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Express Yourself
Photo by ~ Daniel Krucoff

I would like to introduce my newest series, Express Yourself…a little touch of Colorado.  The little touch of Colorado are the Aspen leaves.

For a number of years I have wanted to inject Aspen leaves in my work.  Now I have.  In this series, every earring will have an Aspen leaf in either bronze or copper.

Thanks to Andrea Kennington of NC Black Hammers, I learned a bit about metal forming.  I took a workshop with Andrea a year ago at Sandy Harris-Murphy’s studio here in Colorado Springs.  Even though I was “sicker than a dog” during the workshop, I managed to pick up some of the techniques and some pretty cool tools too.  If you haven’t tried NC Black’s hammers yet, and you are a metalsmith, well, I would highly recommend you get a few of their hammers for these techniques.

The thing that makes these earrings so enjoyable for me is their uniqueness and how it is serious playing with metal as I put the components together.  No two pairs are alike.  I don’t have a design in mind as I start to fabricate them, I just ‘wing it’ as I go along.  The process is very similar to what I did when I used to wire wrap my glass cabochons….no design, just an image in my mind and it flows from there.  I love that part of the creative process.  As you can see, I use a mixture of metals and materials.  It’s sort of like making soup with whatever you have around the house.  In this case, I sit at my bench, and have an assortment of items that I pick and choose from to see what plays well together.  It’s a blast for me!

A few of my Aspens provided the shape for the leaves.  I plucked some leaves last spring, that were new growth from some of the branches I had pruned to help promote growth in the trees.  Now they are helping to provide growth in my work.  The technique I use to form the leaves is one of the ones Andrea taught which involves my rolling mill, torch and a variety of the NC Black hammers to texture and shape the leaf so it’s 3 dimensional, rather than flat.  Love it.

This pair has fresh water pearls, mokume-gane, oxidized sterling with 14kt gold filled wire, and textured copper.  Added bonus, they are super lightweight, which makes them so easy to wear and people hear tiny little ‘tinkles’ from their movement.   When I wear mine, I don’t hear them, but others have remarked they can hear them and they way they move, they really do direct people’s eyes to check ’em out.  I like that.

Yesterday I delivered my first batch of these to Marylee at Santa Fe Trail Jewelry in Monument, CO.  She liked what I had and took everything!  Thank you Marylee.  So, lucky me, I get to make more and it’s a pure joy to ‘play’ at my bench like this.  I think pendants would be a nice touch too, what do you think?

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

Finished projects from the workshop

Last weekend, March 3rd & 4th, I was one of the lucky attendees of the NC Black Shell Forming Workshop that took place at Cottonwood Center for the Arts. Once again, Andrea Kennington and Les Bryant returned to Colorado Springs and taught a two day, fun filled, packed with tons-o-information workshop. All of us loved it.

The picture at the top of this post shows all of my projects from the weekend. As many of you know, I am a firm believer of investing in yourself by taking workshops to help me grow as an artist. Let me tell you, this workshop delivered.  One of the great things Andrea & Les do in a workshop like this is that they start you out with a project to learn a basic technique and then you build on that with each successive project.  At the end of the workshop, you have a nice little bounty of items to refer back to as you continue to work on the techniques.

Last fall, I attended the demo when Les and Andrea were here. Of course, I invested in a number of their tools at that time, knowing they would be returning in March and my plans were to take this workshop.  I wanted to experiment with those tools before this workshop and just never managed to do it.  However, I think it worked out so much better to go in to this workshop, ready to learn from the pros without any bad habits I may have developed from my experiments. It all came together on Saturday and Sunday.

One of the first things Andrea said to me was “these techniques will take your work to a new level”. The first person who ever said that to me was my dear sister, Lexi Erickson, a number of years ago. Andrea’s statement to me was filled with as much conviction as Lexi’s was and I knew, yes I knew it to be true.

First Project

We started with the hardest project first. This tiny spiculum; a tapered tube that starts out as a flat sheet of metal. It’s made from 26 gauge brass. With each of the projects we did, either Andrea or Les would demonstrate the technique. Then we would proceed to replicate what they had showed us. This little spiculum may not look like much, but it was the foundation for what we would build on for the next two days.  We went from making this to learning anticlastic raising to synclastic forming.  What a blast!  As I work on  more of this, I’ll post details about a particular technique in future blogs.

As you can see, we made bracelets, little flowers, and my favorite….leaves.

Copper Leaf

This was my last project of the day on Sunday. I was beaming with excitement as it literally unfolded into this form. You will definitely see things like this finding their way into my future works, along with many of the other things we learned.

There are so many great things about attending a workshop like this. The little tips and tricks the teachers share. The hands on when you just don’t have it figured out and then they revisit it and you have that ah ha moment. The interaction with fellow students, each of us having our learning ups and downs. It’s all part of the comradery.

Latest additions to my tool chest

Quality tools are worthy investments in my opinion. As you can see, I bought a few and that Micro Sinusoidal Stake (the squiggly steel) caught my eye on their last trip. This time I got to ‘test drive’ it and knew I had to have it.

Will my work be going through a change? You bet! I think it is so important for us to continue to grow and learn, develop our work and push it to new levels.

If you ever have a chance to take a class from Andrea and Les, do it! Don’t ponder, don’t fret, don’t debate; just embrace the opportunity. I promise you that you will not regret it. Even though I’ve been under the weather for over a week and was feeling pretty bad this past weekend, I still left that workshop feeling revitalized and invigorated.  Definitely inspired!

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

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.

Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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