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Joyce Chen Scissors

Small and powerful. These are my trusty Joyce Chen Scissors. Lexi introduced them to me during our first metalsmithing workshop. Be WARNED!!!! These little beauties are SHARP. Seriously SHARP! Lexi tells the story of our mutual friend, Helen Driggs, cutting a nice ‘V’ shape into one of her fingers using these puppies.

Their original intent was for use in the kitchen. They are sharp enough to cut through chicken bones, which is why you have to be extremely careful when you use them. Respect the edge, they have one!

So what the heck are these doing in my metalsmith tool arsenal? Well, they are wonderful for precision cutting. My primary use for them is to cut my bezel strips or solder sheets. They work great for taking little nips of what you need. I absolutely love them for cutting a thin 1mm or less slice from your bezel strips. You know, when you just have to remove a ‘frog’s hair’ as you fit a bezel around a stone, these are my go to tool for being able to cut thin, precise lines.

You can find these at your local kitchen specialty stores, Bed Bath & Beyond if you have one in your area, or online at a wide variety of places.  My Google searches usually turn up results in the Amazon Marketplace Shops.

I only have one pair, but there are times when I can definitely see the advantage of having at least 2 in my studio.  One at my bench, one at my soldering station.  They come in several colors besides the red shown here, which I like.  They offer these in white, yellow and blue too.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

If you are looking for a strong, sharp pair of scissors for your metalsmithing studio, I think you will find the Joyce Chen Scissors are great.  Just remember, keep your fingers out of the way…especially the fleshy parts and make sure you are paying close attention as you cut with these.  They will remind you if you are not paying attention!  Fortunately, mine have been very kind to me.

And if you are thinking of using them for their intended purpose in the kitchen, well, just buy a pair specifically for kitchen use.  Once a tool has found a home in my studio, it never ever comes back into my kitchen…that whole cross contamination of food thing!  Just don’t do it; don’t risk your health or that of your family and friends.  No metal/chemicals in my kitchen and no food in my studio.  Safety first!

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.


My Perfect Ten
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

On May 26th, Dan & I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  Time flies when you are having fun and we definitely are!  He is my best friend and soul mate.  It has been 10 of the happiest years of my life.  In honor of this very special occasion, I created this ring for myself.  It is My Perfect Ten.

I spent yesterday working with Lexi in her studio.  We had a great day; we always do.  I have wanted to make a spinner ring for a few months now and had everything prepared, including my first piece of 18kt gold!  Whew, I worked with gold for the first time yesterday…that’s a milestone for me in my metalwork.

Over the weekend, I worked on the various components for this ring.  I knew I wanted a thicker band and this one fits my index finger.  I textured the band with my favorite hammer mark pattern…so simple….and for me that adds elegance.  The darker rings around this band are sterling that I textured in a slightly different way.  I oxidized those so they would showcase the center gold band.

I wanted to keep the gold ring plain.  It will get those little bumps and nicks with wear and I’m ok with that.

The fun part of this ring is the three outer bands spin.  Now I’m not one of those who likes to fidget with their jewelry, but this whole concept of spinning rings appealed to me.

The hardest part was soldering gold for the first time.  Pretty nervous about putting a flame to gold when it costs close to $1,500 an ounce and this little 3″ 15 gauge gold wire I had ran almost $90! 

Must be very careful and do not melt it!

Lexi being the wonderful teacher that she is, told me what to do.  I took a deep breath, attempted to light her torch which I had great difficulty doing all day (I guess I’m used to my striker) and whoosh, the torch was lit.  At this point, I think Lexi may have lit it for me because I just for the life of me could not manage it.  So here I go, applying the flame to the join, watching, watching (probably holding my breath) and whoop, there she goes!  The solder melted, flowed and up that join it went, sealing the ring closed.  I turned off the torch.  I looked at it in marvel.  Yes, I’ve soldered many things, but this time, I soldered GOLD and I did not melt it.  I blinked a couple of times…as silly as it may seem, I felt tears and heard Lexi’s calming voice behind me, “It’s okay, you don’t have to cry, you did it”.  I tear up just thinking about it now.

