Convergent Series

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

So many happenings on Saturday, May 12!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/05/12

It’s Second Saturday time again! My studio will be open for last-minute Mother’s Day shopping, and more, on Saturday, May 12, from approximately 9 am through 1 pm.

I had to shift my usual Second Saturday time earlier for a variety of reasons:

  1. The Regent Square community-wide yard sale will be that day, from 8 am to 3 pm.
  2. To coincide with (1), the Wilkins School Community Center will hold its annual spring fundraiser, this year called Books, Beer, Plants, and Dogs with
    • WSCC will offer used book ($1 each) sale from 8 am to 3 pm,
    • Coffee and sweets will be there from 8 to 10 am, then
    • The offerings will switch to raft beer and hot dogs from 11 am to 1 pm.
    • Local farmers will offer veggies, herbs, and flowering plants, also from 8 am to 3 pm,
  3. As soon as I’ve done a bit of shopping at (1) and (2) I will head up to Room #25 and open up my own art/jewelry show!
  4. But I’ll have to leave by about 1 pm, so I can dash over for the opening of the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh’s Instructors Exhibit! There are a dozen of us in that show, which will run through July 8. I’ve got (count them!) sixteen different pieces in it, illustrations of the kinds of things I have taught or will soon be teaching there! They’re all for sale, and all of Artsmiths’ proceeds from the sale will go towards support of their instructional programming!
  5. With all the to-ing and fro-ing, I’m sad that I’m going to have to miss the Pittsburgh Center for Creative ReUse’s annual spring ReClaim! event! That runs from 11 am to 6 pm. (Why sad: because at previous Reclaim! events I’ve picked up hundreds of little bits of design samples that I’m able to use in the process of making my jewelry creations! It’s not like I need more: it’s what treasures might I be missing out on!!)
  6. I am going to try to also get off to the opening of another show that will feature two of my art-jewelry pieces, one each in steel (with enamel) and silver (with a cubic zirconia). They are in the the North Hills Art Center’s Spring Regional Show. The opening reception is from 7 to 9 pm on Saturday and then the show will continue whenever the Center is open, for the rest of this month and then through June 8.

Finally, please accept my apologies for not yet having gotten around to posting my upcoming teaching schedule! Well, I did post it: there’s a printed copy of my next six classes hanging just outside my studio door, and I will be delighted to discuss them there! And the Artsmiths Instructors’ Show is set up so that all of us there will have the chance to talk about those upcoming classes. If I make it up to North Hills, I can talk about my offerings there too. And I will try to post more information online in the next few days….

I do hope that lots of folks will be able to join me, at one or more of these events!

Two Reversible Pendants: each a Shadow Box with Spinel

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“Cool Sizzle” at Art All Night … Tonight!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/04/28

Yes, the last weekend in April once again brings us Art All Night! And Cool Sizzle will be spending all night night there tonight!

Cool SizzleThe Piece

Living in Steeltown (aka Pittsburgh, PA) it seemed only right that my tenth-ever entry into this annual show should, at last, be made from steel! All my earlier ones used silver, bronze, and/or copper, so steels’s the one metal from my main repertiore that hasn’t yet been shown there.

Specifically, Cool Sizzle was made from a steel that is both “sintered” and “black.” Regular readers of this blog will likely know what that means. If you’ve just landed here from the tag on my piece at Art All Night, the most important things to take from that are:

  • sintered: relatively light in weight for its size, and
  • black: not a shiny, stainless steel.

Sometimes I carefully design a piece (i.e., with a theme and a title from the start) but, more often, I start with a vague idea and see where the piece takes me. This was definitely one of the latter. Late last year (actually, while doing some Christmas shopping) I noticed a silicon trivet / potholder with a cute “flat bubble” design on it that I thought would make a nice “texture stamp” for a jewelry piece, so I bought it as a little gift to myself, and set it aside. Just this past Monday, anticipating Art All Night, I was looking around my studio and debating whether to enter something I already had on hand or try to complete something totally new. I moved the tray of enamel powders that just happened to be sitting on top of that trivet, and I knew: try to make something with it, out of steel, and colored with enamels!

Why call it Cool Sizzle?

The “sizzle” refers, not just to the bubbly pattern, but even more to all the heat involved in making it:

  • construted using the “metal clay” process, it was fired in a kiln to nearly 1900°F for two hours;
  • a certain amount of rust-protection was added via a “hot bluing” process (which turns it black…) of repeatedly heating it with a torch flame until glowing and then rapidly cooling it by quenching;
  • adding color by wet-packing vitreous enamel powders into some of the hollows in the design, which ended up taking five more firings (though only at about 1500°F this time).

And the “cool” refers to:

  • the use of mostly cool colors (blues and green) in the design (with just a touch of yellow (but not red or orange), meant to reflect the piece’s lightness (rather than for warmth)), and
  • how the metal normally feels relatively cool to the touch.

The Event

The rules for Art All Night are simple: one (only one) piece per artist, anyone can enter, with no fees, no jury, no censorship. Also, no sales at the show itself, but participants can offer bids on entries that are then passed along to the artists when they pick up their work. It’s up to the artists to then contact anyone who has bid on their art. If you get one bid at or above your asking price, you just arrange a time and place to make the sale. If you get more than one bid, or offers below your asking price, then negotiations can commence. I haven’t been overwhelmed with bids on every entry I’ve made over the years, but the majority of them have happily gone to a bidder (several at more than my asking price!), and all but one of the others have sold very soon afterwards. (The lone hold-out is actually one of my personal favorite pieces, and I’ve really no clue why it’s still in my collection!)

2018 represents the 21st annual Art All Night event, and the first one not held in the Lawrenceville neighborhood! I wasn’t even living in Pittsburgh when I first discovered it: I was still living in California then, and just happened to be in town for a conference, noticed a little blurb about it in the local arts & entertainment newspaper, and decided to go check it out. And was blown away by this wonderful (then, little) exhibit of community art! It had everything from little-kid “refrigerator” art (with some great bidding wars among grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.!), to people who made something (NFS: Not For Sale) for themselves that they’d just like to let others see, to wild constructions you’d never, ever see in a regular gallery anywhere, to works that were clearly professional creations, and more.

A year (or was it two?) later, I was invited to come back to the area for a job interview around the same time of year. So I checked to see when Art All Night would be, and asked to schedule the trip for dates that could include it. I didn’t get that job but, surprise, a couple years later was invited to interview for a different position. And I scheduled it the same way again! That one ended up involving a lot of negotiating and re-designing and more negotiating before it got sorted out so it wasn’t until a whole year later when a house-hunting trip just happened to coincide again. Oh, and in between there somewhere were a couple little springtime vacation trips to visit with some friends that I also planned for late April. And I’ve continued to go, to volunteer, to offer demos, to enter pieces — one or more of those each year — since actually moving here. And if/when I ever move away, I sure hope I will want and be able to return for future Art All Night events!

But the thing about it is how much it has grown over the years! It started rather small, but grew quickly. The growth has slowed a bit in recent years, but it is still so very big that finding a suitable venue is now a challenge. Community Development Corporations use it as a way to draw first hundreds, then thousands, and now tens of thousands of people to some huge yet empty building. In addition to the pieces hung on walls, displayed on tables, or built up on-site on the floor, there’s live music, art demonstrations, participatory activities, food & drink, and more. And it really does stay open all night: current hours are from 4 pm on Saturday through 2 pm on Sunday! Adding up the different times I’ve gone to it across all the years, I’ve been there at just about every time of day or night, and the vibe does vary over the duration. Do let me know when you’d like to go!

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I took the challenge, and read this one too!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/04/10

The last time I noticed some shorthand in a “classic” Peanuts comic strip, a little over two years ago, I found it easy to read as soon as I relaxed and noticed places where the “code” matched the “text” next to it. So I began to just focus on reading the symbols before I’d confirm my reading by looking at the text. And then, once my brain was back into reading that, it was easy to also decode the opening and closing parts that were not duplicated in text.

This week’s strip (which I finally got around to reading tonight…) posed a little more of a challenge: none of the shorthand, though brief, was translated in the text! But, after a few false starts, I did decode it.

After many years of not reading shorthand regularly, when I encounter any now I tend to start with the simplest words, just to get my mind back into that groove, and then go back to fill in the gaps. I was thrown by this one, at first, because what I initially read as “took” turned out to be “to the” and what I was trying to read as either “ear” or “year” turned out to be “your” …. Yes, part of reading shorthand does involve context!

My key to this one turned out to be the “w” sounds, which I found particularly funny because, the last time, a missing “w” sound was the one place that threw me (what I saw as setter made more sense if read as sweater). Here, it was the presence of three “w” sound symbols that kept me on track. (In my paper, the first one had even been printed with a bit of a blur, but nothing else made sense. That had to be what it was.)

Can you read the shorthand? If so, please let me know … just because it’d be nice to know if anyone else still in my life now also has that skill set in their background! If not, don’t worry, I’ll transcribe this bit at the end of this post, after you’ve seen the comic:

from www.gocomics.com/peanuts/2018/04/08

Snoopy dictates:
… your recent repairs to the roof of my dwelling are quite inadequate …

And now, I must get back to doing something productive…

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When Second Saturday becomes Third Sunday…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/04/09

the 2018 March for Science Pittsburgh logoRemember when I said that I’d be holding open house Studio Sessions mostly on the second Saturday of each month? Well, April is going to have to be one of the exceptions!

I’m shifting the event one day later, to April 15, which just happens to end up being the Third Sunday of that month. Yeah, well, (mathematically, modulo 7) that’s how calendars work in any month that starts on a Sunday!

