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It’s that time of year. Fall approaches. Cool, crisp mornings. Birds flock together. The leaves start to turn. And the Front Range Open Studios tour weekend is here.  September 9 – 10, 2017 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day.


Once a year, the artists on the tour open their working studios to the public. We invite you into our creative sanctuaries so you can see where we work and have an appreciation for why we do what we do.


My studio has transformed over the years, just as I have. You can see the view of a small aspen grove just outside my windows. Wind chimes accompany the playful songs of the wild birds that visit the garden.


Our mission with the tour is to educate, inform and have fun! Throughout the weekend I will be doing demonstrations involving:

  • The Ancient Art of Chasing and Repoussé
  • Piercing metal with a jeweler’s saw
  • Stone setting
  • Firing up and using a torch

My hope is you will see and understand why I love working with my hands as I create my art.

You can see the variety of tools that I use in my work, including the latest addition of a CNC Machine, the Nomad 883 Pro by Carbide 3D. As my business has grown, I found this investment to be necessary.


New this year, my husband and I have put together a video that covers the basic steps involved in fabricating a pair of my Treescape earrings. I will walk through the steps and we have a time lapsed video of the machine working. It takes a minimum of 16 steps to complete the most basic of my Treescape design, which surprises people.


Here’s the map to all of the studios on this year’s tour. If you go to the website, you can download Google maps to all of the artist’s locations. This year my studio is location #15.


Remember, this happens once a year and it truly is magical. I hope you can join us.

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



Nomad 883 Pro by Carbide 3D

I thought this to be an appropriate time to resume my Talkin’ Tools segment and share my experience with the addition of a new tool I have been using, a CNC (Computer Numeric Control) Machine.

Almost a year ago, I purchased the Nomad 883 Pro made by Carbide 3D. In doing so, I joined a fairly large community of people who use these in their work.


This is how I have the machine set up in my studio.

Why did I feel the need to acquire this piece of equipment? I am happy to report that the demand for my work started to increase over the past couple of years to the point where I needed to consider hiring an intern or finding another way to streamline my process. I opted for the latter and chose to purchase a milling machine.

Why did I purchase a CNC Machine?

  • I felt I could let a machine do one of the mundane, time consuming parts of my fabrication process which is cutting shapes using a jeweler’s saw. In this case, the machine does that work roughly 5 times faster than I can. This frees me to focus on the more creative aspects of what I do.
  • It gives me a repeatable process to consistently produce base items while I work on designs, finishing work and fabrication.
  • I didn’t have to hire someone and deal with that type of overhead.
  • I can utilize my computer skills when creating the files needed to communicate with the machine to do the work.
  • With the machine, there is less metal waste than when I cut pieces by hand. As a result, it provides more efficiency not only with my raw materials but again, my time.

Why did I choose the Nomad?

  • High rankings from a number of independent reviews.
  • Carbide has a great support team. I reached out to them with questions before I purchased the machine and was favorably impressed with their knowledge, support, and commitment to ensuring people would make an informed decision prior to purchase. They answered what I considered to be tough questions. Their philosophy is they want people to be happy once the machine arrived and was set up. They want that positive feeling to continue as people use this tool.
  • Carbide has a great user forum for all of their machines.
  • Reliability, which I can attest to after running it since last October.
  • Price. Milling machines can start at around $1200 and go up over $5000 for laser cutters. Early in my search for a machine, I did find one that was specifically designed for jewelers with a price tag of over $20,000! That was not something I could justify. However, the Nomad came in at roughly $2500, which was something that made sense for my business.
  • Self contained. Whatever material you cut, there’s always going to be a waste by-product. I wanted something that was enclosed to keep all the stray particles contained while the machine is operating. In the forums, I have seen some who further enhance Nomad’s enclosure system, but for my use, the machine’s cutting compartment works very well. I can reclaim the silver shavings to recycle them.
  • Desktop size. It’s footprint is 20″ x 20″. Weighs in at 65 pounds.
  • Work surface area is 8″ x 8″ which is perfect for me because the maximum size of the material I use (Sterling silver, copper or bronze) is 6″ x 6″.
  • Both Windows and MAC operating systems are supported
  • For additional specs on the machine, click here.

