Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Upcycled Garden In Winter

This has been a tough winter for many of us this year. Here where I live in Pennsylvania we got a hefty 30 inches of snow in one storm, and of course once we finally got that cleared away just enough to use our driveways and walkways we got three to four more inches on top of that, and then a few days later another two! I'll be glad once it's gone and we can get back to beautiful spring and summer, but in the meantime, I thought I'd put together a winter version of my Upcycled Garden blog posts. 

As you'll see in some of the photos below, we can still enjoy our garden art through a little bit of ice and snow. If anything, it serves as a reminder of what's beneath it all when it melts! And of course, there's always birds to feed. Once the ground is covered with cold, they often have a hard time finding food, so be sure to keep those bird feeders full! 

Garden chandelier in winter from Joy Source Gardening

Create a winter bird wreath like this one with DIY instructions from Our Fairfield Home & Garden

Create evergreen ice bowls for votive candles. photo by Bjørn Johan Stenersen (above and below)

Evergreens, pine, holly, and winter berries make great additions to the ice

Here's how to create an ice wreath: Place a custard cup or other similar cup with a bit of weight to it in the center of the pan (or use a tube pan such as a Bundt cake pan if you have one) assemble berries and greenery in the pie plate around the custard cup. Cranberries, evergreens such as pine, holly, small pinecones, sunflower seeds all work great. Fill the pan with water (except for the center cup) and freeze. Once frozen solid, carefully remove the custard cup and pie plate. If pie plate is stuck to ice, dip the bottom of the pan in warm water for just a moment and then try to remove again. Hang outside in the cold with twine or ribbon.

Homemade trellis garden art with rusty metal and glass plates from Joy Source Garden

Yardshare.com shows us that garden art can be pretty in winter too! Photo credit: yardshare.com

Ice + light is always a win. Check out these winter garden delights from Better Homes & Gardens (photo by Better Homes & Gardens)

Old jars and lantenrs + wire + candles From Husfruas Memoarer

Check out this fabulous outdoor chandelier made with upcycled electric insulators and old garden fencing made by Vickie at Ranger 911

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Article copyright Laura Beth Love 2021 and may not be republished in print or other media without express written permission from the author. For any link updates or corrections leave correct info in comment area. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Victorian Methods For Creating Human Hair Mementos

Creating jewelry and crafts as mementos from human hair was extremely popular during Victorian times, but the practice actually started much earlier. 

Mortality rates–especially infant mortality rates–were very high in the 17th and 18th centuries, so crating a memento from a lock of a loved one's hair–whether it be from a child, family member, a husband or son sent to war, or a lover–was not just a beloved keepsake, but was a popular pastime.
After all, we are all eventually taken back to the earth, but hair can remain for centuries. But it's important to note that human hair jewelry was also created from the living as a memento for love or friendship.
Sometimes the hair was braided or woven into an intricate lace-like pattern and then turned into brooches, bracelets, or other jewelry. Other times a miniature scene was created from the hair, with images such as flowers and trees created from tiny loops of hair expertly handcrafted with great precision. Some fine examples of this type of work can be found in museums and private collections.

Imagine my surprise when I accidentally stumbled upon an antique patent from 1891 explaining a method of producing human hair scenery and ornaments. The patent was by Alford E Jarvis and had an illustration and written directions, and I read them with interest.

Of course I did not understand some of the terminology or process techniques described in the patent, but someone who lived during that time period who had some knowledge of the craft certainly would have understood the directions and techniques mentioned. Below is the patent, and a peek into the past.

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Article copyright Laura Beth Love 2021 and may not be republished in print or other media without express written permission from the author. For any link updates or corrections leave correct info in comment area. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Melting Glass In Your Microwave: Fun With Microwave Kilns

There comes a time after the busy holiday season each year when my jewelry making comes to rest. I know somewhere in this blog I've written about it before. It's a time when all the hustle and bustle is over and done with and artists and craftspeople can take a deep breath and enjoy the slower pace that the New Year brings. 

Over the years I've found that this is a really special time of year for me. It's when I peek out from my jewelry-making cave, take a deep breath of fresh air and then think to myself, "what's next?!"

It's a time when I not only need a break from making the same type of jewelry that I make over and over again, but it's also a time to un-pop the cork and allow my creativity to travel in an entirely new direction. I look forward to it every year.  

But what's really special about this little "vacation" time of year is that I will usually invest in an entirely new art or craft venture. I try out something that is entirely new to me, that I always wanted to try. The outcome of these ventures varies. Sometimes I find something that I really enjoy, and so I continue to do it (watercolor painting being one), while other times those new supplies or equipment get put on the back burner. But the best times are when I learn something new and then in some way, incorporate that into my everyday art. 

One year I bought a tabletop mini-kiln for enameling, and the basic supplies to go with. I learned about frit and stringers and having to enamel the reverse sides of pieces. I learned that you can enamel on pennies! 

