I’m featured in Jewelry Making Daily!

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How exciting that the day before Thanksgiving — a time for reflecting on all the things one has in life to be grateful for – that my book Making Metal Jewelry is being featured so prominently by Jewelry Making Daily Editor Tammy Jones. I am sooo super excited for her review of my book. Be sure to check out Tammy’s post 6 Tips and Solutions for Making Artistic Jewelry from Jen Cushman and Making Metal Jewelry. Also, my book is half off at the Interweave store now as a Black Friday special.

Because Tammy is tuned into all things jewelry and metalworking, she was astute enough to realize and hone in on the one technique I use in almost every piece of jewelry I make; drawing a bead on wire. In the book’s introduction I talk about how the Heavens opened up for me creatively when I first learned how to ball the ends of wire. I have found endless possibility for ideas with this very simple technique. (Rather than going into it here, be sure to read Tammy’s great blog post where she explains how to use a torch to ball the ends of wire).

I make something I call metal fibers – a cool term I learned from Susan — which is simply drawing a bead on both ends of a piece of wire. I use these pieces a lot in my wireworking for coiling, lashing, strength when attaching fibers to metal, and as pure design elements. Metal fibers are one of the easiest way for me to incorporate the look of mixed metals even into the most minimal of my metalwork pieces. (see the hoop earrings project in my book, as well as the forged bracelets). Every pair of earrings I make are pretty much finished off with a bead on the end. I do this not only for design, but also to keep any sharp, pokey metal from catching and snagging on clothing or hair. It’s actually a safety issue for me because I would be mortified if a piece of metal jewelry I made and sold was sharp or spiky or hurt someone.


When I wrote Making Metal Jewelry over three years ago now (It’s been out for nearly 2 years, but like all books from a publisher it was 18 months in the making), I wanted to write the beginning metalworking book that I was looking for when I first grew interested in silversmithing. Because I come to jewelry as a mixed-media artist with a foundation in collage, I had no desire to do absolutely perfect silversmithing. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge admirer of people like Susan Lenart Kazmer, Richard Salley, Lexi Erickson, Helen Driggs, Robert Dancik,Thomas Mann and a hundred other people whose incredible talent and work knocks my socks off every single time I look at it. These artists (most of whom I luckily get to call my friends) inspire me to continue honing my skills in the sanctuary of my studio. However, a goldsmith I shall never become. I love my paint, ink, ephemera, fibers and found objects too much to jump ship. I think that’s why I’m so honored that Tammy Jones understands my work and where I was coming from with Making Metal Jewelry. Truly, I can’t think of anything better as an artist for one’s soul to be truly seen and accepted.

Blessings to you my friends. I hope you have an opportunity this week to reflect on the million and one things in your life you are grateful for. Tis’ the season.


Hump Day Humor


I’m working in my studio like a mad dog this week getting ready for Dallas next week (Sept. 17-21, 2014) where I’ll be teaching five workshops at CREATE. Since I’ve been at my bench more than usual, I thought I would share one of my favorite graphics that I found a few years ago on Pinterest. I have no idea who the originator of this art is so if you are the creator, please drop me a comment and let me know so I can appropriately credit your work.

I remember the first time I took a workshop from Susan in 2005 where I got to experience a blowtorch for the first time. I drew beads on the end of bronze wire and watched slack-jawed how the beads seemed to defy gravity as they balled upwards on to themselves when I dipped them in the blue tip of the flame. That was a defining moment in my future metalworking career.

Like always, I’ll be traveling with my plumbers torch next week. No worries, I don’t bring it on the plane. I pack just the hose and nozzle in my teaching box and ship it ahead of time and always find a kind local student to buy me some MAPP gas from the hardware store. I always have it with me, like a teaching security blanket. I feel it’s my duty to introduce women to the wonders of fire and power tools. Can I get a high-five?

I’d love to hear from you. Do you use a torch? What is your favorite kind? Let’s wax poetic about the wonders of fire.


Happy Independence Day!

fourth of july inspired necklace with ICE Resin and Craft Attitude

Here’s wishing you a Happy 4th of July. I hope you are getting a long weekend to have some good quality time for family, creating, art, friendship or even just enjoying the warm summer days.

We’ve got people coming to the cabin this weekend, so I’m all ready for a house full of family and friends. I so love days like this; BBQs, mojitos with fresh mint that I’ve grown, homemade potato salad and lots of yummy fresh-picked corn and sweet watermelon.

I’ve been looking forward to our town’s July 4th celebration for weeks. It’s a total small town party! We head down to the community park, spread out blankets, bring our picnic basket and then listen to the band play live music while the kids run around at our feet playing with each other and all the new friends they just met and formed instant bonds with.

Weekends like this I forget all about work. I don’t even think about art or crafting. Deadlines just have to wait. Is it like that for you too? Or are you like some of my fellow artist friends who juggle day jobs and art and use these long weekends to “catch up” on their creative work?


