Well Yes, I am talking about Jewelry Making!

When I started this blog I was interested in focusing only on painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture in Baltimore. I’m interested in supporting individual artists and I also want to shine a light on exhibits that interest me — in galleries and museums in the region.

While I still plan to do this, my own work has shifted from writing about art to making jewelry in a variety of materials.  I am an art historian and also a jeweler and so I want to talk about both of my passions!

I volunteer as the manager of the Gallery at the Studios at the Fox Building in Baltimore.  We have mounted several shows in the past year — all of them falling into the realm of the fine arts — and now we will be mounting a crafts show this spring! Stay tuned for more posts about jewelry making, tools and supplies, and jewelers in Baltimore.



Do You Want a Terrific, Affordable Rolling Mill that is American made?

When I first began making jewelry I made the mistake of buying a cheap rolling mill for under $200.  The mill was almost impossible to crank, and I ended up re-tearing a rotator cuff in the process!  There is no reduction gear box on this machine and so it would take Sampson to run a sheet of metal through the rollers.  There were other problems with the cheap mill.  It was impossible to keep the rollers aligned, and the metal came out distorted and the patterns on the metal were too light.  All in all the mill was a disaster and I stopped using it.

I finally bit the bullet and purchased an affordable, but much higher quality rolling mill from Pepe Tools that I found on Amazon.  It is also made in the USA, which is an extra plus in my book.  The 130 mm plain mill should last many years, if I take good care of it, and I’m looking forward to increasing my jewelry production.


The seller describes the features of this finely made mill:

  • The rollers are 130mm wide x 65 mm diameter and are mirror finished after machining,  and induction hardened to 65HRC (Rockwell Hardness). The maximum opening from 0 – 7.5 mm
  • This model has a  4:1 Reduction Gear Box machined from aircraft quality aluminum, then anodized black for durability; Precision Hobbed Gears from Solid Steel (not casted gears)
  • Rolling Mill Body is one piece solid construction cast from precision steel for ULTRA strength and durability; Handle is forged, not cast with an ergonomically designed wood handle
  • Easily mounts to your workbench using the mounting holes
  • Professional Quality at an affordable price and Made in the USA

I am looking forward to posting more about the Pepe mill, when I begin to use it in the studio. So far I’ve run a few tests, but haven’t yet experimented with a variety of materials.  More to come in the near future!

Jewelry Supplies Not Readily Available in the Baltimore region

In my last post I talked about ordering a melting furnace online. The internet is the only option for most jewelry making tools, because there is no brick and mortar shop that sells more than the very very basic tools and materials in the Baltimore/Washington region.

If you want to shop and see and touch your items it is necessary to go to Philadelphia, where there are at least two large supply houses, or to NYC, where most tools and materials are available.

The popularity of internet sales has driven many brick and mortar shops out of business, even in these two major cities. The amazing metal supply store in NYC, Metalliferous, has moved to an online only format. What a shame! I suspect the rent was outrageous and having to pay knowledgeable staff was likely expensive. Now, you can shop online for their items at http://www.metalliferous.com   Not as satisfying as walking the isles of a well stocked shop.

I now buy copper either from riogrand.com, or from a number of different suppliers that can be found on the internet.  I just ordered this 24 gauge, 6″ x 12″ copper sheet from Amazon, and plan to comparison shop for different thicknesses and sizes. Copper is no longer a cheap material and so it is important to shop around.  The cheapest isn’t always the best deal, though.  I once ordered about $50 worth of copper sheet to find that it was scratched and cut crookedly!



Jewelry Making in Baltimore – Classes and Tools for the Studio

There are many jewelry classes offered in the Baltimore region. Still, many of them are for beginners, and the focus is usually a simple beaded project or a wire wrapped bead.
Finding affordable classes/instruction that offer more is difficult.

The Baltimore Jewelry Center is a great resource, but the cost is high, and the location is iffy. They are on North Avenue, in a refurbished theater building. The interior of the building and the shop space are very handsome, but parking is an issue, and the neighborhood is dangerous.
The Jewelry Center is also stuck in a rut when it comes to the class format. They want to compete with college-level offerings, and so they devote too much time chatting/lecturing and showing poor quality slides. The reason for this time-waster may be that if you want to work on a project on-site, you must rent bench time at $10 per hour!!
In the Woodberry neighborhood, the Gem Cutters Guild’s focus is on cabochon cutting, but they also offer metalworking classes. The group members are somewhat disorganized, though, and so the offerings are few and far between. It is worth taking their metalworking class because student members who have passed this can attend open shop– after paying a meager annual fee that is under $100! A better deal by far than the Jewelry Center.
There are still lots of processes and equipment that the two local shops do not offer. One is a reasonably priced machine to melt silver and other metals. Melting silver with an acetylene/oxygen torch is laborious and sometimes dangerous. With an electric pot like the one below, it is possible to melt larger quantities and also have a safe way to pour the molten metal into your mold.  This item is pretty affordable at under $400.

