Celie Fago experiments with "960" metal clay made with PMC Sterling and PMC+

In a recent post I shared with you Celie Fago's exciting announcement about PMC 960, a mixture of half PMC Sterling and half PMC3 that has greater strength than PMC3 alone but, unlike sterling silver clay, can be fired on an open kiln shelf rather than in activated carbon.

Understandably, metal clay artists (including me!) are very excited about this new material. Several of them asked whether it was possible to substitute PMC+ for PMC3 in the 960 mixture, so Celie decided to try an experiment and share her findings about the differences between the original mixture of PMC Sterling with PMC3 and the experimental mixture of PMC Sterling with PMC+. In the comparison she refers to the two mixtures respectively as 3/960 and +960.

She found that the only real drawback of using +960 vs. the original 3/960 formula is that it isn't as strong, but it's still definitely stronger than PMC+ alone. It's also less sticky and takes texture better than the 3/960 formula.

I strongly encourage you to read Celie's blog post about her PMC+ 960 experiment, which contains a detailed comparison of the characteristics of that formula vs. the original PMC 960 made with PMC3 and also vs. straight PMC+ and PMC3.

Many thanks to Celie for being so generous with her knowledge and for doing this experiment in response to a question from the metal clay community!

Make a versatile, 2-in-1 convertible beaded eyeglasses leash / necklace this weekend!

Happy Friday, guys! I've got a brand new beaded jewelry tutorial project that you can whip up in practically no time and that will give you a two-for-one bang for your beading "buck":  a beautiful eyeglass holder necklace that converts to a regular necklace and back again in just seconds.

Here's the simple example I created for the tutorial :

I don't know about you, but I always cringe when I see the mostly cheap, boring and/or cutesy/trendy eyeglass leashes they sell in stores. When selecting eyewear frames we don't have to compromise on style and materials, so why not enjoy the same level of style sophistication and high quality materials in the eyeglass straps that attach to those frames?

I consider eyeglasses chains to be jewelry rather than fashion accessories and I give them the same attention to design and materials as any other type of jewelry. And if I or one of my jewelry clients is going to be wearing the equivalent of a beautiful beaded necklace attached to our eyeglasses or sunglasses, why shouldn't we also have the option of wearing it the other way around as a necklace?

Clearly I'm not the only one who feels this way. When I offer my high-end, one-of-a-kind beaded convertible eyeglasses chain / necklace designs they usually sell out almost immediately. And I personally have a wardrobe of different convertible eyeglasses chain / necklaces that I've designed for my prescription glasses, which I wear only for reading, designing jewelry and other close-up work, and my sunglasses.

There are a few different ways to allow a beaded strand to convert quickly and easily from a necklace to an eyeglass leash and back again. My favorite method is to attach a lobster claw, trigger or spring ring clasp to both ends of the strand, and then to attach a jump ring or split ring to each eyeglass holder end / finding. To wear the strand as an eyeglass leash, simply clip each clasp to the jump ring on the eyeglass holder finding. To wear the strand as a necklace, clip the clasps to a closed jump ring. You can even make a 1.5" to 2" extender chain by linking jump rings and adding a short, beaded drop at one end, which will make the necklace adjustable. Just clip one clasp to the first jump ring in the chain and clip the other clasp to the appropriate link to make the necklace the desired length.

Designing eyeglass chains - especially ones that also can be worn as a necklace - involves a few more challenges than designing beaded necklaces. The beaded strand needs to be fairly light so that it doesn't weight down the eye glasses and make them uncomfortable. Also, the ends of the leash need to be fairly slender and not so dramatic that they would clash with other jewelry being worn at the same time. In fact, sometimes I design them using fairly neutral color palettes that add a bit of sparkle but work with any outfit and play nicely with other jewelry and accessories. For convertible eyeglasses chains, I usually use a not-too-large focal bead or bead cluster in the center for when they are worn as necklaces. If the focal is too large or prominent it will look odd when the strand is facing the other way while being used as an eyeglasses holder. Since all these practical requirements can be somewhat limiting from a design perspective, I often look for small art glass beads with dichroic glass or a bit of gold leaf, or dip into my stash of  rare vintage beads and Swarovski crystals to add some one-of-a-kind style and subtle sophistication without too much size or weight. Sometimes even one special focal bead is enough to take the beaded strand from ordinary to ogle-worthy. Even if you are use less expensive beads and findings, you still can create eyeglass holders that are far superior to what you can find in most stores.

I'll be photographing and sharing some of my other dedicated and convertible eyeglasses leash designs soon to give you an idea of how I work withing the necessary design parameters. Until then, check out my new step-by-step beaded convertible eye glasses leash / necklace tutorial on Squidoo and make one - or a few - this weekend, for yourself, as a gift, or to sell!

I was just interviewed on Squidoo!

Recently I was interviewed by Robin Svedi of Squidoo about my new role as Squidoo's "Bangles, Baubles and Beads" Contributor. I was really exciting this morning to see it posted on the Squidoo HQ blog!

If you'd like to find out how I fell in love with jewelry making when I was a young girl (thanks to my mom and some gorgeous Venetian glass beads) and ended up designing and making one-of-a-kind jewelry professionally, I invite you to check it out. :)

My interview about becoming Squidoo's new "Bangles, Baubles and Beads" Contributor

New PMC 960 combines the best of fine silver and sterling silver metal clay!

I just finished reading a new blog post by my dear friend and metal clay & polymer clay mentor Celie Fago that left me so excited I can hardly type! So excited, in fact, that I didn't want to wait until tomorrow morning to share the news about this new silver clay formula that you can mix yourself from two commercially available PMC silver clay formulas.

PMC Sterling has a lot of terrific characteristics. It's much stronger than fine silver clay, making it ideal for applications like ring shanks, thin snakes, coils, tendrils, etc., and it's also much easier to carve without chipping. But it also has some significant drawbacks, the primary one being that PMC Sterling needs to be fired in activated carbon. A carbon firing requirement is a major deterrent to using any metal clay formula. Not only is carbon firing longer, more time consuming and messier, clay formulas that require carbon firing tend to have a much narrower and less forgiving firing schedule range within which they will sinter properly. That's one of the reasons we all love working with fine silver clay - it's so easy, and comparatively fast, to sinter it successfully!

About 1.5 years ago, Celie, Tim McCreight and a few other artists were brainstorming about PMC Sterling when Tim came up with the idea of enriching PMC Sterling with more fine silver. Brilliant! Celie has been experimenting with the formula that she and those colleagues have been calling "960", which is made by mixing equal parts of fine silver PMC and PMC Sterling clay to create a clay with the best of both worlds: excellent strength, easy to carve, sinters with minimum distortion, and one-phase firing on an open kiln shelf without the need for activated carbon. Celie also has found that, as one would expect, the higher silver content allows sintered "PMC 960" to bond more readily to gold keum-boo foil than PMC Sterling. And because this new alloy formula produces .960 silver metal after it has sintered, it can be marked sterling silver legally.

Celie's work is absolutely exquisite, and "960" has become her silver clay of choice for most applications. She recently taught a class in which she had her students mix up and use their own batches of "960" clay, and she says the students gave this enriched silver clay formula "rave reviews."

"PMC 960" is a cinch to mix up, and it seems to me to be a significant breakthrough. I can't wait to try it myself!

To learn more about this new formula and Celie's experiences with it (not to mention viewing the extraordinary work she's doing with it), run - don't walk - and check out her detailed blog post:

Make a Pair of Easy, Glamorous and Romantic Queen of Hearts Earrings for Valentine's Day!

I've always hated "beginner projects" that look like beginner projects. When I learned the basics of knitting many years ago, there was no way I was going to make a 6-foot, solid color stockinette or garter stitch knitted scarf as my first project. I'd have been bored to death within the first 20 minutes! Nor was my first metal clay project a simple, stamped charm. The same principle applies to learning any new skill: you have to make the experience engaging! So when I was a French language drill instructor for fellow students preparing for their junior year abroad in France, I didn't just drill them on conjugating verbs they had memorized; I created crossword puzzles for them in French. My students did great on their tests because they were learning by doing something interesting.

I'm a firm believer that every piece of jewelry you make - even your very first "beginner project" - should be something that you'll be proud to wear or give as a gift. You can learn and use basic jewelry making techniques just as easily by making a beautiful design as a boring one! And if you're anything like me, you'll be more motivated to continue learning, experimenting with new techniques and honing your skills if you only make projects that really appeal to you aesthetically and emotionally.

As the new Bangles, Baubles and Beads contributor on Squidoo I'll be creating a wide range of jewelry making tutorials, projects, tips, techniques and product reviews, and one of my goals is to build a library of jewelry project tutorials that feature sophisticated designs that also are easy to make, with detailed step-by-step instructions, lots of close-up process photos, and professional jewelry making tips so that even beginner jewelry makers can have successful results.

Here's my first such jewelry project tutorial, just in time for you to make and wear or give as a gift on Valentine's Day:

Romantic Queen of Hearts Earrings Project

Happy beading!