Category Archives: workshop

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!





Workshop Teaching – Creative Pressure

Vickie Hallmark workshop samples

workshop samples: metal clay + Argentium

I’ve been feeling the creative pressure, at least as it applies to teaching workshops! After several years of avoiding teaching engagements, I’ve done a few recently and booked a few more for 2017. I’m still on the fence about my suitability to this teaching long term. I can argue both sides.

Vickie Hallmark workshop sample

workshop sample: metal clay window with fused Argentium bezel used to tab-set enamel-painted glass

Teaching Pros

  1. I get to travel and meet wonderful people.
  2. It’s easier to sell instruction and supplies than finished jewelry. (Sad, but true.)
  3. Working out class projects forces me to clarify the processes that I use, to simplify and streamline as much as possible, to work out all the little bugs that inevitably arise with the development of new techniques.
  4. I learn from my students. They see things differently, and that can really stimulate new ideas for my own future work.
  5. Workshop income brings extra materials or new tools to the studio.

more complex workshop sample: metal clay window with Argentium decorative wirework and bezel, and tab-set enamel-painted glass

Teaching Cons

  1. Teaching is hard work. The pay doesn’t nearly cover all the hours invested in developing the project, making the samples, writing out notes, and travel before I even teach long hours at a workshop. I’m a bit obsessive about making multiple samples at different stages to show, an itemized timeline, detailed notes with photos,  and a comprehensive packing list, as well as taking every tool I can imagine that might be needed to solve a potential issue. Admittedly, if I taught the same workshop more frequently, all that work would amortize out and make more sense…a reason to stick with it.
  2. Showing how to duplicate my work is an artistic quandary. I sweat blood to develop my own ideas, an artistic voice of my own, and a complex body of work. When I teach, I strive to lead students to put their own personal twists on the class project rather than simply duplicate my sample, but exact duplication has to be inherently acceptable. Ultimately, I have to trust my own creative voice to always be moving forward. Realistically, I’m not teaching my latest discoveries or ideas because I don’t have those all worked out yet. I’m teaching older debugged techniques, which are second nature to me, but new to students. I release those ideas into the greater world, trusting that I’ll be rewarded with new ideas.
  3. I’m an introvert. That means that I can enjoy the group experience of a workshop, but it’s draining for me. I get my energy with solo time, not from other people. So a workshop is a one-way energy drain for me. I put my all into it, and I come out the other side exhausted. Normally, a full week afterward is needed for recovery.
  4. All that time spent preparing for workshops is time subtracted from my own work. A class sample is desirably something I as the instructor can knock out with ease. As an artist, I’d rather be pushing the edge with new ideas, some of which will inevitably fail. Time must be allowed for experimenting, but workshops are not experiments.

As we charge into the now-not-so-new year, I feel that I’ve spent the first six weeks working as much on workshop prep as on my own designs. And I have to ask myself what I really want from all of this.

Stay tuned for details about the upcoming workshops.

Bob Ebendorf Workshop

Bob Ebendorf is renowned for his teaching skill, so I jumped at the chance to take a short workshop titled “A Brush with Creativity” at the Cos House in La Villita, sponsored by Equinox Gallery. Based on a collection of found objects provided by the organizers and enhanced by anything we brought along, our assignment was to construct one or more artist brushes.

My first attempt was a simple wrap of coque feathers tied around a butter knife with a scrap of reclaimed silk ribbon. Bob characterized it as very Indian in feel, which seemed appropriate as I have some trace Indian ancestry. It reminds me of an Indian implement in my collection that has green feathers and wraps of white rabbit skin and fur, so this will complement it beautifully.

I also made a pair of brushes based on porcupine quills that I scavenged along a roadside in Italy. Both have feathers, one as the brush itself and one as embellishment, and the bristle brush is enhanced with a copper electroformed cicada wing.