I’ll have a mini-show that day, from about Noon to 5 pm. Mostly I’ll bring over pieces that remind me of spring, which is trying (with some difficulty) to arrive. I’ll also have some other items that I think you might want to consider if you’re shopping for Mother’s Day gifts. Let me know if there are any specific kinds of pieces you”d like me to have on hand to consider.

Or, if you’re more interested in making than shopping, do let me know by Thursday night if you want me to set up a place for you to work … because the only time this week I have available to do that set-up is Friday morning. If you just want to talk about techniques, or see samples & ask questions about any of my upcoming classes, you’re also welcome to just stop by any time between Noon and 5!

Why can’t I do that on Saturday? Because I will (again) volunteer for the March for Science in Oakland. Though various aspects of “STEAM” have been important to me in different ways over the course of my life, I can’t think of a day that hasn’t been made better by some combination of them! So, if you go to the March for Science in Pittsburgh, do look for me and say “Hello!”

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I knew who Marjory Stoneman Douglas was! Did you?!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/24

photo of Marjory Stoneman Douglas from the State Archives of Florida As a (long ago) graduate of a (different) high school in the Broward County Public School System, while I was traveling in California and then after returning to my current home in Pennsylvania, since mid-February I’ve been asking people, “Do you know who Marjory Stoneman Douglas was?”

Answers have ranged from, “No,” to “Oh, I just assumed she was some local philanthropist who gave a lot of money to that school in Florida.”

And I’ve been saying, “Well, no, and you really should check her out! She was an environmentalist and a journalist. Here’s one place you could start! (Though that’s from Florida International University, where they’ve had their own problems lately…) In her 90s she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for that amazing combination. Especially in SW PA, where Rachel Carson is so well known (whether via praise or condemnation!) for her work in the 60s, you should take note of what MSD started doing decades earlier, and continued for a much longer lifetime!”

Not even one person in my personal circle that I’ve asked recently has had any clue. The answers of my generally intellectually curious and politically savvy friends didn’t surprise me in the first few days after February 14, but as I’ve continued to ask that question in subsequent weeks, I’ve actually been surprised that not even one of them seems to have made any effort to find out, that none have seemed to have registered the occasional reference to her that has been slipped into media coverage. (And neither do they seem to remember the second-season episode of The Simpsons that referenced her! Though I’ll admit that even I had (a) seen and then (b) completely forgotten that one until I went looking for something like that “place to start” link above…) In this era where people pull out their “phones” to look up anything, are my dear friends suddenly so distracted that they cannot take a minute to question who she was? I have been truly baffled.

So, despite all the complaints circulating these days about how challenging it’s become to talk about so many topics, maybe this quotation from MSD (that I have noticed circulating online recently) will help inspire some curiosity, and some action(s):

“Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, & disappointed at failure & the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption & bad politics — but never give up.” —Marjory Stoneman Douglas

If you have any thoughts on MSD, please feel free to share them in the comments for this post.

Be well.

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3.14: Happy Pi Day 2018

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/14

Two Small Pendants that shrank to different sizesI was trying to think about what photo to post today in honor of “Pi Day” 2018 and this one came to mind. It shows something vaguely along the lines of circles and radii, so that does fit.

The real reason I chose it is because it shows similar circles with two different areas, and Pi is all about the ratio between a circle’s radius and its area. I created these two pieces a little over four years ago, shortly after Hadar came out with her “friendly,” “one fire” clays. And I wrote about how, even though they’d started out the same size, they ended up being so different. You can check my post from early February of 2014 if you missed it then (or forgot!) and are curious now.

Or you can just use this as an inspiration for making something yourself, whether that is jewelry, or pies, or something else. If you do, please leave a comment about your creation!

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Hexagonal Eighth!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/13

Don't Panic Button: yellow on orangeI keep telling myself “Don’t Panic,” as shown in friendly yellow-on-orange letters on the button illustrated here (and in friendly orange letters, below) but I can’t believe how oblivious I recently was. Had I just come back from California sicker than I’d realized? Otherwise, how did I completely miss all the connections until this weekend?!!

I mean, there I was, on March 8 of this year, among other things in a sort of hexagonal phase, nattering on about Kepler and his various hexagons, and I totally missed another connection to them.

OK, so the hexagons were merely a side-comment on a note about planetary motion, but that means I missed connections to both hexagons and intergalactic travel for that very date, March 8, 2018: it was the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

Even worse than that, I had missed that the BBC was celebrating their anniversary with yet another installment from the HHGTTG’s “canon” (or whatever you want to call the mix of radio, print, TV, film, and video game variations, all of which have things in common but also include huge deviations!)…

To be fair to myself, there’s no reason that exact date should mean anything specific to me: its introduction into the USA was slightly later. I don’t have the exact date of that, but I still distinctly remember the moment that I heard the very first episode: I was driving home from a Gold Circle store (miss that chain!) and just by chance caught it from the very beginning on an NPR station in my car. I mean, how improbable was that?! That drive took under 15 minutes, but I sat it my car in the garage and listened to it through to the end, then ran into the house and started calling friends to ask if they’d heard it. (I would’ve had my first ARPAnet email account by then, so I probably wrote a few colleagues, but what I remember most is calling friends from my kitchen phone.)

