Introduction: Wire Wrapped Pendant

Update: June, 2016

Since I wrote this tutorial, I've taught three more years of classes and answered a lot of questions online. I've collected some of this additional info in an expanded tutorial that I sell on my website. If you're interested you can check it out here:

Basic Wire Wrapped Pendant by Rhonda Chase

Otherwise, my instructable remains free and useful, so please enjoy it!

About five years ago I was making ceramic pendants and looking for special custom settings when I found wire wrapping. Wire wrapped settings require few materials and tools and use no heat or glue. They are so versatile that once you have the basics down you can create a beautiful setting for anything from a cabochon to a seashell.

Step 1: What You Need:

Wire:
You can use any kind of nontoxic metal wire, though I prefer to by jewelry grade wire online. Wire Sculpture and Rio Grande are excellent sources. If you're just beginning I recommend copper or bronze. They're inexpensive and look great with polish or patina. To get started buy at least 5-10 feet of 21 or 22 gauge dead soft SQUARE wire and 5 feet of 22 gauge dead soft HALF ROUND wire.

That's it, assuming you have something to wrap. Wrapping a round or oval cabochon in the 30 - 40 mm range will be easiest.

(Shown above: copper wire on a goldstone cabochon.)

Tools:
Tools are very important. I used cheap jewelry pliers (~$10) for a while, but once I was sure I would stay with wire wrapping, I got good ones (~$50). It made a huge difference, especially in how tired my hands would get. If you do this, hang on to your cheap tools - there's always a use pliers you won't worry about. The basic tools you will need to get started are:

Flat nose pliers
Round nose pliers
Wire cutters
Marker
Small round mandrel, bail pliers or pen
Ruler

Later you can add chain nose pliers, jewelry files, bail making pliers and more. I treat myself to a new high-quality tool every so often.

Step 2: Cutting Wire

For a basic cab wire wrap, this is how I like to measure and cut the wire:

First, unroll some of the square wire and smooth it with your fingers to straighten it. It doesn't need to be very even, but don't make any kinks in the wire. Next take your cabochon and stand it up at the end of the wire. Note the spot where the cab is touching the wire end and roll the cab along the wire like a wheel until the same spot touches again. Where the cab stops is the circumference of the setting. From this point you need to add 12" - 14" of wire to make the bail and rosettes, depending on how tall you want the bail. With inexpensive metals, better to go too long - you can always cut of the excess later. When you have this length figured out, use your wire cutters and make a perpendicular cut. Then use this first piece of wire to measure a second length off the spool and cut that. Repeat until you've cut 4 pieces of square wire.

Next, cut 3 pieces of 1" half round wire and 1 piece of 3" half round wire.

Step 3: Making Bundles

The object here is to make a flat strip held together at three points that will wrap tightly around your cab. The short pieces of 1/2 round wire will hold the square wires together.

Pick up one piece of 1/2 round wire and use the flat nose pliers to bend 3-4 mm of the top over. Then angle the bend slightly. Make sure the flat side of the wire is on the inside surface. This will fit neatly around the square wire.

Step 4: Making Wraps

Next hold the square wires together side-by-side. You may need to wiggle them around a little to get them to line up. Then hook the bend of the 1/2 round wire over one edge as shown. Give a gentle squeeze with the flat nose pliers to secure.

(When wrapping, the front of the wraps should be 90 degrees to the bundle wires. The back of the wraps are usually angled.)

Now hold the square wire bundle with the flat nose pliers very close to where you will wrap the short pieces around. Start winding the 1/2 round wire around the bundle, but stop every time you make a turn and give the wires a gentle squeeze with the flat nose pliers. Expect to be moving the bundle and the pliers around a lot, changing hands when you need to.

Wrap the 1/2 round wire around the bundle this way 4 times and end on the back of the bundle. Cut the excess 1/2 round wire so that it overlaps the back 3 – 4mm.

Step 5: Prepare the Bezel

Take the object you’re wire wrapping and hold it on the wrap you just made, standing up. Start rolling it to one side and when you get halfway up one side of the cab, mark the wire bundle. This is where the first side wrap will go. Measure from this mark to the center of the wraps. Measure that distance from the center of the wraps to the other side of the bundle and mark that point. This is where the second side wrap will go.

