Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Be Thankful the Secrets are Out!

"The way I got into frit was really quite simple-it was my search for an intense, hot pink transparent glass." Val Cox from Frit Secrets, 2008

Never has the search for the elusive vibrant pink glass yielded such a wonderful creation! I've been waiting patiently for Val Cox, the fritmaster who introduced the frit frenzy to the current glass beadmaking world, to write her book. She has unveiled it to the world on her website: Frit Secrets: A Flameworker's Guide to Using Reactive Glass Frits.

Since 1999, I've been making glass beads but I could never master frit and make it sing like Val. Always willing to share, Val opens the flood gates of her frit knowledge and shares her techniques. There are chapters on Furnance Blown Glass, Frit Manufacturers, Frit Grind Sizes, COE, Base Glass, Five Special Colors, Color Review, Applying Frit and more.

Each chapter is comprehensive and full of expert information and common sense tips. The bonus is Val's recommendations that come from her extensive frit testing. I particularly appreciated the chapter on color since I've been working on using color more effectively in my work.

Val does careful color studies of each frit then takes all of the pictures herself. Her photography is luscious - I just want to reach out, pick up her beads and lick each one of them! (Oops did I say that out loud?! wink!)

I've acquired a stash of Val's frit. Although I've been unable to create a lovely frit bead, I never parted with the frit hoping that somehow the frit goddess would visit. She's finally come to visit in the form of Val's book. I'm re-energized to get the frit back out and try again. I'm thankful Val has shared her secrets and every beadmaker should be too!

(All Photos courtesy of Val Cox, talented glass beadmaker and phenomenal photographer!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A number of years ago, my father's niece appeared at the family farm with a bag of old pictures. She deposited them on the kitchen table and said she thought my parents would want them. My mother passed them along to me saying they were my father's family. Since my mother and father's mother never liked one another, my mother hasn't shown much interest in researching my father's side the family. So somehow, I ended up with the pictures.

I went through them, mostly old tin types, photos of people I didn't know but within the bag, I found these familiar pictures. Two are of the front of the family farmhouse and only one is of my father's sisters and brothers. It's not even all of them and my father isn't in them. I can only figure out that he was too young to sit on his own for the picture.

I knew they were Dad's siblings because some of the kids look like I did or my brothers and sisters did when they were little. Only one of the girls is old enough for me to see her grown face and recognize her.

My father is gone now as are all of these children except one. I can't say which one is still alive based on looking at this picture. The farm and the front steps where this generation and my generation had their pictures taken belongs to someone else now. I miss it. I'm lucky Dad's niece dropped off the bag of pictures because I'm very thankful I have these photos from my father's family.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Soldering an art....

Soldering, whether in stained glass work or in metalsmithing is a fine art. I've been working in metals during the last few weeks but the creative muse in me wanted to change directions - but still using the cabachons I've made. So, it's on to stained glass style soldering. It's not as high temperature as soldering silver and I can do it with a soldering iron. But it's still an art, one you have to practice.

Yeah, you say, I saw those lumpy pieces yesterday.

Ok, so they were lumpy - what did I tell you?

It's an art.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Flux it!

Lesson learned.

What you ask?

Flux it! I say!

You say, "excuse me?"

Flux it!

Flux it!

Flux it!

No, I'm not swearing in another language. I was swearing though when I was soldering a few cabachons and the solder wouldn't stick.

I thought I was just lousy at soldering. But that wasn't the problem. I needed flux.


So now when something doesn't seem to stick - Flux it!

Lesson learned.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So, where was I?

Whew! It's been a busy weekend and it's Monday already.

Where was I?

Oh yes, cold connections!

Today, it's the venerable staple. I really like the look of a staple holding a cab or a special tiny object.

One of my favorite Glyph beads had a rough beadhole so I slumped it into a cab. I chose it to be my first stapled cab:

Yet another technique that allows the purist in me not to glue or alter any of my sentimental junk!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Weekend of Shakespeare

I'm sign interpreting a production of Twelfth Night this weekend. I've been working on it since the last week in September. It's taken alot of preparation, listening to it daily on my iPod and attending rehearsals to be ready. I knew I was understanding the 400 year old version of English when I started to laugh at the jokes. The most work I've ever done for a joke! But my family is ready for me to stop greeting them with, "What ho!" and I think I am too!

Enjoy your weekend, fair readers, I'll be back Anon!

(Photo Credits: Twelfth Night and First Folio .)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday's Tip: Don't buy a hammer that loses its head.....

I was using one of these hammers that have a interchangeable screw-in heads - you know, I've been hammering alot lately - I raised the hammer to strike the copper sheet when the head flew across the room. The screw on the head had stripped. I can't use it anymore.

Luckily, no one was hurt, but by the way the cat ran out of the room, he thought he was going to get hit.

Today's Friday tip is: don't buy a hammer that's gonna lose it's head.

Losing one's head is never a good thing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chasing? Planishing? Are we speaking the same language?

