Monday, June 30, 2008

Amie King

My Dear

Amie King is a new member of Etsy Metal, and makes amazing pieces from found objects, sterling silver, copper, and patinas. You can find more on Amie King's website and blog, but definitely check out her Etsy Shop!

1. Where do you live, and where are you from?

I live in St. Louis, born and raised. Dream of moving to Italy.

Crest Necklace

2. How did you get started working with metal?

I have a Bachelors in Fine Art from the University of Missouri, they canceled their metals program in the middle of my degree, so I promised myself I would take some classes after I graduated. I have taken several class since. Metal stuck, my actual focus (graphic design) did not, although I use a lot of the elements I learned in school to make jewelry.

Buckle Ring

3. What are a few of your favorite pieces at the moment?

It is usually my most recent pieces. My new favorite is "Rescue Me" earrings.

Rescue Me

They are a little different than what I usually do. I also really like the new "Teach & Grow" necklace.

Teach and Grow

I am in the process of starting a non-profit for animals and troubled kids, involving art and some of the other important things they have cut from schools. I try to reflect the ideas of the rescue/camp in the names I put on the jewelry.

4. What inspires you (artists, objects, interests)?

I love old found objects. I like to take things that have been discarded and turn them into something useful. I love it when people say, "what are you going to do with that?", like it is too ugly to make anything pretty out of, and then they are pleasantly surprised with the finished product. Also inspired by nature, and color.

Mix and Match Earrings

5. Do you have any other artistic interests?

I like to paint, pretty much anything crafty. Don't know how to sew, but have all kinds of ideas for a clothing line in my head. I love to garden, cook, I love just about anything I can get my hands on. I bought a screen printer, but have not had time to mess with it. I also have a sandblaster. I have some cool plans for that too.

Silhouette Charms

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Etsy Metal Finds: Rachelmira and Gihi

This week our members posted lots of great new items in their shops, but todays finds come to you from two fabulous new etsy metal members! Check out their shops!This olive sprig necklace is the beautiful work of rachelmira.
And these lovely paper earrings come from the talented Gihi.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Etsy Metal Finds - Dress up Your Bicycle

hierapparel makes, among other things, bicycle clothes! If you have a new bike and it looks naked, you might want to check these out. Or you might want a pair of these streamers by CityStreamers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

EtsyMetal News 06.27.08

Whew! Its Friday again! How the week went by so quickly. I'm sure there is loads more news than I'm thinking of right now, but everything just seems like a blur!!

We are really enjoying our new members and a big piece of news this week is from Danielle Miller - her cufflinks are in INSTORE magazine!! whoohoo!! Thats awesome!

Shannon Conrad of Rubygirl is having a show this weekend in Portland - she's been super busy working all week to stock up - so stop by and say hello... buy something for me from her, will you, please? thanks. email me for my address, I'll take one of everything :)

And I think this week might have been a record week for EtsyMetal front pages! Course, it doesn't hurt that we have new members too.

Congrats to:
Downtothewiredesigns, ninadinoff, ashleyjewelry, mkwind, jessitaylor, kismetdesigns, maggiejs, mushkadesigns, discomedusa, mikeandmary, ashhilton, experimetal, daniellejewelry, cynthiadelgiudice, gemmafactrix, sirenjewels, indiaylaluna, nectarjewelry, sudlow, lenastudio and markaplan!! wow! way to go team!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Norsola Johnson

Today we are interviewing Norsola Johnson, a fantastic metalsmith with a range of skills and interests! You can check out her Etsy Shop here and her blog here.

1. Where do you live, and where are you from?

I was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and currently reside there.
I travel a lot, and like to think of the world as my home, but Montreal will probably always be home base.

2. How did you get started working with metal?

Aside from helping my dad with his DIY projects as a kid, (and trying to keep him from seriously injuring himself), I've pretty much always been a rock-hound/magpie, and started making jewellery when I was just a wee one. Metalsmithing came later, about 4 years ago. I'm mostly self-taught, though I've taken a number of specialized courses over the years.

3. What are a few of your favorite pieces at the moment?

My newest picture box series has me pretty excited...
I also quite like my Cosmos series. I enjoy playing with resin and have a passion for astronomy.

4. What inspires you?

Yikes. What doesn't? Everything, pretty much...nature, texture, colour, rocks, films, books, music, dance, heartbreak, fear, failure, laughter, people, travel, beautiful places, space, perspective, a strange looking bug, a crack in the sidewalk...

5. Do you have any other artistic interests?

Yes. I also play cello, write music, dance, and muck around with aerosol paint, among a few other things. I've often said that there's really only three things I need in life: to breathe, to be in love, and to make stuff.

In the studio with Nina Gibson Designs

We have some fantastic photos this week from Nina Gibson Designs. Be sure to check out Nina's etsy shop for more of her jewelry. Below are two of my favorites from her shop, the tally mark earrings and the white garden necklace.