One of the Don’t Panic buttons shown with this post came with my copy of the old IBM DOS game. But maybe I should back up a bit: I’m a huge fan but I’m definitely not a complete HHGTTG geek. (Well, those who came to my big HHGTTG Hallowe’en party back in the mid-80s may argue that point, but I know others who’ve gone far deeper into it than I ever have! For example, both the individual button and the game that included the other one shown here were gifts from folks who’d enjoyed that party.) My primary affinity has always been to the radio / audio pieces!

Those of you who’ve only known me since I started down this art jewelry tunnel may have no idea how infinitely improbable my going this direction would have seemed several decades ago. I’ve mentioned here on occasion that my “history” contains work in research on the teaching of mathematics, especially in aspects involving visualization, and how my sense of design has evolved from that rather than from a traditional arts background. And I had taken some metalsmithing classes, ones that I now realize were just terrible, but I didn’t know that at the time and had simply been so massively discouraged by them that I could not imagine continuing in that direction…

But the thing you may not know is how the HHGTTG led me to spend years and more years (nights and weekends, on top of my “day” job) ensconced in windowless rooms involved in an art form with ZERO visualization. Yep, the HHGTTG led me to a side-career in Radio Theatre, with the WYEP Radio Theatre Company!

I joined with the very first production as sound man (sic); within a year I moved on to technical director; eventually I added the roles of producer and occasional acting director too. Our half-hour shows ran on Sunday nights from somewhere in the mid 1980s through around the end of 1992. We produced both single-night shows and multi-week series. The folks at WYEP were incredibly supportive, alternating the airing of purchased shows with our series, thus giving us time to research, rehearse, record, add effects, edit, mix, and finalize our productions, all in our “spare” time!

A couple of older actors (then probably around the age I am now…), ones who had actually worked in radio theatre in the 1940s and 50s, started the group at ‘YEP. This was a few years after the HHGTTG first aired. The first call went out in December (of the month I am sure: I was supposed to be back home in Florida then but, unexpectedly, had been forced to skip that trip over a work deadline, which is the only reason I caught the call) in I think it was 1986 (which sounds right: I first volunteered at ‘YEP in 1976, where I learned and then taught production techniques to new volunteers, but I had to cut back when I started a job I held in 84-85; ‘YEP was off the air for a while then too, part of which involved a move from Cable Place to Chatham). After a year or two, for various reasons, those guys gradually moved on. There was a diehard crew from the beginning that helped keep it going, bringing in various other colleagues both to add range to our company and to help increase our flexibility in scheduling. It ended pretty much when I decided to move to California. (And a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon who taught script-writing for the drama department and provided me with a lot of moral support in addition to the occasional script decided to move to a different part of CA at the same time…) While others would have continued to participate in it, and the friend who helped me with the technical director duties would likely have continued that for at least a while longer, no one stepped up to take on the overall production management that I’d also done.

The whole thing had been a labor of love by a great team of volunteers. I tried, without success, to obtain some major grants to support our efforts. But I did manage to get the station enough money to cover our direct costs (e.g., rights, tape reels, snacks, etc.) and to provide any volunteer who wanted one with a cassette copy of a program on which they’d helped. Yeah, this was back in the dark ages of splicing recording tape with sticky tape, and distributing copies on cassettes!

Later, my reaction at the moment I first heard about Apple’s music download service, was, “If I only had a place to create Radio Theatre now, could this be a way to try to distribute and fund it?” Producing audio theatre was, for years (until I started doing this art-jewelry thing!) my alternative-career fantasy. I don’t have plans now to go into podcast production, but I am delighted that all this is continuing in one form or another. Such fun!

At last, here’s a link to the newest production in the HHGTTG universe, where on March 8, 2018, on BBC Radio 4 they aired Episode 1, titled (note the connection that started this rant…) Hexagonal Phase! It seems to be available without geographic restriction, but only for 30 days from air-date: so if you’re a fellow HHGTTG-fan, do catch it while you can!

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Cranberry Artists Network Double Feature!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/10

Kepler's Dream Spring Thoughts on a Gray Day
Kepler’s Dream Spring Thoughts
on a Gray Day

I wrote about Kepler’s Dream on Thursday. On Friday, I learned that Spring Thoughts on a Gray Day had been accepted into a second Cranberry Artists Network event, their 2018 Spring Show this year with the theme of Drip, Drizzle & Splash (DDS).