Things to know prior to the purchase of a CNC Machine

  • You are going to need to know how to use software that produces vector files. Some people use CAD programs. I use Inkscape, which is freeware and an alternative to Adobe’s Illustrator. Both of those programs work great with the Nomad. Inkscape runs beautifully on my MAC, has tons of user support, documentation and YouTube videos to get you up to speed quickly. It’s probably the best freeware I have used.
  • Most machines have what I would term proprietary software that convert the vector files of your designs into machine language to control the tool (thus the reason they are called Computer Numeric Control machines).
  • Nomad comes with two proprietary software packages: Carbide Create and Carbide Motion.
    • Carbide Create (CC) uses the vector file I generate of my design in Inkscape. In CC, I enter parameters about the type of material (generally sterling silver), the type of cutter (end mill), the depth of the material being used, and create the tool paths for the cutters to follow, which result in the shapes I use in my work.
    • Carbide Motion (CM) uses the machine code I generated with Carbide Create. CM connects to the machine and provides the instructions on what it needs to do.
  • I have a dedicated lap top that is always connected to my Nomad. Carbide Motion runs on that lap top and that is what controls the machine’s operation. You could opt out of a dedicated lap top, but I do not think you will find it convenient to constantly connect and disconnect a computer from any milling machine.

As with anything, there’s always a bit more involved that just buying the equipment.

  • In this case, you need to have a stable base for the machine to sit on. Fortunately, I had particle board storage bins that my husband and I built. Now I have re-purposed one of them for my Nomad.
  • The company also recommends that the machine sit on an anti-fatigue mat to help with noise dampening. The machine is very quiet when it runs; it almost has a pleasant, melodic tone as it works.
  • Unless you have a spare lap top or are willing to use an existing one, you will need to invest in a computer that will be used to communicate with the machine. The software that runs on that computer is what provides the machine code needed to cut your design shapes out of your material.
  • End mills, these are the cutters and engravers that the machine uses. Given the nature of the work I do, I have two go to end mills that I work with. My favorite supplier of end mills is Precise Bits.
  • Lubrication oil. The machine needs occasional light lubrication on its moving parts.
  • Cutting fluid. For the end mills that I use, the manufacturer recommends their cutting fluid to not only extend the life the end mills, but to hold the debris that is generated during the cutting process. Using this fluid also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of clean up I need to do with my machine after each run.
  • Shop Vac. This is more of a nice to have, but I already had a small 5 gallon shop vac. It’s necessary for me to vacuum up any of the super small particles that I do not capture in my first clean up.
  • Adhesive wax. Carbide sells two kinds of wax; each secures your material to the working surface. The blue formula is difficult to remove, but I have found some remedies. The white formula is water soluble and is my preference.

After purchase support

  • AWESOME. I cannot say enough great things about the support I have received through Carbide, although I did not need much when it came to the machine itself. The primary support effort came from a wonderful technician who wanted to ensure I understood how to get up and running with the software. That happened within 3 weeks of the two of us working together and making modifications to my files. I now have a repeatable process and my Nomad is the true work horse in my studio when it comes to cutting my standard shapes.
  • The Carbide 3D Forum. So much knowledge exists in that forum. If you can’t find a topic that has already been discussed, open one. They have also tied in a knowledge base in Wikipedia; while this features Carbide’s Shapeoko, plenty of this information relates to the Nomad too.
  • The Carbide channel on YouTube is a wealth of knowledge too, in addition to other Carbide users who post videos there.

The world continues to change and evolve, so too do the ways in which we work. Remember what was life like before personal computers, mobile phones, on demand videos, etc? From my perspective, as a jewelry designer/maker, in order for my business to grow, I needed to take this step. I am extremely happy that I made this investment in my company. I have also found more and more jewelers are using CNC Machines; they are just another tool in our arsenal that allow us to be more productive and spend quality time on the creative part of what we do.

The Runner Up

The Othermill made by the Other Machine Co. Initially this machine was going head to head with the Nomad. It was quite the horse race. I must say the Othermill is a great machine with a strong support forum, blog, and great support staff who will readily answer questions. The reason I didn’t select this machine is that its work surface (5.5″ × 4.5″) was too small for my needs. At a minimum, because I usually work with 6″ x 6″ metal sheets, I just didn’t feel its work area would support what I needed. It was also a little higher priced than the Nomad and given the specs for each of these, I ultimately decided that the Nomad was a better choice for me.