1.) tell us about your studio. how long have you been there? where is it? (in your home, arts center, store, etc.. and city) My studio is in my home in Anaheim, California. The house is a vintage craftsman bungalow, and I've carved a small workspace out of my large kitchen. I do all my work at a small desk/bench I've set up there. Because of limited space, all of my tools and equiptment needs to be compact and able to be put away when not in use. This is sometimes a challenge and I've been known to spread out to the breakfast table and the dining room table is my photography area. I have a small storage space in my laundry room.

2.) what is your favorite tool you have? why?It's very hard to chose! I love my rolling mill which allows me to texture and flatten and recycle scrap. I also love my decorative metal stamps, which I've made or bought over the years- they are fun to work with to texture and mark metal. I also love my little tumbler, which helps to smooth, harden, and finish some of my pieces.

3.) what do you listen to or do while working? music, news, or nothing- i'm conentrating!I I dodge interruptions from my kids (two wild boys) and try to listen to either itunes on my computer or XM radio, and lately, I'm listening to music from our recent EtsyMetal CD swap. Sometimes it's just the hum of the tumbler, which is a bit hypnotic.

4.) what time of day is your favorite to work? I am most productive in the morning to early afternoon. After about 3 pm I need a nap or a coffee to keep me going.

5.) do you have an inspiration bulletin board or something else that you keeps you inspired? do you have a picture of it? I have a small library of jewelry design books and a series of sketch books that I look to for inspiration and sometimes tape pictures to. Sometimes an old idea that didn't work then can be a great source now. My clients are also a great source of inspiration. I love it when the come to me with ideas.

6.) can we get a little sneak peek of what you're working on right now? Sure! I'm working on a couple of things today. A custom variation of my See A Penny Necklace, and a pendant and earrings set with domed disks that have been chased into little baseballs. "Go Angels" is stamped on the back of the pendant.

Fantastic! Thank you Nina! I really love seeing other people's sketchbooks and benches. See Nina's flickr for more pictures of her work , too!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - Lost Wax Casting

We're switching things up a bit this week and doing a tutorial today instead of tomorrow! This is a fairly extensive, but general tutorial on lost wax casting. There are many methods - this is just the way I do it and a few tips that might help those that know about it already. And it will hopefully give an over view for those that might not know anything about the process. Enjoy!!

tools and the beginning of a flower ring

All of my waxes are made individually. I really enjoy working with brown wax the most. I also have a special mix of Italian red wax and beeswax that is oh so lovely to work with. And smells divine! I've used hard waxes for some things when needed, but they aren't my favorites. I've also used some red and pink wax that a friend uses in dental wax work. I've made several of my own tools - very easy to do. My favorites are small needles stuck in the end of a pencil eraser.

close up the the beginning of the flower

These are the beginnings of some of my flower rings and starting to sprue them up.

another one finished

Spruing allows the wax to melt out of the mold and for the metal to get to your piece! not having enough sprues or not having them in the proper location can cause your piece to not turn out. I find it actually helps to hold the wax upside down and imagine the metal flowing down. Metal can't flow up, so make sure to sprue to any section that might look like the metal would need to come back up to complete the casting.

flower ring w/ sprues

After all sprues have been attached its now time to weigh them. This if very important and is often forgotten. The weight of the wax is used to determine how much metal you will need for the casting. Because each metal has a unique specific gravity - you will need to know what number to multiply your wax weight by. For sterling, you can do it two ways - you can multiply by 10.4 and then add a half ozt (troy ounce) or you can simply multiply by 15. I usually do both to be on the safe side and figure something in the middle. For very small or very large, using the 10.4 and half ozt is usually best. If you forget to weigh the wax - you can either do a rough re-creation in more wax or if you have a piece that is already cast and is similar in size, you can weigh that. Just make sure to add for the sprues and button.

make sure to weigh them!

After the waxes are weighed, its time to attach them to the sprue base or button.

on the button

Then the flask is lowered over the waxes. It is important that there is at least 1/4" of space between the edge of the flask and the waxes. Now believe me, I've pushed it and nothing bad has happened, but that doesn't mean that it won't. You can have a blow out where the hot molten metal breaks through because there was not enough investment. Same with the top of the flask, if the wax is too close to the top, the metal can break right through. And for vacuum casting, this could be very bad as the metal would most likely damage your casting table.

.. and in the flask

Now you are ready to invest!

