Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project Create Recklessly - Episode 4

I would love to blame the holidays for the delay in this blog...but the reality is, I struggled with this challenge. I've been dragging my feet getting this purse done, and after much time contemplating why, I have some insight into my creative process. Look for the technical "how to" blog in the next few days where I will spend some time talking about different ways people create and how, in my opinion, when we try to deny our process, we inhibit our creativity.

Care to join me? Post your Project Create Recklessly photos on my Facebook page for all of us to see! Be sure to share this blog with you friends...afterall, only all of you can judge whether I'm in, or out!

May your Thanksgiving be a joyous day full of family and friends. I am thankful for many things this year, among them all of you who share in my excitement of creating...just to create. Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

Create a purse that fits the style and fits the size needs of a selected client. Use their existing purse to create an accessory.

Create a small purse that only needs to hold my phone, wallet, and a few cosmetics...aka, something to replace my "mommy" bag when I go out on the town. An extra accessory?! I'm lucky I got the purse done! 

My favorite thing about this leather purse? The fold-formed copper closure created by my husband Chris in a class with Megan Corwin at the Ranch Center for Arts and Craft. The stamped design on the leather was inspired by a Keith LoBue diatoms print (more on that in the technical blog). Until then, check out the 50% off sale on his website!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Episode 3 Technical Notes

I have been reeaaallllly lucky to have had the opportunity to take polymer clay classes with two of the best...because they live right here in my hometown! Cynthia Toops and Ronna Sarvas Weltman are not only amazing artists, but teachers as well.

So, hopefully, my simple polymer project won't disappoint them...because it truly is, simple. But I love the form, and I suspect it will keep sneaking back into my work now and again.

The polymer clay pieces hanging in the necklace were inspired by 
Lunaria annua, or the money plant. The fenceline along my daughter's school is filled with them. One was taken home to "dissect" several months ago and I was inspired by how you could see the seeds though the translucent leaves when they dried. My first thought was to make them with rice paper and Ice Resin and somehow that morphed into using translucent polymer clay after a trip to the supermarket's bulk section aisle. While there, I noticed the number of colored lentils that are available and thought they would look great behind a translucent clay. But alas, the clay was not translucent enough in the thickness that was used, so the design changed from there.

These pieces were made with translucent clay and then dyed with alcohol ink. If I did them again, I would use colored clay and would likely substitute more polymer clay for the lentil. So here's the 411 on making these little guys...

1. Coil 4 feet of 24g wire around a 2mm diameter dowel until you have 2.5" to 3" of coil with at least 4" of wire left.
2. Cut a matching piece of 14g wire.

3. Turn the wire into a circular shaped jump ring (mine were irregular) leaving a 1/8" gap and slide the coil onto the jump ring.

4. Grab the end of the jump ring and nudge it through the coil so that the jump ring opening is away from the coil opening. Just keep grabbing the jump ring in the coil opening, nudging it forward.

5. Wrap the remaining coil wire around the jump ring, and when you have almost closed the coil gap, create a wire wrapped loop (I did a double loop). After wrapping the loop closed, wrap the wire around the jump ring again 2 times. This will secure and center the wire wrapped loop to the jump ring.

6. Roll a ball of conditioned polymer clay (clay run through a pasta machine a few times or rolled out over and over again with a roller) to the size of a standard marble. Place it inside the coil wrapped jump ring and press evenly until the edges of the clay just extend over the coil. Check and see that the clay extends over the coil on the back as well.

7. Press a lentil into the clay (or a flattened piece of clay in another color). 

8. Place the clay on any textured surface so the back gets an impression while you are texturing the front. Use a dapping punch or other type of tool (I used a chasing tool handmade by
Bill Dawson, from whom I just took an amazing toolmaking class) to "mottle" the surface of the clay.

