Monday, December 29, 2008

another attempt

I worked all day today trying to make a mezzuzah out of bronze clay. I have come up with this, which, in it's present state looks pretty good, but I have to say I am not confident. It's not that the bronze clay is difficult (OK it is, the shrinking and the cracks), but I think that the face that a mezzuzah is long and narrow to fit a scroll, makes it difficult to build in this medium.

I will let it dry and fire it tomorrow. I show you what happens, but even with the advice from many books and Kate McKinnon, I just don't know. I do love the bronze, the color and the weight. But I also wish I could make a couple of mezzuzot in silver, which I know works well. It's just that without knowing for sure I can sell them, I can't justify spending all that money. Do you know anyone who will buy a mezzuzah from an unknown artist for $200?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

etsy shop

I've decided to open an etsy shop. Maybe I can sell some of these cool jewish stars I'm making. Perhaps I will soon be successful with the bronze mezzuzahs and I can sell them. Meanwhile I fired 4 more stars today and 2 hearts. I'll post them soon. My shop is called rachel's things. I had to think of a name fast and I admit it's not very creative, but it's better than just my name. Plus I didn't want it to have jewelry in the title because it's not JUST jewelry. Plus, I didn't really want it to have Miller in the title. I think I just like my first name.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bronze clay experiment

I love working with Silver PMC , but it's very expensive,so I decided to try my hand at the new bronze clay. I read a lot of articles and blogs about working with the clay so I could prepare myself for it's unique properties.

The clay is very messy and sticky in it's raw state, but the information I got from the Cooltools website was helpful. If you keep your hands and work area well lubricated with oil or balm (I used claymate) the clay does not stick badly to your hands. I also kneaded the clay as suggested. The first reel challenge with bronze clay is that it shrinks as it dries and then it cracks. I want to try to make my "house" mezuzzahs out of the clay. They are built with slabs. I have made them very successfully in silver PMC, but because they take so much material that are costly.I found that in bronze it is very hard to built these shapes.

First of all, it is much harder to attach slabs together with bronze clay. You have to make a lot of slip, and even then you have to reinforce the slabs with the snake of fresh clay. Also there is a lot of trouble when firing the piece in the kiln. The "house" I made bowed and slumped after firing.

I am not real happy with the results. My kiln is a mess, the piece slumped and cracked, and the clay was a bit messy to work with. I think I would rather invest more in silver clay right now. I think that the bronze clay can be interesting and looks great in small pieces and paired with silver components. But, I don't think the bronze clay will work for my purposes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Today I oxidized the stars and some other pieces in the liver of sulfur. Here is what they look like before the final polish.

Monday, December 8, 2008

moo cards

mine arrives last week. What are they? They are super cute half size calling cards in which you can have printed with multiply images. Lots of artists have them. They make great hang tags too. You can order some too at

Friday, December 5, 2008

shining stars

Here are the stars out of the kiln. They have a white powdery appearence to them. It is quite different for the oxidized finished necklace.

Here they are after brushing them a bit with a brass wire brush. They are beginning to look more like the silver they are. I think I may leave some bright silver and only oxidize some. I have an aweful cold today so this is all I will acomplish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

making stars

Today I decided to make silver jewish stars. First I roll out and texture the PMC silver clay. After I texture them I cut them into triangle shape. Then I build them into 3 dimentional forms so that I can add chain later and make them into necklaces. I've made 5 examples tonight. I'll fire them in the kiln tomorrow and let you see how they came out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

rolling papers

I am working on the "greenery" for the centerpieces. There are made of rolled up magazine and catalog pages. We have tried to choose pages that have alot of green color around the edges so they look more like stems or leaves when they are rolled up. They are just tightly rolled and secured with a bit of glue from a glue stick. Abby and I are both working on the leaves. We are about 60 done and need 150 in total. This is done pretty fast, we get about 20 or more done a day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

please vote

Here are the cookies the girls and I made for our election party tonight. There are R, D, O, M and USAs. They stand for Republican, Democrate, Obama, McCann, etc. Abby did the decorating, I think she may have spent more time on the Os and Ds :).

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Here is how Tamara looked in her Colonial girl costume. It's made from Grandma and Grandpa's bed linens circa 1970's. Isn't it perfect!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

my work space is not working out

I have begun work on my PMC Mezzazah project. It's coming along very slowly. I have a lot of challenges working with this clay. But lately my biggest frustration has been with my work space. Many years ago a purchased an old wooden drafting table at a yard sale. It is full of character and patina, but alas I must confess it has never been a good table for me. It is off square, wobbly, and it slopes downward so that my tool always roll off the table. I have tried to fix the problem but nothing is working for me. I think that I need to re think the whole studio work space and redesign it. I spent most of yesterday losing bits of clay and tools. I think I may have to swipe the kid's computer desk/table and use a card table for the computer. I refuse to buy anything new right now. I will dismantle the drafting table once again and put it away. If any one wants a old drafting table with plenty of character, and nothing else, let me know.

