Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rock Review: Chinese Writing stone

Chinese writing stone is a naturally occurring gem that is actually mined in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in California. Those who discovered the stone felt that the white crystal structure against the black stone looked like Chinese characters, hence the name Chinese writing stone. The majority of the stone is limestone, and the white flecks are andalusite crystals. Porphory is a second name for the stone exists which is rarely used in trade, though perhaps it is more PC. This gem is a recent discovery as rocks go. It was discovered during highway construction in the 1960's. It's beauty and durability make it a fantastic stone for jewelry making. It is a 5-6 on the Moh's scale of hardness, which makes it a reasonably tough stone. It is thought that Chinese writing stone is helpful in making a person dream. Pretty cool! Try sleeping with this ring on!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rock Review: Serpentine

Serpentine ( hydrated magnesium silicate)
More of a mineral than a rock, Serpentine is so named because of its green, yellow or brown hue which resembles the skin of a serpent. Handle serpentine with care because it is porous and relatively soft, ranging from 3 to 5 on the Moh’s scale of hardness (that’s out of 10). This means that it should not be cleaned with an abrasive and chemicals including perfume should be avoided.
Although you may not have heard of serpentine, it has been used for thousands of years. It was used in ancient Assyria to invoke special blessings from the gods. It has also been used as a healing stone to aid in stomach and kidney ailments when laid directly on the skin. Here is a link I found on how to alleviate back pain with serpentine:
Serpentine is found in New Zealand, China, Afghanistan, South Africa, USA, England, and Italy. While it is pictured here in a striking yellow with flecks of black hematite, it is also found in many other colors. Red, green, brown-red, brown-yellow and white are other colors varieties of the same mineral substance.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Droid Review

I am not the first to get very excited about any new-fangled technology device, but something incredible happened, and I had to share it.
Yes, I am rockin a new DroidX thanks to my mother in law who took a look at my old pitiful phone, and just couldn't stand it. She got me a new phone, and a good phone that will last more than a day out of warrantee.
To tell you the truth, I thought that this phone was a little too big. It wasn't my first pick for looks, but I was planning on getting a phone compatible with squareup--a credit card merchant device for small business to automatically get authorization on credit cards. I can't wait until that get hooked up, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I kept saying, "all i want to do is make phone calls." I'm sure you've thought the same thing. Unless you are one of the proud few who have discovered how fabulous it is to have a really smart phone. The latest Droid is fast. Very fast. and to make it faster, I installed "swype" an app that allows you to type a word by drawing a path between the letters on the keyboard, rather than tapping each letter individually. Swype is changing my phone experience completely. Between slow internet and slow typing on a glitchy touchscreen, e-mails didn't seem possible on my old phone. Now, I am writing e-mails, messages, notes to my self, notes in my google calendar and more.
That's not even the greatest part. When the voice command button is pressed, I can tell it to do anything! It goes way beyond the simple "call mom" responds impressively to commands like"navigate to...," "map of..."I get instant google searches for anything i say, and the prefix "note to self" sends my every word to my e-mail inbox.
Because the Droid is powered by google, every g-application is top notch. Gmail, for instance, is very easy to get to, fast, well organized, and because of my "swype" revolution in typing, easy to use.
Ironically, I tried to use the droid to post this, but for some reason I couldn't get the keyboard to appear in the text body block for blogspot. Lol, so I guess it falls short somewhere, but if you have any ideas for fixing that problem, I'd love to hear them :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday!
Brand-New Series Unveiled:
"Brandy Bracelet" Line by LayneDesigns

These new interchangeable pieces can be worn as either a bracelet or pendant. The best of both worlds!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oppi Untracht and the Jewel Mandala

I came upon this chart recently, and have been fascinated with the concept ever since. A student was reading a few pages from the beginning of Oppi Untracht's "Jewelry Concepts and Technology" when she stumbled upon this chart. She showed it to me, and I had a reaction of amazement that has stuck in my mind for nearly a week. I have read the entire chapter pertaining to this chart entitled " the jewel mandala" and have fallen in love all over again with Mr. Untracht.
He writes" The mandala deals with the functions that jewelry serves the wearer. Staring with the more basic uses which are later subdivided.....All of these uses relate to areas that consern basuc aspects of the human being: the self image, the root image, and the public image."
This chart is now poster-sized on the wall of my studio.
Rather than the simple intention of the jewel that Oppi discusses, from my perspective, this chart is like a roadmap to the destiny of the jewel (which is eternal--at least more eternal than we are) To take into consideration all of the roles that a jewel plays to a person, and in society has given new spark to my imagination which is constantly creating.
The chart is thorough and meticulous, mapping a jewel's purpose to anything from a remembrance jewel to a magic jewel, it continues by listing the ways in which a jewel might be used to remember, or assume special powers.
In the center of the entire chart (and this i find most fascinating) is Self image. Neither the jewel nor the wearer takes center stage in this intellectual display of the jewel's destiny. It is, rather, the image of self that determines the destiny of all jewels, even those which are purchased for investment or collection rather than for wearing.
Thank you Oppi Untracht, for your book Jewelry Concepts and Technology. Oppi Untracht passed away in 2008 at the age of 85. His books revolutionized jewelry making in America. He respected jewelry making as an art first, and an industry second, and he was the most thorough, knowledgeable, and well researched english speaking person on the topic of jewelry and metalsmithing. His book on Amazon. Thank you Oppi, for your absolute interest in sharing your knowledge, passing on the fine tradition of handmade metal arts. It is a dying trend for one to make anything with their hands. Thank goodness for your legacy of keeping it alive.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New! R.Lynn Photo Greeting Cards

R. Lynn's Etsy Shop is building an inventory of adorable cards for animal lovers, and the best part is that she is donating $1.00 from each card to Furever pet adoption center, a no-kill pet shelter start-up. These adorable cards are pur-fect for many occaisions, and they are blank inside for your creative input, and at only $3.50 each, you can make this wonderful donation for the same price as a card at the drug store!! Hurry to get your Halloween orders in on time!