Following the previous directions, make a set of 4 wraps beginning at each of the side marks. Remember to always start and finish on the bundle back.

Now you should have a bundle of square wires with three sets of wraps.

Step 6: Secure the Stone (or Whatever You're Wrapping)

Find an object slightly smaller than your cab to use as a mandrel. (Unless you have a mandrel.) I find pill bottles are often perfect.

Then hold your wire bundle against the mandrel by pressing your thumb on the center wrap. Keep the bundle perpendicular to the mandrel and gently bend the sides around until they touch. Now take the bundle off the mandrel and try it around your cab. Use your fingers to adjust the fit. The center wrap should be exactly in the center of the cab around the bottom.

Press the wires around the cab until they meet at the top. A little clearance is fine. Also, you may need to bend the wires away from each other to keep them from getting too tangled, but try to make the ends all go straight up.

Get the piece of 3" half round wire and put a small bend in the top, but don’t angle it. Hook the bend around the back of the bezel and give a very gentle squeeze with your pliers to secure. Hold the top wires together in your fingers and use your other hand to wind the half round up around them. Wind at least 5 times (more, if you want) and end at the back. Leaving a few extra milimeters, cut the excess wire. Use round nose pliers to bend and tuck wire end into the back strands.

Step 7: Set the Stone

Now you have a basic wire bezel. Lay your cab flat on the table and set the bezel around it. To keep the cab in the setting you will need to pull the outermost wires over it on the front and back. I like to do this by separating the wires out with my fingers and tightening them with round nose pliers as follows:

1) There are four wire sections between the wraps. Using a finger, pull the centermost wire a few millimeters toward the center. Do this with all 4 sections on the front.

2) Turn over and repeat with the back wires. Now your cab should be held in loosely.

3) To tighten the wires, hold your setting in one hand and round nose pliers in the other. Put your pliers on either side of the pulled wire in one lower front section and give a small twist. Do the exact, but opposite movement on the wire next to it. Repeat with the top wires.

4) Do the same thing to the pulled out wires on the back, but make the twists more extreme.

Your cab should now be securely in its bezel.

Step 8: Make a Bail

The bail is the part that hangs from the chain. You can make it whatever size you want. I have bail making pliers with different sizes, but you can use any strong object like a pen or a fat knitting needle.

First, separate out the top wires with your fingers until you find the 4 front most wires. These will make the bail. Gently bend the back wires off to the sides. Get your pen (or mandrel or other object) and put it behind the bail wires, right above the joined part. Now bend the wires back over the pen. Wires should not overlap. Keeping the mandrel in place, take one of the back wires and wind it around the bail wires and the stem to secure the bail wires. Leave the pen/mandrel in the bail until the wires are completely finished.

Step 9: Finish the Loose Wires

Making filigree

Here’s where the real artistry comes in. The filigree is the delicate looking swirls and swoops that make up the design of the wire wrap. You make it with all the loose ends of wire after the cabochon is set. Exactly what you do is up to you, but here are some basic tips and techniques:

Rosettes
This is probably the most common design element in wire wrapping. You make a rosette by using your round nose pliers to make a tiny round loop at the end of a wire. Then wind the loop into a tight spiral using flat nosed pliers. To do this hold the wire in one hand and rotate the wires in the other hand a quarter turn at a time. You can make the rosettes with twisted or untwisted wire for different looks.

Loops
Making loops and shapes with the wire is a lot of fun, but don’t go too big or the wire will bend too easily. Keep swooping wires tight to the setting and find a way to secure the end on another wire.

Bundles
For a sophisticated look, try making a bundle by taking several of the loose wires and wrapping them with more half round wire. Finish the ends with loops or tuck into the bezel.

Step 10: All Done

When you're done, simply trim off the extra wire (save it for other projects) and tuck any loose ends under.

Feel the pendant with your fingers for rough spots and then rub the front and back on a piece of fabric. If you find any sharp spots or wires that catch; file, trim or tuck in the problem wires until everything is perfectly smooth.

Now you can add a patina, buff and/or seal your pendant if you want.

When any finishes you’ve added are dry, your pendant is ready for a cord or chain.

Have fun!

