Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

2014 Three Rivers Arts Festival begins at Noon Today!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/06/06

The 2014 Three Rivers Arts Festival opens today (June 6) and runs through Sunday of next week (June 15).

The Artists Market will be open from 12 Noon to 8 pm each day.

Again this year, my work will be in the Koolkat Designs Gallery booth, by the Gateway Plaza fountain.

Three Rivers of Steel PendantThree Rivers of Steel
Our Rivers Weave Us Together PendantOur Rivers Weave Us Together

This year, I’m showing pendants—lots of pendants but only pendants—made from various metal powder formulations in copper, bronzes, and steels. Some are ones I’ve already written about (e.g., here, and here), but I’m particularly excited about my new Three Rivers series: three of those items are shown in this post.

To the left are two “Rivers of Steel” pieces, made to honor the role of the steel industry in the development of the three-rivers areas of Western Pennsylvania, Northern West Virginia, and Eastern Ohio, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio River at “The Point” in Pittsburgh, PA (where the festival is being held). Below-right is one of my new “Golden Rivers” pieces (though those rivers are actually made of a golden-yellow bronze) in honor of the region’s more recent achievements in the post-steel era.

Three Rivers Circle the Point PendantThree Rivers Circle the Point

The festival’s individual artist booths rotate in and out over the course of the festival, with each one there for somewhere between two and five days only.

But the “Gallery” booths will be there for the full ten days! Those of us who have been invited by a gallery to participate are not listed individually as market participants. Though we do lose out on that bit of publicity, on the other hand we’re the only ones whose work can be there for the full ten days. So you need not time your visit to find our wares: Just come on down any time the market is open!

Another big advantage to participating in a Gallery cooperative is that I have more time than the individual artists do to explore all aspects of the festival, which sure helps me to remember how much fun all this is!

If you want to see me in person, I’ll be working at the Koolkat Designs booth for sure on Friday, June 6 (12 – 4 pm), and again on Sunday, June 8, (4 – 8 pm).

But I’ll also be around, off and on, there and elsewhere, just enjoying all the music, art, artists, art-lovers, and more, filling up the downtown area for those ten days. So do let me know if/when I should be looking out for you at the Festival!


Also, my ‘net connection was flaky all of Wednesday and Thursday, and I just have not had time to try to track that down. Sigh. So my apologies in advance to my blog’s “followers” who may see some later “updates” simply because my plan is to try to come back and see if I need to fix the alignment of photos, captions, and text here once I sort that out. O the joys of technology!

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This Sunday: Creative Marketplace in Verona (for the second year!)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/05/30

Once again, I’ll be joining some other members of the Western PA Chapter of the Precious (and non-precious…) Metal Clay Guild out at the Creative Marketplace that’s to be held in the Municipal Park (down by the Allegheny River) in Verona, PA this Sunday, June 1, from 11 am to 3 pm. I will likely take off by Noon, myself, but I’ll leave a collection of pieces under the care of my fellow guild members. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by!

The photo with this post shows two of the pieces I’ll have for sale there. The rectangular one was made from Hadar’s “Dark Champagne Bronze” and I’ve embellished it with a “clear” CZ stone on this side, to add an extra bit of sparkle. The round one was made from Hadar’s “Friendly Copper” plus a “lavender” CZ (which is more sparkly in person than this photo might lead you to believe; though the “clear” one is much brighter still…). On their “other” sides, the designs involve several layers, to add more visual interest through varying depths.

Many of the pieces I’ll have for sale (including these two) were textured using some interesting vinyl wallpaper bits and pieces I was lucky enough to get last month at a “designer samples” give-away sponsored by the wonderful Pittsburgh Center for Creative ReUse. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with those: the underlying texture and the printed-on pattern are often very different! The pattern is what your eyes first see on the sample, but it’s the texture that shows up on these pieces. And as you can probably see here, while some of the textures end up looking fairly rough, some come out all smooth and shiny, and still others can be polished to reveal interesting contrasts. Until I figure out for sure which samples yield which results, I’m sticking to making fairly simple pieces with them. Most of the pieces are reversible (of course!), but still just basic shapes with small highlights (rather than the more complex, and longer-to-make, ones like various hollow bead structures with different kinds of openings, channels, etc.).

For marketplace customers, of course, that means these new pieces of mine will fall into the more “affordable” range this Sunday!

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Softly Draping Hard Metals

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/05/25

I have to admit something: I love “draping” metal clay! The clay is so soft and pliable, and the end results are so satisfying!

I am impressed with many of the effects that can be obtained via various “metalsmithing” techniques, but this draping is just sooo different from working with “solid” metal (sheet, wire, etc.). Yes, there are a lot of little “tricks” involved in successfully draping a mix of powdered metal, binders, and water, but it still is a relatively easy process for achieving a look that is much more difficult to achieve via any methods used with, say, sheet metal.

All the photos in this particular post were made with Hadar’s new-ish Friendly Bronze metal clay powder. At one point or another, I’ve draped every clay I’ve ever tried: every brand, every metal, etc. (OK, no, I haven’t done this with gold. It should work, but I don’t feel I can afford to use gold for anything this big. Of course, if you can afford it, I’d be absolutely thrilled to “drape” a gold piece for you on commission!) But all the different brands of silvers, coppers, bronzes, steels: yes! I’ve draped those.

In fact, there’s one very-special thing I do with draping that I teach in my metal clay workshops. Yes, while I do share a lot here on the blog, there’s even more that happens in person! You see, this little post is not only about draping metal clay. It’s also a little bit about workshops. (My plan is to mention workshops a few times, in this and several other posts over the next few months, then tie that together with one specifically about classes and workshops, both ones I offer myself and those offered by others.)

Anyway, the two draped oblong shapes are ones that I made in advance of a recent workshop. They were fun to make. I fired them both before the class; they ended up being about 37 mm long (excluding bail) and 25 mm wide. The idea was for me to have finished polishing one completely, and use the other one in my demonstration illustrating some techniques (and potential issues) in polishing such drapings. They also served to illustrate two of the many different bail-mechanisms that can be used for hanging the piece.

The long and narrow piece was begun during the in-class demo. It illustrates a different kind of draping, and a different kind of bail structure, both of which are harder to describe (but still easy to show) compared to the first two (oblong) pieces. It’s 66 mm long by 24 mm wide, and contains a little over 24 grams of metal.

The last photo shows two sides of a fourth piece. Also constructed mostly during in-class demos, it’s the biggest of this lot: 45 mm high by 56 mm wide. It weighs a little over 33 grams (including a CZ on each side, but excluding all the chain on which it’s hung). While I was manipulating it in class, we talked about things like overall size and weight versus maneuverability and polishing constraints. (You may notice this piece has a separate backing, while the two oblong ones do not, and the longer-narrower piece folds over on itself.)

Have you tried draping metal clay yet? If so, please leave a note about it in the comments!

Posted in General Techniques, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This Weekend: Open House and More in Regent Square

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/05/16

WSCC posterThis Saturday is the annual community-wide Yard Sale organized by the Regent Square Civic Association.

Because there will be all sorts of folks wandering around the neighborhood that day, it’s also the first day of the Wilkins School Community Center‘s Spring fundraiser, the Herb and Used Book Sale from 9 am to 3 pm. (See the poster, above-right.) There are tons of books available for $1 each (including lots of children’s- and cook-books) but, if you want any of their plants, it’s usually wise to arrive early. (The hanging baskets, in particular, are looking gorgeous this year!)

Square Pendant in Four MetalsAnd, because there will be all sorts of folks wandering around WSCC, at the same time as the Herb and Used Book Sale I’ll hold an Open House in my studio too. For years I’ve been describing its location as “upstairs, above the front door” at WSCC, but I now have a room number: it’s 25!

In addition to my usual Art Jewelry selections, this year I’ll have a collection of Aloe Vera plants for sale too. I see those as consistent with my art because they are great to put on burns, as in those little mistakes with torch or kiln…! I’ll have a few of the plants outside my room for “early birds” to buy on the “honor system” … and will try to get there by 9 to open up the room for the jewelry. (I’d planned to be there in plenty of time for 10, but just realized the WSCC sale starts at 9 this year….)

Then, on Sunday from 12 – 3 pm, WSCC will continue their Book Sale (a whole bag for just $5!) and I will be there running a workshop from 12 – 5 pm. If you can’t get to Regent Square on Saturday, you’d be welcome to stop by on Sunday instead, as long as you understand that the class is first priority. You’re welcome to look at what’s on display, and I can stop and talk to you for a few minutes during various break-times.

