your family, you will probably have enough sauce leftover to make a lasagne the next day and maybe even some to use as a homemade pizza sauce.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Week in the Mountains

I almost missed going to Wildacres this year.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I came to my senses about two weeks prior to classes starting, called the registrar to see if there were any openings in any of the classes and got in at the last minute.  Phew!  

This year at Wildacres, my teacher, Janet Harriman, started our class off with a little Tai Chi called "The Waterfall."  She wanted us to spend our week working hard, but remembering to breathe.  Good advice.  That's Janet in the middle, pouring out our first pieces from their overnight firing.

This was my first attempt at learning Bronze Clay, PMC3 and enameling on metal clay.  We started with the bronze, learning how to work with it, roll it out, keep it from drying out, making slip, attaching wire, etc.  We also worked with fast fire bronze, which has a different color and texture.   Here are Cyndi's amazing pieces (on the last night of Wildacres, we have Show and Tell, where we all put our pieces on display):

We all made a locket (similar to the one third from left), which opens and closes and has a little compartment inside.  I just love how you can set stones (strong enough) into the wet clay and fire them!  I also like the color of the bronze clay.  Sometimes it looks golden and sometimes it comes out of the kiln with a nice patina.  We also spent a day working with PMC3, a fine silver clay.  On the last day of classes, Janice gave us a demonstration on how to enamel on silver clay, which I can't wait to try out soon.

There is always plenty of fun happening at Wildacres.  We had some fantastic items for sale at the auction this year!  This is John Cogswell showing everyone a gathering of fold forming pieces from his students that was being auctioned off.  We also had jewelry items from all the teachers and a three-night stay in a fantastic vacation home in North Carolina.  I think the Florida Goldsmith Society did well (it's their biggest fundraiser of the year).

Three meals a day.  Seems the bell is constantly ringing for us to get up and come on down for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  The photo below shows all of us, except two tables hold The Sycamore Hill Writers Group.  We share Wildacres with them every year.  I approached one of the writers on the road late one night, saying, "Karen Fowler?"  She said, "Yes?"  I introduced myself and told her I had just started reading her new book, "We are All Completely Beside Ourselves," and how much I was enjoying it.  Karen is also the author of "The Jane Austin Book Club."

Here are some of the pieces made by the Foldforming class and the Trapped Objects class.  I wish I had more from the other classes, but the lighting was odd and I didn't have my good camera with me.  This one is Foldforming, taught by John Cogswell:

Trapped Objects - Joanna Goldberg is the teacher:

Some of the people in my class after Show and Tell are below.   We had a great time!  Monica was always cracking us up and Cyndi made sure we had some good music to keep us going.  We did an amusing skit about Janet, adding "The Waterfall," reminders to breathe, and a golf ball rolled under one of our feet to stimulate our creativity.  Roberta stole the show with the golf ball scene!  Monica wrote the entire skit, filled with sentences that had been actually said out loud during the week including, "Can you solder my crack?"  "You've got to spit on it."  Okay, maybe you had to be there.  : )

Before we packed up and left this wonderful place, I purchased this sweet piece from Janet.  I absolutely love it and have been wearing it every day since returning.

All in all, a GREAT week.  Janet was a wonderful teacher -- we learned a lot in one week.  We also had amazing laughs!   Until next year!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Linking and Etching and Firing, Oh My!

We got lucky and Ken Bova came back again to show us not only how to use an assortment of links and cold connections to make our Story Chains, but also how to make the famous "Chopstick Hammer!"  You can see a photo of Ken's hammer on his blog. (I'd show you mine, but I haven't finished it yet.)  He also threw in demonstrations on torch enameling and another on etching with saltwater.  I've been busy in my studio ever since torch firing until I've practically burned down the house and today I began etching designs on copper!  

I have about 1/3 of my Story Chain finished, so will work on it as time goes on, attaching small, meaningful artifacts that would make nice additions.  Let's start with some photos of the Story Chain.  Many students created a "theme" chain.  The one below is about Deanna's parents, with each piece telling a little story about their lives together.

Pam's chain is about things that can make sound:

Gillian made hers based on life experiences and events, especially her son's upcoming wedding:

Mine is an assortment of small mementos from my life, plus additional stones and things to make it look pretty. 

Susan chose a game theme for her chain and I can't wait to see it when it is finished!

This morning I decided to try the saltwater etching process that Ken taught us.  Basically, after using any of the following paints/markers that will repel the etchant, and making a design of some sort on a piece of copper (after cleaning), I filled a plastic container (never use metal) with water and a LOT of Kosher salt (it must be saturated with salt) and heated it in the microwave until no more salt would dissolve.  I then attached a battery pack with 4 D batteries to the ends of two alligator clips - a negative and a positive.  I hung my copper piece (anode) on a copper wire and hung it over the edge of the plastic container.  I then made another wire with a plain piece of copper and hung it in the solution, as well (cathode).  I attached the positive alligator clip (red) to the copper wire holding my piece and the black (negative) to the wire holding the plain piece of copper and suddenly the plain piece began to bubble (see photo below).  After awhile, the liquid will turn copper colored as the piece is etched.  (Don't forget to cover the back of your copper piece with duct tape to keep it from being etched.)

