Apr 17, 2014

Ear in the Envelope: An Entrepreneurial Tale from IBI

Ear in the Envelope

An Entrepreneurial Tale
A head-turning name, eye-catching designs, and the birth of a business…
“Van Gogh cut his earlobe off, the story is, put it in an envelope and gave it to a prostitute,” explains Lizz Barnes, recalling the notorious tale associated with one of her favorite artists—and the inspiration behind the name of her business. “I just thought, ‘Ear in the Envelope… That just sounds like such a creative phrase.’ It’s one of those things that as soon as somebody hears it, they don’t forget it.”
Indeed, while it’s easy to overlook her studio space, tucked away in Peoria’s Warehouse District, it’s a name you surely cannot miss. Established in July of 2011, Ear in the Envelope Inc. is an umbrella company founded to manage the operations of Barnes’ numerous ventures, which include the Etsy shops Designs By Lizz Barnes and Gotta Getta Deal and the blogfoodsafemetal.com. A multi-talented metal artisan, Barnes has carved out a niche for herself in the arts business designing food-safe aluminum jewelry and selling her own DIY tools and hypoallergenic materials online. But before launching her own business and making a name for herself as an artist, Barnes had a completely different career path in mind.
The Big Lie
“I thought I was going to go into medicine,” the Peoria native declares. “I didn’t take any art classes in high school… I went away to school and hated college, and I didn’t know why. Then I came back, went to ICC and took an art class with Chuck Flagg… and it was just like, ‘That’s it!’ … I was meant to be an artist.”
In 1998, Barnes earned her bachelor’s degree in art education and glass from Illinois State University. Soon after, she moved to the Chicago area, where she taught art part-time and began experimenting in glass torchworking—a technique, she says, that piqued her interest in jewelry design and, ultimately, metalworking.
Eventually returning to Peoria and settling down in her hometown, Barnes began teaching classes at the Peoria Art Guild, where an experience with a special-needs student set her career destiny into motion. “I was trying to figure what he could do, and he could hammer really well,” she remembers. “I knew that metal stamping was getting really popular, so I decided maybe we’ll try that. Then, the metal that I could find was very bad-quality aluminum, so I just started looking around.
“Now here’s where the story starts,” she continues. “I started thinking, ‘Food-safe aluminum pans—they’re supposed to be good for cooking, so you’d think that would be the perfect thing to make jewelry out of.’” Determined to get an affordable supply of food-safe aluminum—pure aluminum that’s naturally hypoallergenic—Barnes began her quest, which quickly became trickier than she anticipated. “When I started calling around, I didn’t even get responses from people. They’re probably thinking, ‘Lizz wants a 1”x1” piece of aluminum… I am not calling this person back!’
“So finally—this is the big lie of the business—I said that I was [in her best gruff voice] ‘Joe, from Joe’s Sculptural Fountains, looking for some metal,’” she laughs. “Once I did that, I started getting phone calls! And so I’d say, ‘Yeah, this is Joe’s wife, but I know what he wants, so let me tell ya…’”
The Basement Years
Upon securing a metal source, Barnes started creating and selling her own food-safe aluminum jewelry, opening Designs By Lizz Barnes on Etsy. But about the same time her online business began taking off, the hands-on artist was dealt a devastating diagnosis: rheumatoid arthritis. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to make jewelry,” she recalls. Though she had been toying with the idea of selling supplies for some time—a much less physically demanding venture—the burdensome recovery from her first hip replacement convinced her to pull the trigger. “I was sitting at home thinking, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ [fake crying] I think I’ll start an Etsy shop,’” she laughs. “Kind of at the lowest point of [my] life, where I don’t think if I had been laid up, I ever would’ve taken enough time to get a shop set up.”
