Monday, May 26, 2014

Making Jewelry & Travel

How do you make jewelry when you are on the road? If you are like me, I can't stop making. There can be many reasons. I may be making a sample for a new class, there might be a art show in my not too distant future, I might be experimenting with a new design, and the reasons can go on and on. But right now in my life, I need to be making jewelry for the simple reason of sustaining my jewelry making business. Because of this when I take a trip for business or pleasure I have devised ways to
to take it all along. Fortunately I love my work and really isn't ever completely about work. I may have a deadline, now and again, but I'm always having fun.
     So you are going to benefit from my efforts to figure out what works and what doesn't. As a metalsmith, it is pretty obvious that it is impossible to work on the road, unless you are visiting another metalsmith that you have a pretty good relationship with, and that will allow you to work in their studio. Put simply a metalsmith needs tools and a work space. So I get all of my metal components for my projects finished before I head out. On the road I work on my beadwork or wirework. Everything packs up small and is really portable. This requires packing tools, supplies, and a work space.
     Tools for beading are pretty simple, scissors and a few needles, done. Wirework is tool intensive, and for that I take three pliers, wire cutters, a file, tweezers, a crimp pliers, and a crochet hook if I bring a crochet project.
I have found a travel pouch that is the length of the longest tool and has a zipper all round on the top with easy access. In the lid is an inside zippered pouch that I can tuck a finger file, the file handle, and the crochet hook. Take you time in find the ideal pouch. It's out there. This one that I am using was described as a shaving kit.
     If you are worried about carrying tools on an airplane, here is the link to the TSA (Transportation Secruity Administration) Traveler Information page. You can carry pliers, scissors less than four inches long, and a finger file. Now if I were to leave the finger file in the handle I have for it, I could not carry it, because sharp objects can be no longer than seven inches. With the existing rules today, I'm good if I take the file and handle apart. In talking with my students over the years since 9/11, there is an amazing amount of confusion about what an airline passenger can carry on the plane. If you are in doubt, it is very easy to find out before you head to the airport and feel secure about what you are carrying with you. If you are really in doubt, put that item in your checked bag and it will be waiting for you at your destination. For heavens sake, you can put a hatchet in your checked baggage. If you are totally paranoid, ship the questionable item UPS to your destination. It has been thirteen years since 9/11 and we need to update our thinking about travel and what we can carry. Things have changed a lot since that tragic day. Stay current with a quick visit to the TSA site. Oh and, scroll down on the page, it is a long page. That way you will get all of the information you need.
     Part of getting my outfits all together for my trip, is also put together my jewelry making projects. "Travel Kits" we will call them. I have learned over time that I really only need enough Travel Kits to keep me busy for the actual travel time, the flight time and the sit around time, and maybe one more if there happens to be a delay. (Yes, they do happen.) When I reach my destination you will be too busy visiting, eating, touring, or working, if you must, to be sitting around making jewelry. All of the Travel Kits go into another pouch along with any findings I anticipate I will need for the projects. I see ladies pack boxes and boxes of beads for a trip, because they can't decide what they want to work on. I say keep it simple, lighten the load, and take the time to create Travel Kits. Added bonus, when you get home you have all of the projects organized to keep working with no fuss.
     So this adds up to a pouch for tools, a pouch for Travel Kits, and a plastic box with a latching lid that will double as your work area. The plastic container that I have found is 11 inches by 7 inches, and is 1 3/4 inches deep. This is the third plastic container I've tried, and this one is a keeper. Once you have found the ideal container cut a bead mate to fit the interior of the box. I simply cut a square out of each corner and tucked the bead mat inside. The sides fold upward all of the way around the box. The best "surprise thing" about this box I am using, is the lid will snap off while I'm working, making the box easier to fit anywhere as I work. The lid can double as a place to contain all of your supplies, but out of your way. When working on the tray table on the plane and the guy by the window wants out, just close the lid, stand up, let him out, and continue beading until he gets back. Don't even need to miss a stitch.
     I'm aware there are many products available for travel and the jewelry maker. I'm not trying to be in
competition with any of that. These are my low tech. solutions for keeping it simple. I hope you have picked up a tip or two. The travel box and pouches fit easily in my carry on when traveling by air. If I'm taking a
road trip, all of this works well too. In fact, I love a road trip when I don't have to drive. For me it's a "beader's perfect storm." After years of traveling (in my past life I was a flight attendant for 33 years.), I'm at a point where I try to drag as little as possible around and still have all I need to entertain myself, and pass the time if need be, on the road. If you have any great travel solutions, add them in the comments below. It's always fun to hear what great ideas other people have come up with.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Put Your Jewelry on a Pedestal, Here's How

Do you need a quick jewelry display to feature one of  your most excellent pieces? If you only need one, this can be finished in an hour, tops.