Now, to be honest, I’d wanted to submit both these pieces for consideration for DDS. Except I was in California for the second half of February. How is that relevant? The invitation to submit one piece for the International Womens Show arrived while I was in the air on my way there: ’twas the first message I saw when I turned off “airplane mode” on my phone upon landing. And that is when I saw that the deadline for submission would be the day before I’d return. So, um, I was going to have to submit for that something I’d have ready before heading home! So, as I described in my March 8 post, I decided to enter Kepler’s Dream for that show.

I could still hold onto Spring Thoughts on a Gray Day for Drip, Drizzle & Splash! (And another big “thanks!” to Hadar Jacobson for the recent workshop and also for this photo.)

The prospectus for Drip, Drizzle & Splash, which allowed us to submit two pieces for consideration, had encouraged us to consider “the emergence of new beginnings and the way our weather and environment makes this happen.” While I didn’t have another piece ready that complemented Spring Thoughts, I did have a shamrock piece from my Urban Flowers series that I’d just made in December that seemed to fit the theme. So that was my second entry. And I was delighted to learn that my Metropolitan Shamrock has also been accepted! That show will be hung on the night of March 12 and officially open on March 13.

Urban Flowers: Metropolitan Shamrock
Metropolitan Shamrock

Both shows will be on display through April 5, 2018. There will be a public reception for both of them from 6 to 8 pm on the evening of March 22. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you there!

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March 8: International Women’s Day

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/08

Kepler's DreamI call this piece Kepler’s Dream, and it’s the one I chose to enter when I was invited to participate in the Cranberry Artists Network‘s show in honor of International Women’s Day.

Now, IWD is March 8, and the show is only being “hung” that evening. The official dates of the show are March 9 through April 5.  It looks like there could be as many as 33 pieces in the show.

There will be a Public Reception from 6 to 8 pm on Thursday, March 22.

Question: Why enter a piece named after Johannes Kepler for Women’s Day?

Discussion: Well, I was in high school when I first learned of his discovery that planets moved in elliptical orbits around the sun (not the earth!) and the sun itself was not even at the center but at one of the two focal points of that ellipse.

That was also when I first heard about his conjecture from the early 17th century on the efficiency of packing spheres. That was not really proven until early in the 21st! I actually worked for a few years late in the 20th century with some folks who were involved in trying to find the proof!

Anyway, the readings I had been inspired to devour back in high school were key to opening my mind to being able to “think big” about the seemingly-mundane topics we were covering in school. Did you know, for example, that Kepler also published the first description of the hexagonal symmetry of snowflakes?! And he looked at the efficiency of hexagonal packing: think beehives! There’s more: go do some explorations of him yourself!

And so after decades of doing formal mathematics using accurate visual representations of what IS, here I am now doing artistic explorations of what COULD BE. I had no thought of Kepler as I began this piece: it would look rather different if I had! (And such a piece in this line will likely come to exist eventually.) But as I finished it, and looked at the combination of shapes I’d created (sort of oval and round), and thought about the colors I’d chosen (with their references to the skies above), and talked about it with some friends I was visiting at the time, I just began to wonder if Kepler might ever have dreamt anything like this.

Answer: So I named it Kepler’s Dream to honor him for being one of the influences (indirectly and centuries later) on this woman’s life!

Also, re technique: If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may think that this piece doesn’t look typical of my work. And you’d be right! This piece was made using Hadar’s Low Shrinkage Steel (metal clay powder). The back is plain, with just the bail for hanging it. (I do have ideas for other designs, with my usual make-it-reversible approach, but this one was part of the experience of simply perfecting this technique, so I kept it simple!)

After firing so it would sinter, the steel was treated to help it resist rust. Then I applied three different enamel colors into the openings of the embellishments. (Yeah, the mathematician / geometer in me had fun figuring out how to space out three colors among ten spaces, when ten is not an even multiple of three.) Because of the way I applied the enamels, it was easy enough to fire several different colors at the same time; to get good coverage, on the other hand, it took multiple applications of the enamel powders, and re-firing each round, until it came to look like this. As a final step, I applied a light coat of wax which helped to even out the color of the steel and should also help to further protect its finish. I made several others at the same time which I’ll try to remember to discuss in a later post. But I am including a tag with each one warning a buyer that, because steel can rust, I recommend some common-sense precautions: don’t wear it while bathing, showering, or swimming and, if it does get wet, try to dry it thoroughly as soon as possible.

Finally, a big “thanks!” to Hadar Jacobson for the recent workshop and especially for the photo, so I’d have it in time for the show!

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SSmSmS: Studio Sessions (mostly) Second (mostly) Saturdays!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/01/13

Happy Winter!  Happy New Year!  Happy Second Saturday!

This is now the fourth of what has become a pattern: spending the Second Saturday of each month in my Studio. I’ve been considering whether to continue the pattern, at least for a while, and make it a more-or-less recurring event.

So, if you’d like to join me for a Studio Session on a Second Saturday in the future, please let me know! At this point, I do not plan to offer actual classes then but will open my studio to others for a small fee: If you already have some clue what you’re doing with metal clay, you’re welcome to just come over and use the facilities in my studio! I will plan to get some of my own making-work done those days too, and we can chat about it as we go. I will have a bit of clay available for purchase too: I don’t promise to maintain a complete stock of every variety, however, so if you want to purchase a particular one, do check with me in advance. (I can get most of them with a week’s notice; if you ask later, however, we may have to add your express shipping fee to what I’d normally charge.)

Since there is a certain amount of clean-up involved in switching between precious and base metal clays, on many Saturdays I am likely to restrict things to precious (silver) metals only. If there is enough interest in base metals, however, I’m happy to occasionally set a session specifically for those instead.

Note that I am qualifying this: I’m not really calling it SSSS, for Studio Sessions every Second Saturday. I’m thinking more along the lines of SSmSmS: Studio Sessions, mostly on a Saturday, and mostly on the Second one of the month.

I may have to shift a few of them to the Friday. (If Friday would, in general, be better for you, let me know. Most months I should be able to accommodate that!) Or maybe the subsequent Sunday. In the occasional months where the second Friday is ajacent to the Third Saturday, I may switch my in-studio time for one or the other so they are consecutive days.

I’ll try to remember to post date and time details each month as an event on the Convergent Series page on Facebook, at this link.

Why didn’t I post earlier about today? Well, I had already agreed to let a few folks come over and use my studio! Space is limited, so please PM me if you want to come in future months.


FYI, here’s one of the things I worked on today: adding bezel cups to a lentil bead. I’d taught a workshop on using fine silver metal clay to make lentil beads last month, at the Appalachian Rock Shop & Jewelry Emporium in Harmony, PA, and made this bead as part of my demonstration. I hadn’t added any embellishments to this particular bead, but fired it along with all the class pieces anyway, despite knowing it needed something! How about a gemstone? Which stone: either this sunstone or the sapphire would look nice with the texture I’d used. Which side: each one has an area where a little stone would fit. Hey, why not put one on each side?!! So I used PMC3 paste supplemented with a few drops of lavender oil to add a bezel cup to each side. And fired it today while working on other projects. This photo shows how I propped it up as the paste on both sides dried, along with the sunstone and sapphire I’ll add after I’m done with patina and polish:

ProjectSample_LentilBead_addingBezelCups_6046

As a teacher of metal clay techniques and processes, there is one thing I particularly like about that photo! Notice how the bead, having been fully sintered in a previous firing, has a sort of matte-white look, while the bezel cups, made from fine silver sheet metal, look more shiny like we typically imagine silver to be. Well, it is all fine silver. The “white” look is just a result of the way the silver crystals form as the powdered-metal pieces in the clay sinter into the solid-metal final form. (It is NOT, as some novices assume, some sort of outer crust that needs to be removed. It IS silver that we want to keep!) With polishing, the invisible-to-naked-eye peaks in the silver crystals will all get pushed over in one direction, and only then will we be able to see the shine that we normally associate with silver. I’ll try to remember to post a picture of this piece once I’ve finished it. (Though I have several others I must finish first….so this one may have to wait until my next Second Saturday Studio Session, in February…!)

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Need a last-minute, hand-made, one-of-a-kind gift?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/12/23

Sorry for the last-minute confirmation, but I will be in my studio this afternoon! The section of my work-area nearest the door is still set up for shopping! Stop by and see what’s available at a whole range of prices. I should get there by 2:30, and should stay until about 6:30.

Since I didn’t go in either Thursday or Friday (instead doing late-season yard-work!) with today’s rain I’ll be back in the studio working on a few pieces I need to have finished by the end of next week. (Pretty much everything I make takes several cycles of activity, often spread over several days, with time in between for drying or re-hydrating or kiln-firing or …) I’ll be wearing grubby work-clothes, sitting at my other work-table, so you’ll get more of a clue of what my typical working environment is like than usually happens when I open up for a show!

I don’t know if I’ll go back on Sunday, Christmas Eve: I’ll have to see how things go today before I decide that. I am holding a couple hours open tomorrow just in case, so if you can’t make it today but would like to schedule a time to meet me there tomorrow, please let me know!

And, whether you come by today or if you’ve already made a purchase from any of my collections earlier this year, please know how very much I appreciate your interest and support!

I couldn’t do this without YOU!

Thank you … Merry Christmas … Happy Holidays … and Best Wishes for the New Year!

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December 22, and I can’t believe I was out in my PA garden again this year!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/12/22

Last year, I reported on mowing my lawn on December 27. This year, predictions are that we will have snow on the ground for Christmas, with highs in the high 20s (Fahrenheit) and lows in the mid teens then and into the rest of that week.

