Thursday, December 16, 2010

Renegade Holiday Fair San Francisco

It's been a very busy 6 weeks here at the Lulu Bug studios, and for a bit of icing on the madness cake I'll be selling at the Renegade Holiday Fair in San Francisco this weekend, Dec. 18 and 19. If you go please stop by and say hi! I'm sharing a booth with my sister, who's work you can see here:

Please note that it's not at Fort Mason, it's at the Concourse Exhibition Center’s East Hall, 620 7th St. You can get all the info and directions here:
Back to work now, I've got a lot to do!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How to etch with Ferric Chloride

I use brass plates that I've etched with my own art work to imprint my silver metal clay. Here's a very quick tutorial on how I do it.

Create your art work

All my art work is done in either Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (or both.) Above is the art for a custom piece that I did from the photograph on the left. It's been sized and is ready to print on to PNP blue transfer paper. The art work has to be black and white - no shades of gray.

Cut and prepare the brass sheet

Ferric chloride will etch brass and copper, I use brass because it's a bit cheaper. 20 gauge is plenty thick, and it's available at many hardware and hobby stores, and of course online. KC Engineering makes it in many sizes. After I cut it with my jeweler's saw, I clean it with Penny Brite copper cleaner and 220 grit sandpaper. Comet cleanser also works for this, just not quite as well. Clean metal is critical, water should sheet off the surface. If it beads up it's not clean enough yet. Dry the clean metal with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Print on to the transfer paper

I use press-n-peel blue transfer paper for my resist. It's available by the sheet at Whole Lotta Whimsy or by the package at Techniks. You have to use a toner based copier or laser printer to print your art, inkjet printers don't work. I have an inexpensive desktop laser printer that works great for this. I just make sure the toner cartridge is still printing very black. Since the paper is expensive, I just print what I need at the top of my document, that way I can trim the paper and keep running it through. You can also draw right on your brass to make the resist - I find oil based black markers hold up the best.

The tricky part

Now for the most troublesome part of the entire process, transferring the image from the pnp paper to the brass. This is done with an iron. Here in the US, all the irons have an auto shut off feature, unless you get an expensive "professional" model, which I finally did. The temperature of the iron is very important and you won't get a good transfer if it's too hot or not hot enough, and make sure the steam setting is off. I've found 275 farenheit works very well. I used to use a digital meat thermometer to monitor the temperature of my auto shut off iron. How long you need to apply heat varies on the size of the metal and the amount of large black areas in your art. This part will require some experimentation on your part to get good results, so stick with it even if it doesn't go well at first! The pnp instructions recommend 275 - 325 degrees, and 1.5 to 4 minutes. If the image doesn't transfer well, simply scrub it off with sandpaper and whatever cleaner you're using and try again.

You can carefully peel up a corner and check the transfer - if it's spotty give it some more time. Large areas of black can be difficult, but you can touch them up with an oil marker or a sharpie.

Success! All the black has transferred from the paper to my brass sheet. The black will resist the etchant, resulting in raised areas where ever the resist is. I've taped the back and sides, which will also resist the etchant.

The actual etching

I pour the Ferric Chloride about 3/4 to 1" deep in my glass dish. I run a long strip of tape over the back of the brass and suspend it in the liquid face down. You want it face down so the etched metal falls away. They don't have to be immersed, just fully in contact with the liquid. I use fresh solution every time and leave it in for 50 minutes to an hour. I do a lot of etching so I buy my Ferric Chloride by the gallon here, but you can get smaller bottles of it at Radio Shack - they call it PCB etchant. It's used for etching computer circuit boards, so if you're outside the US try looking for it at electronics supply stores.

You can check the progress, and yes, I should be wearing gloves. The longer you leave it in, the deeper the etch will be. I gently shake the dish to agitate the liquid every 10 minutes or so. This helps to get rid of air bubbles and makes for a smoother etch. You can try not agitating it to see the different results. After an hour the resist will start to break to down, especially fine lines, so I rarely leave it in longer than that. Once it's done I carefully remove the brass and rinse it, then I scrub the resist off with Penny Brite and my sandpaper.

The end result

Here's my newly etched sheet and the finished piece.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's old is new again

I've been trying to come up with a frog design for quite some time now, with no success. Then a few days ago I came across a necklace that I did waaaaaaay back in the early nineties that had a frog and a couple of snakes. I was working in wax and casting it myself back in those days. I liked the frog and one of the snakes so much that I decided to make them both. The larger piece on the left in both photos is the original casting. Silver cost around $3 an ounce then, it's currently $22 or so! The green dots are concrete.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Tools!

