The Muse Personality: Barbara Becker Simon

Each newsletter I'll interview a metal clay muse personality. Get to know this artisan and how they stay creative! A dose of inspiration!

Date started working in metal clay:

January, 1997. I bought several packages about 6 months before but was intimidated by them and shut them in a drawer. Florida Society of Goldsmiths, Northeast Chapter, scheduled Tim McCreight to do one of the first 5 day workshops in PMC and I was first in line. Tim let the class experiment and go wild. We had such a good time that we had to overnight clay from Rio--Tim hadn’t brought enough! We blew through it! In that workshop I blended enamel with clay, made hollow beads and vessels and generally had epiphanies each day. What a thrill working with this revolutionary stuff. It was during this week that Tim asked me if I was interested in becoming a PMC teacher. At that point, I wasn’t aware of the plans for a Certification program. Maybe Tim wasn’t either!


PMC, 1999, Tim McCreight. Tim wanted Chris Darway, Celie Fago and myself to take the first Certification class (ever!) so that we could become the first Senior Instructors. What a blast that was--first time I ever met either Chris or Celie and it was great. I knew my life would take a new direction.

Accomplished in what media in addition to metal clay:

I have a BS in Art Education from SUNY-New Paltz, and an MFA in Metalwork and Jewelry from University of Wisconsin-Madison. (At Madison, J. Fred Woell was one of my major professors.) I have spent many years as a goldsmith.
In 1996, I learned how to make Lampworked glass beads. I have one foot in the metal clay world, the other in the lampwork world.

Website and Short Bio

Barbara Becker Simon earned a BS in Art Education and an MFA in Metalwork and Jewelry.

She has been a goldsmith for over 40 years and has taught at such institutions as University of Wisconsin-Menomonie, and Iowa State University.

Presently, she crisscrosses the United States as a Senior Instructor for the Rio Rewards Precious Metal Clay Certification Program, lampwork and metal clay workshops. In October, 2004, Barbara traveled to five Japanese cities to teach PMC. And in October, 2008 taught in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia. Her teaching duties took her to Zurich, Switzerland, Wiel, Austria, and Corwall, UK in January of 2010.

Her work appears in Creative Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, and Inspiration New Directions in Metal Clay, (CeCe Wire), The Art of Metal Clay, (Sherri Haab), and PMC Decade and PMC Technic, (Tim McCreight), among other publications.
Her necklace, “Big Links,” won second prize (PMC) for the Saul Bell Design Award 2007.

In addition to metalwork, she has gained a national reputation for her lampworked glass beads and jewelry. Contemporary Lampworking by Bandhu Dunham features Barbara’s work on the cover. Formed of Fire (Dunham) and, Beads of Glass (Cindy Jenkins) contain examples of her work. 1000 Glass Beads, (Lark) also features photographs of her beads.
In April 2009, her book, “Metal Clay Beads” was published by Lark Books.

Barbara’s glass beads are in the collections of the Bead Museums in Washington, DC and Glendale, AZ and the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum, Japan.

What is your inspiration now? Do you have a muse?

I really can’t say that there is one inspiration for what I do. Nature is always behind many things I do. Just observing, listening, and sensing my daily life is fodder for my brain. I wish I could say something more romantic but it’s just that everything that I take in will, I know, influence everything that comes out of the tips of my fingers. I think the material (metal clay, glass) and the process, the “Making,” are my muses.

What is currently on your bench/workspace?

I am making a vessel, or lidded box for Metal Clay Muses right now. It’s a bit of a risk in that I am not sure of the shrinkage factors and the ultimate fit of the lid, which is going to be a friction fit. I love to go out on a limb for the WLW challenges. I want to put my best foot forward and show everyone the amazing, limitless things that metal clay is capable of doing.
On my lampwork bench, I am making a series of very complex hollow beads with text on them--quotes of things I like. After annealing, they are colored with Prismacolor pencils and oil paints. I am very happy with the way they are coming out. The folks at the Bead and Button Show will be the final judges if they part with their hard earned money to own one!!!

What project/direction are you working on now?

I guess I am working on this in my head. And that is to get my ducks in a row to make a first submission to the Masters Registry.
I am also testing some new metal clays. I have been sidetracked with teaching and preparing for the Bead and Button Show, but as soon as I can, I will be working with these new, exciting products.

How much time do you average at the bench each week?

I am in my studio at least 8 hours a day, pretty much 7 days a week (when I am at home and not traveling). Making, preparing for classes and shows, answering emails, procrastinating, cleaning, thinking, and generally producing.

What is the average time that you spend on a piece?

Some glass beads take me a few minutes, some the best part of an hour or more.
Metal clay pieces can vary from under an hour to many, many hours. For instance, the piece that won in the Saul Bell competition in 2007 took probably about 80 hours. I didn’t keep track of my time but I did work on it for months--obviously not 80 hours all at once.

Do you sell your work? Where?

I sell my loose glass beads through my website. I am hoping, this summer to add metal clay beads and finished jewelry to this site.

I have a couple of galleries that carry my work. The one that is the most active right now is Arts Afire in Alexandria, Virginia. It is a well established gallery that specializes in glass and items that generally involve a flame/torch/fire in some way.

I have been a vendor at the Bead and Button Show for about 9 years and that is my biggest retail venue.

Because I teach so much, I don’t have time to make stuff for the galleries etc.

Where do you get your new ideas?

Where, hmm. Ideas come from anyplace. Nature, art history, literature, ???? Sometimes seeing a technique will inspire an idea for a piece. Yikes that is a hard question to answer because there are too many answers.

Do you keep a sketchbook and how do you organize it?

Yes I make and keep sketches. Sometimes they are on random pieces of paper because I might be somewhere and think of something and don’t have my book with me. I then collect them in a file. There is no organization whatsoever at the moment. I have a binder of drawings from all the years that I did goldsmith work and that is organized by item, like earrings, rings, etc.

When I was in college and taking my required drawing classes, one of my professors required us to have a sketchbook (it had to be at least 8 ½” x 11”) with us at all times and to make at least one drawing a day. We were then required to hand in those sketchbooks at the end of the semester. I had many sketch books and hundreds of drawings. That experience was one of the most useful of all my art study. I really want to do that again. And to take a life drawing class again, too.

Are there places or things you avoid that zap your creativity?

Not that I can think of…I think I am really lucky in that, I can usually push through anything to get work on it's way.  I never seem to have a dry spell.  In fact, I always say that I don't have enough lifetimes to do all the things in my head.  Now at 63, I think I better get a move on and get the most interesting ones out soon!  I love this quote from Chuck Close about inspiration:

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.

If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.

All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens.

But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction.”

Do you have a ritual before you begin to create?

Comfy clothes, cool temperature in studio (I live in Florida…), a great story to listen to on audio books, cleared space to work, tools organized.

What do you collect?

Um, I don’t think you can count beads and gemstones and books and stuff for my art, so…

I have a place on my wall in the studio where I have displayed all the dried up anoles (little lizards) that come into my studio thinking they will get a meal. Poor things. I try to catch them and put them back outside but they skitter away from me and then they are doomed.

I have a collection of animal skulls and horns. Oaxacan, Mexican painted wood animals. Artwork and pictures of artwork. Piero Fornasetti china. Shoes.

How do you rejuvenate your creativity?

Visiting Museums and galleries. I love taking workshops. Solitaire sessions. Mindless TV, believe it or not! Reading any interesting story fiction or non-fiction

What would your perfect creative day be like?

A great design “problem” to solve and wade through. Somebody reading me juicy story in the CD player. Good cup of coffee or the equivalent. No phone calls. All the supplies and tools I need. Lunch and dinner brought to me. A masseuse to give me a shoulder work out when needed.

What's New in our Tool Categories

Click on highlighted index categories to go see those website pages


Textures & Stamps:

  • Ancient Metal Chop - Growth
  • 24 new textures in Group K

Templates & Cutters:

  • Rectangle Template

Punches & Disc Cutters:

  • Ultimate Clay Extruder Discs
  • Swanstrom Disc CutterPower Punch
  • Oval and Rectangle Punch Plier

Carvers & Engravers:

  • Economical Mini Engraver
  • New Size of Artist Carving Block
  • Etching Products & Tools:
  • Sakura IdentiPen

Ring Making Tools:

  • Stepped and Plain Wood Ring Mandrel Set
  • Parallel Jaw Ring Clamp
  • Metal Ring Mandrel Holder
  • Bracelet Forming Tools:
  • Wood Oval Bracelet Mandrel
  • Sand & Filing Tools:
  • Non-Static White Tray
  • Mini Fiber Wheels

