Monday, August 25, 2014

Fabulous Faux - Playing With Iced Enamels by Karen McGovern

I love experimenting with new products.  Especially products that are relatively inexpensive and fun.  Recently, I began working with Susan Lenart Kazmer's Iced Enamels.  Faux enamel powder in a nice spectrum of grungy, cool colors.  The idea is to create the look of enameled metal without, you know, actual enamel.  For me this is very interesting because I am a freak for enameled metal.  Just ask MaryAnn Carroll--I use her gorgeous enamel discs in just about everything I make. 
Now, right off the bat I will tell you that Iced Enamels in NO WAY replicates the look of true enameled metal.  BUT, for those of us that do not have an enameling studio, the line is fun, easy to use, and can add lovely textural accents and colors to your designs.  Basically it's a three-part system of a liquid adhesive applied to metal, followed by a layer of Iced Enamel powder set with a heat gun.  The third part is sealing, which SLK recommends you do with Ice Resin, her wonderful jewelry grade clear resin.  Since I never do anything I am told to do, I use several coats of Everbrite and have been very pleased with the results.
For an impatient person like me, faux enamels are really attractive as an accent.  Don't worry, MaryAnn, I will ALWAYS BE TRUE TO YOUR DISCS!!!  But, the faux enamels add a nice touch to larger pieces, bangles, cuffs and more.  I like the look of the powders--base colors mixed with "grunge" creating a crusty, aged effect.  The variety of colors is very nice as well, although I am waiting for some greens and dark blues to come along....ARE YOU LISTENING, SUSAN??
I'll share with you a bracelet design I'm having fun with that was inspired by Barbara Lewis, the queen of torch fired enamel jewelry.  You get an extra "faux" here, in one of the bracelets I also used polymer clay faux beach glass shards created by Ginger Davis Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree. GORGEOUS!!!

Iced Enamels on aluminum with polymer faux beach glass...
Basically, I start with a 3 x 2.5 inch piece of aluminum (or any metal, I just love aluminum) and cut it on an angle leaving one end wider than the other.  Round the corners, file the edges smooth, then texture the metal if you wish (I use the paving stones on my driveway as a texture plate!).  At this point you can stamp a message on the inside of the cuff if you like (thanks, Barbara Lewis, for this lovely idea). Drill or punch a hole in either end and curve the metal on a bracelet mandrel or with your hands to fit your wrist comfortably.  

Iced Enamels on copper. Created for the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation in support of their bongo antelope
conservation programs.  The colors of the cuff are inspired by the beautiful striped hide of a bongo, and Delilah
is an orphaned bongo that we are hand rearing at RSCF.  I have pics of her all over my Facebook page!
My Iced Enamel "station" is an old cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Using a cheap paint brush, coat the top side of the metal with the Iced Enamel adhesive (cleans easily in water so you can use the brush again).  Then sprinkle on the powder in the color of your choice (you can also blend colors prior in a little cup if you want, or apply layers, which I'll explain in a minute), shake off the excess, then heat the powder to melting with a heat gun.  My heat gun has two settings, I use the lower setting to get even, controlled heat.  NOTE:  Clear away any excess Iced Enamel powder that you have over-sprinkled BEFORE you turn on your heat gun.  Otherwise the powder will blow all over Kingdom Come!  As you heat, the powder will bubble and melt in a couple minutes.  The bubbles disappear after you stop heating.  There is a slight odor, but nothing overwhelming.  Do this with proper ventilation, etc.  Let the metal cool, then either seal or add more adhesive and another layer of powder in another color, accent, pattern, STENCIL (oooh, that would be cool, I have to go get some stencils...), allow to cool, seal and you are DONE.  You can also file away some of the enamel to create a more imperfect or grungy look--whatever you like!  For copper and brass I would start by giving the metal a nice liver of sulfur bath to create a dark base to show through, but that's my taste. 

As I mentioned, I use Everbrite ProtectaClear spray to seal.  Two or three coats do a great job, and dry in minutes.  Finish the bracelet with riveted or micro screw elements, beads, chain, leather, ribbon, whatever you have on hand!  I've made a few of these now and am really enjoying the look and feel on the wrist.  FUN!

"But Karen", you say, "Will the faux enamel really stay on the metal?  Won't it rub off?"  Well, this stuff is pretty amazing.  The first time I used it, after heating with the heat gun and melting the powder on, I immediately dropped the cuff on the floor, while still hot and "gooey".  I picked it up (using a towel cause that sucker was hot), and some of the semi-liquid enamel had rubbed off (and also now stains my floor mat), but only a top layer. Cursing, I cooled the metal in the sink, then tried to sand away all of the enamel powder to start over.  I COULDN'T!  I went at that thing with a sanding sponge, sandpaper, and diamond files.  Yes, if I had spent the rest of the day working on it I would have gotten it all off, but by no means was it coming off easily.  And that was before sealing with Everbrite.  So, I am pretty confident that this stuff stays on and will hold up over time.  I also think a textured surface will "grab" the faux enamel better as well.  If you are really concerned, I suggest using Ice Resin to seal.  Takes 24 hours to cure, but then you really have a totally impervious coating.  