Here's the mezzuzah so far. I'm still building it, but I may fire it today. It is nothing like I envisioned in the beginning, which I guess is how things go with silver clay.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Andrew Raftery

If you are in New York city this month, take time to visit the Mary Ryan Gallery at 527 West 26th street. There is a show featuring the works of master engraver and artist Andrew Raftery. Now only are Andrew's engraving technical perfection, but this unique perspective on modern life is both fascinating and refreshingly humorous. Andrew takes a traditional media and makes it relevant today, they are true originals.
I am glad to know Andrew personally, and count him as a good friend. He continually inspires me whenever we speak. Thanks Andrew, I wish I could be there in person!

300 origami lilies

I have finished making all the 300 lilies,enough for at least 15 centerpieces. The next step is to add the 22 floral wire stem. I have decided to wrap the stem with floral tape where it attaches to the flower. I find that the flowers tear easily and the tape reinforces them. This process won't take as long, it only takes about 30 seconds to complete this step.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Halloween in Williamsburg?

In June the girls and I visited Williamsburg. We rented colonial clothes one day for Tamara, age 9, to wear. She loved the experience. So for her Halloween costume I promised to recreate for her a Colonial era dress. Here is my attempt, made from grandma's old bed sheet. I think I'll add some bow trims.

end of summer

Summer is still hanging on her in St. Louis, Today was an absolutely perfect day. Here is a beautiful late blooming rose from my garden, visited by a bee. As once was wrote to me, "Late blooming rose, all alone, taken home, most special."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

forever flowers

Here is my first attempt at the centerpieces for my daughter's Bat Mitzvah. Each of them is made galvanized steel wire (from Home Depot), floral wire, origami paper, rolled up magazines, sand and 4 wine bottles. There are 18 origami lilies on this centerpiece. I think the prototype turned out pretty good, bit the lilies are fragile and tend to tear around the wires they are attached with. I think I will have to additionally wrap each flower base with floral tape. This is another time consuming set, but it has to be done. To those of you who are wondering, I have completed 170 lilies as of tonight!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

happy new year

In honor of the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday I am posting my "rocking" Jewish star necklace, which I created from PMC (silver). I've been wearing it alot recently and have gotten a lot of positive comments on it. Initially, I wasn't that happy with the design, but it's definitely growing on me. I think I will continue to develop this motif. I am also working on my next PMC project with will be a mezzuzah cover inspired by the Little Tower necklace.

Monday, September 22, 2008

100 paper origami lillies.....

only 200 more to go. Check back to see the progress on Abigail's Bat Mitzvah centerpieces.

Friday, September 12, 2008

my little island house

Well here is my new little silver tower necklace I created out of silver PMC clay. I love the way it turned out, but I am not sure I like which necklace chain I selected. It doesn't hang as gracefully as the previous tower necklace I made with the double chain necklace. Even so, I think it was a good attempt.

This clay is not easy to work with, and making it do what you want it to is not easy. I am struggling with it more than I thought I would. I know it takes practice, I just wish the clay was not as expensive as it is...but alas, it is pure silver.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

everyone has a cold this week...

so no time for any creativity. All we've been pretty much doing is watching TV and drinking lots of fluids. Oh well, hopefully tomorrow we will all feel better. Meanwhile enjoy this great article on this super cool house in Rhode Island. It's one of those places you've always wondered least I wonder about stuff like that.
Here's the link to the New York Times Article:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

why I love project runway.....

So in my previous life I was a sportswear and knitwear designer in New York, and let me tell you the Bravo show is nothing like real life. Those designers on Project Runway do way more stuff than any one designer I ever met or worked with. These guys have to know how to drape, sew, fit on a model, they have to select appropriate fabric, buy the right amount of fabric and notions and all this in an incredible short time frame. I give kudos to all the talented designer on this show, they will never work this hard again.
That being said, I love to watch this show, and now that I have a DVR, I don't have to miss it. Here are my predictions for whom I think should win at this time....This season the guys all suck so I think the final three are going to be Kenley, Korto and Leanne. Now personally I hate Kenley, but for some reason, the judges like her and she will probably last a while. I think her 1940's aesthetic is alittle tired. Right now I can't decide between Korto and Leanne. Leanne is a real design driven designer and is winning alot of challenges lately. Korto makes everything look easy with great wearable sportswear looks. I think Leanne is funny cause she looks all innocent but she is pretty much a bitch, but I like her anyway. We shall see, hopefully it will be a girl on girl finale at Bryant Park.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

catch up day

Today my girls were with their dad so I had some time to devote to my jewelry work. I am making several pieces out of the precious metal clay (PMC) which I fired last week. When I work I tend to work on several pieces at once and I create a big mess on my workspace. First I work harden the PMC pieces by pounding them with a hammer. Then I add ant fine silver components, using my new torch to fuse the links. Finally, I add sterling wire wrapped gemstone components. I worked all afternoon and evening and the time just flew by. I finally just stopped cause I cut my finger on the bench block....ouch!