My jewelry is currently in a juried gallery show in St. Charles, IL, Molten Glass and Metal Show, running January 11 through February 15, 2014. For that show, they requested display items, to best show off your work. I've always bought commercially available jewelry display items and then recovered them with a taupe faux suede fabric. This created  a distinctive look, yet understated to show the jewelry off .

The bracelet displays I had been using were a half round that displayed two or three bracelets comfortably. For this show I thought is would be nice to showcase the bracelets and brooches that I was sending individually. What to do . . . ? I thought it would be interesting to have cylinder pedestals at different heights. The local sources I visited didn't have what I had in mind. I did remember, however, that I had seen round gift boxes at the "dollar store". I got two heights and got busy covering them with my signature fabric.

First I made a pattern. Really I did my measurements and cut directly into the fabric. For you I have made a pattern that you can copy onto paper and adapt to your specific measurements.
Tool List: 

  • Scissors, Ruler, Tape Measure, Exacto Knife, Pen, Pencil

Supply List

  • Round Box
  • 1 Yard of Fabric, probably much less. If you are covering one box, a scrap will be large enough.
  • Spray Glue - 3M General Purpose
  • Card Board - 1mm thick
Cut the long fabric strip, cut 1/2 inch "V" notches on one side of the long length and straight slit notches 1/2 inch deep in on the opposite side. Spray back side of the fabric and the exterior of the box with spray glue, and roll the box carefully the length of the fabric. Match the bottom of the box to the "V" notch side of the fabric. Now slowly and carefully fold the "V" notch tabs onto the bottom, and the straight slit notches into the interior of the box. 

Turn the covered box bottom side up. This will now be the top of the display cylinder. We will now create a cover for what was the bottom of the box. Using the box as your pattern, draw around the box onto the 1mm card board. Cut the card board circle out. Draw around the card board circle onto the back of your chosen fabric. Free hand draw another line 1/2 inch from the line you just draw around the box. Cut the fabric circle out. Cut 1/2 inch straight slit notches about a half inch apart all the way around the fabric circle.
Spray glue on the back of the fabric circle and the card board circle. Carefully position the card board circle into the center of the fabric circle, and glue down. Fold notched tabs over to the back of the card board, one at a time. Glue to the top of the jewelry display.

For those of you that have done this type of fabric covering, this brief how to will have you on your way. I want to give you detailed instruction, and have written a four page PDF file for those of you that need a little more information. In the download there are loads of photos and step by step instructions from start to completion. You can purchase the PDF download at my Etsy Shop or on my 1 Bead Weaver web site.   

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Buy Handmade, It's about soul . . .

It's time to talk turkey about handmade. Do you even think about handmade? I hope, as you are heading out into the craziness of  the Thanksgiving weekend shopping, you will give what I am saying here one moments pause. Hopefully, giving just the right gift or possessing clothing, jewelry or art that an individual has thought about, designed, and created has meaning to you. Buying handmade means quality, thought, mindfulness, creativity, and the great joy of making infused into an art object. I think we need to think about the years of study, training, experimentation, mistakes, and remakes that happened before the creator is able to present you with their amazing offerings. By giving a gift with a story, you add value for the giver and receiver.

I am a artist/maker. I am passionate about people understanding how they are spending their money and the value they gain by thinking larger than owning more. Thinking about the quality of what they purchase, how long it will last, and the deep joy it will give them, perhaps for a life time. You may not have as much stuff by buying handmade, but what you do have, will last longer, be well made, and serve our earth by being made locally. As "they" say it is a win win for everyone.One-of-a-kind items or short run items are truly special in this world of mass production.

Actually think about what the chain of events are when you buy at a big box store. The creator of that item works in an office at a cooperate head quarters. Many people approve or disapprove that item. It is tested, rearranged, watered down and homogenized. Then a prototype is made. This prototype then goes to three or four possible manufactures outside of the United States, that boasts cheap labor, to get a bid on making
that product. Possibly the cheapest bid is accepted. More adjustments are made to the product to make it easier to manufacture on an assembly line. The colors of the day are imposed on that product, the cheapest raw materials are used, and it goes to production. Thousands and thousands of that product are made, and put into a shipping container until the container is full.The shipping container is then transported to the docks at that foreign location, where it may be warehoused for months. Then that product makes the journey over the ocean, taking weeks and using a great amount of fuel, to a US port. The container goes to a distribution center, more fuel, operated by the cooperation and distributed to all of their big box stores. Oh, by the way, more fuel. You see this product on an end cap at the big box store, you like the price more that the product, and you buy it. Will you have that product in six months? Will that product be front and center in your life in six months, or will it be riding the bottom of a drawer or  your closet forgotten until cleaning day three years from now, when you through it away or hopefully donate it to a charity. We all need to think about what we spend our hard earned dollars on and who it supports. I am aware parts of the production stream I have described have been left out, are not accurate, and I am US bias. I'm trying to make a point about how far the original design is from the creator of that design.

Support the artisan directly. Your support provides financial freedom, gives the artisan control over their own destiny, gives their life a purpose, and results in their being able to do what they love. Possibly develop a relationship with this person. Know the story of how your purchase traveled directly from the maker to you,
with no middle person. This is, of coarse, supporting small business. If nothing else, that artisan can buy a few more supplies to make their next creation, but at best it helps that business owner pay their mortgage, light bill or buy health insurance. Too many artisans have lived their entire creative lives without health insurance. Your purchase doesn't meet the profit margin a board of directors has set, but supports the creator, the artisan.

Get out to all of the art and craft fairs.Go to galleries. Be the first one of your friends to discover a new designer. And, yes, you can afford it. Think about all of the "things" that you afford; premium cable channels, the newest cell phone, that pair of shoes you just had to have.. Could you really afford them? If you want something enough, somehow you afford it. Talk to the artist, perhaps they will create a payment plan for you to purchase that coveted item that is just out of your budget. I've done this a few times and enjoy that art in my home because of it.

My best holiday season, is one in which I don't ever visit a mall with the loud holiday music, florescent lighting, and the two mile walk to where my car is parked. It will be my wildest hope that I can influence one person to hesitate before buying at the mall. Giving handmade, shows more care or concern for the person you are giving to, and for yourself. You spent time at the art or craft fair, online perusing the handmade offerings, and talking to the maker directly or via e-mail.. You may have asked for adjustments in size or color that tailored the gift to the receiver. In the end the item is precious for your loved one, and a loving act on your part. Isn't it time to rethink, Black Friday? I am grateful today for the makers out there. They are the soul of our culture.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Life's a bead of roses, how the cuff was made.

Just finished a bracelet cuff yesterday evening that was almost a year in the making. I've been working on this cuff off and on, between many other projects. I was inspired to show the process this bracelet went through. As with many projects for me, it started with the beads. I had made some pendant necklaces and statement rings with these beads. They were perfect to make a beaded bead, that results in a bead that looks similar to a magnolia or a wild rose. So late last year I ordered more of these beads online, to continue making the pendants and rings, adding some new colors. My order arrived and I order the wrong size. I try to be careful about size, but I slipped up this time. As it turned out it was a happy mistake. I thought about sending the beads back, but one evening sat down and made a beaded bead with one color, and then another, and another. After a couple of weeks there was a pile of beautiful beaded beads with sparkly crystal centers.

I played around with the beaded beads and laid them out in different ways. At a point it became obvious, I was making a cuff. This meant I had to make more beaded beads. Now, how to bring it all together and close the cuff. Most people do not realize there is a lot of engineering involved in making some jewelry. The piece must have movement, be comfortable, and still be beautiful. Out came the sketch book to play around with some possibilities.

From my sketches I created a platform spanning a wide hook. On the platform, I was intending to add Sterling Silver flowers with a rivet at the center. These flowers would mimic the beaded bead flowers. The wide hook would mate with a squared "D" at the other end of the cuff. Once I had soldered the platform in place on the hook, I added the two Sterling Silver flowers with a rivet in the center of the flower.I left just enough space between flower and platform so the flowers will spin. I love doing things like that with my jewelry designs. It's a little surprise for the wearer, and, of coarse, me having some fun.

Next I created the beaded beads attached to the hook. As I made the beaded bead, I including the bar the platform sits on, and the wire that all of the beaded beads would be strung on crossing the length of the cuff. This was tricky, to say the least. At the other end I did the same and included the "D" and string wire, as I created the beaded beads. This bracelet cuff was not a bed of roses to make, but turned out fabulous. Now there is a "Bed of Roses", made of fun petal shaped beads, Swarovski crystals, and two spinning Sterling Silver flowers.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Fall Jewelry Making Classes

This is an exciting time and a very challenging time of year at Kathryn Bowman Studio. Creating new jewelry making classes is always what is going on around here in July. I just met the deadline earlier in the month for fall into winter jewelry classes at Lady Bug Beads, the bead store I teach at here in the St. Louis area. Their new schedule runs from October to January. All of those classes will be available for signup on August 23rd online and at Lady Bug Bead's 10th Anniversary Celebration. Wow, can't believe I have taught for Lady Bug for ten years. "How time flies, when your having fun?", as the saying goes.

My Lady Bug classes are three popular repeats and three new classes. The popular repeats are: Bead Rope Crochet, Wire Findings, and the Morphing Plum Blossom. I only offer Bead Rope Crochet about once a year. It is the most challenging thing that I teach, and not everyone is up to how much work it is, and that's fine. The Wire Findings class is an action packed three hours of hands on making. Being able to make your own wire connections, hooks, and earwires, is an essential for any dedicated jewelry maker. And, of coarse, the plum blossom and it's many variations is an ever popular class and loads of fun. That fun isn't just in class but goes home with you to make beaded beads that you can adapt to your own jewelry designs. The new classes are; Dagger Down Earrings, Squares and Super Duo Cuff, and Three Metal Medallion Pendant and Toggle.
Dagger Down Earrings
Squares & Super Duo Cuff
Medallion Necklace with Toggle

  •  The Dagger Down Earring pushes the plum blossom beaded bead in a new direction and I wanted to share that with my students. Very fun! 
  • Squares and Super Duo Cuff is for the advanced student that has been doing square stitch with beads for a while, but wants to push it to a new level. By including Super Duo beads in the mix, it will have the student dancing a new step and seeing how well they are paying attention with each stitch. This cuff is definitely my greatest accomplishment recently in "how can you really, really challenge yourself," arena. I have to admit I had a few frustrating moments and restarts, before I got it to work. Come join me and be challenged.
  • The Three Metal Medallion Pendant and Toggle has a little bit of everything for the metal worker. You will be sawing, piercing, filing, riveting, wire wrapping, and, of coarse, including a few beads. I like it hanging long, but the student may choose to have it hang higher, and that will all depend on your taste and what you want to do.
All in all, a good line up of classes at Lady Bug Beads, including students just beginning through advanced. Don't forget to see the other instructors offerings for the fall and winter. There are some really talented ladies teaching classes at Lady Bug Beads, and you don't want to miss out.

That deadline being met, I'm on to the next. I will be teaching for a weekend at Bead Boutique, October 5 and 6. Still getting that all set up times and costs, but the classes are coming together nicely. Saturday morning we will make a metal pendant, using basic metalsmithing techniques. In the afternoon on Saturday we will learn how to make the Plum Blossom beaded bead and as many variations as we can fit in. Sunday afternoon we will make the Dagger Down Earring, which is the Plum Blossom beaded bead in it's newest form. This will be my first excursion out of town to teach at a bead store. I'm really looking forward to meeting Kansas City beaders and see what they are doing with beads.

Through all of what I have just been telling you about developing classes, I am really working on the class proposals for Bead and Button Show 2014. Morphing Plum Blossom, Dagger Down Earrings, Squares and Super Duo Cuff, and the Three Metal Medallion Pendant and Toggle are in the proposal line up. Believe it or
Plum Gold, Flower Petal Necklace
not I have ten more ideas that I am working on for proposals. I am working on all of the ten simultaneously, for some reason. I may have a bright idea or finding a solution to a problem in one project, while steadily working along on another proposal project that is more predictable. Now, whether all ten will make it in the final cut, depends on a lot. The technique has to be interesting to a wide variety of jewelry makers and skill levels. With bead projects I have to consider bead availability, because for each class at Bead and Button I will make a kit for each student. An obscure bead may really make a design, but I have to be able to repeat that same design at least 12 times for the number of students I have in class. Oh, and what if I do that same class twice, times that by two. I'm not going to do any metal classes that include etching metal for 2014. It is someone else's turn to teach metal etching. Teaching how to etch involves a lot of equipment that has to be moved around almost daily, while I am at the week long show, and I've decided to streamline those many moves and cutting out etching was going to be essential to making the moves easier. I really had a lot more fun at the 2013 Bead and Button Show than I had in a long time. This was mostly due to a lighter schedule, and a break in the middle of the week to catch our breath. It was so much fun to get out in Milwaukee and be a tourist. With this in mind, I may teach a little more for 2014, but I will definitely take a break in the middle of the week.

Check out my fall into winter schedule. There are a few times set aside at my home studio you might be interested in. You will need to e-mail me at, to get anything set up at my home studio. I like to screen who's coming to the house, please understand. Hope to see a few of you in class. Until then, happy jewelry making.