Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Whew! What a crazy last few weeks! As you can see, I've totally missed out on November postings...Just want to let you know that I've dragged myself out of a HIDEOUS case of bronchitis and am ready to resume postings. The holidays have snuck up and smacked me in the face...time has just FLOWN. THRILLED with our election results, looking forward to a fresh, bold 2009. New artist interviews on the way, new websites to review...plus jewelry to make!! So, check back with me in a few days--lots of new stuff ready to upload!!!

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Coolest Accessory Ever!

Here's something that never, ever goes out of style. I hope all of us will be proudly wearing a sticker or button like this one in the coming week. One size fits all and it looks fantastic on absolutely everyone! Be sure to get out and VOTE!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October WebFind - Shiana Hilltribe Silver

My webfind for October is really fantastic--you must visit Shiana Thai Hill Tribe Silver. Shiana is a fair trade site and promotes continuing education programs, arts programs, and sustainable conservation. Your purchases ensure that the next generation of artisans will survive to preserve the works of their forefathers. Making silver has become a profitable advantage for the Hill Tribe families and an invaluable alternative to growing illicit crops or slash-and-burn farming.

The selection of silver and gold here is simply stunning. Unusual designs, great inspiration and tons of bargains to be had. If you are looking for that perfect focal bead, that fantastic finding you have been dreaming of--this is the site for you. They offer gorgeous black sterling silver--really amazing. The selection is simply endless, you need to take some time browsing this site. A great find--ENJOY!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Beauty of Patina Continued - Patina and Polymer Clay

In my previous post I discussed coloring metal with chemical patinas. Well, there are also many more ways to incorporate the look of aged metals in your artistic designs. I love polymer clay, and when I began creating my Goddess series in polymer, I wanted to create pieces that looked like ancient artifacts. I found that metal paints and patinas work wonderfully on polymer clay! I begin with basic white polymer (Sculpy was my first choice because it was inexpensive to buy and easily available in big blocks). I create my Goddess forms in clay and bake according to directions. When she is cool and sanded down, I decide what the color pallet will be. Michael's Crafts sells Sophisticated Finish paints and patinas in gold, copper, brass, pewter, iron and a beautiful deep blue. All these paints have metal particles suspended in the paint base that react when in contact with the chemical patinas (often sold in sets with the paints) in blue, green, black, and rust. So, for the Goddess pictured to the left here, I simply painted her with 2 coats of copper paint, and misted on blue patina and watched the colors appear! When she was dry I added details with folk art paint, a turquoise cabochon and some wonderful Klew polymer clay leaves. I use Future floor finish or any of the glazes available for use with polymer clay to seal each Goddess and protect the finish. The image below shows (from left to right) an Earth Goddess treated with copper paint scratched and lightly misted with green patina then accented with 24k gold leaf and turquoise metal paint, a Moon Goddess in blue metallic paint and sterling silver leaf, a and a Stone Goddess treated with mixed stone spray paint and ivory folk art paint. I'm working on a rusted Goddess totem now. I've also used textured spray paints (the sand and stone series) layered with metal paints and patinas to achieve a truly ancient stone effect. The possibilities are endless! I strongly encourage all you wonderful polymer clay artists to play with metal paints and patinas--I'd love to hear about your experiments and see what you create! Let me know!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Aging Metals - The Beauty of Patina

Recently, I've come across a lot of posts, blogs and convos about coloring metals with patina. Everyone is searching for the perfect way to change shiny new copper, brass, and silver to appear like ancient relics, colored by time. Who new that there would be such a demand to look old? It is true, aged metals are gorgeous. Brass and copper turn shades of intense blue and green, silver can change to a virtual rainbow of colors, to deepest black. In this post, I will be sharing with you my experiences coloring copper, brass, and sterling silver. I also invite you to comment here, and share your tips and tricks. I'd also love to share photos of works in progress and finished designs using patina colored metals. Contact me with your photos and ideas!!

