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The Kit

I believe the folks at 3M are pretty darn ingenious.  From their sticky pads that came about because of a glue ‘mistake’,  to their invisible tape for wrapping presents,  to their line of Micron sandpapers, to these little radial bristle discs, and TONS more.  I’m definitely a fan of 3M products!

For this segment of Talkin’ Tools, I thought I would discuss my affection for using these discs in my metalwork.  Lexi introduced them to me and she likes to refer to them as ‘spiders‘ because of their appearance.

Initially I had a small subset of 3 different grits.  Yes, just like sandpaper, these gems come in different types (grits) for the work to be done.  3M has color coded them according to their grit, which is very convenient.  I like to keep a cheat sheet on my peg board to reference which size grit I need, but after a while, you get used to the color coding and I don’t refer to the cheat sheet as much.  I find I just use some more than I do others; I gravitate toward the ones that achieve the affect I want in my metalwork.

Sometimes I find buying a kit makes a lot of sense. It gives me a chance to see what is in a given product line and helps me to find which ones I tend to use the most.  Otto Frei offers this particular kit (pictured above).  Of course, once I have narrowed it down to the ones I frequently use, I routinely order those to have a stock pile on hand.

I consider these the speed version of sanding by hand.  Let’s face it, there are times I need to economize my time and these beauties will cut to the chase for any given metalworking task.  They can do things in seconds that will take several minutes or longer if I hand sand the metal.

They attach to a mandrel and are used with my Foredom flex shaft.  Generally I use a minimum of 3 of the same grit on the mandrel (see the picture below), but you can go up to 6.  The white ones (not included in this kit) are my favorite.

In this picture I’m showing the size difference between the two types I use.  The white one pictured is 1″ in diameter, while the yellow one is 3/4″ in diameter.  They are great for getting into small places that can be hard to reach with sandpaper.  I don’t try to achieve a high polish with these, I just take them up in size to the smallest  micron level depending on the finish I want.  The white one gives a nice texture, tooth to the metal finish that will take oxidation well.  There are times when I just like the texture the white one leaves on the metal surface and consider that as the finish for a piece.  I find them to be very versatile in helping to achieve different finishes.  It’s fun to experiment with them.

As with any work involving power tools, wear your safety glasses when you use these.  The little ‘fingers’ or ‘spider legs‘ do come flying off and I have had them hit me in the face, thus the importance of wearing your safety glasses.

They are a great thing to have in your tool box and I use them frequently as I’m finishing my pieces.  Oh I still do a lot of hand finishing, but when I need to make quick work of taking off a bit of a solder blob ….well, they are just plain handy.  Definitely a plus for my time management in the studio.

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


This month’s Blog-o-Sphere Think Tank topic relates to The Bucket List.  What are some of the things you’d like to do/ accomplish before you die and maybe provide your reason why?

As I thought about this topic, I realized that all of the things that came to mind initially revolved around travel.  There are so many places I would love to visit and some I would love to return to, but for this, I’ll just cover the ones that are on the top of my wish list.

New Zealand

Ever since I saw Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, I just fell in love with the beauty of where some of the movie scenes took place in New Zealand.  I am hopeless when it comes to mountains and lakes; their beauty is beyond compare for me.  So New Zealand is one of those places I would love to visit to hike, cycle, take tons of photographs and just relax.  I’m afraid I would never want to leave once I got there.

See the Tour de France.  Dan & I have watched the Tour for a number of years now and being able to see that great cycling event would be a blast.  Plus, there are so many beautiful castles and chateau’s in the French countryside that it would be a great sightseeing trip too.

The Black Forest Region ~ Germany

My paternal grandparents and my maternal great-grandparents came from the Black Forest area in Germany.  I would love to visit and explore.  I know I have relatives that live there, but I have no idea where or who.  I think it would be awesome to see some of those places where my distant relatives once lived.  Plus, there would be more castles to see too and I’ve always been fascinated by castle architecture.

Denali National Park / Alaska

Dan & I have talked about a trip to Alaska for years.  I feel like this is one that is definitely in our future.  Alaska is such a rugged wilderness to me and I find it breathtaking.  Plus, I would dearly love to see more moose….sure they are bad tempered, big and unpredictable, but to me they are such handsome, magnificent animals.  Of course, Denali National Park would be one of the must see places for that trip.  What a great photo adventure!

Yosemite National Park ~ Moon & Half Dome by Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams’ photographs of Yosemite (poster of this print available through AllPosters) have made me want to visit ever since I first saw them. I was a fan of his works even before I met Dan….it is one of many things we share in common.  I think Ansel’s photographs of this area created my desire to see it in person.

