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Spring Show Season!

We are back from Gulf Wars, and what a start to the Spring Show Season it was! Thank you to everyone for coming by to say Hello and to see what’s new! ^_^

Speaking of new items, due to popular demand, I will begin offering circlets and coronets in the shop, as well as more enamel work. I’ve begun working on glass enamel paintings and even some Renaissance-style miniatures, so keep an eye out for those.

Brian is also hard at work on cutting period gemstones for me to use in my work, as well as for other jewelers who want something to add more authenticity to their works.

Currently I have Blackstone Raid on the calendar, and PENNSIC! I am still waiting to hear back about Aethelmearc War Practice and a few other non-SCA events, but you’ll see us around, I’m sure!

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We’re on PATREON!

Click here to see it!

Become a Patron!

Yep, we’re on Patreon, and Patron-only posts are happening! We’ve got $1, $3, $5 and $10 levels full of goodness.

A quick rundown of the tiers:

  • $1 is for jewelry fans. Discounts and first dibs on the jewelry I make! Ideal place for you to start.
  • $3 is for art lovers. You get PDF downloads of all of my books, free art downloads, lots of goodies!
  • $5 is for gemstone collectors/artists who use them. Dibs and discounts on gems my husband cuts and gem info from a pro.
  • $10 is for aspiring artists and jewelers. Tutorial vids, tips and tricks, all that good stuff!

And of course, if you go in for the $3, you get all the $1 benefits, and so on. So, if you’ve been wanting some sweet discount codes, or are sick of getting your favorite pieces sniped out from under you, this is perfect! This is especially good for ring fans. If you see me setting a stone that you NEED on your finger, you can claim it and I’ll make it in your size.

If you love pretty rocks and hoard them like a dragon (seriously, any more gems and I think Brian will start developing scales) the $5 is a great tier for you. You get first dibs on stones he cuts, and if you see a gorgeous slab you NEED an oval or whatever out of it, he can do that. Also, Brian’s working on videos to help take the mystery out of gem buying, and generally sharing his expertise on the world of gems.

So, here’s that button again. Click it and decide if you’d like to join us on Patreon!

Become a Patron!

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Old Techniques Meet Our New Tech

Just because we make jewelry inspired by museum pieces doesn’t mean we do everything old-fashioned. Brian wouldn’t want to polish stones by rubbing them against another rock, and you can have my jeweler’s saw when you can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. On that note, we recently acquired a piece of modern equipment that will help us take our jewelry to the next level!

A LASER PRINTER!

“Are you serious?!” you may be asking, “How can a laser printer help you make jewelry?”

Well, now I can transfer my hand drawings to metal. That means I can engrave, saw and even do acid etching a million times faster than before. But the big kicker is that now I can easily add enamels to my work in ways that won’t make your wallet cry. You get really authentic, REAL glass enameled jewelry, just like what your persona would have worn, and I get to feed the Little One and have electricity and make more beautiful things.

It’s a win-win!

Here’s my first test piece, along with a little pendant I made to go with it. It was inspired by this brooch from Roman Britain.

Look for some gorgeous antiqued and enamelled pieces in the shop soon!

So – What would You like to see Enameled? Celtic Knotwork? Medieval Monograms? Let me know in the Comme

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Make a Roman Fibula Brooch Jewelry Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make a simple pin suitable for hanging whatever you like on it, with just a few tools and some wire. My instructions assume you have some basic experience with jewelry making, but even if you don’t, this is still pretty simple. Practice on some thin, cheap craft wire if this is your first project, and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m happy to help!

But why do you call it a “fibula”? It looks like a safety pin.

Simple. Because that’s what the Romans called it, and yes, they did invent the safety pin. Here’s a link to a ​super-simple example. Roman pins typically had high backs because they used pins like this to keep their clothes on, and the fabric needed room to bunch up. While the first example is dead simple, others were lavishly decorated, ​like this one. Even the highly decorated fibulae were still intended to be semi-functional.

