Mar 26, 2014

Free Chainmaille Tutorial Series: Helm Chain and S-Clasps

THEa Elements focal with (Japanese 12-2) flower chain and handcrafted clasp

Heather Powers of Humblebeads has an ongoing Mojo jewelry making challenge on her blog. For week four, she asked participants to create findings to use in jewelry design. I LOVE creating findings! I started jewelry making by creating French ear wires, and eventually focused a great deal on wirework, specifically chainmaille. I love experimenting with various types of wire -- square, half-round, copper, brass, antiqued Vintaj Parawire, German wire, anodized aluminum, and enameled!

Above, I've created earrings that feature wire as a big part of the design -- the wire celebrates the Metal Me This bead caps by Lisa Liddy, using the caps & the wire in an unusual way. The square Vintaj wire looks "relaxed" above the bead caps and above the handcrafted lampwork spiral discs, and the wire holding the bead caps isn't cut, but becomes the earring findings.

Likewise, wire becomes earring stud posts that are both part of the earring construction & the earring design in the MOP seahorse earrings below. Headpins become the eyes of the seahorses and work as components that allow the carved beauties to gently move from the Czech post findings.

I almost always make my own clasps, or use clasps created by others, in my jewelry. I enjoy creating unique closures to accent designs, such as the spiral clasp shown below. Working with copper and brass and Argentium silver wire to create rings for chainmaille, I have lots of 14 AWG and 16 AWG wire on hand for exploring ways to sculpt clasp designs.

 Triple row byzantine, gem, and sari ribbon bracelet with spiral brass clasp

For our challenge, I decided to upscale the traditional s-clasp to include handcrafted lampwork. Not a unique idea, I know, but one I've wanted to try for some time. And I have to admit, forging wire with lampwork on it was a little scary and definitely challenged me! I did not want to break the lovely glass beads by Sue Kennedy of SueBeads!

I made the clasps using a very specific method for s-clasps, using chainmaille artist Scott David Plumlee's wonderful free online tutorial, "Hammer Forged S-Clasps" available at his website, Davidchain Jewelry. There, you'll find a preponderance of excellent, free tutorials for numerous chainmaille weaves, s-clasps, magnetic clasps, and more. His tutorial for s-clasps uses precise measurements of wire and tools. So, I made a simple s-clasp first according to his instructions, then tweaked the measurements and steps to include a lampwork bead.

In hindsight, I might try the plastic tubing made for steadying lampwork beads on wire (or string) by filling the hole. I used square, twisted German wire to coordinate with my twisted brass jump rings, and although it worked fairly well, I think a non-twisted, half-round wire -- to use as in wire wrapping -- might be most secure, keeping the bead in place the best.

I also learned that properly annealed lampwork is safe in my tumbler. S-clasps made with lampwork can be filed and sanded by hand or tumbled for no longer than one hour. See the free "Tumbling Magic" PDF tutorial by Wired Up Beads (Wubbers) for excellent info on tumbling findings.

Helm chain created using Artistic Wire jump rings, with chrome diopside and blue jade rounds, Vintaj beadcaps. TJ.

Creating handcrafted with handcrafted and incorporating handmade findings and chain brings jewelry design to an even more unique artistic level. For me, creating clasps naturally came after earring findings and alongside all the wireworking of chainmaille. So, I thought I'd also contribute to Heather's challenge by stirring up some chainmaille mojo too and include instructions for Helm Chain, the next weave in my chainmaille tutorial series.

 Here is it is, Helm Weave, also called Parallel weave, in a nutshell:


Helm weave is made with two ring sizes: either use 20 AWG 2.8 mm and  20 AWG 4.8mm OR 18 AWG 3.5 mm and 18 AWG 5.9 mm.

Previously I discussed tools for chainmaille, so if you have your chainmaille mandrels and/or digital caliper, whip up some jump rings to give the weave a go. If using the 20 gauge rings for Helm weave, you'll need about four small rings and seven  large rings per inch. If you are using 18 gauge rings, you'll need about six small and nine large rings per inch.

