Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dia De Los Muertos - A Celebration of Life Challenge by Karen McGovern

Can you believe it is almost OCTOBER? I. Can. Not. I live in South Florida so the only way I know the seasons are changing anywhere else in the country is by noting the menu changes at Starbucks. Salted caramel pumpkin spice EVERYTHING is on the board, so it must be AUTUMN! When the menu changes to peppermit mocha I'll know I need to start Christmas shopping.

For those of you that do have the privilege of living where the weather patterns are more than "Hot" and "Freaking Hot", I hope you enjoy the change in temps and colors! I miss that--I'm from Michigan and I do miss the explosion of color October through November...send me some pics, okay??

October is a fun month for me. My birthday is in October. I am a HUGE fan of Halloween, and October leads right into another of my favorite holidays, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. 

Dia de los Muertos (November 1 and 2nd) is an extremely beautiful and meaningful Mexican holiday whose most famous feature is the creation and display of elaborately colored and embellished skulls called "Sugar Skulls". Coming on the heels of our Halloween, many confuse Day of the Dead with Halloween, but the two are completely different. Day of the Dead is a celebration of life, actually. Family members and loved ones who have passed are remembered with offerings of art and food--all in honor of these people's lives and transition through death. It's a beautiful holiday!

So, here at LMAJ we would like to challenge you to create something inspired by Dia de los Muertos. I have posted pics here of some of my past designs inspired by the holiday, along with a fellow LMAJ artist Staci Louise Smith. Staci creates amazing sugar skull beads and pendants! Use the month of October to become inspired, and perhaps to learn more about this holiday, then create something AMAZING. We will "reveal" our designs on Tuesday, October 25th, and encourage you to post images of your designs on that day (on the blog in the comments section and on our Facebook page) as well using the hashtag #lmajdod.

Top left - Alcohol inks on aluminum sugar skull pendant by Karen McGovern
Top right - Bronze clay sugar skull necklace by Staci Louise Smith
Bottom - Dia de los Muertos pendant in tribute to Frida Kahlo by Karen McGovern
It's not all pumpkins and bats--Dia de los Muertos is a holiday rich in tradition and love with nothing to do with our Halloween. Let's celebrate!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What goes into handmade?

by Staci Louise Smith

I never get tired of watching how things are made.  It doesn't matter what it is, if someone is making it, or painting it, or carving it, or building it, I can not take my eyes off it.

I think when you are a maker yourself, and you have a process you know, it gives you a respect for the process others go through.

For those of us who do shows, I know that we often wish we could share that passion and knowledge of what goes into handmade with our customers.  It is often literally blood, sweat, tears and heart.  so I am going to share this process.................

I have been on a new journey of making lino-cut print bags and totes to sell in addition to my jewelry.  It has given me that outlet for some creativity that is not jewelry related, that I very much needed- and I also think it will reach a wider audience then my jewelry alone does (cause its weird, and not everyone's cup of tea).  

What started out as simple dyed bags with lino-cut prints on them (above), has evolved already (because I just do not do simple very well!!!).  So, as I went through the process of this new medium, I decided to document it in pictures to share with everyone.  I hope you enjoy watching the process!!

I buy fair trade bags- wash them and hang them to dry.  Then, I tye some up to add some variation in the dye.

Then I dye them, which entails, mixing the dyes, and other chemicals in the correct quantities for the correct amount of time, and then rinsing, and rinsing, and rinsing and rinsing them.  Then washing them and hanging them to dry.

Each time I do a batch I end up carving some new stamps.  This time a added a sugar skull and an elephant too.

Since I got a new style bag that has a flap, I decided to sew some patch style layers onto it, since I could.  So I went nuts at Joann's fat quarter sale.  Batik fabrics have my heart.

I also decided to do the layers on some of the other bags, and bought this heat and bond to be able to do that.

Then all the fabrics get washed and hung to dry

Next I begin to cut squares of the solid colors to stamp on

Then I stamp, and I stamp, and I stamp...................

I work in my unfinished basement, so pardon the gross background and odd things I use to hang and store my wares on....lol

Once the fabrics are stamped and dry overnight, I stack them by design, and the fun begins.


I had so much fun doing this part!

After that, the flap bags get sewed on, and the others get trimmed, ironed onto the backing, trimmed again, then ironed on to the bag.  Then some extra ironing to heat set the printing ink.

and VOILA!  I love them.  

 These are the sewn bags with the flaps

These are the first two iron on's.

Tonight I have to put the rest together, iron and sewing.  Tomorrow they all get a little winged heart stamp on the back as a signature.  Then that gets heat set with an iron too.

Then they get tagged and priced and hopefully find some new homes over the weekend.  So much work goes into each bag, but I really love the outcome.

