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Hollow Formed Bead

This is one of two hollow formed beads I made on Wednesday night during my lesson with Lexi.  It is quite the process and I plan to document the steps for another post in the future.  Right now I will show the results, the good, the bad and the ugly part of this post.

It truly is a fascinating and labor intensive process.  I made two beads that evening and when you see the second one….well that one didn’t turn out, hence the bad and the ugly.

The process involves starting with two circles that are the same size.  We used sterling silver discs for this less.  A hole is placed in the center of the each circle and you decide how large the diameter of that center hole should be.  Then saw the sized hole in the center of each of your discs.  Once that is done, you have to filed those inner circles to be smooth and match each other.

Next she had me use the dapping block (see picture below) and begin working on gradually rounding the two discs.  There are lots of tricks here.  Basically you continue to choose smaller and smaller holes to dome the discs.  AND the discs need to match and fit together without and gaps.  Really important here….no gaps, you’ll see why and what happens in my last pictures of the second bead.

Pepe Dapping Block and Punches

Pepe Dapping Block and Punches

Once the two discs are the shape you want, then you solder them together.  I was so caught up in learning this process that I didn’t get any pictures, which is one of the reasons why I will do a step by step to show how this is accomplished.  The way the two discs are soldered together is unlike anything I have ever tried and found it to be really cool.  Essentially, you flux the joining edge of the two discs and cut a piece of flux to lay across the diameter of one of the discs.  Place the two discs together, edges matching, with a little of the solder hanging out on each side and then fire up your torch!  The solder will flow and you use your torch to take advantage of the solder’s capillary action to fill that seam.  All of that worked will with the first bead pictured above.  Course Lexi demonstrated the soldering technique on the first bead for me to observe.

While I did the work on shaping the discs for both beads, now it was my turn to solder the second bead.  Everything looked good and I was quite pleased and amazed to see how the solder flowed and it looked as if I had a complete join.


This bead doesn’t have any of the finish work.  You can see on this side how the seams are soldered together. But sadly there was a gap that I didn’t notice.  Lexi had checked before I started too and neither of us saw it.  But the gap was there and one of the things Lexi emphasizes…because it is so true, solder won’t fill gaps!

Here’s the gap:


And you can see ALL the solder that we both tried to use to get that gap to fill.  Now I’ll play with this some in terms of sanding, filing and creating another textrue effect.  The important thing is that I learned a technique and my pieces weren’t perfect.  My first attempt and as much as I would love everything to turn out on the first try, it usually doesn’t for me.  It’s how we learn, it’s how I learn.  I understand this technique, the basic principles.  Now it’s time to practice.

I also understand why hand made, hollow form beads are so expensive.  I’ll repeat myself,  it takes a lot of time to make these beads.  And I know it will take less time the better I become at making these.  It may seem like a lot of effort to create a few beads, but when you are making art jewelry, that’s part of the process of creating something to go with a necklace you’ve designed.  And there are times when I may not even feel it’s worth it and just buy the beads that will be incorporated into a design.  Whenever we are making art in our respective mediums, it does become our call as the artist to decide what we thinks works best with the piece we are creating.

Until next time, here’s wishing all of you a wonderful day of creativity!


BenchAndBuddyThis is my Jewelers’ Bench and its “Little Buddy”, a sewing chest from my parents which I will use for storing small tools.  I have a lot of organizing to do now that these two are in their workspace.

Before I bought this bench,  I did a lot research on the web and asked Lexi for advice.  This bench is manufactured by Gorbet USA and is a nice simple, solid wood jeweler’s bench.  Dan was such a HUGE help in putting this together as I’ve been battling a bit of tennis elbow from some gardening I did the end of May.

I don’t need a large bench, although there are some pretty ones out there that I’m sure I would love to use.  However, this bench will serve my needs well as I work on creating metal pieces.  My torch and acetylene tank are set up and secured (by chains and bungee cords) in my glass studio, where I will do my soldering.  The two pieces of furniture remind me of ‘buddies‘ and the space has a really nice feel to it.  I know I will have to address the lighting in the work space a little more and fortunately I have some lights in my glass studio that I can migrate back and forth, depending on where I am working.

PartsPiecesBassetsOf course, in our house, no project is done without basset supervision.  We laid out the pieces of the bench in prepartion for its assembly.  Newton (on the left) and Nocturne took up residence and the supervisory role.  As soon as I put the rug down, they claimed it for Bassetdom and I’m certain they will keep me company as I work.

I have been dwelling on this thought for a long time.  Both of my parents passed away 3+ years ago, within 6 months of each other.  And when they left this world, my drive to create became overwhelming.  It felt as if my ancestors were compelling me to focus on being an artist.  I can’t explain it, but there is this powerful, driving force that is only happy/satisfied when I am immersed in being creative.  And that led me to the question I posed for the title of this post:

How much of our Artistic Abilities are Genetic?

Both of my grandfathers had passed away before I was born.  I only ‘knew‘ them through my parents and their memories of their respective fathers.  My paternal grandfather was a landscaper and taught that skill to my father.  In my mind, the unique thing about both of them was that they did more than just plant trees, plants, flowers in an appealing..yes artistic fashion…they added to the landscape with their own works, created by nature.  My grandfather created what I call “lattice work from branches” for adornment to buildings and bridges.  When I was a child, one of his footbridges over the duck ponds in Krape Park still remained.  Walking over it, even studying it as a youngster, I was fascinated by how he took these gnarly branches and created delicate lattice work patterns for the sides of this foot bridge.  At some point, the elements did their work on it and it had to be torn down and replaced.  I don’t know if my folks ever got any pictures of it…I haven’t found any in the photographs they had yet….but when I was back after my mother’s death, I went to Krape Park.  On the upper part of the park they had the picnic shelters and I knew my grandfather had a hand in building these.  I was wandering around them and happened to look up and saw this………

Joseph Schramm Lattice Work

Joseph Schramm Lattice Work

To my delight, there was some of my grandfather’s lattice work!!!  You can see some of the pieces are missing, but it was still there.  And the branches had been painted…maybe to preserve their remaining integrity.  When I was a child, the raw branch was exposed, bark and all, which I thought made these really cool.  And I still find this so beautiful.  The design, the symmetry.  He was an artistic landscaper.

