New Designs

Gold and silver beads are braided into the horse hair.

Aren’t fall leaves just the best background for photos?

The neighbors probably thought I was nutty the other morning. After dropping my husband off at work, I stopped the car numerous times to pick up leaves. Who drives to pick up leaves? I was in a time crunch, folks.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The leaves made for great props in my photos. Above are some new designs I’ve been working on. The adjustable bracelet was inspired by a recent request. I loved making these delicate bracelets with the tiny beads woven with the horse hair.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and adjustable bracelet.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and an adjustable bracelet.

All of these designs will be available for purchase next weekend at the Lehigh Valley Crafter’s Guild show at Swain School in Allentown, PA. Click here for more info and $1 off admission to the show. Stop on by to see us and bring your horse hair if you need a custom piece done.

I also snapped some quick pics of the custom horse hair jewelry I’d just finished. By now, these bracelets are on the arms of some very happy horsepeople.

Honoring Jack Frost

Honoring Jack Frost

Just a reminder: Horse hair for custom Christmas gifts needs to be in my hands before November 26 to avoid rush fees.

Recent Projects

Some projects I’ve been working on:
I shipped this bracelet off to its owner this week. The first project completed from the recent batch of horse hair the mailman brought me.
 
This custom horse hair bracelet includes sterling silver star beads. They really make the bracelet glow.

This custom horse hair bracelet includes sterling silver star beads. They really make the bracelet glow.

 More birds! I finally got a decent picture of the bird mobile. I have about 5 more birds flying around here that I’m going to make into a mobile for me. 

The bird mobile for a baby shower last weekend.

A bird mobile for a baby shower last weekend.

In addition to the mobile, the babies (yes, babies) have some snazzy homemade bibs. The farm and bug flannels mix it up a bit.

Bibs for the babies, too.

Bibs for the babies, too.

The babies’ dad is a big Yankees fan. I cut the Yanks logo out of the main fabric then stitched around it. For the future: a Yankees baseball. 

These bibs were more for the dad than the kids!

These bibs were more for the dad than the kids!

These handwarmers should come in handy (ha!) this weekend at the powwow. The weatherman says it will barely reach the 60s. That’s going to feel cold after these last few sunny days. Next week I plan to post a tutorial on how to make these handsocks out of a felted sweater.

Stripe-edy handwarmers I whipped up this week.

Stripe-edy handwarmers I whipped up this week.

 

 Hope to see you this weekend at the powwow. I’m off to dig some warm sweaters and long johns out of the closet to supplement the handwarmers. Enjoy the fall weather!

I’ve Got Mail

A few of the packages I got this week.

A few of the packages I got this week.

I love getting mail. These past 2 weeks, my customers fueled my giddiness in opening fresh, new packages with envelopes from Nevada, Virginia, California, and Florida.

All of the envelopes contained horse hair.

In the next few weeks my fingers will be flying to make pulls, plait all sorts of pretty braids, and turn these packages of horse hair into beautiful wearable jewelry.

Roping in the Horse Hair

There are a few steps before the creation phase can begin.

First is wrangling the hair together. I tie off the horse hair at intervals using kite string. Why kite string? I have no idea. It was there in the draw one day and it works well, so I stuck with it. Tying the hair prevents tangles and makes it more manageable when I’m separating it into pulls.

This is also the step where I label all the horse hair so that Jack Frost’s owner doesn’t get Tabasco’s hair.

Bath time

A camp cookwear set I inherited serves as my horse hair cleaning set up.

A camp cookwear set I inherited serves as my horse hair cleaning set up.

Next stop: bath time. All the horse hair gets cleaned on my very low-tech system. I boil water on my grill burner, then add my secret cleaning agent (Woollite). Doing this process inside makes my whole house smell like horse. Right now, the horsepeople among you are saying, “So what.” The non-horsepeople are saying, “Eeewww.”

I don’t mind the smell, but I don’t think the family appreciates it, so I save indoor horse hair cleaning for the depths of winter.

After the dunk and a rinse in cold water, the horse hair is off to the washline to dry. My neighbors must find this amusing.

In the next few blog posts, I’ll show you how the hair goes from bundle to bracelet, but first a few other notes about getting your horse’s tail ready for a custom piece.

Harvesting Horse Hair

How much hair do I need for a custom piece? I get this question all the time. The Shopping page has more details on this, plus shipping, sizing, etc.

I recommend sending a shock of hair the width of your thumb and at least 14 inches long for a bracelet. This gives me more than enough hair to work with. The hair is usually not of uniform length. Lots of smaller hairs at the top of the bundle are too short for bracelets so that’s why I ask for such a big bundle. From that I’m able to tease out the longer hairs for a bracelet or two.

Bundles of horse hair.

Bundles of horse hair.