In summary, I can not emphasize this enough….DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If you are considering the purchase of a CNC Machine, please research, compare, look for those independent reviews, and ask questions. No one understands what your requirements for a CNC machine are better than you, so understand how you intend to use the machine. This is a substantial investment and you want to be happy with your choice. I can assure you I am extremely happy with my choice and heartily recommend the Nomad 883 Pro.

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



In the barn!


Barb Ziek, of Wild Hair Alpacas, and I are joining creative forces again (it’s our third year to do this) for The Fashion Show in The Barn. We collaborate by carefully selecting garments Barb has made from her alpacas fiber and finding the right piece of my art jewelry that compliments the article of clothing.


The show does take place in the alpaca barn. Rows of hay bales form the bleachers for the audience. There are some folding chairs too for the crowd overflow.


Barb is the master of ceremony and I will contribute to discuss the various jewelry the model wears.

Barb’s husband, Peter, will bring out the alpaca that provided the fiber for the garment being worn.


Occasionally, a baby cria will accompany its mother on the ‘runway’.



In addition to all of this, the alpaca boys look on and definitely show their enthusiasm for certain alpaca girls.


I have lots of new works to preview at this such as, earrings, rings and pendents from my Celestial series.


Treescapes has been a part of my creative life for close to 7 years now. It continues to evolve and you can see some new Treescape variations at the Fashion in the Barn too.


This is such a fun, educational event. Great for the entire family and it happens once a year. We hope you can join us.

Wild Hair Alpacas LLC

5815 Mountain Shadow View 
Colorado Springs, CO 80908

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


Opening Reception:  Friday, July 21, 2017 from 5:oo PM to 8:00 PM
Location: Commonwheel Artists Co-op
102 Cañon Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
Exhibit Dates: July 21 – August 14, 2017

Ever since Dan & I married, even before that, we have been a collaborative, supportive team. He is my best friend and soulmate. He is honest, caring, and one of those idea people. I love him with all my heart and soul.

He has influenced my work, new projects, and creative directions. As we journey through this life together, we have always wanted to do a joint show. Now that has become a reality for us.

On Friday, July 21, 2017, Immersion opens at Commonwheel Artists Co-op in Manitou Springs, CO. The concept for this show came from Dan. We love water’s qualities and its associated locations. Through this exhibit of our respective art works, we hope to convey the feeling of being surrounded by the beauty of the ocean, lakes, ponds, streams and waterfalls.

Dan has captured so many moments in time with his photography. Breathtaking ocean waves as they crash against the shoreline rocks, the Milky Way at Bandon, Oregon. During his local hikes, he encounters the occasional character willing to pose. I feel so blessed to have been with him when he photographed many of these scenes.

Seastack wave

Pacific Ocean ~ Cannon Beach, OR


The Milky Way as seen at Bandon, OR

The Loch

Steller Jay at Lake ~ Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

As I worked on jewelry for this exhibit, I developed a completely new body of work. I incorporated stones the lent themselves to the imagery of water, waves, coral, shells and more. It’s the first time I have felt so completely free creatively that many of my works evolved in their own direction. Only a few started with designs that remained until completion; most became free form fabrication that I have never done before. Perfection and symmetry were not goals because I wanted to give my impression of the natural essence of water.


Leland Blue set in Sterling Silver ~ Cuff


Fossilized Coral set in Sterling with 18Kt Gold Accent


Sterling Silver earrings with 18Kt Gold Accents

Dan & I are blessed to have found each other. We share a unique relationship based on love, friendship and mutual respect.


Dan & I at Shore Acres State Park ~ Oregon

Immersion will give the audience a glimpse of our life together and our artistic souls. If you live in the Colorado Springs area, I hope you will be able to join us. The exhibition runs from 7/21 – 8/14/2017.

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


Over the past few months, I have at a lot of failures, I mean A LOT as demonstrated by the top left photo of ‘the melts’. I told my husband that if I had failed this much when I first started metalsmithing, I probably would have quit. However, due to my German ancestry, I have a healthy amount of stubbornness, determination and persistence in my personality.


The good news, actually the GREAT news is that I have experienced a HUGE amount of growth as an artist from all of these failures. I want to encourage you that no matter how bad things get when you are creating (and in all aspects of life for that matter), persist.

During this recent growth period, I have had a lot of encouragement from my friends and of course, my husband, Dan. Being able to draw from that kind of support is invaluable.


Every artists runs into the dreaded block. That really wasn’t what happened as I had tons of ideas. My difficulty came in the execution.

The root cause for all of this turmoil was a bit of a perfect storm that happened in my life. Time demands were such that I could not spend my normal daily time in the studio. The pressure of preparing for an exhibition was an added factor. On top of that, I suffered an injury….tripping because I moved a dog cot….which resulted in a fractured nose and mild concussion. Said dog cot has since been returned to its best location.

When I was able to return to my studio, the effects of the head trauma were evident. Things I could almost do in my sleep took extreme focus. The torch was no longer a valued asset; it was something I approached with wariness.

This cycle was repeated for longer than I can say. I thought I felt fine. I’d return to the studio with what I thought was my normal confidence. Every day, yes, every day something went wrong. It got so bad that when the failures started, I would stop, because when I would press on, the situation just got worse. Frustration mounted. Finally that last straw happened and I needed the emotional release of crying. My mom always said, “Better out than in”. That release of all the anger, frustration, fear through tears was the best thing I did for myself. Rather that continuing the internalization route; my attempts to be stoic, I had the emotional release I must have needed. I LET IT ALL GO.


The next day, my ‘abilities’ in the studio returned. My normal work flows and ability to produce finished works was back! I’m still shaking my head over the entire situation.

Through all of this, a new series emerged. Celestial. It’s the first time where I have started with something in mind and as the work progressed, I see something different and follow that course. It certainly is much more freeing to create this way.

Why am I sharing this? Because I hope it will help others. Whether you are an artist or not, we all have certain types of traumatic events in our lives. They may be emotional, they may be physical. I’m not good at “walking that stuff off”. I am persistent. As hard as it was to get back to the studio, I did it every day.


When I finally hit that steam relief valve to let go of all that pent up emotion, the release was what I needed. I don’t know what will work for others, but hang in there, find what you need to just let go of and do it. Your mind and body will respond. You’ll know it when it happens.

Yes, out of failure, growth comes. Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and person.

I’ve been reading John Ortberg’s book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”. Many things in this book have resonated with me. Most recently the chapter, A Life of Endurance, as he discusses perseverance.

“Any truly meaningful human accomplishment will require perseverance”

Isn’t this the simplest, most concise statement that conveys such a powerful message?

I started my journey in metalsmithing as a mature adult, not someone in their teens who went off to get a degree in fine arts or other related metal work curricula. Yet, my passion with this art form, to quote Steve Martin, is “To become so good they can’t ignore you”. Perseverance is one of the key elements in making that happen.

For the past month, I have had obligations requiring that I spend time away from my studio. Now it is time that I can return and I truly thirst for the positive energy I find in my creative space. I have so many new ideas, preparations for upcoming events and demands for new work at locations where I am represented. I find joy in all of that.

Here’s a sample of some of the things I’m currently doing.

Treescape earrings – progression shots

Designs for a new series…Celestial 

More Treescapes in fabrication

Flush set emerald – Treescape pendant

The driving force for me is perseverance to become better each day at this craft that I love. It requires practice, determination and desire. As I return to the bench, this is my focus.

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



Every day is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance for growth and unexpected opportunities. I want to encourage you to embrace each day with all the possibilities it holds for you. Please don’t limit yourself to the mindset that at the start of a new year, you have the chance to effect change in your life because you can take positive steps every single day!

I want to share something I recently read from Dr Wayne Dyer’s A New Way of Thinking, a New Way of Being.

Waste no opportunities. This is called following the light.

Several years ago when I was just starting my journey as a metalsmith, I attended one of the Colorado Metalsmith’s conferences. I wasn’t completely sure why I should attend the conference, but it was an opportunity for me to hear some prominent artists. One of the conference speakers was an extremely gifted metalsmith, Judith Kaufman. I was in awe of her work, her talent and her process. I still am.


Judith shared how she got started. She was only 13 or 14, and she recalled how she used to sit at the bench and just play with putting components together. I was in awe. How could she do that and come up with such gorgeous creations? At that time, I was still dutifully sketching my designs, too afraid to try anything without a design. Hindsight is 20/20 and now I realized I was frozen by my own fear.

I listened, took some photos of her speaking and others of the slides she used in her presentation. She shared the quote by Isamu Noguchi in the picture above. It puzzled me. Again, I had self-imposed constraints on my art and was limiting my potential to create what was really in my soul. Now I get it. It takes time. Some grow faster than others. That’s ok, remember….a new day, another opportunity for growth!