Last year September was pretty slow for me, but not so this year! It was actually my best month so far this year, so I decided to get some tools that will help me during the holiday crunch. Above and below is my new magnetic tumbler. Even though I do a matte or brushed finish on all my work, I like to tumble it first and make it shiny, which leads to a nicer brushed finish (in my opinion anyway). I have a regular rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot, but it takes at least2 hours and is pretty noisy. This little beauty uses magnets to move stainless steel pins around the barrel. It takes about half an hour or so, and I should be able to do 20-30 pieces at a time. It was pretty expensive but I think it will be well worth it.

While I was shopping for the tumbler, I noticed flex shafts on sale and since this one has a quick release instead of a regular chuck I decided to get it too. I've been using a dremel, but with a foot petal this is so much nicer! I got both of these at Otto Frei, which is located in Oakland California. Their selection is on par with Rio Grande, and both these things were on sale so the prices were better too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Drawing just for the fun of it

I draw all the time in the design and making of my jewelry, but it's been years since I've drawn just for the enjoyment of it. I recently discovered Zentangle, which is a structured doodling method which results in pleasing little drawings. I gave it a try, and remembered how much I love drawing in ink. I've moved away from the Zentangle format a bit, instead re-visiting the themes I used to draw, since I like to draw critters and such, not just pure abstraction.

Drawing with ink on paper is a good challenge because there is no erasing! I start off with a basic subject, like the rhino, beetles or mushrooms, sketch it out very roughly in pencil and then in ink, and do the rest in ink only, with no plan. I have no idea what will fill the rest of the page after the main subject is inked in. I use this small square sketchbook, which has very high quality, thick paper that the ink doesn't soak through.

Inevitably I add things I don't like, so then I have to figure out what to do about it. That's the biggest challenge, and my only rule is that I have to finish each one that I start. I may not love it when it's done, but no starting a new drawing until the last one is complete. Drawing without a plan is also new to me, I used to have it all laid out and would then would ink over the pencil, but I'm finding that I'm quite enjoying not knowing how it will turn out. If you want to know more about Zentangles you can check out the web site :

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Amazing show!

My first Renegade was quite an amazing and exhausting experience. I don't really keep much finished stock on hand, since I do this full time I pretty much make it as I need it. But of course for this I needed lots of finished pieces, so I worked very long hours in the weeks leading up to have some inventory to take with. Then I had to get the displays made and figure out all the many details. Thankfully my sister came down from Mt. Shasta on Thursday and helped out, and worked the show with me all weekend. There's no way I could have done it with out her!

Here's what the booth ended up looking like. For the displays I bought 20 gauge aluminum sheet cut to size and a $40 bending brake from Harbor Freight. My boyfriend Kelly's sister Laura (who is also my housemate and bookkeeper) did the bending for me, I added the paper for contrast and hooks made from aluminum wire on the back to hold the jewelry (bending of 130 hooks courtesy of my sister Colette).

Here I am, hoping that I'm getting all the credit card info that I'm supposed to be getting!

A shot of the crowd. There was a huge stream of people the entire weekend. This was taken during a quiet moment.

Here's my friend and fellow metal clay artist Christine from Chocolate and Steel, who came up from LA to do the show. She does tons of these shows, and is currently 6 months pregnant. She's amazing!

Most importantly, here's our coffee making set up at the motel. Good coffee is not optional, it is a necessity!

It ended up being a very successful weekend, both in terms of sales and in meeting lots of people and seeing old friends. I learned a lot and took notes about what to do differently next time, but it all went very smoothly for my first show. Now I'm working on custom orders, a big wholesale order, and catching up on my sleep!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Renegade Craft Fair San Francisco

I'm booth number 182 - please stop by and say hello if you come to the fair!
Here are all the details:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting ready for Renegade SF

I've been working really long hours the last few weeks getting ready for the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco this weekend. The jewelry will hopefully be all done tonight, then there's the displays to make and about a million other details! This is my first show ever, so it's been quite a bit of work getting everything together. If you're in the San Francisco area, do come by and and say hi. It's quite an amazing show. Here's the details:
Back to work now!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Edgar update

Edgar made it through the night, and after giving him a little breakfast I took him to the Sonoma county bird rescue center, where he is now in very capable hands. The best part is that they got another baby crow in yesterday who is about the same age, so he'll have company while he's there. You can really see his blue eyes in this photo, and that stuff on his beak is the baby bird food I was feeding him with an eyedropper.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Edgar Allen Crow

We have lots of crows in my neighborhood, and there are several nests in trees in the neighbors yards. Little Edgar here must have fallen out and ended up in our back yard. With all the dogs and cats here it's amazing that he is unharmed. He's got feathers but can't fly yet, and the nests are too high up to put him back, so I brought him inside. He just sat in my hand and let me feed him some baby bird food that we had left over from when the budgies had babies. I was a wildlife rescue volunteer years ago so I've fed more than a few baby birds. The parents were frantically calling and flying around, but now that it's dark they've quieted down. It's heartbreaking to hear them, but I will be taking Edgar to the Sonoma County Bird Rescue Center first thing in the morning, where he will get taken care of and released.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New stuff!

