Men Have the Coolest Toys


I’m so jealous of men. As little boys, they get to play with weapons and take wood shop classes at school. This prepares them for pocket knives, hammers, saws, and maybe even matches if they promise not to burn down the house. The closest I ever got to playing with matches as a child was an EasyBake oven!

If you imagine jewelry-making as work for dainty girls dressed in pink, you’ve got a lot to learn. It’s true that my first forays into jewelry-making were with stringing and crimping. These were activities I could do while sitting pretty at the kitchen table, and my worst problem was having beads roll off. Then I got into wire-wrapping and my life began to change.

copper_wireSuddenly I needed 10 different types of pliers, and wire cutters, and metal cleaners. Then I heard about metal stamping, and I found myself at Home Depot looking for hammers and at Harbor Freight looking for metal letter stamps, after realizing that hardware stores sell hardware much cheaper than the sissy craft store. Recently, I learned about precious metal clay, and my obsession has reached new heights. Now I need solder, flux, torches and maybe a kiln. All of this has me wishing I was a man.

It’s not that women can’t do these things, but like many women I feel hesitant to try “manly” things on my own. In spite of my being a girly girl, I’m not useless by any means. I learned to solder circuits as a teenager, and I can build you a PC in no time flat. But there’s a big difference (at least in my mind) between techy and manly. Techy-ness requires skill, manly work requires brawn and knowing how to not slice off your fingers or burn off your face. The only men in my life are my brothers, and they don’t live near me, so I have to ask the salesmen at Home Depot for advice, which doesn’t always work out.

Tool bag

My tool bag

I wish that I’d spent more time with my dad when he was still alive, and that he’d taught me how to build stuff. I wish I’d bugged my brothers more when they did boy stuff. Maybe then I’d have grown up being comfortable with hammers and knives and fire. And though I won’t let my discomfort stop me, it makes my progress slower. So if you have daughters, try to teach them “boy stuff.” They may appreciate it a great deal when they grow up. Don’t presume that they’ll always be dainty girls dressed in pink, because one day when you least expect it, they might be swinging a hammer. And if they go all out and get themselves a torch, you’ll want them to know how to not set the house on fire.
–Click on the button below to get $5 off any order of $35 or more in my Etsy Store before Mother’s Day.Etsy Coupon Codes for ArtsyGeniusJewelry

Happy Communist Day! Go Wear Something Red!

ImageI’m not a communist, nor do I play one on TV. I’m just a joker who uses any excuse to don costumes and colorful clothing. And if you think about it, would the communists have been so popular if they’d worn something sedate like flannel grey or brown corduroy? Red makes a statement. It is bold and emotional.

Red is dynamic. It flows like hot lava and overtakes your senses. It is the color of love and passion.royal red-701 I made a red necklace about a month ago, which I displayed 2 weeks later at a networking event. The director was a stylishly sedate woman, the kind of woman who feels most comfortable in beige (not knocking beige, but you know the type). She told me she didn’t like dangly things and since most of my necklaces have pendants, I told her I’d be happy to remove the pendant or turn it horizontally. I was slightly surprises that she’d kept this red necklace in her hands, but even more surprised when she said she loved it the way it was, and wanted to keep the dangle. So now she’s out there in the world, wearing red! I wonder what emotional response she’ll evoke in those around her.

Valentine Flower-524I just made this necklace. I’m going to call it Valentine Flower. Perhaps I should have made it in February, but oh well. My sister gave me the red flower. It was on a necklace that she picked up from some Chinese wholesalers in Los Angeles. It was clunky, mismatched and absolutely horrible. Chinese make great food, but I gotta wonder about their style choices sometimes. I cut up the necklace, kept the flower and tossed the rest. I combined it with stone jet beads, glass pearls, red glass beads and brass wire. The result is beautiful, I think. What does it evoke in you? Does it make you want to turn communist?! 😀

If you like my jewelry, please check out my Etsy store or drop me a line if the piece you like isn’t there. Thanks!

A Plier Primer

Bent nose pliers

Bent nose pliers

New to beading? Confused by pliers and the fact that each beading book refers to them differently? Here’s a list of the most essential pliers and tools needed, and information on how to use them. See the gallery below for tool pictures.

