I get a lot of requests from my students for information about the best sources for purchasing metals and studio supplies, and usually I just toss out a few of the sites I frequent. But I recently promised a class that I would put something together for them that was a little more comprehensive, and it seemed like a good thing to share here, so here is the first installment of some of my favorite online resources.
For metals, I have a few “go to” site:
Rio Grande – www.riogrande.com
Rio is the grand-daddy of jewelry supply, and if they don’t have it you probably don’t need it. It is also the Nordstrom’s of jewelry supply, meaning everything is priced for high end consumption. I generally buy silver and wire from Rio when I have a short fuse order to fill, because they’re very good about getting things out quickly. I will say that – disappointingly - I’m hearing more and more from jewelry friends that their customer service has gone down some since they were purchased by Berkshire Hathaway. I’ve only had one recent glitch that was a serious problem for me, and Rio was very good about fixing it.
Metalliferous – www.metalliferous.com
I buy all of my copper stampings from them for enameling, and a lot of my copper and brass sheet. Terrific pricing, superb customer service, and a good selection. If you need copper, this is the place.
Thunderbird Supply - www.thunderbirdsupply.com
I love Thunderbird and I buy my sheet and wire from them whenever possible. They have regular sales, where you get their best quantity pricing on any amount of metal you buy – and that can really add up if you can plan far enough in advance to take advantage of the deals. As a bonus, they have hands down the best and most proactive customer service out there. If your order is more than what you approved when you checked out on line, you get a phone call from them before they charge your card. Love it.
Monsterslayer - www.monsterslayer.com
Located in Albuquerque, it’s pretty obvious which monster they’re looking to slay, and I used to buy from them all the time – good pricing and helpful staff. However…. in this day and age of internet commerce, their website makes me crazy. It’s hard to find things, it’s ugly to look at, the photos don’t resize, and sometimes the way things are grouped together seems a little counter-intuitive to me. I order from them when I can and when I know exactly what I need, because I genuinely believe in supporting the littler guys, but as good as their pricing is they are often not my first choice.
Otto Frei - www.ottofrei.com
If Rio is Nordstrom’s, Otto Frei is Lord & Taylor. Top notch stuff, but priced accordingly. They also have some good sales so if there’s a big-ticket item you’re saving for, it might be worth it to stalk their site. (When I bought my flex shaft, I waited for one of their sales and bought from them.) One major drawback of dealing with them, though, is their shipping policy. Any shipment over a certain value MUST be signed for in person, no exceptions – and they don’t make that clear on their site. This can be a real pain – I once paid for two day shipping but because I couldn’t be at the house when the delivery arrived and couldn’t get to the shipping center during their open hours to pick up the item, I had to pitch a fit and arrange for a special evening delivery. Two day shipping became five, which was very annoying. On the other hand, when we had a last minute supply issue for our retreat in March, I called their customer service in a panic and they jumped through hoops to get us what we needed. So: watch the pricing, appreciate the excellent customer service, and be sure you’re thinking through your shipping needs.
I’ll do more of these over the next few weeks, and let you know where I get my studio supplies and tools. If there are things you’d especially like to know about, let me know – I’ll answer if I can!
This poor blog. It has been left to languish while I have been racing around tending to house sale, business running, teaching, and proposal writing (more on that later). That’s going to change soon – I’ve embarked on a site redesign that will help me keep the content fresh and (hopefully) encourage me to post more photos in addition to writing more than one paltry post a month.
So, with the mea culpa’s out of the way, let me show you what this month’s Art Jewelry Elements component challenge was all about.
Those glass cabochons were made by yours truly, and it was a little nerve-wracking. I make most of my own components, but not usually for other people to use – and let’s face it, the AJE contributors are among the most talented component creators out there. So…. yeah, a little intimidating.
I picked that pretty mossy green cab in the upper left, second row. And in a confluence of events, I killed several metaphorical birds with this particular stone.
Metaphorical bird #1: I teach a two-day chain making class that includes a full day of “cold” chain (i.e., chain that isn’t made with a torch) and I had been looking for a resource I could recommend to students who wanted to move on to more advanced projects. I finally picked up Cindy Wimmer‘s book The Missing Link, which has been on my Amazon wish list for a while, and let me tell you… this book is amazing. It is so beautifully written and photographed, and the links are so well explained – I started out making wire jewelry years ago and moved on to metals and enamels, but in the last couple of weeks, this book has reawakened my excitement about working with wire. Rather than use manufactured chain for this piece, I made one out of Loopty Loop links from the book, and I modified the link to create a clasp that blends nearly seamlessly into the chain.
Metaphorical birds #2 and #3: I have been trying to screw up my courage to apply to some of the bigger venues for teaching opportunities, but I’ve always talked myself out of it. The truth is that I’ve been doing more and more teaching outside of my comfort zone (including a continuing education class for art teachers in the local school district – yikes!) and have become increasingly confident in my ability to work with larger groups and troubleshoot on the fly. So when my Roadhouse Arts partner Gail suggested I apply to teach at next year’s Glass Craft Expo, I took the plunge – so in addition to being my Component of the Month offering, this necklace served as a sample for the prong setting class I proposed to them.
WE INTERRUPT THIS COMPONENT OF THE MONTH REVEAL FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:
Glass Craft Expo took all four workshops I proposed.
This means that next April, I will be teaching in Las Vegas at one of the largest gatherings of glass artists, vendors and enthusiasts in the United States.
I am thrilled, excited, a little scared, and very, very pleased.
Registration for the classes opens in October, and I promise you will become thoroughly sick of me telling you all about it.
WE NOW RESUME THE COMPONENT OF THE MONTH REVEAL!
In spite of the fact that Bead Fest is right around the corner, several of my wonderful AJE partners found the time to participate in the COM this month, in addition to our terrific guest designers. Take a quick spin through the blog links below, and be sure to leave folks a comment letting them know you stopped in – we like it when we hear from you!
Deb Fortin – www.studiok24.blogspot.ca
Toltec Jewels – www.JewelSchoolFriends.com
Carol Briody – cbriody.blogspot.com
The AJE Team
Caroline Dewison – blueberribeads.blogspot.co.uk
Susan Kennedy – www.suebeads.blogspot.com
Melissa Meman – melissameman.blogspot.com
Jenny Davies-Reazor – www.jdaviesreazor.com/blog
Kristen Stevens – kristen-beadjourney.blogspot.com
Francesca Watson (yours truly!) – www.francescawatson.com
I can’t believe it’s been a month since the last Component of the Month challenge over at AJE (and since I’ve posted here at all – sheesh)… and I was not the only one who was having a rough go of it this time around. The entire team has been hit hard with a number of personal things and we all agreed a few extra days would be useful, so we delayed the reveal to today.(Pssssst: I’m hosting the July Component of the Month – head over and see what I made up for everyone!)
And honestly, I am so glad we did, because June’s components were so special and I especially wanted to do mine justice. Linda Landig was this month’s hostess and she has been spending a lot of her focus on fulfilling a long-time desire to learn how to make ceramic components. She’s done an amazing job translating her years of experience in other mediums into this new one, and I was utterly smitten with the pretties she offered us.
Aren’t they gorgeous?? As usual, I asked to be surprised… but I did hint that I really loved the leaf imprint stoneware pieces! Lucky me: Linda sent me the green leaf pendant piece in the top row!
I started out with one idea, involving green nylon cording, picasso finished Czech glass tab beads, and antiqued brass rondelles. The colors were perfect. But unfortunately, everything I came up with looked anemic and washed out. Nothing was clicking and there was no pop.
So yesterday morning, I ripped it all out and did this instead.
Because my original design involved using cording in the holes, I cored them with brass eyelets to keep the cord from fraying. Thankfully, they worked just as well with the brass jump rings I had on hand.
