Category Archives: studio

Creating an Inspiring Jewelry Studio – Work Zone Implementation

After brainstorming all those jewelry studio work zone layout ideas, it’s time to reorganize and implement!

jewelry bench at window

New jewelry bench location – facing the window!

Jewelry Bench

The big change is the jewelry bench position. This is where I spend most of my time now, so enough with facing a brick wall! I’ve turned the bench to face the window view out to the garden and stock tank pond. Two small banks of drawers (salvaged from my husband’s work when they moved) hold small tools and accessories right at hand, instead of behind me or across the room. My oxygen concentrator, with quick connects to run either the jewelry or glass torch, is just to the left of the bench.

Vickie Hallmark jewelry studio - wet zone with pickle, mag polisher, ultrasound & rotary tumbler

Vickie Hallmark jewelry studio – wet zone with pickle, mag polisher, ultrasound & rotary tumbler

Wet Area

With a slight step to the left, I can drop a piece into the pickle pot. I’m debating moving this area over to the top of the drawer cabinets for easier access, but I actually like standing up regularly when I’m working.

rolling mill cart


I moved all the punches and daps and such onto the lower shelves of the small wooden IKEA cart that holds my rolling mill. This old leather chair belonged in my father-in-law’s shop where he rebuilt antique clocks as a hobby.

Vickie Hallmark glass lapidary

Vickie Hallmark jewelry studio – glass & lapidary area, with grinders and cutoff saw

Glass and Lapidary

The glass and lapidary area hasn’t really changed, at least not yet. I’ve more organization to do in this area, as you can tell by the cardboard boxes of glass in the knee well.

Vickie Hallmark jewelry studio - kiln area with toaster oven, hot plate & guillotine shear

Vickie Hallmark jewelry studio – kiln area with toaster oven, hot plate & guillotine shear


The kiln area is the same as well. I may try moving the small kiln over onto the steel cart with the big glass kiln to clear some more usable counter. I’d love to move the guillotine shear down with the grinders, but that will leave some big holes in the counter if I unbolt it, so it may stay right where it is. The green bins in the knee well hold charcoal and wood for my husband’s grill – must accommodate food! The clock between the windows hung in my parent’s living room for 30 years, while the hot plate and 3-beam balance are more lab salvage.

The surfaces are now cleaned and decluttered, although there’s a lot of hidden reorganization still to happen. I think that I might be able to work again!


Creating an Inspiring Jewelry Studio – Work Zone Layout Ideas

My jewelry studio is like my garden – a living thing. When plants don’t get enough sun or they overwhelm their neighbors, they need to move or be eliminated for the whole to flourish. As I’ve noticed my studio isn’t serving effectively, I know it’s time to edit underperforming tools and review the work zone layout.

Vickie Hallmark studio garden view

The sunroom studio viewed from the garden.

When I originally converted my enclosed porch sunroom into my glass and metals studio, my needs were different. At that time I focused on glass with torches and kilns for that purpose. After installing three banks of least-expensive big-box-store kitchen cabinets, it seemed that I had more storage and counter than I’d ever use. That didn’t last long. Just like the gardener keeps tucking in interesting plants here and there, the maker keeps adding tools.

Vickie Hallmark glass studio

The old glass studio in the sunroom.

I added metal work to combine with the glass. The jewelry bench got tucked into a vacant corner, facing a small expanse of brick wall in a room full of windows. Soon the jewelry tools outgrew the three tiny bench drawers and started encroaching like weeds. Instead of moving glass tools out of the way, I just piled over and around them.

Vickie Hallmark jewelry bench old view

The old jewelry bench layout, facing the brick wall.

The time has come to reprioritize space to the current usage. That means rethinking my needs, and reworking the layout to maximize efficiency. I sat down and brainstormed ideas for collecting equipment into work zones by counter space, in order of usage:

  1. fabrication zone with hand tools, flex shaft & torch – the jewelry bench with extra tools nearby
  2. wet zone – pickle, mag polisher, rotary tumbler & ultrasonic
  3. metal cutting & grinding –  shear, grinder, chop saw, belt sander (and buffer, if I ever buy one)
  4. forming zone with rolling mill, jump ring maker, punches and daps, stakes & hammers, engraving ball, pitch pot (and hydraulic press, if I ever buy one)
  5. hot zone – large glass kiln and small metal clay kiln along with the toaster oven and hotplate
  6. glass & lapidary zone – convertible flat lap/grinder/saw & Genie lapidary along with glass tools & supplies
  7. glass bead-making station – glass torch & tools along with bead kiln and a lot of supplies

Now, to make it happen…



Creating an Inviting Jewelry Studio – Inspiration

This is my life – the studio beckons, I dive in and make something beautiful, and the ensuing productive mayhem trashes the place. I personally find that creating an inviting studio is itself an important part of my creative practice. It’s not enough to just have the right tools and supplies (and orders) and to tell myself to go make stuff. I need to enjoy the environment as well as the process. As a visual artist, the actual appearance of the place makes a real impression on my mood and ability to connect with the muse. Late summer is the perfect time for a studio reset, because that’s typically a slow time for artists, but a time to be planning for the holiday rush coming all too soon.