After that, the next chances to purchase some of my creations will be in our Metal Clay Guild’s booth at the Creative Marketplace in Verona on June 1, and then in the Koolkat both down at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, June 6 to 15. More on those shortly! I look forward to seeing and talking in-person with some of my “local” readers at one or more of these events!

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Trying Hadar’s New Friendly Rose Bronze

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/04/25

Another new formula to play with, another Crystal Bead Bazaar bracelet challenge to enter: guess what I managed to combine … again … eventually! I was incredibly late with my entry but … better late than never!

The challenge was to create a bracelet with an “Edwardian” look. Now, that was a real challenge for me: I’m just not a lacy-gossamer-Edwardian kind of person. (The Edwardian era coincided with Art Nouveau. I love Art Nouveau!!!) But, I finally found time to do some research into Edwardian jewelry, and found that these other two trends also fell into that category:

  1. Botanical influences. OK! I enjoy making flower-designs.
  2. Settings that included Green + White + Violet stones as a code for Give Women the Vote. Yes! I am delighted to do include those too.

The result: I made my own flower-beads out of Hadar’s Friendly Rose Bronze, set them with Green (nephrite jade), White (cz), and Violet (amethyst) stones, strung them on copper wire, connected everything with bronze jump rings (and a bronze clasp, not shown).

If you like it, I’d sure appreciate your voting for my entry.

[Note, that "voting" for that piece via a "like" on Facebook worked only during April, 2014. They announce only the first-place winner, which was not me, and not a surprise since I submitted my entry rather late (though I was not the last to do so!). But here's a big "Thank you!" to everyone who did vote for it! I'm hoping to enter again in a couple of months, and will post that again here....]

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This Weekend: Art All Night

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/04/23

Yes, once again, the last weekend in April brings the wonderful event known as Art All Night. As ever, it’ll be in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. This year, it’s going to be held in the same location as it’s been the last two years: just east of the 40th Street Bridge, down next to the Allegheny River.

If you’re not familiar with the event, it is an absolutely amazing community-based celebration of art!

Details are at the event’s website:

Or, if you prefer, here:

No Fees. No Jury. No Censorship. One entry per artist. Drop-off times are 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday: thousands of entries will be hung in that short time-span. (I’m entry #2793, and I’m sure there will be more registered after mine!)

The show will open at 4:00 pm on Saturday, run through the rest of the afternoon and evening, keep going all night (yes, really!), run on into Sunday morning and early afternoon. After tens of thousands of people have explored the exhibits, listened to the music, watched demonstrations and joined in on the various hands-on activities, it will finally close at 2 pm on Sunday….

Participating artists can (must!) pick up their entries between 2:30 and 5:30 on Sunday. Bids are passed on to the artists, and it’s up to them to contact their potential customers after the event. (There’s also an auction of pieces created at the event. Funds from that go to the organization, to help keep Art All Night running every year. This year, 2014, is the seventeenth (17th!) time it’s been held.)

Those who know me “in real life” know that Art All Night is one of my very top-two favorite events of the year. (I can’t rate them against each other: they are too different for that. The other is the Edible Flowers Food Fest, but that’s going on hiatus for 2014 since the leader of the EFFF is also hosting the Garden Writers Association‘s annual symposium (their 66th) here this year. Which makes this year’s Art All Night even-more special!)

I include a photograph of the piece I’m entering this year: The Pittsburgh Point: Three Neighborhoods and Three Rivers in Three Metals. It was made using Hadar’s Clays: Champagne Bronze, Friendly Copper, and Low-Shrinkage Steel. It is, in fact, extra-special to me because I made it in the Accreditation Program workshop I attended out at Hadar’s Studio in Berkeley, CA, this past February. (Hadar herself took this photo with it on a steel cable she had out there! I’m entering it with a bronze-color satin cord to which I added findings.) I really enjoyed making it. Better yet, it inspired me to start a whole new series of Three Rivers pieces for the Three Rivers Arts Festival this June. I’ll again have pieces in the Koolkat Gallery booth there … but I’ll write more about that later on.

Until Sunday afternoon, I’m all Art All Night! Let me know if I should look for you there!

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NEW CLASSES! Copper, Bronzes, & Steel: A 4-Part Series in May

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/04/08

In addition to the workshops I’ve offered in fine silver for what seems like ages now, I’ve also been teaching classes in these non-precious metals too, mostly on-demand private or semi-private sessions, plus a few in local bead shops. All were relatively short, covering just one or two techniques in one or two day (or evening) events only.

Now, I’ve taken the best of the best and spiffed them up with some of the things I’ve learned in the last year with Hadar’s group of teachers worldwide. And I’m thrilled to be offering that great new combination in a four-session series, on Sunday afternoons in May, in my studio in the Regent Square (Swissvale) neighborhood, just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Whether you’re a beginner, or already have some experience with metal clay, you will make at least four separate items: a bracelet, a pair of earrings, and two pendants. Some may involve a single metal; others will combine various bronze formulas with copper and/or steel. You’ll learn every step of the process, from design through basic construction and on to final finishing for your pieces.

You’ll get to use at least three different metals (from yellow bronze, champagne bronze, dark champagne bronze, iron bronze, rose bronze, copper, and/or steel). Don’t know the difference between them? You’ll learn that too!

We’ll meet each Sunday in May (4, 11, 18, and 25*), from 12 to 5 pm. That’s 20 whole hours of instruction in a small class (max 6 students)!

* Yes, May is such a busy month! We will meet on Mother’s Day. But let me know if you’re hesitant to sign up simply because May 25 is part of the Memorial Day weekend. Several alternatives for that final date are possible!

Posted in Events, Studio, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Trying Hadar’s New “Friendly Bronze”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/03/19

While I was out at Hadar’s last month, finishing up my teaching-accreditation requirements, I got a chance to try several of the newest “friendly” (i.e., one-fire) clays that she has produced (and just now made available in her store).

This post is about “Friendly Bronze.” Hadar developed that one specifically to enable the production of various “married metal” designs, which I plan to discuss in some future posts. Before going into such complex designs, I wanted to try out Friendly Bronze just on its own, to get a feel for working with, firing, and finishing it.

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been happily making pieces out of Hadar’s Quick Fire Bronze XT for years (an example from last summer is shown in the first photo, left), despite the fact that it took 8 to 12 hours to complete a firing. (Yes, it takes that long for “quick fire”! But that process includes two firing phases with cool-down in between, so it’s the heating up, cooling down, and reheating of the whole kiln that takes all the time. The sintering part itself is relatively quick.) The whole heating up and firing process of the “friendly” clays, on the other hand, can be completed in just under 3 hours: much better!!! So, back home and on my own, I decided that my first trial run of Friendly Bronze in my own kiln would be a variation on one of my (other, many…) favorite pieces I’d made using some of Hadar’s earlier Quick Fire clays. That one was my own metal-clay-based variation of a “Coils and Domes” bracelet that Maria Richmond sometimes teaches (here and elsewhere) that I wrote about a couple years ago. (Photo repeated here, right. I used “Quick Fire” Copper and Rose Bronze for that one…)

The metal elements for that project can be relatively simple, since they’ll be embellished later on. So I thought they would make good “test pieces” for my first firing of Friendly Bronze. I know that some people just make a plain strip to use as their test piece. And that others jump right in and start an elaborate piece without testing first. Me, I prefer a middle ground: fairly simple, but still something that I can use in a product creation. A handful of little domed hearts seemed perfect to use as my test pieces! I’ve included little photos showing how dark and colorful the results can be (hot from the kiln) as well as how they turn a nice yellow-bronze color with even just a light polishing (the photo shows them a little over half-way through my polishing process).

But I will admit that I had yet another reason for doing that: I wanted to enter the February 2014 Bracelet Challenge on Facebook sponsored by one of my local bead shops, Crystal Bead Bazaar. I needed to dream up, make, and photograph something in less than two days! (Well, I did have a month to dream it up, but I had to make it after getting back from several weeks of travel … on a trip that my luggage full of tools took several more days to return from. But that’s another whole story!) The challenge has a theme each month, and the theme for pieces made in February was “Romantic.” So, instead of wire-queen Maria’s wrapped-coils added to antique enameling-domes, I figured I’d add wired-up beads (in sweetheart-pinks, blood-bond red, and romantic-rose shades) to those brand-new rose-patterned domed-bronze hearts that I made (along with an open-domed heart and clay-tipped wire arrow for a toggle clasp). As far as I know, my entry is the only one that used any metal clay processes!