Furever Home Adoption Center is an all-volunteer organization, and we are totally supported through private fund-raising and the good-will of the local community. Committed to the no-kill philosophy and to relieving the suffering of homeless animals, our vision is to make Lancaster County a safe-haven for animals

Thursday, September 23, 2010


(metalsmith version)
-Layne Freedline

think think thud
think think thud
I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier…
(it’s my best hammering song)
think think thud,
think think thud.
I’ve got soul, but
there is no clock
in my studio.
If my shoulder found out
that I had been hammering
for two hours
I think it would quit
by way of yelling and storming out.

think think thud
think think thud.
This is the easy part.
It’s getting late.
I’ve worked through
the intensity of miniature construction
torch in hand,
steady, straight, even, still
the heat builds in the body of the metal
creating connections,
a breath away from destruction,
over heating,
melting down.

think think thud
the day is a memory
Lazer like concentration
carried the little lovelies
through grinding, sanding,
A wheel rushing round
over 3000 rpm
horsepower ringing in my ears.
keep your corners crisp
Eagle eye,
keep your hands steady,
Don’t let go.
friction builds with screaming heat
the tiny stuff
gets hotter faster
It sticks around.

Tough, get back to it toughy
think think thud
think think bling.
A swing and a miss
Here she goes.
That’s enough.
A burn or a cut
wont shut me down,
but a missed swing
a knick in my anvil
That really does it.

Go to sleep my whirring machines.
The hand in handmade
is not as tireless as you.
I will recharge
and return
with spirited concentration.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to Keep Silver Jewelry Looking Brand New

It's no secret that silver tarnishes. A lot of folks out there prefer white gold because it is not prone to tarnish, and therefore less maintenance. I feel that silver is a gorgeous metal, more pure and honest than white gold. I like that it has character and coloration as it tarnishes. It grows mature, and it can do so gracefully and beautifully if you follow a few simple rules.

1. if you are not going to wear silver jewelry frequently, store it in small ziplock bags. Tarnish is a reaction of metal and air. If your jewelry is stored in a sealed container, it will inhibit tarnish.

The only exception to this rule is pearls. I'm not talking about a tiny pearl accent, but if you have a large pearl centerpiece, or a silver pendant on a strand of pearls, these should never be kept in plastic. Pearls are organic material, and they need to breathe. They turn yellow and brittle when kept in plastic for long time.

2. Do not keep your jewelry in the bathroom when you take a shower! The moisture in the air accelerates tarnish!

3. Especially with pearls and gems, but also for silver, jewelry should be the last thing you put on in the morning. After perfume, lotion, hairspray, etc...,

4. Wear your silver jewelry often :) Silver is continually polished by rubbing against your skin and your clothes. This will help the tarnish only to develop in the recessed areas, giving the design depth and dimension. The top surface should stay bright and clean! (of course it may be a bad idea to wear your jewelry for tough labor like moving furnature, gardening, etc.., duh! )

5. Clean your jewelry occasionally. You might not notice it, but your jewelry gets gross! bits of food, skin, lotion etc. can get stuck especially behind stones in your rings. Clean that stuff! It just takes some soap and water and a soft toothbrush. Always rinse thoroughly.

For a really deep cleaning, visit your local jeweler (or me!) and ask them to clean it while you look around. Most jewelers offer cleaning as a free service, even if you didn't buy the jewelry there. They may also offer to remove tarnish by dipping the jewelry in a chemical tarnish remover. Be sure to mention whether or not you wish to have that done. You can also do this yourself. See previous article "How to rejuvinate old silver jewelry."

That's all it takes! Silver is a quality precious metal, and it will last you a lifetime if you follow these few simple steps.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How To Rejuvenate Old Silver Jewelry

Last week, when my own sister brought me a bunch of "old" jewelry that she was going to "throw away" it really made me realize how the proper care for jewelry is relatively unknown to most folks. She gave me a handful of perfectly good jewelry which had been tarnished. The tarnishing happened so slowly, I think she was uncertain as to why the items didn't hold the same beauty as they once did. She determined that the necklaces and bracelets were just no good anymore. How Sad! I was floored that she didn't know that the tarnish was removable, and the jewelry could sparkle like brand new!

Silver tarnishes slowly over time. Tarnish is a layer that builds on the surface of silver when the air reacts with the metal. The good news is that there are many ways to remove the tarnish! I find it easiest to purchase Tarn-X which sells for 6.99 at Walgreen's. You can put some in a container and dip your silver jewelry in it. The chemical strips the tarnish right off silver! You may need to dip the jewelry a few times to get the full effect. After that, rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a towel.

Do NOT dip pearls, amber, coral, or treated gemstones (like mystic topaz or titanium druzy) in Tarn-x! That is the only restriction. These materials may be damaged by the strong chemical. Most other gems will not be effected by the chemical.

