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.


2014 Workshops

I just now finished updating my website listing my 2014 workshops. I’m thrilled to be traversing the country to show all the amazing techniques and art making that can be done with ICE Resin, Iced Enamels, bezels, metal sheet, wire and a handful of good tools to make the magic happen. I’ll be on the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, Florida and the two times in the Midwest this year. I’m also thrilled to be teaching 3 of the four CREATE Mixed Media Art Retreats this year, including two new locations Dallas, Texas and Seattle, Washington.

For those of you who ALWAYS attend the fabulous Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee every year, I have some brand new workshops for this event as well. I’m teaching how innovative your jewelry can look when you make your focals from wire, resin and paper. These pieces seem so delicate that people often ask if they hold up with wear. Heck yes! This is a playful workshop where students will learn to not only create basic shapes with wire, but see how easy it is to hand sculpt dimensional forms. All you need to know is exactly where to bend the wire, and I’ll be the helpful guide! I’ll be talking more about this on my blog and show some other images that I’ve created with wire, resin and paper. Instructors are only allowed to upload one image for the Bead and Button classes so that’s why all you see are the earrings. Trust me, this class has legs!


There are so many classes to choose from at Bead and Button that it can be a little hard to find the instructors you are looking for. Here is a direct like to my workshops: Cold Enameled Cuff * Cheerful Charms * Layers and Depth * Mix Your Media; Resin, Wire and Paper

For the CREATE retreats, my Links, Clasps, Components and Chain class comes from my students who last year requested that I teach how to finish off their beautiful resin pendants with some of my organic wireworking techniques. I’m truly psyched to teach this workshop because, honestly, twisting and bending wire into components feels like play to me and not work. It’s so meditative once you get into the rhythm of wirewrapping that I often sit cross legged on my sofa with a small piece of wood on my lap for a table top, my Wubbers pliers, snips and a roll of wire while I watch a movie with my family. I make a pile of components and then finish them off later in my studio with my hammer and steel bench block to give clasps, especially, a bit of work hardening or a little bit of torch work where I want to draw a bead. Take a look at the PR Interweave put out this week announcing that registration of Chicago is now open. Love the honor of being among this particular company of artists — Jane LaFazio, Helen Schafer Garcia and my dearest Kari McKnight Holbrook.



This is just a little taste. To learn more, head on over to my website and click on the Workshops page. You can scan the different venues. Remember, sign ups for Milwaukee and Chicago are going on right now. Space is limited!








Resin, Wire and Paper; a beautiful combination

I’ve been making sculptural wire forms for my jewelry and mixed-media for a while now, so I decided it was high time to teach a workshop on the techniques. I have been smitten by the transformation paper undergoes since the first moment I learned how to make resin paper from Susan years and years ago. I’ve talked about this moment many times. It truly was like the Heavens opened up so new Art Muses could take my hands and lead me down an entirely new path of work. I have experimented with every type, shape, size and kind of paper over the years. We’ll be working with a dozen more of my tried and true favs during our time together. If you’re interested in this process at all and plan to be in Tucson for the Gem Show, please take a look at my class. We’ll be at the To Bead True Blue Show Feb. 2- 10, 2014. As always, I take all those experimentations in my studio — all the fails and successes — and develop workshops for my students so its guaranteed success with none of the heartache. I like to tell my students I always ask myself “What if?” so you don’t have to. (grin)

With three hours together, you will definitely be able to make multiple pairs of earrings. Or you can make one pair of earrings and use the rest of your time to make a pendant or focals for other pieces of work. While I always put together project-based classes for people who wish to walk out with a completed art project, I work space for play and experimentation in my teaching style so people leave with pieces that express their individual expression.

Come join me. Learn how to take humble materials like this:


to this:


Kick up your jewelry with wire working

I started playing with wire before I became interested in metalworking. The two just seem to go hand-in-hand. As my organic mixed-media style has clearly emerged in my art, so has my wire working skills. I rarely use manufactured components in my jewelry, mostly because I prefer seeing what I call “the Hand of the Artist” in my pieces. This means making my own bails, clasps, links and even wire beads. Wireworking is also how I securely and creatively attach fiber and alternate materials along with my resin pieces to create wearable works of mixed media art.

WireWork Bail

Sterling Silver Wire Link

For those of you who’re interested in learning how to organically create wire forms, as well as new super-secure cold-join attachment techniques using wire, I’m teaching workshops on this summer at both Art Unraveled in Phoenix and CREATE in Chicago.

Here is the information for the Art Unraveled event:  Free Form Jewelry on August 6th from 1:30-4:30 p.m. This three-hour classes is technique-heavy and fast paced. You will make some beautiful pieces to wear and the projects you choose are completely up to you. Earrings, bracelet, necklace —  all with just wire or an eclectic mix of wire-and-beads or wire-and-fibers. Just like all of my workshops, students will walk out with work that’s completely personalize to the individual aesthetic. Students are also encouraged to spend class time making a range of wire components as the optimal way to experiment with and really learn all the various loops, swirls, techniques and designs.

For all of you East Coasters, here’s the info for the CREATE Chicago event. (All of the CREATE retreats are run and sponsored by Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine) Organic Wirewrapping is Sunday, August 25 from 9 a.m. to noon. The information above regarding the techniques you’ll learn and projects you can make also applies to this workshop. To register online, head on over to the main website, click into Workshops and scroll down by day to see my classes.

Another great thing about twireworking is that it doesn’t take a lot of tools or money to create beautiful handmade components. A couple of spools of wire in various gauges, along with round nose jewelry pliers and a few household mandrels and you’re in business. (It does help to bring a steel bench block, but it’s not absolutely necessary if you’re trying to travel lighter with your tools/supplies).

Want to see more? Here are some pics of my work for inspiration. There’s also a lot of wire techniques in my new book Making Metal Jewelry as well. As I said earlier, this type of organic wirework is something that really gets my creative juices flowing. and it’s my sincere hope that I can inspire the same for you.

Wirewrapped Earrings

Organic Wirework Pin

Wirework Bail and ICE Resin

Sterling silver wire clasp

Crafting on Sonoran Living

Butterfly charm

Life is good! I’ve been invited to get crafty once again with the supercalifraglious Terri Ouelette on her Arizona morning show Sonoran Living. I’m going to show how to make some fun metal mixed-media charms in minutes. I’ll also be showing how to add some color and texture to metal. These charms can be used for jewelry, home decor, as embellishments for scrapbooks and cards or any myriad of handcrafted goodness. Of course, since the appearance is less than 72 hours away, I’m in my studio right now making samples. But here’s a butterfly charm where I used Iced Enamels so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about.

If you’re an Arizonan, please take a moment to set your DVR for Sonoran Living Live this Friday, May 17th at 9 .m. For those of you who follow me from other parts of the country, the station is really good about getting links up on their website within hours of the show broadcast. I’ll be sure to post a URL when I have one.

Here’s wishing you a truly Artful day!

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