Drilling Tools & Burrs:

  • 1/8” Shank Screw Mandrels
  • Burnishing & Polish Tools:
  • Shine Right Polishing Cloth
  • New styles of Boro Pyrex Burnisher


  • 1 pound Brass Hammer
  • Saws & Forming Tools:
  • Stone Setting System
  • 6” Square Sandbag

Wire Work & Shears:

  • Economical Pliers
  • Swanstrom Pliers: 5 types
  • Extra Hard Jaw Flush Cutter
  • Rosewood Draw Plate
  • Miscellaneous Bench Tools:
  • Oval Safety Glasses
  • Deluxe Titanium Soldering Pick

Mixed Media Tools:

  • Sticky Bead Mat
  • White Soap Stone Pencils
  • Magical Pick with Adhesive Resin Tip
  • 18 watt transfer tool
  • Butane-Powered Embossing or Wax Finishing Tool
  • Guides, Gauges & Scales:
  • Drill Gauge

Organize & Magnify:

  • Oval Plastic Flip Top Containers
  • Applicator Bottles
  • Protective Sleeves
  • Metal Clay Tool Pouch
  • Bead Container
  • Craft Storganizer


The Master Muse Tutorials are Available for Sale!

The Master Muse Tutorials #2, #3 an #5 finally arrived from the printer. Learn to make a great clasp, hollow beads, carve, use texture plates and expand your techniques by learning from the masters!

Don’t forget to check out the blog on Wednesdays. Last month Ann from Pennsylvania won the Opaque Enameling Kit. This month we are giving away an Ice Resin kit! Pretty good odds for winning. All you need to do is leave a comment on the blog.

We’re off to Bead and Button next week. Our booths 733, 735, 737 will be full of 20+ pieces from the Master Muse collection. We’ll also have Cindy from Cool Tool Chick demonstrating how to wire weave and how to use the Cindy Bender. A brand new display to go along with our brand new website. Be sure to check it out!

So join us at to participate in the blogs! We'd love to hear what you think of our new website too!

Whole Lotta Whimsy has a new website!

Whole Lotta Whimsy has a new website! We add great new products all the time and we have a new Learning Center with FAQs on products, tutorials and videos. Be sure to check it out!

Tips for Working With Resins

Resin is an easy medium to use. You need very little tools and some sort of receptacle in which to hold the resin or you can make your own. You can also mold resin. You can use it as a glue or base for holding found objects. You can use it as the color element in your piece as Donna Pennoyer’s Master Muse piece shows expertly this Wednesday!

Resins are usually a one to one mixture, part A and part B. I use a scale to weigh out my resins. This way I can use less than the manufacturer recommends and it’s always perfect every time. I put the mixing cup on the scale, TARE it, then pour in part A, noting the gram weight. Then TARE it again, and pour in the same cup, part B, making sure it registers the same weight. Next you will use a craft stick to mix the two parts together. Try not to whip it, creating bubbles.

I place the piece onto a piece of acrylic or stiff cardboard. When you get ready to pour it, try to pour onto the stick, over the receptacle. This helps to dissipate the bubbles. Also the higher the pour the better.

Once you’ve got the resin where you want it, I use a vibrator underneath the acrylic and under the piece. This makes the bubbles come to the surface quickly. Next I run a barbeque lighter over the surface to pop any surface bubbles.

Sand and rice are very helpful for placing your piece into, to make it level. There are many tables that are not level. This will help with getting it perfect!

If you get a scratch in your resin, don’t buff it out. Just mix some more resin and drop a little at a time to create a new surface. Set as usual.

There’s lots to do with resin. I’ve been teaching it for fifteen years and I haven’t had a chance to teach all the things you can do with it. It’s a fabulous medium for metal clay, polymer clay and on it’s own! I highly recommend you try it. It adds color, texture, dimension, and light to a piece.

Suggestions? We Want to Hear Them!

We'd love to hear from you if you find this newsletter insightful or if you think it needs improvement. Tell us what we could do to make it better. Have an artist that you would like to have interviewed? Let us know! Have a request for a product to be shown in our video tutorials? We are always wondering what products need to be demonstrated to be better understood. That's what spurred the tutorials in the first place. We are open to your suggestions and comments. Send them to

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