This photo shows many different-sized clumps of horse hair. The black bunch on the right is way too little hair. This is the only hair the owner had from her horse, and I’m hoping to eek a bracelet only because the strands are very thick and this tail is extremely long (43 inches!).

The two bunches in the middle are fine for a bracelet or two (if all the hair is the same length). There will be little if any hair left over.

The black bunch on the left could probably yield 3 to 5 bracelets, depending on the length of the hair.

Shipping the Horse Hair

When you send me the package (remember, I love getting those!), I suggest a method that includes a tracking number. This is especially true if this is the only hair you have from your horse because you no longer own it or it passed away.

I ship U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail. This method arrives in 2 to 3 days and has a delivery confirmation option, usually for free, if you ask for it. Delivery confirmation won’t tell you every stop along the way, it only tells you the date and time it arrived at its destination.  Delivery confirmation can be added to letters and other packages for a fee.

You can also use FedEx or UPS, which has tracking numbers with all of its packages.

The Horse Hair Jewelry page show you the different styles of bracelets I offer at this time. Many customers request special embellishments, so I’ve begun posting custom pieces on Flickr so you can get some ideas for other options. You’ll find it at www.flickr.com/redtaildesigns. In the future I’ll put a direct link on the home page to the Flickr site.

I’m off to start some horse hair jewelry!

Upcoming Events

Fall is looking pretty busy! In addition to my sudden craze to winterize the house, I have some fall events coming up. Some places you can find me:

Oct. 12: Horse Hair Earring Class: Create a pair of horse hair earrings with me at Out of Our Hands in Emmaus, PA. Bring your own horse hair or use what I have on hand. Loads of fun.

Oct. 18-19: Museum of Indian Culture Powwow. The crispness of fall near the Little Lehigh River is delicious. I’ll be demonstrating porcupine quillwork while others are dancing, drumming, singing and flint knapping. Check it out.

Nov. 15 & 16: Lehigh Valley Crafts Guild Holiday Marketplace: Bring your Holiday shopping list and check book and purchase some fine handmade arts and crafts. Not only can you find something for everyone on your list, you’ll support many local artists. I will at the marketplace with Melody and our booth will be filled to overflowing with jewelry, bags and other accessories. Stop by and say hi! Gift Certificates will also be available if just can’t make up your mind.

If you’re thinking about having a custom horse hair piece made for a Christmas gift, get your hair to me early! After November 26 a $20 rush fee will be added to all custom orders needed by Christmas.

Canning Jar Bling

Sparkle and shine from canning jar rims.

Sparkle and shine from canning jar rims.

My canning jars needed an upgrade. They’re hand-me-downs from my mom, so after years of pickles and preserves, it was time for new rims. But what to do with the old rims?

Turn them into dress-up bling!

They have all the necessary ingredients for 5-year-old jewelry bliss: jangly noises when worn together, shiny metallics, and sparkly beads.

My helper got creative and wove wire in and out of the holes, string beads along the way.

My helper got creative with the bracelet at the upper left. She wove wire in and out of the holes, string beads along the way.

Here’s how my 5-year-old and I made old canning jar rims into fun new bangles.

Supplies

  • old canning jar rims
  • block of wood
  • safety goggles
  • hammer
  • center punch
  • pliers
  • metal file
  • non-toxic spray paint
  • latex gloves
  • newspaper
  • Postion the center punch on the inside of the rim.

    Position the center punch on the inside of the rim.

  • screwdriver (for removing spray paint cap)
  • beading or craft wire
  • round nose pliers
  • beads
  • messy workbench (optional)

1. Place the side of the rim on the block of wood. Position the center punch where you’d like the hole and hit with hammer until you punch through the rim. Punch hole from inside to outside of rim. If a smidgen of metal remains in the hole, pull it off with a pliers.

2. After you’ve made as many holes as you’d like, file each hole with a metal file to remove sharp edges.

Filing the burrs.

Filing the burrs.

3. Spread newspaper in well ventilated area, don latex gloves and spray paint inside and outside of each rim. We used gold and silver and gave each band two coats.

4. After the paint has dried, add beads. Cut a 2 inch piece of wire. Grab the end of the wire with a round nose pliers and roll the pliers make several loops in a row. Thread wire through hole in rim, so the loop is on the inside.

5. Thread bead(s) onto wire. Cut excess wire so you have 1/4 to 1/2 inch of wire above beads. Grab the end of the wire with a round nose pliers and roll the pliers back toward the wire to make a series of small loops.

Little spirals of wire hold the beads in place.

Little spirals of wire hold the beads in place.

6. Although you are finished, allow the bracelet to cure for 7 days to a month so that the paints are non-toxic to the skin. Rust-oleum said its spray paint is nontoxic within 7 days. Krylon suggested waiting 30 days for paint to cure fully to a non-toxic state. If you’re not sure, call the manufacturer.

Safety and other notes

  • Always wear eye protection when hammering, filing and spray painting.
  • Be sure the paint you use can be worn against the skin and that it does not contain lead.  If you’re unsure, call the manufacturer. I used Krylon silver crafter’s paint and Rust-oleum metallic paint.
  • Spray paint can be removed from your forehead with nail polish remover.

Turqouise and Morning Glories

After I took the photo, I realized the beads are the same color as the morning glory in the background.

The beads woven into this bracelet reflect the colors of the morning glories in my garden.

This week I sent off four custom horse hair pieces to their owners. Hoepfully they’re all happily wearing them right now!

Custom work always makes you stretch. Sometimes it stretches an idea you already have.  This customer asked for turquoise-colored leather rather than the standard brown. Brilliant idea! I’m going to try some other colors in the future.

The bracelet is reversible so you can wear the horse hair side out or the leather side out.

The bracelet is reversible so you can wear the horse hair side out or the leather side out.

Other days it’s a stretch to find all the supplies. Inevitably, my manufacturer decides to discontinue the one finding I use a lot. Then it’s off on the treasure hunt again, finding a new supplier or replacement part. That was my reality this week as I worked on a quote for a new piece.

With the two round horse hair bracelets below, the client requested magnetic clasps so the bracelets were easy to get on and off. Part of that treasure hunt was finding super strong magnetic clasps that can withstand a little tugging. This is a bracelet after all.

Fabulous Four: Recent custom pieces.

Fabulous Four: Recent custom pieces.

Sometimes custom work just stretches your brain to create a new style that matches the vision of your clients. I have that challenge coming up as I embark on 5 new custom pieces in the coming weeks.

The most important thing I’ve learned from doing custom pieces is to capture a clipping of horse tail from your horse now.  I often meet people who wish they had some piece of their horse now that it’s gone. After their horse has passed they understandable don’t feel they can cut off a piece of its tail.

So if you do one thing today, make a momento of something important in your life. Whether its your horse, your child, a favorite fishing hole, a secret vacation spot, your best recipe, record the here and now of it. Take a picture. Write down what it stirrs in you. I know you won’t regret it.

Powwow Next Weekend

Dancer from the Spring Powwow

Dancer from the Spring Powwow

The August Powwow at the Museum of Indian Culture snuck up on me! It’s next weekend.

Thoughts of quilling turtles and birds got me up the hills on my 4-mile run the other day. Hopefully I’ll have time this week to put those ideas down on leather.

Visit the tipi in the LifeWays area.

Visit the tipi in the LifeWays area.

If you haven’t any plans for these beautiful days of summer, come on by and see Native American Indians show off their regalia and dancing skills. The Powwow runs from 10:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, August 16 and 17. Dancing doesn’t start until after opening ceremonies at noon. Then chow on a buffalo burger or Lakota taco. Yum!

I’ll be in the LifeWays area, demonstrating porcupine quillwork and selling my quill and horse hair jewerly. If you’re thinking of getting horse hair jewelry made, come on by with your tail. I can show you the styles in person.

Speaking of horse hair, I have a new Horse Hair Bracelet class coming up at Out of Our Hands on September 21, 2008. The class will last from noon to 2:30 p.m. and you’ll walk away with a horse hair bracelet you created with your own hands.

Porcupine quill plaiting technique.

Porcupine quill plaiting technique.

On September 20 I’ll be teaching Quillworking at the Museum of Indian Culture. Quillwork Part 1 will go from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Quillworking Part 2 will be 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

See the events page for more details.

Hope to see you next weekend!

Jewelry-Making Day 2: Soot and a Smile

At the torch with tiny wire and my nemesis the copper earring.

At the torch with tiny wire and my nemesis the copper earring.

I was back at the torch bright and early determined to leave the class with a pair of leaf earrings. I cut new patterns, sent them through the rolling machine, grinded, sanded, annealed (that’s metal-talk for heated with a torch), bended, annealed, bended again and welded the rod on.

Annealed copper leaves.

Annealed copper leaves.

Leaf cut outs and the earring goofs from Saturday.

Leaf cut outs and the earring goofs from Saturday.

Sending the leaf cutouts through the roller to get the shape.

Sending the leaf cutouts through the roller to get the shape.

That was the easy part.

See where I have that tiny little rod in my hand? I had to heat and bend that without melting it in half.

My pièce de ré·sis·tance for the weekend: the leaf copper earrings.

My pièce de résistance for the weekend: the leaf copper earrings. I liked the unpolished look, even though one has purple bands. The purple will eventually fade.

Doug Salmon, the instructor, was very up front with us on the first day: “I’m going to show you the hardest way to do things, so that from now on any other skill will be much easier to do.” He wasn’t kidding. This was hard.

Instructor Doug Salmon helps another student.

Instructor Doug Salmon helps a student.

An hour and 2 goofed earrings later, I had a fairly close match to my first earring. (Not to worry, the goofed earrings will be pendants.)

The thing about this, I realize, is that sheer determination will not yield results with this kind of work. Determination will get you to try again and mess up another 26 earrings, but only skill and learning to do it right will get you to create with this medium.

Doug is offering the next level class at his studio at Spruce Forest next month and I highly recommend his classes. He has a sense of humor, he isn’t afraid to let you burn up a bit of brass and he tells you there are more ways than his to metalsmith.

I am definitely not a stellar welder, but after this weekend I left with a some jangly jewelry, dirt under my fingernails, a bit of soot on my face and great big smile.

Jewelry-Making Day 1

The beginnings of copper earrings.

The beginnings of copper earrings.

Yesterday I played with copper and brass, hammers and grinders, acid and fire. And look what I made!

Finished cuff bracelets.

Finished cuff bracelets.

I had such a blast at my metalsmithing class and I can’t believe I get to do it again today!

I’m so impressed that I made this jewelry.

I can’t wait to work on these copper leaf earrings again today. The curlicue on top takes a lot of coaxing of the metal with the torch so you bend it without severing the rod. Ooops! That’s what happened to the other piece. But, I’ll bend the hook and make it into a pendant. I meant to do that, right?

Necklace pieces before hammering.

Necklace pieces before hammering.

The torch had me a little leery, but after a few tries I’m fairly confident with it, and I have all my hair intact (although I did come close to melting someone’s sunglasses).

The two cuffs were the first half of the day. Lots of filing, welding, buffing and bending. I also had a lot of grinding to do because, although I get along with the torch, I’m not adept at it, so I get huge blobs of brass instead of smooth joins.

Necklace to be assembled today.

Necklace to be assembled today.

We moved on to the necklace in the afternoon and today I’ll assemble it. I wanted to add different beads so after class I ran over to The Bead Works in Lancaster. The 18 gauge wire limited my choices, so I settled on these darker red stones and some gold beads.

I loved hammering out these shapes. More than just banging with a hammer, shaping the copper is what I imagine bonsai tree trimming must be like…you just know where to apply the tool next. I could have hammered out shapes all day.

Cooper and brass cuff ready to be welded.

Cooper and brass cuff ready to be welded.

My hands are a little stiff from all the bending and hammering and cutting with sheet metal shears, but I’m read to head off to class again today. The instructor is awesome; he doesn’t take himself too seriously and he loves letting us fix our mistakes.

Wish me luck that I can make a matching to that earring.

Off to Class

Fireman's name engraved on the back.

Fireman's name engraved on the back.

I sent this custom horse hair bracelet off a week or so ago.

Oscar's name engraved on the front.

Oscar's name engraved on the front.

Hopefully by now the owner of Fireman and Oscar has it in her hands or on her arm. Her friend had this bracelet made after she lost both of these horses in one short month. Her friend wanted a memorial of the two and asked me to make the bracelet with the stainless steel nameplated engraved front and back with the horses’ names. Both horses’ tails are woven into this bracelet.

The barn where she kept the horses also creates memorial stones for lost horses. The stones and bracelet arrived within days of each other so both could be presented at the same time to the owner. They were presented together so we’ll “only have her cry once,” her friend said.

Here’s to Oscar and Fireman.

On a lighter note, I’m off to class this weekend to learn metalsmithing with Doug Salmon. The class is through the Pennsylvania Guild of Crafters, and I’m hoping to come away with not only $175 worth of handmade jewelry (that’s the promise from the class literature), but also some new applications for my horse hair jewelry. I already have ideas brewing and hopefully we’ll cover ringmaking because I’m anxious to develop a horse hair ring using silver to protect the horse hair.

Someone suggested I could encase the horse hair in resin to prevent wear and tear of the horse tail. Obviously this was not a horse person, for he didn’t understand that horse people would actually want to touch the horse hair.

I realized this is only the second art/crafting class I’ve ever taken. Sure I had art class in school and learned a variety of crafts in Girl Scouts and from my mom. But last year’s Precious Metal Clay class was the first time I ever paid an expert to teach me something.

Interesting, considering how many different classes I’ve taught. I taught basic jewelry making at Michaels craft store, horse hair work at local stores and porcupine quillwork at the Indian Museum. All these crafts (and many others I’ve tried) were self taught, requiring lots of trial and error to get it right.

That was back in the day when I had seemingly endless amounts of time. Now, it’s great to have an expert show me in 2 days what I could take years trying to learn on my own. So off I go to burn up some silver (they’re not letting us near gold…too expensive these days!) and brass and copper. I’ll let you know how it goes.