In the Studio with Nancy, Volume 5, 5/30/13 Volume Five

Nancy L.T. Hamilton

Welcome to: In the Studio with Nancy

Welcome back!  Thanks again for subscribing.  I hope you are enjoying the Newsletter.  In this volume of In the Studio with Nancy, I will babble on about Making Art, offer  A “fix” for the centering tool, and have a little show and tell.  If you haven’t already seen them, parts One and Two of Making Chasing and Repousse Tools are on YouTube. Happy creating!


Making Art

Making art is hard work.  It is fraught with perils. It takes a lot of practice, persistence, and focus to create it.  Art is so challenging that many give up soon after starting.  How many unfinished novels, unpainted canvases, and unfinished pieces of jewelry are stuffed in drawers or closets?  

The desire to create starts early.  Children are encouraged to be creative, but as they approach adulthood, they are steered toward “paying jobs, real careers.”  Maybe you wanted to be an artist but you figured you should focus on a “serious” subject and gave up the dreams of your youth.  Maybe you were told to  “come down to earth.”  But, one day, due to fortuitous circumstances, an overwhelming desire, or a leap of faith, you decided to make art again. Welcome back!

Those Voices in Your Head

Stepping into the role of an “artist” can be nerve-wracking.  In what other practice will you reveal your emotions, beliefs, and ideas?   When are you ever asked to expose yourself to criticism, rejection, or acceptance from strangers – to people who don’t have the same priorities as you do?  To make things even more challenging, this journey into the unknown comes replete with a full set of worries.   You’ll probably be doing this alone – sans a support group.  It’s no wonder that we doubt ourselves:

  • I don’t have any ideas
  • I don’t have anything worth saying
  • I’m not creative  
  • There are so many people better than me 
  • I can’t even draw 
  • I’m no good
  • I’m not good enough
  • I don’t know enough

These fears or worries are why many people stop making art and never create it again.  “I’m not creative, I don’t have any talent, I could never do that” are things we tell ourselves because we are afraid.

 I could give you a counterargument to all of the above worries:  Of course, there are others better than you – thank God there are!  (BTW, there is no: “Best Artist in the World award.)  You’re not good enough for what? To learn? To make yourself happy?  To find joy?  You don’t know enough? Well, start working, etc.  If you loved the process of making your first ring, will Jane Smith’s opinion that it is ugly change how you felt when you were creating it?  What have you got to lose? So, you make an ugly ring, but the next one will be less ugly, and the next might even make you smile.  Like the 85-year-old woman who thought she was too old to learn how to play the piano, sometimes we need to move past the negative Nancy (not me!) and go for it.  She said to a friend:  I really want to play the piano, but I think that I’m too old to learn.  Why, in 5 years, I’ll be 90.  The friend replied:  Well, if you choose not to learn,  in five years you’ll be 90 and unable to play the piano, or if you decide to learn now, in five years you’ll be a 90-year-old who plays the piano quite well. 

Unfortunately, that haze of doubt, criticism, and fear will always be with you.  It is the nature of the beast.  But, in fact, it can also be an essential learning tool, driving you onward and encouraging you to push yourself.  Talk to those fears, acknowledge them, and then explain to them that you’re moving forward anyway – despite their crazy advice.  Eventually, you’ll notice that someone turned the volume down, that the amount of chatter has decreased, and that you are much less distracted by those naughty naysayers that inhabit your head.  One day, your voice will be the loudest in the room.

Quieting the “Noisy Neighbors”

So, how do you quiet those voices in your head (remember, they are not going away)?

You make art.  You make a lot of art.  You get good at making art.

Getting good takes work.  Practice makes you good.  Learning from each piece you make makes you good.  Making mistakes and accepting them as a lesson learned, not an example of failure. Having the ability to step back and take a non-judgemental, non-emotional look at what you’ve created makes you good.  Asking:  how can I make this better next time?  Where is this piece leading me? It makes you good.  Being good is all about knowing that everything you need to know about your next piece is in the one you just finished. All you have to do is listen.

I took a creative writing class a long time ago.  What I took away from that class, more than anything, was that to be a writer, I had to write.  People in class always made excuses about why they couldn’t write:  I have four kids, I work two jobs, I don’t have any ideas, my life is dull,  etc.  I wondered why they were in a writing class if they weren’t going to do the work.  Did they think they would magically get published by taking the writing class?  Now, I realize that they were afraid or really didn’t want it. I understand that, like writing,  wishing you were a great jeweler doesn’t make you good at anything except wishing.

Making art is chancy – you never know where you will be headed or how you will get there.  There are no guarantees that it will work, none that it will be accepted. But, if you are drawn to making art – you should do so.  Just don’t forget to tell the people upstairs to keep their voices down!


One of my newsletter subscribers purchased the centering tool discussed in the last newsletter.  She was having difficulty finding the center on a 26g disc because the disc was so thin and slipping behind the tool.  This resulted in an off-center, center mark.

After some thought, I came up with a solution to the issue, and here it is:

1. Choose a piece of 22g or 20g brass or copper with at least one perfect 90-degree angle. The easiest way to do this is to use a machined corner – one that is present when you first get your sheet metal.

2. Press the machined corner into the tool, fitting it perfectly and tightly.  Clamp, if necessary, to hold it still for step 3. 

Steps 2 and 3.

3. Mark out the shape of the bottom triangle using the bottom half of the tool as your template.  I recommend using an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie.  If you use a thick marker, the size will be even more off.  You want to make this triangle fit almost perfectly in the space.

4. Now, you need to cut out the triangle.  Cut inside the lines you made; otherwise, the piece won’t fit – it will be too large.  You might still end up with a bit of overage, but don’t worry – as long as it’s just a little too big.  Don’t touch the machined side.  
 I used French shop shears to cut the 22g and then cleaned the cut edges with my belt sander. You can also use files or 220 sandpaper. Having the cut edges perfectly square is not uber important. But, the machined edge needs to stay perfectly square. Don’t do anything to the machined edge – no filing, no sanding.   If you are using the shop shear, you’ll have to flatten the metal as it curls a bit.  It helps to prevent deformation of the metal, to place the metal under a block of wood and then hammer it.  You can use any “heavyish” metal/plastic/leather/wood hammer if you use the block method.  If you don’t have wood, just use a wood, plastic or leather mallet.  Don’t hammer on the machined edge – you could deform it enough to throw off the symmetry of the edge.

5. Put the brass triangle into the tool, make sure that it fits and that there is no overhang on the “drawing edge” of the tool. No brass peeking over the edge. The perfect, machined edge should be on the thick, inside edge of the tool. (Image below of “what not to do,” and the next image shows where to place the machined edge).

 An image of “what not to do.”

 Where to place the machined edge.

6. If it fits, sand the brass on one of the flat sides and on the inside edge of the tool – where the brass will be glued flat.  Wipe away dust and superglue the brass triangle in place.  I’ve found that adding the triangle creates enough thickness so that the disc doesn’t slip behind.  If you don’t want it there permanently, you can also decide to clamp the triangle in place.

7. See my (a reject disc with several non-round edges) sample using 26 gauge sterling.

The centered, if non-round, disc.


Kavitha,  from India, sent me this image of a local artisan’s amazing chasing and repousse´work.   Kavitha says: “…pooja meaning offerings to God. Most of them have a dedicated room for making pooja where they have photos of the deity. They offer fruits, food, light this lamp, and say hymns.”  

Kavitha also notes:  “This is a peacock design on the lamp’s stem.  We consider lighting these lamps on auspicious occasions, like marriage etc.  There will be a cup on top of this where we pour oil, put cotton wicks, and light it.  At the bottom, there is a stand to hold this stem.  You can make this in all sizes, it’s according to people’s prosperity.  You get this from 2 inches to 6 feet tall and in silver and brass.”

Get busy, everyone!  Thanks for joining me for this volume of In the Studio with Nancy!  I appreciate you visiting.  Take care, Nancy


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