Essential Pliers

  • Flat nose pliers are flat, with squared ends. You can use them to open jump rings and attach your findings. Since the edges are square, you can also use them to bend wire at right angles.
  • Chain nose pliers have tapered tips, which let you squeeze into tight places, like in between chain links (I’m guessing that’s why they’re called chain nose). Note that chain nose pliers are not the same thing as Needle nose pliers. The latter have longer jaws. Needle nose pliers are used by electricians and other people needing to reach spots that are obstructed by something in front of them. I haven’t seen a jeweler use them, so don’t worry about buying a pair.
  • Round nose pliers, also called Rosary pliers, have cone shaped jaws. These pliers are used to wrap wire in circles, coils or for bending wire in rounded angles (as opposed to a 90 degree angle). You’ll need to do this to make the loops that will attach pins onto a chain, or when you become more advanced and want to connect one piece of wire to another, or when you want to make swirls or clasps. The tips are very small, and can be used to make tiny loops, but generally, you’ll be placing the wire somewhere near the middle. Try to loop your wire in the same place so that your P-loops are of a consistent size.
  • Flex wire cutters – These are side cutters for thin gauge flex wire). If you bought your side cutters as part of a kit, they will be appropriate for thin gauge (flex wire) or medium gauge wire. Flex wire is nylon coated wire, which is about the same thickness as fishing wire. It is most commonly used for making illusion style necklaces. The light lime green pliers with black tips, seen in the gallery, are thin gauge cutters. Do not use these pliers for cutting anything other than flex wire or you will damage them. They are not strong enough for cutting medium gauge wire.
  • Side cutters (also called straight cutters, and sometimes mistakenly called flush cutters, see below for the difference) -This is the other wire cutter that is frequently included in a kit. These cutters are for cutting thicker wire such as 20 gauge wire that is frequently used for wire wrapping. The lilac pliers with the stainless steel tips are for medium gauge wire. If you are cutting wire that is heavier than 20 gauge, the pliers that come in kits are probably not strong enough. I’d suggest going to a hardware store or the gardening section of the department store for heavy gauge cutters. You should have at least two side cutters, one for flex wire and one for wire up to 20 gauge. **Note that neither of these pliers should be used to cut memory wire, which is made from stainless steel. Cutting memory wire with regular pliers will break your pliers, so only use memory wire cutters for cutting it.
  • Crimping pliers are used to squeeze metal crimp beads onto cords or nylon coated wire when making “illusion” style necklaces. If you squeeze crimp beads with chain nose pliers, they won’t maintain their rounded look and might slip out of your grasp or even break. These pliers are a bit costly, but totally worth it.
  • Bent nose pliers generally don’t come with most kits, but they are incredibly useful since they make it easy to see your work because the bent tip means your hand is out of the way. They are also more comfortable for turning your wire (rotating whatever is held between the jaws) during wire wrapping.
  • Flush cutters let you cut wire very closely at a 90 degree angle. This is useful when you want to cut wire close to a loop during wire wrapping.
  • Nylon Jaw Pliers have smooth nylon tips on top of stainless steel jaws. You can use them to make smooth bends in your wire, for claps or other decorative wire wrapping work. You can also use them to straighten wire, but the nylon is not very tough, so don’t pull the wire taught or it will cut grooves in the nylon tips.

Non-Plier Necessities

  • Calipers are needed to measure your beads and often come with plier kits.
  • Tweezers are useful for picking up or placing small beads. Tool kits often come with tweezers that have a bead scoop on the other end.
  • Files are essential for getting rid of the sharp bits of cut wire. They come in many different types. You’ll usually need 2-3 to smooth out the sharp spots.
  • Bead reamers are like a file, but used to sand the inside of beads. This makes the hole in the bead bigger so that thicker cord or wire can go through it. Be careful when using a reamer with glass beads or pearls. It can cause them to break.
  • Tool Box or Bag – You’ve got to keep your tools somewhere right? A small box or bag is great because it provides protection, organization and lets you grab-and-go for those times when you want to take your tools to a class or work with other crafters. I keep a 2nd set of tools in my car so that I can always make adjustments for my clients on the go.

Etc., Etc., Etc.

This list does not contain all of the pliers you’ll ever want or need. There are several others that are very useful (like Split ring pliers), which I haven’t included. I will write a separate article on those as time permits. In the meantime, these will get you started on your beginner beading and wire work.

Happy Crafting!

Wire Wrapped Czech Buttons

wire wrapped buttonI’m teaching wire-wrapping to a local artist (yes, I’m aware it means more competition!), and today she brought me some Czech buttons that she wants to incorporate into her jewelry. I wrapped this piece for her from a single, uncut length of brass wire. Because the button already had a flower-like design, I decided to follow the lines of the leaves/feathers.

The brass wire she brought me was considerably harder than the silver and copper wire I usually use for wrapping. I actually hurt my thumb from pulling the wire with it. Since I avoided cutting the wire, the wrapping was a little harder when wrapping the sides, top and bottom, but having the length needed for following the lines and making my swirls was easier. It also helped to reinforce the back of the button and keep it in place.

I was happy with my results. It reminds me of old jewelry worn by the Czar. I’d say it was a productive day. And since I did all the wrapping (my student insisted on waiting to do her wrapping at home), I’m no sure how much she learned, so maybe I won’t have too much competition after all! 😀