Thursday, March 25, 2010

The originl found art: The Art of Gaman at the Renwick

The use of found objects in art is a modern notion. In other times, art was made with items available. Scarcity required that everything be used. In no other exhibit is art by necessity more evident than in The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942–1946, an exhibit currently on display at the Renwick Gallery.

Delphine Hirasuna, guest curator of the exhibition and author of the accompanying catalogue, said that the idea for the exhibit began because of a bird pin. After the death of her mother, Hirasuna found a stunning hand made bird pin while she was cleaning out her mom's attic. She realized it was a piece of art jewelry created when her mother was interned in camps at the direction of the FDR following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Japanese Americans taken to the camps were only allowed to bring what they could carry. The camps provided only Army cots in the living quarters. Folks interned in the camps began to create objects out of  necessity. The made chairs, tables, places to hang their clothes.

As time in the camps progressed, artists began to train camp dwellers in various crafts to help stave off boredom and to add beauty to life events-- both special and ordinary.. Corsages were made out of shells to celebrate weddings. Vases were made from leftover pipes to hold plants. Canes were carved from wood to help folks walk in the mud.

Discovery of the bird pin led Hirasuna to investigate other crafts made in the camps. The result is a spectacular exhibit. Hirasuna managed to select fabulous examples of found art and explain the significance of each piece in a way that highlighted the plight of its maker. My college age son, a government major, declared  The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942–1946 "the best exhibit I have seen in a long time." I concur.

The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942–1946 is on exhibit at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC now through January 30, 2011.

Photo credits
Himeko Fukuhara, Kazuko Matsumoto (Interned at Amache, Colorado, and Gila River, Arizona). Bird pins. Scrap wood, paint, metal. Collection of the National Japanese American Historical Society. From The Art of Gaman by Delphine Hirasuna, ©2005, Ten Speed Press. Terry Heffernan photo.

Upcycle to Create Plastic Jewelry

There are so many ways to turn plastic destined for the garbage and recycling pail into plastic jewelry. We already wrote about how to make plastic jewelry from plastic bottle caps.

Below are tutorials on how to take advantage of  thermosoftening plastic and other properties peculiar to plastic to turn everyday objects into spectacular fashion jewelry:

How to Make a Knitting Needle Bracelet
How to Make a Soda Bottle Bracelet
How to Make a Pendant from a Hotel Key
How to Make a Mosaic Photo Frame
How to Make Earrings from a Credit Card
How to Make a Bracelet from a Credit Card
How to Make Charms from Plastic Bottles

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Make your own Jewelry Tools

One of the most freeing lessons I learned in art school was from a professor who casually stated that "making your own tools to meet your needs is part of jewelry making."

Before that day, I had felt somewhat embarrassed and apologetic for my home made jewelry tools. Today some of my favorite jewelry tools are things that I borrowed from other parts of the house to use in jewelry making. Many of my students have enjoyed replicating some of my improvised jewelry tools. Here are some tutorials that you may enjoy:

How to Make Your Own Jewelry Jig
How to Make an Ear Wire Jig
How to Make Your Own Stand for Your Flex Shaft
How to Make Your Own Wire Wrapping Tool Kit
How to Store Beads
Make Your Own Wire Wrapping Tool Kit 

Here is a tutorial on how a block borrowed from my kids' toy box is used as a jewelry mandrel:
How to Make Hoop Earrings (with or without Beads)

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to Use Metal Stamps

So you want to learn how to stamp on metal? Stamping on metal is easy and fun. You will need metal stamps, a hammer, a steel block or anvil and a metal blank to stamp. The tools can be purchased at most hardware stores, local bead store and jewelry supply houses. You do get what you pay for BUT you may not want to invest in expensive equipment until you are sure you love stamping. We recommend purchasing a basic set of metal stamps to start and then purchase steel jewelry stamps with specialized fonts and sizes as you develop your skill.

You can use a basic ball pein hammer to hit the metal stamps, but a brass ball pein hammer is a LOT nicer to work with. Brass is softer and has "give" that will make stamping easier and more precise.

Most beginners prefer to purchase metal blanks for stamping. You can make your jewelry more interesting by making your own blanks. Discs and washers are easy to make using a disc cutter. Here is how:
How to Use a Disc Cutter
Make Your Own Discs

Other shapes can be made using a jewelry saw, blades and a bench pin. Here is how:
How to Use a Jewelry Saw
How to Transfer a Design

Whether you purchase your blanks or fabricate them yourself, you will need files and sand paper to remove tool marks from your blanks BEFORE you stamp them. We like Swiss needle files, but you can buy basic needle files for only a few bucks.Wet/dry sand paper can be purchased at most hardware stores and jewelry supply houses. These tutorials explain how to sand and file metal in preparation for stamping:
How to Use Sand Paper
How to Use a File for Jewelry Making

After preparing the metal, you may want to anneal it so that it is soft. You can use almost any torch to anneal your metal, including a common butane torch sold in hardware stores and kitchen stores. Whether or not you anneal will depend on the gauge of the metal and how work hardened the metal has become preparing the metal. Here is how:
How to Anneal Metal for Jewelry Making

Last you will need a steel block or anvil. You put the metal blank on the block or anvil and then hit the blank with the stamp using your ball pein hammer. We prefer a block to an anvil, but the anvil can be useful for wire wrapping and forming metal.

Here are some stamping  projects that you may enjoy: 
How to Make a Sterling Silver Stamped Cuff Bracelet
How to Make a Copper Stamped Bracelet
How to Make a Stamped "Best Mom" Pendant

Friday, March 19, 2010

Make your own Clasps from Wire

Making your own jewelry clasps will save you money and add value to your hand made jewelry creations. There are many ways to make hand made clasps and many do not require the use of a soldering torch or any highly specialized jewelry making tools. With a few tools purchased from the hardware store and some wire, you can make a variety of interesting clasps to add to your beaded jewelry. Below is a list of tutorials that will help you learn how:

"S" Clasps
Hook & Eye Clasps
Toggle Clasps
Make Your Own Clover Shaped Toggle Clasp

Other Clasps
Make Your Own Egyptian Clasp 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Use a Jewelry Jig to Make Silver Wire Jewelry & Crafts

A jewelry jig is a useful tool for making all kinds of silver wire jewelry and crafts. Whether you make your own jewelry jig or buy a commercial jig (such as our favorite, the WigJig) a jewelry jig will enable you to duplicate patterns for silver wire jewelry and crafts made with all types of craft wire. Below are some tutorials explaining how to make and use a jewelry jig:

How to Use the WigJig

and here are some sample projects you can make using a jewelry jig:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Make your own Money Clip

Need a gift for a man in your life? Maybe it is your father. Perhaps it is your boyfriend or husband. Making a money clip can be as easy or complex as you want the money clip to be. Below are two tutorials explaining how to make a money clip from either wire or sheet metal:

How to Make a Money Clip from Wire
How to Make Gold Money Clips from Sheet Metal

Although we used sterling silver wire and white gold sheet metal to make our money clips, you can use any nonferrous precious or base metal to make your money clip.

If you are looking for money to fill your newly made money clip, consider the tips in this tutorial:
How to Locate Forgotten Money

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hardware Jewelry

Earlier in this blog we talked about using plastic bottle caps and melted wine bottles as beads in your jewelry making.There are many other household items you can use to make jewelry including hardware.  Plastic bottle caps and melted wine bottles are colorful resources, but many items found in your tool chest can be used to make stunning fashion jewelry. Here are some tutorials we prepared using nuts, bolts and other hardware store items that you might enjoy to make hardware jewelry:

How to Make a Flange Nut Choker
How to Make a Coupling Nut Choker
How to Make Brass Nut Earrings
How to Make a Pendant from Copper Washers
How to Make a Belt from Brass Washers
How to Make a Necklace from Hex Nuts

Thursday, March 11, 2010

All about Patina

One of my professors, I can't remember which, told me that patina was to metal what fragrance is to flowers. Patinas can change the entire look of jewelry and other metal work.

I get questions about patinas all the time, so I thought I would share some tutorials on how to create chemical and heat patinas on different metals.