While this pin is appropriate for light to medium fabrics, I made it specifically for my SCA and Rennie friends to hang favors, bits of largesse, or even small tools on. You could even give these pins as favors with a small starter token already on. These could make great presents for people who make or use beads – There are always a few “orphan” beads laying around they can’t bear to part with!


Tools and Materials
Tools:

  • Round Nose Pliers
  • Chain Nose Pliers – These are for holding, so any pliers with smooth, flat jaws will work.
  • Wire Cutters
  • File
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Safety Glasses – Not kidding on this one. I’ve personally seen people get wire ends flung into their face hard enough to draw blood when they’re just nipping the end off a little coil. If you’re using tools, use eye protection.

Optional Tools:

  • Hammer – I have a chasing hammer, but you can use a normal hardware store ball-pein hammer. It just needs to be flat and relatively smooth so it doesn’t mark up the metal.
  • Steel block – or similar hard surface to hammer on
  • Ear protection. There’s not a lot of hammering, but you should still wear ear protection when you do it.

I tried to use tools that most people I know have laying around the house. If you have fancier/higher quality tools than these, feel free to use them.

Materials:
16 gauge Copper Wire – From the local craft store is fine.
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If you want fancier tools than this or square/triangular/thicker/titanium/whatever wire, here’s some Suppliers:

Just to be clear, I have no connection to these sites, these are just places where I and/or my jeweler friends buy from. Just be careful of your wallet, especially if you’re a tool junkie like me!

 

 

Step 1: Measure, Cut and File

  1. Using the ruler, marker, and wire snips, measure and cut an 11 inch length of wire. If this is your first project, give yourself another inch or two of wiggle room in case you make your loops a bit big. We’ll be cutting the excess off at the end.
  2. ​Round the end off with your file* so it’s smooth. This is the end we’ll start working with.

* Most files only work one way – When you “push” the file away from you. This is copper, so there’s no reason to go crazy and muscle it. Just move your arm forward and let the file do the work.

Step 2: Make the Catch

The catch is the part of a pin that secures the pin stem, which is the part that goes through your fabric. Some of this might be tricky, but you can do it!

Picture 1: ​Measure and mark at the 1 inch and 1 1/2 inch points from your just-filed end.

Picture 2 (The Tricky Bit): Using your round nose pliers, make a bend at the 1 inch mark. It won’t be a tight fold like you see here, but that’s where your flat pliers come in. Squeeze the rounded end carefully until you get it nice and tight, as close to this as possible. If you have a hammer and something to hammer on, you can use those to tap the loop down, too.

Picture 3: Make a 90 degree bend at the 1 1/2 inch mark.

Picture 4: Wrap that end around the wire. I recommend using the flat pliers to hold onto the folded part right above the bend, and using the round nose pliers to wrap. You’ll probably need to use the flat pliers to squeeze the end in close to the wire.

Step 3: Make the Hanging Loops

Here’s where you’ll be making the loops, and where you can go crazy with the design. You loops might turn out bigger or smaller than mine, and that’s fine. You might decide you only want three loops, or maybe you have some of those fancy square pliers and want to make diamond-shaped loops. You could even add beads between the loops as you go, or forego the loops all together and add your beads on right now. Go Nuts!

But if you’re just starting out, keep following along.

Picture 1: Make a 90-degree bend right under your catch, and make a mark about 1/4″ in. This will be the top of your loop. I made my loops at about the midway point on the jaws of my round nose pliers.* You can make them wherever you like, depending on how big you want your loops.

Picture 2: I’m figuring out where I want the top of my next loop to be. For me, it turned out that 3/8″ away from the top of my first loop would look the best, so I marked it. You want to keep some space between your loops so you have space for all the cool things you’re going to dangle from them. My loops are 1/4″ wide, so I put in an extra 1/8″ buffer. Alternatively, you could always just make your next loop where you want it and use that as a guide for spacing. Whatever works for you to keep it consistent.

Picture 3: Make the other loops, being sure to keep their size and spacing even. This is the more fiddly part, but congrats! You’re almost done!