First, what is "patina"? According to Wikipedia, "Patina is a coating of various chemical compounds such as oxides or carbonates formed on the surface of metal during exposure to weathering. The green patina that forms naturally on copper and bronze is known as verdigris and consists of copper carbonate. Patina also refers to accumulated changes in surface texture and colour that result from normal use of an object such as a coin or a piece of furniture." Well, if you don't have the patience to wait months or years to let a piece of metal patina naturally, there are many chemical patinas commercially available that will do virtually the same thing in hours. My favorite sources for copper and brass patinas are Modern Masters and Michael's Crafts. Both offer a line of metal infused paints and chemical patinas that will change copper and brass to green, blue, brown and black. Simply spritz or brush on the patina of your choice and you can virtually watch the colors begin to change! The photo here is of a pendant I made using a solid copper bead I sprayed with green patina then sealed with automotive clear coat. I also always have brass ager on hand from Kennedy Hardware. This turns brass and copper deep brown to black depending on how long you leave it in the solution. All patinas must be sealed with a top coat or the colors may fade or flake off. Modern Masters sells a gloss and flat UV stable topcoat specifically designed for metals treated with patina. Otherwise you can try light coats of acrylic sprays. Use caution here, products not specifically designed for metals treated with patina can actually make your colors disappear (I speak from experience here...ugh!). A trick I use quite frequently for copper and brass is to spray on layers of automotive clear coat from my local Discount Auto Parts store. Acrylic spray for cars is specially formulated for metals and works quite well--giving a strong, durable finish without changing the color of the patina.

There are also some great books out on coloring metal--I just got "The Jeweler's Directory of Decorative Finishes" by Jinks McGrath. A great source for patina ideas (and much more) with formulations you can make at home. Last night I tried the formula recommended for turning copper and brass indigo blue--something I have wanted to do forever. Simply take a medium sized plastic container with an air tight lid and place a smaller ( I used a baby food jar), open container of common household ammonia inside to one end ( I got the ammonia at my local grocery store in the cleaning products aisle). Prep your copper/brass by sanding, and wiping down with warm saltwater. Place the metal next to the open ammonia container. From here you can do a couple things to add texture to your patina. I sprinkled salt and vinegar on one piece of copper, left another bare, and left the brass bare. Cover the container with the airtight lid and leave for at least three hours up to overnight. You will be amazed at the color you get!!! The copper treated with salt and vinegar got a mottled, spotted coloration of deep blue and black. The untreated metals turned lovely indigo blue. When the colors reach your desired intensity, simply take the metals out, rinse thoroughly, pat dry and seal. Kind of magical actually....The book also describes a similar process to get that rich, blue color by burying the metal in an airtight container of sawdust, garden soil, and tobacco soaked with ammonia and vinegar! That appeals to my inner mad scientist/archaeologist. I like the idea of digging up the metal later, even if it is from a Tupperware container. I'm trying that one next... The photo below shows my ammonia experiment with (from left to right) a solid copper bead, a dome of brass, a fragment of copper sheet and a larger fragment of copper sheet. The large piece of copper had the salt/vinegar splashed on top. Don't you LOVE that blue? All were finished with Modern Masters UV flat topcoat.

Of course, you must be sure to do all of this in a well ventilated area--ammonia fumes are overwhelming if you are not careful. The commercially available patinas that I mentioned earlier are odorless and easier to use, but don't give the intensity of color that you get with the ammonia treatment.

AND, let's not forget the beauty of RUST. Rust is the poor step-child of patina. You don't often think of it as a desirable patina for jewelry, right? Well I disagree! Sophisticated Finishes (from Michael's) has a rust paint and patina set. The paint contains suspended iron particles that react with the chemical patina, turning the iron a lovely orange. I have used this with brass and copper, and love the result. I layer this with blue and green patinas, sand some off, add more--it's a process. To quote Forrest Gump, "You never know what you're going to get!"

I haven't even touched on coloring sterling silver yet...I could go on forever! The most common chemical to color silver is liver of sulphur. Smells horrible, like rotten eggs, but is easy to use and you can get it at Cool Tools. It comes in chunk form--simply place a small chunk in a plastic or glass container of HOT water, and drop in your silver. Have another container of warm water mixed with baking soda on hand to immerse your silver in when you reach the desired color. The color change is immediate and will go from a lovely rainbow effect to deep, dark black in moments--so be ready to remove your silver right away. You can also brush on the liver of sulphur/water mix to better control your patina. Drop in the water/baking soda to stop the reaction and then rinse in cool water. Pat dry and seal.