Helm Weave Basket Earrings in antique copper, by Toltec Jewels

Try creating a bracelet or elegant earrings. You can double the small rings (as in the necklace photo above the instruction pictures), or use single small rings depending on your design. Here are some cool ideas for Helm weave: 

Create "Cool Summer Breezes" 
Photo of "Cool Summer Breezes" at Interweave

Designed by Lauren Andersen, these pretty earrings are simply a circle of Helm weave chain stabilized with additional center rings and embellished with Swarovski bicones using Fireline. The design is fun and versatile. Originally published in Step By Step Wire Jewelry (Spring/Summer 2010),  instructions are available at Interweave for $4.00. You'll also find the instructions in the e-booklet, "Ten Wire and Crystal Projects" for $9.95. All instructions are instant digital pdf downloads.

Create "Chain Mail Flower Earrings"

Photo of "Chain Mail Flowers" at Kalmbach.

Designed by Mary Rembach for Kalmbach, these pretty flower earrings are Helm weave made to form a slight dome or bowl shape that is stabilized with a center bead and wire. The design works as earrings, a delicate pendant, or as bracelet components. The instructions are available as an instant digital pdf download at the Kalmbach Bookstore online for $1.99.

Create "Helm Basket Earrings"

Available at Wolfstone Jewelry on Etsy, the Helm weave basket earrings (or pendant) tutorial is available as an instant digital download for $7.00. I LOVE this design, and easily substituted my antique copper Vintaj Parawire, Artistic wire non-tarnish rings, and Vintaj chain for the silver rings. Wolfstone Helm Weave Baskets can be made with a number of metals, and you'll find this design a little more challenging, but again, it is simply Helm weave! Have fun.

Create my Helm Flowers (upcoming)

Designed one evening after creating and embellishing beadwork bezels and Super Duo components, I dazzled Helm weave up with "stardust" rings, pearls, and Swarovski bicones. My Helm flowers will be upcoming in this tutorial series as I would like to submit the design for publication this summer. In the meantime, see how you can use Helm weave to create elegant bracelets, sophisticated necklace chains, and embellished components for all kinds of jewelry. 

Mar 19, 2014

BSBP8: A Sneak Peek at Bead Soup for Bobbie Rafferty of Beadsong

I am so excited to participate in Lori Anderson's 8th Bead Soup Blog Party! My partner, Bobbie Rafferty of Beadsong Jewelry, is a beautifully gifted jewelry artist and lots of fun! I'll be introducing her in another post, but take a moment to check out her blog link above and her website, Beadsong Jewelry. I've been laughing a lot as Bobbie and I share about our lives, break focals (me!), and create bead soups like happy mad scientists (Bobbie's self analogy, but it fits me also)! 

Yes, I broke a very special Luxembourg focal. It still makes me shudder to remember the events: the long, high arch of the lampwork as it flew through the air; the surreal, slow motion fall of the bead, giving me enough time to whisper "Please don't break!" twice out loud, and the magnificent bounce of the bead after it hit the floor, like a basketball rising up and back down again -- clunk! -- two pieces on the floor. 

The good news is my wonderful friend, Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens of Glass Bead Art, stopped everything, went to her torch, and had a duplicate -- well, all lampwork are ooak, so similar not duplicate -- focal created and cooling in the kiln the next morning! 

Is she outstanding or is she outstanding? I'm in awe.

The Luxembourg focal is on its way to Bobbie now, but soups were due out yesterday; must I send Bobbie Rafferty an incomplete soup? 

No, because the lucky Lara Lutrick also stopped everything to quickly send a focal! With a few additional colors, the Lutrick bead adds further fun to the First Course Soup: a little vintage this and a little carved that and it fits. 

So without further delay (or more flying beads) I give you a sneak peek at my bead soup creations for BSBP8: 

First Course

Second Course


Hope you enjoy everything, Bobbie! 

Toltec Jewels is an author by day, jewelry maker by night. Her literary work is housed by the San Francisco MOMA and is published internationally in popular magazines, literary quarterlies, and university publications. She has won a number of awards for both her literary and jewelry arts. She is happiest making handcrafted jewelry with her entire family, snuggling with her doggies and grandkids, sewing, singing, reading, and learning more jewelry techniques. She is the hostess of JSF, a diverse community of expert and emerging artisans taking inspiration from each other and jewelry arts. Join her for networking, fundraising for Beads of Courage, jewelry making challenges, blog hops, contests, give-a-ways and of course, cool beads and jewelry!

Mar 15, 2014

Mojo Challenge Week 3: Embossing, Etching, Enameling, Oh My!