But yesterday, December 21 (aka Winter Solstice), the temperature reached around 50. Today it headed well into the mid 50s. Even warmer than last year! I’d planned to go into my studio but couldn’t resist the urge to spend both afternoons in the back yard, wearing just sweatshirt, jeans, and boots. And very heavy suede gardening gloves.

I had some black raspberry bushes that I’ve been wanting to take out. I do love the berries—when I can salvage some that the birds leave me—but keeping them from spreading everywhere had just ended up being far more work than the berries were worth to me. I’ve been saying for few years that they had to go, that I’d dig them out in the fall. Then I’d get busy, not get to them beyond maybe a bit of pruning, and the next year it’d be, “Well, the bushes are there. I might as well enjoy another year’s harvest, and take them out this fall.” I’d spend some time during the summer trying to stop new runners, and promising myself they’d all come out after I was done harvesting. And then I’d go into busy-season and….

So, this week with warm temperatures and soft, moist ground, it was time for berry-bush-removal! I wasn’t counting, but I think I took out about 15, and cut them into small enough pieces that city-trash will take them. Half were picked up this morning; the ones from today are bagged up and will get put out for next week’s collection. There are two left that I didn’t get to before dark (though sunset has already started getting later, I just didn’t have quite enough daylight to finish those). But the ones I chose to leave are, deliberately, those in the least-convenient locations, so I hope that will convince me to complete the removal at my next opportunity! I’m almost there, though those last two may just stay where the are until spring…. Now what I have to do is to decide what I’ll put into the spaces where the (overcrowded!) berries used to be.

(Oh, and to compare this to last year, I didn’t feel the need to mow the lawn again this December. But I did spend an hour after sunset, after I’d had enough with the berries, both yesterday and today, raking up the last round of sweetgum leaves by street- and holiday-lights, and dumping those in my “browns” compost bin. Once again, though, no after-dark photos of any of this.)

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A few final pieces from 2017…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/12/21

Whenever I walked into my studio last week, I passed lots of red and green Christmas decorations throughout the building.

Urban Flower: Lucky Shamrock (Four-leaf Clover)As I sat down with some silver clay and a small box of dichroic glass cabs, I think that decor is what lead me to be drawn to several green pieces.

With over half of my studio turned into a show-room, and only one “holiday” show left after I’d have time to fire and finish anything I made between visitors, I had to work simple.

But then my maker’s-sales brain kicked in and I picked up those green cabs and used them in … shamrocks! Three fine silver pendants for spring.

And the “lucky” four-leaf one, with a “spring green” piece of glass, has already been purchased! Knowing that it will age slowly over time, the customer wanted it like this, without any patina. I managed to grab this quick photograph while the buyer selected a chain to go with it. The photo shows a sterling rolo chain though it went out the door on (what I do agree was a better choice for this particular texture) a foxtail style chain.

Urban Flowers: Two ShamrocksFor those interested in technical details, all three of these were made with PMC Plus and PMC Flex. Why those clays? I’d taught a lentil-bead class last week in which we used Plus, and I had a lot left from a big packet I’d opened there, so I used that for the backing pieces, the leaves, and the bails. To be sure those were fully sintered, that much was fired at full time & temperature: nominally, that’s 1650°F for two hours. (I say nominally because, since my kiln fires about 50° hot, I set it to 1600 … which means it should have fired at about 1650… And I did hold it for two hours.) That gives all the “structural” elements the maximum strength possible for that particular silver formula, even though it would have been way too hot for the glass.

The next day I made the “bezel” elements to surround each glass piece and hold those in place from the top. I used PMC Flex for that. I could’ve used PMC3 or Art Clay 650 or any of the “low-fire” fine silver formulas but, again, the Flex is what I had handy, so that’s what I used. The point here is that I needed a clay that would reliably sinter at a low-enough temperature that I could fire the glass in place! Clay fired down at “glass” temperatures might not be quite strong enough for the leaves (that hang off to the side) or the bail in back (from which the piece is hung when worn), but with a good, strong backing, the use of a lower sintering temperature should be fine for just holding the glass onto strong backing pieces. I used a four-segment program that experience has shown to provide good strength to the silver bezel while keeping the glass happy.

I did choose to add a patina as I finished polishing these two after their second firing. And, if you’re interested in a few notes I wrote about using a mix of sterling and fine silvers in this sort of design, feel free to check out my post from October of last year.

Even though these designs reflect the shape of shamrock (young clover) leaves, because of the textures I used and the glass centers, I’m calling them part of my Urban Flowers series. I never claimed that my urban flowers were going to be biologically correct representations of particular species, more that the plants would serve as “inspiration” for those pieces.