*Feel free to mark your jaws with your marker so you always bend the wire in the same spot. This keeps your loops nice and even. If you don’t want to mark them up, a shred of masking tape wrapped around one of the jaws works just as well.


Step 4: Even It Out

Chances are good that your pin is looking quite loopy and nice, but it’s probably a little wobbly. Here’s where we fix that.*

Picture 1: Looks a little wavy, doesn’t it? That won’t lay right when you’re wearing it, so let’s take care of that.

Picture 2: Put on your ear protection (do it) and give it a few gentle taps with your hammer. You don’t want to hammer it, or otherwise you’ll flatten the wire and get horrible squash marks where they cross over. You just want to even it out.

Picture 3: Nice and even! Much better, isn’t it?

*You could always squish it between some books or carefully bend it straight with your hands if you don’t have a hammer. So long as it’s flat.

 

 

 

Step 5: Make the Spring & Finish the Catch

Picture 1: Using the lowest point on your round nose pliers, wrap a loop of wire with the end going back over your hanging loops. This is the spring part of your pin.

Picture 2: Looking mighty pin-like, isn’t it?

Picture 3: Now you can bend the end of the catch over so it actually “catches” the pin stem.*

Picture 4: Almost done!

*We didn’t do this earlier because the wire tends to get caught in it while you’re making the hanging loops if you do.

Step 6: Trim & File the Pin Stem

Picture 1:
Catch the stem and use your cutters to nip off the extra wire. Don’t cut too close, or else it might come undone easily. Keep about 1/4″ on the end.

Picture 2:
File it sharp. You don’t need a long needle point on this, just enough so it can get between the fibers.

Picture 3:
Nice and pointy, like a little cone.

Picture 4:
You’re done! High Five! ^_^

Variations & Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, there’s a lot of variation to be had here. You can use thinner or thicker wire, square wire, or colored wire. You could hammer the loops for texture or leave them off altogether. You can replace the loops with a fun squiggle or a pattern, or add beads.

I want you to take this Tutorial and make something beautiful with it.

Make a couple of these to start, then go nuts! I’d like you to comment with links back to your creations so we can all see them!

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What You’re REALLY Buying

Given how yesterday was Small Business Saturday and tomorrow is Cyber Monday, you’ve probably seen some variation of this floating around on your social media feeds. And while it’s true, you’re buying so much more when you Shop Small and Buy Handmade this season.
You’re not just getting an unbelievably cozy scarf, or an expertly finished cutting board, or a ring you literally can’t find anywhere else. You are buying blood, sweat and tears.

Literally.

Allow me to explain.

The blood is the simplest, so I’ll start with that. If you’ve ever made anything with your hands, you know that sooner or later, you’re going to get hurt. All bakers have been burnt. All the people I know who sew have cut or stabbed themselves at some point. Even fiber workers like knitters get hurt. And when it comes to hammers and saws, it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”.

As for sweat, well – That’s also pretty self-explanatory. Making things, even if you love it, can be hard work. Hard work isn’t a bad thing, but it does make you sweat. Whether it’s over a stove, a saw, or a sewing machine, we sweat. We sweat from the work, from putting up tents at craft shows, from hauling our totes of goods and displays up and down stairs. We sweat when see the application deadlines approaching, while we wait for acceptance emails and before the events start. We sweat over the details, not only in the work itself but on our business cards, our websites, and the pictures we take for our online stores. We’re doing this full time, but do we look professional enough? Do we look too professional? Is that a bad camera angle? Does this font look cheesy? Am I using the right words? Did I choose the right images to send with my application? Is this display “right” for my work? There are buckets of sweat behind everything you see in an online shop or at a show.

Now for tears. Big Artist Confession Time: Yes, you are buying tears. We usually don’t cry when we bleed, we’re used to that by now, but we cry at other things. We cry at numbers, especially when they’re bad, but sometimes when they’re really good, too. We cry in frustration when the work just isn’t working. We cry at rejection emails and shutoff notices. We cry happy tears when we’re accepted into one of our dream shows. We cry a lot when someone favorites half of our Etsy shop and then copies our work.

