Category Archives: class

Tucson Gem Show Workshops

Happy 2018! January means that the Tucson Gem Show is just around the corner. Gems, minerals, gems, minerals, everywhere you look! This year, I’ll be there to snag some new gem treasures for future jewelry, but also… I’ll be teaching workshops!!! For those of you who are curious about metal clay or Argentium silver or fusing or metalsmithing (or all four), please consider signing up for one of my one-day workshops at JOGS, organized by JewelryTools.

I have two primary reasons that I combine metal clay and Argentium:

  1. Metal clay is expensive compared to milled silver products. Using metal clay for only small sculptural components stretches that clay expense to more jewelry.
  2. Argentium is special – it’s low-tarnish, hypoallergenic, fusible (easier than fine silver!), very malleable (easy to bend and form) when fully annealed, as well as heat-hardenable for maximum strength.

Vickie Hallmark – Wedge Earrings Workshop – fusing PMC3 and Argentium sheet

Wedge Earrings

The first workshop, on February 1, combines metal clay with Argentium sheet to make a simple pair of earrings (or a pendant, if you prefer). We’ll start off by making sculptural components from metal clay, covering this exciting material’s properties and appropriate firing. Then we’ll learn about the special characteristics of Argentium silver, hammer texture some sheet, fuse the metal clay components on top, then shape and finish the earrings with hand make ear wires. Overall, it’s a great introduction to my process, covering a wide range of skills that can help you move your jewelry to the next level.

Vickie Hallmark – Floral Earrings Workshop – fusing PMC3 and Argentium silver wire

Floral Earrings

The second workshop, on February 2, uses Argentium wire to form interesting supports for metal clay components. Again, you can make earrings or a pendant. The first part of the workshop is quite similar to the wedge earrings class, with focus on working with metal clay and my approach to sculpting details. After firing the metal clay, we move on to fusing wire into rings, ovals, or other shapes. Fancy details like jump rings and granules will be added, and again we’ll hand make ear wires.

In both classes, I strive to work with my students to personalize the experience. While you may want to exactly copy my class samples (that’s fine!), I encourage each student to follow their own muse and change things up. Change the shapes. Change the details. Experiment! I want my workshops to be inviting opportunities to try out new ideas with expert guidance. Making mistakes is encouraged, as my philosophy is that mistakes are design opportunities.

Here’s hoping to see you in Tucson! If you can’t take a workshop, but you’re there shopping, stop by to say hello and browse the jewelry I’ll bring with me!





Tucson Gem Show Classes

As the end of 2017 quickly approaches, I’m starting to plan for 2018 and increased teaching opportunities. One of the most exciting options is at the Tucson Gem Show. I’ve only attended the show once before (and left early when I caught swine flu that year). On February 1 or 2, I’ll be offering two single-day workshops at JOGS. Both are introductions to metal clay with Argentium.

JOGS 2017 Jewelry Class Vickie Hallmark Argentium and Metal Clay

Wedge Earrings: Fusing PMC3 And Argentium Sheet

In both classes, we’ll make a pair of earrings or pendant (your choice). The first class uses sheet, while the second uses wire for the Argentium compoonents.

JOGS 2017 Jewelry Class Vickie Hallmark Argentium and Metal Clay

Floral Earrings: Fusing PMC3 And Argentium Silver Wire

In the morning of each class, we’ll cover the basics of working with fine silver metal clay (PMC3) and build a few small components. Those will be kiln fired over lunch. In the afternoon, we’ll introduce the novel properties of Argentium silver and learn to fuse Argentium to both itself and the metal clay.

If you’ve avoided soldering or fusing in the past, you’ll love Argentium fusing! There’s no firescale to clean, and the fusing temperature range is very broad compared to fine silver, making melting and unsightly joints much less likely.

I’d love to have you join me in Tucson for a playdate tucked in amongst your gem shopping.

