Go HERE for the first post on how to design and shape the mask.

Copper Jaguar Mask

Copper Jaguar Mask

The Copper Jaguar Mask could be used as it is, but I want to add spots and fabric decorations.

RIVETS:  A jaguar’s spots (like the markings on any spotted or striped cat) are unique to the individual, just like human finger prints.  Even black jaguars have spots, though they may not be visible except in bright sunlight.  But the spots on the mask will be highly stylized decorative rivets for a 3-D look.  Rivets are small cylindrical pieces of metal that are commonly used to join two pieces of metal without heat (in blacksmithing, large steel rivets are heated, though the pieces to be joined may not be). 

I drew dots on the copper with a permanent marker and used a drill press to drill holes from the inside of the mask, with the metal resting on a block of scrap wood.  The three hole sizes fit the three sizes of wire that I chose for rivets. 

Holes Drilled for Rivets

Holes Drilled for Rivets

Copper wire in gauges 14, 10, and 6 was annealed to soften it.  (Rivets smaller than 16 are more difficult to set, and anything larger than 6 is quite heavy).  The pieces of wire must be long enough to form a substantial domed or flattened “head” when they are hammered in, but not so long that the shank bends sideways or protrudes from the sheet metal.  For this project, I cut pieces of wire about 3/16″ long, and file the ends flat and smooth.  I usually lay the metal on the anvil for riveting, but the convex surface of the mask needed a domed support.  Fortunately I have a specialized tool for the job:  a forming stake, bought years ago from another blacksmith, made from a trailer hitch ball welded to a length of heavy square bar that slides into the hardy hole on my anvil.  For each rivet, I laid the mask right-side-up on the stake, put the rivet in the hole, and carefully hammered the end of the wire with the ball end of the hammer.  I worked on the edges of the rivet first, to stabilize it, then hammered the center to flatten it, and hammered the edges again to create a dome.  I flipped the mask over and hammered the rivet a couple of times from the back, just to make sure it was securely fastened into the metal.  Here’s the finished mask, with a closer view of some of the rivets.


Jaguar Mask - Rivets

Jaguar Mask - Finished


Moon Pebble Necklace

October 15, 2009

I’ve been collecting round white quartz or chalcedony pebbles for many years, and for a long time I had an ever-changing series of them them arranged on a round “Dark Moon Turtle Shell” mandala in my studio, to represent the 13 moons of the year.  I have been (and still am) drawing the more interesting ones for the “Stones” half of my “Sticks and Stones” oracle.  But I have always wanted to make some of them into a necklace.  It took awhile to find the right beads to go with the stones, but the result was this Moon Pebble Choker.  Holes were carved with small diamond drills.  Pebbles were wrapped with 16-gauge copper wire (silver might seem like a more appropriate choice for a moon necklace, but it needs frequent polishing.  The copper will tarnish gracefully and be a better match for the rough, earthy beads).  The antique African forged iron beads are of two different types:  bicones and simple flat-sided heishi.  There are also two African bronze beads, my forged iron s-hooks (a little thicker than the ones I make for earrings) and 14-gauge copper wire hooks on a 4mm round natural leather cord.

Moon Pebble Necklace

Moon Pebble Necklace

Stones:  (Left to right in photo).  All are unpolished natural pebbles, but #5 has simple carving.  I collected all except #1 and #8.

1.  Beach pebble of hydrated Florida fossil coral agate.  One of several stones that I inherited from a friend. 

2.  Hydrated chalcedony nodule with a uniform network of surface cracks.  Oligocene White River Formation, Pine Bluffs, WY.  “Hydration rinds” are common on chalcedony and chert pebbles that have been exposed to groundwater or weathering at the earth’s surface for a long time.  The weathered part of the stone becomes white, porous, opaque, and relatively soft.  This can be a thin “skin” or rind on the outside of the stone (#3,4), or just one or two spots (#6), or the entire stone (#1,2,7).  Hydration rinds are common on petrified wood and even some flint artifacts.  In chalky or clay-rich rock, chert may acquire a hydration rind while still embedded in the rock, which is what happened to this pebble.  Basically it is “snakeskin agate” (see #8) that is completely hydrated.  

3.  Beach pebble of hydrated brown chert with a natural cuplike hollow, Nags Head, NC.

4.  Pebble of gray flint with white hydration rind, Cretaceous chalk, Salisbury Plain, England.

5.  Creek pebble of vein quartz from metamorphic rock, northern Virginia.  Carved with a crescent moon and two rings.

6.  Chalcedony ventifact (wind-polished pebble) with white hydration spot.  Prairie gravel near Cheyenne, WY.

7.  Lake Michigan shore pebble of hydrated chert from Ordovician limestone, Chicago, IL.

8.  Snakeskin agate with thin reticulated hydration rind, Oligocene, eastern Oregon (purchased at a rock shop).

9.  Chalcedony “button” from volcanic gravel near Tucson, AZ.


October 12, 2009

Well, I didn’t expect to take such a long break from the blog, but self-promotion hasn’t been a priority lately, and life has been alternately chaotic and lethargic, so I have several projects in the works but have not finished much.

We have a magical plant growing wild in our backyard.  This is the Chiltepin, Capsicum annuum, the wild “Mother of Chiles” that is the ancestor of all cultivated chili peppers.  It is one of the most sacred, mythical, and useful plants in the New World.  Despite the scientific name, it is not an annual, but a delicate perennial shrub that usually grows in the shade of a “nurse tree” (in my case, an old and often-pruned pyracantha which also shades a couple of young desert hackberry trees).  Although primarily a native of mountain forests in Mexico, the chiltepin does grow in a few widely scattered localities in Arizona, Texas, and the eastern U.S.  The seeds do not germinate easily, which makes the plants difficult to cultivate and is probably one reason that they are so rare in the wild.  The tiny white starlike flowers are followed by green oval fruits that are only about 1/4″ long.  The ripe chiles are bright red and will dry naturally on the stems as the plant dies back for the winter (unless the birds eat them!)  They are among the hottest chiles in the world (hotter than the habanero, which usually claims the “hottest pepper” title) but their fierce heat does not last long.

Half hidden under the stout pyracantha branches (heavy with their own berries, now turning orange), the wild chile sparkles in the morning sun.  The shadows under the bright green leaves are deeper than any shade in the desert, as if the jewel-like berries adorn a mysterious window into the  Sierra Madre.