Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Free "I Love Tools" Webinar (Feb 27) ...and More

Woodland Chic Trio by Melissa Cable: Etched copper on Faux Bone, 
soldered etched copper,and engraved leather laced to Faux Bone

I am so very, very thrilled to have been asked to be part of Patrik Kusek's Woodland Chic Design Team! Patrik is launching his new Woodland Chic stamp set tomorrow night on Craftcast's free "I Love Tools" webinar. As part of this launch, he will be showing all of the different ways you can use rubber impressions to create jewelry, sculpture, books and other art.

If you are not familiar with Patrik, he is the author of "Woodland Chic: Metal Clay Jewelry as Nature Intended," is a Rio Grande Senior Instructor, recipient of the Saul Bell award for first place in PMC, is an amazing graphic designer and, frankly, one of the nicest people I know!

If you are not familiar with Craftcast's online classes, well wait no longer! This is going to be an amazing event, featuring Patrik, Robert Dancik, Barbara Becker Simon, Christi Fresen and Robert Diamante. There will be lots of prizes and you'll learn tricks for working with metal clay, polymer clay and digital resources. Patrik will also be showing off some of the projects by his new design team...and let me tell you, there are some amazing people from all over the world doing amazing things. I'm honored to be part of the group.

I'm excited to offer my "Time of My Life" pendant as a live Craftcast class on July 24th...more details to come soon. In the meantime, find a comfy place for you and your computer or tablet and get familiar with Craftcast and Patrik tomorrow night. Join me (I'll be snug in my jammies)!

See you there,


Friday, February 22, 2013

Even Snowmen Want Jewelry

Recycled glass and ice strung on Softflex

If you know me, you know I get silly when I am happy. So hopefully, this blog will demonstrate just how happy I am. I'm on winter break with my family, enjoying a beautiful snowy winter wonderland and my book, Metal Jewelry in Bloom,  received two great reviews from blogs that I love. Thanks Art Jewelry Elements and The Beading Gems Journal!

My kids have been making snowmen, snow dogs, and snow creatures of all kinds this week, so we decided to make some jewelry for them...out of ice of course. At first glance the practical application of this technique may appear, well, non-existent. However, when reading through today's post, substitute water for concrete, resin, paper clay...whatever medium with which you want to make beads.

1. This is a flexible, shaped ice cube tray from Ikea. I've seen similar ones at kitchen stores in lots of different shapes, or you can use the molds that companies sell for resin (Sherri Haab's site has a great selection).

Use an awl to pierce a hole through the mold, making sure the hole is smaller than the 2.5mm Softglas tubing (available at most craft stores) you will be using in the next step. I was first introduced to this tubing by artist Meredith Arnold who taught me that you can bake it in polymer clay!

2. Place the awl, from the outside, into the hole and load the tubing onto the awl. Holding the tubing and the awl tip with one hand, pull the awl out of the hole with the other hand, pushing the tubing through at the same time and leaving a tail. Repeat with the other hole. You should have a tight fitting tube so that any liquid you put into the mold will not leak.

3. I placed glass nuggets at the bottom of the mold to add a decorative accent. Pour in water and freeze.

4. Trim the tubing tails so that you can pop the material out of the mold. Further trim if needed and string!

Honestly, I was going to save this for an April Fool's blog, but after finishing the whole process, I realized that there were some very practical applications. And of course, that's what creating recklessly is all about!

I'll be home next week and back to some more "serious" projects. But until then try something silly and tell us about it. You never know what will happen!

Thanks for stopping by!

Melissa, Chris, Gwen and Aiden

PS - A few housekeeping tasks:
  • I had a request to move the weekly blog recap to Friday or Saturday, that way, people could work on the projects over the weekend. That is a fabulous suggestion, so lets make it so!
  • I am finally starting to post some boards on Pinterest. The first one is called "I love Circles" and you can see how it inspired my Arbor Press blog. Pop on over and follow me so I can follow you back and see what inspires YOU!
  • If you have my book, I'd love for you to review it on Amazon...its great for readers to hear how different people use the book. (Yay!...it's #1 - #3 in Metalwork this week.)
  • Finally, if you bought the book and/or the digital templates on my website, they will ship out at the end of next week when the DVDs arrive. 
Ok, done with housekeeping, now go have some fun!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guest Blog: Chasing the Elusive Bezel

Welcome guest blogger Judy Freyer Thompson, Crackerdog Design's Director of Operations and fellow reckless creator!

