Tag Archives: copper

Inspiration – Red Rock Canyon and the Grand Canyon

One of my biggest inspirations in my work is the amazing colours found in nature. Sometimes they seem surreal because it’s hard to believe anything could actually look so beautiful.  I certainly found that was the case in two of the places I visited over the holidays this year – Red Rock Canyon and the Grand Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon is in Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas.  It’s hard to understand why people would choose to sit in a gloomy, stuffy casino instead of seeing this marvel of nature.  The drive there is through desert scrub, which is beautiful in it’s own way with Joshua Trees, yucca plants and cacti.  The mountains look stunning even from a distance but as I got closer I could see the most amazing colours in them!  White, black, brown, oranges and reds!  Each was unique and amazing and every time the light changed they looked entirely different.  And the closer I got the more beautiful they got as I could see the curve of the hills, the roughness of the rock and even more variation in the colours.  This particularly colourful area is called the Calico Hills.  A very apt description.  It was wonderful to be able to get out and walk on the hills for a bit and admire the textures and up close minutiae of pattern and colour.  It was hard to leave and I would love to return and be able to explore the area further.

My other destination this season was the Grand Canyon.  And grand it is!  It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  The weather was very cold and the trails were snow and ice covered so I could only see it from the top observation areas, which gave a stunning panorama of the South Rim.  It’s otherworldly, like being on some unknown planet.  There are so many layers of reds and oranges and browns, and the rock formations themselves are fascinating.  I could have stared at it for hours and everywhere I looked I saw something new.  Unfortunately I was only there for a short time.  For anyone planning to visit I would recommend going when it’s warm enough to hike and staying for a few days.  It is truly, truly breathtaking!

Needless to say, both of these journeys will be inspiring some new work, both in my jewellery and in my enamel art panels.  Stay tuned to see the results!

Here’s a couple of pictures to  give you a taste of what I saw.

Red Rock Canyon, The Calico Hills




The Grand Canyon





How I make stuff.

Many people don’t realize quite how many steps are involved in making my enamel pieces.

First I take plain copper and heat it in my kiln.  This cleans all the grease off it.

Here’s the before shot.



Here’s the copper in the kiln.



Here’s the copper after heating.  It’s a bit dirty looking, that’s oxidation and needs to be cleaned off.  When I clean metal I use salt and vinegar rather than chemicals.


If I’m making domed pieces this is the time to form them.  The heat of the kiln makes the metal softer and easier to bend.  I used a dapping block, dapping punches and rawhide hammer to shape them into curved domes.  After doming they need to be cleaned again.



Then I fire a layer of enamel onto the bottom/back of the copper.  These will be bezel set so the backs are plain.  If I’m doing regular pieces I always make sure both sides are attractive.



My kiln is nice and hot.  This shows the temperature at 1433 Fahrenheit but I often fire at higher temperatures than that.



After firing the backs I sift enamel, which is very finely ground glass,  onto the top/front.



This is after one firing.



This is after several firings.  You can see how much smoother and brighter the colours are.  These are ready to be set, they just need a bit of filing at the edges where the enamel stuck to the trivets (the metal stands I use for firing).



The little domes are now earrings!




And the big domes are necklaces!  Pretty!






Vintage or modern?

I have to admit, my tastes have always been fairly eclectic.  Maybe it’s a short attention span but I like to think it’s a love of diversity and finding beauty everywhere.  On a less philosophical note, this leads me to the decision of whether to make vintage or modern designs.

I have always loved gothic, curving lines.  Art Nouveau, swirly, dark, beautiful things.  Deep jewel tones, brass and tarnished silver.  Things that would look at home in a Dracula movie or Pride and Prejudice.  This leads me to make some pieces that have a vintage look and feel.  Still with clean lines, but with a warmer tone.

However I also love the mod look.  Not specifically 2014 modern  but Art Deco and 1950’s modern as well.  Minimal, sparse designs.  Chrome, simple, shiny, bright and bold.

So, normally this is not a big deal.  Most people have a variety of tastes.  But as a jewellery designer I have been told that I have to choose a style.  Create an image, do everything the same so you have a “line”, brand, brand, brand!  Being contrary, to this I say “phooey”.  I make what I love.  If it happens to be trendy, so be it.  If it isn’t, that’s just fine too.  I think when choosing  jewellery, clothes, etc it should be the same way.  Wear what you love.  Don’t worry that your favourite colour isn’t “in” this year.  Or that all the magazines feature short skirts.  Don’t cut your hair because your stylist told you to.  Do what YOU want.  Not what others, the media, or advertisers tell you to do.

Here are a few of the things I like, and make.  They may not all be the same, but they all make me happy.


Enamelling at the Yonge St. Mission

Last week I had a great Friday teaching some people to enamel at the Evergreen Centre for Street Youth, which is part of the Yonge St. Mission.  The centre offers a safe place where homeless and street-involved youth can rest, eat, obtain health care and counselling and get help with finding a job or a place to stay or pursuing education.

I taught the enamelling class as part of a program that was started this year by some friends of mine, Michele Witt and Ivanne Binetruy of Connect Studio.  They and other volunteers teach a different jewellery making technique each week in a two hour class at the Evergreen Centre.  There is no charge to the youth and they can drop in at any time during the class.  Techniques including how to make a copper bracelet, wax carving for casting, enamelling and more have already been taught and there’s more on the agenda!