For the metal-clay part, I just mixed up about 20 grams of Friendly Bronze, rolled out five hearts (using a rose-pattern texture sheet on each side — the same one I used for the domed side of the first pendant shown above!) and dried them over the round domes on a paint palette (a slightly shallower one that I’d used for the bracelet shown above). For the bracelet’s clasp, I made a sixth heart that I also domed but, before it dried, I cut out an inner heart opening. Then I cut a piece of 16 gauge bronze wire, added a hanging-loop, scored each end a little bit, and added a bronze-clay arrow-tip and feather-texture end (actually, just between you and me, for the latter I used a tiny segment of a very geometric, non-feathery design). Once they were dried and all cleaned up, I fired them in carbon according to my usual variation on Hadar’s schedule.

(As I’ve mentioned before, my kiln tends to fire a bit hot, and to spike even hotter just as it reaches the goal temperature. To accommodate the former, I drop Hadar’s temperature by a specific amount; and to work-around the latter, I program a two-segment firing, where I stop it short of goal for a few minutes and let it spike there, then ramp the last few degrees very slowly to keep it from doing that any more. But that’s just a case of knowing my own kiln. A terser person would just have said she fired them according to Hadar’s schedule, but I know some of you read this for the tips I hide in my lengthy prose!) Everything sintered beautifully, and was as easy to clean up as any other bronze I’ve ever used. And I’m thrilled with the final result!

If you like it, I’d sure appreciate your voting for my entry!

[Note, that "voting" for that piece via a "like" worked only during March, 2014. They announce only the first-place winner, which was not me. Since the vote-closing time was not announced in advance, I can't be sure where this one ended up. But it did seem to have a strong hold on second place for most of the month. So here's a big "Thank you!" to everyone who did vote for it! I'm hoping to enter again at some point, and will post that again here....]

Posted in Challenges | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Just Some of What I’ll Be Making-With!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/03/08

I thought about using the photo I include here as the “punch line” to the post I wrote yesterday about shopping, then decided it deserved its own little spot.

The twenty-four tubes in the front are most (but, aack my wallet cries out, not quite all) of what I had shipped back from the workshop at Hadar’s last month: all five of the new clay powders we were able to try out: Champagne Bronze, Dark Champagne Bronze, Friendly Bronze, Friendly Copper, and White Satin. The seven tubes along the back contain prepared clay (i.e., already mixed with water) that I hadn’t yet finished off so, in addition to the new five, there’s also some Low Shrinkage Steel XT and Pearl Gray Steel XT in that row.

What’s missing from the photo? Well, I store my clay in a repurposed CD cabinet with lots of little cubby-holes. I already had spots for the two older steels; had those put away before I thought to take a photo; and then couldn’t even remember how many new tubes I’d added to the existing stash… The thing is, Hadar has at least one more “friendly” clay coming out (i.e., that debinders and sinters in a single firing comparable in length to that of the much-easier-to-fire fine silver), and it’s a Friendly Rose Bronze. I’ve loved working with her original Rose Bronze since I first got my hands on it, so I know I’ll be ordering some of that before I’ve worked my way through all these.

Not to worry, though, I’ve got a workshop series coming up in April and May. It’s based on the Teacher Accreditation program from which I just graduated, expanding offerings I’ve been offering for several years. I’ll be ordering more clay powders for participants to use in that, and will get myself some Friendly Rose Bronze then. (And, no, I don’t know the date when they’ll be officially released to the public. As an Accredited Teacher of Hadar’s Clays, I can get small amounts early, not enough to stock a reseller’s shop, but all that I need for my own testing and teaching, which is great!)

So I need to stop nattering here and go make some pieces to sell, and teach some workshops (including several more using fine silver this month!), to bring in enough money to pay for all these purchases: the travel and workshop expenses, studio rent and insurance, as well as the clays, beads, chains, and all!


p.s., There are still some openings in my various classes and workshops, so do let me know if you’d be interested in taking any of them! (Although, since some have far fewer open seats than others, I suggest you let me know quickly….)

Posted in Shopping | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

I’ve been shopping….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/03/07

I hang out with beaders even though I don’t do a lot of beading myself. (I’ve discussed that in several other posts, with topics such as finishing, framing and wrapping … as in wrapping a package, not the wire-wrapping my bead-friends will think of first!) Still, I like the bead shop “culture” and the exuberance of some larger bead shows (not so much the huge, exhausting ones; I prefer “medium” sized shows … ones I think of as being bigger than a typical shop): I enjoy spending time at those, shopping, just looking, and talking with others I meet there.

So in my recent West Coast trip, I had a great time checking out Harlequin Beads & Jewelry in Eugene, Oregon. Sally and John, the friends I was visiting, had a few other commitments on the Friday afternoon. John biked over to the University of Oregon, where he’s auditing a class. Sally and I went out to lunch, followed by a stop at Harlequin where we both picked up some items. Then, while she went a couple blocks away to work for a couple hours, I sat in the shop working the bits Sally had bought into a necklace she plans to give to her granddaughter. It had adorable little shamrock and Celtic knot beads (for her Irish heritage) in sterling silver that I interspersed with sapphire-colored crystals (the color of her birthstone) and finished with sterling chain and clasp. Too bad that I didn’t get a decent photo of that. But I can show you the two strands of beads I brought home for myself…

The day after I got home, the Intergalactic Bead Show was in town. A number of my local bead-friends added a lot to their stashes from that! I got were a few chains (one a very practical copper, two a nice but slightly pricey rose gold). I did pick up just couple strands of beads too, in colors I thought would go with some of the copper and bronze I’ve been working with lately. Still, my haul from that was tiny compared to what I know some others headed home with.

The next weekend, when Bead Mercantile came to town, I heard much less about stash-building. I’m not sure if those friends were shopped-out, or what. But, personally, I was much happier with what I found there, even though I will admit I didn’t buy any beads from the traveling vendors there either.

With my own travel-bills yet to pay, I restricted my bead-buying there to “local artist supports other local artists” purchases:

Jessica Rutherford was there with some of her gorgeous hand-made glass beads, but what I took off her hands were a few items from her “stash clearing” sale, big jade washers and double-drilled snowflake obsidian beads, all of which will combine well with other beads already in my own stash.

My one real splurge in all this shopping involved two lovely hand-made glass beads from Karen Leonardo. I’ve admired her work for years, thinking that many of her designs in glass exhibited a style and sensibility compatible with what I often try to do in metals. It may take a while for my clay to tell me how it wants to play with either or both of these beads, but now I can take my time admiring them as I contemplate that. The hard part is going to be putting up for sale whatever the result ends up being!

Finally, though, I know that if we want vendors to come to town, we really need to support them when they do. So I spent the rest of my money buying chains! The lucky-thirteen different styles or colors shown below (in increasing-price order, from left to right) were chosen because I thought they might go well with pieces made from the same metals as shown in my own hand-made piece I display with them (it’s Low Shrinkage Steel, Copper, Champagne Bronze, and Dark Chanmpagne Bronze).

Now it’s time to get back to work. I’m preparing for a class I’ll be teaching this weekend (a mosaic project in silver), and hope to return to making next week.

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Trying Hadar’s White Satin Steel

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/02/19

Another new clay means another trial making rings!

Though I love rings–both wearing them myself and admiring those on others, in shops, at galleries–and I love making small adornments using metal clays, in general rings are not my favorite things to make. I’ll leave the reasons for that for another post specifically about rings. Why? Because today I want to talk about rings made from another “new” clay! Now that I’m comfortable with a number of different types of metal clay, one of the things I often do to try to get myself comfortable with a new one is to make myself some rings out of it–to test what it’s like to work with–and then wear them everywhere–to test how they hold up.

So one of the first things I made when I got my hands on a (pre-release!) tube of Hadar’s new White Satin Steel was to try making a couple of rings. I wasn’t going to be able to make them my favorite way (with a steel, I was not going to count on being able to fire the shank first and then form it around a mandrel–a method that pretty much guarantees it will come out a perfect fit–and I was too eager to try it to first make a little test strip to see if/how I could manipulate it, though if will try that eventually…). And I didn’t want to make a ring using the “common” metal clay way, shaping a band in the clay-state (with lots of potential shrinkage-issues during firing). So my first White Satin Steel rings were a pair of seamless stackers with each one textured on one side (using the “eastern paisley” design from Cool Tools) and plain on the other side.