Running the entire operation out of her basement, Barnes began cutting her own metal and selling pre-sized aluminum and jewelry crafting tools online through a second Etsy store, Gotta Getta Deal. Soon, sales skyrocketed—so much so that she hired a team of metal artists to help—as did the demand for jewelry crafting tutorials, prompting Barnes to create the “how-to” blog, foodsafemetal.com, and ultimately, her umbrella company, Ear in the Envelope.
Today, Barnes considers her “basement years” a stressful, yet valuable lesson. “You’re inventing everything. You’re inventing your customer service and all the answers to every possible question,” she describes. “At the beginning, you’re trying make to everybody happy, and then you move into ‘I have to survive…’ I want them to be happy, but I have to sleep and I have to have a life at the same time. So you start putting up boundaries.We’ll do this, but we won’t do that.”
Blossoming in the Warehouse District
Two and half years later, having outgrown her basement, Barnes decided it was time to move. In June of 2012, she began leasing a space at 820 SW Adams, where today, business has never been better. “You don’t realize how if you’re in a small space, it’s almost like a plant,” Barnes remarks. “It can only do so much in that space.”
With a converted warehouse serving as her new studio, Barnes has seen Ear in the Envelope’s profits double each of the last two years, and is on track for record-breaking revenues yet again. Working almost exclusively in food-safe aluminum, Ear in the Envelope cuts, corners (a process to remove sharp edges), tumbles (a polishing technique), and packs all of its metal in-house, distributing anywhere from 20 to 75 orders a day all around the world. Barnes also sells her premade designs, which include intricately hammered and anodized (finished using an electrochemical process that allows the metal to be dyed) rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and more starting as low as $15. Customers can also purchase everything they need to start up their own jewelry crafting operation—from aluminum blanks and charms to metal punchers, pliers, bracelet benders and beyond—for about $120.
With the desire to help other artists kickstart their careers, Barnes has opened Ear in the Envelope up for the First Fridays studio tour, and earlier this year, began offering classes in metal stamping, glass fusing and precious metal clay. Having never anticipated her success or loyal clientele, Barnes feels fulfilled just knowing she has made a difference in the local arts community. “I love to make and I love to help people make,” she explains. “I don’t want to make a million dollars. I would rather pay our bills, be able to hire people, and have an impact on the community.”
And Barnes has found that running her own business and working with other creative types is a pretty awesome gig. “I think that is an amazing thing—when your vision starts running through the veins of your employees and they’re just as excited as you are. Now, instead of just me being this crazy person with an idea, it’s a bunch of crazy people with ideas!” she laughs. “A job really can be a fun place to work. It doesn’t have to be a drag at six o’clock to hit the alarm. I actually get pretty excited in the morning.”
Going For It Having seen the simple idea of helping a student grow into a lucrative business, Barnes encourages other “born” artists—from painters and sculptors to creative inventors and innovative office managers—to find their inspiration and just “go for it.” “You have to be a leader and you definitely have to be organized… but I think if you really want to do something, start it small on the side. Dabble in it and see what you want to do,” she says. “The Internet is a great place to do that now. There are great opportunities to do things you never would’ve been able to do before!”
“And you can be somebody else if you want to,” she jokes. “You can be Joe!” iBi
Ear in the Envelope is located at 820 SW Adams Street in Peoria. Find Barnes’ designs and supplies at etsy.com/shop/DesignsByLizzBarnes and etsy.com/shop/gottagettadeal, and her blog at foodsafemetal.com.