There are plenty of other places I’d love to visit.  I think these are the top 5 on my bucket list.  Course there are other things on my buket list too, but I think this post is probably long enough and thanks for hanging in there … reading this far!  🙂

So many of these places are great for photography and artistic inspiration, along with healing of the spirit and rejuvenation.  One of the things Dan & I have discovered is that when you take the time to photograph a place, you take the time to soak it in and savor the experience.

Please visit my fellow Think Tank bloggers today and see what their responses are:

Andes Cruz:
Thomasin Durgin:
Wendy Kelly:
Natsuko Hanks:
Mary Watson:

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

My Hallmark

How important do you think it is to the collectors of our work, our clients, to know that they are buying an authentic piece of art?  The real deal, no fakes, no imitations, but an original art work created by the artist.

I believe it’s very important to them.  I know it is to me and I’ve witnessed it in others.  Last year I knew a woman who had purchased a Michael Boyd ring at the silent auction at the Colorado Metalsmiths Conference.  It was the real thing….Michael was there, he donated several of his works, yet this ring didn’t have Michael’s Hallmark stamp.  It was very important to her that the ring have his Hallmark to confirm its authenticity and she asked Michael to mark the ring….to my knowledge he did and she’s one happy woman because she has added a Michael Boyd ring to her collection.  It’s authenticated by the Hallmark stamp, placed on the ring by Michael himself.

Last year I decided it was time to mark my works with my Hallmark, also known as the Maker’s Mark.  It is a way that jewelry artists use to show the authenticity of their work, that is, it is proof that we made the piece.  I had reached a point where I wanted to insure that anyone, who bought one of my pieces, would know by way of this mark that it was something that I made.

Painter’s sign their works.  Some glass artists sign their works by etching the glass, using a gold ink that can be fused on their fused works, or even using a paint that can be ‘baked’ to permanently to a piece of the glass that will comprise their work.  Sculptures have a mark.  The point is, artists have been using their ‘mark’ for centuries to show it is their work.

It’s a wonderful affirmation.

Initially I had been using the ‘K’ from a set of metal stamps, but that wasn’t truly distinctive in my mind.  As I continued with my work, I revised my logo and eventually came up with my current logo that you see pictured at the top of this post.  Once I had that, I knew I wanted to have that as my mark to show my clients that they were buying an original Kathleen Krucoff piece.

My Mark

This is how my Hallmark looks when stamped into the metal.  It’s a little hard to refute the Maker’s Mark.

I ordered mine from Microstamp.  They had the best price for custom stamps that I found.  All the instructions can be found on their website and I found them to be very responsive to inquiries.  They want to be sure you have a stamp that meets your specifications.

My Stamp

It is a very finely crafted stamp and I am very happy with it.  I have just registered my Hallmark with Art Guide Source as it is a service that aids in finding artists / metalsmiths when all a viewer has is the hallmark.  Seems like a good idea.

I’m curious.  How many of you sign your works?  If you are a metalwork artist, do you have a custom made stamp to make your mark?  For any of you, did your ‘mark’ go through an evolution until you came upon the one that was your true signature for your work?

Since I started using this hallmark a little over a year ago, it has given me a certain peace of mind.  I felt I was taking that extra step for my customers to show them that not only do I care about the craftsmanship in each of my pieces, but  I care enough to personalize the piece and assure them of its authenticity.  What are your thoughts on this?

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

Heart Stones

These heart shaped stones are waiting for their settings.

Even though I haven’t done many posts recently about the pieces I am working on, I definitely have been sitting at my bench pin sawing metal in preparation for fabrication, drawing sketches in my sketch books, hand finishing the metal in preparation for assembly, among other things.

I’ve been internalizing a lot of thoughts about my work.  That has helped me to begin to understand the direction I want to go and what steps I need to take to get there.  I firmly believe it is not so much about the destination, but the journey that takes us there.

There was a time in July when I had taken on too many things.  I guess I had kept saying “Yes, I’ll do that” and then my lists of tasks and responsibilities were growing.  The realization that I was trying to do too much hit.  Thanks to my wonderful husband, Dan, he encouraged me to put boundaries on my time.  Fortunately I was able to take several steps back and begin to work at my pace again.  One of the things that started to happen, because I was trying to do too much, was I was losing the joy of doing the things I loved.  Not good.

You see, when whatever you do is no longer fun, what is the point of doing it?  I had reached the point where the joy was gone from exercising, working, making art… I was just going through the motions….it almost felt mechanical…..well that just had to stop.  It has.  Not only am I managing my time better, but I’m managing my tasks better.  I have a long way to go, but I am very happy to report that the joy has returned.  If something doesn’t get done, it just waits until I can get to it.   One exception here….the bassets don’t wait to be fed….they get fed on time.  They’re funny about that…..