My plan was to make them two different shapes, and wear them with the “plain” sides together. And, no, they didn’t warp during firing: I made the openings oval on purpose!

I usually make my rings either oval (as shown here) or square-ish (a rounded-corners trapezoid). The latter is easy with metal I can whack around something like the finger-shape mandrel from Rio Grande. Since I wasn’t yet ready to try that with White Satin Steel, I just cut the clay itself with an oval opening. Hadar said rings would shrink about 3 sizes, so I used that for my beginning estimate.

Though, since I was making my rings oval, I did cut the opening a tad smaller than that. What I really did was to fit a narrow strip of metal inside a ring sizer at the +3 size, but then trim it a tad smaller. I then shaped that into an oval, and used that to cut my clay. The reason for down-sizing a tad is that, to put on an oval ring, I turn it sideways until it’s passed over my knuckles, but then turn it back up to wear. The “twist” allows the larger-direction opening (still at the +3 size) to fit over the larger-dimension part of my finger. But when it gets twisted back again, the straighter side (now smaller and narrower) holds each ring upright better, so I don’t have to keep straightening them.

The rings shown here were fired and then polished. And they did come out fitting the finger for which I was trying to make them! Since they are steel, which will rust, they were sprayed with an acrylic protectant. Since they are rings, I have no clue how long that protection may or may not last. That’s what I’m now trying to test! I’ve been wearing them off and on for almost two weeks (more on than off, but nowhere near constantly) before taking these snapshots. They seem to be holding up fine in the short term. It’ll just take more time to see how they do over a longer stretch.

In the meantime, I am very happy with the results so far, and I hope you appreciate this early-report.

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I Made It Onto “Hadar’s List”!!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/02/14

It has been one long, fun, hard, exciting, challenging year, with lots I’ve learned and still more I’ve been inspired to explore further, but I’m now a “graduate” of the Hadar’s Clay™ Teachers’ Accreditation Program.

As I write this, there are about two dozen of us around the world. Maybe a dozen or so more should be added in the next month. There’s a second group that should finish before the end of the year. I feel truly honored to have had the opportunity to spend the past year working with such an amazing and wonderful group of artists and explorers.

I look forward to the adventures we’ll continue to have together, and to continuing to share them with my students and with all my other readers here. Check for links to my workshops down the right side of this blog. My first four-part series based on this program will run in my studio during April and May of this year. (I’m still teaching silver too, and have four individual classes set up for that in March.) Do let me know if you’re interested in either the silver classes or the base metals series … or both!

Posted in Hadar's Teachers, Learning Metal Clay, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Update on the Lifespan of a No-Flake Foil Firing Box

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/02/10

A few days ago, I was talking with another metal clay artist about how I fire bronze, copper,and steel in vessels I “fold” myself from sheets of steel “no-flake” foil, when I realized it had been two years since the last time I’d mentioned them here.

Which I find interesting: in three years, I’ve used three boxes! Counting them up, I figure I put a box through a firing somewhere between 1 and 2 times a week, on average. But few things in my life are average…! No, really, it’s more like 6 or 7 times a month, but even that tends to happen in maybe two “bursts” of several firings in quick succession, then it’s several weeks before I do that again.

Something I learned from my first no-flake foil box, plus discussions with others after I wrote about that, is that the foil tends to crack open along the top edge of however much carbon is typically used. So, with my second box, I started out by piling the carbon a a little bit higher than I’d been doing. Then, when some cracking started to appear, I could just lower the level a bit, and get a number of additional uses out of it (because the holes–eventually stretching into a longer tear–were then above carbon, it didn’t leak out)! With the extra firings, it also began to crack along the top-most folds: what that meant is that I tried to be a bit more careful as I handled it, especially when moving it in and out of the kiln. Eventually, though, I decided I was carrying conservation perhaps a bit too far: after at least 75 firings over the course of a year, I took its picture and retired it!

Box #3 has lasted even longer! It has handled 80-some firings over almost 14 months. I did not keep fully-detailed records but, between the notes I do have and my general memory of the past year, I’d say that for its first year, I did a higher proportion of firings in the mid-fire range, and a smaller share in the high-fire range, than I had done with the first two boxes. That seems to have reduced the number of little holes it developed, so there were fewer to spread into wide-open cracks.

That is, until the start of this calendar year. That’s when I started playing with Hadar’s One-Fire High-Fire Trio. The single firing needed to both de-binder the clay and sinter the metals is a real treat, but when I started firing batch after batch in the high range, I noticed that the sides started warping out. So, even though Box #3 does not have any big holes, it is now being retired because I can barely fit it in he kiln any more: it is in danger of hitting the kiln’s thermocouple!

But. I still think that these boxes are well-worth their cost! Do you?

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Another Quick Peek—Another New Ring

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/02/08

Here’s another Champagne Bronze ring, this one topped by (hey, I just couldn’t resist it) a Champagne CZ. This one took a little while to tell me what it wanted to be….

It incorporates several of the other bits I said I’d try to write about another time in an earlier mention of shrinkage. The strip that I bent into this band didn’t shrink anywhere near as much as I’d expected, which caused me to re-think how I’d assemble it. The oval pieces on the top shrank about as much as I was expecting in length by width but, as far as I can tell, they shrank not at all in height. And that height matters in the re-design of this ring too: I’d thought I might make it so that they could spin (like the petals in my fine silver flower ring with ruby), but their thickness made that difficult. Yeah, I know ways around that, but this was just a supposedly-quick little trial piece, so I tried something else, to confirm how well they’d fuse in place. That did work out well and, again, I like the color (even though it still looks a bit more like sparking rose´ than champagne to me, though not quite as much as the first one I tried).

I can of course make a bronze spinner later, when I can find time to do more accurate calculations on the shrinkage and actually plan it out. For now, I’ll just wear this one as-is, and quite happily, as a test of how rings made this way with this new product will hold up. Which is probably all for the good anyway, as I’d’ve treated a spinner as a special-occasion ring, when having another nice Champagne Bronze ring for everyday wear is far more practical.

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Quick Comparison of Two Bronzes

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/02/05

Have you been wondering why, so far, all my posts about Hadar’s new One Fire Trio have mentioned shrinkage? Every single metal clay piece of any sort will shrink during processing: as you let it dry (i.e., as the water evaporates), burn off the binder and, finally, sinter it. During each of those steps, things contract a bit. Exactly how much varies by product and technique, but it still happens. For many items, this either isn’t an issue (so what if a lentil bead comes out a tad smaller) or it can even be an advantage (for sculptural pieces, being able to work a bit bigger and have details end up magically smaller can be a real treat).

But, for rings, where the band-size really does matter, then shrinkage matters. A lot. Which is why several of my recent posts have noted shrinkage among the various One Fire Trio products in particular.

Even though I’m still puzzling over that, I have to tell you that there is one feature of Hadar’s new Champagne Bronze powdered metal clay product that I just love: with Champagne Bronze, I can bend ring shanks around a mandrel!

Years ago, working with fine silver, I figured out a way to make rings that I love (and that I later found out that some, but apparently not a high proportion of, others use and love too), a way that removes most of the shrinkage concerns. I make the strip that will become the band first. And fire it as a strip, so it shrinks. Then, I bend the fired-strip into the ring shape that I want, fiddle and adjust and tweak it so that it’s exactly what I want. I add any top-decoration to that, and refire the whole thing. The bit on top will shrink a bit, but if my estimate of that is off a fraction of a millimeter, it’s rarely noticeable. But the already-fired band should (if it was fired properly the first time) come out the same size it went in. To be sure, that approach does not work for every possible ring design but, for the ones where it does— Voila!—there are simply NO sizing issues.

That was a real advantage when I made the spinning-flower ring with ruby, shown first above. When I ventured into Hadar’s Smart Bronze (another one-fire clay), I was advised against trying to bend that, so I had to use the “traditional metal clay” methods with it. Though I like the two rings (second photo) that I made with it, neither ended up sized quite the way I’d wanted. They’re for me, so I just wear them on different fingers than I’d planned; the only problem with that shift is that I can’t wear them in combination with some other rings the way I’d wanted. (I don’t wear rings when I work, but I love wearing lots of them when I’m out and about.)

