Friday, December 13, 2013

A Rolling Mill Success Story

At the end of November I received an e mail from a man writing on behalf for his wife whose mother language is not English.  He shared with me that his wife, Kinga, had read my rolling mill tutorial,  

 which can be found on Scribed or

After reading the tutorial she subsequently purchased the economy rolling mill to take her jewelry creating to the next level.   Kinga was seeking clarification about my instruction with regards to the copper outer sandwich and wanted to know if she could use the rolling mill with only the pattern and the metal to be milled.  My answer to her was affirmative.  This can be done and the embossed look will be just as nice as if the outer copper sandwiches were used.  When I first created the tutorial I included this step to assure that the rollers were protected from hard metals such as stainless steel permanently etching a design directly into the surface of the rollers.  So, I would say that anyone wanting to roller press hard metals should use the protective outer copper sheets, but if the pattern used is not harder than the rollers, feel free to omit those outer copper sheets. 
Upper photo is of a rolling mill sandwich with the protective copper outer plates.  The second photo shows no copper outer plates.  The third photo shows the impression achieved with no outer copper plates. 

The story continues through subsequent e mails with Kinga’s husband on her behalf.  Kinga demonstrates her knowledge of the rolling mill by sharing with me a photo of her first rolling milled copper piece.

When I asked what made this splendid pattern, I was told a split wire reinforced rubber/plasticized hose.  That was not something located anywhere in the body of my tutorial, but look at that splendid design. 

Kinga’s Serendipity Etsy shop, Serendipity Silver Art, boosts her first pair of rolling mill earrings(Textured Copper Earrings) and can be found on her Etsy page at:

Kinga also shared with me a photo of one of her successes working with etching.  When I initially saw the photo I had to inquire as to how she finished the earrings.  I was told she sawed and finished this lovely pair of earrings by hand.   It is apparent that her attention to detail and symmetry are important to her finished design. 

I found myself drawn to Kinga’s style.  We seem to share a similar attraction to the arabesque shape.  You get a feel for that in the above etched earrings and the below pendant.

Anyone wanting to join Kinga in making a connection can do so on her Facebook page where she has been sharing her new discoveries and her one of a kind pieces of jewelry.  Just look for her as Serendipity Silver Art. 

On a side note, I noticed today that over 4,000 people have looked at the Flat to Fab Rolling Mill tutorial on Scribed and over 600 have downloaded the tutorial on Jewelry Lessons.  I guess that we should be seeing a whole lot more patterned metals adorning earrings, pendants and other jewelry.  The reason for writing this tutorial was to share and connect with others, at no cost to them, the process of patterning metals so that they could experience the joy of turning flat metals into patterned wonders.  

Thank you, Kinga, Ivan and all the rolling mill artists who make this jewelry world a more exciting place with your dimensional metals.

With warmth and kindness, Susan

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Three Days of the ChristKindl Fest

When last I wrote I was literally getting ready to go out the door to the Barrington, IL ChristKindl Fest.  This is the village's first annual ChristKindl open air German Fest. 
Mike and Susan in the Wired Lotus booth at the ChristKindl Fest in Barrington, IL (Photo courtesy of Bob Lee)

The Fest began at 3pm on Friday and ended at 5pm on Sunday.  It was a three day event for which Wired Lotus had two weeks to prepare displays and create one of a kind jewelry.  There were singers, dancers, Oompa bands, glog, open air German concession stands, a carousel, sweets, candied pecans, wooden carved nativity booth and even a pair of real reindeer.  And to make everything even more authentic, there was a constant light fluffy snow that gracefully covered the tents, ground and knit hats of children all day on Sunday.
"Tuba Christmas" headed towards the entertainment tent on Sunday

The booths (hauses) in a row. 
Haus' at night

Across from our booth was the Barrington High School students who were participating in the "Merry Meals" project where their goal was to pack 10,000 meals to send to Guatemala City to feed children and families.  They had a goal thermometer outside of their tent that we watched going up each day.  By the end of the day the nice fella who was helping the students stopped by our "hut" to tell us that they exceeded their goal of 10,000 meals for the hungry.  High five!! 
Barrington High School Students Volunteer to pack "Merry Meals."