Jewelry School Adventures – Hollow Forms

This week I took my seventh class at Jewelry Studies International. Vasken Tanielian demonstrated the class projects will skill and precision, and then I followed along with many mistakes and repairs.

The first project was a domed hollow band, made from two strips of 22 gauge Argentium. The outer band was made 10 mm longer, then domed over a dapping punch until the sides met the inner band. This relatively easy project only took a morning to complete. I added a texturing wheel to my wishlist to get the matte finish on the outer surface. This band will earn a bezel setting sometime in the future.

The second project was an oblong hollow bead. I went off script and used my fine silver bird and leaves in combination with the Argentium wire to make the surface designs. All were fused to the flat sheet and then the strip was formed into the oval. The gauge of metal was a bit lower than planned due to a late shipment, and even Vasken had slumping when fusing the back seam. The weight of my bird on the front made it even more problematic in my case. We all decided to solder on the sides rather than fuse, to avoid further aggravation. I really enjoyed learning to use a homemade point and a hammer handpiece to texture the background.

Next we attacked the box ring with the outer band 15mm larger than the inner. I decided to flip the large side on the outer band because this configuration looked like an egg, which fit with my bird theme. Again, soldering issues were my main problem area. I had one pinpoint area that refused to close when adding the first side. I asked Vasken to help and he soldered it. When I soldered on the second side, I still saw bubbles when I dropped it into the pickle, indicating an air leak somewhere. It turned out to be the original trouble area. After several more attempts to close the hole, to no avail, I finally soldered a small trimming of metal right over the area. So my errors provided me the opportunity to learn how to fix the issue in the future.

When it came time to make the lentil bead with patterned wire overlay, I decided to go my own way again. I fused flowers and leaves onto each dome, then soldered them each to a flat back. No holes this time! And plenty of learning about how to file and sand around the raised elements to get the edges nice and flush. The earrings are a bit heavy, and the backs don’t really add anything to earrings anyway. However, I do feel more confident in my ability to handle hollow construction in the future.

Jewelry School Adentures – Chasing and Repousse

This week I spent five days at Jewelry Studies International with Ronda Coryell, studying chasing and repousse. Chasing is the process of using hammered tools to depress a sheet of metal from the front, while repousse is the same process from the back. Usually, the sheet of metal is mounted in a pot of pitch to support the work, with the back side facing up for the first pass. Repousse is used to give the general shape of the piece, moving metal down into the pitch that will be raised on the front. Then the piece is flipped to add detail via chasing from the front.

The trick is to think in reverse. Deeper is higher. Things in front must be deeper. Depth of field is created by varying the depth, so a leaf coming out of the plane of the metal protrudes more at the tip than at the base. After years of doing double sided work and carving molds for glass casting and reverse-paintings on glass, this reverse thinking is fun for me, although sometimes it takes some tweaking. It’s a good version of “negative thinking.”

Our first day was spent getting a feel for mounting and unmounting the metal in the pitch pot, learning how to hold tools and hammer properly, experimenting with the various tools, and exploring that negative space. After filling a 4″ square of copper with a variety of marks, we were supposed to start on a flower and leaf medallion. Since I want to make jewelry rather than larger metal pieces, I started small, with a 1.5″ diameter circle with a motif similar to my usual work. It didn’t take me long to realize that the tools provided were too large, but Ronda rescued me with a few of her handmade collection. Working with magnification, it took me longer to complete this piece than for others to do the 3″ diameter exercise. It took me a full day of work to complete the small piece.

One of the more valuable parts of the class was learning to make our own chasing tools from water-hardened tool steel. Several classmates had purchased expensive sets of chasing tools from reputable suppliers that were totally unusable as supplied. They learned to reshape and polish those tools. I made five chasing tools over several days, as I had waiting time to fill, and plan to continue with a large collection. Ronda has a caddy with probably thirty different compartments, each filled with a collection of eight sizes of a give shape or texture! What an investment!

I decided to simplify and work larger for the next project. Ronda offered to teach us how to make a cup to hold our chasing tools, which seemed like a great project, as I’ve never worked with anything that large. So I drew out a simple hummingbird and trumpet flowers, which turned into a much larger project. I realized after doing the repousse that I had the flowers looking very flat rather than tipped, so I had to totally rebuild them by sinking the centers dramatically and raising the front areas more. In the process I learned to trust that voice in my head that says “the metal is too hard; you need to remove it from the pitch and anneal” as I put tiny tears into those over-depressed centers. A learning process, to be sure.

After many, many hours of work, I formed the piece into a cup and soldered a large piece for the first time, making a mess of the seam to the bottom, but also learning how to deal with recalcitrant seams. Once trimmed, darkened and polished to bring out the highlights, I have some useful tools to remind me of a fantastic class. If you ever have the chance to take this class, jump at it!

Upcoming Metal Clay Classes

I’m excited to report that I have classes upcoming. Holly Gage has asked me to teach a couple of metal clay classes for the Greater Philadelphia Metal Clay Guild. Both of the two-day workshops involve combining other materials with metal clay. The dates are 14-15 and 16-17 of October, so they are just weeks away. If you live in the Philadelphia area or can visit the Northeast for a little fall weather (sounds good to this Texas girl on the 68th day of triple digits!), please contact Holly for more information.

In the glass class, we bring color to the world of metal clay with enamel painting. Using several types of enamel “ink” and “paint,” we explore enameling on small slips of glass that can be set into various structures with a metal clay window. I’ve used this technique for pendants, bracelets, and rings, so the concept is pretty easily generalized. Previous students have really enjoyed drawing and painting on glass. It’s fun and easy. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t draw or paint! I provide small drawings for copying, if you need a little inspiration. I also give a short drawing lesson, where I show you how to break images down to simple components — circles, lines, curves, etc. You might be surprised at what you CAN draw! And there are a lot of other possibilities as well — using a rubber stamp to print with enamel, for example. Of course, it is a metal clay class, so we build silver settings for the glass. Discussions include shrinkage, metal-glass reactions, prefired components, and a variety of embellishments from syringe to hand-forming.

The copper class focuses on adding color through enamel as well. We’ll explore etching copper with a variety of resists to get your personal image onto the surface, cutting discs from sheet, and doming the discs. Then the color fun begins. I show how to apply enamels, how to use a torch or a kiln for firing the enamel, how to remove part of the enamel to reveal the raised areas of copper, and how to use color blending to get some beautiful shading in your enamels. Of course, mounting the enamels in metal clay is the ultimate goal, so we’ll experiment with a ring setting. A variety of shank options are demonstrated — wire, strap, and inserts. The setting options include bezels, tabs, and other cold connections. We will obviously also discuss shrinkage and sizing.

And in both workshops, I’ll bring extra activities to jumpstart your artistic inspiration — my ideas about creativity, originality, and personal voice. I hope you can join me!

Being a Teacher at Bead & Button, Class 1

Wednesday was a rough day for me, starting at 6:30 am when I ferried myself on my electric scooter over the roller coaster skyway from the Hyatt to the convention center, followed by my husband pushing a laden cart and my wheelchair. My classroom was in the far back corner of the show floor. Luckily, no carpet made pushing myself around in the wheelchair easier, because I proved myself reckless while trying to rearrange tables and chairs pushing from the back of the scooter. No further bodily damage ensued, thank goodness!

Soon we had the aisles wide enough for me to zip through, electricity wired in for all the power equipment, and all the boxes unloaded into a huge mass of supplies. My Garden Window class is a very tightly timed class, as we run the kiln four times to get the pieces all finished. I literally have a printed timeline that I consult to make sure we’re staying on track. There are a few things that I typically get done before class starts that I didn’t this time because of the extra room rearrangement, so I felt behind even before I started.

I, and especially the students, were extra lucky to have superstar Gordon Uyehara volunteer as my assistant for the day. Thanks, Gordon, it would have been much tougher without you!

First we drew the black outlines onto glass and fired the tiles.

Then we added color and refired. Talented group, aren’t they? Everyone loved the glass painting part of the class. I think they could have spent all day doing just that part, so I’ll have to rethink whether or not to change the class for next year.

By late morning however, we’d changed to silver clay so that I could show how I make my box design to hold the glass. I carefully loaded two shelves of silver into the kiln during lunch, without double checking the position of the thermocouple. Unfortunately, I blocked it, so the top shelf got hotter than desired. Chalk one disaster up to moving too quickly!

Some pieces had the dreaded (or loved) glitter effect that comes when the temperature is pushing dangerously close to the melting point, but not so much that a brass brushing wouldn’t resolve the texture. A couple of box backs were so glittery as to loose all texture. And one lonely, thin front window melted into a complete puddle. I now know where the hot spot in my kiln is located.

Luckily, my victims were good sports and the worst pieces were replaced with my prefired sample pieces to continue on with the process. Several students took their pieces home to fire, so I can’t show them all. These six all turned out quite nice, and will be even more lovely after patina and finishing.

As soon as class ended, we rushed to pack and vacate the room in the one hour allotted before the next class started. We hauled everything back to my hotel room, dumped everything, and I collapsed with my throbbing leg elevated. After an early dinner, we reloaded jewelry, books, business cards and postcards, and headed back to set up for the Meet the Teachers reception. Because of my accident, I didn’t get a chance to make the things I’d planned to take for sale, but I did luckily have the earrings from my Month of Earrings Challenge. My table wasn’t completely bare!

I didn’t sell a lot, because I didn’t have components, tools or kits available for this crowd of make-it-themselves types, but many people seemed interested in the classes. My textures got a lot of interest, so when those become available, I think they will do very well.

The reception ended at 11 pm, at which time we repacked again, toodled back to the hotel, stood in a long elevator line to transport both the scooter and wheelchair up to the room, and then collapsed into bed. I can only be thankful that I didn’t get the two classes on consecutive days as I requested, but I had Thursday off so that I could sleep in the next morning.

Being a Student at Bead & Button, Class 2

On Tuesday I joined 24 other students in Robert Dancik’s “Concrete: It’s Not Just for Sidewalks Anymore” workshop. Again I got into the sawing groove and did a pierced bird on a branch for the reverse of my folded copper box. I set a hand-painted enameled glass tile into the concrete rectangle, then suspended a mabe pearl in the triangle below. I loved the look of the black iron wire echoing the black enamel, as well as the contrast of the roughed up concrete texture with the smooth glass and pearl. I’m going to do more with this concept.

Bead & Button Show Registration Opens Tomorrow!

For the last two years, I eagerly anticipated the opening of registration for the Bead & Button Show. I’d complete the registration early, then lurk around my computer until noon when class signups would be available, having everything selected and ready to hit the button to grab classes that I expected to sell out quickly.

This year I’m on the other side of the fence, eagerly waiting to click links that tell me how many students have signed up for MY classes. Since this is my first time teaching there, I’ve limited enrollment to ten in one class and eight in the other, both to make shipping equipment and supplies easier and to ensure that I can provide outstanding personal attention to each student. Not to mention that smaller limits make it easier to fill those classes, a confidence boost I’d be happy to experience.

So, if you’re able to travel to Milwaukee in June, consider hanging out with me for a day or two. I’ll be teaching enamel painting on glass to set into silver clay, as well as carved electroforming on glass beads. Can’t wait to see what treasures my students will produce!

Here are the direct links:

Garden Window Pendant: Combining Glass Painting with Silver Clay
Copper On, Copper Off: Carved Electroforming
Beyond teaching this year, I will squeeze in taking a couple of classes for myself. Also, as a member of the faculty, I get the fun of participating in Meet the Teachers, where I can display my work, sell finished jewelry, beads and kits, and save myself from temptations at all the other teacher’s tables. As we say in Texas, “Y’all come!”

Classes at Bead and Button 2010

In case you’re thinking about attending the Bead and Button Show next June and want to start plotting your class choices, the schedule is due out soon. If you’ve attended before, the hard copy will be arriving in your mailbox; otherwise the complete listing will be available online December 15. Registration begins January 12, so it’s not too soon to get organized.

I’ll be teaching there for the first time, two different classes, tentatively on Wednesday and Friday.

The first is my Garden Windows Pendant class, which covers combining metal clay with glass. We’ll make a set of hand-painted glass tiles using vitreous enamels, and then embed one of those into a two-part metal clay pendant. The class is so packed with information that it moves really quickly. I probably should add even more and expand to a two-day class, but it’s hard enough to get a one-day class as a new instructor, so I’m squeezing a lot into one day. Topics covered include planning for shrinkage and reactions, drawing and painting on glass, using molds, combining prefired elements, using syringe and hand-formed decorations. Whew!

The second class is an electroforming class titled Copper On, Copper Off. Lots of great instructors teach the basics of electroforming, so I want to offer something different. We’ll go beyond caging beads or copper plating pods as I introduce my carved electroforming technique. Yes, I’ll cover the fundamentals of electroforming, including WHY things happen the way they do and how to exploit that understanding, but the focus is on carving a design, as fancy as you like, into the copper covering the glass bead. Simple bicone or lentil beads will be provided, so there’s no glass work in this class. While it’s possible to prepare more than one bead, only one bead should make it through the complete copper growth process due to time and equipment limitations. Also included are my ideas on adding controlled textures and finishing.

I do hope some of you will care to join me — it will be a lot of fun! Or at least visit me at Meet the Teachers, where I’ll have some exciting new treasures to share with you. Shhh, secrets!

Metal Clay Weekend Workshop with Kate McKinnon

My weekend workshop with Kate McKinnon was fun and informative. The topic of note was boxes and birdhouses, but Kate is a very open teacher and invited questions about any of her techniques.

We learned about many of the techniques detailed in her book “Structural Metal Clay,” which I highly recommend, and more from her two upcoming books on mixed media and sculptural metal clay and DVD:

  • treasure boxes to display a favorite bead or other treasure (I’ll be thinking about those in the future)
  • architectural construction for houses and birdhouses
  • rings of many types: strap, heavy wire, rivet (for beads), stack, etc.
  • tree branches and other work with wire armatures
  • ball rivets
  • making attachments

The only frustration I had with the course was a firing issue. Some of the houses, like mine that had openings, were filled with vermiculite for support. However, too much vermiculite meant the houses bulged like little balloons during shrinkage, even popping less than perfect seams. Beyond that, the kilns fired long (another experience of fire brick vs. baffle kilns to add to my data set) and too hot, giving time for crystal domain growth leading to sparkly silver. It’s the analog of devitrification on glass — hold too long at just the right temperature and the mobile silver atoms rearrange themselves into glitter. I know some people love that look, but I’m not one of them.

My bulgy birdhouse above has been hammered back to something approaching original shape and had its seams reinforced. Not too much glitter here.

Bits: a bird and blossom on a 10 gauge wire to form into a ring, a couple of big head rivets for later attachments, and another bird on a wire to insert into the birdhouse (there’s a hole in the bottom that needs to be enlarged).

This small open roof house still shows the horrific glitter back. I’ve never seen an example this extreme, so I hope that all polishes out. The open roof accommodates one of my enamel-painted glass tiles, with a jump ring through front and back holes to keep it in place, but leave it interchangeable.

Here, I’ve straightened the walls (and the bottom after I saw the photo) and popped a glass tile in to show what it will look like.

I have more to show and more to do, but right now chemistry class is calling me.