What I’m reporting today, however, is that my first Champagne Bronze ring fits beautifully. I include a photo of it, below, paired with one from my first attempts with Smart Bronze. The difference in the size and shape of the decorative top was intentional (i.e., I’m not trying to illustrate shrinkage this time); the image does, however, give you a good hint as to the difference in the color of the two products. (Next to Smart Bronze, this does look a bit pink. Next to Copper, or even Rose Bronze, this looks to be much more of a yellow-bronze tint. I’ll try to post a few more comparisons, using some other pieces, but it may take me a while. There’s lots to do right now, too much to justify all the time I’ve spent with Champagne Bronze and Friendly Copper. But, me, I just felt I had to try to complete at least one such ring! So … more when I get caught up elsewhere.)

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One Thing Just Leads to Another

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/02/01

If you’ve stumbled across this blog / post without a lot of previous metal clay experience, you may want to just click on the photos to enlarge them and read the brief notes there. For the rest of you, I’ll start by asking if you remember the earrings I wrote about last week?

For today’s post, I’ll start by saying a little about the steps I went through in making the bronze-parts of the two-metal earring pair I described earlier.

  • Grab a good-size chunk of Champagne Bronze clay.
  • Roll it out to a thickness of four cards.
  • Position cards around it, two cards high.
  • Use a thin, straight edge to cut two distinct sets of five intersecting lines. (This was done freehand, so their positions are similar but not identical.)
  • Use a circle cutter to make two “large” circles.
  • Use another circle cutter to make a “small” circle inside each of the “large” ones. (Again, done freehand, so their positions are similar but intentionally not identical.)
  • Do all the usual clean-up and drying of the various bits of clay.

When the circles had dried, I used the small, matching “inner” circles (where each set of lines all intersect) over some Low Shrinkage Steel XT to make the earrings I mentioned before. So far, so good.

Looking at the dry “outer” circles (washers, actually: the larger circles with their centers removed), I had another idea. Using a texture sheet with some concentric circles, I rolled out two more sheets of clay, one each from Friendly Copper and Low Shrinkage Steel XT. Then I centered one of the bronze “washers” over each of those, and cut a matching circle out of each clay. Finally, I rolled out another pair of those two clays, this time using two different “flowered” textures, and cut out a third circle of the same size from each of those. Both the circles- and the flower-design were rolled to four cards at first and then, with the textures, down to two cards. (I didn’t roll the clay with textures on both sides because: (a) I hadn’t yet decided for sure how I would use them, and (b) I wanted to center the designs on both sides the way I wanted, and doing that separately for each side was easier.) I set all those aside to dry (as well as a few other bits I’ll try to write about another time), figuring I’d use them for something….

A few days later still, I got to wondering about the “high fire” temperature of these new “one fire” clays. In general, even with this new trio, it’s the bronze that’s going to limit how hot the product can get during the sintering process. Would the “bronze embeddable” bails survive that heat? (I use them myself, on occasion, and I often offer them to students, especially in introductory workshops, because they can save a bit of time when compared to having to make one’s own bail.) So I took one of the bronze washers, attached the copper disk with circles and let that dry, then positioned the embeddable bail and attached the copper flower-design disk. Once all that had dried, I filled in a few little gaps, dried it all some more, and finally fired the piece.

The results were interesting, as shown in the first photo, above. It all sintered just fine. The bail did blister a little bit: not enough to ruin it, but enough that any metal artist “in the know” should be able to spot what happened. But I still think it’s interesting.

There was one small blister on the sintered bronze section. My first thought was that I’d overfired the batch a bit, but then I realized it was exactly over the post on the embeddable bail. Silly me, I didn’t think to capture a photo of that: What I did was to immediately see if I could polish it out. Easy! I’m not done polishing this piece (it was just a spur of the moment creation, not a planned project), but I think the photo I include here (click on it for a bigger version) gives you a hint as to the blistering on the bail (in case you’re someone who uses them too), and to the way it does look like the disk itself will polish up nicely with a little more work.

There’s one other item worth noting: how the bronze in the bail alloyed a bit with the copper on the other side! Look at the side shown to the right in the first photo, up near the bail, and notice the golden-colored patch. Alloying! Again, artistically, I’m OK with its looking like that. But it’s good to know it will happen.

A few days later, I got to wondering, would the bronze wire I sometimes use with such pieces show the same blistering? [Later clarification: I've used that wire in the past with pieces made using Hadar's Quick Fire bronze. That's a clay that takes a two-phase firing and only mid-fire temperatures and it's always held up beautifully in pieces fired that way. Here, I'm otherwise reporting on the newer one-phase high-fire clays.]

So I made a simple wire-loop bail out of phosphor bronze (melting temp listed as 1800°F), then took the other (matching) bronze washer and the Low Shrinkage Steel XT disks, and assembled it the same way as I’d done before. I fired that using the same schedule too.

And, again, I noticed a bit of blistering on the bail and, with this wire-design, a bit of fusing across the loops. Again, I think that slightly grainy look is OK. Other than a quick clean-up, I have not yet stopped to polish this one at all. But I decided to post about it quickly because, this time, the main piece shrank much further away from the bail. In its clay state, the loops were pressed lightly down into the piece, but the post-firing separation is visible in the photo. No alloying with the steel though, which is also good to know.

But you have to see the two together to catch what surprised me the most: the difference in shrinkage! They started out exactly the same size, and look how different they are now. The current (as I write this) Hadar’s Cheat Sheet (.pdf) says that, on their own, Champagne Bronze shrinks about 30%, Low Shrinkage Steel XT about 28%, and Friendly Copper about 25%. Combos will be limited, to some extent, by the least-shinkage clay in the mix. But there’s only a 3% difference between LSStXT and FrCu, and it sure looks to me like there’s more than a 3% difference in the results here. What I can feel, but can’t really show here, is that there is maybe a 3% difference in height but it’s in the wrong direction. The one made from copper is a teensy bit thinner (i.e., more shrinkage, not less).

I really do like the results I’m getting with these clays, and the 3-hour firing time is a huge help compared to some of the others. But, with the others (and any of the “older” clays, both precious and non-precious), I think I have a pretty good feel for the shrinkage. With this new One Fire Trio, I’m still exploring….

What are you finding with them? Do leave a comment!

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A very quick shrinkage comparison of Hadar’s “One Fire Trio”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/25

Here’s a photo showing a few more little bits from my first trial firing of Hadar’s One-Fire Trio. Though I didn’t start out by making them as perfectly-similar as would be required for a scientific comparison, I did roll and cut them to the same size. So, in order, from the most shrinkage to the least are: Champagne Bronze (C), Low Shrinkage Steel XT (L), and Friendly Copper (F).

I’ll have to see if the apparent ratios continue to hold with other cubes. (That is, some differences could just be due to my having mixed more or less water into the different products. And I just stamped the letters in by hand, which could have changed the shapes a bit too.) But, with the other pieces I fired at the same time, the ratios do seem to vary depending on the shape of the piece being fired. I don’t have enough data yet to be sure, and these cubes are the only items where I made three matching pieces to start with.

But I will say that, while the Champagne Bronze cube did shrink somewhere around the proposed 30% rate all around (per the Cheat Sheet for Hadar’s Quick-fire Clays on her blog), a ring shank made from the same batch shrank barely 15% in length and a bit less than that in width. (Its height/thickness is just too small for me to accurately measure whether all the remaining shrinkage went into that, or not.)

Still, I figured I’d share the preliminary results. Please add a comment if you try these clays and find results that are either similar or different!

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Trying Hadar’s New “One Fire Trio”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/24

It’s taken me a while to post again as the state of mini-crises has continued, but I won’t bore you with those details. Instead, I’m delighted to report an exciting new development: At the start of the year, Hadar announced a new One Fire Trio that includes two new metal clay powders that, along with one of her older ones, can be de-bindered and sintered in just one firing (rather than the two separate ones that many others require). Their total firing time is just under 3 hours. Wow! Compared to the usual 8 hours (if you fuss in between) or 12 (if you don’t fuss but do sacrifice more carbon), that’s a huge difference!

The older member of the trio is Low Shrinkage Steel XT. On its own, it could be fired in a single kiln-run, but that limited the combinations in which it could be used. Also, it’s a high-fire clay, so it could only be used in small amounts with some of her other clays, the ones fired at lower temperatures. But, with the introduction of two new clays—Champagne Bronze and Friendly Copper, both of which also use high-fire and single-phase processes—it is now possible to produce more combinations.