Lots of emotions in this piece for many reasons.  A symbol of the love Dan & I share.  A symbol of my best friend, mentor and sister Lexi.  Both reinforce my belief that all things are possible with commitment, dedication and hard work.  Both believe in me.  How blessed am I?

My Perfect Ten.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist an a person.

Silver Brush Monaco Artist Travel Case

Following up on last week’s Talkin’ Tools post about The Perfect Tool Bag, this week I want to share a couple of Artist Travel Cases I have and why I think they are great for protecting tools as you travel to and from a workshop.

I’m sure you noticed this one is a lovely shade of purple. It is the Silver Brush Limited Monaco, available at Dick Blicks in two sizes and three color variations. This little beauty was a birthday gift from my dear sister, Lexi.  She’s very thoughtful.  I eluded to this case in last week’s Talkin’ Tools segment because it fits perfectly in the canvas tool bag I have.  Of course, Lexi got mine in purple and she also got one for herself in her favorite color red!

I believe the original intent for this case is for painters to hold their brushes and a small assortment of their paints. However, it also works great for the metalsmiths, holding files, pencils, pens, burnishers, etc. In this picture, you can see that I use the clear vinyl pouch to store my sandpapers.  This case accommodates a nice variety of your tools and keep things secure as you travel.  I like the fact that it is a slim case and it fits nicely in my canvas tote.

A Perfect Fit

Mine is 12″ x 6″ x 1 1/4″ and it fits as snug as a bug in my canvas tote.  The larger size that Dick Blick carries is 15″ x 8″ x 2″.

Santa Fe Travel Tote

About a year ago, I purchased this Santa Fe Travel Tote from Jerry’s Artarama. Even though it was designed for painters to carry their tools of the trade, I thought it would work well for keeping things organized as I traveled to Lexi’s for classes or other workshops.  Lexi liked mine so well, that I gave her one like this for her birthday this year.  She has used it for packing up some of her gear for the workshops she teaches.  Pretty cool!

There’s some serious room inside of this case.  It’s 15″ x 7 3/4″ and certainly competes with the larger Silver Brush tote.  The case has a zippered closure and I don’t over pack it, but it does expand nicely to accommodate most of the tools I need when I travel.

Next week I’ll return to discussing the actual tools that I use in my metalsmithing work.  However, I really wanted to share what I use to transport my tools as it’s just as important to have quality travel cases to protect your tool investments.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Which one is the Impostor?

One of my goals, when I began my metalsmithing blog was to share my journey as a metalsmith.  I wanted to document my journey.  I’ve enjoyed sharing my process and I do not intend to stop being open about my inspirations, designs, creative process and techniques.  However, in the past number of months, I have found that someone has started to copy my work or I should say she tried to copy it.  Her first copy was a variation of my Namaste piece; not a complete duplicate, but the evidence was there of an attempt to recreate what I had done with Namaste.  At first I dismissed it, naively thinking it was just a coincidence.  Then it became more apparent and this week, Lexi saw the impostor’s “work” too.  She was very upset that someone had blatantly copied my designs and asked me if I had seen the latest piece.  I checked it out, confirmed that yes, it was yet another copy of one of my designs.  To look at this person’s blog, you can see the transformation in her work as she started to copy my designs.  I am not boasting or bragging about how great my work is here, I am just stating a fact.

Now I’m confronted with a situation that I find unpleasant.  I thought this person was an online friend.  Clearly that is not the case.  I am disappointed.  I’m not one of the big names in the art jewelry industry.  I’m working on finding my way and have openly shared my journey here.  And yes I realize that an online persona may not be the real one, yet I have developed many friendships here in cyberspace with fellow artists that I respect and admire.

I have considered contacting her and asking her to stop.  She has no problem blogging about “her designs”, posting them in her Etsy store, Facebook, etc.  I know of fellow art jewelers, such as Tamra Gentry, who have engaged in stimulating and intellectual discussions about this dilemma on their blogs and Facebook.  Some of the questions raised are what course of action we should take when these copycats take our designs and use them for their own gains?  Clearly, Tamra has experienced this problem with people copying her designs too as I’m sure many of you have.  How have you dealt with it?