So do hobbyists, crafters and professional jewelry makers really care about the difference between planishing and chasing? Most of us have a chasing hammer as our all purpose hammer but did we know that we tend to use our chasing hammers to planish? That's right, when you are using your chasing hammer to work harden, flatten or smooth your wire or sheet metal, you're planishing. Chasing, on the other hand, is used to incise a pattern into metal by hammering.

So most of us are planishing but not to worry, if you're going to buy just one hammer, a chasing hammer is your best all round hammer. Just a little bit of trivia - you can all go back to talking amongst yourselves!
(Photo Credit: Contenti's Chasing Hammers)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Raspberry Bowl Made With Cold Connections

Lately, I'm blogging on combining flamework glass and metal by using cold connections. I'm using copper and brass sheet metal, copper ball headpins I've made at the torch with a patina I learned how to create in Mary Hettmansperger's book, Wrap, Fold, Stitch, & Rivet. The chapter on creating patinas is worth the price of the entire book! Here is a little sample of the lovely colors you can create on copper sheet:

Brass sheet can get a coppery reddish color which I thought looked just perfect with the Italian made Rubino glass I have. I made a bowl bezel and attached the yummy raspberry colored bead to create a pendant which I'm calling Raspberry Bowl.

My style is either overdone or very modern with a single pendant suspended from a chain. I think this one will be modern to feature the handmade texture and lovely color of the pendant.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A POW bracelet and my promise

I've had my POW bracelet since the seventh grade when my socially conscious history teacher told us about them. We vowed to wear ours until the day we saw them get off the plane in the U. S. Then when the soldier returned home, we'd break it into two pieces and send it to him. My friends soldiers returned, but mine never did.

I watched each plane, I looked for his name and he never appeared. I thought I'd missed him, it never occurred to a young teen that he might never come back. I kept wearing the bracelet sure I'd eventually see him:

Maj Ralph C. Balcom

I never knew more about him than his name but I thought about him often. Wondering who he was, where he was from. I eventually stopped wearing the bracelet in college, sure Major Balcom was home and I had just missed him.

In the early '90's, the traveling Viet Nam Veteran's Memorial stopped in my city. I took the bracelet ready to return it. I didn't think I'd see his name.

But there it was and he was MIA.

I found out he was from the Pacific Northwest. I imagined his family waiting all these years too. Little ones not knowing their father. Parents not knowing what happened to their son.

I know some have returned their bracelets, left them at the wall. But I didn't. At 13, I vowed to keep it until he returned home. He still hasn't. So I'll keep the bracelet. I see you can have a new one made with his name on it - but I have the original from the 1970's.

Researching this blog post, I found out more information and a picture.

I never met Major Balcom, I never knew his family yet as a 13 year old, I vowed to remember him and wait for his return home. No one knows I keep this promise yet I do. I can't leave my bracelet at the wall, it feels like abdicating my responsibility. It may never end up there - because the promise is with me.

I promise to remember Major Ralph Balcom who has yet to return home from Viet Nam. Major Balcom continues to be MIA in Viet Nam when his plane disappeared.

Task Forge Omega has this information on Major Balcom:


Name: Ralph Carol Balcom, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 24 December 1933
Home City of Record: Seattle WA
Date of Loss: 15 May 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam (see text)
Loss Coordinates: 171200N 1064000E (XE100100)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D
Other Personnel In Incident: None Missing
Refno: 0340

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.


SYNOPSIS: Ralph Balcom Jr. was shot down over North Vietnam about 20 miles
north of the Demilitarized Zone in Quang Binh Province. A radio signal
indicated that Major Balcom had parachuted to the ground, but because of
zero visibility at the time, search planes were not able to locate and
rescue him.

Two months later a propaganda film appeared with a man Ralph's parents
immediately recognized as their son being paraded down the streets of Hanoi.
The U.S. Government later identified the man as a returned POW Kyle Berg,
also from the state of Washington.

In November 1973, the Air Force discovered that Joint Casualty Resolution
Center (JCRC) in Nakhon Phanom was carrying Balcom as a Prisoner of War
while Defense Intelligence Agency carried him as Missing In Action. The Air
Force directed JCRC to delete any reference pertaining to POW status in
Balcom's files. Balcom's status was changed from Prisoner of War to Missing
in Action, although analysts say today that JCRC records were the most
accurate and complete because of their close proximity to the region.

JCRC also lists Balcom as being lost in Laos, not North Vietnam. The loss
coordinates, 171200N 1064000E are in North Vietnam about 20 miles north of
the DMZ. Grid coordinates XE100100 are located a few miles northwest of the
Ban Karai Pass in Laos. It cannot be determined why there is a descrepancy
in loss locations between agencies.

Today, over 20 years have passed since Ralph Balcom's last flight over
Vietnam. His family is still not sure whether he is alive or dead. Over
10,000 reports of Americans still held captive have been received by the
U.S. Balcom could be one of the hundreds experts believe are still alive.
Isn't it time we brought these men home?