I had some sueded leather cording that was nearly exactly the same color as the stoneware Linda used for this pendant – and since I had started with brass, I decided to make wrapped brass stations to create some interest along the leather cord.
And people, let me tell you: those wrapped brass stations really kicked my badonkadonk.
First, brass is harder to work with than copper or sterling. Second, soft sueded leather cord isn’t prone to staying where you put it. It’s… floppy. Third, figuring out the best way to tuck in the work-hardened wire ends so they didn’t snag and would still look good and symmetrical was less easy than it sounded in theory.
The other thing that kicked my butt was the leather ends. I originally planned for a Celtic button knot made with both strands on one side of the necklace. It looked horrible. Then, I did a single Celtic button knot and wrapped the other strand underneath it.
It too looked…. suboptimal.
So I settled for a single Celtic button knot and wrapped both sides with brass wire stations. To one side, I added a very thick twisted brass jump ring and the button fits snugly through, lariat style.
(Of course, after I’d done all that work, I realized the necklace was long enough to slip over my head and didn’t really need a clasp. D’oh!)
Thank you, Linda, for the gorgeous component – I am so thrilled for this new artistic phase in your life and the way you are completely rocking it!!
* * * * * * * * * * *
If you want to see what the other folks made, including a couple of guest artists, check out the links below.
… as usual.
But seriously, between the house stuff and running Roadhouse and teaching a bunch (a whole bunch!), I am having a heck of a time getting all my to-do’s crossed off the list. That means that I am two days late finishing my Art Jewelry Elements component challenge piece, taking photos, and getting it posted.
This month (or, technically, last month) the wonderful Susan Kennedy of SueBeads gave us these very pretty glass cabochons to work with. She was also offering some cool bead sets, but I almost always ask to be surprised so I don’t know what’s coming. I got a sweet lavender cab with the snowflake/flower pattern shown in the dark blue cab above, and I knew right away I wanted to do a prong-set pendant. My problem was that until today, I didn’t have more than 20 minutes at a stretch to focus on putting it together and my first attempt was a dismal failure. (No photos – I destroyed the evidence!)
But today, I was able to sit down and really pay attention to what I was doing – and I’m really pleased with how it came out.
The color of this cab reminds me of the lilacs that bloom each spring in Rochester, New York, where I grew up. Down the block from our house was a very romantic-look, European styled stucco home that boasted a huge courtyard, and around the open sides grew enormous lilac bushes. When they weren’t flowering, they looked like something out of a Grimm’s fairy tale - gnarly and a little scary. But come spring, they would erupt into masses and masses of the most fragrant lavender-colored blooms, and I’d make any excuse to walk that way so I could revel in them. (I was something of a romantic as a girl!) I wanted this piece to evoke the rustic feeling of the bushes in their everyday state, the elegance and romance of the house, and the lush, opulent blooms.
I heavily distressed the sterling silver disc for the pendant’s backplate, and then made a pinch bail textured to look like tree bark. The prongs (hopefully) let the cab shine and play up the contrast between the sleekness of the glass and the rustic feel of the metal. I used a simple chain and two wrapped stations with a little bling (rock crystal and vintage cut glass beads) to represent the elegance and simplicity of the house, and finished it off with a plain hand-made hook clasp. I plan to add an extender so that the necklace can be adjusted, but I don’t have the right chain at the moment – when it comes in, I’ll add a short length and finish it off with a rock crystal bead so it hangs properly in the back.
Thank you, Sue, for the wonderful cab and the opportunity to take this walk down memory lane! If you haven’t already, check out what the other AJE ladies did with Sue’s wonderful components.
(P.S. If you love art jewelry, and you want a chance to win a free component as part of the Art Jewelry Elements monthly challenge, check out what Linda Landig has for us in June!)
If you’ve gotten here looking for the Art Jewelry Elements monthly component challenge, I have fallen behind – my contribution won’t be up until Monday. In the meantime, please head over to the blog and see what everyone else made with the gorgeous glass components Susan Kennedy made for us this month!!