Just a quick little note on the necklace above. I recently participated in a blog hop with Craft Attitude and made some fab pendants using their film that I printed on my home ink jet printer in ICE Resin. In case you missed the post, here is the free tutorial. Because I tend to work on multiple bezels at once, I had quite a few finished focals. I finished this one into this patriotic necklace using a vintage World War 2 poster image along with some of our glass glitter, crystal beads and bronze wire. This is the necklace I’ll be wearing for tonight’s festivities.


I love my Wubbers

Jen Cushman wirewrapping and Wubbers jumbo mandrel

We had a lovely weekend at the family cabin in Northern Arizona. The weather wasn’t the best — rain, sleet and even some snow Saturday morning that managed to stick to the ground for about 45 minutes before melting. It put a damper on our normal outdoor activities, but I was secretly thrilled to have a total chill weekend. We spent all of Saturday hanging out in the living room, watching Netflix movies, staying in our fuzzy pajamas and even playing some board games.

Whenever my family settles in to watch a movie, it’s my opportunity to get out a spool of wire and my favorite mandrel pliers. There are about a dozen wire components that I’ve made so many times that I can create them in my sleep! I like to use these metal components as “beads” or other areas of interest to my necklaces. I love to mix up it up with a combination of beads, chain and wirewrapping. I used up the last of my box when I made the samples for my workshops at CREATE this year and it was more than time to replenish my stash.

I have a tray — the kind used to bring breakfast in bed — that I place my Wubbers pliers on. I have the jumbo round, the medium and the small round ones. I also have my wire cutters, and then the Classic round nose and chain nose pliers. Next I have spools of 14 gauge round copper, bronze and sterling silver. This weekend, I forgot my sterling silver so I used 16 gauge nickel wire. (It’s much harder to work with so I tend to not use this wire very often. Though I do love that it’s a white wire and very cost-effective to work with). I put all my tools and wire on my tray to the right of me and then sit cross-legged on the sofa, wrapping the entire time the movie is playing. I know it seems a tad crazy, but it’s really an effective way to spend time with my family and knock out some work too.

At events, my students will ask me if I really love my Wubbers, or if there are any other brands of pliers that I use. Truthfully, I’ve bought every kind of jewelry pliers imaginable over the years and have used them (you can see my well-used pliers in my book Making Metal Jewelry because I had yet to discover Wubbers when I was writing it). I used to think pliers were pliers. Then I met Patti Bullard, the Founder and President of Wubbers, over two years ago at a jewelry making retreat. She gave me a pair to try, and that’s how I became a fan. I keep my other brands for workshops for students to use, but for my work I’m pretty faithful. I honestly can’t live without my round mandrel pliers, particularly the medium size. They make perfect French ear wires every time. They also make great bails and clasps.


You can definitely make loops using found “mandrels” from around the house. The barrel of a Sharpie marker and pens work great when you’re learning. You can also cut dowel rods to fit in your hand. I’m not advocating everyone run out and buy high end tools when you’re first learning the trade. However, I will tell you that your hands are your best and most important tools. When you begin to make jewelry as a part-time hobby and sell your work, remember the investment in good tools is worth it’s weight in gold for your health and safety, as well as the time you save while creating. I know this pile of wirewrapped components in the top picture  looks like days worth of time. Actually, I made them (and more not shown in the pic) during two movies. That’s what I mean by time savings with good tools.

After making the wire components, I work harden the clasps with my hammer and steel bench block. Then I add patina. I use Jax Brown for copper, bronze and brass and Jax Black for nickel. For sterling silver, I use Liver of Sulphur and I prefer to buy it in the extended life gel now rather than the hard chunks. After patination, I put them into the tumbler for additional work hardening and polishing for about 4 hours. Then, I can finally add them to my jewelry. It does take some time to create these, but they make me happy.

Here’s a few pics of the finished patinated and tumbled copper and brass components. They look fantastic and quite a bit different from the top picture when they were still in phase 1 of creation.


Here’s wishing you a truly Artful week!


The Mixed Media Artist, a new book!

MixedMediaArtist CoverThe sweet, kind, funny and über talented Seth Apter revealed today on his blog the artists featured in his brand new book. I am so jazzed to let you all know that I’m one of those artists in The Mixed Media Artist: Art Tips, Tricks, Secrets and Dreams from Over 40 Amazing Artists, available here at Amazon. As part of his book launch publicity, Seth is doing a thing on his blog called 30 Artists in 30 days, where each of us get to take a turn in his blog hop. I’ll be posting later in the month. I hoping to get a little video done for my day showing some of the techniques I used to create the pieces of art for his book. I’ll also be doing a giveaway of my book Making Metal Jewelry on the day of the hop as well, so be sure to keep an eye on my blog for the deets.

I have to tell you that when the loooonnnnggg questionnaire from Seth came in last year for this project, I was a little intimidated by all the amazing and well, kind of personal, questions he asked. After reading through it a couple of times, I decided I was just going to take a deep breath and go for it. I wanted to answer them as honestly and “off the cuff” as I could. I know Seth well enough to know that it’s important for him to get to the truth of matters and to really talk about art and its power to change the world in a myriad ways. It’s one of the reasons I respect him so much. I’m a little nervous — and excited — to see myself in his incredible book. More than anything, I can’t wait to read about the other artists’ processes and see how they chose to answer the Q&A.

