Trends of Metal Work Techniques and Jewelry Designs Through the Eras by Tobias Dean

Jewelry is traditionally a symbol of wealth, prestige, power, and has always been an important part of human culture. One of the most popular eras that saw great innovation in jewelry making was the Georgian era in which intricate shapes of jewelry with rare gemstones embedded in them were created. Silver was the most popular metal used for jewelry at the time and handcrafting such detailed work was a feat in itself. Antique jewelry from the Georgian era is most probable to be crafted with either Repousse or Cannetille jewelry making techniques. The former involved the use of a hammer to create complex designs out of malleable metals and the latter was inspired by embroidery work and involved the use of creating designs using wire-work.

One of the most interesting that came into being in the Victorian era was the rise in popularity of lockets that has space to feature photographs. of the buyer’s loved ones. It also had space to hold a lock of the hair of their deceased loved ones, which fetched it the name “mourning jewelry.” The Edwardian era also brought many innovations that include new diamond cutting techniques, besides many others in years to come. If you are interested in learning more about antique jewelry designs through the eras, check out this detailed infographic from RHJewellers. Continue reading…

Art Moment: Stacey Lee Webber

Artist Stacey Lee Webber creates unique jewellery and sculpture using a very common item, coins!  She enjoys using found materials and changing them to the point where the original object is almost unrecognizable.

From her website: “Webber’s sculpture is often painstakingly laborious which she uses as a continuous theme throughout her work. The pieces make the viewer question the value of her labor and the work ethic of blue collar America. Her practice incorporates a wide range of techniques including coin cutting, embroidery, metal fabrication, weaving and resin pouring. All of these techniques and more are used to declare the importance of the handmade while challenging these same systems. Webber’s objects are haunting celebrations of liberty and labor.”

To see more of her work please visit her website:













“But the Customer Said They Would Be Back” by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

“But the Customer Said They Would Be Back” and Other Things You’ll Hear at an Art Show

It’s that time of year for most of our readers. Art show season. Hang in there!  While I’m not participating in a show this holiday season, I have decades of experience selling my work at a variety of shows. I’ve recently attended some shows as a customer and it was eye opening to see the mistakes artists are making, I wanted to shout, “You’ve worked since April on your stock…get some lights, don’t look so grumpy!” but instead, I’m writing out some tips and hopefully some encouragement for artists out there in their booths and to those thinking of attending shows.

The first thing newbie’s should realize—shows are expensive. This is something I wish customers realized too. It’s not just the booth fee, it’s the cost of the booth, the cost to ship the booth and all of the handmade items, to find a place to stay and food on the road, insurance for the work, the booth, marketing materials and…. It’s like setting up a mini store.

Don’t be the invisible artist.  I can’t believe how many booths I’ve seen that are abandoned. Either the artist is actually not there, or they are chatting with a vendor down the row, or they are hidden behind their products, or booth walls, or low chairs. This boggles my mind. After working so hard to make things, and to pay to show and to haul it all and set up…artists are hiding. Continue reading…

Video Tour: Rio Grande

Did you know that Rio Grande manufactures nearly 5,000 findings, tools and equipment products at their solar-powered facility in Albuquerque, NM, USA?  Many people mistakenly think that they are a wholesaler of imported goods.  A few years ago, while at the Sante Fe Symposium I had the opportunity to have a tour of Rio Grande.  In the video below you can a peek inside their manufacturing areas.  And since this is the last year of the jewellery symposium, I’d urge you to think about going if you are a jewellery maker. It is a wealth of information.


Art Moment: Holly Anne Mitchell

Meet jewellery artist Holly Anne Mitchell.  She uses newspapers and other print materials to make hand-formed, and stitched jewellery. Her one of a kind bracelets, brooches and more are made of paper and are sealed in a non-toxic, moisture-resistant coating.,h_750,al_c,q_85,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/fc2db1_5f6b78ac538f4032b1dc6a8468429eb4~mv2_d_3888_3240_s_4_2.webp

From Holly Anne Mitchell’s site: “Holly Anne began exploring newspaper as an artistic medium back in 1990 while studying metalsmithing at The University Of Michigan. She had an assignment to create a piece of jewelry which did not consist of any traditional jewelry materials (no metal, precious stones, etc.). “I chose the Chicago Tribune newspaper comic strips because of their bold, vibrant color patterns and the character’s facial expressions. I discovered the best way to bring out these aesthetic strengths is to transform the newspaper into beads. I’ve been exploring this material ever since.”,h_1000,al_c,q_85,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/fc2db1_bab3e746715e49869b8b17f6a5ed5b43~mv2_d_3427_3427_s_4_2.webp

Video of artist with her work at the Smithsonian Craft Show.