Step 11:

Comments

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JasmineS42 made it! (author)2017-04-09

This was my first full attempt! I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and excited to make more. :)

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author

Your pendant came out great!! Your symmetry and design elements are terrific : ) Thank you so much for sharing!!

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Rhonda Chase Design (author)2016-09-06

Lachlan asked me some good questions about getting started and I think the answers will be useful for many wire wrapping beginners : ) Here goes:

My favorite places to buy wire are http://www.jewelrytools.com andhttp://www.riogrande.com. At Jewelry Tools you can buy small quantities for reasonable prices. At Rio you'll find more in stock, but you have to have a resale license. Both have good customer service. I buy cabochons all over, but if you're just starting out, try http://www.firemountaingems.com. They have a huge selection of beads, cabs and findings. (They're not as good for wire, although they do carry it.) Wire Jewelry also has a great blog (I'm one of the contributors : ). This is a terrific resource because they answer so many questions and have a library of free patterns and other resources. Find it at https://www.wirejewelry.com/jewelry-making-blog/.

As far as good projects to start with, start simple. Getting used to the way the wire moves and working with your pliers is key. Once you're comfortable, you can attempt more complicated designs. For example, if this wire wrapped cab is out of your comfort zone, look for a project with just a simple wire pattern. (If you want to try an easy ring, I have a very simple wire roses ring instructable that makes a wonderful gift.) In addition to instructables, other great places to find free wire wrapping designs are Pinterest (search wire jewelry DIY), Jewelry Tools and Fire Mountain. You'll find everything a beginner could want from initial pendants to hearts and flowers.

One last note: If you're planning to sell or give away your jewelry, buy a good sealer to keep copper, silver and bronze from tarnishing and discoloring skin. My product of choice is Protect A Clear, which I get online.

I hope this is helpful! Let me know how it goes and feel free to add your suggestions!

author

:O square wire is expensive

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Try bronze, silver-filled, or copper. Copper square wire is easy to find online and pretty cheap. Here's a link for 22g, square, dead soft copper wire: https://www.wirejewelry.com/square-copper-wire/22_Gauge_Square_Dead_Soft_Copper_Wire-7429-899.html

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Rhonda Chase Design (author)2016-09-05

Hi Lachlan. Sure, I'd love to help you out with jewelry making. You can post any questions you have on any of my tutorials. I'll get them, but remember that I'm in California in a different time zone. Also, it would be nice to hear your "story", though if it's long, maybe you should pm me.

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LachlanD3 (author)2016-09-05

Hey Rhonda :D my names Lachlan and i was wondering if I could get in contact with you :) ive got a little story to tell and i wanted to get into jewlety making, maybe an email ot i could chat here.:) please consider this <3

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Simran Sharma (author)2015-12-10

awesome pendant

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FreckledR (author)2015-11-30

Wow these are gorgeous!

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Thank You!!

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Ryburrr (author)2015-11-12

This is a really incredible tutorial, thank you! It answered so many beginner questions and re-established my confidence to try again :) Thanks!

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Glad I could help! Thanks for the comment!

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TimJ27 made it! (author)2015-10-16

Inspired by your video I went and got some wire and started making pendants with the hundreds of agate rocks that have filled our clear glass table lamps for over 20 years. Been doing this for a few days now and have lots to learn. Look forward to checking here for more ideas. Haven't been able to get definitive recommendation anywhere as to what is best to use for this kind of work ... dead soft/half hard. Having fun and looking forward to maybe selling some of these to supplement my retirement if I can figure a reasonable price. Thanks!

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You're so welcome! I'm glad my tutorial was able to help so much. These look great! It looks like you're using round wire. If you want to make the process a little easier, try square wire-you can buy it online. Dead-soft vs half-hard is totally a personal preference thing (except for with ear wires). Generally, the more detail you want in your work, the softer the wire. I do intricate pieces, so I use dead-soft. Let me know how your sales go. Good Luck!!