After your jewelry is looking sparkling and new from the Tarn-x, you can brush it with a soft toothbrush and tepid, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly again. Lay the jewelry on a towel, and pat dry with another towel. Air dry the jewelry overnight to insure that it is not stored with moisture in the crevices. Moisture accelerates tarnishing on silver. Do not keep your silver jewelry in the bathroom when you are taking a shower! This also accelerates tarnish.

If you will not be wearing the jewelry frequently, it should be stored in a plastic zip-lock bag to inhibit tarnish. Items that you wear regularly remain relatively tarnish-free because the metal is somewhat polished (actually burnished) by rubbing against your clothes and skin.

So now you know! Jewelry does not have a shelf life! Your old jewelry that doesn't look the same anymore is just in need of some TLC. Check out the following link for info on removing tarnish from flatware and other silver housewares:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Local Jewelry Designer Honored in National Competition

Philadelphia, PA – August 10, 2010 - Local jewelry designer Layne Freedline of Layne Designs ( was recently honored as a Top 10 Copper Circle Finalist in a national annual competition for emerging designers. The Jewelry Design Business Development Grant program, sponsored by jewelry supply wholesaler Halstead Bead Inc., awards cash grants and valuable business plan assistance to jewelry entrepreneurs.

Freedline’s style is bold and bohemian with a natural feel drawing inspiration from favorite artists such as Hokusai, Erte and Revere. Her passion for gemstones such as lace agate and druzies motivates many of her designs while her innovative work with silver and gold marks her pieces as progressive and quite unique.

“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to submit my Business Development plan for review by such a reputable business. To be placed among the Top 10 Finalists in the country is an incredible honor!”

Layne received her bachelor’s degree in Jewelry and Metalsmithing from Temple University and completed several apprenticeships before opening Layne Designs ( in 2008. Her designs have been honored by and published in Jewelry Artist Magazine, and she was honored by the PA guild of craftsmen as one of this year's best emerging artists.

Freedline was chosen as a finalist out of a highly competitive field of submissions from all over the United States. “Layne is a talented jeweler whom we are proud to name as a top finalist,” said competition judge Hilary Scott, “we look forward to seeing all that she can accomplish in this industry.”

Entrants in the competition were required to submit a design portfolio, business plan details, and written answers to several specific questions. The program is designed to support the dreams of talented jewelry artisans and encourage sound business practices as they build their small businesses. Detailed results and more information on the award are available at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

PA guild of Craftsmen Bold and Energized

I can not say enough about what a great show experience I had at the PA guild of Craftsmen fine craft show this weekend. The guild has built on nearly 70 years of experience in promoting and nurturing fine crafts in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. The show in Wilmington last weekend was gorgeous. The Chase center on the Riverfront was a top-notch venue with excellent staff and security.
I was drawn to participate in the Guild shows because of a new "emerge" program that is in it's very first year. The emerging artists who participated (including myself) had booths all in the same section, and it was great to see so much fresh new work. The program has generated a great deal of commotion, press coverage and new energy in in the guild.

I was pleased to take part in a meeting of members discussing the future of the guild. I was so interested that the organization was taking the time to get feedback from their members, and to embolden themselves with brave new ideas about how to bolster the art and fine craft market. Another topic of discussion was the "handmade movement." I quote it because, nobody knows quite the word for it. Many phrases are being coined by different organizations: Buy Handmade, Always Handmade, Give Handmade, to name a few. We are all interested in finding the phrase that will take off as the name of the handmade movement. Please share if you have any ideas.

The ideals behind this movement are both personal and socio-political. Buying handmade is good for your local economy, spending your precious dollars in a small business environment where the money will continue to be circulated in your immediate area. It is good for the environment to purchase something handmade rather than something pumped out in a factory. It is good for your community to have small studio businesses and handmade shops. It is good for your soul purchasing quality goods with personality which were made with human hands.

Bravo, PA guild, for a great show and great leadership. For making a stand for the arts, for spreading the love of handmade goods to a diversity of people. Thanks for being encouraged and invigorated by change and youth. And thank you for starting up the emerge program and making everything easy and digital for artists (I know it's not easy to do).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Logo Design: Please VOTE!

Hi All,
I have been meaning to put together a Layne Designs logo for ages. I am just starting, but I would really appreciate your feedback about which one of these three you like the best (there will be colors later on) I really struggle with logo design, and I feel that I'm on to something with this handwritten combinations of LD for Layne Designs. Let me know what you think, and thanks for taking the time!




Grateful and Thriving

Everything seems to be bubbling over with life and energy today. I have a notoriously never-ending to-do list, and I think that nothing could be better. I have learned to be very steady in my thinking, even when things seem out of control. I have also learned to FORGET about all of my business when I'm not working. I come home excited about my day and the things that were made and sold, but then I push it from my mind to enjoy a little solace from the hustle and bustle of being a one woman business owner, designer, fabricator, saleslady and shop mechanic.
A fellow artist once told me how privileged she felt to be able to make things for a living. In the middle of listing how many thing I had to do, I realized that she was right, and I should be grateful or get out of the business. It isn't so much the perks like getting to make your own hours that make this work a privilege. Inevitably, if you are working for yourself, you work more than 40-50 hours in a week anyhow. What is so great is the very tangible and literal satisfaction that an artist has in their work. Not only do we get to see physical results of our labor, but even better. We get to make every decision about the outcome. Our work is truly ours, very satisfying. That feeling of exhaustion at the end of a long day feels so good when you loved the making and the things that you made.
Enjoy your making, friends :) and tell me why you are grateful for it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Veggie recipes

