Monthly Archives: April 2014

Afternoon with Irish Cows by Billy Collins

April is National Poetry Month. Cows seem to be in the air…

Smashey's Blog

a favorite poem by Billy Collins

I thought about this poem as I listened to the early evening bellowing of our bovine neighbors across from our new house. I don’t know exactly why I’m so drawn to this poem. I think I just like the music in it. I’ve read this poem to a few of my classes during National Poetry Month (April); no applause, just puzzlement over why their Biology teacher was reading them a poem about a cow mooing (and frankly, why I would read a poem at all). Oh well, I think it’s potentially helpful for students to get a peek into their teachers’ interests, even if we’re revealed to be nerdy or uncool.

Afternoon with Irish Cows
by Billy Collins

There were a few dozen who occupied the field
across the road from where we lived,
stepping all day from tuft to tuft,
their big heads…

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Polymer Clay vs Epoxy Resin Clay…

I love combining traditional metal work with other materials. This article looks like it right up my alley, and maybe yours, too!

Barbara Briggs Designs

That’s the title of an article in the 2012 issue of  “Handcrafted Jewelry” magazine.  I’d been experimenting with Epoxy Resin Clay when I received an email from Cynthia Tinapple of Polymer Clay Daily, telling me that an editor from “Handcrafted Jewelry” magazine was looking for someone who had experience in both mediums and might be willing to write an article explaining the differences between the two clays.  Well, timing is everything and I was that person.  I like working with Epoxy Resin Clay and it certainly is great for projects that can’t be baked in a craft oven.  But the difference doesn’t stop there.  Textures, available colors, curing times, are other differences that come in to play.  Read the article if you’re new to working with either clay.  The issue will hit the newsstands this week.  The above photos show a reversible mixed media pendant I made…

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See, I knew there was a reason I was keeping all my sister’s old mandolin strings!

Barbara Briggs Designs

MixedMedia_Polymer Clay_Charm_RecycledGuitarString_Bangle

That’s the new term for using recycled materials and making them into something useful and/or beautiful. Abhorring waste, up-cycling is something I do often. I admit to being a packrat…I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression. They saved everything and taught me to do the same. I can’t begin to tell you how often my mother said, “You never know when you might need it!”…that phrase still rings true for me. While going through a cabinet in my studio, I came upon a box of found objects including several bundles of guitar string wires that I’d been collecting for use in jewelry making. They are wonderful when wrapped upon themselves and secured with polymer clay. These photos show several examples of pieces I’ve made using guitar string wires.


I have accumulated more bundles of guitar string wires than I can use at the moment so I’m selling them. Each bundle…

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Ode to a bench pin

There are a few things in my studio I could gladly do without. My bench pin is not one of them. Fortunately, I’m not in a position to need a replacement — YET. I suspect the demise of my beloved bench pin would trigger an existential crisis, and it seems this might be a common feeling among jewelry makers.


My bench pin is no more. Reduced to a mere stump, it has come to the end of its life and has to be replaced. Still, I find it hard to let go of it. I look at the scars left by the tools and I reminisce about the projects I have lived with these past years.

old bench pin Old worn out bench pin

A bench pin is a small wedge-shaped wooden extension of the workbench and, as humble as it may look, it is a very important piece of equipment. In fact, as Michael David Sturlin notes in his excellent article “Bench Pin Basics” (in Art Jewelry Magazine. September 2012), for us goldsmiths, “… the bench pin is the center of our world”. And I would add that it might be the most personal piece of equipment as well. Let’s explore how one can develop a better relationship with it.

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Being G. Moffat

Required Reading for Tool Junkies


1388 title photo copy G. Moffat’s set square.

Is there anything more exciting that browsing through a tool catalogue? (Don’t answer that, it was a rhetorical question) Of course, the printed ones are the best kind as you can write on them and put sticky notes on your favorite pages, but I love them all. To me, tool catalogues are fun because tools are synonymous with possibilities.

Many years ago, when I was still a jewellery student, I was given an old set square
by a friend. It had been passed on to him when he was apprenticed to a
shipwright, designing and building wooden boats. I’ve always treasured it as a
symbol of our friendship and appreciated its beauty and elegance.

1381 e preston and sons copy (1280x960)1384 G Moffat copy (1280x960)

Its patina and slightly worn edges betray a long working life. And it is intriguing; it has a trademark logo with the letters “E P”, and “E PRESTON & SONS    BIRMM

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