For now, if you haven’t already, take a little jump over to Seth’s post to learn more about the artists involved and what his fabulous plans are.

Shout out to B’Sue


Detail shot of my Textured Circles necklace from my book Making Metal Jewelry.

Detail shot of my Textured Circles necklace from my book Making Metal Jewelry.

Just a quick post today as it’s my mother’s birthday and we have a fun day of lunch, shopping and a movie ahead of us. I wanted to give a public shout out to my friend Brenda Sue Lansdown, the owner of B’Sue Boutiques.

I met Brenda Sue just over two years ago when a friend of mine told me about her fab online jewelry supply store. I was in desperate need of some hard-to-find brass charms and chain for a workshop I was teaching. I was frantic because my supplier went out of business. I called Brenda Sue on the phone and we had the most amazing conversation. Our connection was so instant, it felt like I had rediscovered an old friend after 20 minutes.

I’ve continued to buy from Brenda Sue for my kit supplies. I also took the time to learn about her background in the jewelry making biz and found her story inspiring. She even helped to illustrate a recent business advice column of mine in Belle Armoire Jewelry. She recently bought a signed copy of my book Making Metal Jewelry, and today she did a review of it on her blog. She wrote such a great review that I had to give her a great big shout out for her support!

Here’s the thing about B’Sue. She’s all about her customers and she tells it like it is. If she doesn’t like a new product — even if it’s been developed by a fellow artist friend — she will not recommend it. People know that when she gets behind something, she’s put it through the paces and believes in it. She has a great reputation in the jewelry community. To know that she liked my book and found the advice helpful, honestly, means a lot to me.

Also, this is a good time to tell you about her community of peeps to love to make jewelry and share their experiments, triumphs and failures with their work. If you are new to making jewelry, the B’Sue Boutiques Creative Group on Facebook  is a great online place to connect with other people who are more than happy to answer questions and share. I try to pop in whenever I can.

Textured Circles and Creativity

Textured and enamels bracelet by Jen Cushman

Textured Circles is one of the workshops I’m teaching this year. I designed this workshop as I was writing my book, Making Metal Jewelry, because I’m wanting to teach some beginning metalworking classes that are fun and simple, but absolutely in line with the fundamentals one needs to learn when first starting to work with metal.

I’ve thought a lot about the silversmithing instruction I received at my community college. My instructor – a 4th generation goldsmith – developed his classes using the exact same learning methods that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather employed. Not that there is anything wrong being a purist, in my humble opinion, other than it sucks the life out of creativity. There is definitely something to be said for starting at the beginning and honing one’s skills. However, my overriding problem with this type of traditionalist instruction is that it’s boring. Plain and simple. BORING! The other problem is that traditional silversmithing instruction often has haughty air about it, which can be intimidating to beginners.

textured earrings by Jen Cushman

Again, it’s my humble belief art shouldn’t be intimidating. Creativity is spontaneous, joyful, free, introspective and unfettered. Even when writing about the visual arts a decade ago, I choose to interview artists whose work had something to say. The expression of art has always been more important to me than technical perfection. This viewpoint would often put me at odds with gallery owners and other art critics who continued to voice acclaim for the same artists; the ones whose technical skills were refined but who, again in my opinion, failed to reinvent, or even push, themselves. What good is a perfectly technical painting when it’s been done over and over? What exactly does it say? How does it inspire? What does anything that tightly controlled make me feel other than reminding me of my grandma’s girdles from the 1940s?

Even though I don’t express these opinions outright in my book, those who know me understand that making art accessible is one of my main missions in my teaching and publishing. I certainly want to create work that is inspiring and joyful, but I also want to be the kind of instructor who stands up in front of the room and sets the tone by saying, “Let’s have fun! You will learn more than you think you will and you will walk out of this room today with some beautiful things to wear.”

Cold enameled earrings by Jen Cushman

A lot of thought and preparation went into my workshops this year. For example, although the sample pics of my Textured Circles class looks rather minimalist, students will learn punching, dapping, doming, texturing with hammers and also a new high pressure rolling press called the Artisan Xplorer, annealing, quenching, pickling, filing, shaping and patinas (including our brand new cold enameling). All of these metalworking fundamentals are tightly packed into this 3 hour workshop. It’s metalworking 101 in a fast-paced and totally fun learning environment.

I’m teaching this workshop three times this year (four actually, as I taught it in Tucson in February); CREATE Orange County, the Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee and Art Unraveled in Phoenix. If you happen to live close by any of these retreats, or if you feel like jumping on a plane and coming to meet me in person, it would be an honor to see you and have you in my classes. Also, be sure to check out all the other amazing instructors at these venues. Wowza…talk about creativity being unfettered!

Here’s wishing you a truly Artful weekend. Go have fun! Life is too short to be boring.

Dapped and domed bracelet by Jen Cushman