A friend of mine asked for some vegetarian recipes the other day. When I finally got back to her, I realized that over the years, I have recorded more than a few of my own recipes. I usually cook in a very creative way. I make it up as I go along, and use what I have available to me. I wanted to share some tofu tips and some of my original veggie recipes for my friends out there. Be aware that the amount of each ingredient was some guess work on my part, so if it doesn't seem right to you--be creative and make it your own way :)

If you wanna get into making tofu, the trick is to freeze it first, then thaw it, and it gets tougher. Cut into little 1/2 inch cubes and cook in hot oil until golden brown (it takes a long time) -- throw in some soy sauce and spices, and you're ready to add it to stir fry, pasta sauce, and more....heck, you can even smother it in BBQ sauce and eat tofu BBQ sandwiches (YUM!)
Here are some more:

Layne's creamy spinach pasta:

1/2 pkg frozen or fresh spinach
4 oz cream cheese
1 packet of powdered veggie dip mix
1/3 cup plain yogurt (optional)
1 cup soy milk
1lb pasta (mini shells)
1/2 c gorganzola or blu cheese

start cooking pasta
sautee spinach in 1 tblsp olive oil
add veggie mix
when spinach goes limp, add soymilk, cream cheese, and yogurt
cook about 5 mn on med-low heat
add to cooked pasta-- top with gorganzola/blue cheese crumbles

Layne's Tofu meatballs:

2 blocks of tofu
1/2 can refried beans
1/8 cup soysauce
1/2 large onion
1/3 c parmasean cheese
salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, italian seasoning

put everything in a food processor and whip it into a paste, make balls or patties. Pan fry in 1/2" of olive oil at 300 degrees

Layne's lentil soup:

1/2 lb lentils, cooked (they cook like rice)
1/4 c bbq sauce,
1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp worchestershire sauce
1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 small eggplant chopped
1 can of mushrooms
1/2 squeezed lime for juice
2 tsp red wine vinegar
bay leaves and caraway seed

sautee chopped onion in the bottom of your soup pan for a few minutes, then add lentils--do not drain the lentils. Add all other ingredients, and if too thick, add more water until it seems soupy. Cook on low for an hour or more.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


It's not easy, you know. I try to keep my smile on, and retain the demeanor of a confident professional at all times, but I don't think anyone knows how much work that is. I've got a bulletin board that is a running to-do list. It is literally dripping with tasks to be completed. I've got to try to fix my tumbler (finishing machine) with a broken belt by the end of the week so that the necklace I just finished will have the same shine as the others. Why the end of the week? I'm driving to Maryland this weekend for the Gunpowder River Artfest.
And it's funny how nervous I am. Always, before a show, I am nervous. You wouldn't know it if you saw me there. Nails polished, and dressed my best, my job at the show is to put others at ease so that they feel comfortable buying. I can't be a nervous wreck. It is bad business. So here it is two days before, and I am wrestling my burning ball of nerves into a tiny box, locking it twice and swallowing the key.
Wish me luck.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stone Party

It's a funny thing, designing with gemstones. It becomes so serious. These tiny treasures are all packed in their own individual little bags, labelled and organized. It makes it difficult when you have to look at only one stone at a time so that they don't get all confused and disorganized. The issue of organization makes these pictures a glimpse of a rare event in the studio.
Stone party! Every once and a while, lots of the stones need to come out to play together to find their soul-mates. Carnelian mingles with turquoise next to sodalite and serephinite, and suddenly, colko agate falls in love with citrine, while rose quartz and spiderweb obsidian are making out in the corner. Some stones will leave the party alone, rouge individuals who wish for no company. The others will be paired and grouped with bright sparkling accents for the second design stage: sketching.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fashion/Style/Bridal event

Sunday, April 25th, 2010 - 2-6pm
Sponsored & hosted by: TRUST
249 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Soirée in the City is Philadelphia’s Premier Bridal & Style Event. Philadelphia brides, wedding and party planners, fashionistas and event planners rejoice: On Sunday, April 25th [2-6pm] Soirée in the City will feature the best in beauty, fashion, event décor and style at Trust, the most beautiful gallery & event space in Old City.

Bringing together the best of the industry, Soirée in the City will host a roster of high-end
vendors—from photographers and fashion designers to catering and gifts—all in one place. The
goal is to make preparation for the big day as seamless as possible, while at the same time helping to craft individual events that will be exceptional standouts for years to come.

“Soirée in the City was created as an alternative to the traditional bridal show. The emphasis of
this event is fashion elegance and style—everything that contributes to the overall look and
atmosphere of a celebration,” says Soirée founder organizer, Laura Eaton.

Attendees will be treated to complimentary cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The event is complete with a goodie bag and visit to the decadent Beauty Lounge, staffed by Béke Beau makeup artist and Tierra Mia Organic Nail Spa, all included with admission.

“This event isn’t just for brides,” continues Eaton. “Fashion, beauty and other creative vendors
round out Soirée in the City, making it accessible to anyone planning a party or looking for stylish
event options.”

Tickets are $15. To purchase tickets and view a complete list of participants, visit

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dovetail Artisans

Dovetail artisans is a gift shop/ gallery carrying primarily items handmade in North America. As my new motto is "Buy local, Buy Handmade." It is my new favorite stop for all kinds of baby and wedding gifts ('tis the season) or just shopping for a special item for myself. It has been a gift shop for many years, but was recently sold to Elayne Aion who renamed and remodeled the store with a great new look and new merchandise. I will be bringing my whole collection of jewelry out to Glenside for first friday May 7th from 6-8:30. See the website: for directions and more info.