So yes, this beautiful collection of hearts, along with a few others that didn’t make the photo, are waiting.  It really is a quite simple principle.  Everything will get done in due time. I have their designs complete.  The setting for each one is cut out and ready for the next step.  All of these will be part of my Veracity Series and I will have a few at the Castle Rock Artfest September 10 – 11.  Check out their website for more details and I will mention a bit more about it too as the dates draw near.

When the hearts are completed, Dan will take photos of them, and I will be posting the stories behind a certain few.  With this series, I’ve also started to assign serial numbers to them that are stamped on the back.  Lexi suggested doing this because it is something Harold does.  Each piece is unique, why not begin documenting them?

Have any of you face similar situations, taking on more than one should?  If so, what solutions have you found?  I’d enjoy hearing your approach.

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

Normally my Friday blog posts relate to Talkin’ Tools.  This week I wanted to start a new discussion covering my thoughts on art and the creative process.  I won’t abandon my Talkin’ Tools segments on Fridays, but I want to mix in something new by discussing Thoughts on Art.

As I sit here, writing this, my thoughts are of an online artist friend, Tracey Clarke.  While I have never met Tracey in person, she is my friend and I am blessed to know her.  A little over two weeks ago, Tracey had an onset of some symptoms which ultimately resulted in brain surgery to remove a cluster of 3 tumors.  Yesterday, 8/11/2011, she and her husband received the pathology report and prognosis.  Glioblastoma Multiforme.  It is an aggressive form of brain cancer and they have a long battle in front of them.  Her husband, Craig, has written about Tracey’s journey since the onset and I would encourage you to follow her journey and more importantly, include them in your prayers.

So now I think it is fitting to have my first post on Thoughts on Art to mention Tracey Clarke, a talented, gifted painter and her husband Craig.

Tracey’s encouragement helped me to apply for some shows and things I hadn’t planned on.  My work was published in a book because of a lead she provided.  And I am happy to own two of her original works…the one that is dearest to me is the portrait she completed this year of our Newt.

Tracey’s portrait of Newt, me and Newton in the ‘fur’

I have always believed that things happen for a reason.  I know that Tracey and Craig believe this too.  This daunting challenge they face has me wondering why?  Why has this happened?  The answer will be made known in time.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person… never know what challenges life has in store for you.

One of the vendors that joined us for the Colorado Metalsmithing Conference was NC Black Hammers.  I have had my eye on their  hammers for a while and at the conference I was able to watch demos, hold the different ones they had, and try to decide which one I wanted.

As you can tell from the photo, I chose this beauty.  It’s called an Engraver’s Hammer.  However, I’ve been using if for a few other metalworking functions in my studio.  As silly as it may seem, I was particularly drawn to the way the head is shaped.

Not only do these hammers have beauty, but more importantly, they have function.  The one I purchased has wonderful weight and balance.  I am happy I chose it.  It also looks great with the rest of the hammers on the peg board above my bench.  Again I need to thank my dad for instilling a deep appreciation for tools….good, quality tools.

Annie Grimes Williams, of NC Black Hammers, did the bulk of the demos I saw.  Not only was I impressed with Annie’s skill with the hammers, but her patience and friendliness were a real plus because there was no pressure to buy.  I like that.  The products spoke for themselves.  Thanks Annie!  During one of my many stops at their table, she was showing how to use their Micro Closing Hammer with their forming stakes as she was creating a nice copper bracelet.  Fun to watch and of course, that Micro Closing Hammer with the Purple Heart Micro Forming Block have gone on my tool wish list.

I imagine many of my metalsmithing friends are familiar with NC Black’s products.  If you aren’t, I would definitely recommend trying one of their hammers.  Great quality and value.

Please take a moment to check out their Fan Page on Facebook too…you will see some pictures they took at the conference along with more info about their hammers and workshops.

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

There’s a scene at the end of the movie Pretty Woman, where a man is walking along the street, asking everyone he passes, “What’s your dream?“.  It always makes me smile because of his enthusiasm and the way the movie ended….on a high note in spite of the glossed over, fantasy story line.

What I would like to discuss and emphasize in this post is, “Do you know what your dream is?”  If you do, that’s great…it’s a start toward achieving it.  But if you don’t, it’s time to sit down, pen/paper in hand, and start working out the details.

I’m still revisiting my thoughts and impressions from the Colorado Metalsmithing Conference held in Salida, CO on July 22 – 24, 2011.  As I have reflected on what I experienced at the conference, more details are unfolding for me.  They have been significant to me because of where I am with my work, my goals, my dreams.

Avi Good

Avi Good discussed the business side of art.   She is Michael Good’s daughter and one of the most delightful and enchanting people I have ever met.  I love the way she looks at life and approaches things.  Coupled with her sense of humor, I found her insights invaluable.

The business side of art is something that I think we all struggle with, yet it is vitally important to our success.  Avi stressed that you have to know where you want to be, before you get there.  I often joke that I think many take the approach depicted in an early South Park episode about the Underwear Gnomes.

Underwear Gnomes Business Model 

You can see a key component of this business plan is missing!  How does one make a profit in their business?

Avi discussed the straight forward approach that must be taken for your business to succeed.  At the beginning of the year, determine the amount of money you need to make annually and then start working on all of the factors that will allow you to achieve that income.  It isn’t easy.  There are some ‘guestimates’ you will need to make.  You have to crunch the numbers in order to have a hope of achieving them and being on the road to success.

There are so many unknowns that go into this formula for calculating the amount of money you need to earn during the year from your work.  How many shows do you plan on doing?  Consider those costs….application fees, travel expenses, food, lodging coupled with the costs of doing your work.   That’s just one aspect.

She pointed our the dilemma, creativity vs selling to make a living.  You have to analyze what you are doing and is it working?  Pricing is the foundation of a sound business.

Determine the following:

  • Your costs = price of materials
  • Labor = all aspects surrounding your time, show preparations, making your pieces, marketing your work, etc.
  • Overhead = expense in relation to time, utilies, insurance, mortgage/rent, any fixed cost
  • Expenses = everything else, your tools, meals, advertising, etc.

Labor breaks down to how much do I want to make annually.  Once you have that figure, you can break down the number of weeks you work in a year, hours you work in a week and then ultimately, your hourly rate.

Lets face it, as we start, we may not be making much, if anything, on an hourly rate.  Sad but true.  I’m a realist and Avi confirmed (as Lexi has) that for the first couple of years in the biz, you may not be earning an hourly rate for your work because you are an unknown.  Avi’s father is Michael Good.  Talk about name recognition!  As she pointed out, would some one purchase an identical pair of earrings made by Michael Good or a pair made by an unknown?  The value for Michael Good’s work is considerably higher than that from an artist who has no name recognition.  That’s just the reality of it.

The thing is that we all have to set goals, coupled with that, we need to outline the steps we need to take to achieve those goals.  Remember here, you need to outline those steps you are going to take to achieve those goals….don’t be like those Underwear Gnomes and have a red question mark in Phase 2 of how to achieve your goals.

I admit that I’m lucky; I have a full time job in the corporate world that provides the stability and funding that I need to continue my artistic pursuits.  I know a lot of artists in this category.  Does this make any of us less as artists?  I would say not.  I am a person driven to achieve, grow and learn.  Certainly one of my goals is to become a full time artist.  Given the status of our economy in the US, along with the mindset of the public and the collectors, well, it feels like salmon battling the upstream current when trying to grow my business.  Yet I am determined to succeed.  That determination alone will not guarantee my success as an artist.

First and foremost, we must have a plan.  What do we want to achieve and how will we go about making that happen.  As I said earlier, it is not easy.

I am re-evaluating my business goals.  It’s imperative that we write these goals down, look at them every day to stay focus and pursue them.  This year I have made the choice to be a self-represented artist.  Once I complete my fall show schedule, I am going to look for galleries that would find my work to be a good fit.  Remember that takes work and research.  No one is going to “discover you and your work” without a LOT of effort on your part.  Realize that being represented by a gallery must be a good fit for both the artist and the gallery.  Much to do and learn.

The challenge of achieving one’s goals is a worthy one.  Consider where you want to be as an artist and how you will work toward those goals.  I believe there isn’t a set formula to achieve these goals and each of us must work out the details that will be a custom fit, tailored to our individual personalities and needs.

For me, I know there is a lot of work in front of me.  Being an ‘overnight success’ does not happen overnight.  Ponder this.

What is my dream? I have a concept, after listening to Avi; just having ‘a concept’ isn’t good enough. I have to develop a clear, concise, well thought out plan. Do I want to be famous? No. I envision myself as one of those artists who create “one of a kind” pieces of art.  That is all well and good…now I must plan my strategy and determine my real goals, along with the steps that I need to take, in order to achieve my goals.

Whew, that’s heavy….a lot to consider. Well worth it!

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

Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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