For me I think it boils down to this….the people who copy others work, lacks imagination, creativity and the self-confidence to experiment and grow as artists.

As Lexi so eloquently wrote on my Facebook page:

“The person who knocks off anyone’s pieces, and notice I didn’t call them an artist, is only copying a technique. They didn’t travel down the road that resulted in the destination of that piece. They made an empty shell. And as a person, they very well may be empty, with no vision. Whatever it is, it is their unfortunate situation, and certainly not yours.”

I have to agree with Lexi, a copycat is an empty person, with no vision.  They certainly do not deserve the moniker ‘Artist’.

This is my letter to the Impostor:

“Challenge Accepted!  You have committed what I consider to be one of the cardinal sins against an artist (notice I do not consider you a fellow artist) and that is you have stolen designs and claimed them as your own, offering them up for sale in your Etsy store and elsewhere.

Thank you for providing the impetus for me to ‘suit up’ and bring my A-Game like you have never seen before.  I have integrity.  I will know if you attempt to copy these new works I will create.  You can never capture the soul of my pieces.

Understand that if I see any of my new series, such as Mountainesque or Arts & Crafts Impressions or the new ones to come, I will notify you that you must cease and desist.  My work is copyrighted.  I will not tolerate the continued pilfering of my artwork.

You have been put on notice.  I know you read my blog.  I will be watching to protect what is rightfully mine.  The Universe is watching too.”

Being copied comes with the territory.  I get that.  What disappoints is the person who proclaims to be a friend and admirer.  I have your number, Impostor.

I want to thank the rest of you who read my blog for indulging me in this post.  I realize it is a hot topic with my fellow artists and I would enjoy knowing what you have done, if you have found your work plagiarized.

My thanks too, to two of my Studio Mascots, Nocturne & Bueller, for helping to interject some humor into this very serious topic.  Dan has to take those photos pretty quick as I’m sure you can imagine.  🙂

Until next time, I am aspiring to be more as an artist and a person.

This month’s Blog-O-Sphere Think Tank question is: ” favourite quote(s)?”  (and why? if you want to share..)

I definitely have one….actually I have several, so here is my short list aka my Top Five.

1. “Well behaved women seldom make history” ~~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I stumbled across this quote a few years ago.  It struck a chord deep in my soul.  I could and probably should write a book about finding oneself and coming into your own.  Let’s leave it at, the Genie has left her bottle and she ain’t ever going back in there.  So when I found this quote, I thought, YES!  Well  behaved women seldom make history.  Joan of Arc, Kate Hepburn, and others come to mind.  If you are going to leave your mark on this world, I’m not so sure being a well-behaved woman/person is going to achieve that.  So it has become one of my signature tag lines for my email and something I live by.

2. “I am not afraid…I was born to do this.” ~~ Joan of Arc

The determination that echos in this quote from Joan of Arc helps reinforce the understanding I have that fear is the worst thing any of us can feel as we approach a daunting task, make a decision, or anything else for that matter.  Do not give fear the power to hold you back.  Know that each of us is born to do something special.  Joan of Arc inspires me with her courage, strength and faith.

3. “Destiny is made known silently” ~~ Agnes De Mille

Thanks to the Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, I was introduced to this quote early this year.  When I am experiencing self-doubts, I find this quote lifts my spirits and my understanding that my destiny is right there, right in front of me, no matter how quiet it may seem at the time.  I believe in letting my work speak about who I am as an artist, a person.  Yes, I believe destiny is made know silently.  Meditate on that one.

4. “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” ~~ Albert Einstein

Mr Einstein was a genius; still is in my book.  This quote just makes me smile and feel child like.  Exhilarated, filled with anticipation.  How true is it that we are only limited by our imagination? I agree that our imagination gives us a preview of life’s coming attractions!  It’s one of my alternative email signature tags.

5. “Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person” ~~ Kathleen Krucoff  🙂

Yes, it’s my quote and what I like to use at the end of my blog posts.  I like how positive this sounds and I want to encourage others to Aspire, yes, Aspire to be more as an artist….and also as a person.  Strive to achieve what you aspire to be.  I hope you find it encouraging.

These are my top 5 favorite quotes.  What are some of yours?

Please see what my fellow blog-o-sphere think tank compadres have shared as their favorite quotes:

Andes Cruz:
Brad Severtson:
Wendy Kelly:
Mary Spencer:
Stephanie Clark:
Barbara Donovan:
Laura Flavin:
Beth Cyr:
Thomasin Durgin:
Shaun Young:
Kathryn Cole:
Natsuko Hanks:

Andrea Bell:

And yes, I leave you with: Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.  🙂  I truly mean it.

I am delighted to announce that I have been accepted as one of the artists for the Front Range Open Studios Tour this fall.  The event will take place on the weekend of September 17th & 18th from 10 AM – 6 PM on Saturday and from 10 AM – 5 PM on Sunday. Rest assured I will post reminders and more details as we get closer to the dates.  In the interim, if you ‘Like’ Front Range Open Studios Facebook page, you’ll receive updates on what our plans are.

To my surprise, one of my Mountainesque pieces, Uncharted Territory,  is featured as the artwork for the poster too!  Whoot!  I am truly honored and humbled to have been selected as part of this group of artists whom I consider to be very talented and gifted.

The first Art Hop of the season will take place tomorrow night, Thursday, May 19th from 5 PM to 8PM at The Gallery Center, 366 Second Street, Suite C, Monument CO.  I will be there with several of my fellow participating artists to discuss the upcoming open studios tour and provide a preview of some of our work.

One of the goals of the open studio tour is to show the public the working artist studios located in the Tri-Lakes Area which includes Larkspur, Palmer Lake, Monument, Gleneagle and Black Forest.  During the open studio tour, each artist will demonstrate the process of creating their art, including materials, tools, special procedures.  It should prove to be very informative.

Initially, I was approached by Nancy Bonig, who is a glass artist that I greatly admire, to apply for this event.  I am touched and thankful that Nancy liked my work so much that she thought of me and asked me to apply.  The rest is history now and I’m so excited that my work was juried into this tour.  I believe this is a great opportunity.

I am looking forward to demonstrating my process as I create my art jewelry.  Over the past year, Lexi & I have discussed the importance of educating people about how we create our work.  This tour will provide a wonderful way to see where we work & create, the tools used in our craft, what inspires us, and more.  We recognize why there is “sticker shock” at times for a certain piece of our work.  We feel it’s incumbent upon us as artists to help educate the public about why a piece of our work costs more than the trinkets you can purchase at the large box stores.  I’m just saying!  Do you want to buy something of quality and craftsmanship, with a bit of the artist’s soul in it, or something that’s just crunched out by machines?  Big difference, Huge, ok, CAVERNOUS!  🙂  I’m more than a little passionate about this topic, can you tell?

There may be some challenges to get to my studio, as there are detours and road construction out where I live and that may deter some, but I hope it won’t.  I can promise those who venture to my studio, they will not be disappointed and I will be very happy to discuss what I do and show a variety of aspects that go into creating my art jewelry.  Plus you will get to see some of my finished work, maybe even a new series!  Well worth the price of admission, which is FREE by the way.

For now, I hope those of you who live in the area, maybe you can find some time to check out the first Art Hop of the 2011 season, stop by The Gallery Center and say Hi!  I’m certain there will be lots of beautiful work to admire.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Circles Pendant
Arts & Crafts Impressions
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

A few more from my new Arts & Crafts Impressions. Dan really loved the simplicity of this pendant. I even carried the circle theme on this one through to the bail at the top. I think in its simplicity it is very elegant. The whole less is more idea.

Simply Circles
Arts & Crafts Impressions
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

While I didn’t necessarily make these earrings to match the pendant, I think they are a very nice compliment, if you are looking for a set. I actually made these first and then as I was working on some of the other circle pendants in this series, everything just started to come together.  It’s nice when that happens, isn’t it?