 James, our exchange student son, came to help us out on Saturday morning.  He did a great job helping me to merchandise the jewelry on tables in front of the haus.  He talked with the people of the community and offered great support. 
James helps Susan set up tables on Saturday morning

There were two booths that were selling hand made jewelry.  One was our booth, Wired Lotus and the other was N Style Designs, whose booth was across and diagonal from our booth.  Nancy owns this booth and we made a connection talking about the rigors and excitement of preparing for such a professional event as the ChristKindl Fest. 
Nancy's N Style Designs Handmade Jewelry
As chilly as it was there wasn't much of a whiff of the lavender that filled my marquise shaped bowl that propped up our business cards.  Still, I wanted to share this new idea I had to display the cards, in case it can be of help to others seeking a similar business card solution.

So, what was the hot item at our booth?  It was the silver wraps with botanicals captured in resin, especially the spheres. Pendants were especially hot.  This necklace was one of the few remaining resin botanicals. It is now at home in Studio V at Harper College.   

In the midst of the events of the weekend, our son, Jonathan turned 18 years old.  Before going to the Fest we fussed a little bit to make his day special.  He was a very good sport about giving up his day so mom and dad could open up shop. 
Our son, Jonathan turns 18 years old on December 7

Daisy, our bichon frise was a naughty dog the first two days of the show as she had to stay at home alone for many hours.  We had wanted to bring her with us, but we were afraid that she would get cold.  On the third day of the show, we bundled her up and put a reindeer hat on her and she was very happy to be our haus mascot. 
Daisy sitting pretty for a customer

To end this post, I would like to humble myself by sharing with you the aftermath of the frenzy of preparing for the Fest.  For those of you who have that creative or artistic gene, you will understand this phenomenon I call "creative tornado."  It is as if a disaster is left in the wake of all that wire twisting and soldering.  Looking back at this photo I wonder where I had any space to actually work!!
Susan's Workshop (or should I say, disaster)
I know that this is a long post, but I want to end by giving thanks to several people who made this weekend very special:
*My husband, Mike, who worked all week, then stayed in the booth with me all weekend and held down the fort making meals and cleaning house.  He fully supported everything about this weekend.

*Jonathan, who gave his support with this event on the weekend of his special birthday.

*Artie, my stepfather in Ohio, who spent many hours in a cold garage sawing and engineering my displays and sending me the finished displays to stain.  Artie, you are a creative wonder. 

*My mother, Julie, who supported my stepfather's absenteeism while he worked for days on the displays.  

*Studio Vs, Thomas Tucker and Cheryl Turnauer for the opportunity to be introduced and chosen to represent the college and Studio V.

*Maria Coons and David Loop for orchestrating and securing the haus for Studio V.

*Andrea Russell for taking the time to prepare my jewelry for the Fest and for logging all of my jewelry back into Studio V.

*James, our exchange student son, for helping out at the haus on Saturday morning and showing great enthusiasm. 

*Bob Lee who rode his bike 6,500 miles across the nation to raise awareness and funds for this three causes: ALS, cancer and hospice. Mr. Lee took the professional photo at the beginning of this post and sent it to us that night.  Thanks for connecting with us, Mr. Lee

*The Barrington Rotary Club and the Barrington Village Association for all of your hard work volunteering to make ChristKindl Fest a wonderful Barrington event.  We especially thank the Rotary ladies who brought us hot apple cider in the evenings.  

