Friday, 28 November 2014

Holiday Blog Hop

Have Yourself a Handmade Holiday

Big box stores? Bah, humbug! Why not buy handmade and give unique, one-of-a-kind gifts made with love by a real person?

I'm about to show you just a few possibilities from members of The Handmade Forum  <

Let's start with a source of gifts for the guys and gals on your list. Visit Deb Flaherty's etsy shop <> and pick up some of this great shaving soap for that hard-to-shop-for fella. 

Give the Gift of Natural Beauty

To learn about Deb's products and how she makes them, visit her blog here:

While you are in Deb's shop, grab some of her fabulous lip balm for your best girlfriend (and add one for yourself, too).

I have the one below and love it but Deb has lots to choose from. A fist full would be perfect stocking stuffers, wouldn't they?

  • Materials: Made with lots of time patience and love, Organic beeswax and Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Mango Butter Sweet Almond Rice Bran Oil, Shea and Illipe Butter with Apricot Kernel, Jojoba and handmade Vanilla infused Grapeseed, Certified Organic Essential Oils of, Geranium Lavender Lemon Sweet Orange, Vitamin E and Rose petal and Rosemary, Antioxidant Extracts, Each batch is made fresh and lovingly, hand poured and may be ordered, gift wrapped and shipped for you

Deck the Halls

If you would like to give someone an ornament to deck their tree, this year and every year, here is an idea from another talented etsy shop owner.
This handcrafted polymer clay ornament comes from a shop with the delightful name of Paisley Lizard <> Owner Tammy Adams also makes an array of wonderful jewelry items any woman would love. To see great jewelry, visit her shop and, for fun reading, be sure to follow her blog at <>

Feel Rushed? Nothing Beats a Nice Cup of Tea 

Kei-Hawk Rose is the real person behind DesertSageNatural — a shop specializing in organic teas. <>.  

This is one of a line she dubs Sereniteas, "Our SereniTeas are a group for dealing with the mind and emotions. "
To learn more about these carefully blended, all natural products, visit the shop or the website <>

Gift for Best Friend?

Jenn Surprenant handcrafts wonderful friendship bracelets and a matched pair, for you and your best friend would be a great idea this Christmas.
You can learn a lot about her creations on her I Love Crafting blog < at her etsy shop. 
This is just one of Jenn's many designs. She also creates awareness bracelets for specific causes or she will weave bracelets in your own choice of colors.

Lots of Bling

Okay, it's the holiday season and all those parties mean it's time to bring out the blingHere are a couple of makers of brilliant bling you might want to visit.

First, Suzanne of StellaZiganti jewelry. I think all her work is beautiful but I am especially taken with her earrings. This is just one lovely pair.

Can't you picture the way these Hessonite Garnets will sparkle and gleam on your ears?

Suzanne is a color wizard, so do wander through her shop and see what colors grab you this holiday season. Start browsing here <> or visit her blog <>

And Bling Your Home, Too

Meet Kathryn Fritz of Lorraineinspired <>  or visit her etsy shop to see fun ways to dress up the house <>.  Fridge magnets are so handy. I use them to keep a recipe handy (and off the sticky counter) or to put a phone number where I'm sure I won't lose it. 

Kathryn adds fun and glitter to both magnets and push pins. How perfect.

If you've had some fun here today, or you are a handmade maker or shopper, you can keep going with any of these links:

The Handmade Forum's Etsy page -

The Handmade Forum on Facebook -

The Handmade Forum on Twitter -

The Handmade Forum's Pinterest Boards -

The Handmade Forum on Tumblr (which is a blog!) -

Read more:

Happy Handmade Holiday to All

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Monday, 24 November 2014

Waxing Poetic

Lost Wax Casting 

Creating jewelry is done by three primary methods: stringing (beads or pearls - can be simple or very complex), fabricating (cutting, soldering, hammering, etc.) and casting with cuttlefish or lost wax. Today, I'm going to talk a bit about lost wax because I'm enrolled in a lost wax casting class with the Creative Jewellers Guild. See more here: <>

The process is fascinating but requires some special equipment (kiln and centrifugal or vacuum caster) that most artisan jewelers (including me) either can't afford or do not have space for.

Carving 101

Wax actually comes in several forms and can be carved, built up, extruded or molded. One of the easiest ways to create a piece of three-dimensional jewelry starts with carving the you want shape from wax.

This photo shows the very early stage of a ring I plan to cast. I started from a green wax ring blank which was a lot heftier than it is in the photo.

At this stage, I have used a saw to trim the shank down to a wearable thickness, then used a file to begin shaping the top and opening out the center for the ring size I want.

The material is very easy to carve — in fact, you have to be careful to avoid removing too much material or letting a tool slip, creating accidental "embellishments". If you do make mistakes, you can use heat to soften and melt wax to repair the damage — but it's a lot of extra work. This ring is going to end up with a pair of uprights to clasp a rotating silver ball I made years ago but never used (mostly because I wanted this design but couldn't think of a good way to fabricate it).

Next Stage, Refining the Shapes

After a number of hours spent filing and scraping with a series of knives and carving tools (one is in the photo), the ring is taking shape. As you can see, the opening for the rotating ball is now wide enough to accept the silver ball.

One of the most difficult parts of preparing the wax models is to get the finish you want on the relatively soft material. It only takes one casting experience to make you understand a simple truth: whatever is on the wax will be there on the silver. It's a whole lot easier to remove lumps and bumps from the wax then it is to file them off the silver! It takes lots of time (and several methods) to get a smooth, clean finish on the wax. One method involves passing the item through heat (flame, hair dryer) — very carefully. It gives a very smooth finish but it is totally possible to melt your lovely model into a useless blob.

Because you can cast several items (depending on size) in one flask, I also came up with a small tiki-inspired pendant. It is a mini version of one I made in a casting class several years ago.

My First Tiki

A friend bought the large tiki some time ago but I did keep a photograph of it. This is more than twice as large as the blue wax carving above but it shows how different textures — created on the surface of the wax model — will be perfectly recreated on the silver.

Casting Class, Week One

On Sunday, we met in the Lapidary/Silversmithing Studio at the Richmond Cultural Centre for the first class with instructor and Guild member, Walter Pinder. Week one involves final finishing of the waxes, attaching sprues, and capturing the waxes in investment (like Plaster of Paris, but very fine textured so it will capture all the details in the waxes).

My Waxes, All Sprued Up

Yes, sprued, not spruced!

Looks pretty ugly but, if I've done everything right, I will end up with the ring, the tiki and a simple, loosely shaped triangle — another pendant.

Here, the waxes are on sprues (the blue wax rods) that will conduct molten silver into the models after the waxes have been fully melted and burned out, leaving the negative of the shapes in the hardened investment. The spues are buried in red wax that will provide the pouring point. All are in a rubber base that fits very tightly onto a metal flask (open at both ends). The flask is a bit taller than the highest point on the assembled waxes. After I took this photo, I mixed a batch of the investment material with water. We used a vacuum machine to suck the tiny air bubbles out of the liquid investment, then set the flasks carefully into a cupboard to wait for next week when we will remove the rubber bases, melt the silver, do the pours and, hopefully, have new jewelry items. Alchemy.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


It Took Two Years But...

When we decided to buy this wee house, we knew we didn't much love the front yard. The big, ugly, decaying wood planter had to go. So did the rocks and cement stepping stones (steps to nowhere). While I didn't hate the osier dogwood, it sure wanted taming and the spreading plants under it were just messy. Truth is, I'm not good with messy.

This is Before

I took this photo before we even closed the deal (note the realtor's sign in front window). Exterior paint was in rough shape so we did that summer 2012. At that point, I began to see some advantages to a one-story home on land over a two-story one on the water!

We spent most of 2012 working inside the place. Tore out old flooring and replaced with laminate and, for bedroom and living/dining, new carpeting. Refinished all the kitchen cabinets and painted kitchen walls. We also stripped smaller bathroom to the studs, installed step-in shower, tiled the walls and replaced toilet and sink/cabinet.

Yard Work Next

It took until spring-summer of 2014 to really come to grips with the front yard.

This summer, despite demands of the vegetable garden and the new patio project, I got busy with the pruners out front. Next, we ditched the stepping stones. By happy chance, our daughter's yard actually needed some!

Late in the summer, we got a crew to remove all those rocks, then brought in top soil and seeded it. As you can see, it took so well that I'm hoping for a few more of these dry fall days so we can mow it!

More Jewelry, Too

Just finished polishing this open, garnet-set heart pendant. With the low winter light, I had to race to get the photos for my etsy site before the sun went behind the tall trees to the west. Any time after about 2:30 pm it's too dark even on a sunny day.

Friday, 7 November 2014

First Friday Art Walk

Cyber-walk With Me

First Friday Art Walks are common in communities around Canada and the USA but, if you can't get to some local galleries to admire the output of your artists and artisans, here are a few selections from the AWEteam — all can be found, and purchased, on etsy.

I really love this watercolor by DawnDermanArt. It reminds me of living on the Fraser River, where sometimes I would see one stalking by on the boom logs in front of our floating home.

This beautiful centerpiece is from the brilliantly-named shop, CrackledUp. Adore the center that looks like summer sky reflected in a still pond.

Want to browse more? Below is a treasury of other artistic things you can find in shops on

Enjoy your walk.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Shop Shots

November Projects

Harvest done.  Grass too soggy to cut. Rainy season upon us. The good news: I get more shop time!

Big Guy's Ring

My beloved lost his pinky ring many months ago and I planned to make him replacement, set with a ruby, for his birthday in July. I got the stone long ago but summer was overrun with yard work, so he got something else for his birthday. A few days ago, I finally got serious about the task.

Ready, Set, Set

Here are the parts: one ring and one ruby waiting to be set. I keep a small blob of Fun Tack on my bench. It's a very quick and easy way to hold something – in this case, it is keeping the ring upright so I can position the ruby. I also use a tiny blob of it on the end of a wooden cuticle pusher to hold stones. I know the experts use a dop stick – usually made by melting flake shellac onto the end of a dowel but I've yet to get the hang of it. Maybe, if I ever get brave enough to set diamonds, I'll have to master that!

Here is the final product; ring polished, stone set. All ready to wear.
This bench photo doesn't do the stone justice. The color is accurate but I didn't catch the sparkle.

Happily, he likes it ;-)

Two Pair in Hand

With the ring finished, I went to work on earrings. They do well in my shop and with holiday shopping starting, I wanted to stock up. Today, while the drizzle fell outside, I went to work on two pairs.
If my pendants lately seem to have a faint Oriental tone, my earring ideas seem straight from geometry class. One pair – ready for polishing in the photo  – consist of slices of square wire mounted on squares of 18-gauge sterling. I will give the back pieces a frosted silver finish (by polishing with a brass brush dipped in soap), then bring the tops of the cubes to a high polish. Nice contrast.

The second pair – yet to be assembled here – are long, slim triangles suspended under fatter triangle studs. I will  probably give the studs a brushed finish, too and do a scratched and polished effect on the dangles.

It's Not All Fun and Games

Some aspects of jewelry making are great fun but there are "housekeeping" chores, too.

Solder is essential for assembling jewelry. It is a rare piece that doesn't have at least one solder joint. You can buy silver solder in four standard grades, with different melting temperatures, to facilitate making several joins on one item. You can also buy either wire or sheet solder. Having learned with sheet, I tend to stay with it, although many people I know swear by wire.

Sheet solder has to be prepared for use by cleaning (hence the scrubbie) and cutting into tiny bits (hence the cutters and the small scoop for picking the bits off that piece of dark leather). I keep the sheets in plastic cases from dental cleaning products and store the snippets in four sections of a weekly pill dispenser. High tech! Because the solder will not flow if it is oxidized, I only clean and cut small amounts at a time – just enough for a day or two. It is amazing, however, that I seem to always need a piece or two more than I have on hand. It is annoying to find you have to stop being creative and clip solder but I guess painters have to stop to mix more paint and sculptors have to stop to sharpen a chisel now and then!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Handmade Sale

Mark November 8 on Your Calendar

As I mentioned in my last post, many members of The Handmade Forum are participating in a 24-hour (E.S.T.) sale on Saturday. It's a great chance to do some Christmas shopping, score some savings, and give gifts that nobody else is giving.

To whet your appetite, here are some samples. First up, Flaherty Naturals Coconut Mango Lip Balm.

All Natural & Yummy

Deb Flaherty, creator of this line of bath and beauty products is offering 15%OFF with Checkout Coupon Code: SALE2014 

Full disclosure: I have this product and I really love it. Feels great and goes on with a lick-your-lips flavor.

Super Pampering - for You or Someone Special

Trouble sleeping? Just want to catch a daytime nap? Here is another product to make your life better.

Black Raven Creations makes these wonderful eye masks. Other great products from this shop include bags (I crave one of the Japanese Knot Bags) and fabulous accessories for your pampered pooch.

Karen is offering 20% OFF with Coupon Code: SALE2014

For the Geek or Gamer in Your Life

The etsy shop of Puffy the Slayer is full of charming, amusing, one-of-a-kind, pixel-bead personal accessories, home decor (really cute Christmas ornaments) and great geekery like this smart phone charm.

There are dozens of shops featuring tons of handcrafted gift ideas. To browse them, download the free catalogue here:

Only 51 days until you-know-what!