So 2017 has arrived. Toward the last week of 2016, I was sitting at my bench, playing with components I had made. I was putting pieces together without designs in mind; check out the photo of my bench block at the top of this post. Initially, I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing. All of a sudden it hit me. How freeing and exhilarating. And then I remembered this is what Judith did and continues to do. Ok, that’s brilliant. Oh yes, and so much fun to play during the act of creating something beautiful….child-like in some ways.

I believe I’m following the light. It’s such a rush. Just let the creativity flow. That’s why it’s so important to just spend 5 minutes a day in your studio. Those 5 minutes can turn into something truly magical in what you are called to create.

Yes it’s a new year. Remember this, every day you wake, you are given a new opportunity to bring about positive change in your life. Please don’t limit yourself. Let go of that fear. Follow the light. Live!

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

There are so many amazing people in this world, I just had to share.


Dear Dolly,

10040291_300x300I’ll be honest. I used to think you were a bimbo. I used to think you flaunted your big boobs, teased hair, tiny waist, and your syrupy-sweet southern accent just to sell yourself and your brand as a country singer. Granted, I was raised in the Midwest and lived as an adult for many years in the Northeast. I didn’t get you, much less the South.

For example, I’d heard about your origins as a poor girl from the hills of East Tennessee, and when I learned you’d created a theme park in your native Sevier County I rolled my eyes. “Really, a theme park?” I thought. “As if rollercoasters will really help the people of rural Appalachia. Why not create something truly useful to give back to your community, like a library.”


You have created a library, actually, and possibly in a bigger and more…

View original post 709 more words


I have been spending time reflecting. I took a break from working at my bench for some much needed rest, relaxation and recharging of my artistic batteries. The break lasted longer than I expected, yet I believe that is exactly what I needed to become a better artist. My husband and I vacationed out on the Oregon coast. We enjoyed some fall hikes, walking along the shores of the Pacific Ocean and soaking in the beauty of nature. New inspirations were just a few of the benefits.

After that kind of hiatus from the bench, it felt both good and a little strange. Working with my hands is extremely satisfying and initially I did feel a bit rusty. I think it’s safe to say I am back and fully operational now.


Sometimes I find inspiration from movies. Here is an example. Any thoughts on which movie inspired this piece?


Quoting the infamous episodes from Friends with my own spin, “I was on a break…. a much needed break”. Given this experience, I broke some of my own rules of spending at least 5 minutes a day in the studio. That does give me some pause and contradiction, yet I know me and this break was something I truly needed to recharge my creative batteries.

All that being said, I would encourage my fellow artists to do the same. Don’t fight the need for breaks from the work cycle or even worse, feel guilty about it. There are times when the best thing we can do for our creative process is rest and relax.

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



September signals fall. Accompanying that is the Front Range Open Studios tour of which I have been one of the participating artists since its inception just 6 short years ago.

The tour has grown, just as the artists have. My work has changed dramatically since I first joined the tour thanks to the encouragement I have received from others and my personal commitment to being a better artist. I have created new works especially for this coming weekend.


This weekend, people who live in the Tri-Lakes area of Colorado, have a wonderful opportunity to visit working artists studios like mine. All of the artists on this tour enjoy discussing their creative process. Here is the map to all of our studios.


One of the unique things about this tour is our desire to educate the public about how we create our art. Sure we have work available for purchase if it calls to you. However, our focus is showing people our process, our love of the craft and our inspirations.

In my case, I have a fairly extensive arsenal of tools. They help me fabricate my art jewelry. The photo below shows just a sample of the tools I use in my work.


This year, people who visit my studio will see the process that transforms a flat piece of metal into a tiny Treescape earring. Those steps, a minimum of 22 for each work, demonstrate how committed I am as an artist to bring my interpretation of beauty into the world. I once had a gentlemen tell me that I “had too much time on my hands” because of what I did to make these. Sadly, he missed the point. As an artist, I am driven (just like my colleagues) to do what it takes to make art. It is our passion. As essential to our life as eating, breathing and sleeping.

If you live in the area, I invite and encourage you to visit our studios this weekend, 9/10-11 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day. I believe you will find the only real thing that differentiates us from each other is our respective mediums.

I work in metal. I am a Chasing & Repoussé artist. I create art.


We hope to inspire young and old alike. Embrace your inner artist and join us.

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


Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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