I hope you enjoyed the process, I know I am.  It always feel good to be able to do something new.  It revives the creativity that sometimes falls asleep on the job!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New jewelry packaging..just in time for fall!

Carol Dekle-Foss
I've grown tired of my boring old jewelry packaging you see below and have been working on revamping it for the fall season. I wanted something more simple and professional looking, yet unique, without breaking the bank.

I fell in love with the simplicity of belly bands, so for this post I'm sharing what I came up with using Minc Reactive foil and this cheap laminator I purchased at Walmart. 

Later down the road, I might try Rio Grande's personalized hot foiling, but for now I like the belly band look. I enjoy the creative process of making my own packaging, plus it's fun using different foil and paper combos.

Here's how I made the band..

I used cardstock from The Luxury Stack and printed my logo using a laser printer. I then ran it through the laminator using Minc Rose Gold foil. It can be tricky getting the foil to stick. I had a hard time at first, but with a few adjustments to the density of the image, and running it through the laminator a few times, I got it to work. It's not perfect, but that's okay, it's handmade right?? There is a Minc machine that is supposed to work better, but the laminator works fine when you have your image really dark and run it through more than once.

I also made an earring card insert to match.

These earrings are made with beautiful handmade porcelain beads by MaryAnn Carroll of Artisan Beads Plus. They are on their way to their forever home!

Also, my husband and I have agreed we are having a 20% off fall sale through the end of September! Just use coupon code save20. You can find all our porcelain goodies on our website here.

Thank you for reading!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Another use for Copper Tubing!

In writing this post for today, I did a quick search through this blog and realized that copper tubing has been used many, many times by the LMAJ artists...hoops, clasps, focals, bezels, bangles, beads, etc.  It is a wonderful material - widely available at your local hardware store - and, it is inexpensive. Here is my latest venture using this most versatile metal - bead connectors/links.

Before I start here - please wear eye protection when sanding and drilling metal! I also wear a respirator so that I do not breathe in any little fine particles of metal. (This is the respirator I use - with these filters). I only have one pair of eyes and one set of lungs.  

Grab some copper tubing - my sample below is manufactured for use in refrigerators - 1/4" wide.

This is my tube cutter - $7.00 at Home Depot and found on a hook right next to the tubing!

I know it has been addressed before on this blog, but it so simple to use this tube cutter.  Slip your tubing into the cutter and use the knob (orange, in this case) to tighten the grip.  

Rotate the little tube cutter around the tubing - each time, tighten the knob just a bit more.  After several rotations - the tubing is cut and NOT squished!  You can also use your jeweler's saw...but honestly...this is so simple!

I cut 7 soon-to-be links 7/8" long.

We are going to flatten these tubes with a hammer, which makes for a nice thick (but not too thick) link. Now, these are tiny links, and it is hard to flatten a small, round piece of metal without the tubing rolling and/or hitting the fingers. I hold one edge of the tubing with my parallel-action pliers (example- here), and hammer the other end on my bench block. Then, hold the now-flattened side with the pliers, and hammer the other end of the tubing flat.

The beauty of using tubing vs. copper sheet is that once flattened, the sides are nicely rounded and smoothed and you now have a nice heft to the metal.

At this point, I use a series of files to slightly round the edges and corners. Sanded correctly - there is NO VISIBLE SEAM on the ends of the copper.

Prior to sanding

I like to add texture to these connectors using hammers or stamps. Texture takes better to softened metal, which has hardened from the flattening.  So, I do a quick annealing of each link, air-cool, and pickle clean.  Anytime I will be adding texture to my metal, I do not quench the metal after annealing - there is a risk of the metal becoming brittle from the shock of the water.


Next, I mark the holes on either end with a sharpie and give a starter tap with my nail punch.

You can use a hole punch to make the holes, but my drill was already set up in my flex shaft. Again, I am holding the link with my parallel-action pliers and drilling into a block of wood.  Be sure to drill slowly...nothing worse than flying metal! 

Using the drill bit will produce little burrs in the holes.

De-burr the holes with a small, round needle file.

For today's example, I am adding texture via a stamp. I always tape my metal to my bench block first.

If using the connectors for a bracelet, I like to add a slight curve to each link, using my bracelet bending pliers (example here). I love this tool - one quick squeeze, and it's done.

The slight curve allows the links to conform to the wrist...just a bit better fit than if left flat.

Connect the links with jump rings and a claps of your choice. All ready for patina and tumble!


By varying your textures, the options are endless!  The bracelet below features 7 links - each with a different texture.

This bracelet features textured links, with a tiny, sterling silver flower made from my shot plate soldered to the center of each connector. I also used sterling silver jump rings (soldered closed for security) to make this a true, mixed metal bracelet.

These bracelets fit like a dream!

I think these connectors would also make a pretty cool chain, or earrings, too. The uses are only limited by your imagination!

Thanks so much for stopping by today!
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