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CarolF22 made it! (author)2015-10-03

I had a stone for a necklace that my dad cut ,shaped,and polished for me
many years ago out of a rock that I found in a creek bed when we
were camping when I was about 13 years old. He had mounted it in a
necklace setting for me that broke a few years ago. I have been looking
for just the right setting for it for a while because I wanted the light
to be able to pass through to show the true beauty and character of the
stone. It is a very pale, translucent green with tiny dark green flecks
through out it. I am so glad I stumbled across your tutorial !!! With your easy to follow directions I feel like I was able to create the perfect setting. My dad passed away over 20 years ago and this is my most treasured keepsake and know it will mean even more to my daughter when it is passed on to her knowing it was created by both her grandfather's & her mother's hands.

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Thank you so very much for sharing both your pendant and your story! You did beautiful work and I'm so glad I could be helpful!

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D_zeno made it! (author)2015-04-09

Made this for my GF, she loved it. Thanks for the guide.
Btw one tip people don't use a set of mini tools -.- (i made that mistake)

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Excellent work! Thanks so much for posting!

You're right about the mini tools - mine are now relegated to manicures. A related note is that most jewelry pliers are airline approved. Just check the regulations and measure your tools. And leave them out for inspection at security.

Thanks Again!!

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Briddy (author)2015-03-27

I finally finished. I stalled after the bail. It was tough for me figuring how to neatly form it and cover the ends. Started with a four band bail, but seemed to hard to get all the ends tucked. Ended up snipping two. As I mentioned, I'm a first timer. Had a lot of indecisive moments. When I finally just went for it, I reminded myself of your tips. Finesse and foresight will come with experience, so I completed this and gifted the pendant to a friend. She loved it. The joy of sharing, mission complete. On to more. I am practicing with other hardness and gauges. Started to see improvement on how 'handled' the wire looks and learning when to stop and let it be. Thank you again for being my guide. Although there are many tutorials out there, I found your the best fit and most inspiring to me.

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You did a fabulous job! I love how you went with the asymmetry and made it work beautifully. That can be a hard look to do and you did it wonderfully! I'm so glad you found my tutorial useful and inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing with me!!

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Rhonda Chase Design (author)2015-03-04

Wow, excellent! Thank you so much for posting pictures!

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Thank you. So, I notice that when I bend the wires across the stone, I scratch the stone. I also knick the wire when trying to grab a hold of it with my chain nose or round nose pliers. Is it just a matter of finesse that comes with experience? Or is there a tip or tool you might suggest to help me out? I was about to do the bail today. After starting I didn't care for the way it was going. I wanted a tall bail like yours, but I am challenged on designing it as nicely. I think I will take it down a notch. I can go big next time and plan with more wire to work it up nice.

author

Scratching the stones is a common problem. The number one thing I tell new wire wrappers is to use very hard, smooth stones. Gemstones have a hardness rating, so look for stones with a rating of 7 or more. Jasper is very good for beginners as long as you choose the less expensive ones. Good pliers also help and the edges will wear smoother over time. Personally, I don't like to file or coat my pliers. The rest comes with experience. Early on I would sometimes nick the wire so badly it would snap in half. Now it's sometimes hard to tell the pliers ever touched the wire. (Oh, you can also try half-hard wire. Not my favorite, but many people prefer it and it's harder to scratch.)

I can't wait to see your finished pieces!

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Briddy (author)2015-03-04

Here is my piece in progress, front and back. Time to bail and decorate...will try to post those when completed. Thanks for this clear guide. I'm a first timer, and feel great cuz I'm getting it! That's a compliment to the teacher.

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smcrorie (author)2014-11-22

This is beautiful. I have a box full of gemstones I've been dying to do something with and this is perfect. I'm new to wire wrapping. I've just recently started making the "Tree of Life" pendants. Love wrapping wire, its addictive. Definitely trying this first chance I get.

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Have fun! Please send photos when you've started creating. (And remember, get square wire for this project.)

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wtlake (author)2014-11-07

Thank you so much for your tutorial ! I tried copying your style, and made my 3rd wire wrapped pendant, but I wanted to ask, how do you make it stay in shape ? It feels like if i were to put it in my pocket, it would be ruined really soon. So should i use something like glue ? or that thing what you wrote - patina, buff (don't understand what that is) I want to give it as a present for a friend, but it scares me it would brake the pirst day...

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author

First, your pendant looks really good!

Structurally, it looks a little loose, maybe due to thin wire. You should be able to wrap almost anything so it stays together. I almost never use glue.

Here are some suggestions:

Check your wire. Are you using the right weight wire? For a 20 - 40 mm cab, you'll need to use 18- 22 gauge SQUARE wire. Square wire holds much better.

Where you pull the wires over the cab, make sure they are very tight to the stone. Give a little decorative twist with round nose pliers to get them tighter. Pull the back wires way into the center and twist.

Your pendant should be feeling much more solid by now, but you may still need a little more wire. You can add a long strand around the neck that can be used to decoratively bind the cab tighter.

(If all else fails I'm teaching this in Feb.!)

Good luck!
Please let me know how it goes. And send more pics!

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SparkySolar (author)2014-10-22

its not wire wrapping but this one took me a long time

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Wow, I bet it took a long time. It's beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

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SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

Thank you for your Instructable

Nice job.

Rima

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My pleasure! Show if you make something!

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jshipley1 (author)2014-02-06

Hey. I'd love to read the rest of this. I get about one third of the way through it and my iPod crashes. Not mobile friendly. There are many huge long white sections and I have to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll before I get to any text or photos. I get to where you bend over the ends of two pieces of wire...I don't know what they are for because it crashes before I get to any text. I'm surprised nobody else mentioned that. Perhaps all the mobile folk are just giving up and not letting you know there is a problem. But the pendant in the search results is really, REALLY nice and I'd sure love to know how you did it.

author

HI! Probably you should contact the tech department, but here's my two cents. I have an iphone and the instructable comes up fine after I click "show all steps". Though sometimes it does take a few minutes depending on the internet service I'm using. Another option is to download the PDF. It'll take a while to download, but then you'll have the instructions. I hope this helps!

author

Thank you, Rhonda. It did keep crashing my ipod, so I logged on with my pc and it looks completely different. Have no clue why it wouldn't load properly, but I'm really glad I took the time to check your article out on my pc. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT, and you have given me some great ideas on how to take my wire-wrapping a bit further and have even more fun with it. Really super. Thank you and also, thank you for answering my comment. I appreciate that. :D

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You're so very welcome! Have fun & maybe send me a photo : )

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gallac (author)2013-12-30

great tutorial :) thanks for posting it. I didn't have any pendents or flat wire (just round) so i used a small bottle. i would have posted a picture but i seem to be having trouble uploading one....

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rickharris (author)2013-12-21

Some of the nicest wire wrapping work I have seen.

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Thank You! That means a lot to me, If you give it a try, please post your work. I'd love to see it!

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that's weird and amasing, i've done that pendant few months ago ! Amasing work btw.

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Very pretty! I like how you used the decorative loops for the hanging wire. Clever!

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makwa (author)2013-12-24

I have never been a fan of any of the wore wrapped jewelry I have seen- until this piece. Lovely really well done .

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lmperkins (author)2013-12-24

Excellent 'ible! I've wanted to learn how to do this for a while and yours has been the clearest explanation that I've seen.

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Rhonda Chase Design (author)2013-12-23

Thank you so much everyone! I can't believe the response I've gotten with this instructable. I hope you enjoy working with wire and send me photos of your creations. Have a fabulous New Year!

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bevers (author)2013-12-23

Very inspirational!

I teach technology classes at the local high school, and have been looking for a fun project to help middle-school-aged students become comfortable with basic tools before I turn them loose on expensive computers. This just may be the ticket. Thank you so much for taking the time to create this instructable.

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tdc2202 (author)2013-12-23

I love your work! I make beautiful paper bead cabochons (?) that would look great with this type of wrap. I must try it! Thank you for sharing!

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robbadooz (author)2013-12-22

You are able to finish where I cannot. You showed me how to just let loose and where to be precise! Thanks!

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ahmeder85 (author)2013-12-22

awesome. Keep up the good work

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cart562 (author)2013-12-22

From someone who has researched wire wrapping fairly extensively and made many pendants, this is some of the best I've seen of this type. I get the wrapping part, it's the decorating that I just can't do. Keep up the good work.

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RobBBorger (author)2013-12-22

This was very helpful and informative. Thank you for sharing. I have done a little wire wrapping and plan on doing more, I wish I had this before I started.... Would have saved me a good bit of wasted wire.

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Bio: Geeky artist with too many pets. Details & blog at: rhondachasedesign.com
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