Mar 28, 2014

Mar 26, 2014

Wrap Rings - How to Make a Wrapping Ring Blank

Wrap Rings, also called twist rings, 
are fun to make 
and VERY popular.

We'll go through a small tutorial 
and in no time you'll be cranking - out piles 
of these fun jewelry pieces.

***Note: if you're going to add a metal stamped design, 
do this before wrapping the ring.

The Tools You Will Need
                                                  1)  A Ring Mandrel

                                                  2)  An Aluminum Wrapping Ring Blank
(You can get these at Gottagettadeal on Etsy Click Here)

                                                 3)  Wubbers Loop Bending Pliers

Start by placing the ring blank at an angle 
on the barrel of the pliers.

Pinch the very end of the ring blank.

Continue to hold the pliers closed and bend
the ring blank around the barrel.

Flip the ring blank and bend the other end.

Place the ring blank back on the mandrel
 with one end at an angle
and continue wrapping 
until the entire blank is in a 
spiral shape.  

You may need to pinch the ends 
and pull the wrap in a little tighter
at the ends to make sure 
the entire ring is in alignment.  

You don't want any ends sticking out. 
This could snag on clothing.

Place the wrapped ring blank on a mandrel.  

Check the size.

If the size is not large enough, 
then with some pressure, 
pull the blank down toward the larger sizes.  

The radius of the ring will begin to expand.  

You will need to go slightly past the size you want 
because the ring with spring back a bit 
when you take it off the mandrel.


You just did it!  

You made your very own wrap ring!


This technique will also work well 
with thick wire with multiple wraps.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.  
I'm always happy to help!!!

Remember to LIKE our page and you'll get 
updates of new techniques and upcoming classes!

Thanks again!  
Enjoy creating!

Aug 23, 2013

Dog Tags Motivate Young Readers

Your Supply List at Gottagettadeal on ETSY

Quick links for the Dog Tags and Surgical Steel Chain

1 - Dog Tags

2 - Surgical Steel Chain

Check out this great article from:


home reading tracker

Last year I wasn't good at tracking my students' home reading minutes.

I mean, I still tracked them and all, I just didn't have a successful motivating system.

I used stickers and that's about it. Boring huh? Ya... it was.

I feel like I "dropped the ball" last year, so I am determined to succeed this year.

Since I have a carnival/circus theme in my classroom,

I decided to make a "Reading is Sweet" bulletin board with some cute lollipops I found at Target.

This board is used to track the home reading minutes.

For every 100 minutes read at home, my students earn a pony bead to put on their necklace.

All of my students have a dog tag necklace with their names and "grade 2" stamped on them. If you want to stamp your students' names into dog tag necklaces, then it is important to get a soft aluminum.

(I wouldn't recommend buying them from Oriental Trading.) I got mine on Etsy here.

Click here to see what kind of metal stamp set I used (you may want to shop around for this).

To start out the school year, each necklace had a piece of candy. My students got to trade in their candy when they read their first 100 minutes (at home) and earned their first bead. I will continue to put cheap/hard candy on their necklaces every so often to keep up the motivation.

Even though my students have only earned one or two beads so far, they are so excited!

They are talking about the patterns they want to make with their beads... and all I tell them is:

Keep reading at home and you will get that pattern!

I require my students to read at least 20 minutes each school night for homework. I send home a reading chart each Monday and it is due each Friday (click here to view my Home Reading Chart). In one week, they should be able to get 100 minutes read, which would earn them one bead a week.

So now tell me, how do you track home reading minutes?

What kind of rewards do you use?

Quick links for the Dog Tags and Surgical Steel Chain

1 - Dog Tags

2 - Surgical Steel Chain

Jul 18, 2013

Gilder's Paste and Texture

"This wax-based medium can be used to add non-fading color or a gilded finish to materials such as Metal Castings, Filigree, Brass Stampings, Ceramics, Wood, Etched Glass, Polymer Clay, Resin and more! 

It can be applied as-is to clean, dry, oil-free surfaces with a cloth, cotton swab, sponge, your finger... or thin it with paint thinner to create a paste, paint, stain or wash. 

Smooth surfaces should be slightly roughened with fine grit sandpaper or steel wool before application. 

Gilders Paste dries to the touch in 10-15 minutes and completely dries in 12 hours with no tacky residue. 

One tin of Gilders Paste covers over 30 square feet of surface area.

Choose from 9 UV resistant colors which can be layered to create stunning and unique finishes and textures!"

You can find Gilder's Paste at 

Art Beads has 2 great articles and a video on how to use Gilder's paste.   