Bezels in Progress: Judy Freyer Thompson

Inspired by some of the lovely wearable art that seems to show up everywhere I look, I have had visions of bezels in my mind for a while now. I REALLY wanted to fill some bezels with stuff.  Cool stuff, statement stuff, hoo-haas and doo-dads and blingy stuff.  I perused them on line, but could not quite take that step to purchase.  

I figured I could make some simple bezels. Why not?  But how? I considered bezel wire.  Hmmm, don’t have any of that, and my feeble attempt at making one from a piece of sheet was just that... feeble.  But, I didn’t let that deter me.  I was determined to make a bezel!  Robert Dancik said a simple bezel could be made using pipe. Pipe! I just happened to have some old copper pipe that I rescued from my parents old barn before they cleaned it out. Couple that with a piece found on the street that must have fallen off a plumbers’ truck, and I was in business! I did have to make a small investment in a larger diameter pipe cutter, but that was it. 

1 - Using the pipe cutter, slice some ½” copper tubing and some ¾” copper pipe.  

2- De-burr the sliced ends.  Laying a file flat on your bench works great; run the pieces over the file until smooth. If you wish to shape the slices, use a pair of ring shank bending pliers.

3 - Pickle your pieces, including the copper backing sheet you’ll be soldering the slices on to. I use salt-saturated distilled white vinegar for my pickle. It is inexpensive and I always have ingredients on hand if I need make a new batch.  

4 - Solder the pipe slice onto the sheet stock.  Yay! Success at bezel making, the easy way!  

*One does not necessarily need a torch set up or even a charcoal soldering block.  I use an old brick and my hand-held butane torch.  I set them up on my stove directly under the exhaust hood.

5- Place the soldered pieces back into the pickle to clean them up after soldering. Rinse and dry.

6- Trim the base sheet stock. An isometric ellipses template comes in handy as a guide, but you can also eyeball it. Make sure you leave enough stock to punch a hanging hole or two.  If you want to use the bezel as a chain link, leave enough for a hole on either end; or you can use the second hole to hang dangles in a vertical position. 
7 - With a cross peen hammer, you can upset the top of the pipe to make it appear it was not pipe at all. This really adds an interesting texture.  

8 - They are ready to fill.  Fill them with resin, Faux Bone™, paper, concrete, glass or stone cabs…the sky is the limit! 

I'm off to play around with different finishing details such as powder coating, etching, a salt and ammonia patina, using alcohol inks for subtle color, or even coating the exterior with a glitzy nail polish! Visit my blog to follow my explorations.

Thanks for stopping by,


Note from Melissa: Thanks Judy! I already have a project in mind using this technique!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kissing Stones

Kissing Stones: Sterling silver, tourmaline

I didn't set out to create a Valentine's Day project. It started when I received an email from Andy Cooperman. I am taking his ZEngineering class later this month at Danaca and he contacted the students to suggest we identify any topics that we could troubleshoot in class.

I have wanted to find a way to set stones face to face. I like the fact that the stones are different, but their relationship in the piece requires them to work together...one cannot be present in that configuration without the other, yet, both are equally beautiful and valid alone. Now isn't that what true love is about, be it romantic, platonic, or familial? So Valentine's Day seemed the appropriate day to give it a try. Plus, I'll be ready to bombard Andy with questions in class (just kidding, Andy...kind of).

Version 1.0
This project was a long process, and in no way a final process. I'll explain how I made it, and then consider some of the changes I would make next time...and perhaps you'll have some ideas for me too! This way, we can all learn together.

I started out making a very rough copper model so that I could experiment and take measurements.

Version 1.1
From this, I determined the following steps:

Steps 1-3

1- Cut two pieces of rectangle wire (4 X 1mm) to 64mm and texture an edge

2- Cut 6 pieces of 2.5mm tubing to 11.45mm

3- Solder a 3X3 crimp bead to the center of each rectangle wire, use a dapping punch to flare both evenly(to serve as seats for the stones). I pickled everything at this point, for a clean start.

Step 4: Medium solder wire in tube

4- Place a piece of solder wire inside each tube, cut just slightly shorter than the tube

Steps 5-6: Ignore the holes on the tube...
replaced that tube, last minute design change

5- Solder the tubes next to the crimp beads first, using a steel washer to raise the tube to the center of the rectangle wire.

*Remember, my soldering skills are evolving...so much of the time I spent in this project was trial and error in this area. By placing the solder in the tubes, I found that I could primarily heat the outside of the rectangle wire and the areas around the tubing to get the solder to flow out of the tube into the join.

6- Next, solder the outer tubes, and finally the tubes in between. You will have approximately 8mm between each tube

7 - Solder a 3X3 crimp bead onto the back of the top tube to serve as a bail.