Paper artist Holly Anne Mitchell of recycles comic strips and ads to create her beautiful #jewelry. She explained her creative process in this video. #smithsoniancraftshow2018#smithsoniancraftshowsswc#nationalbuildingmuseum#americancrafts#dcevents#thingstododc#finecraft#dccraft#washingtondc#handmade#craftsmanship#contemporarydesign#paper#craftshow

Posted by Smithsonian Craft + Design Show on Saturday, April 28, 2018

Find more of her work on her website:


Artist Profile: Martha Biggar by Julia Rai

I always think of Virginia based metal clay teacher and artist Martha Biggar as part of a team – Ed and Martha go together like ham and eggs – for the US readers – or tea and crumpets as we say in the UK! I’ve called her a ‘metal clay teacher and artist’ but Martha describes herself slightly differently. “I usually think of myself as an artist/educator/farmer, but maybe renaissance woman would be better…” she told me.

It’s not often that I meet someone who still lives within a stone’s throw of where they were brought up, but Martha is an exception. “I grew up on the family farm that touches the one we own today in Draper, VA,” she began. “My husband Ed, a glassblower, and I travel and teach both glass and jewelry.  Although I sold my cow herd in 2013, we still have donkeys, horses, and a couple mules.  We raise specialized vegetables for the farmers markets and chefs in our area, including figs, asparagus, and assorted varieties of cherry tomatoes.”

Not surprisingly, her first memories of being creative involve animals. “My earliest memories involve drawing horses as a very young child,” she said. I asked her how she discovered metal clay. “I taught middle school art in our county, and as is required in Virginia, I had to take classes every five years at least in my field. Since I didn’t want to write reports, I generally went to Arrowmont in Tennessee, where I took my first class in metal clay in 2000 from Linda Kaye-Moses. I had seen metal clay advertised by Rio Grande and wondered about it but was concerned about the cost of a kiln. So, I figured I would try it out and see if I liked it. If I didn’t, my family would have a vacation and I would have Christmas presents. But I did, and promptly went home and purchased a kiln. My first piece was a 1-inch square that Linda always taught to beginners, I still have it.” I guess it was a lean Christmas that year! Continue reading…

Cyprus Copper: Celtic Cross by Martha Biggar

Inspiration Cross by Carson Sams.

Part 1: Experiments with Cyprus Copper

Here’s the back story to this unusual Celtic cross:  while Ed and I were working glass at the State Fair of Virginia, we met a nice young blacksmith named Carson Sams.  Carson did regular demonstrations during the ten days of the Fair, as did we, and we got to know each other pretty well.   I watched his demonstration of this cross and was floored by his techniques.  He started with three straight lengths of steel; the first piece he heated and beat and heated and beat until it became a ring.  The next piece he beat into a U-shape, and then he assembled the three pieces, as I’ve shown here, and beat the U-shape down to lock them in place.  This he called a friction fit.  He finally added through rivets to keep the shape in place.  He used his riveting hammer to add the texture at the end of each bar, flaring the ends as he hammered.

I was so fascinated by this process that I went back to our tent and made a small one out of silver metal clay.  I’ve done a few more small scale pendant pieces out of silver, but wanted to do something in a larger scale and so decided to give the new Cyprus Copper a try.  The only real modification I made to Carson’s basic technique was to start with a donut shape for the rounded part instead of a straight length.  I used a bit of slip to connect the pieces before firing, and used faux rivets to continue the design.  This takes a little patience and practice to get to work out, but is worth it in the end.

Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Armelle Burbaud by Julia Rai

Armelle Burbaud

I love the work of French metal clay artist Armelle Burbaud. Her sculptural pieces are complex and so beautifully rendered. And what makes them all the more extraordinary is that they are mainly made in bronze clay with all its inherent issues.

Armelle was born and brought up in Paris, France. “I was born in Paris and spent all my childhood in a suburb just outside the city,” she began. “Even if it was a place with some greenery, in the end I longed for the quiet of the countryside. Now, however, if the truth be said, I miss Paris. It was so easy to go and see performances and exhibitions, or just stroll in the streets, and I loved that. I do get to go there still from time to time, but it’s not that easy when you live in the provinces.” Continue reading…

Art Moment: Melanie West

I have been a *huge* fan of Melanie West’s art for years.  Her work reflects her unique vision of Nature.  Here are just a few samples of her happy, whimsical and awesomely unique jewellery. Please visit her website to learn more about Melanie, her jewellery and her classes.

Plasma and Cells BioBangle

Hand formed, carved and laminated polymer and epoxy. Features Melanie’s signature polymer cane work.

Magenta and CellsHand formed, carved and laminated polymer and epoxy. Features Melanie’s signature polymer cane work.

River Rock Bead Necklace in neutral colorsHollow form beads with hand pigmented translucent polymer cane work.

polymers, silicon, neoprene, magnets

Torque Necklace #2Hand formed, carved and laminated polymer and rubber with magnet clasp. Features Melanie’s signature polymer cane work.

Artist Project Series: Peacock Ring by Armelle Burbaud

    Peacock ring 

Cool Tools and Creative Fire are pleased to present another project in our series of works by master artists. This tutorial is a gorgeous peacock ring by Armelle Burbaud.

(Version française cliquez ici.)

“I love sculpting birds, both because I find them quite moving and because they are a nice pretext to create movement. And since I love spending hours refining the sculpting part and carving with a scalpel to eventually let emerge the quivering feathers – and since I love rings … here is a tutorial which allowed me to incorporate those two passions of mine… a peacock ring!”

Continue reading…