Fortunately, he passed this knowledge along to my father, Ed Schramm.  Dad built a small scale version of that footbridge and put his own spin on it.  But it had the lattice work sides and I just loved it.  I marveled at how he was able to find the right branches to fit together and make it look so beautiful.  I haven’t found any pictures of that either.  I was able to watch him build it so it remains in my mind.

And then there is my maternal grandfather, Joseph Ehredt.  He was a blacksmith…a farrier.  Man I love that word farrier…just sounds so cool to me.  A few years ago I found a reprint of an article announcing his marriage to my grandmother and they proudly announced he was a blacksmith by trade, bringing his young bride to a fine home.

All of this gets me back to my question.  I am certain that some of my artistic tendencies/abilities are inherited from both grandfathers and my father.  My mother was a registered nurse and she saw that I had artistic ability and encouraged it.  I am thankful.  And I know too that I have been blessed with this gift and that it does come from God.  Whatever your beliefs… the Power, the Force in the universe, the Supreme Being….I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to nurture the gifts I have been given, develop them, and share them with others.

It is my belief that my love of nature comes from the paternal side of my genealogy.  And my awakened love of working with metal comes from my maternal genealogy.  I want to honor them with my work.  Yes, I believe my artistic abilities are rooted in my genes, a gift from God, and something I must continue to nurture.

Over the past number of years I have embarked on my artistic calling.  My mother had always encouraged my artistic tendencies, but I dismissed that as a career path for me because how could I ever make a living at it!!!  Oh how foolish I was.  Now I am making up for lost time and perhaps this really was the way things were meant to be.  I have life lessons and experience to make my art be what it was meant to be now.

I knew since the early ’80s that glass was my medium.  However, some form of metal work was always connected with that….lead, solder, copper foil, zinc.  I didn’t put the relationship together, in terms of that “ah ha!” moment until the last 30 days.  And now it makes sense.  Sometimes it takes me a while to put the pieces together…does that ever happen for you?

On the weekend of June 13 – 14, 2009, I took my first Art Jewelry Design Workshop from Lexi Erickson.  It was an intense two day workshop that covered a semester’s worth of instruction.  On Day 2, I started to see designs for new pieces in many places.  Lexi said this would happen.  Even though I was a little shocked by the process starting so soon, I enjoyed that it had started to happen and it continues with ideas exploding  in my mind on a daily basis now.  Journals for those ideas are becoming vitally important.  Sometimes I have trouble getting things down on paper as I picture them in my mind.  I know with practice my drawing ability will improve and I will be able to put on paper what I see in my mind.

There aren’t many times when a special relationship starts.  However, something happened  the first time I met Lexi was at the sneak preview weekend for Coyote Creek Studio Arts, on May 16, 2009.  We had an instant connection and now we have a friendship that is growing.  Lexi is my mentor.  I have the greatest respect and admiration for her.  And she is a dear, dear friend.

Last Wednesday, July 8, 2009, I had my first lesson with her since that weekend workshop at Coyote Creek in Fairplay, Colorado.  I prepared two pendants and learned how to set a bezel on a textured surface.  With Lexi’s guidance, I learned this technique and will need to continue to practice it.  Here are pictures of those completed pendants.  To me they show promise of where my work is today and a knowledge of where it can grow with continued work on my part.Copper BlazeLapis Pendant

Last night, Lexi invited me to meet her friend Helen Driggs who is in town for the CoMA Conference that will take place in Salida, Colorado this weekend.  It was such a fun evening.  My great fortune to be invited and have the opportunity listen to two very talented metalsmiths discussing their passion for the medium, the art, their work.  Amazing stuff.  That’s Lexi…sharing, giving, open.  And I realize that I am a fledgling with a burning desire to learn all I can about working with metal.  It will take time and patience.  Trial and error on my part.

So this morning I was thinking about the mystical qualities of metal work.  Right now it seems quite mystical for me…. almost magical…which led me to create this blog.  Mystical Mythical Metalwork.  Yes, a lot of words, however they just kept rolling over and over in my mind.  Mystical because there is so much mystery to the metal for me.  I have to discover how to employ the different means of working with metal.  Mythical…because I think about those wonderful myths surrounding metal…like The Legend of King Arthur…drawing the sword from the stone or the Elves ethereal metal for the sword from The Lord of the Rings.  One of my goals and aspirations is to create metal work that has that mythical quality about it.  And the last word, Metalwork, well that’s pretty obvious….it’s about the METAL!!!

Metal is a somewhat new medium for me to work with, but in my stained glass work, it has always been there…either through the solder, the copper foil that holds the piece together, or the lead channel (if that is how I built a window), or the zinc frame to stabilize a window.  Metal was always a part of my glass process…this was my ah ha! realization moment that Metal is a much a part of my work as Glass.  Last year I learned how to incorporate metal inclusions in my fused glass works.  For my glass jewelry, I wire wrapped it to distinguish it even more and make each piece truly unique.  So yes, metal is an integral part of my work, I just never realized it until recently.

This blog will focus on my journey as a fledgling metalsmith.  I plan to grow and someday look back on this moment in time with a sense of accomplishment about where I was as I started this journey and where it led me.  I hope you will enjoy following me and sharing this journey with me.

Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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