Heather Holland-Daly knew the next quest in her jewelry-making odyssey was fire.
But the propane torch she bought to create enamel pieces sat on her workbench, almost mocking her.
That was in 2013. Heather had taken a series of online classes from an expert in the craft. She thought she was ready to play with fire and metal. She already had success as the maker of Fripptic jewelry, creating intricate bead-woven and wire bracelets, earrings and pendants in her home studio. She had even worked in enamel, using her small kiln. But no torch.
“I was afraid to pick it up. I didn’t use it for about a year,” said Heather, now 50, of Belleville. “I was making jewelry and selling it, so it was tricky to find time to play.”
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On Wednesday morning, she flicked on the torch, gas whooshing out of the nozzle. She lit it, and a blue flame appeared. It has to be 1,700 degrees to soften metal.
Ready to show her long-delayed skills, she chose a flat copper disc slightly larger than a quarter. It had a tiny hole in it so it could later be strung or wired. Along the bench were rows of metal stamps that, tapped with a hammer, punch out shapes and holes in sheets of copper, for example. Other tools in her collection “chase” or emboss letters and patterns on metal pieces.
Stamping is close-up work, while the torch requires some distance and patience.
Using a long pair of thin, blackened tongs to hold the disc, Heather guided the flame around it, gauging the time, removing it from the heat, then dipping the softened metal into fine powdered green glass. First one side, then the other. Back in the fire, the disc’s glass coating began to melt and change to a glossy colorful finish.
“This is what enamel is,” Heather explained of combining metal, heat and glass. She repeated the process several more times, adding other colors of glass and swirling the combinations with a long metal wire.
Heather’s first attempt at enameling was with latticework iron beads — about the size of candy gumballs — she had bought.
“People think they’re ceramic” once they’ve been enameled, she said of the colorful balls. They are lightweight and can be strung on wire for a necklace or to make standout drop earrings.
Iron was a good metal to start with, she said. “Silver melts super quick and I can get a liquid mess. Copper is tricky, too. You have to know when to pull it out.”
Heather and her husband, Tim Daly, and son Miles, now 11, moved from California to Belleville when their son was just 6 months old. Heather was “raised a Clinton County girl” in Centralia. Tim is the one from the West Coast. Family brought them back to the metro-east, she said.
Tim is an administrator at Ritenour School District in St. Louis, where he manages the almost 800-seat auditorium/theater complex.
Heather, a full-time mom who works at home, started and ran a needlework design company in California. She switched to jewelry in 2008.
“I try to spend four days a week down here,” she said of her studio, built by Tim, who also helped construct booths when she began doing craft shows.
The studio is organized in an eclectic fashion: An old crock holds needle-nose pliers, while her collection of vintage bowls and plates serve as sorters, filled with bits and pieces of shaped metal, enamel discs, wire, colored leather strips, pieces of glazed refrigerator tubing and beads.
“I make them and use them later,” she said of the assortment. “Then it’s, ‘Oh yeah, what will that be?’”
Sometime she just makes chains. Dangling from the ceiling is a lineup of interlocking loops, made from silver, copper and even wire used to tie fencing together. “I get it at Lowe’s. ... I can’t make enough long necklaces.”
She listens to books on tape while she’s working.
“I’ve been through Stephen King and all of the ‘Outlander’ series,” she said. “That way I can do stuff and not take my eyes off my work.”
When the weather is nice, she takes her work outside to the porch or wooded backyard.
In 2011, Heather taught herself to use the small kiln in the corner of the studio. It was the gateway to working with enamel. Any pieces she creates with enamel on the front and hand-stamping — such as a name, date or quote — on the back have to be heated in the kiln so the lettering stays intact.
It’s common to see a blend of her abilities in one piece, such as a necklace that links tiny cylinders of stitched beads with metal wire, silver hoops with enameled patterned circles, and long narrow enameled iron beads. Finishing touches include making her own hook clasps and wrapping copper wire with beads around the necks of pieces.
Color schemes can come from anywhere.
“It can be the color of the towels I see at Target,” Heather said. “I pick beads that make me happy.”
She keeps color-coordinated beads in mason jars, labeled with names like Pismo Beach Mix, Brown Eyed Girl Mix and Apple Crumb Betty.
As for her designs: “I generally have an idea in my brain,” she said. “Sometimes it turns out better. Sometimes not!”
Since 2010, Fripptic jewelry has sold at a variety of juried shows, including the Highland Art Fair, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon and at shows in Paducah, Ky.
Heather makes many inexpensive pieces, such as small enamel pendants and domed enamel earrings in the $20 range, for these shows. More elaborate jewelry can run to $88.
Fripptic jewelry also can be found at several area shops: Peace By Piece in downtown Belleville, Philomena & Ruth in downtown Waterloo, and the Mitchell Museum in Mount Vernon.
Christina Keck, co-owner of Peace by Piece, said she was immediately drawn to Heather’s work.
“She was the first to come to us with jewelry when we opened almost seven years ago,” she said. “We spent our whole jewelry budget on her.”
Where did the word Fripptic come from?
When Heather was looking for a name for her jewelry line, Tim kept using the word “cryptic” to describe its unique style. Heather wasn’t satisfied that explained her work in the right way.
A fan of unusual British words, she liked “frippery,” which can mean trinket or bauble or ornamentation. They put the two together.
Heather also does custom work. To reach her, email email@example.com. You can see some of her work at https://fripptic.wordpress.com/category/ideas/