8- After pickling, patina and polishing, slightly bend out the rectangle wire at the point of the crimp beads, insert the 7mm stones face to face (holding them can be tricky) and gently tap the wire back into place using a rawhide hammer until the stones are tightly set.

*It is here that I popped one of the tubing solder joints, which will make me consider if 1) the join wasn't good in the first place, or 2) I need to try a different process.

Version 2.0
Fixing the problem above may be as simple as bending the rectangle wire out at the crimp beads before all of the soldering is done. And, I know I can do it with tube rivets, but I really like the clean sides of the rectangle wire. I've even considered loading a slightly smaller but longer wire (not solder) into the tubing and solder just the end of that wire onto the rectangle wire. That way, when I hammer the stones in, the wires can "collapse" inside the tubing, snugging the tubing up to with rectangle wire without them popping or bending. I can even drill/bore a slight well into the rectangle wire for the tubing to seat itself into.

Any ideas?

Considering this project kept me up until 3am, I think I'll try this another day!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone... fill it with love!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finding Center

While the purpose of this blog was to show you how to create a tool to find the center of a circle quickly and precisely, it occurs to me that the title "finding center" really does invoke a spiritual search...so, if you will permit me, I'll touch on that quickly at the end.

But first...lets find the center of your disks!

1. Simply cover the front of a circle template with clear contact paper, packing tape or even strips of Scotch tape.

2. Use a ruler to draw the horizontal center line using the marks that are printed or embossed on your template.

3. Mark the vertical center lines.

4. Now, use an awl, small paper punch or other tool to create a hole at the center point.

5. Every time you need to find the center of a disk, place the disk in its corresponding hole, from the back. The tape will hold it in place while you mark the center through the hole using an awl, center punch or marker.

Now, back to that spiritual search. Have you read Seth Godin's new book "The Icarus Deception"? I am a huge Godin fan as it is, but I am especially fond of this book. It's a quick read, beautiful in its simplicity and highlights the value of connecting. My copy is completely marked up and I tried desperately to pick out my favorite quote to print. But I couldn't pick a favorite. So I will leave you with this one because it captures the philosophy behind creating recklessly.

"Art requires the artist to care, and to care enough to do something when he knows that it might not work." -page 64

(It also conveniently sets up a future blog, which is an example of something that definitely didn't work!)

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, February 8, 2013

Tools That Make You Go Hmmmm: Arbor Press

Bubbly: Sterling silver, CZs, Brass and Faux Bone

The unfortunate truth is that Harbor Freight is next door to my daughter's music lessons. Need I say more? For months now, I have ambled past the arbor presses and thought, "hmmm, what could I do with this?" I do not own a hydraulic press (yet) so every week I try to convince myself that this would be a great, inexpensive alternative to such a press. Of course, I know this to not be the case, but when the 1 ton press went on sale for $49, I couldn't resist.

Disc Cutting
The first thing I tried was to punch discs in metal and leather. I placed a bench block under the arbor press ram and topped it with a cutting mat to preserve the edges of my cutting tools. Success! I easily punched 24 gauge brass and leather using my disc cutter, as well as leather using hollow punches. If nothing else, this is well worth the $49 to me. It saves my hammering arm (and head) when I need to make multiple discs. I suspect, with some experimentation, I will be able to set snaps and rivets in leather...will update you when I go down this path!

Just for Fun...
And then, just for fun, I thought I'd try forming techniques that would normally be done on a hydraulic press, but in miniature. I started with a nylon spacer and a solid brass half sphere that fit perfectly into the spacer. I placed a 24g annealed metal disc on the spacer, centered the sphere, rounded side down, and used the arbor press to push the sphere down, creating a well in the metal. Success! The result was a cute little "fried egg" shape (see pendant above). I could repeat these results consistently as long as the metal was fully annealed. When it wasn't properly annealed, the metal tore at the edge of the dome.

But why?
I always ask myself this question...am I using this tool because it is truly a right tool for the job, or because, hey, I got it for $49! So I tried the same technique using a hammer and using a dapping block and punch. While I eventually got the hammer to work, I spent more time trying to find the brass half sphere that flew across the room when my hammer strike wasn't centered. The dapping block was difficult to line up the punch with the hole and, even when annealed, the metal tore... and I risked damaging my block. So in this case, yes, the arbor press actually is the right tool (at least in my arsenal) for the job.

The Final Product...
I am committed to getting better at soldering this year, so you will notice that many of my new projects are soldered. I have provided the steps for making the pendant, but know that there are many other ways to solder it together. This is simply the way that worked for me as I practice and experiment with soldering.

