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Tools of the Trade

"How?" is often a question I get asked, so I thought today I would talk tools.

I use a LOT of different items in my making practice. From the dyeing/staining and the forming to the polishing and assembling, a lot of work and love goes into each piece. The work is made easier by a variety of tools and some fun found items.

Part kitchen cabinet, part chemistry lab, part toolbox and jeweler's bench: my kit is a bit of a grab bag, and I thought I would briefly share a little about some of the different items that help me create my work.

I recycle! Or, rather, I re-use. I re-use tons of things that would normally find the trash or recycle bin: old ice cream and yogurt containers are my fav ways to store clay bodies to prep them for stain, after they've been stained, or even after I've completed some of the components. Small ones, large ones, on or off brand - I am an equal opportunity re-user! I do have to admit that Talenti's clear gelato containers are truly some of my favs, though, because I can quickly see their contents. I also have adopted old mismatched spoons and forks, unwanted plaster slabs for drying freshly mixed clay, spatulae, and an old stick-mixer from my Mother's kitchen. Drinking straws and coffee stirs are also in my tool kit, but I get these new and cut them down for use.

Building pieces around the cultured freshwater pearls that I use means being able to get exact measurements - down to the millimeter. I have several tests of firings that I keep on hand, and I always work with a ruler or measuring tape to help me get the sizing I need. Clay shrinks when you fire it, but everything you do has an impact on how much. I have to work larger than my finished product to allow for the shrinking, and test everything I do. I measure everything and keep all of my records in journals. Some pieces get cut out with X-actos and other knives, while for others I use shaped cutters and punches and then go back in and alter the forms by cutting troughs for inlays, cutting out sections, adding on, sculpting, etc. I also use drill bits and hand-drill the clay so I have tracks for the wiring on the pieces that need it. Paint brushes of various sizes and styles also come in handy for everything from cleaning to glazing to applying the precious metal lustres.

When it comes to the various textures in my work, I employ a large combination of things. Most of my polishing is done by hand, which means I use insane amounts of sanding and polishing papers and dust masks. I also use machines in some instances, so dremels and even the odd tumbler help me get a wide variety of touchable textures and appearances. I look forward to exploring sandblasting in the future, as well.

Pliers of various styles and sizes help with assembly. Pieces of felt are great for laying out designs or the possible dropped jump ring. I will be adding a magnifier in soon, as well, to help me see some of those tiny details more easily.

At the top of the post is a picture of a handful of different items from my making practice.

I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit more about my work. I look forward to sharing more in the future.

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