*Thank you to all the kind people of Barrington and the surrounding communities who "connected" with us and offered us stimulating and thoughtful conversation. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Off to the ChristKindl Fest in Barrington, Illinois

What an exciting event planned for our Northwest suburbs of the Chicago area!!  Similar to the ChristKindl Fest in Chicago, at the Daley Center, we are celebrating the holiday in full force.  Check out the website for the event at

Studio V graciously asked that I plan on attending the Fest with my jewelry in one of the huts.  It has been a busy two weeks since I have been given this honor.  Now, in about a half hour, I will be taking my jewelry to the festive event to share with the community.  This is wildly exciting. 

Last night we were given keys to the huts and here you can see me, in the light of night, in front of the hut that will house my jewelry and shivering legs.  It is forecast to be 8-25 degrees this weekend.  The event is three days.

Stay tuned to learned all the lovely details. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Studio V Holiday Party

Hello Everyone. Today was Studio Vs Holiday party and customer open house.  Studio V is located at Harper College in Palatine.  It has been a little over a year since I was warmly welcomed into the Studio with my jewelry.  This year I spent several months making jewelry to showcase for this event. Yesterday I worked until the wee hours of the night getting ready for my jewelry submissions.  All pieces need to be made, finished, priced, packaged and inventoried.  After all this is done I photograph each piece. The caveat to this year's prep is that yesterday I had been to the hospital for a surgical procedure and was scheduled for a second surgery today.  I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to finish everything and take photos.  I got out my 35mm digital camera and my new Doug Baldwin diffused light boxes and went to town taking photos of the jewelry at from 2-4am.  It was a dream working with these lights. I look forward to taking Doug's jewelry photography and Photoshop class at the Tucson Bead Show in February. 

The Daisy necklace was created by making a pattern onto sterling silver sheet with the rolling mill and then cut out a circle within a circle and finally dapped the inner circle making a bezel.  I did this to fit a round daisy and resin cabochon that I made with Ice Resin.  I recently learned how to get that clear look in resin by using a vacuum extractor. This involves a pressure chamber and a special oil filled vacuum machine with some tubing.  It reminds me a lot of using a pressure cooking pot.  Note that all the photos below are now at Studio V. 

Resin Daisy Necklace

Of course the necklace had to have matching earrings.  Here is where my new silicone sphere molds come into play.  I got these molds from Resin Sun on Etsy and I love the quality of her molds.  
Resin Daisy Earrings

And then there is the simple sphere silicone resin molded flower necklace with matching earrings. 
My first sphere resin molding and vacuum extractions of air bubbles

Matching earrings and pressed flowers and foliage

I had read about sanding resin and gave it a go with this piece.  It gives a sort of cloudy appearance, even with a variety of grits of sand paper at high as 12,000 grit.  It eludes me how artists can sand resin and get a glassy finished surface.  If you know how this is done, please share.  When I was done sanding this piece, I thought it looked like a flower field in fog and went to town wrapping it. 
Flowers in molded resin

 Shifting gears a little bit I made a couple of pieces for Studio V out of an unusual and unlikely component; Elytra  (Sternocera aequis) Beetle shells.  I first saw these shells in a bead store in Wicker Park in Chicago.  The minute I saw the jar full of these shells I thought that I had to find a way to wire wrap them into a pendant or earrings.  I purchased a few grams of the wing bits and then created these jewelry pieces.  
Elytra Beetle necklace

Elytra Beetle Earrings
So, between tube setting, resin and bug shells I am having a great time making new discoveries, all of which involve wire wrapping or wire in some form.  While I have a curious streak for jewelry making, my home base seems to be wire.  

I wish you all a pleasant Thanksgiving. 


Friday, October 25, 2013

Setting Faceted Stones

Learning and teaching is so important at a young age.  It paves the way to understanding for a foundation for later life experiences.  Now that later life is here, learning and teaching continues to be an integral part of my life.  At this time I am in both teaching and learning mode.  It has offered a great amount of growth experiences. 

Card made by my mother of me in my younger "learning" years.

Recently I signed up for an online Craft University class where Ann Cahoon, a gold-smith from Massachusetts, demonstrates how to bezel set with tubes, prong setting and flush setting.  Ann is smart, concise and a great teacher.  After reviewing the class content the student does homework assignments and then submits them to Ann for critique.  This process is time sensitive and ends in a couple of weeks.  It truly is like taking a University class. 

I began this process with reviewing the content for all three modalities of faceted setting.  I found that at this time of my life, I am not interested in the complexities of flush settings.  I also wonder about the integrity of the flush setting.  While I enjoy the prong setting process, it is the bezel setting with tubing that most excites me.  So, the two classes that I focused on were the bezel and the prong setting. 

Bezel setting with tubes, I have learned, is not acurately called tube settings.  I had always called it this and find it hard to change my ways, so for now I will call it bezel setting with tubes.  I had thought that bezel settings were for cabochons.  I first started bezel setting cabochons about four years ago.  

The faceted stone has "parts" like an ant has parts.  I remember learning ant parts in high school:  Ant thorax, mandible and legs.  The parts of a gemstone are: table, crown, girdle, pavilion and culet.  Before this class I called those parts: flat top, faceted part, widest part, slopey part and point.  In this instance, progress come in the form of correct terminology. 

I am being brave in sharing my first examples on my blog as my technique is not yet ready for public display, but if I share them now I can then share other examples and the progress of the process will be documented. Perhaps someone reading this blog one day can find some comfort that they are not alone in faceted stone setting inadequacies. 

In my untouched photos I have numbered the copper plates.  Those numbers indicate the chronological order of attempts to the technique.

Prong setting side view

The stones used for the settings are purple cz.  These stones are used because they have similar qualities to diamonds. 

Prong setting top view

The problems that I had with bezel setting with the tube was sawing the tube perfectly straight for soldering onto the copper plate and then getting the top of the tube level to the table of the stone. I commiserated with my fellow students and found that I was not alone in this technique.  In addition to getting the tube completely square, I seem to have difficulty with getting my "seat" drilled with the bur bit level.  In attempting to get it level my stone would fall far below the top of the bezel.

Front view of bezel settings.  1=unlevel table  4=drilled too deeply

Top View of bezel setting

At this time I await the teacher to critique these examples.  It only goes UP from here.  Stay tuned for progress photos and hopefully a finished pendant with a bezel setting. 

Namaste, Susan

Sunday, October 20, 2013

San Diego and Encinitas

It has been a while since my last post, but today is a free day and I am wanting to get caught up, chronologically, with events that have touched my life over the last few months. 

Communicating has been a challenge lately with a slower than slow computer that is bogged down and moves at the pace of a turtle in the middle of winter.  I finally got a new computer and now everything seems to be moving along at Mach speed making me want to click my heels together. 

 Lotus Petal Fringe Earring Tutorial in Progress
True to form, I have spent months working on two new tutorials.  One is for a friend to whom I promised many moons ago.  That one I will unveil closer to the finish date.  The other is a fringe lotus petal earring.  The latter uses a fun technique playing with circles and fringe.  Fringe!!  It is all about the swing of a fringe.  Perhaps my passion for swing and sway came at an early age when I was in awe of Cher's famous hair finger flip.  She would be singing her famous duet, "I Got You Babe" and then would look at Sonny, smile and would flip her raven silk head mop from the front to the back.  Then there was leather fringe jackets and purses, as well as beaded fringe on clothing and jewelry.  The fringe and the lotus combined in my mind to create this design.

Encinitas and San Diego
After over a decade, my husband encouraged me to get on a plane to visit Encinitas and San Diego at the end of September.  I had felt disturbed about the thought of flying since the fall of the Twin Towers.  Flying wasn't anything that I wanted to do.  We got on our plane in Chicago bound for San Diego and I suddenly thought, what is all the fuss about.  A wise friend told me, "Susan, the pilot is in charge of the plane and you are in charge of you."  That became my mantra.  Between that mantra and a sprinkling of self induced confidence in the pilot, things went pretty smoothly.  In fact, I was in awe as we flew over the Rocky Mountains.  What I thought would be lush green mountain ranges were dry delightfully colorful ridges and valleys with rivers swirling with silt deposits.