So, give Iced Enamels a try and let me know what you think!!  You can find great tutorials and ideas online at the Ice Resin website.  Go nuts!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My latest booth project & theft prevention tips

 Carol Dekle-Foss

With the luxurious days of summer coming to an end and the cool breezes of fall fast approaching, everyone seems to be in a hurried rush. Last minute road trips are being taken, school clothes and supplies are being bought, and for some, preparation is being done for upcoming fairs and festivals. Here on LMAJ, our very own Marsha Neal and Staci Louise Smith have been prepping for Bead Fest Philadelphia. It starts today and ends on August 24th, 2014. This is a huge event with over 200 workshops and more than 350 vendors.

Staci will be teaching tomorrow on how to make these Painted Polymer Fossil Talismans. We are so proud of you Staci! Good luck to you both!

I also have been prepping. The largest event for me right now is the American River Music Festival. I'm busy checking inventory, making new jewelry, and getting my booth ready.

This year, I have created pieces that are more expensive using gems and sterling silver. This has presented a challenge. I want to be able to have these items on display but I worry about theft. Some of them took me over two days to make. I poured my heart and soul into these creations. If one of them were to get stolen, well I would be crushed. Last year at the American River Music Festival, my booth neighbor left all his items in his tent overnight. They have security but the event is right next to a busy road. Someone got into his booth and stole an untold amount of jewelry, rock gems and fossils he collected from all over the world. It was awful, and he was in tears all the next day. There are those that target craft fairs for an easy buck, but if we are diligent, we can do things to protect our wares. The reality is though, there is nothing you can do to stop all theft.

Having a locked display case is the number one effective way to stop thieves, so here is my latest project to prevent some of my pieces from falling into the wrong hands.
The wine barrel, locking Plexiglas box and base were individual items that my husband brought home from work. His company throws away used advertising displays. The box was silver, the wine barrel unfinished, and the base was blue. All had company logos that I had to sand off.  I then painted, distressed and finished everything and put it together as a locking jewelry display case.
I think it's important to have jewelry out on display for everyone to touch and try on, but having at least one case is a good idea for those expensive creations.

Here's a little tutorial on how I made the logo. 
First, I created the image on Photoshop, then transferred it to the Silhouette cutter which did all the work cutting out the card stock. You could also cut your logo out with an exact o knife. 
I then taped the logo to the barrel and just eyeballed the placement.

I traced the edges of the logo with a permanent sharpie.
I then used this wood burning tool to burn in the logo. Wood burning is definitely NOT my cup of tea. I burned myself once. Only the whole tip of my finger, to which the skin is now peeling off. Just painting the logo is a painless alternative!
Here is the finished detail. 

Another way to protect your profits is to hide and secure down your cash box. This table is always in the back of my booth. It's tall enough for me to stand at when working and it has a hidden area. I keep a  director's chair in front of it as well so it's not easily accessible. 

This crazy contraption is under the cloth. I couldn't find a tall table with a storage area, so I made one! The cash box is screwed down and secure. The only way it's coming off is with a crow bar. I do wear an apron for small bills but when the traffic dies down, I add the larger ones to the box. 

Here are a few more tips for preventing theft.
  • Greet every customer that comes in your booth, this will make customers feel welcome and also deter thieves. 
  • Have a helper. This will allow you to take much needed breaks and also your helper will be able to greet and keep an eye on things.
  • Booth setup. Creating height is great for display. The only problem is if you are behind your high display, it will be hard to see people's hands and what they are touching. When designing your booth setup, just make sure there are no blind spots, and that you can see all that is going on.
  • Secure your items. Clips and pins are a great way to deter thieves because they have to undo them first, and run the risk of being caught.
I would like to hear about any special tricks you use to protect your jewelry or beads at fairs & festivals. Please feel free to share!

So what have you been doing to take advantage of the last days of summer? Do you have any rituals that you do to celebrate the changing of the seasons? I like to visit the coast before it gets too cold, it's very therapeutic and rejuvenating, plus its a great way to get out of the heat!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Color Conundrum by Karen McGovern

There is a wealth of information available online and in print about coloring metals.  Patinas come in every form and color, from simple homemade recipes (used cat litter and salt/vinegar potato chips—SERIOUSLY!) to specialized chemical and dye patinas (  The choices are endless.
Then there is heat patina, or flame painting, which is a wonderful way to easily color copper and brass with a torch.  I’ve been following a few threads online about this subject, and it seems that the Achilles heel regarding this method of coloring is how to seal and protect the metal AND retain the original intensity of color.  Hmmmm….again, 1000 suggestions out there but no definitive EUREKA solution.
Here’s my take.  There is no perfect answer or product out there that will forever keep heat colored copper and brass true.  Sorry.  The opinion I give here is based on working with copper for several years while living in South Florida.  Copper reacts very quickly when exposed to heat and humidity.  Natural patina, for me, is pretty easy to achieve simply by leaving copper sheet in my garage for a week or so.  I’ll get the beginning of some amazing verdigris greens courtesy of 98 degrees and 70% humidity.  We’ll come back to that later.