Each of Hadar’s metal clay powders have their own advantages and disadvantages compared to the others. No one product (or small set of products) from her or (or any other producer) is yet able to achieve everything an artist might want. But each new combination offers new opportunities, which is what makes them so exciting! I am sure that some people got these clays and proceeded to develop complex creations. But me, I prefer to get to know the clays in simpler ways first, to discover their advantages and limitations. I have a few more-complex pieces in the works, and I’ll get around to completing their construction and firing them eventually. This post will show a few of the simpler pieces I tried first.

The earring pair to the left was made with Friendly Copper. The pair to the right used Low Shrinkage Steel XT in back, with the embellishment in Champagne Bronze. After firing, the copper and bronze were very lightly polished (just a quick pass with one set of (3M yellow) radial bristle disks); the steel is as it came out of the kiln; the earwires are anodized niobium (that I just happened to have handy). If / when I can find the time, I may fiddle with finishing them a bit more but, for now, I just could not resist offering this quick sneak peek!

The second (smaller) photo shows the other side of the steel pair, after each piece has been quickly polished in the same way as the copper and bronze on the fronts. I did that because I wanted to show the polished-steel color on its own, even though I liked the black+gold contrast in the combination on the other side of these. (Although ensuring that the black will stay black—neither shining up to gray nor rusting out—will require some of that additional finishing I just mentioned….)

One note on firing: Hadar says that firing any of the clays in this trio takes her 2:45 (2 hours and 45 minutes). For these, I used a brick kiln, outdoors on a covered patio, when the air temperature was around 25°F (-4°C). I also know that this particular kiln tends to overshoot the goal temperature early on in the firing process, regardless of the temperature of the air surrounding it, though it holds the temperature fine once it’s had the chance to swing up and down a few times. My work-around for that is to set a two-step program, where I first get it near the goal temperature and tell it to hold there for a couple of minutes (allowing it to spike higher there), then ramp it slowly to the real goal where it can hold for the required firing time. With those two differences between my set-up and hers, firing these pieces still took only 2:58. As I said above, that’s a real treat!

Another note on my kiln: I don’t leave it outside all the time. I keep it inside and just haul it out when I need to fire it. (If I fire it indoors in winter, when I don’t have any good way to vent it and I’m using carbon to provide an oxygen-reduced atmosphere inside the kiln, my CO detectors signal a problem!) Hauling it in and out takes only a few minutes each way, so it’s not a major problem, even when the temperatures are in the 20s. But, they’re currently hovering around 0°F, and that puts enough of a strain on my furnace, me, and more. I’m not leaving doors open to move kiln, kiln “furniture,” the stand, various tools, power strip, gloves, safety glasses, and more both out and then back in again.

In other words, even though I have more pieces underway, it may be a while before I get around to firing them and posting the results. It’s just winter … and I don’t mind at all living at winter’s pace … for a while.

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Sigh … I’m feeling just a little sorry for myself …

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/08

I’ll get over it. There’s no major crisis. But I haven’t been able to work in my studio for several weeks now. I don’t do “this” full-time, far from it in fact, but I’m kind of frustrated, now feeling like I’m starting the year far behind schedule!

I knew the building where I rent my studio was going to be “closed” over the holidays, with a lot of painting going on. In theory, that was a good thing. A number of the rooms (not mine) had had some damage from a roof leak. The leak had been fixed last year and the damaged parts patched, but things still looked a bit worn. So they were taking advantage of the holiday-lull to paint ceilings and walls.

And, as a tenant, I have keys and can get in the building even if it’s closed to public events. So, in theory, I could have gone in then. I did stop in briefly a few times, in fact, only to have confirmed my fears that a mid-winter paint job with all the windows sealed shut would mean an atmosphere full of unpleasant fumes. Maybe not as bad as they might have been a few decades ago, but still not ones I wanted to breathe for extended work-sessions. Besides, it was “the holidays,” so I just planned to spend a week celebrating with a range of friends.

Except … the notice about when the painting would be completed was incorrect. Though the painting of “public” rooms finished on December 31, as I’d planned for, there were four more days of painting to be done in the “rented” rooms that had also suffered the leak-damage. With a closed building, that meant probably five more days of fumes. Five more days of avoiding the studio.

Now, the rooms do look lovely! No longer are those spaces all a bland, institutional cream; now their walls sport a range of khaki, yellow, green, and blue colors. Aside from my bit of personal frustration, I must say the place is looking much better. (While I remain glad that I did not suffer ceiling bits falling into my metal clay projects back when the leaks were happening, the down-side there is that it did make my room ineligible for new paint in this round….) Still, though I’d “lost” a few more days, at that point I remained OK.

But … that wasn’t the end of it! I don’t know just what happened, but there was some plumbing issue downstairs that meant no water and limited electricity for a few days. That got resolved. But, then there was a water main break just as the “polar vortex” was approaching: water rushing down the lovely old cobblestone road created a thick, wide stream of icy, deep, freezing slush that basically blocked access to the building. That did get fixed before the depths of the arctic blast reached us, but I knew my room’s lovely-but-leaky windows (the only “original” ones remaining in the building) would leave the room unpleasantly cold. So I decided to wait another day before going back.

Today. Only to find that the furnace that heats my room had gone out. There are, I think, ten separate heating units in the building. All but one are working. But the one that’s out is my main heat source. And, yes, I did think about firing up a kiln. But a unit intended to heat less than 1 cubic foot is not going to have much impact on my 7000 cu ft room (350 sq ft footprint with 20′ ceiling!).

I have an electric space heater that I turned on, which brought the temps up from low-40s to mid-50s. But that’s as far as that little unit can take it. (I do have another space heater at home I could bring over, but I also know that the room’s old circuitry won’t handle it. The heater that is working is plugged into the new line that was installed so I could run any one of kiln or space heater or air conditioning unit.)

Furnace-guy has been called, and is scheduled to check it out tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. If we’re into a situation where obtaining parts is an issue, the back-up plan is that I’ll move what I need into a room across the hall. It’s a nice space in many ways but the lighting in that room is entirely different from what I have in my studio. And moving and settling in will take up time too. So I’m hoping the furnace-fix is an easy one.

And I know it will all get resolved. I’ll get back to work. It’s just that I’d just been soooo looking forward to finishing some catch-up tasks before deadlines started heating up again. And, poof!, day-after-day, that fantasy has now evaporated. I’m just not feeling as resilient as I wish I could manage right now…. So using my computer (which, of course, is in the cold studio) I post this, quickly for the moment, with very cold fingers, and apologize that I’ve not yet managed to update the information down the right side here, nor the Classes page on my website. It’s coming…

(The photo with this post shows the back deck of my house one year when I lived in Minnesota. It was taken five days after a frozen-rainstorm in January, 1996, that was followed, on February 2 of that year, by record-setting cold temperatures (-60° F in northern parts of the state, merely in the -50s where I lived). I really am trying to regain a sense of perspective here!)

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Wrapping Up One Year and Opening the Next…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/01

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s time to write my fifth New Year’s Day post.

A while ago, I wrote a piece where I said that sometimes I compare beading to framing. That is, some 2-d artists offer a mix, where some pieces are “basic” ones and others have been “framed.” So the buyer has a choice: they can take the piece home and hang it plainly, or they can add their own framing. Or they can buy an already-framed piece. And I tend to offer pendants, for example, where most of them are on a plain cord so you can wear them but let the unique, hand-crafted piece itself be the focus, or you can take it home and add your own fancier chain or even string it with some beads you have. Or I have a few that I do hang in other ways, so that is an option for people who prefer that.

I got to thinking about that again, in a slightly different way, the past few weeks. ‘Tis the season for wrapping and unwrapping gifts, and for wrapping up one year and unwrapping the next. With this post are photos of a small sample of pieces I made in the process of wrapping up 2013, as I prepare to offer them in opening up 2014 … as objects of art themselves at first and, until they find new homes, as samples for a new workshop series that’s under development. For some reason, these three told me they didn’t want to be hung simply but, instead, preferred to be wrapped up with ribbons or other forms of decoration.

The “sometimes I compare beading to wrapping” analogy hit me as I hung the first piece illustrating this post (above) a hollow bronze “box” accented with copper, rose bronze, and yellow bronze. I just felt it needed to go on the collection of ribbons shown in the photo. (And the inset confirms that, yes, I’m still making reversible pieces.) With all the gift-wrapping that goes on this time of year, I felt that those ribbons wrapped up the “box” in a way that still kept the focus on the special bronze element. You could choose to take it home and hang it some other way, if you wanted, but it’s nicely wrapped just as it is.