Check it out at:

How to use Gilder's Paste

Gilder's Paste FAQ

Quick Video 

Have fun experimenting with this fun medium!!!

And enjoy creating!


at Ear in the Envelope Inc

on Etsy at gottagettadeal for supplies
at DesignsbyLizzBarnes for my finished pieces

Apr 14, 2013

Sizing Your Cuff

Sizing a cuff is quite simple.

Measure the circumference of your wrist with a tape measure.  

My wrist measures 6-1/2"

Pinch the inner wrist joint.  Measure this space.

This is the space that you will need to leave open in your cuff.  

This area measures 1 inch on my wrist.

Subtract your wrist measurement

from the width of the inner joint of your wrist.  

This measurement will be your perfect cuff size.

My perfect cuff size is 5-1/2 inch.

We will begin offering a 5-1/2 inch cuff very soon.

You'll notice new listings for 5-1/2" cuffs.


We've taken the 8" cuffs off our site.  

It is very unlikely that the average man or women will wear an 8" cuff.

If for any reason you need an 8" cuff, we can set up a Reserve Listing for you.

Hope this helps!

Enjoy creating,

at Gottagettadeal on ETSY

Ear in the Envelope Inc

Feb 13, 2013

Anodized Aluminum 101

What is Anodizing?
Anodizing is an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface into a decorative, durable, corrosion-resistant, anodic oxide finish. Aluminum is ideally suited to anodizing.
(info from the American Council of Anodizers)

Gottagettadeal on ETSY is now carrying Anodized Food Safe Aluminum. 

We're slowly building up an inventory in a variety of colors and gauges.  

                                  We currently have 

Vintage Aqua


Leaf Green

Hot Pink (ONLY IN 14G)

These colors are available in 18 or 14 gauge.  


One of the advantages is the ability to work with a VERY PERMANENT color and texture.



After a piece has been rolled, the raised portion of the design can be sanded.  

Begin with a rough grit sand paper to remove the largest portion of raised anodized color.  

Then move to a finer grit sand paper to improve the look of the metal.

This process of sanding off the raised design creates a beautiful contrast 

in color and texture.


Use a yellow Sunshine Cloth to bring up a shine.

How to polish.........

Place the blank on the table with a piece of paper below to protect the table.

With a lot of downward pressure -  begin polishing the blank.  

Continually move to a clean section of the cloth to get the most polishing benefit.


The current method of creating contrast with a thick Industrial Marker will not work well on anodized metal.   

Cleaning the surrounding area with alcohol does not work well and leaves a dark shadow.  

The Solution... is to use an EXRA FINE Industrial Sharpie!  

Mark only on the inside of the stamped letters.  

There's no problem with clean up with this method.  

you'll still need to bake the markings on the piece at 300 degrees F for 1 hour.  This will set the marker for a permanent contrast.

You may run into darker colors of anodized metal where you will want to use white for the contrast.  You can use an acrylic white paint and apply it carefully with a toothpick.

As we continue to experiment with the new metal, I'm sure we will have a few more updates to our blog.  

Please let us know about your experiences and what you've learned.  Add a note to our blog or contact me through Gottagettadeal on ETSY.

Enjoy creating!!!

at Ear in the Envelope Inc

Feb 7, 2013

happyhourprojects.com Does a Great Review of Gottagettadeal

Found a great review of our Etsy shop gottagettadeal by 

Check out the article on how to make a cuff 
and how to use a bracelet bender.

Thanks ........ happyhourprojects.com

Enjoy creating,
gottagettadeal on ETSY

Jan 7, 2013

How to Punch Holes in Your Heart Charms - Video

How to Punch Holes with a Helicopter Punch Video


Enjoy Creating!!!!

at Ear in the Envelope Inc.

Metal Stamping, Valentine's Day, Metal, Art, Hole Punching, Helicopter Punch, gottagettadeal,  ETSY, Food Safe Aluminum, 1100,

Dec 16, 2012

Food Safe Aluminum - Safe for your Skin and Non Toxic?

Food Safe aluminum,which is actually Pure Aluminum, is the same aluminum used to make aluminum cooking utensils.  And food safe aluminum is safe on your skin.

Pure aluminum is LEAD FREE.  Test results, verifying the chemical make-up of the our Aluminum, are available to our customer upon request. Feel free to send a Convo or an e-mail and I will send a PDF attachment containing this information.

Aluminum has less skin reaction than sterling silver.  It is essentially HYPO-ALLERGENIC.

Pure Aluminum is a non-reactive metal.  The lack of chemical reaction is a challenge to jewelry makers because the chemicals used to create color alterations in copper and silver will not react with the Pure Aluminum.  Inks and paints must be used to create the same look.

ToxGuide for Aluminum states:
"Aluminum is poorly absorbed following either oral or inhalation exposure and is essentially not abosorbed dermally...."

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
States: (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11259180)

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2001 Feb;33(1):66-79.
Soni MG, White SM, Flamm WG, Burdock GA.
Burdock and Associates, Inc., 622 Beachland Boulevard, Suite B, Vero Beach, Florida 32963, USA.
Aluminum is a nonessential metal to which humans are frequently exposed. Aluminum in the food supply comes from natural sources, water used in food preparation, food ingredients, and utensils used during food preparations. The amount of aluminum in the diet is small, compared with the amount of aluminum in antacids and some buffered analgesics. The healthy human body has effective barriers (skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract) to reduce the systemic absorption of aluminum ingested from water, foods, drugs, and air. The small amount of aluminum ...

Hope this information is helpful!!!!

Feel free to pass this information on to your customers.

Enjoy creating!

food safe aluminum, pure aluminum, safety of food safe aluminum, hypo allergenic food safe aluminum

Nov 8, 2012

Instructions for Metal Stamping

    Check out this great link:

Just a few additions......

I like to use painters tape to hold down my blank and this also creates a straight line to follow.

I always start with the middle letter and move out.  This helps you balance your letters.  But.... I do like the Post-It idea in the Artbeads video.

One hard hit is always better than a few soft hits.  If you hit more than once, you take a chance on creating a shadow.  This happens when your stamp moves slightly between hits.

Don't forget that letters or numbers can always be used to create design elements.  I love using the 0 to make bubbles or eyes.

One final note.  A nail is a perfect option for a period or colon.

Hope this helps!!!!

Happy Stamping!!!!!

And enjoy creating!!!


Oct 4, 2012

Tumbler Maintenance - Clean your shot and oil it up

Tumbler Maintenance

So you're tumbling, but things don't look quite as nice as when you started.

Sounds like it's time to clean your SHOT!!!

***We use Sunsheen Burnisher to Clean our shot 
      after every 30 tumbles.

Follow the directions on the bottle for the quantity of water to burnisher.

Tumble for about 1 hour and then rinse your shot well.

If you leave much burnisher in the tumbler it will dry out your aluminum.

Burnisher takes the yucky coating off the shot and helps keep those blanks shiny.


Check the tension on the belt.  If it begins to stretch or crack, it's time for a change.

Don't for get the oil.  This will reduce wear.  Check your owners manual for the proper location to oil your tumbler.

Always avoid getting oil in locations where the barrel meets the rollers. 

Happy tumbling!!!

Aug 16, 2012

Another Bracelet Bending Tool - Synclastic Forming Pliers

Sometimes a bracelet bender isn't enough.  

A much more expensive, but very useful option is 

Synclastic forming pliers 3/8"

These pliers will form synclastic shapes like bracelets, hoop earrings and any other form that requires a concave surface. They are very easy to use. They come in three sizes 3/8", 1/2" and 3/4".
The 3/8" will form a deep synclastic form with tight radiuses.
Can be used with copper, silver, gold, brass, even stainless is possible. Aluminum works fine as well. Metal can be annealed or not. 

Check those out at www.potterusa.com

Wrap a thin piece of leather over your cuff to prevent any scratches.  

And you will get beautiful curves.

I LOVE this tool!!!!

Let me know what you think?

Enjoy creating!!!

Jul 7, 2012

Textured Cuffs

Why textured cuffs????

Beautiful work above by

Because they're AMAZING.

These cuffs are rolled through a rolling mill with a texture plate.

Rolling compresses the metal and creates a firmer cuff.

Texture on the OUTSIDE 

or texture on the INSIDE 
a little detail surprise for your customers.

Check out the options.

Enjoy creating!


Jun 5, 2012

A Latvian Engagement Ring using Food Safe Aluminum

Handmadebygermaine on ETSY 
has been busy creating some beautiful pieces 
using our food safe aluminum bracelet blanks 

Check out this beautiful piece 
fashioned after 
a Latvian Engagement Ring.

Thanks for sharing your beautiful piece with us Germaine!

Enjoy creating, 


May 27, 2012


Earlier this year I ran across an interesting shop on ETSY...

  • Rolling Mill Resource

Tracey at 

Rolling Mill Resource creates low relief patterns using laser cut paper patterns. These paper patterns can be rolled in a rolling mill with Soft Temper Aluminum, Copper, Silver, or Brass to create crisp beautiful patterns and textures.

PATTERNS ORIGINATE from drawings, photographs, antique engravings, clip art and computer generated images.

These patterns are intended 
for one time use. 
Although I have been able to get 
a few more uses with the softer aluminum.

Tracey often gets requests for patterns in a more durable material. But she has found that there are advantages to using the paper. The paper actually creates a soft flat texture on the metal that cannot be created with metal rolling plates. And the cost of using paper keeps your price down. Paper also gives you flexibility to cut or "paper punch" your patterns.  


Tracey is now offering SPECIAL SIZES that perfect for the Aluminum Bracelet Blanks that we carry 
at Gottagettadeal

PAPER PATTERNS for 2" cuffs
These can also be used for smaller cuffs.

PAPER PATTERNS for 1-1/2" cuffs

Bits and Pieces for discs, dog tags or other blanks.

*******If you will be ordering bracelet blanks use with a paper patterns PLEASE LET US KNOW in your invoice message notes.

We have CUSTOM CUFFS and CHARM BLANKS that are 
soft temper and a little shorter to accommodate the stretch from the rolling mill. 


GUIDES made of card stock are used to align your cuffs  when you're rolling your cuffs through the mill.

Step #1


Add a light coating of glue stick to the black guides and attach them to the paper patterns. Let the glue dry for at least one hour. When completely dry trim the outer excess edge.

Step # 2

Cut 2 pieces of poster board or tag board 
a little larger than the paper pattern.

Place one piece of tag board on top 
and another on the bottom.

Step # 3

Place your stack in the rolling mill. You 
will need to adjust the tension tight enough 
to press the texture into the metal.

This will take some experimentation with 
your specific rolling mill.

Luckily Tracey sends a few extra 
smaller pieces for practice.

***The 2" Bracelet Blanks are the most 
difficult to roll and will require
the most pressure.

Step # 4

Open your stack and you will find a beautiful surprise!!!!

Love it!!!!


One of the MOST exciting options 
for the metal stamper is the ability 
to roll script.

Whether it's your logo, a texture or 
a poem...... 
the possibilities are endless.

Check out Tracey's ETSY Shop

  • Rolling Mill Resource

 ......and GET CREATIVE!!!

Enjoy creating,
Liz :-)

Ear in the Envelope Inc.


These are a few of the most helpful links on my blog:

**What Supplies do I Need to Get Started with Metal Stamping

**Video: How to use a Wrap n Tap (Ring Bending Tool):

**Description: How to use a Wrap n Tap (Ring Bending Tool):

**Video: How to use a Bracelet Bender:

**How to Create Contrast in Your Aluminum Jewelry:
**Video: How to Attach Rivets and Eyelets to Create Metal Jewelry: