Polishing Tools at Creative Side Academ

We start with and 80lb (per foot) railroad anvil.


It's in pretty bad shape


After 12 minutes of sanding with an 80 grit belt sander, we have begun to make some progress. 


Here is the rig



The first course is complete



Use aluminum oxide sand paper.  We couldn't find the palm sander for the 320 and 600 grit courses, so I will finish this another day. This is as good as the day it arrived by the way. 

The next course will be my ball peen hammer. This is the first tool of the metal smith.  




I use this hammer daily.  


Two Nights Before the Show

2017 White Linen Night in the Heights

Fold forms, chasing and repousse are processes represented in the pieces which I have prepared recently for the 13th annual White Linen Night in the Heights.


The red rubellite tourmaline is wrapped in square sterling wire which I have hammered into a round shape giving the metal a ruggedness tocompliment the ruggedness of the natural, raw crystal.  I filed the tip to a tapered point lending fluidity to the design.


I originally introduced this piece in Juneat the Discovery Green after taking a masters class in the technique of chasing and repousee with Fabrizio Aquafresqua.


I picked up this shell n the beach on Padre Isle


This is the very best rose I've ever made.  Its signed.


Sterling silver wood-grained cuff bracelet for men or for womenn.  I wear them, myself.


I set the display of 25 pieces up in my studio and leave it up for three weeks before an event like the White Linen Night so that I can tweak it to perfection by building new pieces which will stand out.


Building a Fall Collection

I'm playing with fold-forming techniques invented by Brian Lewton-Brain, who coincidentally is in Austin this week to give a 30 hour masters Clsss at the Creative Side Academy. 


The strategy is to prepare a pallet  in copper and one in Silver to cut into smaller pieces to fashion into the Fall Post-Apocalyptic Primitative 'collection.'


Flip it over and outline the forms.  


I cut out the enscribed pieces and there was plenty of left over copper.  So I fashioned it into pieces. There are 15. 


Design is  beginning to take place by riffing on the pieces.   Some readers will recognize this as a jazz idiom. To riff is to explore freely upon a theme. This series is guided by a little known piano player from the 59's and 60's named Elmo Hope.  If I may say, a little Elmo Hope sauce is needed right now, not only in this design, but in the wider world as well. 


Process shown in Silver  

Making Chains

I'm at a place where I have acquired the tools and the space to spend more time on individual pieces.  The commercial flat link sterling chain is perfect for the sparkly $28 Swarovski pendant of a nice little pink tourmaline in a silver swirl wire wrap, but it does not support a large chased copper piece that has taken me several days--not working on it constantly of course--to complete.     Increasingly I have a need for handmade chains to go with the pieces. 

Argentium Silver jump rings

Argentium Silver jump rings

Today I am experimenting with fusing Argentium silver.  One of its properties is that it can be heated to a point where the molecules will flow and mingle together and fuse.

Black swirls on tile are relics of a project from earlier this week.

Black swirls on tile are relics of a project from earlier this week.

I studied wire weaving and chain-making for 10 weeks at the Southwest School for Arts in San Antonio some years back.  I have put very little of that training to use. It is probablygood thing that making chains can be addictive.  They do take time and effort.


The Hoops I have to go through to produce a fine chain include producing a not-fine chain and being fine with that.  Actually, when this one is finished it will look pretty good.  The trick is to not become discouraged.  Things happen. Like that big pile of jump rings made of costly silver depicted in the first picture, above, they do not fit together snugly.  I likely will have to set these aside and start over entirely.

The Practice: Discovery Green Flea By Night

The very first posts of this blog were philosophical in nature.  More recently the entries have focused on nuts and bolts of the day-to-day practice of being a metal artist in the 21st Century.  First of all, there is a subculture of individuals who think process shots are fun. They like looking at videos of art being made as well as gigantic anchor chains being forged in a factory.   It satisfies a certain curiosity.


Discovery Green by Day.  

I have packed my van and I'm all ready to go to Houston for the July 17, 2017 Discovery Green Flea By Night, with a few minutes to spare.  I want to pause for a moment to meditate on a civilizational shift in  consciousness that happened about 500 years ago.  It did not happen at once.   It did not occur for all people at the same time.  It was a shift from a priori reasoning to empirical reasoning.  I'm not going to belabor this point at the moment, but the blog and my work are a reflection of that shift.

The Fab 40 returns to Discovery Green to perform The Beatles’ recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50 years after its earthshaking premiere launched the Summer of Love. Compucycle will be onsite from 11am-3pm. The first 100 people who bring electronics to recycle with be given access to a VIP seating area. Limit one wristband per person. 

Oops! Here I am philosophizing and its time to leave.


Learning to Use New Tools

I got a set of Aquafresca Chasing and Repousee tools. Now I'm practicing. Here is a progress report  


This is the Repousee or 'repositioned' piece. It was hammered from the back.  



This is after the first 'course' of chasing   My question now, is whether to flip it over and push the stem up deeper into the flower. It is possible. 


There are a lot of Studio Jewelers with a lot of training, experience and good ideas.  I get excited when I see other people's work and enjoy sharing their pictures.  This month i have been working on creating pictures for the jurying process of a National Show held in Houston.  Show applications can never be taken for granted.

2017 Jefferson Woodruff Display

This shot took 18 hours, over two days.  I had to set it all up and take it all down twice.  It had to happen on days with nice weather which I was not at a show and the weather was nice,  Then I had to wait for the right light.

Bronze Scallop, Handmade Bronze Curb Chain

The scallop was produced by first using different sized punches to raise the outline and contour.  Then the piece was flipped over and the details chased in using various chisels and a hammer.  I took a 36 hour wire weaving class at the Southwest School for Art in SanAntonio.  Now I have work which is enhanced by the hand-made chain.

Copper Rosette Earrings

The rosettes were forms through the use of chisels and hammer, with Swarovski crystal as a focal point.

Moon Lander, 18"x16" with pleaded crystal countervailing weights.  Bronze and copper cross beams are forged using an assortment of different hammers to achieve the shape

What I'm Working On

The big project all this month is to create a lot of the images that will be used to jury into fall shows.  

First, this little lady, Nora Bea came to visit. My granddaughter.  


I put everything down when she visits from California. 


Now she has gone and I am pulling together a few pieces  


I worked on this bowl for about 3 months. I think  it's done.  

This us a vessel I started last week. I had a way to go before it's ready for the jury.  

This us a vessel I started last week. I had a way to go before it's ready for the jury.  

A mobile -- these are hard to capture  because they move around.  


 Working on a new earring design  


Based on a cool mobile design  


My customer' s chain is still waiting for a clasp, something that takes all of 2 minutes to makes   


As a quick update- the above chain is complete and shipped.

A Vessel

I decided I needed another shallow bowl or dish. This is a 30/70 alloy of silver called Nickle Silver because of its 70% Nickle.  


Part of the exercise is to discover the properrties of deeply nickle alloid silvers.  


This is where it starts  


After first firing, is usually measured after each course of hammering. It must be heated up to unpack the molecules so that they may be moved around with a hammer.  


The reverse,  after the first course.  


After the second firing, we have begun to develop the edges  

Curb Chain - 2

A shallow bronze bowl contains one ounce of 4.5cm diameter 16 gauge bronze jump rings. The objective is to create in bronze whatbis pictured in the copper with the torch pendant 


The chain at the top was made earlier this week using 7cm 16 gauge bronze jump rings.  

The Curb Chain

Some years back I took a class in wire weaving at the Southwest school for art in San Antonio. For nine weeks I'd roll back-and-forth taking 36 for classroom hours of a hands-on training in the art of woven wire. 


I have rarely used these skills. lately my design journey has taken me to a place where there is a call for handmade, unique expressions in woven wire combined with the metal and stone pieces for which I have become known. 



Wrecker Yard

I like driving through the country and finding a wrecker yard filled with old car hulks. This is a pile of table top sculptures. 




Old School Soldering Method

600 years ago the old masters would bind up pieces of silver or gold, place pallets of solder at stategic locations, then put the entire piece into a hot kiln. 


Here we have 3 strands of 10 gauge copper wire bound up with steel wire.  


Numerous soft silver pallions are placed in the stream between the wires. Copper solder would be easier, but its brittle and will crack under forging. Also, very little solder is needed.  The intention however is to create a visible silver channel between the wires. 


A beautiful red flame patina us achieved. The color of the flame patina is affected by atmospheric conditions. Tonight is a low pressure front coming in. It produces a deep red. I am not sure if we will be able to maintain this color throughout successive firings as we forge the bracelet  


Let's mill it down a bit to flatten the wire.  


One pass gives the piece some authority.  


Also use the mill to put a dip and a taper at the ends. The milling has extended the metal out to 6 1/2 inches, the desired length. 


I filed the ends then begin forming it around this cool bracelet mandrel. I'll work it up to the smallest wrung the back it up at least one size 


And this is what I come up with. Now it needs to be signed, dated and sealed.  

Roomful of Rainbiws

I'm selling rainbows. I'm in my studio to rebuild the inventory after a sell out at Bayou City Arts Festival 


This is the thing  

Whole bunch of them. 

Whole bunch of them. 

Tonight's challenge is to be ready for the Midtown Art Fair in downtown Houston in 2 days.  

The Zen of Bayou City Arts Festival

I have a line of mobiles that create rainbows when placed in a sunny window. They comprise about 50% of my sales. While over   50,000 of them are currently hanging in Windows around the world, mainly, only I can sell them. We don't sell many over the Internet. There is a wonderful store in Austin called Crystal Works that carries some of my classic designs. For some reason I can sell them hand over fist. Happily. 

I enjoy making them as well. Here are a few shots of a workspace that has proven very efficient for my purposes. 



This mat is stained from using a brass brush to polish fire stain off of various metals in the production of jewelry and small scalp metal sculpture  


The stump is a work in progress. Every so often I will spend 30 minutes or so sanding the surface. Same with the anvil. About every 6 weeks I will polish the face with successive grits of sand paper on a palm sander. These two surfaces are used in the forging of the cross beams of my mobiles.  


Pile of tools, steel wool, scotch bright, paper shop towels, silver polishing cloths  


A production list with the total value of the finished pieces. This is necessary not only to keep me focused on what to do-- the show is 18 days off  it also gives me a sense of the value of the inventory. I have a penchant for numbers 


Design journal and wooden forms for making small vessels and bracelets  

Wire brush is an awesome tool

Wire brush is an awesome tool


2 or 3 different hammers used in the production of the mobiles  


This is Wednesday night. By Sunday night this area will be full of mobiles.  

then it will be special sculpture time. 


Several times a year I document how long it takes to set up my display. This gets buried in Moleskin notebooks and my handy One-note app.  I thought I would make a public documentation of setting of for the First Saturday Ats Market so as to set up a benchmark, that I can easily locate, for future reference. 


This is where it stood at opening time. Immediately after taking this image a lady walked up and bought a mobile that's going to the Public Botanical Garden in Toledo Ohio.  Awesome! 


Pictured above is the first image taken 99 minutes in to the set up.


Add another 30 minutes to set up 27 mobiles, or approximately 60 seconds per mobile. In this picture I noticed how dreadful the crushed cloth is.  I'll get this pressed for the next show, you can bet on that.



The table top display, designed with the help of Celeste Landrum, takes another 30 minutes to set up.


 I love doing this. The interactions with people are wonderful.  It's about midway through the show...It has started to rain. It's all good. Customers from 30 years ago are returning to the market to find gifts at my table. 

When i got home and studied the figures the next day, I disscovered that it was a record March First Saturday Show.

New Metal

Nickel Silver. I've always looked down my nose at it. Inexpensive, you know. Is used as a substitute for silver and associated with cheap jewelry. It's inexpensive. 

But what if we explored its properties for what it is. It's a soft metal that can be easily formed. it's known to tarnish. Tonight I chased out some lines freehand. It forms well. I annealed with a propane torch to discover a wonderful dark flame patina. When I ran over it with a wire brush I discovered a wonderful shine. To keep the shine I realized that I could buff a few coats of wax.