Wednesday, June 13, 2012


 Tim McCreight, demonstrating how to personalize a forging hammer.

Tim forging a rod of copper.

My hammer in a vise, in the process of being cut down to size.

Learning to forge ingots.

Me, and one of my forged bits.

It might not look like much, but this small pile of metal represents a lot of work.

Tim, at the Master Class dinner at the Milwaukee Public Market.

 Gail and I, at the Milwaukee Public Market.

Well, Bead and Button 2012 has come and gone.  I looked forward to it for so long and POOF! It was here and over.  It was such a wonderful time.  I want to write about all of it, but I think I'll start at the beginning with the Master Class.  Gail and I were lucky enough to get into the Drawing With A Hammer workshop with Tim McCreight.  Many of you know Tim's reputation as a master metalsmith and teacher.  He was wonderful.  I know the basics of forging, or I thought I did.  I'm mostly self-taught and I think that's great, but that means that there are some gaps in my understanding of certain techniques.  We did so much in class that it's hard to know where to start.  Tim gave us each a 12 ounce riveting hammer.  It seemed enormous at first!  We learned to adapt it to suit our individual needs.  We cut the handles down, we shaped the handles to fit our hands perfectly, and we filed and polished the face of the hammer to make it perfectly domed so as not to mar the surface of what we forged.  It is unbelievable how eye-opening this was.  We believe that the tools we buy have been so well thought out and engineered that they are perfect the way they are (well, Fretz hammers are!).  Any imperfections left by them in the metal must certainly be our fault.  Not necessarily so.  I will be adapting many of my own tools from here on.
We learned to make the hammer do what we want in a more controlled fashion, which is great.  We learned the correct way to create a plane change on a wire.  We learned the correct way to planish a dome to remove the hammer marks.  We cast an ingot and learned to use chisels to cut pieces of it for forging.  How amazing to be able to make a piece from start to finish without having to rely on a manufacturer for the sheet or wire that we might need.  I probably wont abandon suppliers in favor of making my own materials, but it's great to know that I can and it's wonderful to have that connection with our materials.  It's kind of like being a city kid and not really understanding where milk comes from.  The penultimate part of the three day workshop, for me anyway, was when Tim explained that we were going to forge a spoon from a small ingot of brass.  I must admit that I was less than thrilled about this.  I'm usually game for just about anything in a class, but I was a bit reluctant to do this exercise.  I just didn't see the point.  I mean, what's flatware have to do with jewelry?  I didn't express my reluctance, I mean he's Tim McCreight!  So, I went ahead, followed Tim's instructions and 6 hours later I was the very proud creator and owner of an itty, bitty brass spoon!  How wrong I was to be reluctant.  What I didn't see before was that every action, every stroke of the hammer needed in the making of the spoon was a lesson in forging 101.  All of the forging techniques we used in making the spoon translate into jewelry forging.  Having us focus for so many hours on the spoon was, at least for me a way to ingrain all of these techniques into one project which I will not forget for a long time.  Amazing.  The class was jam packed filled with great information. Tim even took the time to answer some questions I had regarding forging, hardening, and tempering steel for making my own jewelry tools.  He is a very generous teacher. The class was so fun.  Many new friends were made and the facilities and folks at the Milwaukee Area Technical College were first rate.  I will be absorbing the experience for a very long time.  If you are ever lucky enough to take a class with Tim, do yourself a favor and jump on the chance.

Friday, June 1, 2012


My pile of class supplies and one of my helpers.

Well, it's here.  Back when our classes got accepted I thought it would never get here.  Now that it's here, I don't know where the time went.  I'm very excited.  I'm excited to meet new students, to teach with my friend Gail, to see and spend time with her and all of my other excellent friends (Gigi, Karen, Anne, just to name a few!) I am taking the metals master class with Tim McCreight.  Most of the tools are provided for us, so I don't need to bring much.  Those of you who know me well know that I'm fighting the urge to bring every hammer that I own.  MUST RESIST THE URGE!  Ok, I feel better just getting that out.  So, saw frame, vise grips, gloves, silver scrap, and a note book.  That's it.  
I'm looking forward to the class.  It's going to open a lot of creative doors, I just can feel it.
Our first class is Wednesday, the first of our 2 acid etching classes.  Lots of messy fun.  It finishes just an hour before the Meet The Teachers event, so that will be exciting. 
I hope that you'll stop by my table at the Meet The Teachers, I would love to see you.  I'll have lots of new earrings, bracelets, pendants, charms, buttons, etc.  Plus, I will have tools as well.  Hammers, shears, saw frames, oh my!  And other stuff too. Please come by and say hi!  See you all there!