Ralph C. Balcom was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was
maintained a Prisoner of War and Missing in Action.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hammering Away....

Lately, I've been developing a new relationship with my hammers. Not my carpenter's hammer but the ball peen and chasing hammers. Although I have basic hammer knowledge, I'm learning the finer points - like why are there so many choices in chasing hammers?

My ball peen hammer and I have a serious relationship that has developed from creating pendants for my sentimental junk, here a pieces of pottery found in the garden one spring day.

Filing smooth, hammering the edge and creating a texture for the brass sheet is soothing and cathartic as I pound over and over again to get just the right finish to the bowl bezel.

I'm going to add a couple of beads or charms at one end but can't decide if I should make a metal charm or if I should look for paw through my box of junk looking for a teeny tiny sentimental whatnot.

Have YOU hammered something lately? Doesn't haven't to be jewelry, it might just be hammering a loose nail. Do you think it's cathartic or do you just miss and get your thumb(OUCH!)?

(Hammer Photo Credit: Ball Peen Hammer)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The backbone's connected to everything!

Wow, I never realized that if you hurt your back, you're pretty much incapacitated. My niece has had back problems most of her life and I can always tell when she's in pain, she walks with her feet pointed out. It is her "my back hurts" walk. I knew it when I saw it but it wasn't until yesterday that I experienced it. I can't stand on hard floors for an extended period of time anymore - I stood in my studio yesterday while I composed fused glass pieces for the kiln, about an hour. I'm paying for it.

My back has hurt before and there some stretches I do that help it. Yesterday, it was hard to do them but I did a few gingerly on my bed at first then on the floor. They really help much more than laying on a heating pad all day. This one is the most effective for me and my favorite...

But all of the exercises on the Mayo Clinic website where I got the photos are worth doing everyday. Even if you don't have back problems, but work at the torch everyday, they're good for flexibility.

Do you have a favorite set of stretches that keep you feeling good? Maybe they're on a website, book or YouTube - I'm always up for learning more!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Junk to Art Bead

I've finally made some of my junk into an art bead! Read all about it on Studio Saturday this week!

Remember, leave a comment and you may win a free bead!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Amazing Night....

Wow, what an amazing night it was - even here in my own small microcosm of North America.

It started with The Teen bursting through the front door with a group of friends around dinner time. They were wound up, excited, loud - I was a bit miffed because it was a school night and he's got lots of unfinished homework to do. But my chiding him wasn't going to touch the bubble of enthusiasm he and his friends had around them. The Teen announced they were going to watch the elections and it just had to be a party because Obama was going to win!

It took a little time to sink in, afterall Generation Jones sat through the Watergate hearings and the apathy of voters - I wasn't old enough to vote then but it set a tone many of my peers followed.

I, on the other hand, believed in Jimmy Carter - the first president I was old enough to vote for and doggedly voted - telling others I had to vote because not participating wasn't an option.

I took my son into the voting booth from the time he was an infant. Always explaining it was important to vote. When he was old enough, we'd talk about who we liked and why.

I guess that's why on Monday night, he used his cell phone to call for Obama.

Last night, I saw something I've never seen - excitement, involvement from a generation of teens who aren't supposed to care, who aren't supposed to have a work ethic, who are supposed to be numbed by videogames.

With each state result, there was squeeling or groans and suddenly I'd be surrounded by the teens asking what did I think it meant? What was going to happen? We discussed it and went back to watching the results.

When the election was called, screams emanated from my house - I wonder if the neighbors knew it was excitement over a political process and not just another teen party.

I'm impressed with The Teen (I know I'm biased) but he wasn't the only one. It was the whole country. I'm amazed and filled with pride.

Monday, November 03, 2008

About Food and Hating Mondays.....

It's Monday. As I sit here in a daze between sentences, I'm just wasting time trying to get motivated. Ugh. I'm not ready for another week!

I wanted to put a Boomtown Rats video on my blog this morning but the embedding feature was disabled.


Good idea thwarted.

Darn but I'll post the link so you can go and watch I Don't Like Mondays and a young Bob Geldof before LiveAid and the funky 1980's fashion.

I like what Bob Geldof is doing but sometimes I think in the US we forget we have people who are hungry too.

I hate Mondays, love '80's fashion and support my local food bank.

What about you?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Books I Love: Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet

It's Saturday morning, one of the few days I have a little breathing room these days. This morning, I'm looking through another one of my favorite books, Mary Hettmansperger's Wrap, Stitch, Fold and Rivet. I made the Shelf Necklace for Ornament Thursday changing it up a bit and making a small wall hanging out of it.

Now I'm jones-ing to do something else. I've got a few projects on the coffee table in the family room. Some are completed some are still works in progress. Saturday morning is just the day to work on them!

When do you find time to create? Is it Saturday morning? or another day?