I will  probably purchase a cheaper model, hoping that it does the job and lasts a couple of years.

The model above lists for under $170 and has very good reviews on Amazon.  The one hitch is that you have to use propane, but the company advises using a small butane tank like the ones that you can purchase in a hardware store.  Not as cumbersome and dangerous as using a larger tank, like my acetylene set up.  The Deluxe Mini Kwik Kiln Propane Furnace includes the kiln, tongs, Anhydrous Borax, 2 crucibles, and a graphite ingot mold.  You can melt gold, silver, copper, brass and aluminum in this furnace, all that I’ll need in my studio.  PMC Supplies offers this on Amazon, a reliable company that always stands by their products.

Second Opening for the Hampden/Woodberry Artists’ Exhibit at the Studios at the Fox Building Gallery


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The most recent exhibit at the Studios at the Fox Building highlighted the production of Hampden/Woodberry artists. There were 13 participants, with more than 50 works, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs.
The opening, on June 28, was crowded, with more than 120 people in attendance. The closing, on July 19 was also well attended, with more than 60 visitors, even though the weather was abominable, with temperatures of more than 100 degrees! This was Artscape weekend, guaranteed to be the hottest of the year.

The most recent exhibit at the Studios at the Fox Building highlighted the production of Hampden/Woodberry artists. There were 13 participants, with more than 50 works, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs.

The opening, on June 28, was crowded, with more than 120 people in attendance. The closing, on July 19 was also well attended, with more than 60 visitors, even though the weather was abominable, with temperatures of more than 100 degrees! This was Artscape weekend, guaranteed to be the hottest two days of the year.





Opening – Studios at the Fox Building, Baltimore – May 31st, 2019, 6:00-9:00 pm


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studios fox building 2


The Fox Building in the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore is an example of a successful refurbishment of an old factory building.  The adaptive reuse of this early 20th- century structure helps keep intact the neighborhood’s  rich industrial history. This was the original home of Noxzema and more recently, Fox Industries. The structure has been transformed into a vibrant mixed-use community of apartments and artist work spaces. Many of the building’s original features have been retained and restored, such as original maple wood plank flooring, glass block windows, soaring ceilings, and much more.  On the front side of the building are loft-style apartments, and the 18 studios are located in the old loading dock area in the back.

The artists will mount a first annual “Artists’ Showcase” at the end of May. The opening is scheduled for Friday, May 31st, and the artists will be there to talk about their work. A wide variety of disciplines and techniques will make for an exciting show.  The group includes painters, photographers, print makers, fashion designers, jewelers, actors and sculptors.

Join us in celebrating this newly revitalized space!

Meet Chris Darway and Learn the Aura 22 Technique: Master Jeweler Holds Class at the Gem Cutters’ Guild, Baltimore, September 8th.

Sign up here:  http://www.gemcuttersguild.com/content.aspx?page_id=87&club_id=331066&item_id=805858

Torch Fired Aura 22 with Chris Darway: Applying Gold to Fine Silver, Sterling and Copper

: Visiting Artist,  Chris Darway

Date:  Saturday September 8th, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.


Aura 22 was developed to be used on fine silver metal clay as an alternative/supplement to Keum-Bo. This new method allows us to apply Aura 22 to not only fine silver but sterling and copper. Instead of a kiln we’ll use a torch. Once fired the material can be rolled, fold formed, soldered on, drilled and etched. Aura 22 fired pieces are perfect for enameling.

Join us for this one day introduction to Aura 22 Gold.

Materials cost is included with tuition.

Kit includes:
1) One
 gram package of Aura 22, a liquid gold material, which is 91.6% pure gold and 8.4% fine silver. This precious metal is able to fuse to silver, copper and brass at low temperatures, creating in a layer of gold considerably thicker than that achieved by electroplating. The result is a deep golden color that is hard wearing.

2) Wetting solution

3) Two small brushes for application


Enduring Concerns II: Next Show by James Hennessey


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Eutaw Grey: oil on canvas

James Hennessey’s exhibit at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, Enduring Concerns, closed a few days ago on January 13.  Part II of Enduring Concerns has opened at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Lazarus Gallery. 131 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, Md., 21201,

About 25 different paintings are hung in the spacious gallery space. Not one repeat from the last show.  This exhibit offers a fresh look at Hennessey’s production from the past 50 years.  He came to Baltimore in 1966 to teach at the Maryland Institute, where he was a member of the painting department for 37 years.