After experimenting with four D batteries, I then changed to a car battery charger that we had in the garage and set it on the 6 volt setting.  Both worked equally as well.

I would say it took about 20 to 25 minutes for my piece to etch.  Amazing.   So clean and so simple.  I cleaned off the residue of paint pen with acetone and can now use the etched copper in a piece of jewelry.

And for the torch firing experiment, this is the best color I was able to come up with doing this on my own.  I had been hoping to get some purples and oranges  (I'm only using white enamel here), but this is as good as it got. 

Thanks, Ken, for another great workshop!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Paint the Sky with Golden Stars

A recent workshop with Ken Bova brought a few of us metalsmiths into an entirely new direction.  We learned how to make our own mineral pigments out of stones (raw or in bead form), how to formulate the medium needed for these pigments, and and how to gild our piece with 22K gold sheet prior to painting.  We also learned a little about narrative jewelry and cold connecting along the way.

We began with grinding up some "soft" stones, i.e., lapis, azurite, etc., in a mortar and pestle until it was as fine as we could make it.  Then we sifted it to remove the larger particles.

We then drew our design onto quality watercolor paper, and painted the gesso mixture (mordant containing Gesso, varnish and sugar water) onto the design wherever we wanted to place the gold.  Once the gesso was dry, we blew onto it through a straw to bring some warm moisture to the surface and then quickly placed the gold sheet down.  This is done over and over until the area is completely covered.  Once dry, we mixed the sifted pigment with the egg yolk mixture (egg yolk, wine, olifa oil and lavender oil) and began to add color to our piece.

22K Gold Sheet

Some of Ken's Pigments:  

Here is an example of what we were trying to accomplish (note - this is not mine, it's Deanna's).  First the gesso mixture was laid down wherever there was to be gold.  Then the gold was carefully applied.  Once dry, the paint was put into place.  Voila!  

Pam decided to gild and paint a colorful fish design.  It came out absolutely beautiful.

 Ken gave us plenty of time to work on our pieces and then also gave us a demonstration on how to make a "narrative" type of pendant using only cold connections.  Here are a couple of examples of his work:

 I like the idea of bringing a story into one's work...a feeling, memory, a marker of important times in one's life.  Ken has a chain that he has been working on for years.  Each piece attached to this chain represents something in his life that was important to him.  Here's a small section of his chain.  I can't wait to get started on my own.

We all had a great time in Ken's workshop!    He was thorough with his instructions and demonstrations, had plenty of handouts to reinforce everything we were learning, and was a complete joy to learn from.  We're all hoping he comes back soon.  Thanks, Ken!

Recommended books:  The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting by Daniel Thompson, The Bible of Illuminated Letters by Margaret Morgan

Monday, October 01, 2012

Time Travel

In September we spent a lot of time with friends on another amazing adventure.  We are so grateful to have such good friends in our lives!  We've known them forever and they will always be our favorite traveling companions. 

We began the journey in Barcelona, Spain and found the Cathedral of St. Eualalia while in search of the Gaudi Cathedral...all I can say is we were jet lagged and got a little confused.  The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times.  One story says that she was exposed naked in public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity  The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street.  The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in a the cathedral's crypt.  

Sometimes it's exciting to travel to places you've never read about...places you've heard mentioned, but with no pre-conceived ideas in your head.  I knew we were going to be on a port in Italy and that it was a small fishing village.  But imagine my surprise when THIS is what we came upon.

Portofino, Italy...a little slice of heaven on earth.

Then there was Bonifacio on the island of Corsica, France where the language, Corsican, is spoken.  We're told it sounds more Italian than French (once I've mastered Italian via Rosetta Stone, I'll let you know).  The climb is quite steep up to the old town, but there's a small train that will take passengers to and fro if needed.  Bonifacio is the oldest town in Corsica and after touring around a bit, we stopped at a lovely little outdoor cafe and had some wonderful appetizers.

And then there was Rome.  Here I expected a loud, hot and crowded city, but was pleasantly surprised by the cool weather, the lack of crowds and the astonishingly well preserved pieces of architecture every which way you looked.  We had a wonderful tour guide who enjoyed telling us the gruesome stories about the gladiators, the vestal virgins and many other interesting fables.

The Tevoli Fountain (or Trevi Fountain) is one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome.  There is a belief that by throwing a coin into the fountain, you'll be assured a return trip to Rome.  Yes, we definitely threw our coins in.  An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day.

We also visited Ibiza, Spain and Palma De Mallorca, Spain and Lucca, Italy on our visit to the Mediterranian.

For my gluten-free travelers, Silversea was excellent about making sure my meals were 100% gluten-free at every meal.  Even the morning and lunch buffet in one of the restaurants had GF breads and desserts every day.  This is a great way to travel if you're worried about traveling and getting glutinized in restaurants.  I was very careful, also, when we dined at restaurants along the way.  There was only one incident where the waiter didn't appear to understand what I was talking about.  It seems that just about everyone is aware of celiac disease/gluten-free diets these days.