Here is the silver multi-heart necklace I am working on. It is inspired by a necklace which I made several years ago. This Y-style necklace was made from an old sterling silver charm bracelet that my dad gave me when I was a little girl. He said the bracelet had belonged to my grandmother. The hearts on the bracelet were very banged up, but I saved what I could and created the necklace. The new PMC heart necklace has 9 pure silver hearts which I created out of the silver clay.

I still have oxidize the metal and final polish it. Check back and I will post the finished necklace.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

you wouldn't think.....

that I would be making a rosary, but actually I've made a few. The most recent for some good friend's of mine, whose son is getting baptised next month. Making a rosary is like making a necklace without the clasp. You have to make she there are 5 series of 10 beads separated by a larger bead. At the end of the necklace is a series of 5 beads, 2 big and 3 small, with a cross at the end. The rosary's number of beads and placement of those beads is important as it is used for a special Catholic prayer. After I make the rosary the family will take it to their priest to be blessed.

This rosary was made with sterling silver wire wrapped pearls and faceted blue topaz disks. I think it came out beautiful, pretty good for a nice Jewish girl.....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

working silver

I spent all afternoon and evening working with one of the packets on precious metal clay. It was challenging, as usually. I think I am getting a little more confident with the medium. First challenge is having to work quickly in the beginning so the clay does not dry up and becomes unusable. Then you must have the patience to wait for the clay to come to the right consistency so you can cut and build with it. Today I tried to plan a strategy, so I could make the components for the jewelry I wanted to create. Hopefully in the next week or so I'll post a multi-heart necklace, little house necklace and another link bracelet.

Here are some of the great textures sheets I use to texture the silver clay.

Monday, August 18, 2008

clay is king

A new shipment of PMC3 arrived today. That's Silver Precious Metal Clay. I ordered it from, which is a company I found on the Internet. The company sells all types of conventional clays, pottery supplies and kilns. The clay was $73.95 for 50 grams, which is a good price and no minimums and no charge for shipping. It took a little over a week to get my order which was shipped by US mail. That's a little longer than from Cool-Tools or Rio Grande. but, I liked no shipping and no minimums. Hopefully this weekend I should have some time to work with it.

Abby starts school on Wednesday, but Tamara is still hanging with me till after labor day. So for now, I am still only a part time artist.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

gone swimming

The girls and I celebrated Michael Phelps 8 Olympic golds. Watching the medal ceremony made us all tear up a bit. I remember watching Mark Spitz win his 7 gold medals. I even had a life size poster of him in his swimsuit wearing them!

I came across these really cool pictures by UK photographer Gigi Cifali, which are of abandoned pools. Very cool and kind of creepy. Check it out

You can also access the artist's website from this link. You'll have to cut and paste it cause I can't figure out how to make it a link.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

alot of hoop-lah

Here is my version of the trendy, popular wrapped gold hoop. These hoops start out 1 1/4" in diameter before they are wrapped with gold fill wire and black onyx, green or brown stone, silver or turquoise. I just made these 5 pairs and they will be available for purchase at Ladue's best boutique, Essential Elements, tomorrow for $70. My thumbs are killing we from all the wrapping! But they looks great.

crown jewels

I've been finishing up some of my clay metal pieces these last few days. Here is a crown pendent, that I made from a mold of an old button.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

today is clay day

Well I opened my 50 gram pack of PMC (precious metal clay) and made some pieces that I will be firing in my new kiln. First of all let me tell you that the whole process today was a bit intimidating and a little scary. Sure the silver clay is expensive, but it's also hard to deal with. I want to make the components as fast as possible so that the clay will not dry out and crack. This freaked me out and some of the pieces I was planning to make did not come out as I would have liked. After working for a couple of hours I have decided to take a break, and refocus,(of course keeping the unused clay sealed up to stay fresh.

Here is a picture of the beautiful bracelet I finished yesterday. I made it from links and toggles that I made in previous workshops. I attached the links together with fine silver rings which I fused.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

little tower

I completed the tower pendent that I made in my class with Kate McKinnon today. I strung it on a long 36 inched double stranded silver necklace which I oxidized with liver of sulfer to match the silver pendent. The acent bead is carnelian. I like the way it came out.