MICA’s Exhibition Department released this description:

Enduring Concerns: Paintings by MICA’s James Hennessey

A career-spanning exhibition by the MICA emeritus faculty member, focusing on work produced in Baltimore from 1965 to the present day.

Reception: Thursday, Feb. 15, 5 – 7 p.m.

James J. Hennessey earned his undergraduate degree at Illinois Wesleyan University and a graduate degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he studied with Richard Diebenkorn, Wendell Black, and Roland Reiss. Hennessey’s first teaching position was at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he was hired in 1960.

In 1962, one of Hennessey’s paintings was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s (MOMA) exhibition, “Recent Painting U.S.A., The Figure”. The show was a juried exhibit that subsequently toured the country after the New York opening. In the same year, the American Academy in Rome, Italy awarded Hennessey “The Rome Prize”. As a result, he was in residence for two years in Rome and exhibited in several galleries both in Rome and Milan.

In 1965 Hennessey joined the faculty of MICA, where he taught until he retired in 2002. During this time he accrued an extensive exhibition record with works shown in New York at the Marilyn Pearl Gallery, the Boris Mirski and Alpha Galleries in Boston, and at the Pensler Galleries in Washington, DC, among others. He directed programs for students, faculty, and professional artists in Italy and France, including the MICA Italian Program in Sorrento, Italy, and the Alfred and Trafford Klots Residency Program in Rochefort-en-Terre, France. His paintings continue to be fueled by his extensive European experiences.

James Hennessey maintains an active studio in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.


Lapidary Class at the Gem Cutters Guild

Basic Lapidary @ Gem Cutters Guild Studio,

3600 Clipper Mill Rd #116, Baltimore, MD, Saturday March 3rd and Sunday March 4th, from 10:00 to 4:00

lapidary stones


Register Here

This class is an introduction to the basics of cutting and polishing gemstone cabochons.

You will learn how to form cabochons in several shapes from agate and jasper stone slabs. We will also explore gems and minerals in the rough state & learn about tools and equipment used in the lapidary arts.

You may bring your own stones to class for discussion.

$205 members—$225 non-members.

Register online @ http://www.gemcuttersguild.com — or email Jackie@ http://www.jackieO.net

dave lapidary

The class is taught by Dave Mitchell, who has many years of experience cutting and polishing stone, as well as collecting specimens out in the field.

Gem Cutter’s Guild, Baltimore, Maryland offers jewelry making classes as well as training in lapidary


 Wire Wrapped pieces by Jackie Orsini

The name of the Gem Cutter’s Guild is a bit of a misnomer. While many of the members are interested in lapidary–the cutting of stones–this is not the single focus of the group.  Jewelry making is a prime interest and the Guild offers classes in jewelry fabrication as well as the lapidary arts.  Classes are scheduled year round.

As Wikipedia states, A lapidary (lapidarist, Latin: lapidarius) is an artist or artisan who forms stone, minerals, or gemstones into decorative items such as cabochons, engraved gems, including cameos, and faceted designs. The primary techniques employed are cutting, grinding, and polishing.  After cutting stones in the Guild shop, members can incorporate their cabochons in a finished piece of jewelry.

The jewelry classes include metalworking and fabrication, courses in patina, fold forming, wire wrapping, soldering, bezel making, torch fired enamel and Precious Metal Clay, and more. Metals used in class include sterling silver, fine silver, copper and brass.

pam jeffries

Necklace by Pam Jeffries

The Guild studio is a well equipped space that offers the student the opportunity to learn the techniques of jewelry fabrication, using the tools that one might not have in a home studio.  There is a line of Foredom Flexshafts, saws, grinders, soldering stations, kilns, work tables and much more.  All of the tools are available for student use, and the shop keepers make certain that the tools are in good working order.

This year (2018) the Gem Cutters Guild will offer a series of classes that are available for very, very reasonable prices.  Tuition is kept as low as possible, keeping in mind that the Guild is a non profit organization, which is interested in spreading knowledge about gem cutting and jewelry making. Some of the classes being offered this spring include Basic Lapidary, wire wrapped stones, torch fired enamel and more.

Soon, a calendar of events and a schedule of classes will be posted on their website:

The Guild’s Website

For directions and more information: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gem+Cutters’+Guild-Baltimore/@39.3313227,-76.6423823,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x25fd74bb18fd8be6!8m2!3d39.3313227!4d-76.6423823