9. Using a smooth paint brush, brush some clear sculpey liquid over the lentil to seal it into the clay.

10. Bake as directed.

11. When cool, use alcohol inks to dye the clay and brush on Pearl Ex powder to add shimmer.

12. Seal with
Preserve Your Memories II.

To create the necklace, make a vine out of a 1/4" Faux Bone cuff strip and drill holes into each end so that you can insert the leather. Drill two tiny holes through the Faux Bone and leather and place in a screw to secure the leather in the hole.

Set the entire piece on a necklace form and use pins to place the feathers (which have wire wrapped loops on them) and the polymer clay pieces. This allows you to cut the chain to the proper lengths. Once the location for these pieces were finalized, mark and drill tiny holes in the bottom of the Faux Bone branch and epoxy in tiny eye pins so that you can hang the chain through them.

I had mentioned the "look" needed an extra piece...and blog readers voted for a ring. So here it is! A Faux Bone ring base with a brass dapped cup. The feathers are glued into the cup and a polymer clay component (as described above) served as a cabochon. Thanks ladies...I hadn't thought of a ring! 

Finally, we have a winner of our Tandy Leather gift certificate. Visit my Facebook page to see her creation in leather!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Project Create Recklessly - Episode 3

First of all, let's make one thing clear. I will not be modeling this challenge as presented! Although this project is intended to accessorize a on-piece, spandex bodysuit, I tried to design something fun to wear with skinny jeans and boots...which is as close to my equivalent of a body suit as I get! But, I love to wear boots during the winter here in the Northwest, so having an alternative to long sweaters and jackets would be a nice change. 

Look for the technical "how to" blog in the next few days where I will give you step-by-step instructions for making the polymer clay and wire pieces inspired by Lunaria annua (also known as annual honesty or the money plant).

Care to join me? Post your Project Create Recklessly photos on my Facebook page for all of us to see! Be sure to share this blog with you friends...afterall, only all of you can judge whether I'm in, or out!

Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

Accessorize a body suit.

Accessorize a bodysuit in a way that would also look great with jeans and boots.


Polymer clay, brass wire, GF chain, Faux Bone, leather and feathers. Polymer clay dyed with alcohol ink and Pearl Ex powder with a lentil set in.
Leather and fabric - can be worn to the side as it is longer on one side, as if you tied on a sarong.
There needs to be one more piece...a bracelet or earring set. What's your vote?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Episode 2 Technical Notes

So I have to admit...I did a little prep before this week's episode. I had seen the preview which showed that the challenge involved shoes and crystals so the first thing I did was head on up to the Tandy Leather Factory store in Shoreline, WA.

After explaining what I was doing (which always makes me feel a bit silly), Store Manager Andy Stasiak made me his apprentice for the next hour. 

The first thing Andy showed me was how easy it is to form leather. Simply spray it with water and its ready to go. He did a simple fold-form, very similar to metal fold-forming, and then showed me how much flexibility leather can have if its soaked for a bit...a face...formed in leather (below). Amazing.

He then reviewed the use of all the tools of the trade, from snaps and rivets and tools to set them, to lacing and texture punches, glues, threads and shears. The cost of the materials I bought for this project were:

Leather $29.99 - I have lots left
Snaps - $3.99
Rivets - $3.99
Snap/rivet setting tool set - $19.99
Eyelets - $3.99
Eyelet setting tool - $8.99
Texture tool - $7.99
Lacing punch - $9.99
Waxed Linen - $4.99
Eco Weld Glue - $7.99
Shears - $44.99 ( the most expensive thing I bought...these were a really good pair of shears, although it is likely my metal shears would have worked)

Combined with a set of 9 hollow punches I bought at Harbor Freight for $7.99, that makes it about $150 set up cost to work with leather - but that will give you lots of supplies to play with. And, since most of the cost is tools, consider sharing those expenses with a friend.

So how do you "play" with leather?

As I mentioned, simply spray with water, and the vegetable tanned leather becomes extremely malleable. I put it to the test using my regular metal forming tools. My favorite result was putting the leather in a dapping block. The leather was positioned face down over the block and two concave impressions were dapped 1.25" from each other. I then punched between them in a row above and below. I would spray as I went and every 4-6 daps, I would redap the last few daps and then would use my embossing heat gun to dry the leather, keeping the impression from collapsing. It took less than 30 minutes to form the bracelet! I painted the leather (after slightly rewetting it) with acrylic paint to match the shoes after I used hole punch pliers to make holes to stitch the crystals into. I screwed it to a piece of heat formed Faux Bone so it would remain a solid cuff.

During the process, I also tested Adirondach alcohol inks (which work great as long as you do not use the metallic additive) and Gilder's Paste (which was hard to apply evenly without getting it so thick it would flake). The acrylic paint far outperformed both. I did read after the fact that it is best to rewet the leather with diluted paint to get more of the paint to soak into the leather before putting on an undiluted top coat of paint.

I loved working with leather so much that I made a bracelet the next day to go with the necklace I made in the first challenge. And here I am, wearing both at the 7th anniversary party for (14 years for the store...congrats everyone there!) ...just to prove, its not trick photography. What I am making is wearable. 

But now to my favorite part...the shoes. Or rather, shoe. I learned so much during the 12 hour process of making a shoe. I can't wait to make its mate...or another pair that I would wear! Because there was so much learning, I wrote up a tutorial which you can find in the links section of my website. Knock yourself out...make a shoe, just be sure to send me a photo!

Have you worked with leather? Send me a photo of anything you've made in leather or suede (even leather cords/lacing counts) and I'll enter your name in a drawing for a $10 Tandy Leather gift certificate, winner to be announced in the next Technical blog.

Thanks for stopping by...and create recklessly this week!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Project Create Recklessly - Episode 2

Welcome Back to Project Create Recklessly

Can any challenge get more fun than this...I can't believe I made shoes...or rather shoe. I'll make its mate another day. Look for the technical "how to" blog in the next few days where I will share my new understanding of working with leather...which I have a feeling is going to be on my bench often.

Care to join me? Post your Project Create Recklessly photos on my Facebook page for all of us to see! Be sure to share this blog with you friends...afterall, only all of you can judge whether I'm in, or out!

Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

Create a pair of shoes and an accessory item that pair well with a little black dress using a piece of jewelry from the Swarovski store as your inspiration.

Create a pair of shoes and an accessory item that pair well with a little black dress using a piece of jewelry from the Swarovski online store as your inspiration.



SHOES & BRACELET: Leather, Faux Bone, Swarovski Crystals

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Episode 1 Technical Notes

As promised, I thought I'd share some of what I learned in creating these challenge projects.
Afterall, that's the whole point of this silly experiment.


Probably my favorite skill learned this week was working with wood. I've never made wood beads, so it was great fun to try. I used my band saw to cut the curtain rod into 1.5" segments and then use the belt sander to sand off the paint and "facet" the edges. The edge of belt sander was used to draw lines into the surface of the wood before drilling a hole with the drill press. My inspiration was from some photos I saw by Laura Bowker. She does AMAZING faceted glass beads and shared how-to photos at the recent Northwest Bead Society bead bazaar.


The pendant was cut from some tin, a piece of the red styrofoam pear was cut in a shape of a cabochon, and it was riveted together using Crafted Findings riveting tool.

The first thing I learned was that tin is actually too soft to use with the riveting tool. The hole stretched as I riveted and the rivets kept popping. This is one of my favorite new tools and it performs perfectly every time, so I was surprised. But, placing a tiny washer on the back of the rivet before riveting did the trick.

Second, I was happy to use a new trick I developed at the Bead and Button show while helping a student who struggled making a frame for a domed piece of plexiglass. She had work-hardened the metal quite a bit, so when it came time to flare the hole to create a "bezel" for the dome, we could not get it to flare without collapsing the whole frame in the dapping block (we did not have any torches available to anneal the metal). Now, whenever I create a frame for any type of dome or cabochon, I screw it between two of the new Faux Bone donuts so that the outside edge of the frame stays flat while we use a dapping punch to flare the inside of the frame. This trick was inspired by a class with Nancy Megan Corwin, where she taught us how to saw out hydraulic press forms. (The photo will give you an idea of what I am talking about, but when making a frame, the metal disc would have a center hole cut out that is just larger than the center hole of the Faux Bone donut - this photo is from another project.)

This is an example of how photography can make things look better than they are...truth be told...this belt is hideous! I think I'll name it the Thunderdome Utility Belt. It was created in much the same way I created Cristina's Cuff, the last project in my book, Spotlight on Wire. In fact, you can see a preview of that project on Kalmbach's website. Instead of a bead loom, I simply strung the wires between two chairs.

So, my overall lesson? TAKE CLASSES! I may not be making cutting edge glass beads like Laura Bowker, or doing world-class chasing work like Nancy Megan Corwin, but both of these women taught me something that helped me in my work. So thanks ladies!

I had promised my daughter she could watch the show the next day after school. After watching it, she immediately said "I want to do that!" She spent 15 minutes gathering her items and... here she is with what I think is a pretty cool bracelet from a rubber gasket, zip ties, wire and a piece of a basket. She also started a felt purse using her new sewing skills...but a 6 year old has only so much attention span!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Project Create Recklessly - Episode 1

Welcome to Project Create Recklessly!

With the premier of Project Accessory my own challenge begins! Each week (hopefully) after watching Project Accessory (Lifetime, Thursday at 10pm ET/9pm C) I'll try to repeat the challenge at some point before the next episode and then blog about it here.

I'll likely post 2 blogs per to show you what I've done, and another that explains what I learned in regards to techniques/materials/etc. that worked or didn't work. Lets make this a learning experience for us all...and don't worry, I'm laughing with you!

Care to join me? Post your Project Create Recklessly photos on my Facebook page for all of us to see! Be sure to share this blog with you friends...afterall, only all of you can judge whether I'm in, or out!

Enjoy and thanks for visiting!

Create a necklace, belt and one other item from items scavenged from a 15-minute visit to a storage unit.

Create a necklace, belt and one other item from items scavenged from a 15-minute visit to my basement storage room.

After 15 minutes, this is what I had collected:

Windshield wiper, 2 plastic and 2 tin boxes, kids science kit, CD, Wood shelf, baseball glove (which hubby promptly removed from my pile), knee pads, swim noodle, misc phone and computer cords, 3 mice and one keyboard, 2 large washers, basket, non-skid tape, plastic tap light, can light fixture, ceiling light fixture, misc small pipes, plastic kid ball toy, red styrofoam pear, coat hooks, wood curtain rod, security camera, glass bear music box, sponge, flower bulbs and garden rock.



Wood beads made from the wood curtain rod, metal pendant and flowers from the metal tin, red "cabachon" cut from the styrofoam pear, ball clasp from the security camera, strung on computer keyboard cord.

Other items:Bolts and nuts, rivets, Gilder's paste (gold)


Phone and computer cords, large washer

Other items used: Gilder's Paste (gold)

I created this in much the same way I created "Cristina's Cuff", the last project in my book Spotlight on Wire.


Created from non-skid tape, can light fixture, computer keyboard cord, phone cord

Other items: Nuts and bolts, Gilder's paste

More detail about the items/techniques used will be posted this weekend...thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Art and Soul...Filled My Soul

Just got back from Art and Soul in Portland and had a fabulous group of students. Thought you might like to see some their work (below). I wish I had gotten photos of them all! I do have some more on my Facebook page.

Although I am really happy to be out of the retail business, two of my students (you know who you are girls) reminded me of the one thing I do miss....witnessing the connections that get formed. To be creative, you have to be new ideas, new processes, new ways of thinking about things. Otherwise, your work becomes stagnant, your creativity is stifled. So, when we put ourselves in an environment that in its nature requires this openness, we also invite the opportunity to connect with people in different ways than we might normally.

This was something I watched happen often at the shop. It was not an unusual occurrence for students to form friendships that were clearly going to last a lifetime. I think two of my students this week did just that. And, although the jewelry made this week was beautiful and inspiring, the beauty of the connection by these two new friends by far surpassed it all. Thanks for letting me be part of that.

(Left to right: Susan, Marsha, Karen. Bottom: Stephanie, Lori, Kathy, Shawn)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dawn Horner's Berry Vine Pendant

I received a lovely email today from Dawn Horner who participated in Amy Kuczewski's monthly blog challenge. Dawn used Amy's lampwork bead to create the Berry Vine pendant you can find in my book or in the most recent issue of Wirework magazine. What a treat to see her beautiful work...thought you'd like to see it too!

Dawn's work can be seen at
Amy's blog is located at

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer...Come Back!

This summer went by soooo fast. I think its because 1) Gwen was home from school, 2) there was lots of travelling, and 3) here in Seattle, the sun was out maybe a total of 15 days! Each of these deserve their own lets start with Gwen.

What can I say about my sweet, smart little girl that fits in a short blog? Gwen finished kindergarten in June and I did the classic "kindergarten mom" mistake of not signing up for camps early enough. So, when we were not travelling (that blog to come later ), we were here at home. I love to spy on my daughter. Yep, I can admit that now because she is not 15 (I'll still spy on her then, I just won't admit it to you). She gets up most morning at 7am, a full 30 minutes before the rest of us, and acts out very detailed and dramatic stories in the living room. My husband is still getting a finger wagging for letting them watch Star wars (except the last one, or the third one...whatever you want to consider it) while I was at the Bead and Button show in June.

When she is not acting out stories of pricesses and wookies, she is drawing. The interesting thing to me is that she draws clothing...lots and lots of dresses. We have dresses cut out and taped all over the house, stapled books full of dresses and even one life sized paper dress she made for me. I have to admit, I've let her watch Project Runway with me a few times, and perhaps this is her catalyst. But regardless...I love it. At some point, I plan on turning some of her designs into pendants, in either Faux Bone, metal or maybe I thought you might get a kick out of seeing some of me dear daughter's work. She inspires me...

Creating Recklessly Part II - What Do I Write?

July 2011 - I ask the question, "what do I write" not because I have no idea what to write here (we'll that's not true, I don't know what I am going to write specifically...truth be told I just dive in and hope it makes sense when it is done), it was a question I asked myself in a panicked moment last week.

I stopped by one of my local bead stores, Beads and Beyond, to pick up a missing piece to a birthday gift. As you can imagine, having owned a bead shop for 7 years, I have A LOT of beads. And having a 6-year-old daughter, you can imagine, I have A LOT of birthday parties to go to. So right now, the stars are aligned. Little girls like little beads, so I'm golden for a few more years, or at least until my son starts school.

So there I was, standing in the store and a darling friend of mine (and well-loved instructor there) says, "Hey! We got your book in, sign them all." I have to say, at that moment, I was flattered. It was the first time I had seen my book in a store. Their lovely employees had looked at it the night before and were asking questions. Just when the "warm and fuzzies" came over me...I panicked. WHAT DO I WRITE?

I had to think quick. In the car, I had a husband, 2 kids and our brand new dog Sunny (who could be the subject of an entire blog in itself) and we were all on our way for a quick picnic before the aforementioned birthday party pony extravaganza. Now, I have to admit, signing a book suddenly felt cheesy. I had to think about how to make it meaningful. If I just put my name, well...people might think I was phoning it in (if that makes sense). If I put what I was thinking ("OMG, I can't believe you are buying my book and want me to sign it, thank you, thank you! Forever grateful, Melissa Cable") well, that had a desperate, perhaps not so confident tone to it. So perhaps I should pass along some wisdom? I had none...every ounce of wisdom had been squeezed out of me just in writing the book! Perhaps something funny. Well, I'm not that clever on the fly.

I glanced nervously down at my phone, surprised to see only a minute had passed. And then I saw Facebook page. I remembered spending a great deal of time deciding what I was going to write in that little box they title "About." I wrote "Create recklessly, teach thoughtfully." And there it was. "Create recklessly!" THAT is what I would write.

So I am telling you this story for two reasons (When blogging, I am not known for my brevity, so hang in there with me). First, if you happen to pick up a book I've signed, now you will know how much thought actually went into what I wrote. Second, it allows me to explain what I mean by "create recklessly"...which is something I had promised to do in one of my very first blogs, but then got sidetracked by a Butter Chicken recipe....mmmmm, Butter Chicken....

I had come across a definition of reckless while I was writing the book. I was trying to explain why I had broken 5 pasta machines in my pursuit of creating my "poor-man's rolling mill" technique. The definition read: "utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action." I remembered it made me laugh. This is exactly how I create. I rarely create a new project or technique by methodically performing a series of actions that result in a planned outcome. I WANT my actions to have consequences that I don't expect. I like the challenge of seeing what unexpected things happens when I push a material or tool beyond what it is "supposed" to do. This, I might add, is quite contrary to the way in which I live my everyday life. I didn't get my first traffic ticket until I was nearly 40, I don't talk on my cell phone at the gas pump because I am sure it will blow me up (the sign says so), and I have disaster kits in all my cars and at both exits to my home. Yeah, I've been a rule follower most of my life.

But maybe that's what "creating" is about for many of us...pushing ourselves to do something outside of our normal sensibilities. So for me, that's allowing myself to be a little reckless. For you? Maybe its using color when you usually prefer black and brown. Or maybe it means using an alternative material when you are used to working with only metal. Each and every one of us will have a different definition of "reckless." So go ahead, define what reckless creation means to you...and then do it! You might be surprised where it takes you.

Meet my New Friends...

May 2011 - I just finished up the last class in my Faux Bone series at the Ranch and am completely reenergized! What an amazing bunch of students I had over the three weeks. I was thrilled to let them play with the new Faux Bone strips, which have really started to take on a personality of their own

The 2mm strip is a little shy. She shrinks away into the background thinking no one can see her a wallflower if you want. But when she surrounds herself with friends, she takes on a whole new life. In that environment, she's bold and complex and makes a real statement.

The 3mm strip is completely a Type A personality. She wants to work, work, work but has to learn to sometimes take a back seat to the 2mm strip and that, well, kinda pisses her off. But she knows better than to take over. She gives up just enough control, allowing herself to work with those around her...and, as a result, manages to shine in the end.

The 7m strip is that reliable friend who you can always turn to. Selfless almost. Flexible. Consistent. Strong. You want to be around her.

The 9mm strip, frankly, is a bit conceited...likes to take over the show. And that's just fine. Finished nicely with a texture and beautiful ink treatment, she deserves to be the star. So, I let her occasionally. But I put her back in her place now and then, just for my own sanity.

So there you are. Meet the Faux Bone strips. They've been my friends for almost year now and I'm happy to finally introduce them to you. So, where can you meet them in person, you might ask?

Join Robert Dancik, founder of Faux Bone, and I next Saturday, May 14th at Fusion Beads in Seattle, WA for a Faux Bone demo, which will include an introduction to these lovely ladies. Learn to work with their cousins, the Faux Bone sheets, shapes and bracelet and ring blanks as we explore the basics of working with this innovative, fun and flexible artist material. Fusion Beads will be carrying the entire Faux Bone line in their store, so if you are in the Seattle area, this is a great opportunity to play with something fairly new that I know you are going to love!

And no, I haven't gone crazy. I have real friends. Just yesterday I got hammered with my friend Fretz...

(If you aren't familiar with the Fretz brand of jewelry hammers be sure to check them out at Fusion Beads, which carries the hammers both online and in store.)