I am working with fusing fine silver with my nifty new blazer micro torch tonight. It so much fun, I've lost track of time. I'm making lots for silver rings and bails to add to my PMC clay projects which I plan to start this week. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

it has finally arrived!

Today the Paragon Kiln arrived. I am so excited. Of course I am not nearly ready to use it. I have to finish a few other projects first. I am hoping to be able to do some new PMC work next week while the girls are away. In the mean time I and sketching some idea so I will be focused and can use my clay wisely. It's expensive.
This is not where the kiln will live. I am not sure where I should put it yet, but it will probably live in the garage which is the safest place for it to go while it's firing.

Today it rained all day, and the kiln was delivered while the girls and I were seeing Mama Mia. The UPS guy left it under the awning of the garage so I brought it in to the ouse to unpack it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Summer is great, but always about this time when I look a little forward to school starting again. This week promises to be another when I don't get alot accomplished, but the girls and I have a really good time.

Tamara took a KidzArt class last week and as you can see she is very talented. The theme was Caribbean, hence the pirate pictures. I was a little reluctant about this course because the kids copy alot of the pictures from what the teacher displays on the board. But I have to say, Tamara really enjoyed the class. The kids stay very focused and develop alot of basic skills. I think Tamara gained alot of confidence in her drawing this week. Her teacher recognized she was very creative and encouraged her.

My niece Alena is in town this weekend visiting. Isn't she adorable? The girls are really enjoying having her and their Uncle Josh here for a visit.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

frustrated and exhausted

It's another hot humid day in St. Louis. It was a perfect day for the girls and I to enjoy the afternoon swimming at our friend's country club. We are all tired, that great summertime type of tired when you are exhausted and can't move a muscle.

I am a bit frustrated though, since both the girls are home and not in camp I am finding it hard to carve out time to work on any jewelry projects. Plus the butane torch and PMC tools I ordered from Anne Mitchel have yet to arrive.

So in between projects for the girls, cleaning up the house, and weeding the garden, I am trying to use some of the gemstones and findings that I already own to create some new things. This choker necklace is strung tiny andalusite faceted briolettes separated by gold vermiel Bali beads.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

friendship bracelets

Abby came back from camp more interested than ever in making friendship bracelets. She made them for the entire family and is taking orders for more. Some are simple braids and others more intricate. She used to wear at least ten at a time but she sacrificed them at the end of her 5th grade year for the class's time capsule.

Here is my version which I finished today. I made the triple strand bracelet from my favorite Thai Silver beads from the Keren Hill Tribes. I mixed these with these cool African beads I found at the Tucson gem show years ago. They are lapis, jade and coral and very delicate. I hardly have any left and I have not been able to find them again.

The day I got my ears pierced......

I was 21 when I finally got my ears pierced. I went to some shop in Harvard square with my boyfriend. I remember I chose square gold cubes for my starter earring. They were very modern and new wave.

I don't always wear earrings. Sometimes a necklace is enough. But I love making earrings that compliment one's face without over powering. This style is one of my favorites. It gold fill wire and chain with tiny andalusite and whiskey tourmaline.

My daughter Tamara just got her ears pierced today at Libby Lu in the mall. She's nine. I am very proud of her because she was so brave. She really wanted to do this. She chose tiny gold topaz flowers (her birthstone). They are very classy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I've been experimenting with wire, paper and old magazines to come up with some earth friendly centerpieces for Abby's Bat Mitzvah next year. I think this attempt has some potential.I used galvanized aluminum wire for the stem, with origami lilies and leaves made from rolled up magazines. Try to imagine many stems like this in a tall vase or cluster of wine bottles.
This I'm not sure about, and neither is my cat! I am attempting to create a sphere like arrangement using the rolled up magazines. It's not looking as I planned, but I am not ready to give up.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I made it out of clay

Well, not exactly clay. I used PMC or Precious Metal Clay which is actually fine silver-99% pure silver. I made these pieces at a workshop I took with metal smith artist Kate McKinnon. Kate lived in St. Louis for a while and now is based in Tucson. She was in town for a quick visit and did this workshop, it was a real treat. I decided to take the plunge and really give this medium a go. I really like working with it and I love the gutsy silver pieces you can make with it. This means I can make my own original pendents, charms, links-anything!

Today was a bit of a disappointment. I did an initial tumbling of the pieces and planned to patina them with liver of sulfur. But my liver of sulfur had oxidized and gone bad so I have to get some more before I can finish working the pieces.

These components will become a two necklaces a ring shank and a bracelet. I'll post pictures when I can. Wait till you see the chain link I'm working on.
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