Monday, April 20, 2015

Enameling Clay ... Who Knew?

You know what really gets my juices flowing?  It's when I get a fabulous result from a "what the heck?" idea!  That's what happened when I decided to enamel ceramic beads. I mean glazes are glass; enamel is glass.  Made sense to me; in addition to the fact I had at lot of these ceramic beads hanging around from another lifetime.

The things I discovered ...

  • You have to give them a hefty warming-up period
  • A bead with a small hole is more likely to crack because the heat transmitted by the mandrel to that small area gives it an early dose of of concentrated heat before the rest of the bead gets warm. 
  • The beads stay "hot" longer after firing than do metal beads, so be careful not to burn yourself
  • The beauty of transparent enamels over white ceramic beads is hard to describe!
Slip cast and hand-built ceramic beads fired with Thompson Enamels 

Orange and Teal Leaves and Orange Flower fired by PWF Teacher Judi Nystrom, Sprinfield Illinois

Because it is so much fun! ... we decided to offer a workshop on making and enameling ceramic beads in The Studio at Painting with Fire.  Check it out!  We'd love to have you!

Before I go, let me ask you, what has been your unlikely discovery and is it still in use?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Team Building

Last night was a team building event for 12 staff of Intel Security at Tech Data, Clearwater, Florida.   One of their lovely team members, Tracy, had been to Painting with Fire before and tipped them off that we might provide something different for their team building event.  Alex and Silvana conducted reconnaissance ... what could we do for their team, could we have food, would their people be interested? Jim was the lead on our end of the mission.  

We knew we wanted to do a combination of "hot and cold" ...  torch-fired enameling and sea glass wire wrapping.  Bren McCoy designed the project, organized all of the supplies and packaged them in a kraft paper jewelry box tied with a sari ribbon.  The ribbon color indicated the enamel color they be using on their enamel bead.  While this was going on at the studio, Jim was doing what he loves best, which is to cook!  He prepared a great menu for the team.  Laura and David threw themselves into the project by pricing jewelry, setting up the studio, cleaning, etc.

So the night arrives!  We're all abuzz!  Here's a "Before" photo.  

The Painting with Fire team assuring there were no burns! 

After the necklaces were assembled, the troops were rounded up for an "After" shot. 

Compare the smiles on the "After" photo to the ones of the "Before" photo!  They definitely had fun with the event, with their peers, and left with a personal creation and a good memory. 

Thanks to the whole Intel Security team for trusting us and a special thanks to Alex, Silvana and Tracy for making it happen!  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

More enameling fun and a giveaway!

Hi friends, I'm sitting in my room at the Hilton Hotel near the airport waiting for our departure flight to Florida ... and reminiscing over the past week.  It started with two days in Austin.  My husband is a avid fan of Diners, Drive-Inns and Dives so dinner on our first night in Austin was at the Monument Cafe, Georgetown, TX.  The food was great, but we also enjoyed the surrounding sights and smells at the vegetable/herb gardens and market of the Monument Cafe.
Monument Cafe, Georgetown, TX
Traveling for me always includes scouting out craft galleries where I can breathe in the creative energy of local artists.   This happened during a stop at Oxidize Metal Art Gallery.  Oxidize Gallery is a tiny space! But don't be fooled.  It is filled with lots and lots of spectacular jewelry! I had an opportunity to meet the lovely jewelry artist, Elizabeth Boswell.  Guess what we talked about ... enameling!  She's currently adding color to her jewelry with the technique of powder coating. Elizabeth explained that powder coated metal would not chip, even when flexed.  She's very interested in enameling, though, especially after I told her how easy it was!  While in Austin I saw her book order come through the website!  

photo: Elizabeth Boswell

From there we headed to Guero's, a highly-recommended Mexican restaurant on South Congress Street, which is alive with craft vendors, food trucks, and people merrily buzzing throughout the unique indie shops.

Adjacent to the restaurant was a small, but bustling craft show.  Who would I run into there but Carol Bradley, an online friend and registrant in two of my upcoming classes.  Carol's enamel work is gorgeous and we had fun talking about colors and techniques. 

Two hours later would find me at an evening of "performance art" at a creative hot spot for jewelry ... Creative Side Jewelry Academy, where lots of happy campers were finishing up a fantastic metal casting workshop with Kate Wolf.  Jim and I absolutely were enthralled with Kate's hour and a half demo of wax carving.  Like all professionals, she made it look way toooo easy.  I mean, 40 years in the business has a way of doing that!  

photo: Creative Side Jewelry Academy

The following day we fled the traffic congestion of Austin and headed for Texas Hill Country and Rachel Ashwell's The Prairie.  The countryside reminded me so much of my former surroundings in  Maryland, with rolling hills and pastures sprinkled with lush green trees.  Art Retreat at The Prairie was where we would teach our students, learn from our students, and mix and mingle with other students and teachers.  What a beautiful setting to relax and learn something new! 

Carol Myers, Barb Solem, Julie Panusis, Barb Solem, Deryn Mentock, Diane Cook
Results of the Shield of Faith project, which emphasizes overfired white enamel, gives the enamel artist two necklaces in one!  Each side of the pendant is so different, you'll be able to wear it on one side one day and then reverse it for a whole different look!  A necklace for each of your personalities!  

From left to right:  Cynthia Hill, Shonna Estep, Leslie Todd, Carol Bradley, Mary Word, and Gracie Albright

Barb Solem through Vivi Magoo Presents! hosts a well-planned event at a great location, with wonderful food.  Her dedication and planning of the event gives her students and teachers the ability to relax and do what they love to do most ... create beautiful jewelry!  I would definitely do this retreat again in a heartbeat! 

Vivi Magoo Presents will be hosting Art Retreat in the Desert in Tucson,  but don't forget that Painting with Fire will be there, too!  Somehow I think Tucson is big enough for the both of us ... plus a million other people either selling or teaching!  

Now on to the Craftsy class giveaway!  All you have to do is to leave a comment at Stacey Merrill's blog, Artsnark Artifacts.  

Thank you, Stacey, for hosting this giveaway.  I've been getting great reviews from students and I particularly like how students can ask questions at any point in the video.  Their question indicates the lesson and the time in the video when the question was generated.  How genius is that?  Those guys at Craftsy have it goin' on! 

Have you been wanting to learn torch-fired enameling?  Now's the time!  

So let me ask you ... when you travel, are there particular types of places you look forward to visiting?   Have you been to an interesting place lately that just fed your soul?  I'd love to hear about it!  

Friday, October 31, 2014

So what's in the Craftsy class, you ask?

"A lot!" would be the answer!  Take a look at what we'll cover ... 

photo:  Craftsy

Lesson 1: 
We're going to start with learning all about the different types of enamels (transparent and opaques, 6/20 enamels, threads, etc.), the types of metal you can use, including how to shop for brass, the setting up of your workstation, assembling the torch & safety tips, lighting and using your torch. 

photo: Craftsy

Lesson 2:
I'll introduce you to enameling iron beads,  how to troubleshoot your results, how to blend transparent enamels to create new and exciting colors, how to create a tri-colored bead. 

photo: Craftsy

Lesson 3:
We'll work with steel wire to create a gorgeous link: form it, how to fire a larger piece, and the importance of flame annealing.

photo: Craftsy

Lesson 4: 
Now we'll use some of the decorative enamel supplements,  like 6/20 and enamel threads,  on copper and also create round head pins and flower head pins. 

photo: Craftsy

Lesson 5:
We're on to enameling brass and how to achieve clear, juicy, and luscious transparent enamels.    We'll shape and enamel free-form brass flowers, explore the blending of transparent enamels and finally we'll enamel a large brass angel wing. 

photo: Craftsy

Lesson 6: 
In this lesson we'll be working with liquid enamel and learn how to create a design using the sgraffito technique.  I'll also teach you how to refire a piece.  Remember, with enameling, you get do-overs! 

photo: Craftsy

Lesson 7:
I'll introduce you to the different types of decals, how to apply them and how to fire them. 

photo: Craftsy

Plus, the great part is that, even though I won't actually be in the room with you, it's almost as if I am.  You'll be able to ask questions at any point in the video.  I'll check the site daily and get back to you with the answer to YOUR question.  Not only that, but you'll be able to view questions asked by others.  

Craftsy is a very COOL platform developed by some techie guys.  They're the tech behind the gorgeous work being created by all kinds of artists.  You'll find classes in photography, painting, drawing, quilting, crocheting, knitting, jewelry-making, cake decorating, woodworking, gardening ... sorry, I need to take a breath ... but that's only the beginning!  

Tomorrow we talk more about the workings of Craftsy and how it benefits you! 

photo: Craftsy 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Craftsy launch Tuesday, November 4!

How would you like to work in a place like this?

photo: Craftsy

Yes, there are people who actually have jobs like this ... over 200 of them!  It's in a place called, "Denver," which has the distinction of being a "mile high" up in the sky and to being home of Craftsy where you can ...

photo: Craftsy 

I learned of Craftsy in July when an email appeared in my inbox announcing a class. What caught my eye was their great graphic artwork!  I went to the site and thought, "Hey, what's this?"  The wheels started turning and before long I was sending a email saying, "Wouldn't you like to offer an enameling class?"   A few days later came a response, "Of course we would!"

The detail to which Craftsy produces a class is like nothing I've ever experienced before.  I had two lengthy conversations with Grace, their acquisitions editor, where we discussed the content of the class.  I submitted a formal class proposal backed-up with photographs. A contract was signed and I was passed off to my producer, Amana.  

Over the few weeks, Amana and I talked on the phone for 4 hours, going over the class outline.  Because I was teaching in Denver in late August and the filming was scheduled for mid-September, Amana came and spent several hours observing the workshop and reading my first book.  Her intent, before filming, was to know as much about my topic as a student leaving a workshop.  She sure accomplished her goal.

What I guess I'm trying to say is that Craftsy's preparation through all phases of the class development, starting with their interactions with the instructor,  insures that you have a great learning experience.  

photo: Craftsy

The launch of the class is Tuesday, November 4.  Please visit my blog every day until then because I'll be posting more information about my experience, what you can expect to learn in my class, and information about the learning powerhouse known as "Craftsy!"  And, guess what?  We'll be having a class giveaway!  So, come back for the next episode ... "Craftsy: How it All Began."

Friday, October 24, 2014

White is White ... Except for When It's Not!

Thompson Enamel produces 9 different white enamels, which gives the enamelist some nice variety.  So, if you're looking for a more translucent white, you can find that with 1040.  If you're looking for a very opaque white, you can find that with 1055 and 1060.  But, if you're looking for one of my favorites, you'll find that with 1020, which is also very opaque.

While I like 1055 and go to it often, I find 1020 to be much more reactive to copper when torch-firing the enamel.  To me this means that with just a little over-firing, you can get gorgeous blue-green freckles peeking through the surface of the white enamel.  If you've got a big lampworking torch like I do, I can over-fire enamel all day for special effect, with very little effort.  If you have a smaller torch, the fact that 1020 is so reactive will make a big difference.

Today I took a break from packing for Art Retreat on the Prairie to play with some Titanium White.  Here are the results ...

I really got into decorating #1.  You know the old joke, "How many artists does it take to do a painting?  The answer is "two."  One to do the painting and the other to shoot him when he's done."  Yes, it's easy to continue to play with color because it's so addictive! 

#2 was simply several layers of 1020.  When you over-fire enamel, it pulls away from the edges, leaving you a rusty, crusty frame around the piece ... which I LOVE!  This piece is sans decoration now, but will probably get a ceramic decal!  

#3 is given the same firing technique, but is decorated with Flame Orange and Raspberry (transparent).  

Speaking of 2836 - Raspberry ... if this is one of your favorite colors, please know that it is currently unavailable and will not be available for AT LEAST a month.  There are issues with the availability of the ingredients that go into make the glass.   Now for the shameless plug ... We have some in stock

One of the perks of being a Thompson Enamel distributor is knowing what's available, what's in the pipeline, and what's dried up like a cracked river bed ... at least temporarily. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dammit! I HATE google!!!

I have a love-hate relationship with google.  I don't want to even honor the name by starting it with a capital letter!   I'm glad they're not in the room with me now or someone would get hurt!

The first thing ... I thought it would be a great idea to start an etsy de-stash page ... to offer inventory to customers at greatly reduced prices.  Enamel beads, pendants, etc. grow like Gremlins at our studio because we generate them during demos, workshops, and when we have fun experimenting with enamel color combinations. (Stay tuned for that, btw.)

So, I set up a gmail account ""  Well, this great idea for the destash shop never got off the ground ...  But, do you know what gmail account google made as primary ... yes, you guessed it!!!

GUESS WHAT?  You can never ever change your primary google account for as long as you live!!!  So, now I'm stuck with a gmail account that is primary and which I have never used.  Until yesterday, I never even looked at it and found I've missed some notices from Youtube, etc.  Sorry, friends, if I missed your call.

So then I got this other bright idea to start a new blog and try to get my followers to the blog with the same name as our business:  Painting with Fire Studio.  When I started this blog (the one you're reading now)  in 2008, I was masquerading as Painting with Fire Artwear.  Over time, I felt this name didn't as accurately reflect who we were ... so the name change.

In the process of doing that, we lost the "Google Friend/Follower" gadget!  I still have the friends listed on my dashboard, but I dare you to try to install that gadget because GOOGLE RULES THE WORLD!!!  The gadget is broken ... boo hoo, F .... YOU!  (I'm sorry, now I'm beginning to cuss!)

I love their search engine, but Google Messenger, Google+, and the rest of the Google Empire sucks!!!  Oh, but I did like that movie, "Interns," with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn where they're interning at Google.  You definitely must watch that ...

Look for more creative stuff and less ranting on this blog.  I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings because you love Google ...

P.S.  The solution might be for me to stop having "great ideas" ... because they get me in trouble with google!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sale at PWF, Book No. 2 Pre-orders at Amazon …

Gosh, a lot happened yesterday.  But first let's get to the thing that is time sensitive.  We're having a sale at PWF!  Heck yeah!  We have a lot to be happy about …

A facebook friend called to my attention the fact that Book No. 2 was available for pre-order at Amazon.  Holy cow! 

This is the result of very generous online supporters.  These figures will fluctuate wildly, especially in the beginning, but I'm enjoying the glow of the moment.  Thank you!  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to train employees …

I get lots of email from customers & students asking questions and I almost always send a copy of my responses, for educational purposes, to Laura, David and Rachel, who help me run the business.  My daughter, Laura, is our Business Manager.  While she knows a great deal about the areas of Finance and Business Management, I have her beat on the subject of enameling.

I send these responses to help educate them. So, Laura asked me the other day if I could put "Info" as the subject line of the emails so that she could easily flag them.  She continued, "You know you're not always going to be here."  So, I said, "What if I use "When I'm dead and gone" as the subject line?"  We both cracked up!

The DEAD part we know doesn't leave us with many options, but the GONE part ... I mean, you might find me on a beach in Tahiti!  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Back to school and a neat project!

In January, I went back to school!  Yes, you're never to old to learn.  We have a great vocational program two miles from my house.  It's the Bench Jeweler's Program at Pinellas Technical.  The program is headed by Mr. Do, who's been teaching it for 29 years. I'm amazed at the projects the students are working on.  Of course, since I'm just getting started, I'm working on soldering some small jump rings.  26-gauge, 2mm jump rings are not the easiest things to solder.  It does teach you control of the flame, however.  

Here's my beginning …

Here's Ken's finished chain … 

Let me tell you, his chain represents probably over 400 jump rings.  Soldering small diameter, fine wire jump rings will sure teach you control of your torch!  Ken has just started on his chain with 26-gauge, 1mm jump rings!  Yikes!  

Switching gears a little bit … I'm finishing a Mixed Media Workshop sponsored by the Morean Arts Center.  We worked with resin, patina, enamel, vintage watch crystals.  We made our own jump rings, soldered them, tinted resin with pearl-ex powders and paint.  Here's what Kathy made …

And, here's the lovely Kathy wearing her great necklace!   

We used snippets from a rhinestone chain and a 1934 Montgomery Ward catalog.  It was fun!

Have you been working with some unusual materials lately … or want to?  Which ones?  Please share!