But if you really, really want to make an artist cry, come up to our table and say loudly, “I could make that.” We’ll smile and maybe we’ll used our canned comeback for this phrase (because trust me, we all have one), but on the inside, we’re crying. We’re crying because those four words contain every single bit of naysaying that we’ve ever heard from society, from the people we love and from inside our own heads. We’re crying because you’re devaluing the skills we have literally bled to acquire (see above). Some of us are crying because we’re honestly afraid that you’ll steal the designs we’ve spent days or sometimes even weeks developing. We’re crying because we’re literally putting a price tag on little pieces of ourselves and you’re telling us we’re Not Worth It.

We’ll be okay. We’re artists, and we feel all the feelings, but we’re tough. Some of us have been at it so long that The Phrase doesn’t hurt us any more. It might sting in the pocketbook, because those people never buy anything, but we know that the words are empty. Still, we feel for the others who have it used on them, because the person who says it always says it a lot. And loudly, too.

So remember, while you are wandering the shows and the Internet, that when you buy the Perfect Handmade Gift, you’re not just getting a thing. You’re getting blood, sweat, and tears, and you’re giving encouragement, opportunity, and hope.

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My Project 365

If you haven’t been on Instagram, you haven’t been seeing the little Project 365 I’ve been working on. Normally this is a photography challenge, where you take a selfie a day or a picture of your morning walk. Maybe you give yourself a theme for the month and try to work with that. For me, my Project 365 is a jewelry design a day. I’ve been using the hashtag #sjdesignaday to mark them. A lot of people have asked about my design a day and exactly how I go about it. So, without further ado:

How to draw a jewelry design a day:

  1. Get out a precut square or rectangle of semi-transparent drafting vellum. Cut down 8.5×11 sheets into quarters or sixths to make sure you design at a sane size.
  2. Tape it down to the drafting board. (I like to use Alvin Drafting Dots.)
  3. Pick up your Faber-Castell 6H pencil and stare at the white space.
  4. Get up and pace around.
  5. Use your T-square and a triangle to draw centering lines so your design will be balanced.
  6. Get up and look through some Dover design books. Question your talent.
  7. Sit down and stare at the white space again.
  8. Turn to the Internet for “inspiration.”
  9. Cuss when you realize what time it is and go back to your little square of drafting vellum with two lines on it.
  10. Sigh heavily and refill your drink. Wonder why you started on this madness in the first place. Remind yourself of the Sunk Cost Fallacy and of the fact that you are under no obligation to anyone to do this.
  11. Sit down and glare at the vellum while it mocks you with it’s blandness. The two lines you drew on it earlier only add to the scathing contempt you KNOW it’s directing at you.
  12. In desperation, grab a drafting template at random from your drawer and pick a shape to trace on the vellum. It doesn’t help.
  13. Look back at your previous work, back when you had Creativity and Ideas, before the vellum sucked it out of you.
  14. Draw some more lines around your center shape. This is your focal stone.
  15. Draw a few more.
  16. Erase those lines – They sucked.
  17. Draw more lines, and bring some of the old ones back. They weren’t that bad.
  18. Erase the guidelines from step 5.
  19. Darken your main lines. I recommend an H lead.
  20. Refine and darken as the design comes into shape. Resist the urge to shade with your pencils.
  21. Carefully pull off your tape and flip your design over.
  22. Pull out your Copic (or Prismacolor) markers and begin to color your design on the back. Lay out flats for the metallic parts first.
  23. Use a colorless blender to give some areas of highlights.
  24. Add shading with your markers. Be conscious of the height of the gemstone while shading.
  25. Pick out a color for your gemstone or stones.
  26. Hesitate as the Doubt begins to creep back in.
  27. Start coloring in the gems anyway, ignoring Doubt as it calls you a talentless hack.
  28. Darken the gems, but don’t use gray unless the stone itself is that color. Grays muddy it up.
  29. Now to add shine. Get out your trusty Sakura White Gel Pen and add highlights to the metallic areas.
  30. Smile to yourself when you see the work really start to “pop”.
  31. Add white to the stone to show areas of shine. The gel pen is fine for small dots of lights on small stones, but I like to use white acrylic ink and a small brush to cover larger areas.
  32. Sign and date your design.
  33. Share it on Instagram!