I’m breaking my “studio revamp” down into a number of steps, tentatively listed here:

  1. inspiration
  2. work zone layout
  3. storage and organization
  4. maintenance
  5. zing

Studio Inspiration

By its very nature, a jewelry making studio has a lot of not necessarily attractive equipment – shears and rolling mills and kilns aren’t particularly beautiful, but they are certainly functional. As I clean and brainstorm improvements, I’ve been browsing the internet for inspiration. I find it no coincidence that esteemed jewelers create in beautiful surroundings (even though equipment and clutter may be part of the mix).

First a little inspiration, and then a distillation of the important factors (for me).

Ted Mueling's studio

Ted Mueling’s studio


Gabriella Kiss’s studio

Judy Geib's studio

Judy Geib’s studio

Those three images really capture my desires for my own personal studio space:

  1. a roomy, light, airy space, preferably with high ceilings and lots of windows with lovely views
  2. large work and display surfaces – notice none of these famed jewelers use a commercial bench?
  3. clean, hard surface flooring

Technically, I have most of those. My enclosed sunporch has plenty of light and windows, with garden views. I have lots of work surface, although it gets buried with equipment. My jewelry bench is the place that feels tight and cramped, so maybe I should address that. While I don’t have those beautiful wood floors, I do have hard tile surfaces, so no fire worries. The bones are there, but it’s time for me to really update the layout and organization, while doing some much needed deep cleaning.



Studio Organization – the Order Board

As I increase my production for galleries, I’m working on new systems in the studio to keep me organized. This is mostly a trial and error process. I tried compiling all the orders for a certain time period into a single list, at first handwritten and then input to a Word document with photos to make it visual. That at least gave me a total count when I was making a particular item. I tried printing it out and checking off items as I completed them. It was functional, but I decided that I craved some more tangible measure of progress.

order board first day

One of the home design blogs the I read, Young House Love, had a recent post on a magnetic dry erase board for organizing their home projects and blog posts. I realized that a version of their board might work nicely for my purposes. I decided to forgo their fancy customized board and just pick up something that would work. This combination of black magnetic/chalk board with white dry erase magnet strips is the result.

order board second day

My jewelry products names are written in permanent black marker, and then I use neon dry erase markers to indicate the number needed and stone color, if applicable (leaf studs in pink garnet or green peridot, for example). For now, I’m moving items from the right side of the board (in process or yet to be started) to the left side as I complete them. The change above is from one day to the next in my progress on shipments for delivery before Mother’s Day. I don’t move the tags until the piece is bagged and ready to ship, so one day’s progress on the board may just mean that a bunch of multi-day projects completed at once. Even so, it sure feels good to walk over and move the tags. It’s a bit like getting that gold star on a paper back in grade school. Now I’m thinking a few more boards for other projects might be in order. Shipments, purchases,…

The Great Annual Studio Reorganization

As I’ve struggled recently to get any work done in my studio, I’ve blamed it on the occasional artistic ennui, a time to fill the well. The recent demise of my trusted PC has led to a new tenant in the room, an elegant, alien iMac occupying less space than its clunky, techy cousin. Bringing in that big and beautiful toy prompted reassessment of the desk, covered with mountains of “stuff.”

Thus began the Great Annual Studio Reorganization (I checked — it has been a bit over a year since the last iteration). I realize now that part of my aversion to working is not quiet time to recharge, but rather an inability to work around the clutter covering every surface. Pushing things back to clear a tiny workspace is not conducive to free creativity!

So far in the last few days, I’ve cleared off my desktop around the computer. I’ve reorganized two drawers full of office gear, and I’ve started purging the paper files so that I can find room to stuff something new into the drawer. I’ve also committed to a more paperless existence, scanning myriads of documents I hate to toss, but which I could undoubtedly never locate if needed. Now they reside on my hard drive, with searchable titles. Five boxes of books, mostly homeschool related, went to the buyers at a local used book reseller. While these mundane tasks don’t seem directly related to making new art, I feel freer just being able to see the top of my desk again. I’ve at least been able to stay on task with this particular assignment.