Layne Design's spring poetry series of pendants and earrings are now available at Dovetail:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Studio Tour Part 5: Does Love for Torches make me a Pyromaniac?

This is my trusty little workhorse. We have a relationship. I mean, you have to really. At first he was a little wishy-washy...afraid of the commitment, you know. But now, we are so steady and happy together.

Ok, so all kidding aside, I had to wrangle this one. I know it sounds funny, but setting up a torch is a big deal, especially when your roomate is watching you hook up a propane tank in the corner of your bedroom in a tiny second floor Philadelphia apartment. "Is that safe?" She'll ask. Probably not, you think while wrenching away at the thing.

The thing is, I knew that I was taking this jewelry thing seriously from early on, so I didn't waste any time or money on the smaller, hobby version of a torch, and I can't tell you much about them. I went straight for the trusty standby that was the do-it-all tool in the busy shop of my first apprenticeship: Hoke, oxy-propane.

Hoke is the brand name of this torch, quickly recognizable by the front facing dual knobs and the quick change tips: The brass ones come standard, but require a wrench to change out. A set of quick change adapters giving the flame a quick and versatile range of size.
It was a clear choice, but not an easy one. I had to buy hoses, fuel valve regulators and an oxygen tank at a welding shop. I then had to go to a hardware store for a propane grill tank and an over-sized wrench.

As you picture me taking a wrench to a propane tank in my apartment bedroom, you may be asking the same question as my roommate. Is that safe? My answer is that no, it probably isn't safe to put a propane tank in your bedroom. It is not advised to keep a flammable fuel tank indoors. Why, then? because I was bound and determined to gain the skills of a serious jeweler. How did I avoid getting kicked out of my apartment? I may have put the laundry pile over the tanks when the landlord was around. Is that safe? definitely not.

After successfully tightening the hose to the regulators and the regulators to the tanks with a temendous wrench, I was feeling like Rosie the Riviter. After checking for leaks by applying soapy water and looking for air bubbles, it was the moment of truth. Time to light this thing.

It worked....kind of. the flame would light, but the knobs seemed almost squishy. They didn't stay in place. It wasn't that they were uber-sensitive. They would slowly fall back after being carefully placed. The trouble here is pretty serious. When too much oxygen is present, the flame becomes intense, hissing, and eventually blows out the flame with a startling pop of pressure in the torch tip.

Oh, What to do! the manufacturer says it's fine, just loosen the knob really far and put it back. A few metal-head friends took a look and had no bright ideas. I was resigned to the thought that it needed to be "broken in" All torches that I have used have seemed finicky at first. They are difficult to light and control. Fire is difficult to light and control.

And so it was. I may have had nightmares about leaving a tank on or a line unbled, but I learned by living with my torch about respecting its danger, and standing up to it. I never spoke much about the trouble it gave me, just kept on trying, trusted myself to take care of it properly, and remember always to shut down all parts.

Now, 6 years later, it works like a charm. I don't know if I broke it in, or if it broke me in, but we live in harmony, my torch and I. You'll be happy to know that we have a studio together now.
It has accomplished the promised versatility. It holds a flame that can melt a hunk of metal in a crucible to pour into an ingot. >>>>>>
Or a flame of less than an inch in length for joining tiny, delicate, gold parts.
Now, I am in torch-love and I would never trade it in for another, but that's not to say I wouldn't buy a bigger one just to have fun with.

Please research thoroughly any decisions to setup for a torch in your workspace. Follow manufacturer's instructions. This is not intended as an instructional guide for torches.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Studio Tour Part 4: Metal Forming

These are some of my favorite things: dapping blocks, anvils, mandrels and chasing tools....and my pink countertop....It makes me feel like a lady, even if I am wearing saftey gear while pounding out some metal.
The anvil on the left is a very classically Looney Toons looking one, but I probably use it less than the much smaller one to the right of it. The large wooden cutting board helps absorb some of the reverberation from hammering, but it needs bolted down because it jumps all over the place when I'm hammering heavy metal. It is a temporary solution until I can convince enough of my friends to help me move my 4x4 foot solid maple butchers makes a great surface for hammering, but it weighs a TON!

Below the counter-top pictured above, I have a shelf which doubles as a hammer rack. It was really simple to drill large holes in a row to keep the hammers organized. It is good to store your hammers in a rack....keeping then piled up in a box can damage the hammer heads if they clang into each other when you put them away.

Tool storage is one of the things that you really need to customize on your own to keep everything handy. There are some racks and fixtures available for craftsmen, but they are sometimes overpriced, and frequently do not reach your very specific needs.

The rolling mill pictured is not a fancy brand name, I bought it on Ebay, and it was the best deal I could find after price comparing for weeks. It does a great job. The flat steel rollers were in perfect condition, and the progression of the wire slots is comfortably gradual. It even has some 1/2 round wire slots on the right end.

The other tool pictured is a jump ring winder that I upcycled out of an old hand cranked grinding wheel....I just took off the wheel and welded a jacob's chuck to the axis.
A graduated set of round steel mandrels is used to wind the jump rings on. They are a little expensive, but after trying to cut jump rings off of a wooden dowel, the price of the steel mandrels didn't seem so bad anymore.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Studio Tour Part 3: Polishing

Polishing is integral to how I create jewelry. I like the look of a polished piece, and it is sometimes difficult to achieve. Often, items that are finished with a high polish are polished many times during the building process. Each of the parts are often polished before they are attached together. In this way, tiny spaces that are made from the attachment are pre-polished underneath, yet every time something is soldered to the piece, some of the shine is lost, and the whole piece may need polished again! This is especially true when working in silver as opposed to gold, which keeps it's shine better (not perfectly) through the soldering process.
This is the polishing area of my shop. Keeping it clean from the dust that flies when polishing is important to continuously achieving a serious shine. A powerful dust collector is very helpful in this matter, but even with one of these, there are particles that collect on the countertop. I keep a dustpan and brush close by to clean up before and after working here. That dust has metal in it, so I keep a bucket underneath to collect the dust for refining.
The wheels for each grit abrasive are kept in baskets with their respective compounds. Keep lots of fresh wheels handy. If items are not cleaned thoroughly between tripoli and rouge, they will contaminate a rouge wheel quickly. It is also a good idea to keep separate wheels for different metals.
Because I do a lot of polishing, I have started to wear gloves. They are similar to nitrile gloves, and simply tear away if caught in a wheel. I have heard a few conflicting philosophies on this matter. I have seen folks wearing nitrile or even heavier gloves while polishing. I have heard others say that it is dangerous to wear gloves while polishing because they may get caught in the wheel and cause injury to your hands. I am interested in any thoughts on this matter. As a teacher, I am uncertain what to tell my students about this as well.
My aloe plant happens to be in this picture, so I have to make note of it. I have had this big guy since he was just a cutting from another plant, and he loves it in my shop. I think my steam cleaner gives him the perfect level of No jewelry studio is complete without an aloe plant. It is good Feng Shui to share your workspace with healthy plants :)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Studio Tour Part 2: Organize Small Parts

Do you ever have something in your hand, and 5 seconds after putting it down, forget completely where it is? This happens to me all the time. It can be really frustrating. If it was something valuable like a gemstone, you get all upset about it, but if it is a tool, it is frustrating that you are spending so much of your time looking for it. Your jewelry making workbench, table, or tackle box is most likely full to the brim of small parts and hand tools. It is easy for things to get lost in the shuffle.
To remedy this problem, I have a few solutions.

1) Have designated container for all small parts pertaining to the current project. A small plate will do, or some people use their steel bench block. Also, try to keep small parts from different projects separate, in labeled envelopes or plastic bags.

2)Have a small table adjacent to your workbench or within an arm's reach of your workplace where you can keep all of the tools that tend to get lost. I keep all measuring devices on my separate table so that I never (or rarely) spend 20 minutes looking for a ruler. I keep my coffee here is farther away from all the dust and metal that flies around the workbench. The drawers below hold respirator and safety glasses, it is too tempting to get to work anyway even if you can't find your safety glasses. I keep several pair at an arm's reach, so there is no excuse...if you love your vision, keep it safe!

3) Also pictured, I keep wire solder in coils tacked to the wall. Everyone has their own system for labeling solder by putting a different type of bend in the end of the wire, be sure to write down your system somewhere that you wont loose it. I wrote it on the wall...There is nothing worse than being unable to use the solder you bought because you can't tell what grade it is.

4) I couldn't keep track of my scale for the longest time. It was a little pocket scale that had a black cover, and it would just disappear whenever I needed it. So a friend of mine gave me a tip: spray paint the cover of the scale hot pink or some really bright color. I did this, and now I never loose track of the scale. I'm sure it would work for any number of tools that just seem to get lost.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Studio Tour Part 1: The Workbench

Welcome to the Layne Designs virtual studio tour. Each week for the next several weeks, I will be photographing different areas of my studio and sharing what is done there, and how. I am also including tips for setting up your own workspace for jewelry students and hobbyists. There may be a golden idea for craftspeople of all kinds about how to set up a space efficiently. I am sharing this because I have found it extremely enriching to visit studio spaces of other artists, and hopefully this will be helpful for some of my readers. Please leave comments and questions that I can respond to during the tour!

It seems appropriate to start the studio tour in the place where I spend most of my time. Right here looking at this workbench. It is a double wide workbench, made for two people to sit side by side, but I have arranged to use the whole space for my efficiency. On the left I keep a crockpot of acid called "pickle" for cleaning the metal after soldering operations. The acid is then neutralized by a bath of baking soda water before work continues.
In the center is a Hoke brand oxy/propane fueled torch on a home-made hanger-- it is a good idea to have a place to hang your torch so that it does not have to be turned off every time you need to use both of your hands. Be certain that the hanger is tall enough and far enough away from any objects that could catch fire

The following image is of the main part of my workbench. It is arranged so that while working, as many tools as possible are within an arm's reach.