Here's some of the pieces from the latest batch of etching shown on the last post.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Art work in Adobe Illustrator ready to be printed on to PNP paper and transferred to brass sheets

The etched brass plates

This last couple of months have been crazy busy for me, but I'm finally starting to get caught up on my very long to do list. Yesterday I went wild the etching, and did plates for 5 new designs in 2 sizes each, as well as a couple of custom pet pieces. The first photo shows my illustrations, all sized and ready to print on to to the PNP transfer paper. Thanks to my spiffy "professional" clothes iron, which does not have automatic shut-off, I was able to get all my images transferred to prepared brass plates without much trouble. This used to be the worst part of the whole procedure - having an iron that shut itself off every 5 minutes made it very difficult to do the transfer process more than one at a time. I was forever waiting for the iron to heat up again. I should have some finished pieces to show in the next day or two.

Monday, May 31, 2010

What I did with my day off

Here's some pieces I made while messing around with the rough diamonds. I was experimenting with different ways of setting them, since they did change color in the kiln. The bezel is the easiest to work with I think, and the best part was when I realized that I didn't have to wait and order some tomorrow, I could just make my own! Metal clay is fun that way. Back to my regularly scheduled work now.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rough diamonds

I've been seeing rough or raw diamonds more and more lately, so I thought I'd get some and play around a bit. I was mistakenly shipped a largish packet of small stones and the vendor told me to just keep them, so I have a bunch to experiment with. I put them in little balls of PMC3 and fired at 1110 for 30 minutes (and went out for Ethiopian food in the meantime). They survived the firing, but did darken. Which is fine for the ones that were already dark, not so good for the orange and yellow ones. I have plenty of other options for setting them though, so I'll continue to experiment. What I will eventually do with them I have no idea! That's part of the fun though.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Custom flower, start to finish

The drawing, done in Adobe Illustrator

Building the flower out of PMC. This gray thing is going to become .999 silver after firing in my kiln.

Just out of the kiln, where the organic binder has burned off and the silver particles have fused, created a pure silver flower. It's like magic, I tell you!

The finished piece, inlaid with tinted concrete

Here's a large custom piece I just finished which I photographed along the way to show the different stages of working with precious metal clay (PMC). I like to do my initial sketches on paper with a pen, but always take them in to Adobe Illustrator for my final template. Since PMC shrinks around 13%, it's very helpful to scale my drawings in Illustrator so I can get the finished size I want. The shrinkage does vary sometimes, but I can get very close to the final size I want this way. This piece is much larger than I usually work, 1 3/4" in diameter (45mm) I may have to make one for myself!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Great suggestion Jan!

Ready to fire


Jan J. commented a couple of posts ago that I should do gourd birdhouse, and here it is, both in progress and the finished piece. You can see more photos of it at my Etsy shop here. Thanks for the great idea Jan!

I work in silver precious metal clay (PMC), which is silver that's in clay form. The basic gourd shape was constructed around a form that I made, then I let the PMC dry and I cut it in half to get the form out. I re-attached the two halves, added the vines and leaves, and sculpted and attached the bird. The loop at the top is fine silver wire. The first photo shows the piece right before I put it into my kiln. I fired it at 1500 degrees for 2 hours, and the clay binder burned off and the silver particles fused. Kind of like magic!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recent custom work

Here are a couple of recent custom pieces that I remembered to photograph before sending out. I start with a photo, and turn it in to a black and white drawing, which I then etch on to a brass plate. I use the brass plate to imprint the image in to the silver with. The black cat, Berkley, was quite a challenge since there was not much detail to work with. I think the piece turned out pretty good though. Frida the Chihuahua was fun, especially with that tongue sticking out!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Here's my latest series, a collection of birdhouses. When I sat down my original plan was to do something with a bird's nest and baby birds, but I quickly ended up doing these instead! They are quite enjoyable to build, and I'm mulling over other house ideas at the moment.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Molly the Barn Owl and her babies

If haven't seen this yet, you simply must go check it out! It's a live web cam that shows a barn owl named Molly and her 4 recently hatched babies. Here's the link: Be warned though - it's totally addictive!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring color!

I've been working on lots of new stuff lately! Here's a few them, all available at my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Interview and giveaway at Etsy Stalker!

I did an interview and am giving away a tiny owl necklace over on the Etsy Stalker blog, you can read it and enter here: