Monday 8 April 2013

stone setting project

Over two years ago I started studying at the École de Joaillerie de Montréal (Montreal silversmithing/goldsmithing school). They offer a full time CEGEP level program and a part time adult program (which is the one I'm doing). There are 6 levels of silversmithing and a 7th level to learn to work with gold, although I don't know anyone who could afford to do it just for fun with the price of gold these days...

I really like the way the course is given. You have a certain amount of projects to complete to finish each level, each of these projects requiring you to acquire a certain set of skills. Within the given parameters, you are pretty much free to do what you want. The classes are a mix of levels, each student having a bench and tools and working at their own speed and level. The teacher and assistant go around to each student to help, show a technique, give feedback, correct mistakes, etc. The great thing about this system is that you get to see what everybody else is doing, which is not only inspiring, but also gives you a chance to learn a lot by looking at the techniques the other students use for their (most probably) very different projects.

So far I have completed levels 1 and 2 in 3 1/2 sessions (60 hours per session). It's long but it's impossible to complete the projects in each level in one session if you don't work during the rest of the week (there are free workshop hours during the week so you can work some more on your own) and for the first two sessions I was way too scared to do anything on my own and ruin it all. After that I started going a day a week. And I didn't even work on my class project. I figured it was time to make some jewelry to sell because that's the whole point. I'm taking a break right now, for various reasons, but I'm still thinking about my projects, coming up with designs, writing down notes and ideas for when I start again.

The following picture is one of my projects for level 2 : "jewelry item with cabochon stone", and my favorite piece so far. The stone is kyanite and around the bezel is japanese paper encased in resin. I just love it and wear it a lot. 

Thursday 21 March 2013

Inspirational Card Deck Turorial

A while back, Jessica Brogan hosted an Inspirational Deck Swap. I really wanted to participate. I had prepared my cards and was only missing the quotes, but then I had a shoulder injury which kept me lying down for 1 month and hardly moving for another month so I missed the deadline. I was very disappointed, but figured I would keep them for the next one.

But that's not what happened. Just before Christmas I had a supper with some women I really love, the mothers and owner from the home daycare where both my kids went. After years of seeing each other daily (most of us had two kids who went there) we all became friends. Not only were our kids wonderfully well taken care of but we got friends out of it. Aren't we lucky ! Anyhow, back to the supper. We had a gift exchange. Meaningful gifts, not the Have-a-good-laugh-get-rid-of-it-the-next-week kind. So I decided that I would use my deck of cards as a gift. I'm glad I hadn't put the quotes on it because in our case, French is the common language (there was a mix of french, english, spanish and catalan being spoken at daycare). I also didn't feel comfortable with the idea of quotes. Honestly I tried to find 52 quotes I liked and couldn't. So I decided I would use words instead. Meaningful, positive words. I made a long list of words and sorted them.

I really liked the cards, and the person who received them loves them too. She was very touched. She picks one everyday and puts it on a board on her desk. She also took 4 and put them in a frame. It looks great.

When the birthday for another one of the girls came up, I figured she needed to have her own deck too, so I made another one. Slightly different. I didn't start with a deck of cards this time, just cereal boxes. After seeing how Ingrid Djikers uses them to make her journals I figured I should start using them too because we sure have a lot of those (cereal boxes). I like the bigger surface, and I like the color of the cardboard peeking through the paint. I wanted to make this deck even more special, so this time, since we were all eating together again, I figured I wouldn't write anything on them. Instead, I took a list of words, sharpies and the cards and everybody wrote words that were meaningful to them, some on the list, some not. Everyone really enjoyed it.

So here's a tutorial on how to make them. You'll see it's a similar technique to the envelope tutorial.

You'll need :
cereal boxes
acrylic paint
gesso (the liquid kind - but it could just be white paint)
Spray inks
Scrapbook paper
Gel medium
Something to cut up the cardboard
A corner rounder (optional)
Sewing machine (optional)


Cut all the extra tabs on the cereal box, too keep the two big sides. Pour a little bit of gesso and one or two colors of acrylic paint on you cardboard (remember not to mix complementary colors). Spread the paint and gesso randomly with a card (don't spread too much, you want to see the different colors and maybe some bare cardboard) . Let dry.


Choose a stencil (or more) and spray the cardboard.


Stamp a design on the background.

(big flower stamp)

                                                  (butterflies and handwriting stamp)

You can also turn these backgrounds into postcards or book covers or anything else really. It's easy to have a few lying around just in case...

STEP 4 (optional)

Use a sewing machine to create random shapes on the cards (sorry no pictures for that one, but in the finished cards you can see a couple that have sewing on them)


Glue scrapbook paper (or any other paper you like) on the back of the cardboard.You can actually do this step at any point, but if you want to sew on your cards you have to decide if you want the sewing to show on the back of the cards - in which case you do step 5 before step 4 - or not)

                                                          (I used old world atlas pages)


Use a paper trimmer to cut the cardboard in rectangles that are 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. Round the corners.


Add word or quote

It turns out Jessica decided to hold another swap a few months after the first one. This time there was no way I was going to miss it. Here's a picture of some of the cards I did.

Since it's supposed to be quotes, I made an effort to find some I liked and finally did. In one of the tutorials for the cards someone printed quotes on tracing paper, so that you can still see the image through it. I really liked the idea, so I tried that. It turns out I don't really like it so much. I don't know if it's the printer, or the paper, but the ink is definitely not smear-proof and since I wanted to use gel medium to glue the quotes, and the paper is so thin it curls, it was hard to not smudge them at all. I ruined a few... I'll have to figure out something else for next time. I did just write on about a quarter of them.

 I can't wait to receive a deck full of other people's artwork ! It's such a great idea, thanks Jessica.

Thursday 10 May 2012


Before going to Artfest I couldn't figure out what to bring for trades. I tried this and that and at some point I thought envelopes would be fun and it's something you always need. So I played around and started having a lot of fun making them.

Not long ago, Jessica Brogan, whom I met first through (or HSHB) and then at Artfest asked me if I could make a tutorial for my painted envelopes. I liked the idea, so here it is...

You will need :

  • Paper, whatever color you want, thicker than printer paper, but not cardstock (it is a bit too thick to fold. It works but makes a pretty heavy envelope. )
  • Doily, punchinella and/or any stencil you like
  • Color wash spray (I use Adirondack, but also Radiant Rain by Creative imaginations. The colors are very bright even when dry and the sprayer doesn’t get clogged – unlike the Adirondack ones. But really, any kind will do, it doesn’t have to be watersoluble or not, it will just have a different effect in the end).
  • White liquid gesso (preferably one that doesn’t cover too much)
  • Background stamp 
  • Stamp pad (an ink that dries quickly like Stazon or Colorbox Liquid Chalk. Whatever you have)
  • Acrylic ink (liquitex or FW have great colors)
  • Scoring board with envelope tool (or an envelope template, there are tons on the web)
  • Bone folder
  • Glue tape (or double-sided tape or any king of good glue that you like)

I recommend doing several envelopes at once

Cut a piece of paper in a 7 ½” square (it makes a 5 ¼” by 4” envelope)

Use a doily (or any stencil you like) to make a pattern with color wash spray (you can see my cotton doily has seen many colors...)

Let it dry a little and paint white gesso (preferably one that is more transparent) in a  random way over the pattern. Let dry.

      Put a couple of drops of acrylic ink and rub them on the paper with your fingers.

    Make some marks with inkpads and punchinella

Use a background stamp and cover the whole paper (script in my case) with a light color (like bronze)

Here are a few papers. You can see I added a few letters with a lettering stencil.

 I decided to add some circles with a bottlecap and distress ink (any ink will do)

Feel free to skip or repeat any of those steps. You can see  a little bit in the first picture I didn’t always follow the same guidelines. Sometimes I painted gesso on through a stencil or through the punchinella. Sometimes I added paint here and there. I also used the sprays with a letter stencil instead of the doilie. Feel free to make any king of marks you want. There’s all sorts of options.

Once you like the way it looks you are ready to fold.

Place your painted square painted face down on the scoring board. Using the triangle (envelope tool) score at 3 ¼”, turn, score at 2 5/8”, turn, score at 3 ¼”, turn and score at 2 5/8”.

You will get 4 little triangles not quite in the middle of each side. Cut them out on the scoring lines (actually it’s better if you don’t see the scoring line once you are done cutting).

Time to fold ! Use a bone folder and fold all sides toward the center of the unpainted side. Make sure all sides fold nicely, cut out a little more if necessary.

Decide which of the bigger flaps you want to see on top. Fold the 2 small flaps and use glue tape to adhere the bigger flap. 

If you want, use a punch to decorate the edges of the 4th flap. 

That’s it, you’re done !

Have fun   

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Starflower pattern is done

Making beadweaving patterns is a long process.

I usually play around with beads and come up with something I like and don't do anything about it for a while. Then one day I figure I could make a pattern of it. So I have to remember how I did it, then make another one as I write the instructions and make diagrams for it. That's the best way to not forget any steps. But making diagrams is not easy.
I don't have any fancy drawing program because I wouldn't know how to use it. I do have a little program called Perl'art. It was created for beaders who mostly use Swarovski crystal. It's very useful because it has a lot of shapes, colors, elements. Here is a picture of what it looks like:

As you can see you choose shapes at the top, drag them on the screen and when you click on them you can change the color, size, orientation, etc. Much better than drawing (I tried, didn't work). But the program has some major flaws. The worst one being that saved files simply disappear after a short while (a month or so).Where do they go ? Don't know. The Land of Lost Things I suppose. Seriously, we've (well that would be T. I wouldn't have any clue where to look) looked everywhere on the machine and can't find any saved files. Which is somewhat problematic. What I have to do is screen-capture every little thing I change in the hopes that when I write the pattern I won't decide that I need some step that I didn't capture and have to redo the whole diagram (which is a regular occurence...). And then, what ends up happening every single time is that I make a color mistake. For some reason I accidentally switch colors. So I have to redo everything, because by the time I realize it my files have disappeared.

Which is one of the reasons it takes me so long to make patterns. Not only is it time consuming to redo most of what I did, but mostly, I just don't feel like doing it again. So I ignore it. Sometimes for months... (And then I try to convince my daughter that even if she doesn't feel like it, she still has to do her boring homework NOW. Ha. If only she knew...).

Anyhow. I eventually manage to finish them. Then I realize that I have 3 nearly finished patterns on the go, that could be finished if only I corrected this little thing and then I'll ignore those for a few months. Not very efficient I know. I'm working on it though.
This morning I decided I was going to finish one, and I did. Except that I can't post it on my website, because it has been hacked (yes really) and is now offline until it is fixed (which is not something I can do on my own). So there. You still get a picture though :

The Starflower necklace. Or necklaces in this instance. Don't they look pretty together ?

Edit : Well you can now buy the pattern from this blog. If you look up, there is a tab that says "Beading Patterns". Click on it and you will find all my available patterns for sale. 

Thursday 16 February 2012

Going to Artfest !

It's official, I'm going to Artfest !

Artfest is a 3day art retreat in Port Townsend, Washington. I've been reading about it for a while now, always drooling when I looked at the worshops, wondering when I would go. Well I learned not long ago that 2012 is the last year it will happen because Teesha Moore, who organizes it, wants to move on to something else. Oh no ! What to do ? I didn't want to miss out on the experience which everyone says is fabulous, but it was a bit of a last minute thing (it's at the end of March - ok I know, a month and a half is not such short notice, but for me it is.). Also, because I was registering late, the 3 classes I really, really wanted to take were full. Well I decided it was worth it anyway.

The retreat is actually in Fort Warden, an old military base. There are dorms there and it's part of the fun to all be together day and night. But today, I saw on the website that the dorms are full and although it's not a deal breaker like T. asked, it definitely would change the mood if I had to stay in town instead. I immediately emailed Teesha (I just sent my registration last week so I still have not heard back yet - I was really surprised to find out that it's all snail mail. No online registration ? Really ? I guess they have their reasons !) to ask her if I had a room, and she answered a few minutes later to tell me that yes, I had a spot in the dorms. Fiou.

So there it is. I'm registered. I don't know to which workshops yet, it all depends on whether the first ones on my list were full or not. I'll know next week. But it doesn't matter. I will learn tons no matter what, and I will meet people who love paint, collage, mixed-media, etc. Artists I admire, people I read online and lots of other inspired individuals, which will be wonderful. Now I have to decide exactly how long I'm going for (it would be silly not to visit Seattle wouldn't it ?).

Wednesday 9 November 2011

New pattern coming soon !

A little preview...

I still have to find a name for the necklace though.

It's one I did years ago, back when I didn't know about Delicas, or beads losing their color, etc. So it got forgotten in a basket, but it was a nice design so I figured I should make a better quality one.

The pattern is almost done. I'm also working on the pictures. And maybe I'll make another one, just to show other color schemes.

Friday 28 October 2011

Art Nouveau peacock inspiration

Here is some inspiration for my next piece of jewelry for my silversmithing class. I love Art Nouveau and was in the mood for green/turquoise, so that's what I'm going for.

1. Embroidery pattern
2. Cary Kwok, "Peacock"
3. Another embroidery pattern
4. Architectural detail
5. Paula Bolton earrings
6. Beautiful ring, but who made it ? I can't find it anywhere, if anybody knows, let me know !
8. Apparently this is a belt buckle !