Finally, while rounding up odds and ends to work with, I thought of these tubes that I’ve stashed for years. Wrapped with quilting scraps and thread ends, they provide a colorful handle for simple marabou  brushes. The curved brush has two handmade glass beads scavenged from the bead reject bowl.

During the discussion, Bob suggested that I consider winding the long metal tubes into a spiral and forming the brushes into brooches. I was reminded today while gathering fiber and glass bits to combine with metal that I love all my special media and should give some serious thought to combining them as I move forward. There were many amazing brushes on the table to inspect. It’s fascinating to see what attracts and motivates individual artists.

Buyers Market of American Craft

I recently traveled to Philadelphia to attend the Arts Business Institute workshop on wholesaling, which was held in conjunction with the Buyers Market of American Craft. I actually went a day early to help my friend Wendy McManus set up her booth for her first experience at BMAC.

The weekend was an intense one. I spent a good number of hours helping Wendy hang curtains and signs over the provided pipe and drape. Lorena Angulo also attended the ABI workshop, so I had the chance to catch up with her. Although we live less than two hours apart, we often seem to travel to visit.

The first day of the workshop featured Bruce Baker, noted for his entertaining presentations on sales and booth design speaking about both of those topics in relation to wholesaling. I’ve heard Bruce speak at least twice in the past, and while I heard a bit of repeat, most of the information was new. We also were treated to a detailed presentation on Pricing for Profit by Megan Auman of Designing an MBA. I’ve taken Megan’s digital version of this class, and again there was plenty of new info.  In the late afternoon, we were able to walk the BMAC show floor. I had alternative access because of helping Wendy, so I made multiple passes over the course of three days, gleaning new insights each time.

On Saturday evening, we attended the Niche Award ceremony and cheered loudly for Sophia Georgiopoulou’s stunning necklace in the alternative materials category, which won the award. We also cheered for our new friend, amazing jewelry artist Aleksandra Vali‘s win in fashion jewelry.

The second day of the workshop explored details of the wholesale experience, including:

  1. Creative marketing and sales strategies, covered by Carolyn Edlund.
  2. The artist-gallery relationship illuminated by Wendy Rosen, who founded BMAC
  3. A question and answer session about the show nuts and bolts, such as application, costs, and  the booth package, featuring Rebecca Rosen Mercado.
  4. Interactive sessions with two artists: Matt Thomas, a woodworker, who wrote $60,000 in orders at his first BMAC show last year, and Merrie Boxbound, who has exhibited for many years at BMAC as a polymer clay artists, originally selling jewelry, but now focusing on pens.
The last day also featured the most personal part of the workshop: the critique session. We were allowed to set up representative work in a two foot by two foot space in a controlled access room, where buyers could voluntarily view the wares and provide written feedback. I received a number of reviews, which uniformly agreed that my work is very marketable, but which generally suggested that my price points need to move downward. Since I presented one-of-a-kind work and have yet to develop a production line, that was totally expected.
I came home convinced that I could do the show, if I decide that wholesale is the right direction for me.

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.

My Favorite Class Sample

Class samples are interesting things. They have to be simple enough that even beginners can make them (because there always seems to be someone new diving into metal clay). They also need to be interesting enough to not bore advanced students nor drive me crazy, as I need a new one every time to show construction techniques.

My Garden Windows Pendant workshop is all about painting on glass with vitreous enamels and then setting that glass into silver. Although there are many ways to mesh glass with silver, I demonstrate a sample that can incorporate a lot of techniques to increase complexity for those who want to push their skills, but can stay simple for the newbies.

nesting back
The last sample I made included a painting bird and nest with a lot of detail, although there’s a limit to the detail you can put onto a tile 5/8” x 1 1/4” in size. The flat window of this pendant is what makes it simple, but it can also seem limiting. Although I love a basic oval, and have many class samples with that shape, I encourage students to experiment with variations. A slight change in the outline makes the work more original and intriguing. This shield shape is my latest.