A: a measuring tape for sewing can be stapled across the front edge of your catch tray for quick measurements, and you always know where it is! (unlike some of my other rulers)
B: sharpstone- I keep a sharpstone on hand for shaping rubber wheels to fit in tight places and to keep gravers sharp
C: plate for spare parts- a small container (or tea saucer) It is helpful to keep track of your scraps so that nothing goes to waste. I to sweep most scraps to the upper right hand corner of the catch- tray, but the small parts like an extra jump ring or spare ear-wire are kept in the plate waiting to be used
D: bur collection-it takes a while to build a good variety-- I started with a small assorted shapes set, but found that most often, I needed a very particular size of each shape, so I have bought a set of graduated sizes in each of the following shapes: cylinder, setting, hart, bud, round, cup.
E: super glue aka cyanoacrylate I keep some of this handy for sealing bad cuts-- not necessarily medically advised, but on a clean cut, it stops the bleeding immediately and allows me to keep working after taping up the injury.
F: white out- works like yellow ochre to protect a solder seam from re-flowing while heating another part of the piece. The fumes are not good to breathe in...use only with proper ventilation and/or a respirator.
G: gluestick: use a gluestick or rubber cement to adhere a drawing to a sheet of metal for accuracy while sawing.
H: flux-to keep your large container of flux from getting dirty, transfer a small amount into a smaller container for on the workbench. It takes up less space too.
I: water jar for quenching hot metal
J: rubber wheels/sanding discs/brushes for flex shaft machine
K: pencils, sharpies and tinsnips
L:needle files and scribe
M: this is an assortment of fingertip protectors. They are made from leather and masking tape, and protect the finger most likely to be injured during a specific task.
N: steel bench block.
O:tweezers and solder picks,
P: Firebrick: a few different sizes and types of solder bricks help for proper set-up of the item to be soldered.
Q: put down a spare linoleum tile to avoid burning your bench if the heat makes it the whole way through the fire brick
R: Benchpin- you can use coarse files to alter your benchpin.. It may be helpful to file a notch in one end for working with tiny parts, or drill a hole the whole way through to work on the front of earrings with posts (good luck remembering which hole goes the whole way through!)

Another method for keeping more of your tools right by your side while working is to make home-made attachments and hangers. A nail driven halfway into the side of your bench is perfect for hanging your sawframe, and a home-made or even store bought drawer pull placed low on the bench drawer will hang all of your pliers nicely in a row. Part of the convenience of these specialty hangers is that it helps you keep track of your tools. You'll spend less time looking for that one pair of pliers if you know that they are always in the same place.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


One of the biggest problems facing bench jewelers and many folks who work with their hands is hand fatigue. RSS or repetitive stress syndrome is a more serious problem that happens as a result of regular constant work that puts stresses one particular part of the body. At my workbench I am constantly inventing tools or ways to use my tools that reduce stress on my hands.

The flexible shaft machine is a common tool among different types of craftspeople, and an outright necessity to a jeweler. For the unfamiliar: it is a handheld rotary tool like a drill with a long flexible cord that attaches to a hanging motor. It is similar to a Dremmel tool, (what they use in nail salons to buff acrylic nails) but more powerful.

The reason that a felx shaft machine is preferred to a handheld drill is because of its compact, lightweight hand-piece. It can be used comfortably for hours. Yet hours each day for weeks on end, that hand-piece can start to feel like a lead weight. So I have devised a clever solution. It is not appropriate for all jobs, but it works great for some.

I present: the mini-lathe. I found a miniature vice at an antique shop years ago, and had to have it because it was so very cute. It had no purpose at the time, but followed me for years, and finally a few weeks ago it found it's golden purpose in life: to hold the handpiece of my flex shaft machine sideways so that it can be used as a miniature lathe! Oh for joy! It is seen below used with a abrasive-impregnated rubber cylander for sanding and polishing small parts-- especially the ends of earring posts.

It is a huge relief on my hands to be able to let this perfect tiny vice hold the machine for me while I do tedious time consuming jobs. If you plan on trying something like this there are a few things to note:

-Be sure not to crush the hand-piece of the machine with the vice...and it's probably a good idea to try this only on your own equipment> if you are going to be an inventor, you have to invest in your own tools because you can't take a risk on public or community studio equipment.

-Always take the proper safety precautions especially when working with rotary equipment: wear safety glasses and be sure not to have loose hair or accessories that could get caught in the machine

-You have less control over the machine when it is held this way-- pay special attention to the angle that you are holding the metal

-Rubber wheels can cut through the metal very quickly, it is not advised to use them on flat surface, as this could create divets or ripples-- use sandpaper the old fashioned way for flat surfaces

--Be sure that the vice is secured well-- if securing it to your benchpin as I have done, be sure also that the benchpin is secure!

--Be careful if using pliers to tighten wingnuts especially on old equipment, it is possible to over-tighten and break the wing off the threaded portion (this is extremely difficult to fix)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Healing Gem Stones and Chakras

There are many mystical and diverse beliefs in cultures all over the world about gemstones. While some of these beliefs may be simple myths, it sure does awaken the fantastic whimsy in all of us to think that a stone holds special power. While some of the folklore is complex and difficult to remember, the Chakra system and related healing stones are simple and easy to remember.

Each of seven chakras in the body are considered to be like a vortex of energy or an aura of color. Auras are a common idea throughout many cultures including Christianity where images of Christ are always represented in medieval times with a halo. The Chakras are from Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. In the Chakra system, each aura center is associated with a different area of the body, certain organs, and even certain emotions. The associations can be very specific, but looking at this chart, it is simple to draw some conclusions. The rainbow colors are easy to remember. They begin at the very base of the spine and groin area with the red root chakra. This chakra is associated with primal survival needs, it represents foundation, groundedness, and animal nature among other things.
A more extensive knowledge of the influence of each chakra requires a great deal of study. The simple part is that each chakra is thought to be healed, balanced or energized by gemstones of a corresponding color. Therefore, all red stones: ruby, garnet, red jasper, bloodstone, rose quartz, coral etc,... are used with the red chakra.