Mojo Challenge Week 3: Back to School

Browsing Lima Beads for new metal shapes for embossing with my Bigkick, I happened to come across a little tutorial on enameling powders. What caught my eye was a tool -- a heating tool already sitting on my shelf, gifted to me from my friend Margot Potter! 

For months it has sat waiting patiently to be discovered. I had no idea that the key to open the door to enameling was right there, handed to me by the creative and wonderful Margot! I learned the tool I had will shrink plastic, melt embossing and enameling powders, dry glues, paints and inks, and is NOT a hair dryer! 

I quickly bought several shades of embossing enamel powders and more cool shaped blanks.I discovered that embossing enamels can even be used in molds and some can safely coat paper and fiber, as well as metals, for more adventures in decorative arts! 

Everything I bought arrived this week, and I am so excited! I love coloring my embossed metal work with Lisa Liddy patina and LOS, but now I'll be trying color in ways I've so admired in other's work and thought only possible with a torch -- something I honestly fear using. I never dreamed of enameling without flame, and I'm ready to give this a try! I love metal work: creating my own rings, chain maille, embossing & etching. I'm excited to see how enamel may (or may not) take my metal work to another level of creating completely handcrafted jewelry arts work!

My metal work components -- what will enameling bring? 

The link up is closing, so I'll update my post with results asap :) Thanks Margot for that cool tool and thanks fairies of the universe for showing me how enameling does not have to take place in a fancy studio with flame on iron metal only. There are alternatives, and now I know enameling powders can become very cool art jewelry components! 

Mar 3, 2014

The Color of Dreams Participant List

Below are the 5o participants of "The Color of Dreams Blog Hop" on April 6th. 

Each participating artist will be given an orphan/ooak bead created by artist Patricia Handschuh of The Color of Dreams Boutique to design with. Simply create with the bead you receive and show us your dreams!

The Beads:

As a Florida artist, Patricia has a way of reflecting the amazing beauty and color and optimism -- the tranquility and tropical paradise -- of our pretty state. It's like a little vacation in a bead! I find her work renewing and inspiring. I hope you find your pillow bead to be as nurturing as I do.
The Color of Dreams Boutique on Etsy

If you have been in my blog hops previously or know me, you know I surprise all my participants with art bead prizes/gifts after the hop. This time, I decided to send out art beads for the hop, as our design inspiration for the challenge. I'm treating everyone to the beads for your designs, and Patricia has generously donated a matched set of her beads as a blog hop give-a-way! 

My photo does not do the elegance and colors of her beads justice. This set is absolutely beautiful! Everyone who posts a reveal for the blog hop on April 6th will be entered into a drawing and using, a winner will be chosen to receive the artisan beads. Aren't they gorgeous? Thank you, Patricia! 

The Design Challenge:

Feel free to create in any way you wish, using your bead as inspiration for your colorway, theme, technique. You are welcome to use additional Color of Dreams beads in your design, as well as artisan beads and gems and anything you like. You are not limited to jewelry.

You may share a dream that has come true, one you are working on now, or one you hope for in the future. The one goal of the hop: we'll focus on our dreams as entirely possible, with the idea, "If we can dream it, we can achieve it." So, try creating "from the end" -- as if your dream has already come true -- using your jewelry design to do so.

The Participants Who Will Hop:

Below are the artists participating thus far. This is not yet the final participant list; it will be updated just before our reveal date, and I'll email everyone a final list of  artists and their blogs the week before the hop.

So please look for at least two emails from me: the first, letting you know you are in the hop, that I have your snail mail address, and your bead is now on the way; and at least another, reminding you of the hop and providing a participant list for you to copy and paste to your blog. I will also provide a permalink to the participants list on my blog.

On the 6th, I encourage you to enjoy visiting everyone's reveals. Personally, I have a difficult time visiting all blogs in a hop in just one day, so if we can comment on everyone's reveals within a week, that would be magnificent! I will wait one week for the giveaway to give everyone plenty of time to participate fully. 

Here we go! 