You need to know the size of your flask and how much investment you will need. For this sweet little flask, I only need a 1/2lb and 3.5oz of water. Measure the water out first and pour it in the rubber mixing bowl. Make sure to use cold or cool water. Hot water speeds up the set up of the investment and won't give you enough time for each step.

investment process.... the beginning

Now weigh out the investment. Investment contains silica - so you should wear a dust mask if you don't have exhaust. I got this cute blue scale for very cheap - and its blue, my favorite color! No need to spend big bucks on an expensive scale - it just needs to work.

weigh out investment

Set the timer for 8 minutes. This is the longest that your investment should be disturbed. Once it starts setting up, you don't want to be messing with it. I start the timer and then pour the investment in to the water. Mix for 3 minutes - right when it turns to 5 min, its time to vacuum.

set the timer

Vacuum the investment for 2 min - this is the first step in vacuuming.

vacuum pt. 1 - investment only

Bubbles are good - this is the vacuum getting all the air out of the investment


Now, pour the investment in to the flask. Its a good idea to have tape around the top of your flask to keep the investment from bubbling over and making a huge mess. When pouring, pour down the edge of the flask, not directly on the waxes as it could cause the wax to move slightly and perhaps against another wax or too close to the edge.

vacuum pt 2 prep

Now for the vacuuming of the flask! If you are vacuuming more than one flask of the same size, make sure to mark them. I use a piece of chalk to write a number corresponding to the wax weights - the chalk doesn't burn off in the kiln so its easy to distinguish when getting them quickly.

vacuum pt 2 - in the flask

This removes air that might have been trapped around the waxes and still in the investment from pouring - vacuum for approx 1.5 minutes - don't go over your 8 minutes.

It bubbles up and over like an ancient tar pit! The rings were pretty small in this flask, so I didn't fill it up all the way to reduce the bubbling over.

If there was a little bit of investment left over, after the time is up, pour the little bit on top. With vacuum casting, you need to leave at least 1/8 of an inch at the top to aid in the suction during the casting. if doing centrifugal casting, it can go over the top of the flask.

The flask needs to sit for about 10 - 15 undisturbed until it sets up, then it needs to sit for about 1.5 - 2 hours before you can start the burnout process in the kiln. Two hours is best, but sometimes I like to be a risk taker.

bubbles again!

Once the flask is ready - it goes in the kiln and starts the burnout process. Burnout times are anywhere from 5 - 12 hours. The 5 hour burnout is perfect for just doing a couple of small flasks. Since I'm just a small time operation and didn't have the extra $900 to spend on an automated system, I have to manually adjust the temperatures to make sure the burnout process moves along smoothly. Hour 1: 300 degrees, Hour 2: 700 degrees, Hour 3 and 4: 1350 degrees, Hour 5: 1000 degrees - and hold.

in the kiln

Once the kiln has been holding at 1000 degrees for an hour, its time to start heating up the crucible and the metal. Make sure the crucible is red hot before adding the metal.

heating up the crucible

Once the metal has melted, give it a pinch of flux, a stir with a carbon stirring rod (and make sure to heat it up first or the metal will stick to it) Its also a good idea to wrap some tape around one end so you don't grab the wrong end by mistake.

melting metal and stir

Note the hands free set up I made with some nice fire bricks!

makeshift extra hand

Now with my hands free, I can get the flask out of the kiln. Make sure to check to see that the pathways are clear - if burning out natural material, some ashes might be stuck. You can check it before you start melting the metal if you think there might be an issue you'd need to clear up, otherwise, a quick check on the way to the casting table is just fine. Also note the giant fireproof glove. I wish they made them in smaller sizes! (an added tip a friend gave me - you can actually place the flask on the vacuum table if you need to get out any ashes - seems risky to me, but she said it works)

getting flask out

Place the flask upside down on the casting table (same as investing table, just make sure the toggle switch is flipped to "Cast") with the holes facing up. Turn on the vacuum pump.

turn on the pump

Position the crucible over the flask - make to always keep the torch on the metal. Removing the torch can cause oxygen to get in and that is bad.

starting to pour

As you are pouring, keep the torch on the metal and pour quickly. Pouring too slowly or moving the torch can cause the metal to freeze up and your casting won't work


Once the metal is poured, turn off the torch and the vacuum pump. Release the vacuum by flipping the toggle off of cast and move the flask away to let it cool. Wait until the metal is no longer red hot. I check it under a dark area of the table before quenching.

red hot in the flask

Now that the metal has cooled a bit and is no longer red (generally 2 - 5 minutes) it is time to quench. Make sure the flask is completely under the water. You want it to all be bubbling completely underneath the surface of the water. If you have used cast in place stones or some alloys you don't want to quench when the metal is hot. You need to let some completely cool up to an hour so as to not crack the stones or cause the metal to be shocked. Regular sterling is fine to quench after a few minutes.


These castings have been scrubbed clean of most of the investment, but there are still bits around the sprues and in the creases of the flower

another crusty casting

Soaking them in vinegar is a great inexpensive way to remove the investment and to clean the metal! I often leave them in there over night or longer depending on small detail areas. And its nice to have the metal clean already! It does take longer than an ultrasonic cleaner, but if you don't have the money or the space, vinegar works just fine.


And now its time to clean them up! removing the sprues, grinding, filing, sanding, adding texture to camouflage where the sprue had been, adding a patina, and the final polish all await your piece!
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