This was the first time, since I started metalwork, where I really didn’t do a sketch for each item in the series.  I was able to visualize what I wanted to do and just started cutting out the metal and putting the pieces together.  I felt a real sense of direction once things started to gel and lead the way.  I know that it was more feasible to work without specific designs given the clean lines of these pieces.  I found it rather freeing to just work without the use of sketches.  I know that won’t always be the case, yet it does open some nice possibilities for letting future work evolve and take its own wings.

Currently, I’m experimenting with some new ideas that will lend themselves to another series….but that discussion is for another time.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Stanley Tools ~ Barbara’s Way Tool Bag

Those of you who know me know my passion for the color purple. I can spot this color from a mile away. Ok, maybe not, but in this case, an aisle away.  🙂

About a month or so ago, Dan & I were doing our weekly shopping and skirting the tool section in our local Wal-Mart when I caught a glimpse of purple down an aisle. At first I thought this was an unusual color to see in a tool section, so it beckoned me to come.

As I approached, I saw this canvas bag, trimmed in more of a lavender than purple, but I’m not one to quibble about that when it’s in my favorite color family. I opened it, saw a number of clever side pockets for storage, inspected the way it was constructed, discovered a handy little side storage pouch, plus another zippered pouch for storage too.  I loved it.  Of course I bought one!

They run about $10 and I don’t think you can beat the value.  It’s pretty awesome as far as I’m concerned.

It’s absolutely perfect for taking the right amount of tools when I go for a lesson at Lexi’s or a workshop at one of the local metal studios.  I could not be happier with this convenient bag to transport tools.  Lexi uses a Plano fishing tackle box and hers is great.  However, they no longer manufacture that model so I tried in vain to find something close to hers.  Well, I found one, that worked sort of, but it was just so frustrating to use and didn’t work well for transporting files, pliers, metal, sand papers, etc.

Now that I have this tool bag, I can pack it as needed for whatever metalsmithing class I’m taking.

This is a view of the inside of mine.  The zippered opening is reinforced with a metal frame so it opens like an old fashioned doctor’s satchel.  Perhaps that’s part of what appealed to me?  It’s great to have that nice wide opening.  From this angle, I’m trying to show the interior side pockets that work well for holding pens, pencils, smaller sheets of metal, pliers, and more.  And some of these side pockets have Velcro to hold things in place.

The bag is approximately 12″ long and I have been able to fit a 12″ ruler in there without any problems.  The opening is roughly 5″ wide so it’s very easy to take things in and out.

This is another pouch that comes with the bag; it fits inside the bag.  I’ve used it for pens and pliers.  There is clear vinyl so you can see what’s inside.  Just a convenient way to know where things are.

Another folding tool holder on the outside.  It’s held in place by Velcro fasteners.  This little side pouch is perfect for holding my files.  You can see I’ve added a little luggage tag with one of my business cards.  Just an easy way to have your identification on the bag.

I just love the convenience of this tool bag system.  It helps keep things well organized in preparation for a traveling to a class or as you are cleaning up after a class.  I find it makes it so simple to inventory what you took and make sure you don’t leave without all of your precious tools!

Stanley also has a line of the hard sided tool boxes in this same family.  I’m tempted, but I don’t really feel I need one in addition to this nice canvas tool carrier.  I’m sure it’s a matter of personal preference.

I have not found these available on Wal-Mart’s website, but they still can be found in their stores…at least our local stores still carry them.  And I’m fairly certain that Stanley tools will help you find a store that carries them as well.  I think they are a pretty valuable addition to the tool arsenal…even if it isn’t a tool, it carries and organizes them very well.

There’s an addendum to add to this post that I know you will enjoy, but that will have to wait until another Talkin’ Tools segment.  For this post, I wanted to focus on Barbara’s Way Tool Bag by Stanley tools.  I highly recommend it.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Ginkgo Branch
Arts & Crafts Impressions
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

I’d like to start this post with wishing everyone a very Happy Mother’s Day.  It is a beautiful, sunny spring day here in Colorado and I hope many of you are able to be out and about, enjoying this day with friends and family.