Anyone else having the urge to reorganize your space at this crazy time of year?

Getting in a Rhythm in the Studio

One of the hardest things to control is studio time. Since I homeschool my highschool junior, I spend many hours each week working on academics. I teach an AP level chemistry class to a small group of homeschooled students, and I estimate that I spend at least twenty hours per week just on it. Beyond that, I help my son with his online calculus course and work alongside him learning Latin. This semester, my son is taking two classes at our community college. This means there is suddenly studio time available during the week that I haven’t had for many years! Now Tuesday and Thursday mornings are reserved for ME! Tomorrow is the first day, and I want to make good use of the time. I find myself feeling that I should be doing chemistry, however, I’m telling myself loudly that studio time is sacrosanct. I’ll just need to work around it.

Here’s my approach to this new found studio time:

  1. Set a routine. Getting into a rhythm is critical. I have 3.5 hours blocked out — no scheduling other things into that time! Everything else should wait. 
  2. Turn on the music. I find that while I can work without music, there’s something about the right music playing that resonates with the creative brainwaves. The right music changes with the project. I tend to associate certain pieces with specific artworks from my past. Now whenever I hear them again, I’m transported back to working on those projects. I’m always searching for new music that seems art worthy. 
  3. Have a clear idea of where to begin. I’ve deliberately left several projects in midstream, with a clear idea of where to jump in. First is my next Ring a Week (#3), shown here. I cleverly worked on this one at the same time as #2. So I have parts waiting for assembly and firing. All the hardest part is done. Somehow just getting going breaks the ice and gets the creative energy flowing. Then I can segue into other projects.
  4. Keep a clean studio. Yes, it gets messy as I work. At some point it can cross over to being a detriment though, when I can’t find whatever tool I need. If I just take a few minutes at the end of a session to put things away, the studio is much more enticing the next round.
  5. Utilize deadlines. I’m good under pressure. Give me too much time and I’ll web surf it away. But a hard deadline will get me focusing intently. Reminder to self: final Master Muse project is due next week. 
  6. Keep a sketchbook of ideas. When the muse isn’t speaking to me, I pull out the sketchbooks, either to draw or to peruse. I also use my Books of Attraction as jumping off points when all else fails.
  7. Improvise. Don’t get blocked by some minor issue. So what if I don’t have some needed item? Think of something else. Some of the best ideas come from having to make do. But keep a list of needed things and get them when I can. Having a big toolbox opens up more possibilities.
  8. Showing up is half the battle. Just do it. The repetition will start to become routine; the creative juices will start to flow. At the worst, go clean or make small components to use later. But get in there and do something.
  9. Keep a studio log. This record of what I get done each day is invaluable. I hate to see a blank day, so I’ll use even tiny time increments to do little things to list. Every bit helps. So far, I use a notebook, one page per day, with a simple list of art-related accomplishments. However, I’m considering updating to a more involved log with construction notes, progress photos, etc.

Studio Reorganization Update

The latest addition to the studio reorganization is a trail of bittersweet over the window. Originally, I planned to use some long-stashed hand-painted fabrics for a valence, but friends convinced me that branches were absolutely required to go with my bird theme. My original plan had been to get a nice branch for a corner, but this brings it out front and center. 

Isn’t that sun glowing first thing in the morning just amazing? I love that fall light. 

The fall season is only slowly creeping into Texas, with cooler temperatures and golden light urging me to plant mums in my front porch pots and pose pumpkins beneath. When I stopped at the florist today to look for branches, thinking they might have something that would work over the window, I briefly perused the curly willow, but then I swallowed hard and committed to the expensive bittersweet. I remembered looking at it last fall and thinking it too pricey, but this year I know life’s short and I should enjoy it while I may. So my window has a festoon of luscious seedpods to accompany the curling branches. Precariously perched on a few nails hammered above the window, it needs a bit of wire to make it more secure. I love it!

The color perfectly coordinates with much of the artwork gracing the walls, like this stuffed crow from Kelli Nina Perkins and a page from my bird journal. At this time of the year, the orange and black give it a holiday feel, even though none of the decorations are specifically Halloween oriented. The rest of the year, the other colors seem to balance better.

As always, orange is the zing that makes every other color pop, like the pea green of this antique bird cage I picked up on e-bay.