 A lovely flame colored copper cuff by Delia Stone.
Coloring copper with a torch is great and you get AMAZING purples, reds, pinks, blues and more.  There are several coatings available that are specially designed to seal and protect patinas, my favorite is Everbrite ProtectaClear.  The spray and dip versions offered are really wonderful and, in my experience, will not dull the colors instantly upon application like so many other coatings.  That is the biggest challenge—finding a product that doesn’t instantly change the colors of the metal the second you apply.  So, Everbrite works for me and I use it all the time.
BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, that is not the end solution.  No matter what, the colors in your heat patina designs are going to change over time.  PERIOD.  Why?  Because the design will be in contact with human skin and body temp, AND be exposed to heat and humidity in general. These things affect copper and brass no matter what you coat it with.  I have test driven many designs and actually have a simple way to decide if a design will hold its color.  I wear it on a hot day for several hours on my skin.  Brass holds torch color better, but the side that touches skin turns chocolate brown pretty quickly.  Even if coated several times.  Body temp affects metals, folks!  SCIENCE!  Copper changes even quicker.  Skin PH also plays a factor.  I have low PH, which is why I can’t wear perfume.  An hour on me and it all smells like cat pee.  SO LUCKY, RIGHT???  Copper and brass are affected by this as well.  Coating the metals helps tremendously for folks whose skin reacts badly to base metals, and I feel completely comfortable saying that the coatings I use will prevent dreaded green lines or rashes on sensitive skin, but I do not ever guarantee that heat patinas will remain the same color forever.  THEY USUALLY DON’T. 
Universal patinas by Sculpt Nouveau
 Which is why I use chemical patinas instead.  I have found that the line from Sculpt Nouveau is fantastic.  Endless color choices and formulas.  You can literally paint on metal like it is a canvas, and get intense and beautiful results that will hold up over time.  Check out their YouTube channel, full of ideas and tutorials.  Chemical patinas react with the metals and physically change the metal itself.  It’s not just a coating.  You still have to seal the metals, and Sculpt Nouveau has a line of sealers to go with their patinas.  I have found Everbrite works extremely well here and have decided to stick to that brand alone.  Dries quickly and will not change the colors as you spray.  I LOVE EVERBRITE!  Also, amazing customer service, shipping, everything.  In case you didn’t notice—I RECOMMEND THIS PRODUCT.

A copper cuff I made using layers of chemical patinas.  Sealed with Everbrite. 
A pendant created from a layer of painted patina copper on aluminum.
So, there are many factors to consider beyond initial sealing when working with flame colored metals.  Understanding how the metals react to heat and moisture over time is very important.  Because I have seen first-hand how heat colored metals change over time when worn next to skin, I no longer create torch colored designs for sale.  I use chemical patinas only.  For copper and brass cuffs, I color them first with liver of sulfur to get a nice, dark base.  Then go nuts with chemical color, let sit for 24 hours, then coat twice with Everbrite spray.  For those of you who live in cool, dry climates, you may argue that you have no problems with heat patina.  BUT, if you sell to a client living anywhere warm and moist I bet the design will be a different color in less than a year.
So, I recommend exploring chemical patinas.  They are fun, endless and offer so many choices and colors.  I am linking to an artist here that I think is one of the best I’ve come across coloring copper and brass with chemical patinas, SSD Jewelry.  AREN’T THESE CUFFS GORGEOUS????  They are pretty enough to EAT! 
As always, we’d love to see your creations and hear your opinions on the subject.  As I said before, there is no one answer and what I’ve printed here is based on my experiences alone.  Have you found the holy grail of sealants?  IF SO, PLEASE SHARE!!!!!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the go again.....

MaryAnn Carroll

I hate to say that I am in a rush because I feel like I am always saying that. I am writing quickly because we are heading out to set up for Pottery Fair in Cazenovia, NY this weekend.  My husband and I do shows together, which are mainly his pottery, but I include a small section of jewelry as well. For this particular show, I only include my ceramic jewelry.

In between getting ready for shows, we have been giving our house a much needed makeover. Fortunately, we have had my son and step daughter helping so we have been able to accomplish the updates in a much shorter period of time.


On a completely different note, I am also making some special jewelry to support the defense for Charles Erickson. Many of you 48 Hour and Dateline junkies may have heard the story of Ryan Ferguson and Charles Erickson. They were two 19 year old boys that were wrongly convicted in 2004 (a travesty, that is unfortunately, not uncommon in the United States) for the murder of Sports Editor Kent Heitholt. Ryan Ferguson is free and for reasons too complex to write about here, Charlie is not.

If you are interested in learning more, you can read more about this case by going to Free Charles Erickson on the web.

I am offering jewelry (currently earrings) for sale. All of the money collected will be donated to the defense of Charlie.

If you are interested in helping Charlie's defense, please visit

Thank-you and I am sorry for any typos as I am writing this on my iPad while heading to set up for the show!


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