1. Form patterned, annealed metal discs with the arbor press(or hammer), as described above

2. Coat both sides of the formed discs in Firescoff (or flux) so you do not have to pickle between solder joins

3. Layout the discs as desired and place a 3X3 SS crimp bead where the discs intersect

4. Drop in a small hard solder chip (medium if using a butane torch) into each crimp tube, heat around the outside of each tube one by one until the solder flows.

5. Turn the piece over and use medium solder (easy solder if using a butane torch) to solder a piece of brass tubing (to serve as a bail) onto the back of the top disc and a 9/32" tall Crafted Findings rivet, head down, into the depression of one of the discs.

6. Pickle. Patina and polish as desired

7. Set the stones as shown in my Crimp Tube Stone Setting blog

8. Punch/drill 1/16" holes in the center of a contrasting metal disc, piece of leather and/or Faux Bone and place on the rivet, using the Crafted Findings tool to flare the rivet. (Check out my next blog for a quick trick on getting centered holes everytime!)

And your done! Want to try it out yourself?? I have nylon spacers and brass half sphere sets that I will send to the first 6 people who request one in the blog comments. If you are among the first 6, just email me your mailing address at melissa@melissacable.com.

Thanks for stopping by...create recklessly this weekend!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bead Fest Bound

Before we return to more studio adventures (playing with an arbor press up next!) I am thrilled to share some of the classes being taught at the upcoming Bead Fests in Santa Fe and Philadelphia.


I always look forward to these shows and the familiar, friendly faces of the staff, past students, friends and fellow instructors. This year, at both shows, I am introducing a new material to my normal line up of metal and Faux Bone classes...leather! This dapped leather band is a great way to learn how to work with leather in much the same way we work with metal. Students will learn to form the leather, dye it and embellish it with crystal or metal studs and a snap closure.


My etching class is returning, giving students an opportunity to see how to set up their own compact etching tank (being featured in Art Jewelry magazine this year) and how to use my Faux Bone flaring tools to create etched frames. And of course, no teaching schedule would be complete without me recruiting some new Faux Bone ambassadors! This year, we'll focus on using fabric dyes and setting stones into Faux Bone, a great class for both students familiar with the material and those who have never used it before.

There are so many great offerings at this show! Here are some of my favorite in Santa Fe...I would take any of these classes in a minute, not only because I love the projects, but because these are fabulous teachers with so much to offer!

These are just a few of the classes from sooooo many talented instructors. Good luck choosing...you'll need it!

Hope to see you in Santa Fe!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Peak Inside: Metal Jewelry in Bloom

My second book, Metal Jewelry in Bloom, is scheduled to release March 12th. This book is organized very differently than other metal project and technique books, so I thought I'd give you a sneak peak into it.

My goal with this book was to provide you with a toolbox of skills that would allow you to create nearly any flower in the world, all using metal shears. To accomplish this, the Metal Garden System was created.

The Metal Garden System

This system breaks down flower creation into the following steps:

-Petal Count
-Petal Shape
-Edge Treatment
-Surface Embellishments
-Center Formation

Combine these with overall texture and color and you have everything you need to make an infinite number of different flowers.

Petal Count and Shape

The book provides 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 petal templates for flowers with cutting lines that create spear, oval or round petals. These templates can be used alone or stacked to create flowers with beautiful dimension and complexity. Thorough cutting instructions are included, and are the real key to accomplishing these flowers.

Edge Treatment

Eight different ways to create interesting petal edges are reviewed, from punched and tattered to dimpled and rolled. You'll learn to use a variety of common pliers and punches to create life-like effects on the edges of your petals.

Surface Embellishments

The book treats the surface of the petal as both a place to create decorative embellishments and a way to add dimension to your flower. Metal stamps and punches and different types of bench blocks are used to create lines, dots, and dimples (among others) while also sculpting its overall form.

Center Formation

Finally, nine different ways to represent stamen and the overall flower center are reviewed. In this section we also review ways to tab set and weave beads into the center. Riveting is thoroughly reviewed as both a way to add dynamic centers and to connect together layers.

So that's the Metal Garden system! All in all, there are 36 projects, from individual flowers, vines, and branches to leaves and jewelry designs that pull all of these components together...including projects that use my newest favs...Faux Bone and leather.

In a future blog, coming soon, I'll introduce you to some of the flowers in Chapter 2. Until then, thanks again for stopping by. More tips, tricks and projects are in the works...so be sure to subscribe to the blog to be notified when new articles are posted.

Create recklessly,


Metal Jewelry in Bloom will be available through most major booksellers, Kalmbach and my website (where you can find an exclusive bundle of the book with a CD of digital templates).