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As August draws to a close, I am preparing my studio for all the visitors I hope will come to see me demonstrate metalworking on the weekend of the Front Range Open Studios Tour.


My studio has undergone a transformation over the past few months; some rearranging and redecorating.  Out with the old, in with the new.  I have made a lot of changes to my studio space to give me more room, better organization and a nice open feeling.  I can finally see the top of my bench, which is inspiring in and of itself!  On the peg board above my bench, you can see an assortment of Fretz Hammers and even the new jeweler’s saw by Sobaone.


I have new tools and new projects.  Meet my new rolling mill, a Durston….I keep referring to it as a rolling mill on steroids!  Of course there is my trusty Cliff Carroll anvil, along with my Shark Bite hydraulic press.  Plus an assortment of hammers from N C Black & Co.  Yes, I do like my tools.


Several additions to my tool repertoire are my bench shear by Accucutter and a Craftsman drill press.


Certainly, no metalsmithing studio is complete without the solder station area.  Safety is a must here.


For this year’s tour, I am doing something  that I hope will be fun for the visitors, get them involved and wake up their inner creative spirit!  I am providing an opportunity for people to create their own earring designs from an assortment of components I’ve made.  Shown below is just a sampling of a few of the earring components people can choose from.  Prices for the completed earrings will vary depending on what is selected.


And yes, there is a basset hound in the background, because nothing is done in my studio without basset supervision.  Or as Dan likes to put it, everything is easier with a basset around!


These are a few examples of the type of earrings someone can design.  I thought this would be a great way for people to awaken their inner artist.  What do you think?

This is my third year on the tour.  It continues to grow and change like a vital, energized living being.  There are so many talented artists on this year’s tour.  I am just delighted and humbled to be be a part of this group again.  Like me, a number of this year’s artists have surprises in store for those visitors to our studios.

Of course, I will be demonstrating various metalsmithing techniques throughout the weekend.  Metal piercings, like I use to create the trees in my Treescape series, texturing, stone setting, soldering and more.  My goal is to walk people through the fabrication process via a pictorial overview, accompanied by a variety demos I will perform.

All of us are very excited about this year’s tour and the potential for people to learn more about our work and our process.

Just in case more enticement was needed to visit my studio, I will be introducing my newest studio mascot, Thorin.

Thor11WeeksCallaway’s Thorin Oakenshield (aka Thor)

Now if a cute, not so little, basset hound puppy won’t get you in the car to come over to my studio, I’m not sure what will!

Click here for the map, with directions, for all the artist studios on the tour…including mine.  And look for the bright yellow directional signs with the tour logo to help you find an artist’s location.


I welcome you to join me and my fellow artists for these 2 days in September when we open our studios to the public.

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

The Fretz Mini Forming Stake Set

This set of Fretz Mini Forming Stakes was on my 2010 Christmas list.  Yes, I asked for tools for Christmas!  And Santa….er, hmmm, Dan was very good to me.  It helps to provide a discount code, url, etc. when creating your Christmas Wish List.  Plus, Dan knew how much I wanted these little beauties, because they were on my Christmas list the year before.  At that time, I had expressed a bit of uncertainty about them.  However, as Christmas 2010 drew near, I knew I needed them!  That whole need vs. want thing……

For this week, I wanted to talk about how wonderful mini forming stakes are for the new work I’m doing.  Currently I’m working on flowers and leaves for some new jewelry designs.  I’m using very small pieces of metal, ranging from 1/4″  to just barely 1/2″.   These little stakes help me to add curves and a bit of a bow to make the metal take on the shape of a flower or a leaf.  I want to add a 3D effect to the metal.

I use this particular stake from the set a lot right now.  It’s pretty darn sweet in my opinion.  The stake holder firmly secures the stake on my work surface.  There are 7 stakes in this set and each one has a unique curve, dome, or depression to help you form the metal.  I think each of us who have forming stakes tends to gravitate toward a couple that become our favorites to use.  This one has become one of my favorites.

This photo shows how I position the metal on the stake.  This is a little copper flower I’m working on.  In the background you can see the Fretz hammer that I use to form the metal into the rounded shape I want, with the help of the stake.

My Fretz Double Ended Insert hammer that works extremely well with these stakes.  This hammer comes with a set of plastic heads (shown in the plastic bag in this photo) that you can switch out the hammer ends, depending on what you need to accomplish.  I got this hammer from Otto Frei after I got the stakes.  The stakes and the hammer are designed to work together.  I tried working with another rubber hammer that I had, but it did not work as well as the Fretz.  When Bill Fretz designs his hammers, he does a great job! Plus those rose wood handles feel divine!

The working relationship between the hammer and the stake is very important.  The insert tips for the hammer ends are plastic.  Why plastic?  Well the metalsmiths in the crowd know the answer to this one.  For those of you who don’t, the plastic doesn’t mar the metal when you are shaping it.  That’s important, really important.  You just want the metal to curve and take a desired form with the help of the stake and the hammer blows.  Marring the metal’s surface is not a desirable by-product.  A metal hammer head will cause marks and dings on the metal.  Not good.   Even though I’m discussing the mini stakes in this post, the hammer becomes an inseparable part of the process.  I guess this is a two for the price of one post!

I wish I could tell you this was an action shot with the perfect picture of the perfect hammer blow on the metal….  It’s ‘staged’ if you will, to show this….  The metal is positioned over the stake.  The hammer strikes the metal’s surface which causes it to form over the rounded edge of this stake and create the “puff” I want for the flower.  Pretty cool!  For this picture, I just wanted to show how the hammer head would strike the metal and cause the metal to form over the stake’s surface.  As I work at this, it tends to take a couple of blows and I move the metal around on the stake as I’m trying to achieve the desired effect.

As I mentioned earlier, the pieces of metal I work with for these new designs are pretty small and I do my best to keep my fingers out of the way.  It definitely helps that the hammer has a plastic head!  This hammer comes with 9 different heads as shown in an earlier photo above.  So far I’ve only used 2 out of the 9.  This is a very useful hammer.

So what have I made with these wonderful stakes?  The first thing was a pair of earrings pictured below.  They are a prototype for a show that is coming up in the fall.  I wanted to see what I could do, then develop the technique further.  At the time I started these, I wanted to incorporate stones with the metal shapes.  I’m still debating with myself on this design possibility.  What do you think?  Like the stones?  Just go with metal only?  A mixture of both?

I haven’t given the earrings a title yet….since they are prototypes, they are a starting point for me.  I have others that are only metal and represent leaves, Ginkgo leaves. Those have really evolved.  I will be posting pictures of that work, my new Arts & Crafts series, in the next week.

I hope you see how the metal flowers on these earrings have rounded edges and a flower petal look.  All created by those wonderful Fretz Mini Forming Stakes and their companion Fretz hammer.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Talkin’ Tools!  Do you have a set of these mini stakes?  Are you thinking about getting them? Let me know.

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

Sky Tree
Tribute to Pandora Series
Photograph ~ Daniel Krucoff

Another pair of Sterling Silver textured earrings with 24kt gold Keum Boo applied.  These represent Sky Tree from the movie Avatar and are part of my Tribute to Pandora Series.

I find myself doodling with shapes more these days.  The shape of these earrings evolved from one of those doodles.  This one seems to have a bit of an Oriental sense to it too…or at least it does for me.  And the application of the Keum Boo, really had the look I wanted for a representation of Sky Tree.  The texture came from one of my favorite Fretz hammers, designed to create what they call a silk effect.  I did add a light touch of oxidation to help emphasize the texture and the Keum Boo.

These earrings are light and free flowing.  I think they have a graceful femininity to them.  They are a little over 1″ long.

I hope all of you are having a wonderful Easter holiday weekend.  It is extremely windy where we live in Colorado, but that is fairly normal for this time of year.

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

Ready to Bloom
Photo credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

Yes, I am ready to bloom as an Art Jewelry Designer and as I looked at this beautiful stone, all I could see was a tight rose bud, ready to bloom and I knew….I just knew that was the right title for this piece.  There is a lot of meaning in this for me and I’m fairly certain this latest piece in my Soul Searching Series will become part of my private collection.

The stone. It is Ruby in Zoisite.  I purchased this from Gary B. Wilson at the Denver Gem & Mineral Show this past September.  I think it is so important to give credit where credit is due.  Lexi introduced me to Gary at that show.  Prior to that, Lexi had introduced me to his work.  As she says so well, Gary is one of those stone cutters that designs with the artist in mind.  And those of you who have been following my blog know that I want to do justice to all of the stones that I purchased from Gary and others.

The setting. Sterling silver with textures.  I’m quite fond of adding textures to my metal pieces and right now I have a fascination with bringing some of what I see in the stone and extending it into the metal.  I have several hammers that are my favorites for texturing.  The texture you see at the top is from one of my Fretz hammers with the silk pattern.  It’s subtle and yet, you can do many different things depending on how much and how hard you hammer the metal surface with it.  The ‘dots’ are my attempt to bring the patterns from the black spottings in the stone out into the surrounding metal.  I used another oxidation process to try to emphasize the textures.

The photo. Dan just came up with this idea to spritz water on the surface he was using.  The liquid look and feel really enhances the beauty of this piece.  I hope you think so too.

I have to come back to this beautiful stone again.  I’m really not one for pinks.  Yet when I went to that show, I made a mental commitment to NOT buy everything in purple, my favorite color.  And I did well, just ask Lexi and Dan. I may have acquired about 5 purplish stones then and the rest were totally different.

This stone stood out from day one.  As I worked with it from design … to creating the setting … and the final phase of putting the stone in place, I kept seeing that tight little rose bud.  Ready to burst forth and bloom.  If I may, that feels like me right now.  I’m ready.  Yes, I will always have more to learn, if we are honest…that is or should be the case for all of our lives …. if we truly want to continue to grow as individuals.  Without growth, we stagnate.  I for one want to continue to grow and learn until the day I leave this Earth.

Can you tell I fell emotional about this piece?  Yes, I have made a connection with it.  I feel it represents where I am at this time as a Jewelry Artist.  Get ready 2010, I’m going to bloom!

Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

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

The Break Through
Photo credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

This piece is the reality come to life from my 4 AM break through moment in the early morning hours of September 29th.  This stone was one of those that haunted me, trying to come up with the ‘perfect‘ design.  After Lexi and I had our Gelatos and Mountain Sunset evening of artistic soul searching, many things simmered in my subconscious.  And I believe they are still simmering and bubble to the surface on a fairly regular basis.  This past week Lexi commented that neither of us has seen the full effects on that evening in our lives and our works.  I believe she is correct.

I named this piece The Break Through.  I didn’t feel there could be any other name for it.  It is part of my Soul Searching Series.  The image of what I wanted to do literally woke me up at 4 AM that morning.  And I wondered if I could hold on to it and bring it to life.  After that, 2 other images popped into my mind too.  I wanted to go back to sleep.  I was exhausted from the energy of the evening before.  And I felt I would be able to preserve that image and the others in my sketch book the next morning.  I did.

The Sketch

I believe you can tell that I was able to capture it and then ultimately create my vision of this piece.  Now, my drawings are not the prettiest ones in the world, but they help me as a pattern and guide me in working with stone and metal to create my art jewelry pieces.

The stone is a White Opal Dendrite that I purchased from The Clamshell while at the Denver Gem and Mineral Show.  I have another stone in this family, but it is completely different from this one and even more unusual.  I don’t have a design for it yet, but I will.

The setting is sterling silver with various textures that I created with one of my Fretz hammers.  I finished this with a variety of patinas to add contrast to the setting.

So, what do you think?  I always value the thoughts and opinions each of you take the time to write and share with me here.

Aspiring to be more as an artist and a person.

Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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