Metal Stamping – it’s hot! And occasionally painful…

For the last few years, the metal stamping trend has been on the rise.  Companies like ImpressArt that started out small now offer an entire line of different fonts, blanks and just about any sort of tool you can imagine.  So, of course, being easily distracted, I had to try it too.

Actually, I had tried it once before with little success.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get anything (and I mean anything) to stamp correctly.  If one side was nice and deep, the other side was barely stamped or even visible.  I used Sharpie markers to darken in my stampings, as most blogs suggested, but the results were mixed and I was extremely unhappy with the jewelry I was making.  And forget about any kind of complicated design.  They looked awful.  So I stopped doing it.  Because I won’t sell anything if I’m not happy with the way it looks.  I was also tired of crushing my thumb with a heavy hammer.  After all, a poor, mangled digit can only be expected to endure so much.

Then, at BeadFest Spring 2016, I had a chance to watch part of a demo given by ImpressArt.  They were debuting a new, single-strike hammer.  Perfectly weighted and designed, the hammer was supposed to provide good results each and every time.  I didn’t think that was possible, but, like the sucker I am, I went home, got my Hobby Lobby coupon and bought one of these hammers, determined to give it a try.  And then I didn’t.

The truth is, I was intimidated.  I really didn’t think it would work.  I also hated the idea of spending a fortune in blanks just to ruin them if they didn’t turn out.  Because blanks, even aluminum ones, are not cheap.  Then, for Christmas 2016, I received gift cards to Michael’s.  Now, I’ll be honest.  I don’t shop there much any longer for a number of reasons, but my local store was now carrying a small part of the ImpressArt line, and, with nothing better to spend the gift cards on, investing in the rest of what I would need for metal stamping didn’t seem like a bad idea.  If it worked?  Great.  If not?  Well, at least I hadn’t lost my own money and there really wasn’t anything better to spend those cards on.

So right after Christmas, I got my supplies, pulled out the old stamp sets, my bench block, and that hammer I had never used.  I opened up a shiny, new pack of aluminum blanks and got to work.  You know what?  It worked!  Not only was I making nice, deep stamps, I was making them consistently.  Each piece, every time.  And for that, I can only give credit to the single strike hammer because nothing else changed.  I still hit the same way, I use the same stamps and the same bench block.  The only difference is that hammer.

Emboldened, I started looking at online videos, trying to find a new way and better of darkening my stamps, too.  And I did – with Vintaj’s metal patinas.  I have the full collection so why I never thought of this before is beyond me.  Maybe because I use patinas with the idea that that won’t come off?  In any case, using the patinas gave me the deep, dark, consistent color I had been longing for without the “overflow” I always had with Sharpies or other methods.

As I grew more confident, I also started experimenting with more difficult stamps, ones with more detail that were, at least according to online blogs, harder to work with.  That included ImpressArt’s “Hootie” stamp, which has been pretty popular around here.

And this weekend?  My first batch of stamped bracelets goes into stores for sale.  It’s a point I never thought I would reach, especially the day I wanted to just toss my hammer out the window.  Now?  I’m glad I tried again.

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New Year…New Styles

It’s January which means it’s time for the annual White Sales in stores – or it used to be “the thing” back in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid.  It’s also time for organizational sales and the beginning of the run up to Paris Fashion Week.

For jewelry designers, it’s also time to start looking ahead.  What’s new this season?  Are tassels still going to be the big thing?  Or will a new trend emerge?  Will Greenery, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2017 be a hit?  Or will be be like the 2015 color, Marsala, and have everyone scratching their heads about how to use it?  Personally, I like Greenery and hope it does well.

  Courtesy: Pantone

As for what’s new at Easily Distracted?  I have two words – metal stamping!

I’ve dabbled in stamping before but considering what’s going on in my personal life, the idea of whacking something – hard – with a hammer holds a great deal of appeal for me at the moment.  I already had most of the supplies, including two letter sets – a basic set and ImpressArt’s Juniper font – a handful of symbols and a lot of hammers, including ImpressArt’s Ergo Angle Metal Stamping Hammer, which does indeed live up to its much heralded reputation.

So when I received a bunch of Michael’s gift cards for Christmas, I could think of nothing better to spend them on than more metal stamping supplies.  I could go on and on about the changes Michael’s has made and not for the better, but I won’t.  Because this is about metal stamping.

Anyway, I meandered over to my local Michael’s, picked up a bunch of ImpressArt blanks – I know from experience to only use quality stamping blanks because you do get what you pay for in this case – and set to work.  I was extremely pleased with the results and that’s putting it mildly.  And in the case of my sample disk, I added a little bling because I can’t ever just do things by the book.  I am forever altering or playing around with whatever designs I see.

I will say that in my case, the hammer makes ALL of the difference.  I’ve done stamping before with mixed results but this new, ergo single strike hammer?  The difference is HUGE!  And it makes stamping so much easier.  Instead of creating what I would consider middling pieces at best, I was able to create clean, clear letters with a single strike and, after watching a few videos on Beaducation’s YouTube channel, discovered that using Ranger’s Vintaj patinas to darken the design is A LOT easier than the old Sharpie-coloring method that so many have advocated for so long.  If you are comfortable working with patinas like I am, then this is a breeze and it gives a nicer, more professional looking finish.  So stamping will continue into 2017 because it’s fun, it’s easy and it makes a nice product addition to my line.

As I was showing my husband the results the other night, a new style of bead caught my eye and I mentioned that I thought I might like to try working with those in the near future.  He simply shook his head and smiled and made the comment that “easily distracted” is by far the most appropriate business name he has ever heard.  Yeah.  It probably is.

“To The Moon And Back” sample bracelet

 

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The Great Acorn Experiment

Do you ever see something in a store, in real life or online and think to yourself, I absolutely have to do that?  Because I do it all the time, especially with jewelry.  I see something and wonder if I could make it, do it differently, figure out how it was done, or whatever.  And usually, I give it a shot because, why not?  I am easily distracted, after all!

The Acorn Trio

So this summer when I saw a resin acorn online, the photo simply caught my eye and I knew I had to try making my own.  I didn’t like the execution of the piece, really.  It was too pink for my tastes.  Hard to believe, because I love pink (see my hair if you don’t believe me) but acorns shouldn’t be pink.  Or at least the sort I had in mind shouldn’t be.  But I loved the concept, I’m fairly experienced with using resin, and so decided to try my hand at making one.

It took me some time to find the components.  After all, reusable 3D acorn molds aren’t easy to come by.  Then again, if they were, everyone would be making them.  However, eventually I found one on Etsy made by a woman in Scotland (whose store is called Crazy Nature, by the way) that was to my liking and ordered away.  I was almost giddy with anticipation waiting for it to arrive, actually!  It was like waiting for Santa at Christmas when I was a kid.  Once my package did arrive, the only question was, how soon could I mix up some resin and get pouring.  Turns out, it was that very day, because I just couldn’t wait.

So I poured and I waited.  Never has a 24-hour resin cure time been so torturous.  Because I wanted that acorn and I wanted it now, darn it!  Eventually, the day passed and I was able to pop that acorn out of the mold.  And for the first time ever, I did something that succeeded on the first try!  Usually when I try something new, I fail the first time.  And the second time.  By the third time?  I usually have the kinks worked out.  This time?  I nailed it on the first try.

Emboldened by my success, I went crazy.  I mixed up more resin and poured as fast as I could, popping out a new acorn at least once a day.  I also kept looking at the molds, wondering if I should get another one so I could make two at a time.  Then, reality hit.  How many 3D resin acorns does one really need?  Honestly?  I have no idea.  But I probably didn’t need a second mold.  I was just so excited over my initial success that I wanted to keep going.  Instead, I backed up, poured another acorn and then went back to Etsy to look for some oak leaves to finish off my project.  Because what good is a 3D acorn for jewelry if you can’t actually use it in anything?

Acorn with golden sunset glitter, Vintaj patina accents, Moss Agate, Tiger’s Eye, Artistic Wire, Hamilton satin gold chain, and laser-engraved wooden oak leaf.

Like searching for the acorn mold, finding appropriate leaves was hit or miss and there are a lot of people out there with strange ideas about what oak leaves should look like.  Eventually, however, I discovered Angela’s Line Laser Engraving out of Belleville, Michigan, on Etsy and she knew exactly what an oak leaf should look like.  Plus, she does beautiful work!

So earlier this week, my laser engraved, wooden oak leaves arrived and I could get down to business.  Now I have completed acorn pendants, accented with semi-precious stones like Unakite (more on Unakite in a future post), Moss Agate, and some nice Austrian crystals and Hamilton satin finish chain scraps that I had lying around.  I never throw anything away because you never know when it might be useful.  Like now!

Acorn with espresso glitter, Vintaj patina accents, Unakite, Artistic Wire, Hamilton satin gold chain, and laser-engraved wooden oak leaf.

For once, one of my experiments turned out to be a rousing success.  With three completed pendants, I’m moving on and am now looking for just the right chain to compliment these acorns.  Because really, after all of this work, I’m not about to finish them with cheap craft store chain.  And now?  Back to the acorns!  :-)

Acorn with apricot glitter, Vintaj patina accents, Jade, Austrian crystals, Artistic Wire, copper chain, and laser-engraved wooden oak leaf.

 

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Just For the Shell Of It…

Difficult to believe that summer has already come and gone.  It seems like just yesterday I was taking selfies with my mom as we were on our way to the local Memorial Day services.  Did I mention that was my mom’s first-ever selfie???

It also seems like my friend Amy and I were hanging out with our husbands at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus not so long ago as well.  Throw in a couple of space marines and these two Steampunk gals are good to go!  Super soaker “ray gun” not included, of course.

Anyway, the point is that despite the fact that I have done a few fall craft fairs already and just put my Halloween things in the stores, I am still in full-on summer mode.  I’ve spent my non-Romance writing days as of late working with shells and resin and all sorts of bright, shiny, easily distracting things.  It also occurred to me that, despite my best intentions, I haven’t updated this blog either.  So that’s just what this is…a segue from summer into fall with a quick peek at what I’ve doing to fill my time, including some cool new designs featuring resin, shells, glitter, and, believe it or not, scrabble tiles!

Here’s a small sampling…