A quick list of Chakras, general associations, and gemstone associations:

Crown Chakra: color-violet, located above the head, represents a persons conectivity with the universe, Gemstones: Amethyst

Brow Chakra: color-indigo, ocated between the eyes, effects the eyes, nose and ears, Gemstones: azurite, lapis lazuli

Throat Chakra: color-blue, located at the throat, effects thyroid, voice, and breathing, Gemstones: sapphire, blue topaz, aquamarine, turquoise, chrysocolla and sodalite.

Heart Chakra: color-green, located at the center of the breastbone, effects heart and circulatory system, relationships, Gemstones: Emerald, aventurine, jade, chrysoprase, toumaline, malachite, peridot

Solar Plexus Chakra: color-yellow, located between the naval and bottom of the ribcage, effects the pancreas, liver, gall bladder, digestive system, and sense of identity, Gemstones: topaz, citrine, amber

Sacral Hara Chakra: color-orange, located in the reproductive organs, effects reproductive system and sexuality, Gemstone: carnelian, fire opal

Rooth Chakra: color-red, located at the base of the spine, effects kidneys and equilibrium, Gemstones: ruby, garnet, red jasper, bloodstone, rose quartz, coral

So how does one use these stones for their benefit? Just relax and hold a turquoise over your throat if you have lost your voice, or maybe wear a jade necklace if you have a relationship problem. This is by no means medical advice, but it is ancient belief, and you never know what might happen. Of course you should consult a doctor for any serious medical problems.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Natural surface gems

Possibly the best part of my job is shopping for gemstones. Who wouldn't love shuffling through piles of beautiful sparkling gems looking for the ones that speak to you as a designer? Then the anticipation as the gems are filed and stored and waiting to sit down with you and your sketchbook to be dreamt (is that a real word....maybe dreamed?) into stylish jewelry pieces.

Traditional gemstones are classically beautiful, and often carry a lot of meaning to the wearer. Some are birthstones, and are good luck for the wearer. Others are thought to heal or relieve certain ailments. The history of folklore behind gemstones goes as far back as the ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures. For instance, the Greeks believed that an amethyst in a persons goblet could stave off drunkenness. The really funny part about this piece of folklore is that an amethyst dropped in a goblet of water makes the water look like wine. I suspect that if a person's guests were drunk enough, they could save quite a lot of wine by trading off for this trick late in the evening. Especially considering that the Greeks were notorious for their long lasting feasts flowing with wine.

The gems pictured here might not remind you of any that you are familiar with, but many of them are related to gems that you know of. The long slice of crystals in the top image is actually amethyst in its naturally occurring form. The white and black stones are opal with fossils trapped inside! A lot of stones that you might not recognize have a very interesting story. I am fascinated with the story of their creation.

Most of what is pictured here is druzy. Druzy is a word referring to the stones that seem to have glitter across the top surface. The glitter is natural! These gems are created when water saturated with silicate is pressured into porous rock underground. If this water and rock are cooled rapidly, the silicate in the water fuses with the rock and sort of freezes into these tiny crystals! How cool is that?! Maybe it's the science geek in me, but I just love to learn about how these fancy rocks came to be.

Monday, February 1, 2010

NY International Gift Show and Spot On Designs

The New York International Gift Show is immense. It seems impossible to see every corner of the vast showroom floor. Vendors from all over the world are separated into categories like handmade, just for kids, house wares, wearables.....etc. Some areas are separated into the product's country of origin. I got lost in one section so large that I became panicked with the thought that I couldn't find my way out!

I was there to show my support and congratulate a very special person. Her name is Penny Rakov, owner of Spot On Designs. I found her booth tucked into the handmade section and she was smiling brightly. Penny worked so hard to get here. This show is for retailers to purchase items at wholesale to stock their gift shops, boutiques, museum stores, etc... and despite paying thousands for her 10 by 10 feet of glory and being shuffled into the mix of a few thousand vendors, Penny's show is a sucess. She has done wholesale shows in the past, but never a show with such a huge amount of traffic!

Penny makes beautiful glass murrini. The process for making the murrini is really fascinating. She creates patterns from bars of colored glass and then goes to a hot glass shop to heat up the patterns and stretch them out. Later, after annealing and cooling, the long bars are sliced to reveal the patterns. The results are incredible. Each of her patterns is like an original wonderland with intrinsic detail. She has a great eye for color, making some really exciting blends. One looks like candy, the next like a summer sky, another like a plant cell under a microscope.

Penny and I have been working together for a few years now. She hired me to set her murrini into artisan crafted jewelry pieces. The opportunity was very exciting for me, as I had just opened my own studio and needed to generate some regular income to keep it open. Our relationship has grown as has the product line. It started out as a few pendants, bezel set in sterling silver. Later we made some items in gold. Eventually we started working on stunning neckpieces involving up to nine murrinis scattered like a constellation around the neck.

Our latest project was my favorite: a line of cocktail rings that are real show-stoppers. I have really enjoyed using more of my skills to create a design for these rings that relates to the pattern in the "stone" (we call them stones when we talk with each other - even though they are glass) The under side of the setting is a dome of silver with a spattering of holes drilled to let in the light like a stained glass window. The rings are generally quite large, stones ranging from the size of a nickel to more than 2 inches in diameter! Quite a lot for a ring!

So way to go Penny, taking the world by storm and vending at a REALLY big show. Thanks for letting me be part of it, and way to be a happening entrepreneur. For more info on Spot On Designs check out the etsy store: