A new studio – A new start

At about the same time that I was shedding the old skin, metamorphosing into Elemental Alchemy, I made a shift into Studio “E” at the Studios at 210. I think that is pretty unexpectedly synchronous.  

Naturally, many things remained constant from the few months in my old studio. But I was able to utilize some new resources, like this old metal shelving unit to house my catalogs, books, and magazines. Oh, and Bastet got moved from just outside my door, to just inside.

My main bench has remained the same. I decided to hold out to purchase or otherwise obtain a peg board on which to hang tools; this will be located to the left of the Neith fresco. I had just drilled right into the wall in my former space, but I decided that flexibility of organization and ease of change will be good. Oh, probably the couple days I spent caulking and painting the new space had something to do with my reticence of needlessly marring the walls.
So now, in my primary work spot, I have a large window that overlooks the main atrium of the building and out into the Arts District. The front of the building has three large glass garage-style doors, so there is a lot of light and an unobstructed view. 

Close-up of the multiple projects that are in the queue. There are so many different materials and gemstones in this picture: Emerald, bloodstone, pyrite, kyanite, lavastone, chalcydony, citrine, smoky quartz, just to name a few.

My “wet” bench (to the left) got an upgrade in my studio move, as there was a nicer more water resistant piece that was available for my use.

My spanky soldering bench is located under the other studio window. I also now have a little display space for my finished work.

There is a nice view of the art in the adjoining studio, over my corkboard. 

Moving around to the left, is my storage racks and shelving. I even splurged on a brand new coat hook when I made the move.

I really feel good about my new studio. I have great neighbors and the space is conducive to my creativity.

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Filed under Art's District, studio

A New Incarnation

My jewelry projects, musings, and such that were documented at Baubles and Goddesses will now continue here at Elemental Alchemy.

This year I am launching my new jewelry business – Elemental Alchemy. I chose this name because it more accurately reflects my processes and product. One of my biggest inspirations behind the selection of this name is the poetry that Jim Morrison wrote on the subject.

Few would defend a small view of Alchemy as “Mother of Chemistry”, and confuse its true goal with those external metal arts. Alchemy is an erotic science, involved in buried aspects of reality, aimed at purifying and transforming all being and matter. Not to suggest that material operations are ever abandoned. The adept holds to both the mystical and physical work.

They can picture love affairs of chemicals and stars, a romance of stones, or the fertility of fire. Strange, fertile correspondences the alchemists sensed in unlikely orders of being. Between men and planets, plants and gestures, words and weather.


For me, alchemy is about transformation. In the process of creating each piece of jewelry, I shape and combine the elements to produce something larger than the sum of its parts. There is also transformation for the wearer: The pieces create individual beauty and the elements bring personal power of various forms for the wearer.

I continually am inspired by gemstones, crystals, rocks, fossils, beach glass, and objects that carry energy and unique meaning.

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Filed under 2011, alchemy, jewelry, Jim Morrison

Colorful Skelly Heads

I could not pass up these stone skelly heads at a recent bead show. Still trying to decide what I’m going to do with them. The colors are so festive.

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Filed under creative deliberation, Skull

Ancient sea lily for a special pesce

One of my last projects in 2010 was the creation of this necklace showcasing a crinoid fossil. The piece was a gift for a special friend, and it enabled me to practice a few more techniques that I just learned this year: Forming with sheet metal, utilizing riveted prongs to hold the piece to the metal, and soldering rings.

All of the silver is sterling, and the back plate of the pendant is brass, which picks up on the warm tones of the crinoid fossil and frames the piece.

The piece has a double bail that hangs from brown leather, with a hand forged clasp.

As you may see from the sketch, I decided to orient the fossil opposite of what I originally planned. That is part of the beauty of the creative process; being able to change and adapt as I move toward the final product.

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Filed under brass, Crinoid, fabrication, jewelry, leather, prongs, sterling

My Studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District

Perhaps the best thing to happen for me professionally, artistically, mentally, emotionally and a lot of other -ly’s in 2010 was the relocation of my jewelry studio to the Studios at 210 in the Benton Harbor Arts District. I started the process of moving in October, and have more or less completed it in December, although it will continue to be a work in progress as I assess my needs and make changes to improve how I am able to work in the space.

Although I have had a separate studio in the past at the Box Factory for the Arts, this is the first time that I have had all of my jewelry tools and supplies in one space. I had things at my studio, in my basement, in a spare room, in the garden shed, etc. It was a hindrance to my creativity, to say the least. I was able to capitalize on my experience in my past studio to thoughtfully organize this space so it would be most beneficial to my processes. In addition, as I was moving in, I very methodically sorted through boxes of supplies and other materials that had been thrown together and left that way, in some cases for years, so that I started out more organized at the outset.

This is the bench where I do most of my work. Above the bench are a couple of corkboards; something I had always wanted and now finally have the space to utilize. Now I have a space to pin things that inspire me.

This the part of the bench where I do most of my wire working. I photographed it in a typical mid-work state: Boxes of findings open, pliers where I just laid them, spools of wire out, my Blackberry within easy reach, multiple measuring tools…

I was inspired by my studio neighbor Vicki Cook to get a stump for my forging needs. The stump is very solid and absorbs the shock of the blows very well. Since it is isolated from my bench, it doesn’t rattle the items there or on the wall. It also makes me a better neighbor, as it is more quiet than hammering on my bench. The stump is maple, from a tree that was felled on our property at the time I was moving into my studio.

Around the corner of the “L” shaped bench is where I do fabrication, drilling, grinding, polishing, filing, and other processes. Two of my most valuable tools are at this bench, my trusty Micro Mark mini drill press that I have used for years, and my new Foredom flex shaft, which I just purchased this spring. I am still learning how to fully utilize all of which the Foredom is capable.

Above the bench is an original piece of artwork which I created a few years ago. The name of the piece is “Neith: The Creator Goddess in Repose.” I really like to be surrounded by the things that inspire me. She is beautiful above my bench.

In a moment of inspiration, I created a space for some of my oft used tools to be accessed readily. I think at some point I would like to utilize a pegboard on which to hang my tools.

Another really great piece of art hangs by my tools; A little ceramic winged goddess. I purchased her years ago – at this point I don’t even remember where.

Moving to the right of my bench is a shelving unit that holds a lot of my working supplies: Finished gemstones, books, catalogs, my jewelers scale, etc. This unit I purchased years ago when I was at the Box Factory.

I had purchased this set of drawers years ago and it had sat in my basement unused until I brought it to my studio this fall. I have filled every drawer with rocks, found objects, tumbled glass, rock slabs, etc.

The piece of artwork above is me, as done by my husband Brad Bigford. It is a painted relief, done in wood. The bust is paper mache, which I purchased from a rummage in the Arts District years ago. I frequently use it for display and photographing my work.

Here is drawer of beach glass and rocks.

Another drawer of crystals.

Various polished stones.

Another drawer of primarily coins. Like I said, all of the drawers are filled, so this is just a small representation of the treasures to feed my creativity.

When I moved into my studio, I purchased some new wire shelving units for more storage. It also functions as handy space to hang my jacket.

This is my “wet” bench. The tools here utilize water for grinding and cutting.

And lastly, moving to the right again – my new soldering bench that was a present for me for my birthday this December. It has a marble top that had been previously utilized at a bank. I just added a pickle pot at the end of the year. It is very small crockpot that had gone unused in my kitchen for years.

Above the bench is a metal picture of one of my favorite good girl gone wild icons of all time: Betty Page.
My productivity has increased exponentially since I have started to utilize my new space. When I am there, I feel very clear and focused, which is a contrast to how I felt when I was working in my cramped room at home. I am looking forward to my continued evolution as an artist in my studio.


Filed under Art's District, studio

Herringbone designs in sterling

Much of my recent work has utilized a herringbone weave. Here are a couple examples. In the above picture, I have created a simple frame for a lovely iolite gemstone. Iolite, per http://crystalsandjewelry.com, is said to bring clear psychic vision and enhance curiosity. It is also an excellent stone for meditation and astral travel. It helps one grow spiritually in a gentle fashion. Iolite is considered a very strong “Shaman” stone, and can stimulate visions. It can be very helpful when dealing with addictions, including alcoholism. Additionally, iolite is also said to help build relationships of all kinds.

I also created several different earrings in the this design. In the above picture I used rough sapphire gemstones. These are a blue-grey color; I also created a pair from purple rough sapphire. Sapphire is a stone of creative expression, intuition, and meditation, and enhances all those things.

I certainly have felt like my creative expression has been enhanced!

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Filed under antiqued, iolite, rough sapphire, silver, sterling, wire wrapping

Labradorite "Passage for Life" Necklaces

With the move into my new studio very nearly complete, I have begun the process of digging deep into designs and projects that have been on the back burner; in some cases, for years. This series of necklaces is one of those projects. The design of the pieces are based on a tutorial by Magdalena Borejko. But the techniques of wire wrapping, and looped weaving are techniques that I have explored in other iterations.

The series utilizes one of my most favorite gemstones: Labradorite. Per the site Mineral Miners, Labradorite is said to provide quick relief from anxiety, hopelessness and depression, replacing them with enthusiasm, self-confidence and inspiration. It is said to dispell negativity and to bring clear understanding by enhancing clarity of thought and improving one’s ability to cooperate with others in harmony. Labradorite is also said to give perseverance, strength and enhanced intuition when one is experiencing times of conflict and change.

In the first picture, I have paired the labradorite with sterling nuggets. In the above picture, it is paired with black spinel and tiny sterling beads on the inner layer. In the picture below, the pendant on the left features blue topaz along the right side, and iolite along the left.

The design is luxe, and both time and material intensive – especially on the large pendants. It takes a finesse and awareness, as I (re)developed during practice (pendant not shown!) to create the frame and to weave the stones onto the frame without breaking the wire.

It was the perfect series to create at the inception of my new studio in the Arts District.

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Filed under antiqued, labradorite, silver, sterling, wire wrapping

Turquoise Treasure on Leather

My friend gave me a bead that she got from a music festival over the summer and asked me to do something with it. I revisited the wrapped wire frame design that has figured prominently in my previous work.

I created seven loops to attach the spike details. All of the wire and findings are sterling silver. I really rather like this side of the piece as one can see the carved detail of the bead more clearly as it is not obscured by the coloring of the stone.

I opted to use a graceful “S” clasp design to add more interest to the back. I can’t wait for her to see what I have done with her bead!


Filed under commission, leather, silver, sterling, turquoise

My Heart – That’s Amore’

A friend sent me a piece of red coral and gave me creative carte blanche to make a piece for her. It was a sizable chunk, larger on one side than the other. As I mused over its form, it seemed that on its side, the shape was evocative of a heart. So I decided to utilize some of the new skills that I had learned at Bead and Button this past spring in Susan Lenart Kazmer’s class – Relics, Riveting, and Staples. I would mount the piece on a back plate with a head pin through a silver disc which would hold the coral in place and would also serve as a decorative element in the pendant. I also decided to do something totally new for me and put a word onto the pendant. I chose “amore” to reflect upon the heart shape, but also because this person is such a warm-hearted, passionate person, it just really seemed to resonate through and through.

I took a plate of sterling silver and after determining the dimensions, I used my new jewelers saw to cut the piece to its designated size.

Safety glasses are always sexy.

In this picture, I am filing the sharp edges of the metal plate and rounding the corners.

So now at this point I have my blank plate, and a head pin that I created with my torch. It was critical to get the properly sized gauge wire that fit the hole of decorative disk for a secure fit.

In keeping with the organic nature of the coral, I hand chased the surface with hammer-struck punches to create visual interest and a natural visual transition.

I didn’t take pictures of the process of stamping the word “amore” onto the piece. It required my full attention to properly place the letters.

It was also an adventure getting a small drill bit to create a hole to fit the the diameter of my wire. Fortunately, I got some advice to pick up metal drill bits locally at a welding supply shop which are used in that trade for cleaning welders. They worked brilliantly! And it was totally a bonus that they were inexpensive and I could support a local business.

I then oxidized the silver part of the pendant, wire, chain, and clasp prior to putting the elements together. Liver of sulfur would have damaged the delicate coral.

After I designed and assembled the necklace, I methodically polished the surfaces to get a soft luster.

Red coral pieces really complemented the focal point of the necklace.

This is a close-up of the clasp of the necklace.

The pendant turned out beautifully. There is also a signature secret stamp on the back of the piece.

The necklace is a vibrant, completely unique piece. It was such a pleasure to have someone trust me to create this special, timeless treasure.

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Filed under commission, coral, silver, silver smithing

Skull meets Steel – A Collaboration

I am a huge fan of Christina Root-Worthington’s ceramic work. I have an awesome collection of her rings. When I saw this skull pendant at her display at a downtown Benton Harbor Festival the day of the Jack Nicklaus event, it was a no-brainer. I had to have it. I figured that I could think of something cool to do with it.

I decided that it would be a natural fit to make a necklace out of steel wire. It would match the bail of the pendant and would fit the overall feel of the piece. When I looked at the floral motif on the skull, I decided to work with my old school curves and spirals. It would pick up on the organic feel of the motif and be evocative of vines and maybe a trellis.

I utilized 16 gauge steel wire. Creating all of these pieces sure ruined my manicure, and I pinched the bejesus out of myself on a few occasions when I was trying to shape the pieces after I had pounded them.

This is the clasp of the piece. I really like how everything turned out. I like the jangle of the necklace because it sounds like chains. I am ready and set for the Day of the Dead, and well, any other day when I want to rock a completely fab skull.

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Filed under Collaboration, Skull, Steel