Honorary Artist: Patricia Handschuh
Patricia's blog:            The Color of Dreams        
Patricias Etsy:             The Color of Dreams
Hostess: TJ                Jewel School Friends
Kay Thomerson           KayzKreationz
Audrey Belanger          Toki No Hourousha

Alicia Marinache          All the Pretty Things
Terry Carter                TappingFlamingo
Lori Schneider             Bead Addict
Jenny Kyrlach             Wonder and Whimsy
Asri Wahyuingsih         Asri's Beadwork
Dini Bruinsma              Angaza by Changes
Karla Morgan              Texas Pepper Jams
Debbie Rasmussen        A Little of This, A Little of That
Veralynne Malone          Designed by Vera
Kathy Stemke               Vintage Memories Jewelry Design
Mowse Doyle               Mowse Made This
Heather Richter             Desert Jewelry Designs
Lori Poppe                   Adventures in Creativity with LorilliJean

Jayne Capps                Mama's Got To Doodle
Andrea Glick                Zenith Jade Creations
Kathleen Breeding         99 Bottles of Beads on the Wall
Becky Pancake             Becky Pancake Bead Designs
Karin Martinez              Fairies Market
Miranda Ackerley          Mirandack

Penny Houghton           Smelly Nelly
Carolyn Lawson           Carolyn's Creations
Chris Eisenberg            Wanderware
Christie Murrow          Charis Designs Jewelry
Monique Urquhart        A Half-Baked Notion
Eve Shelby                  Raindrop Creations Jewelry by Evelyn
Cryss Thain                 Here Bead Dragons
Jasvanti Patel               Jewelry By Jasvanti
Nan Smith                   NanMade Handmade Jewelry
Sue Kennedy               SueBeads
Jean Yates                   Snap Out of It, Jean! There's Beading to be Done!
Debbie Rogers             Debbies Treasures
Marybeth Rich             A Few Words From Within the Pines
Shirley Moore              Beads and Bread
Shaia Williams             Shaiha's Ramblings
Kathy Lindemer           Bay Moon Design
Linda Anderson           From the Bead Board
Judy Turner               Silver Rains
Gloria Allen                Gloria Allen Designs
Regina Wood              Ginas-Design
Robin Reed                Artistry HCBD
Mary Goovars            MLH Jewelry Designs
Marlene Cupo             Amazing Designs
CJ Bauschka              4 His Glory Creations
Robin Showstack        The Crazy Bead Hoarder
Cynthia O'Toole          Sparkles and Sweets

Jael Thorp                 Jael's Art Jewels
Renetha Stanziano      Lamplight Crafts

Blog Hop Button:

Below Here is The Color Of Dreams Blog Hop button to add to your blogs if you like :) Patricia's beads arrive just like this, wrapped like candy! 

Mar 1, 2014

3rd Annual Challenge of Music Blog Hop

Welcome to The 3rd Annual Challenge of Music 
hosted by Erin Prais-Hintz

This is my first time participating in the challenge, and I found it very healing and encouraging. Erin suggested we not only create jewelry and bead art, but create intellectually as well, challenging ourselves to:

Focus: Music and Memory :: Telling YOUR Story through Music

1::Pick a year in your life history.

2::Pick a song from that year that tells YOUR story. 

 Music, for me, reflects where we are at emotionally, our over all vibration and place of center. Rather than thinking of emotion as something we "deal" with, think of it as a kind of gps. It let's us know where we are at any moment. I firmly believe that what music and movies we find ourselves attracted to reflect our general self. Someone vibrating or generally acting with anger in order to pass hurt (and not a bad thing at all; anger relieves us of depression & discouragement, and is a stepping stone to empowerment, moving up the emotional guidance scale) may find movies like "Count of Monte Cristo" enjoyable. Likewise, feeling satisfied, relaxed, and appreciative may make songs like "Thank you for being a friend" feel good to listen to. In turn, music -- as long as it is somewhere near the vicinity of where we are at -- can help raise our emotional vibration. If we are in boredom, for example, we could either hear a 90's alternative (discouragement) or a song like "Something's coming, something good... maybe tonight" (hope) and feel comfortable. But the one that raises our vibration will ultimately get us feels better, no longer bored, but anticipation & encouragement. From there, we can go on to inspired, creative, confident. And from there onto knowing, passionate, excited, joyful. 

The Emotional Guidance Scale (Abraham-Hicks), our built in GPS system for the life we create day by day, is a way to know where we are before we take action, to sculpt our days and live purposefully, rather than simply react to life and events. I have found that thinking of emotion this way has changed my life entirely. I do, have and am a person who lives so joyfully, watching my wishes unfold, manifesting my desires, growing and  laughing and loving each moment.