Copper Patina
How to Heat Patina Copper
How to Make a Blue Metal Patina

Brass Patina
How to Make an Antique Brass Finish with Heat
How to Make an Antique Brass Finish by Fuming

Silver Patina
How to Oxidize Silver Jewelry with Eggs
How to Use Liver of Sulphur

Once you have created the patina you want, you will need to consider whether you want to do something to protect your patina. I dislike varnish and lacquer. This tutorial will explain How Use Renaissance Wax to protect your patina.

Patina can be applied all over a piece of jewelry or in select places. This tutorial will explain How to Make a Patina Resist  to create a pattern in your metal.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Make Crafts from Plastic Bottle Caps

Jewelry making supplies need not be expensive. You can find all kinds of materials in your recycling bin.  We drink a LOT of seltzer. One of our favorite ways to upcycle is to turn the plastic bottle caps into unique beads that can be used to create a variety of bottle cap crafts. Here is a list of tutorials explaining how to take plastic bottle caps and turn them into bottle cap jewelry:
How to Make a Necklace from Bottle Caps
How to Make Earrings from Bottle Caps

Bottle cap crafts are not limited to jewelry making. Here are some ways to upcycle your collection of plastic bottle caps into interesting crafts:

The possibilities are endless. So save those plastic bottle caps and start thinking about how you can repurpose your plastic bottle caps into unique bottle cap art.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Repurpose Empty Wine Bottles

We have already blogged about how you can melt old, empty wine bottles down in a kiln and turn them into stunning jewelry and art, but not everybody has a glass fusing kiln in the house. Here are two projects you can do with your empty wine bottles to upcycle, reclaim and re-purpose the glass bottles ---after you finish the wine, of course.

How to Make Art Glass Vases
How to Make a Wine Bottle Candle

Here is a tutorial that teaches a trick for cutting empty wine bottles:
How to Cut a Glass Bottle Using a String

Finally, if you do not want to wait until the wine bottle is empty, here is a clever idea on how to turn a bottle of wine into an even more special, personalized gift:
How to Create Personalized Wine Bottles

Friday, March 5, 2010

Jewelry Making with a Hydraulic Press

The hydraulic press is a great tool to have in your jewelry studio. Some call it the "biggest hammer" in the well equipped jewelry studio.You can use a hydraulic press along with your disc cutter to make cutting discs easier or to cut really large discs that you could not make with an ordinary hammer.

Even better, you can use a hydraulic press to quickly and easily form very light weight yet durable metal that you can use in your art jewelry. We published two articles on how to use the hydraulic press. The first explains generally How to Use a Hydraulic Press for Jewelry Making  and the second explains How to Make a Silhouette Die   to use with your hydraulic press.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Business Advice for Those Selling Hand Made Jewelry and Craft

Everyday we get asked questions about our business. What is it like to own a family business? How did you decide to set up your small business? How did you establish an online presence?

Here is some basic guidance on How to Start Up a Small Business  and how to undertake inexpensive marketing and advertising using Twitter.

These tutorials go over business concepts that jewelry and crafts people should consider when deciding whether or not to expand their business to sell wholesale or to consign goods to a gallery:
How to Sell to a Crafts Gallery
How to Write a Consignment Agreement with a Gallery
How to Evaluate a Consignment Agreement for Crafts 
How to Write a Sales Representative Agreement for Crafts 

These tutorials go over business concepts for crafts people selling hand made and art jewelry:
How to Sell Hand Crafted Jewelry Online

How to Write Money Making Descriptions for Your Online Jewelry Shop
How to Copyright a Jewelry Design
How to Save Money In Your Jewelry Craft Business
How to Refine Your Scrap Silver and Gold
How to Comply with the California Lead Containing Jewelry Law
How to Make a Jewelry Display from Shoe Racks
How to Refine Your Scrap Gold for Jewelry Making

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Make Your Own Mezuzahs

It is traditional to post mezuzahs on the door posts of Jewish homes. Mezuzahs are a great way to decorate a new home, update the look of an old home and they make great gifts for all occasions. We have two tutorials you may enjoy using very different techniques on how to make your own mezuzahs:

How to Make a Copper Mezuzah
How to Make a Fused Glass Mezuzah