Ginkgo Branch is a pendant in my new Arts & Crafts Impressions series.  I am happy to report that the new series was well received last weekend at the Arts & Craft’s Society’s Gathering of the Guilds at the Boettcher Mansion.  My Ginkgo earrings were my most popular item and I sold several pairs.  For me, that is a wonderful affirmation of my work.

I thoroughly enjoyed participating the the Gathering of the Guilds.  The people were well informed and interested in learning about each craft-person’s technique.  A few asked me to explain my process for creating the ginkgo leaf earrings I had.  It’s nice to be able to discuss your process with interested parties.

Since I described a bit of my process last weekend at the event, I thought you may enjoy that discussion in this post. Each Ginkgo leaf, in any of these pieces is different.  I cut out a myriad of them as I was working on earrings or pendants as you can see in this photo.

Thank goodness I have that great KnewConcepts saw!  With as tiny as these were, I’ll take all the tool assistance I can find.  In this photo, the leaves have the line textures.  The penny is shown as a point of reference for the size of the leaves. Prior to hammering line textures on these, I had sanded each piece to have a nice smooth, clean surface to accept the textures.

Once the textures were applied, I took each leaf and shaped it using one of those Fretz mini-stakes I discussed in a previous Talkin’ Tools segment.

For the branches, I used Sterling Silver wire.  I did little light forging on the wire ends to flatten them out a bit and shape them.

I soldered the branches together first and then soldered the leaves in place.  The entire process of building these pieces had a series of experiments to figure out what worked best and in what sequence.  It does require pre-planning and forethought before you start putting the components together.

Simply Ginkgo
Arts & Crafts Impressions
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

These little earrings are just fun and make me smile.  They have lots of movement and are very light weight.  I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the earring variations in this series.  I wanted to have a variety of earring styles that would mix & match well with any of the pendants I created.  I will share more of these in another post.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

The Micro-Mesh Color Coded Sanding Sticks

I would be lost without Google.  How did we ever live and find things quickly before the Internet and Search Engines?  One day I was searching for ‘something‘, I can’t remember what, and I stumbled across a review of these Micro-Mesh Sanding Sticks.  The review was from a jeweler and she found these invaluable for finishing work.  They were only $10.99 and I could order them online.  Why not?

The only place I have found them is at Woodcraft (both online and in the local store).  As luck would have it, there is a store close by in Colorado Springs.  I know there is one in the Denver area.  If you check their website, they have a listing of all of their stores.  Maybe there is a store close to you?  If not, their website is easy to navigate and you just may find a few more tools that appeal to you!

I believe the original intent for these sanding sticks was related to wood working, however, they work very well for sanding the edges of jewelry, giving them a quality finish.  You can see I use some more than others, it just depends what effect or finish I need.

During one of my lessons with Lexi, she introduced me to Emory boards, yep the ones us gals use for filing our fingernails, as a way to finish jewelry.  The only problem was, Emory boards do not come in a wide variety of grits.  When I started using the Micro-Mesh Sanding Sticks, I knew Lexi would like them too and a set managed to find its way into her Christmas stocking.

I like the color code chart that comes with these and I have one hanging on my peg board above my bench as a reference.

In the past month, I discovered that Woodcraft also carries these Micro-Mesh sanding systems in mini-pads and hand pads.

I am fairly certain that all of these are very popular because the store usually has one or two packages and is waiting for the next shipment to arrive.  The folks at our local store are really helpful and I can call ahead to check on the inventory.  If they are low or out of stock, they will order more and set them aside for me.

I have found these larger hand pads work very well for sanding a back plate before I set a bezel.  The variety of grits allow me to work my way to the finish I want.  It’s very soothing to go through the various stages of hand finishing the metal to prepare it for the next step in the process of building a piece….sort of like finding my Zen moment.  Aaaaahhhh.

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s installment of Talkin’ Tools.  Maybe a set of these will work their way into your tool kits?  I think you will enjoy them.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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