Once in San Diego we stayed at Paradise Point where I spent hours with my camera capturing the frolic of the birds gathering on a small bay sandbar just outside of our hotel room.  This pelican seemed to me to be a conductor leading his flock in a symphony.   

The next day we went to Encinitas, California where we witnessed the most awesome Pacific ocean cliffs that merged with sandy beaches and ocean waves. Encinitas is a town filled with spirit, beach vibe, vegetarianism and lots of pretty and fit people.  It is my new utopia. Visiting this with my loving husband was intensely romantic. 

While in Encinitas we visited Self Realization Fellowship where Paramahansa Yogananda wrote his well known book Autobiography of a Yogi.  The meditation gardens were stunning.  While in the gardens we saw this lotus symbol that overlooks the vast Pacific ocean.  While the lotus flower is a beautiful flower, there is something deep and endearing about the symbolism of the lotus.

While on the way out of town we saw the sun setting over the golden lotus finials of the SRF temple and witnessed three ladies practicing beautiful yoga poses on top of a tall Winebago parked at the top of the beach cliff.  I wanted to grasp Encinitas in my heart and hug and take it all with me. 

We spent the next day visiting downtown San Diego with our main focus on the Maritime Museum.  Of note was the Bob Hope statue with piped in monolog and the HMS Surprise ship where Johnny Depp filmed The Pirates of the Caribbean.  We went on a self guided tour of all the ships.  Yeah, I got a little hammy at the wheel where most likely Mr. Depp twirled a time or two.

During our time in San Diego my husband attended a national conference for college advancement and I spent a little time photographing a classroom lesson in our hotel room, that is, in addition to photographing the herbaceous foliage and water birds. 

Harper College Wire Weaving Class
Yesterday I held my first official wire weaving class at Harper at Studio V. The class was 3 hours long and held adjacent to Studio V in a large room.  I was able to use an overhead projector to skim through the step by step photos of the process of creating the entire pendant.  The two students in the class were beginners and had no jewelry experience.  The three of us stood side by side and created beautiful works of woven wire art. They blew me away with their immediate command of the jewelry tools, concepts and verbiage of the wire creating trade.  The photo is of Laura who discovered that wire weaves have a rhythm to them and that while there may be explicit instructions, following intuition and heart is what creates the best work of art. 

On Turning 50
This week I enter the realm of the mid-century mark. When you turn 50 years the doctors talk about tests that involve terrible probes and needles.  The 50 and older local clubs send you postcards asking you to join their bus outings (I call this "instant friends").  And as if on cue, the body gets a little slower and chubbier in the caboose area.  While I don't subscribe to all of that, I rather look at my maturation as a gift of experience.  With the support of my loving parents and my dear husband, I have been able to make more self and artistic discoveries the last decade than any other.  And with the guidance of my wise HSP guru I have journeyed though layers of deep self understanding and self actualization. It is still a work in progress.  The bottom line is, I may have 50 candles on the cake, but I feel like life is just getting started!!

I end this posting with a photo of a cement plaque located at the Martin Luther King Park in San Diego.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Mayfly Turned Dragonfly

When my sister asked me to make her a necklace to wear to work I dug deep into my stash of beads to find one that would "talk" to me.  This includes finding a bead that has the color that fits my mood at the time, the smoothness that glides across my fingers and the shape of the bead that works well with the design I have in mind.  I found a lovely elongated teardrop Caribbean blue chalcedony that screamed, "Mayfly!!"  This would be the focal for my sister's necklace.  I worked that bead with Argentium wire and fine silver wire and was almost finished with the mayfly when one of my finishing wraps put stress on the bead at the site of the bead hole and snapped.  I now had a beautiful mayfly without a body.  I contacted the supplier, whom I had originally purchased the bead from on Etsy and he told me he didn't have any more in the color I was working with.  I then searched deep into my bead drawers and found a similar bead to the original and was able to incorporate that bead into the weave without losing the design.  After three weeks the mayfly was finished along with matching earrings.  When I presented them to my sister she told me that she wasn't interested in mayflies and wanted the necklace to be a dragonfly.  Sure enough, it looked more like a dragonfly than a mayfly and granted her the wish calling her gift a dragonfly.