See? Nothing to it!

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Coming Soon: New Parent Charm Collection

Finally! Charms for us who want sentimental jewelry that’s classy and nerdy!

What you’re looking at are the castings for my new line of charms, which debuted at Pennsic. We’ll be casting another run of them in sterling silver this weekend or early next week.

So what are they, exactly? These charms are meant for parents to wear in honor of their children. You’ve probably seen similar ones; charms that are shaped like people, usually with birthstones. While the idea is wonderful, the current selection in stores is pretty limited in terms of style.

My new line or parent charms was inspired by heraldry and cadency marks indicating birth order. Diamond shapes are for your daughters, while shields are for sons. The symbols on them show which order they were born in. The bridge-like shape, called a label, is for firstborns, the crecent moon for second, and so on. I’ve been able to find records of marks up to the double-digits, but I’ve decided to go up to five for now.

Once the second run is finished, we’ll be able to photograph them and put them up on the site for sale! There will also be an option to add birthstones or other personalization options for later runs.

I have an organizational question for you: Should I add the charms to the Pendant section, or make a new one specifically for Charms? Let me know in the comments!

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Engraving, War Practice and More

So, yeah – WOW.

Things have been a whirlwind for us here, on many different levels. I finished my Basic Engraving class, and it was AMAZING! Oh my goodness, engraving is fantastic. If you follow my Instagram feed, you know I love to draw, and this just combines drawing, jewelry and metal into one form. I can’t wait to combine it with things like gemstones and enamels. If you want to drool over some epic engraving, check out Sam Alfano’s Instagram feed – @master_engraver. Beautiful stuff!

After engaving class, we drove back from Kansas and clelbrated Lemony’s SIXTH BIRTHDAY! Whoo hoo! Then it was time to prep for our first solo SCA event, War Practice at Cooper’s Lake, which was this past weekend.

First off, Cooper’s Lake is beautiful. I’ve heard about it, but as you know, hearing about something and getting to experience it are two entirely different things. My one regret is that I didn’t get to go down and see the lake, but I’ll make sure to go see it and wander about for a bit next time.

Everyone there made us feel so welcome! It meant a lot to us SCA newbies, and Lemony had a wonderful time playing and making new friends. She even tried Youth Combat and loved it! I appreciate all of the suggestions I got for ways to get medieval on my displays. I think I’ll use them for mundane art shows as well, because why not? And I’ll be sure to get my documentation together. I don’t really make direct replicas, but my work is often inspired by specific pieces.

What now? Well, I’m waiting for my engraving tools to come in the mail and I’m planning for next month’s shows. I’m also thinking about circlet designs…

Did you go to War Practice? Is there anything we should look up or do at our next SCA event? Leave a comment and tell us.

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Engraving Classes, Day 1

Today was Day 1 of five here in Emporia, Kansas. I’m in the Beginner’s class being taught by the amazing Sam Alfano. He makes it look so easy!
I had some trouble with the handpiece, but he suggested the smaller Monarch one, and it’s working much better for me. But I want to do some more research, then get some sleep. More tomorrow!

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Triforce Chainmaille Dice Bag Tutorial

Legend of Zelda Triforce Chainmaille Pouch tutorial You can learn to make chainmaille!

Here’s a tutorial I made for a chainmaille bag that you can use to hold your gaming dice, spare change, or what-have-you. While not a complete beginner’s guide to chainmaille, if you can make this bag, you can make a coif, a shirt, a bikini, or even a wall hanging. I’ve heard from a lot of people who’ve never made chainmaille before that they were able to make their own Triforce dice bags!

Click Here to get the PDF

Click Here for the tutorial on Instructables

If you make a chainmaille dice bag (or something else) from this tutorial, let me know in the comments. I want to see it!

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