Which takes me back to music in the moment. 

When my eldest daughter, Christina, died two summers ago, one her sisters told me she listened to all Chrissy's favorite songs and felt such happiness! Certainly, her return to the nonphysical was an experience that challenged every belief I held dear: rather than be victim of emotion, could I focus in ways that allowed me to come to my new connection with her joyfully? We are told death is terrible, a loss, and the death of a child the greatest loss of all. Representations of shocked & despairing parents, pale in their suffering, abound. Could I live my belief that death is part of life, that it is not a tragedy but a return to all we are and have become and can be, and that in death, non-physical does not focus on the contrast of life but is a vortex of all high vibration, all that is good, all that is love. Well-being, pure positive energy, that which creates worlds and keeps universes in perfect proximity to each other, that which is a guidance to all, that which migrating birds tap into, that which turns me on, inspires me, gets me going, that which I can tune into at any moment, my choice, my focus, that which is infinite love. 

Why care so much about feeling good? Focusing and thinking thoughts that bring relief? That work me up the emotional scale? Experiencing her death as perfect timing (non-physical decides when we croak) and OK? Because I believe that in order to connect with her now each day as her mother and friend - as a physical and nonphysical being, I must meet her as a now nonphysical being where she resides, where we both can together at any time: in joy. 

Focusing, then. on a place of joy, I'm reminded of a warm, long summer, when all three of my girls were little, and I was falling in love. I had met my beloved (we've now been together 21 years and with changing laws, may even someday marry - it was 1992) and my spirit soared with love love love! 

One night, my kitty cat jumped up into the window sill, suddenly knocking the blind down onto the head of the bed right below the window. The sudden sound was startling, and waking wide eyed in the dark night, the blind hit my beloved in the eye, scratching it. The next afternoon, Lee lay resting in the golden summer sun, a living metaphor for "it's all fun & games until someone needs an eye patch" -- but happily home from work and sleeping. It was Indian summer, and the gladiolas were in full bloom, could be found everywhere, filled grocery stores & gardens in rich, abundant tall bouquets galore. 

I covered Lee in the gladiolas as he slept, transforming my bed into a bed of flowers. 
It was breathtakingly beautiful.

I turned on my cassette of R.E.M.'s "Flowers of Gautemala" 
and Lee woke to the extraordinary beauty. I wanted to express how good life is, how beautiful, how magic and flowers cover everything.

It was, in a way, like a celebration but also much like a grave -- flowers everywhere across the body-- a rebirth, a transformation. Covered in gladiolas, Lee laughed. 

So how is it my jewelry is not covered in flowers? For our challenge, I indeed made enough chainmaille flowers to cover a necklace, held Czech & beautiful painted wood beads, worked with antique brass twisted wire and carnelian round beads that glowed like the lampwork. 

Most importantly, the handcrafted lampwork music symbol gifted to me by Lori Anderson needed to take center stage. Slowly, the gems and wood and faceted crystals just weren't a part of it, and instead I created and re-created links, my own handcrafted links and chain maille pattern fashioned from an infinity link. The copper and enameled rings mirror the soft oranges of the glass, and the significant line of deep dark glass running through the center of the art, accentuating its shape, defining its curves and color. A meditation. Wearing the long, long chain and glass pendant, the lines seem to flow endlessly from glass to metal. Simple, yet complex. Flowing and never-ending, with hours of the physical and the spirit in unity. 

This is a blog hop and fundraiser. Enjoy participants' music stories and jewelry, some of which may be auctioned by Erin to benefit the and

Toltec Jewels is an author by day, jewelry maker by night. Her literary work is housed by the San Francisco MOMA and is published internationally in popular magazines, literary quarterlies, and university publications. She has won a number of awards for literary and jewelry arts. She is happiest making handcrafted jewelry with her entire family, snuggling with her doggies and grandkids, sewing, singing, reading, and learning more jewelry techniques. She is the hostess of JSF, a diverse community of expert and emerging artisans taking inspiration from each other and jewelry arts. Join her on FB for networking, fundraising for Beads of Courage, jewelry making challenges, blog hops, contests, give-a-ways and of course, cool beads and jewelry!