Well, that's a start...I will be adding to this post as I get your responses--I hope you will join me in sharing your patina questions, secrets, ideas, and finished designs. Let's grow beautifully old together!!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

October Artist Interview -- Tessa Rickard

When I first came across Tessa Rickard's shop on Etsy, I nearly squeeled with delight. Doll Disaster Designs is a shop filled with curiosities, originality, and raw TALENT! Tessa's work is the sort of jewelry design I aspire to--she uses found objects, lots of casting both in sterling silver and resin, gemstones, natural elements such as bone, fur, and wood, plus a heaping scoop of doll imagery. Her custom lockets are beyond amazing, and her resin doll pendants, gemstone rings, and brooches simply fly out of her shop. Some may consider her work strange or even creepy, but you cannot deny her work is compelling, fascinating, and uncoventionally beautiful. I couldn't wait to interview her!

KM: Tell us a little bit about you.

TR: My name is Tessa Rickard-Carpenter. I use Tessa Rickard for my art, no need dragging my husband into my crazy world. I will be 35 on Sept. 20 (KM: Happy belated birthday, Tessa!). I am married with two daughters. I went to Ball State University and received two degrees--a BFA in Drawing and a BFA in Metals. I then moved to Michigan to get my Masters in Metalsmithing at Cranbrook Academy of Art. I teach jewelry classes part time at a community college. I sell my work online through my Etsy shop.

KM: Okay, what's up with the name "Doll Disaster Design"?

TR: My master's degree thesis was titled "From The Mind of a Doll Disaster". I used a lot of doll imagery in my work. I still do now also.

KM: When did you know you wanted to be an "artist"?

TR: My mother says she couldn't keep enough paper in the house for me as a child. I remember being happy when I would draw or make something, and that is still how I feel today. I guess it would be high school that I decided to be a "real" artist. In college I figured out how hard it was going to be to make a living being just an artist, so I decided to also teach art.

KM: What inspires you?

TR: Old, forgotten, broken objects. Bones, teeth, natural oddities. Folklore, Mythology, Alchemy, Symbolism, Spells/Charms, and the Grotestuque. I especially like old, creepy, dolls.

KM: What is your favorite medium and why?

TR: I love working with metal. When I was little I would go with my dad when he would use the metal detector and to dig in old dump sites. After he would dig up an old coin or piece of jewelry, I would remember thinking how interesting it was that it was still there after being buried for so long. We would find old, broken bisque dolls and other metal objects too. Working in metal to me means a more permanent or indestructible piece of art. I love the thought of someone someday digging up one of my pieces!

KM: Who are your favorite artists and how do they inspire you?

TR: In the jewelry world:
Keith Lewis, Todd Reed, Yeonmi Kang, Kiff Slemmons, Felieke Van Der Leest, Min-Jung Cho, William Harper, John Paul Miller, and Richard Mawdsle. Other Artists: Hye Won Kim, Joel-Pete Witkin, Otto Dix, Karl Blossfeldt, Nick Bantock, Kiki Smith, Bosch, Kvium, Egon Schiele, Joseph Cornell, and Van Gogh. This just names a few! They are my favorites for many reasons. The subject matter, images, objects used, and the way their work makes me feel are the main reasons.

KM: What does the term ART mean to you? Expression? Interpretation? Therapy?

TR: Art means a lot of expression and a little therapy to me. There are lots of thoughts and feeling in side me that are hard for me to communicate. My art is a visual way for me to express my inner self.

KM: What are you working on right now?

TR: I am working on a series of pieces combining teeth (human real, false, partials, and animal) with faceted gem stones. Combining the not so pleasent maybe gross (not to me) teeth with gems excites me! I want people to take a second look at the pieces!

KM: What is your studio/workspace like? Neat or controlled chaos?

TR: My studio is a mess! I love it that way! If I could I would have everything out so I can see it all. My husband can't even look at my desks because It makes him crazy. Most of the time I get so many ideas I start laying everything out and end up working on my lap.

KM: What is your favorite studio tool/gadget/gizmo?

TR: I love my forming pliers. Sounds pretty boring, but I use them all the time. I also use a wooden chop stick to set most of my bezels.

KM: Tell us a little bit about your perspective on the link between art and nature.

TR: How can you not be inspired by nature?!? The world around us is in everything we do and make. Mother Nature is one of the best artists. I love the natural order in nature and the circle of life. I use objects that have been left behind. Bones, teeth, insects, and so on. But, I don't believe in harming animals for my work--I use only found objects.

KM: Finally, what advice/encouragement can you give to struggling artists in the world?

TR: Don't give up! Believe it or not, there is a market and place for your art out there somewhere! It may take time to find it. I struggled for years with galleries, and shows trying to sell my work. I always stayed true to myself and what I wanted to make. I found Etsy and I now know there are people out there to appreciate me and my pieces.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Favorite Book of the Moment

Stephanie Lee is a fantastic jewelry designer. She has vision, talent, and has written a wonderful new book, "Semiprecious Salvage". It's full of delightful jewelry and art designs using found objects, metals, and gemstones. She explains each project in detail while taking you on a journey through her imagination along the way. Her book is laid out like an expedition to an exotic far away land--very inspiring! She has an Etsy shop, under the name Dabbler--you must see her work! This book has helped me take my jewelry in a whole new direction. Thank you Stephanie, for giving me the inspiration and courage I needed to try something new. I hope to interview you soon!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Psssst....Your Crimps are Showing!

They say that "the Devil is in the details", and with jewelry design that is certainly true. Even artists who design and create assemblage or salvage-type jewelry that looks rough-and-tumble or even "unfinished" will tell you that hours and hours are spent perfecting every "imperfection". Details matter--period. That's why I feel that it is so important for artists of every skill level to make certain not to skip basic details of jewelry design. You can have a fantastic design/creation fall short for the want of a few simple steps. One of the first things I learned as a "newbie" jewelry designer was to COVER MY CRIMPS. Back in the "olden days" before commercial crimp covers were even thought of, I was squinting into my magnifying light, forcing 3 and 5mm seamed sterling silver beads open with a bead reamer to fit over my crimps. I'd then squeeze the bead closed and "Voila", the crimp now was a bead. I also always made sure to tuck my thread ends into adjacent beads so no loose threads or bead wire ever shows. This may sound silly, but details like these make a huge difference and will translate into better sales and better designs. So, don't get caught with your crimps showing--your jewelry will thank you for it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Artist Profile - Sister, Sister

When choosing an artist to be the first profiled on this blog, there was only one choice for me, my sister, Lynn McGovern (www.lynnmcgov.etsy.com). Lynn is many things--a fantastic sister, dance partner, friend, mother, and AMAZING glass artist. Besides all that, Lynn is the person that has most inspired me in my life to persue my interests in art and jewelry design. I have learned so much from her, and we have collaborated and partnered for many years. Lynn lives in Traverse City, Michigan with her son Ben, and is the original founder of Beadkeepers. Lynn creates amazing beads and jewelry from lampwork glass and is currently exploring architectural/sculptural glass. Thanks, Lynn, I can't wait to see what you do next!

KM: When did you know you wanted to be an "artist"?

LM: I can't remember a time when I didn't find it extraordinary to learn how to take something and turn it into something else. I'll date myself here, and remember how much I loved "Tot-Lot", a program held at a local park. Bored teenagers would teach us how to make pot holders from fabric bands and flowers from tissue paper. I think that you look at the world differently when you have that creative streak. Driftwwod, stones, feathers, and beach glass become ingredients or a palette for an expression of your heart. I do remember my third grade teacher asking me if she could keep a still life drawing that I did to show to future students. It was defining for me to be told that I had a talent, when at that point I just thought everybody loved to draw.

KM: What inspires you?

LM: My inspiration comes from so many sources, but my message is always to honor "all our relations". To express my love and energy for all of creation. This changes with the seasons, the times, and my own place in the universe today.

KM: What is your favorite medium and why?

LM: Glass, glass, glass. For many years now I have been involved in some sort of a relationship with glass. Stained glass in the 70's, glass beads in the 80's and 90's and then I found out how to melt and form my own lampwork glass beads. Glass is light. It reflects, refracts, and transmits light. Like a painter who will tell you that painting a picture is painting light, working with glass is dancing with light.

KM: Who are your favorite artists and how do they inspire you?