Chalcedony dragonfly with small pearls

Chalcedony drops

It seems that each time I work a piece that there is a snafu or two that I must overcome.  The above paragraph is a perfect example of creative problem solving.  When I look at the work that others do with their wire it frequently seems effortless.   The way that artists make the wire duck and weave in arcs and sweeps is really amazing.  It is for this reason why I am drawn to wire wrapping and weaving.  The results is incredibly dimensional.  Each time I create I think of those that inspired me and how grateful I am to them for paving the pathway in this wonderful world of wire. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Fly" Cicada Earrings

With summer fast approaching I immerse myself in the wonder of nature that surrounds our house.  This year the bushes and trees exploded in a show of blossoms that rivaled any prior spring fancy.  The seeds that I have planted have produced serrated leaves.  The lettuce that I planted last year has reappeared in colors of burgundy and lime green, which fill the pot and seem to be begging to be part of our dinner salad.  In the background the cacophony of mating squirrels, gaggles of geese, the tall and formal stance of the white egrets and the litter of the red robin's blue egg shells tucked in the grass all bring back memories of the prior summer.  This sudden influx of beautiful nature warms and excites my creativity.  Here is a photo of a hungry robin I took from a nest outside of our home last summer.

Hungry robin nesting in front of our home

Another robin in back of our home

It is only natural that these thoughts of spring and summer should ignite my creative juices to pull out the cicada wings that I collected at the end of August last year.  Each year, at the end of summer, I step carefully around the cicadas that rest on our sidewalks.  I find the big bugs rather eerie.

This is a cicada I collected last summer.

It seems that I am drawn to things that elicit a goose-bumpy response to obtain a closer look or to study their foreboding morphology.  Cockroaches are one of those daunting things.  I don't think you will see me working with roaches, but never say never.  Anyway, when studying the cicadas I noticed their wings were coarsely veined.

Notice the deeply ridged and fibrous veins of the wings

Since I enjoy working with my rolling mill I thought I would see what would happen if I milled a wing against annealed copper.  The results were pretty fantastic, especially when highlighting the metal with liver of sulfur.  I want to disclaim that all the bugs that I use were found dead.  I'm very sensitive to life and nature.

After getting out my stash of wings I created a pair of earrings from copper and silver wire.  I like to use the copper, as it anneals softer and accepts the impression more deeply than the silver.  I also like the contrast of the copper with the silver.  On these I included a small pearl at the bottom.  

Now, that my wings are out and ready for use I think that I will create another piece of jewelry from them.  I so enjoy the freedom to create from the heart and working with metal and wire allows my inner child to emerge.

If anyone reading this has something unusual they like to work with, feel free to share this by posting your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Wishing you all a happy spring and a great entry into summer!!

Wired Lotus

Monday, May 27, 2013

Little Metal Can Beads

Today I was perusing my jewelry photos and found this photo of some little can beads that I made following an example in a magazine.  I can't remember which jewelry magazine or the author, but if anyone can think of it feel free to post it below. 

Anyway, I remember after making these beads that I didn't think that they were fantastic or exciting and today when I looked at this photo I thought that were pretty cool.  These were made from those colorful Mountain Dew Cans that I had saved in the event that I may need them.  Oh yeah, I have a lot of stuff that I save for a rainy day.  I even saved some of the tempered glass that was blown out of our car after our accident to set in resin one day.  Anyway, the design of these little can beads look easy to construct, but I remember each bead taking me nearly a day to create.  I still have one or two of them and feel a bit inspired to incorporate some wire wrapping into the design to see what I can come up with.  For now, they are simply can beads awaiting further decorating.