Glass Painting and Silver Clay Workshop at Gage Designs

I’m home from my weekend in beautiful Pennsylvania, where I led an exploration of painting on glass and setting glass into silver clay. The class of ten students did some beautiful work. Unfortunately for me, despite sitting in the charger for weeks (evidently unplugged), my camera battery was nearly dead. Luckily, Holly’s camera worked!

Enamel on glass paintings by Holly Gage (two on left reverse, others surface)

The class learned two types of painting on glass: surface painting onto an opaque white glass with watercolor enamels and reverse painting onto clear transparent glass with opaque enamels. To appreciate the detail achievable in the paintings by the talented Holly Gage, you need to know that the glass size is 5/8″ x 1 1/4″!

Enamel painting on glass
Top, L to R: Helene Richards, Karen Quirk Douglass (2); bottom: Kimberle Gage  Swanson

I also demonstrated my method of setting the glass in silver by pre-firing components and then firing the assembly with glass inserted.

Dorothy Thompson – painted enamel on glass set in fine silver clay

Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos of all the work, but these photos were all posted by Holly Gage.

Enamel painting on glass set in fine silver clay
Karen Quirk Douglass
Painted enamel on glass set in fine silver clay
Terri Werner

Can you believe that this wonderful owl pendant was the first metal clay project ever for Terri Werner??? While Terri was a bit intimidated by the skills of her fellow students, I think this is a simply stunning piece!

Enamel painting on glass set in fine silver clay
Kimberle Gage Swanson

This beautiful pendant was designed and executed immaculately by Holly’s sister-in-law, Kimberle Gage Swanson, obviously talented in her own right.

Enamel painting on glass set in fine silver clay
Christine Miller

Enamel painting on glass set in fine silver clay
Helene Richardson

It was a great trip. The students were fun, enthusiastic and productive. Holly did an amazing job of preparing and assembling supplies. She and her family also welcomed me into their home, where Holly shared her studio and supplies with me for late night play sessions, while her husband pampered me with gourmet meals (pumpkin lasagna!!) and her daughter, Megan, aspiring veterinarian, showed off her amazing domestic leopard cat and miniature rabbits. After a few days of rain, the weather turned sunny and gorgeous, with trees turning red, an amazing sunset after the last storm, and images recorded in my memory of pristine farms on rolling hills with Amish horses and buggies pattering past. 

Drawing and Painting with Enamels on Copper

My head is full of ideas now that I’ve spent a week exploring a variety of painting and drawing with enamels. Charity Hall is an incredibly gifted artist who originally trained as a botanist and is married to an entomologist (hence her many bugs). There were many scientists in class; perhaps we just naturally gravitate toward enamels?

Some of the huge number of Charity Hall’s enamel samples.

I think the class should be renamed to “Enamels for the Intimidated” or something equally encouraging, since I fear the class title frightened the more artistically challenged. Our class of seven was just over half full, a shame as Charity was a terrific teacher and the material was not inherently difficult. Yes, to draw or paint realistically requires previous training, but most of the techniques had easy and effective applications not requiring so much skill. Everyone in our class loved Charity’s shortcuts, developed out of her experimental nature to see what happens if she goes against traditional wisdom. For example, cleaning metal is not really necessary for opaque enamels, although it does matter for transparents.

CW from upper left: sugar coat, transparent green over P3 brushed over chasing, overfired  liquid 969, sugar over P3 and tracing black applied with pen, clear over P3 brushed over chasing, green enamel onto ink stamp on white base coat

The first day was spent making basic samples: sugar, orange peel, and glossy surfaces. We also experimented with simple surface design techniques — enamel stamping, metal chasing, under and over firing, using black enamel with a pen or brush.

Graphite pencil over enamel base coat.

On the second day we learned to solder on sterling tubes for mounting stones and to prepare liquid enamels. One of the simplest techniques we learned involved drawing with a regular pencil onto a stoned enamel surface. The carbon from the pencil lead is absorbed by the enamel and leaves a permanent,  if faded, image.

CW from upper left: enamel over Micron pen, sugar clear over underglaze pencils, glass painting watercolors, metal watercolors, underglaze pencils, clear over P3 by pen

Next we coated substrates with the liquid enamel for sgraffito and learned to use watercolor enamels in decidedly un-watercolor fashion. Then we mastered using the flex shaft and burs to cut the mountings for the tiny stones.

Sgraffito samples
upper left overfired, center left too thick
upper and lower left with tube mount CZs

For the next to last day, we experimented with glow powder for pieces to be viewed in the dark, fusing silver balls and wire into enamel, drawing with a pen, and underglaze pencils. Finally, there were demos of constructing various simple mountings for enamels, champleve and cloisonne.

CW from upper left: watercolor over sgraffito, sugar clear over watercolor, base + watercolor + pen + clear,
overfired base + watercolor + pen + clear, base + underglaze pencil + graphite pencil + watercolor + sugar clear,
base + underglaze pencil + graphite pencil + watercolor + sugar clear

I got side-tracked with the painting, which offered the possibility to finally build surfaces in enamel that follow the procedures I use on my bird journal pages. Once I started experimenting with layering the different media, I stopped making single technique samples and started building more detailed trials. Enamels are fussy, requiring close attention in the kiln, and even then I unfortunately overfired several of my favorite samples. I experienced the crackle patterns of transparents over opaques, the ever present burn out of some colors, and loss of detail from a final clear sugar coat. My favorites, of course, look faded and blurred compared to before they headed into the kiln.

I came home with a long list of items to order so that I can continue my experiments and a desire to clean up my studio so that I have a good layout for this work.

Workshop with Charity Hall

I’m abandoning the remodel midway to fly to cooler territory. As if the disarray downstairs wasn’t enough, we had the upstairs central heat/AC replaced today. All I can say is 5-6 workers in my house and drive makes for a busy place.

Tomorrow I’m heading out to Idyllwild Arts Center for Metals Week. I’d heard good things about this program and love to venture somewhere new, so when Lora Hart suggested I try it, I jumped at the chance. Not only is it a long workshop, five days, but it’s also in cool weather! Out of the six possible options, I chose the enameling workshop with Charity Hall.

I was unfamiliar with her work previously, but the notion of painting with enamels is definitely not new to me. I figure I will probably pick up a few new tricks, as well as have five glorious days to just focus on art without the distractions of a house in flux. When I come back, I expect the granite countertops will be in place and perhaps the appliances will even be installed.

Workshop with Sara Sally LaGrand

Last Friday I got to escape to the torch for a full day at a workshop with Sara Sally LaGrand. The topic was silver glass reactions, which those of you who follow my tribulations with that glass understand to be of particular interest to me.

I couldn’t resist bringing home a couple of Sara Sally’s corsage brooches. This white one, named Tilda after the wicked white witch from Narnia, seemed so nest-like to me somehow that I couldn’t resist adding it to my bird themed collection. Probably it’s the wispy real feathers peaking out or the spotted glass feathers that brings that feel to me. This one is quite large, hand-size, so I don’t think I’ll likely wear it, but simply nestle it alongside other pieces from my collection.

Glenda, the good witch from Oz, on the other hand, is small and quite wearable. I loved the complementary orange and violet color palette. And that dashing little orange feather has just the perfect in’souciance.

As for the silver glass, as I was coming to suspect, the upshot seems to be that my mini-CC torch runs much hotter than a Minor, and thus I wind up overheating the glass far too often. Better results were had when I worked much cooler, but even then it was hard to get a good encasement on a large bead without pushing the glass to mud. More time to move glass slowly is needed.

I wish I’d been able to squeeze into her two-day corsage class, since these look so fun to make. I just have to be grateful to have found an opening in the reactions class.

Meanwhile the flu drags me down, so I have yet to complete my Ring a Week #6. Cough, cough…