Last month I attended the Bead Fest Wire Retreat in Philadelphia. I took a class in
fusing fine silver wire. Well, I must say it looks a lot simpler than it is! The class was taught by Anne Mitchell who travels all over the country teaching classes.
She's a terrific instructor. The process starts with winding the fine silver around a mandrel, cutting the rings and then making sure the ends are touching so the torch can do its work and fuse them together. Okay, I can do this, simple right? Well not so simple. Like any new technique it takes practice, lots of practice.
We watched Anne fire up her mini torch and start fusing each ring. Then..it was our turn. The idea is to move your flame around the ring toward the cut ends until they turn pinkish. When that happens you hold the flame over the touching cut ends and then move it away quickly. Simple? No. If you don't keep it there long enough the ends are not completed fused and you can see them. If you hold it there a second too long you have a little mound of silver where the ends meet. So, we all make a complete necklace. At one point I heard someone announce something's burning. No worries, it was just a student setting fire to some paper on her work bench.
We also made some jump rings using precious metal clay. It was easier to get nice looking rings from the clay since you cut them out with a little do hickey that looks like a cookie cutter with a handle on the top, texture them with textured pads and then they get fired in a kiln. You just have to make sure you get the cookie cutters in the middle or you have a ring with a larger diameter on one side than the other.
I am now the proud owner of a fused fine silver and PMC necklace and even though I have some puddles on my rings I like it.
Here you can see the little puddles on some of the rings. The textured rings are precious metal clay and the fused rings are fine silver. There are a couple in there that look pretty good. It will probably cost me hundreds of dollars to get really good at this!
I have all the tools in place to start fusing, I just haven't done it yet. I'm kind of afraid to waste any of the fine silver wire. It's very expensive with the price of silver so high.
While at the wire retreat I visited the vendor area. It was like a bead Disneyland.
Totally overwhelming! I wanted to buy, buy, buy. I came away with some really pretty multi-colored head drilled pearls, some huge keishi pearls in a pretty ivory color with pink tones and an array of faceted agate beads. I think they are my favorite from the bead show. I'm wondering if they are what are called cracked agate? There are many facets on these beads and they really sparkle.
The agate beads didn't need much of anything to look great, so I let them stand alone. They are big - 12 mm.
This is what I did with the keishi pearls -
I combined them with these raspberry dyed head drilled freshwater pearls.