One year I tried out Batik. Another year, polymer clay. Yet another year, liquid resin. Then watercolor paints and acrylics. There've been others too -- and off the top of my head I don't remember what -- but when the pandemic began last spring, I decided to once again try something that I always wanted to try but just didn't have the time for: fusing glass in a microwave kiln. 

You mean you can melt glass in a microwave?

Like the microwave in your kitchen? 

Yes, that's right! I was so curious about how this worked, so I did a bit of research, and I was quickly sold on the idea of making my very own mini melted glass masterpieces in my Sharp Carousel. The best part about it? The ENTIRE setup (not including the microwave, of course) was under $75.00 USD. 

Now, with a bit of research and reading the first thing that you will learn is that you need to use an old, extra microwave with a turntable (hello thrift store) and not your good kitchen microwave. You also want to read as much as you can about how it is done and watch YouTube videos as well. 

Another thing you will learn is that you can't just use any old glass in a microwave kiln. You must use glasses that are compatible in that they have the same COE (coefficients of thermal expansion, re: they have to expand at same rate or will break later on down the road). It might sound a bit confusing at first but it actually is very simple. 

Anyway, aside from all that technical stuff, the whole point of this blog post is just to give you a peek at what came in my microwave kiln kit and show you the first project that I made. 

The photo above is what came in my kit - I think I paid around $65.00 + tax, and once I had it in my hands I was super-impressed by all that it came with and the quality of the items. I also did a lot of browsing the 'net before I picked out my microwave kiln and I found that lots of different places sell them but for the most part, they are pretty much all the same aside from what size you choose. I chose the XL version and was glad that I did, since that allows me to create larger things like ornaments and coasters and not just small items. 

It's also important to have safety equipment first and foremost. You need to have a heat-proof surface to set your kiln on when you remove it from the microwave, such as fireproof bricks, as it will be extremely hot (well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit), and you will need heat proof gloves and eye protection and of course a fire extinguisher in case of emergency. You also should use your microwave kiln for melting glass in a ventilated area such as a basement or garage. 

You can see what my kiln came with in the photo above: the kiln itself (it's two-part, with a base and a lid), safety gloves, different kinds of glass, a glass cutter, some jewelry findings, a file, and kiln shelf paper that you MUST use beneath your glass or it will melt to the kiln and your kiln will be ruined. There was even millefiori and dichroic glass included in my kit! 

It was now time to make my first project....

For my first project I cut some thin strips of green and yellow glass and carefully sandwiched the pieces right up against each other (steady hand needed!) then I placed three white and yellow flower patterned millefiori glass pieces on top and let 'er rip. 

After about 5 minutes in my mighty microwave kiln I had my finished fused glass cabochon, seen here:

I loved how it turned out! I was quickly sold on the entire concept of microwave kilns for fusing and melting glass. It's fast, fun, inexpensive, and just so cool! 

I hope you enjoyed this quick look into what a microwave kiln is and let me know, have you ever used one? What type of art or craft do you do in you "down time?"

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Article copyright Laura Beth Love 2021 and may not be republished in print or other media without express written permission from the author. For any link updates or corrections leave correct info in comment area. 

Jewelry Made From Antique Valentines & Valentine Post Cards

When you have a true love for antiques and vintage items, you want to preserve them so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. 

There's a special kind of gentle kindness in that—to preserve and not destroy—to find value in the past, and though it may be just a tattered piece of paper to some, to others who can see more deeply into it and understand it's importance and value— know that preservation of antique and historical items is paramount to understanding the past and therefore appreciating it, and wanting to share it. 

I started making my vintage ephemera jewelry and vintage postcard jewelry in the late 1980's and have created hundreds if not thousands of pieces over the years. Most sandwiched between pieces of glass and hand-soldered, sometimes adding beads or baubles and sometimes adding a vintage finish to the metalwork. Being handmade, each piece always was a unique, one of a kind piece of art jewelry that celebrated the past. 

Now, all these years later, I look back at some of my past designs and see how my own craftsmanship has changed and transformed into what it is today. I've written art jewelry books and have done so many amazing things over the years but I always enjoy just sitting down with a cup of tea and looking through the vintage valentine images and vintage postcard art. 

Of course, I never destroy an original vintage post card or valentine! Each piece that I make starts with me making a copy of the original ephemera and then goes on from there. The original vintage Valentine's Day cards and antique Valentine postcards are treasures of the past and should be protected and kept for years to come. 

Below are some of the pieces I've made. A few are available in my Etsy shop, and the vintage initials are available directly from my website at www.laurabethlove.com

Necklace pendants made from antique valentines & antique postcards

Necklace pendant made from antique valentine postcard with heart shaped coin pearl

Charm-sized necklace pendants made from antique valentines

Vintage fairies! Necklace pendants made from antique valentines

I add the glitter details by hand

Queen of hearts 

Necklace pendants made from antique valentines & antique postcards

Along the same line of vintage papers, these lovely antique initial pendants are available on my website at www.laurabethlove.com

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Article copyright Laura Beth Love 2021 and may not be republished in print or other media without express written permission from the author. For any link updates or corrections leave correct info in comment area.