With the second piece (left) as I made the hollow “draped” pendant, I just knew it was one of the pieces that I’d want to hang some other way, so I made a toggle clasp to match it. Then I hung the main bead on a piece of bronze wire, with some tiger eye beads that seemed to go with its coloring, plus a few spacer beads (mostly to protect the tiger eyes from the ends of the wire wraps), and then used some brass chain between all that and the clasp.

With the third piece, a hollow bead then “wrapped” in several different textured layers, I went even further. This time I added jasper, petrified wood, and garnet beads, linked together with bronze wire, plus a bit of brass chain (not shown here) near the lobster clasp I used as a closure.

Three different ways of “wrapping” a piece up in a somewhat decorative fashion. I hope those who wear these pieces (or even just view their photos) will appreciate the original bronze “focal” beads as well as the way each one has been wrapped up for them to wear. As to the workshops, I hope to have that schedule posted (at least in draft form) within a week.

In the meantime though, I still have a bit more New Year celebrating to do. Here’s wishing you a happy and productive 2014!

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Merry Christmas to All!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/12/25

This is a slightly belated “Thank You!” to everyone who braved the weather to head out for this year’s Art Buzz tour. Whether you faced the sleet, snow, and ice on Saturday, or more ice and biting cold on Sunday, your support of independent, local artists is much appreciated, perhaps more than you can imagine.

And, to those of you who are the recipients of gifts or gift cards purchased during that event, I hope you are as delighted with them as your gifter appeared to be while making the purchase.

For anyone trying to find my schedule of upcoming classes, I’ll be working on that later this week. I hope to have it posted on my website the first week of January (and I’ll announce it here). If you need info sooner than that, let me know, and I can give you some preliminary (but subject to change) information.

In the meantime, I hope all my blog-readers are having a very Merry Christmas, and enjoying everything about this holiday season.

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2013 Art Buzz Tour — This Weekend!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/12/14

Have you heard the buzz? Six sites! All in the Pittsburgh area’s “East End” this weekend: Regent Square, Swissvale, and Squirrel Hill. And my studio is one of the locations on it again this year.

I’ve got lots of jewelry on offer, plus a handful of other small adornments.

I also have aloe vera plants that need a new home, babies that i repotted from some of the big ones I keep around. (I do work with hot metals here!) BONUS: small ones are free with a purchase of $35 or more (or a discount can be applied to the price of any of the larger ones if that’s what you prefer).

Plus you’re welcome to share some of my cookies and hot mulled cider. (I also got the makings for cranberry-orange frosties but, with all the snow that’s falling, I’ll save that until there’s a request or I run out of cider, whichever comes first.)

Happy Holidays to all!

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This Weekend (and Next) at my Community Center

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/12/05

Once again, it’s time for the Holiday Gift Shop at the Wilkins School Community Center. Do come by this weekend if you get the chance: 7-9 pm on Friday evening (great opening night party, and it’s free!) or 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

I’m letting WSCC do the selling for me at this event because, with everything else that happens this time of year, I’ll be in and out all weekend. What I have on offer at this venue includes a number of class samples and workshop demonstration pieces. FYI, I recycle earnings from those into buying more materials to use in refreshing my memory on next year’s classes (the samples) and in making pieces as I illustrate the processes during classes (the demo pieces). They’ve expanded the event this year, from two rooms to three on the main floor of the center, so there should be lots of goodies on offer from a number of different vendors, for gifts or for yourself!

And, while I’m writing, I’ll mention another event, next weekend, when I’ll have my studio open (upstairs at WSCC) from 10 am to 4 pm on December 14 & 15, and a little bit of everything will be on sale then (my full range of jewelry and other small adornments, information about workshops and home parties, gift certificates, …). I’ll be one of the six stops on the annual Art Buzz Tour, so you can even just grab a map to all the other great sites.

I hope that my “local” readers will be able to stop by, one weekend or the other. I really do appreciate all your support!!!

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Impromptu Show!!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/11/16

I’m having a show at my studio later today!! Given the wee hour of the night at which I am writing this, assuming I make it up and over there in time, it will run from 11 am to 5 pm. (I definitely plan to stay until 5 pm; the question is whether I can get a show open by 11.)

Why? Well, Friday evening I learned that Indie Knit and Spin will be having their annual show in the building where I have my studio, on Saturday from 11 to 5. And, not just in the building, but actually upstairs where my space is, in rooms on either side of me. How can I not take advantage of all those shoppers just walking past my door?! (My aerie’s hallway does not normally see much traffic: most of the “events” in the building are held downstairs.)

Now, the thing is, I wasn’t supposed to be in town this weekend. I’d had some clay-play time planned with a friend who, due to family constraints, had to change that at pretty much the last minute. Not to worry, thought I, I need to sort and check tags and confirm prices and do inventory for several upcoming shows, I’ll just take advantage of the “found time” to do that. I’d earlier retrieved some unsold items from various places and had left those at home; last night I’d just finished packing up every remaining item I could possibly want to sell when I got the news.

So I’m up way later than I’d planned checking that everything is in the spreadsheets and priced accurately. Not everything has a tag yet, but maybe I can spread it all out and work on that in studio tomorrow while shoppers browse. I’ve also made up some little flyers (not as creative as I’d like, but this is last-minute) listing the other local events where my work will be available.

If you’re in the area, do stop by. (And, if you’re not, but get a chuckle out of my last-minute planning here, please at least send me a few words of encouragement to keep me going on not-enough sleep! Thanks!!!)

I will close with a quick snapshot (on borrowed camera since I’ve still not sorted out the problems with mine yet, and its colors are off a bit for some reason) of just a few of the pieces I have on hand. Each of these has a little stone (lab-created corundum or spinel) that will glow in the winter’s light….

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Double Double Duty

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/11/15

I love it when I can save myself some time, effort, and / or money by getting “double duty” out of something. It’s great whenever it happens, but it’s a special treat at this time of year. (That is, as anyone in any aspect of retail sales know, during the time when the holiday-sales season approaches, schedules fill up, and spare time simply evaporates!)

So the reversible fine silver pendant with a lab-grown pink corundum stone shown with this post was a real treat:

  • I made the “base” piece as part of my demos during a recent beginner’s workshop. I fired it with the student pieces, which got that out of the way quickly too. Then, I added the bezel cup and “sapphire” as my part of my demos during a session on adding a stone to a finished piece. Two classes that were lots of fun and one piece that worked for both. Double duty.

  • But the double-double comes from the fact that the piece is now done, and into inventory for one of my pre-holiday shows! It’s going out to the H*liday mART at Sweetwater Center for the Arts (November 30 – December 8). I hope it will go home with someone else who falls in love with it there. But the timing is such that, if it ends up coming back with me, I can offer it again at my studio, with all the other pieces I’ll be saving specifically to offer there during the Art Buzz Tour (December 14-15).

While the making and placing of tags is nowhere near as much fun as is the making of these pieces, I’ve found I can overcome the boredom of that by imagining the people who will attend such events, and imagining those who may connect with one (or more) of my creations. I hope you’ll be among them, for real.

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Who knew?! Colors, polishing, etc.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/11/12

Back in August, I wrote about one of a series of “pillow” beads I’d made using Hadar’s Quick Fire Bronze powder. In particular, I ended the post with a photo of the amazing colors the kiln provided that time, and a comment that I knew they were somewhat ephemeral.

Well, yes, after only a short time (and despite having tried to “protect” them with several layers of acryllic spray), they became rather dull. Still there, but no longer jump-out-at-you vivid. So I proceeded to do some polishing (moderately aggressively in the center-design area, and more gently around the edges) and then re-coated everything. This provided pieces with clearer bronze-yellow center-designs, while still maintaining a trace of the kiln-colors around the edges. I didn’t really think the vivid colors would last, but the subtle ones shown here have remained much more stable ever since. I’m pleased with these results.

The thing that did surprise me, however, was something that had not been at all obvious with the vivid coloring, but did jump out at me (peering closely through my bifocal safety glasses for magnification as I worked): my straight pencil-lead “registration” marks — ones that I’ve come to use often (to align parts or holes or … ) on silver clay that is fired in regular air — do not simply burn off when you bury bronze in activated carbon during firing. Who knew?! Did you? It was a surprise to me, so I thought I’d share it with y’all.