I love the new additions I’ve been collecting, like this hand-painted jewelry box to hold my special pieces that I’m keeping for myself.  Rescue a thrift store recycled box of your own from Secret Garden on Etsy.

And I’m pleased to dig some favorite quilts out of oblivion and actually hang them on the wall to wink at every time I walk by. This is Soul Searching, which was juried into Craft National, Materials: Hard & Soft, and Craft Forms. I consider it the best wall quilt I ever made.

Read about the earlier stages of the studio reorganization here here, here, here , and here . Peek into the glass studio here. The quilting studio is still chaos.

The timing on my studio redo is good in that Cloth Paper Scissors is having a Virtual Studios Tour. I added my link to the collection. Need some ideas for your own studio? Grab a cup of tea and settle in for a bit of inspiration.

New Studio Plants

Five months ago, or BA (before the accident), I purchased two flats of tiny succulents. It was a case of being dazzled by a greenhouse full of gorgeous plants for sale. The flats were works of art in themselves, each consisting of 8 rows with 8 plants of various types, from bronze rozettes to pink edged ears to green spikes. Some went into the new garden beds, tucked among the rocks. Some went into pots for gifts. Many were left to languish outside with morning sun, untended through the hot summer, rootbound in their 2″ pots.

With the return of mobility, my biggest job has been cleanup work. The downstairs infirmary, the neglected and ravaged studios, the garden all need attention. I can’t turn around without seeing something begging for help. Those beautiful little plants tugged at my heart until I came to their rescue.

I decided to pot them up to bring into the eastern window of my studio. They were dry as a bone, but making last gasp efforts to reproduce. Considering the heat we’ve had this summer, they lived up to their water cagy reputation to make it through. With a little potting soil and a drip of water, now I have the lovely orange stars and grey green rosettes of these echeverias, commonly known as “hens and chicks,”  gracing my studio.

Now I just need a few more pots.

Keep Moving — The Glass Studio Cleanup

Today the temperature in Austin has receded to the mid-80s, so I’ve attacked the glass studio, which is in my enclosed back porch, which we call the sun room  from the days when it was used differently. Although I did have to ship the oxygen concentrator off for repairs, a kind friend away for the weekend lent me hers so that I can play. First I decided to clean the dust, cobwebs and grime of five months off the bench and tools. Of course, I won’t show you the other areas yet, as they are inundated, but at least this is clean enough for torching.

In the foreground are the Bexley narrow files, scavenged from my husband’s office, which hold 104 COE glass rods, drawers as yet unlabeled. Then there’s my Chilipepper kiln, didymium shield, Creation Station, and mini-CC torch. I have one of Al Janelle’s great magnetic tool racks to organize my glass shaping tools, except for the marvers, which I keep on the left side of the torch, because I taught myself when I was beginning and didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to change hands. The bench is made from off-the-shelf kitchen cabinets from Lowe’s with a long formica top to bridge them. The nearest bank of drawers holds mandrels, frit, enamel, foil, etc. The bank on the far side of the torch holds less frequently used tools, such as presses, and has a drawer to dump shorts into when I’m cleaning up.

Beyond the flameworking area is an enamel and soldering station, with a tray of pumice and tripod/wire rack. I have quick connects so that I can change from my glass torch to the Little Torch. There’s a tiny brick kiln (4″x4″ inside), also scavenged from discards at my DH’s business lab, that I use for kiln enameling. The oxy con is at the far end of the bench, and the propane tank is at the near end where there are double doors out to the patio.

Today’s choice from Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto of Growth:

12. Keep moving.
The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

New Storage for the Studio

I can’t go into an art and craft supply store without getting into trouble. I ventured into Hobby Lobby for a pen; I came out with a new storage chest. Actually it was a bit more involved than that. I bribed my son to go back with me to manhandle this thing through the checkout and home (the bribe involved me bringing all his chemistry supplies that he should have taken himself to class, but forgot). He literally picked the thing up in the back of the store and carried it the whole way. I knew there was a reason my refrigerator and pantry are always bare!

The chest just seemed so perfect, with a load of drawers midsize between the tiny drawers in the tabletop organizers and the large baskets in the Elfa stacks. One dozen drawers — twelve! The perfect size for storing silver sheet and wire, as well as tools. Plus a small cabinet. And on sale, of course, which is why I had to go back today and get it after dreaming about it for two nights.

It also seemed made for displaying the vintage birdcage I bought on e-bay. Now I’m dreaming of a bird to go inside. Fiber or polymer? I haven’t decided yet, but I’m definitely in love with the new acquisitions.