LM: My favorite glass artists are my beloved teachers. Loren Stump--a true master of the flame. Kimberly Fields, whose beads mimic the natural world she loves with astounding acuracy. Sharon Peters, who manages to bring her wonderfully twisted sense of humor into her glass creations. Emile Galle' has managed to put his dreams into glass in the 1800's, and his work takes my breath away. My sister Karen's work continues to amaze me. She takes me back to my initial wonder of taking something and turning it into something else, limited only by imagination.

KM: What does the term ART mean to you? Expression? Interpretation? Therapy?

LM: All of the above and I would include to honor and explore.

KM: What are you working on right now?

LM: I recently purchased a condo in a historical 19th century insane asylum that is being redeveloped into an incredible village of residents and retail. This "Kirkbride" building was built with the idea that "Beauty is Therapy". The architecture is stunning, full of mosaic marble floors, 20 ft. ceilings, and--my personal favorite--peaked spires that were included in the building design to intake fresh air. I am intriqued by the spires and spend as much time as I can up inside them, mesmerized by the fantastic views of Northern Michigan. They have inspired me to create "spire" beads. Tricky architectural details challenge me technically, and I love that challange.

KM: What is your studio/workspace like? Neat? Controlled chaos?

LM: My studio space is a place where most would wonder how I manage to accomplish anything! But, it is a place where in all the mess, I know where everything lives.

KM: What is your favorite tool/gadget/gizmo? You know, the thing/tool you love to use, that makes your work easier, better, fun, etc.--could be anything, even music. For me it's my ridiculously oversized electrical repair soldering gun.

LM: I love my oxygen/propane torch. My torch is an extention of my hands. Music is a constant, can't work without it.

KM: Tell us a little bit about your perspective on the link between art and nature.

LM: I looked up the definition of nature to answer this. ( I love my dictionary). Webster's says that nature is the "realm of the living". Art reflects that. Art honors that. There isn't a day that Nature doesn't offer me an inspiration to create. There isn't a day that I am not grateful for that.

KM: What advice/encouragement can you give to struggling artists in the world?

LM: Keep struggling!!! If you have the urge, need, inspiration to create then you will not be happy unless you do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Art and Politics

You simply cannot argue that ART is a true form of human expression on every level. Love it or hate it, the socio-politics of the moment are reflected in everything from news media to "info-tainment" to fine arts and crafts. Here are but a few examples of artists expressing their beliefs and interpretations of the United States 2008 Presidential Election.

From left to right: Etsy's artisanimprinters, Etsy's brookadelphia, on Flickr

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fabulous WebFinds September

I surf the 'Net a lot looking for weird and unusual beads, findings, gems, metals, STUFF for my jewelry designs. On of my new favorite websites is ARTchix Studio where you can find fantastic and unique items for those of us in love with vintage, assemblage, paper arts, collages, and odd bits and pieces. I've been purchasing like mad from the endless selection of gorgeous transparencies, and am in love with their selection of super-fab metal shrines and boxes (just waiting to be embellished, rusted, encrusted, and adorned!). They have so much to choose from! Simply a great selection of ecclectic items at great prices. You can also get great inspiration from photos and information about finished pieces created by artists from around the country. Check them out RIGHT NOW!

Welcome to the Studio!

Hello art lovers! I've decided to include you in my world of blogging, which covers everything from rants about the environment, celebrities, life, and now, ART. I am a jewelry designer and conservation biologist. I create jewelry to raise funds for wildlife conservation, focusing my designs on my belief that art and nature are one and the same. You can't have one without the other. So, here I'll post new ideas, introduce you to some of my favorite artists and generally try to get you as excited about art and nature as I am!

A little about myself. My husband and I live and work on a 30-acre wildlife conservation center and I have some of the worlds rarest animals and plants in my "backyard" including tiny marmosets from Peru that can sit in the palm of your hand, 1,000 lb. antelope from Africa, and rare Brazillian parrots. Every day is an adventure and an inspiration for my jewelry designs.

My real goal is to get people interested in nature through art. So, forgive me if I continually and shamelessly promote the organization I work for, the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (
www.rarespecies.org) throughout my website and this blog. We're a small, focused organization striving to save what's left of the world's wild places. Check out the website--you'll be pleasantly surprised!!

So, I hope you'll come back to visit this little blogspot often--I'll be featuring amazing artists, offer cool ideas and any new "tricks of the trade" that I come across, and generally try to encourage you to join me on an artistic journey into the wilderness...Thanks for stopping by!