If you want to give your piece a bright, shiny polish, it’s very easy to grind (sand) the marks off. (I did that with another piece, just to be sure, though I didn’t think to grab a before-photo to use here.) But I didn’t want to do that with the pieces shown above, especially not to the one towards the right (on a brass chain). I liked its aged, colored look. So I’m just leaving the straight-line mark. I showed the piece to a number of people (metal clay artists and otherwise) and, in person, it didn’t seem to jump out to anyone (until I pointed it out to them). I’m now just calling it a part of this piece’s design.

These are now ready to go off for holiday-season sales. I hope they find good homes!

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Another “It’s Always Something, Isn’t It?” Situation

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/10/26

Another gap in blogging, it seems: I guess I could just post text without photos, but somehow my writing-mind goes blank without images. And I’m really short on images at the moment: the little camera I use here for jewelry photos died right after my last post. Given the symptoms, I don’t think it’s a mechanical failure of the basic camera mechanism; this is a little digital camera and it looks to me like something has gone haywire in the digital processing part of the device (some “chip” issue). Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t had time to even figure out where to take / send it to see if it’s something fixable (in an affordable way), or if I’ve been pushed into replacement-land (i.e., expense). Sigh.

I borrowed a camera for a few hours today for something else I had to do (i.e., photos required, deadline firm) and, while I had it, grabbed a few quick shots of new jewelry items. The ones I include with this post show a pendant in Copper and Bronze. One side (bigger image here, right) shows some “cane slices” from fairly near the end of a cane (where the disks of each metal are fairly large). The top one, in fact, had a huge copper center. I could have drilled into that and added some bronze but, I will admit, I took the “easy way out” for a change: I saw that space and said to myself, “If I put this one at the top, I can drill a hanging-hole right through that copper area!” I’m happy with that solution.

I’m OK with the fact that it developed some gaps between the square elements as it was fired. I did spend some time debating with myself whether to fill the gap between the copper and bronze rings in the fourth element down from the top. That also appeared only after the whole piece had been fired, so patching would have required a second firing (and, thus, possibly more gaps elsewhere that might bother me more). The “ridged” area between the third and fourth elements only showed up this clearly after I’d polished the whole thing and applied the patina solution to bring out the contrast between the two metals. I could probably have gotten that out with a file but, afterwards, the whole piece would have needed more polishing and another round of patination. This is a small, relatively simple piece, meant to be a somewhat inexpensive option for someone who likes my work in this technique but doesn’t want (or can’t afford) the larger, more complex ones. Doing either of those “repairs” would have bumped the price up (or forced me to take a loss on that time and energy). I love the look of this technique when it all works perfectly, but I’m torn about how many pieces to make using it because of the time it takes (both just to do it at all, and then to do all the extra “fixing” it so often involves) compared to the prices at which I’ve seen these pieces sell (or, when marked higher, not sell…). Clearly, this is a situation where artistry bumps right up against reality! Does that happen to other people? How do you deal with it?

Of course, this being me, the piece is reversible! The other side (smaller image here, left) has copper in a sort of woven design (that reminds me of some of my mother’s wicker baskets) embellished with three bronze bars. The techniques used on that side are just so much more reliable. I am constantly asking myself, “Should I just stick with this sort of work, overall?” Questions like that come into extra-sharp focus as one addresses the issue of replacing equipment like a jewelry-grade camera. (Trust me: for this, I need a camera with a particularly good “macro” mode, one that not only shoots good close-ups but also captures those colors especially well.)

But I’ll worry about camera later. I have a whole collection of bronze and/or copper pieces made and fired, but somehow not quite finished. Some have not yet received any polishing, let alone any other finishing. Some are polished but need a patina to either accent their textures or contrast the different metals used. Some have made it through all of that, but need to be hung on something. I’m hoping I can borrow camera again to photograph those when they’re done, and then I’ll enter them into inventory and make their sales-tags. I’ve got a week to get all that done (along with my next assignment for the workshop I’m doing with Hadar); then I’ll clear off my worktable, wash all the tools and such, set the space up in its workshop configuration, and turn back to silver for a few weeks.

The next workshop I’ll be teaching will be another silver one: we’ll be making reversible pendants, textured on both sides, and curved into interesting shapes (domed disks, wavy oblongs, free-form curves, etc.). It’s a great project for beginners (first timer through advanced-beginners…), and is scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, November 9. There are still a couple seats open … so do let me know if you’d like to join us!

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Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/10/05

Just a quick note to say “Thanks!” to everyone who (a) came to EcoFest at WSCC today and (b) came upstairs to visit me & my studio! And, of course, a double-thanks to everyone who left with a purchase…!

For those who could not make it over today, the photo with this post shows what it looked like, as I converted my studio / classroom into a little showroom for one day. The worktables were cleaned off and draped. Display stands were pulled out of the cabinet. Inventory was brought in from its usual (secure) storage area. A few seasonal decorations even appeared … courtesy of a delightful Harvest Dinner that I attended on Thursday evening, sponsored by the Edible Gardens program at servePGH. I was lucky enough to win the mums (table centerpiece). And a fellow-gardener, Bertha, collected some gourds that she shared with me. Perfect timing!

For now, though, it’s time to stash the extra inventory again (leaving out just a few pieces to keep in the studio, ones that I want to use as examples for upcoming workshops), pack up the displays, get out all the tools and such, and get back to making things!

My next Studio Open House will be during the Art Buzz Tour which, this year, will be on December 14-15 (10-4 each day). Mark your calendars now, if you’ll be in the area then. I’ll post more news about that as the time approaches. (Hint: I’m hoping to have a few great additions to tell you about!)

If you are interested in doing some shopping between now and then, of course, feel free to stop by and see if I have anything on hand that will suit your needs, or let me know what you’re looking for and I may be able to dig out some other possibilities before you come over.

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Metal Treats @ EcoFest

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/09/30

Have I really been in this studio for three years already? My how time flies when you’re having so much fun!!! I still remember the first week of October in 2010, when I was just trying to get moved into this space, and how thrilled I was to find the whole community center full of people who’d come to that year’s EcoFest. And here we are in early October again, with another EcoFest on the horizon. From the flyer, it looks like many of the same activities and groups will be there again, along with some new ones. Much like my art work, where I keep returning to some favorite themes while continuing to add new ones to the repertoire.

The photo at the bottom of this post shows what my studio looks like when it’s set up for a workshop these days but, on Saturday, it will be converted into a showroom for the day! If you’re in the area, do stop by: I love having visitors at my studio. Bring some items to recycle or share, as noted on the flyer, as you explore the EcoFest events. Then come upstairs to check out the art jewelry and other small adornments I’ve created. See what I have available for an early Holiday-season shopping opportunity, and talk with me about what all else is in the works. Find out more about the workshops I have scheduled for the next few months, as well as ones I might add to the schedule this season or in the future. (Gift certificates will also be available, for anyone who’d like to allow the recipient to choose the items or class they want the most.)

Oh, and something else I did this summer was to repot the aloe vera plants I’d brought up from my family home in Florida: I’ll also have a bunch of baby aloes (and some, not-so-baby) looking for good new homes. Yes, they remind me of “home” but another reason I keep them going is because of how useful these “burn remedy plants” can be for moments when someone (you or me…) isn’t devoting their full attention to handling something hot from a session under a torch or in a kiln!

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It seems I’ve been rather quiet lately….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/09/29

… online, at least. I’ve done some metal clay work, but haven’t had extra time to write about it. Sigh! But, fyi, here’s but one of the many other things I have been doing, helping to turn an empty city lot into an Urban Edible Teaching Garden. Click on the links to access panoramas of the garden before and now, respectively … which I’d like to simply embed here but I’ve still have not figured out how to make GigaPans appear in WordPress. Another sigh.

One of Tony Tye's images for the P-G from the UETG Celebration.

Although there’s lots more to do in the garden—we are extending the season with cool-weather crops and exploring others that we can over-winter there—we are breathing a big sigh of relief now that we made it though our big fall “Celebration”! The weather for it, yesterday, was perfect!

It was open to the public, but we specifically invited the various groups whose support has helped fund the project, so it was a big deal for us. It was even reported in several local papers! I hope this link to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article will work!

(Third sigh. My concern about the link’s working is because the P-G has just begun limiting online access unless you have a subscription, but they say they are allowing links from “social media” so I add the link with hope! If the photo of two women in the asparagus bed (which accompanies the article) shows up here, I’m guessing the link to the story will work too. O the joys of technology! The good news is that the photo was taken by Tony Tye, and it was both a surprise and a real treat to run into him in person again.)

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