Teaching the class was great, there’s always something new to try with enamelling and each person had a different idea of what they wanted to create.  One person wanted initials of her family to give as gifts, another was finishing up a ring they made the week before and did some fantastic designs with hearts and dots, another did a great collection of earth tones to wear together.  One young man did some very impressive designs that included a lot of glass beads, which were melted into the enamel.  He showed me some of his other pieces that he’d done in previous classes and told me he wants to start making and selling jewellery on a regular basis.  I hope he does, it can be a very rewarding career.  And that’s one of the great things about this program, not only is it a fun way for street youth to spend the afternoon but it also shows them some possibilities for the future they may not have thought of or had access to.


The Evolution of a Bowl

I thought it might be interesting to show some of the steps in making one of my little bowls.  There’s a lot of steps between beginning and end.  I won’t show all of them but here’s the basics.

I start with a flat copper circle.

copper circle

Then heat and form the piece until I have a shallow form with gently fluted edges.



I further shape the copper until I have a deeper inner bowl and strongly fluted edges – it now has a flower-like shape.

final copper form

I start firing layers of enamel – this is after about 6 firings.


The finished pieces – several more layers and firings of enamel have produced beautiful shading, colour variations and bubbling.

blue flower

purple flower




The Pipes Are Calling

I’ve been busy making new things again!  Here is my guest post on the Freedom Clothing Collective blog that tells you all about it!


enamel and concrete vase

New class – copper metal clay!

Copper clay is particles of copper held together with a binder so that it has a clay-like consistency. This allows you to mold it, shape it and make impressions in it to create your designs. Then the binder is fired away with a torch or kiln and the piece becomes solid copper metal. Magic!

In this class you will learn to work with copper clay, and how to fire it with both a torch. You will also learn to make your own mold so that you can reproduce an existing object or make multiples. The techniques used are very similar to those used to fire silver clay (PMC) so this class is a great option for those who have wanted to work with silver clay but were hesitant because of the prohibitive cost of PMC. Copper clay can also be used in enamelling, if you decide to take enamelling in the future you are welcome to bring your clay pieces to work on.

In class you will have a small chunk of clay to work with. You will make a minimum of two pieces – or more if you prefer to make very small items. You will also make a mold that you can take home with you.

See the Classes page for dates.  11am to 2pm. $75.00 all inclusive.
A $20 deposit is required to register. Please contact me at torchedstudio@hotmail.com to register.

copper clay


Wow, I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted anything since November.  So 2012 is here, supposedly the year of the apocalypse according to some mighty old Mayan calendars.  Maybe they just got tired of making calendars and thought that 2000 years worth was enough?   I don’t even look at next year’s calendar, so those folks were really long range planners!

I do have some plans for the year ahead.  The enameling business has been gradually growing.  I’ve got lots of work to do this year, with lots of new things planned.  I will be researching new stores to carry my work, especially outside of Toronto (this is a hint to anyone who might be interested).  As always I’m creating new designs and new products.  I’d also like to get my bowls and/or art panels into a gallery show.  Some of my art panels will be in an exhibition in March, I’ll post on that when more details are available.  And of course, I’m still teaching enameling classes here in Toronto.

I realize this is an incredibly boring post so I’ll put up some pretty pictures of my  newest bowls 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


New stuff!

I always like trying something new. Every piece I make is a chance to try a new experiment, whether it’s a new colour combination, a new firing time or new designs. I could never be one of those people who makes the exact same thing over and over.

My latest new stuff includes rings and cuff-links. I love the rings I make now but sizing is always an issue. People can get quite frantic because they want one of my rings but can’t find one that fits! So after a very, very long search I’ve found some adjustable silver-plated ring bases to set my enamel pieces into. I like big chunky rings and I wanted ones that had a quality feel to them. The ones I’ve chosen are a 25 x 18mm oval, which is big enough to make an impression but not so big it totally overpowers your finger. And the band is wide and has a hammered finish, which I love! I make the enamel “cabochons” so that they are inverted, either flat or concave depending on how many layers of enamel I use. This makes them even more unique than a regular stone-set ring. I am very pleased with the result!

I decided to make cuff-links because I feel bad seeing the forlorn faces of men at craft shows who love the colours and designs I make but can never find anything for themselves. They deserve something special too! So once again, after much searching and a few trial runs that didn’t quite work out I have found bases that are perfect for my little enamel pieces.

Right now I have a small but stunning selection of the new rings and cuff-links which I will have available only at craft shows or by contacting me directly. And I am only at three craft shows this holiday season, so get your boots on and come visit me at one of them! This Wednesday, November 30th I’ll be at the CBC Charity Craft Sale at the CBC building atrium, 250 Front St. West. 8:30am to 5:30pm. Saturday December 3rd I will be at the Parkdale Bazaar, in the Masaryk Cowan community centre at Queen St. West and Cowan, 11am to 5pm. And Sunday December 11th I will be at the super cool Frostbite: Bazaar of the Bizarre at the Great Hall, 1087 Queen St. West, noon to 8pm



Oh how I love making bowls!  Working with a bigger surface that shows off the amazing colours of enamel is so rewarding.  I wish I could make bigger bowls but the maximum size my kiln will hold is about 7 inches across.  Of course the little ones are just so adorable that I love them too – it’s hard to pick favourites.

I use a copper form for the bowl and enamel on top of it, so you get a much sturdier piece than a fully glass bowl.  I prefer abstracts but the ability to add numerous layers of different colours also allows for more versatility of design than is possible in glass or ceramics.  Some of my bowls are more than 20 layers of enamel, and each layer is fired separately.  I use a combination of opaque and transparent colours, blending in a technique similar to watercolour painting – but at 1500 degrees!

I also use only lead free enamels, so they are food safe, but who would want to cover up those beautiful colours with peanuts!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.