In some ways that concept also fits with the colored glass ornaments I make during the summer (when I can work outdoors). Those are designed with a double-loop on the top of the ornament and a flat bottom to the glass bases: they can hang on your Christmas tree if you want and then, for the rest of the year, you can set them on a table or desk and use them ho hold whatever kind of note or photograph or other reminder that you want!
2015_11_FiveCardHolders_OneGearBusinessCard_PB241207
Similarly, I hope that these shamrock pendants fit both with the green fir / pine / spruce decorations during winter holidays, and can continue being worn to reflect the natural world as spring returns! Or maybe the heart-shaped leaves will even warm someone’s heart in time for Valentine’s Day?! Regardless of the “connection” made, I do hope the rest of these will soon find good, new homes!

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December Events!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/12/04

Enameled Flower EarringsFolks on my mailing list should know about all this already, but here’s what I have happening the rest of this month:

  • Where you can find me in person:

    • Studio Open House: Saturday & Sunday, December 9 & 10, 10 am to 4 pm, in my studio at the WSCC in Regent Square. Please come upstairs and let me know what you think of my new designs! I will, of course, also have plenty of old favorites too! (Also in WSCC that day, downstairs from me, La Dolce Vita Boutique will have all sorts of Italian imports for sale. And just up the street, the Environmental Charter School will be holding their Fair Trade Market!)

    • Guest Artists Show, Saturday, December 16, 10 am to 6 pm, at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh in Mt. Lebanon. (I’m thrilled to be one of several Artsmiths Artists invited to bring a larger variety of items than we normally have in the shop. If you know me only from there, do come see what else I’ll bring! Or, if you’ve not yet been to Artsmiths, use this as a reason to check out the whole shop + gallery + classroom facility!)

    • SampleProject_LentilBeads_Reversible_KarmaWonderlandMy last workshop of 2017 will be at a new location for me! In my class on Tuesday, December 12, at the Appalachian Rock Shop & Jewelry Emporium up in Harmony, PA, we will be making reversible, hollow, “lentil” style fine silver pendants or beads! (If it’s too late for you to sign up for that aone, I’ll be back there again in March of 2018 with a Woven Silver workshop!)

  • Other places where my art jewelry, colorful ornaments, and more are currently available:

  • I hope I’ll see local folks at one or more of those! If I don’t see you, no matter where you’re from, please know that I’m wishing you all the best for this holiday season and beyond!

    ~~~~~

    p.s., Sorry for the big gap in posting! I have a slew of articles started, in draft form, but for one reason or another (e.g., I may not have photos to illustrate what I’m trying to say; or I have photos but haven’t written the words yet…) I just haven’t managed to get any of them finished and posted. Most of them should still appear eventually!

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Three Fall Open Houses!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/09/22

And the first one is a birthday party this Saturday!

What with a lot of travel, gardening, garden-related travel, and more this summer, it’s been way too long since I’ve invited folks over to my studio at the Wilkins School Community Center (WSCC) in Regent Square. But I’m eager to make up for that: I already have three free events lined up there in the next few weeks.

Saturday, Sept 23, 9 am to 1 pm (and beyond!)

  • Everyone at WSCC is celebrating our building’s 90th birthday!
  • Lots of groups and instructors are offering demos and free lessons in all the various rooms, rotating each hour, starting at 9 am, and ending at 1 pm.
  • In my studio, I plan to offer a mix of brief demos and explanations of how I created various pieces, also from 9 to 1. (My very tentative schedule is at the "celebrating" link above.)
  • I’ll also have lots of items for sale.
  • At 1 pm, we’ll gather downstairs to offer a toast to the building, celebrate with cake, and explore its new mural!
  • After that party, I’ll head back upstairs for about another hour, to try to get my demo table back to a space I can work on next week. If you can’t get here before 1, this will be another time for you to come and shop. As long as folks are around and interested, I can stay open until about 3.

Saturday, Oct 14, 4 to 6:30 pm

  • The Regent Square Civic Association’s (RSCA) inaugural Second Saturday in the Square kicks of at WSCC that afternoon!
  • Food trucks, craft beer, live music, children’s activities, and more!
  • So of course, I’ll open my studio for another show then!
  • The RSCA’s event actually runs from 4 to 7 pm. Due to prior commitments both before and after that time, it’s going to be a challenge for me to fit this in. But I will!!! I’ll likely arrive right at 4, and will have to leave no later than 6:30. So please be sure to catch me while I am there that day.

Satuday, Nov 11, 10 am to 4 pm

  • The delightful Indie Knit and Spin (IKS) will be back at WSCC!
  • I’m not an official IKS vendor: my studio just happens to be right in the middle of their wonderful show, so I’ll have my “shop” open then too.
  • Sometimes, but not always, I offer button-making workshops at IKS. I’m not doing that with this one, but I will offer two (one each in silver and bronze) at the North Hills Art Center in October. If you’re interested, please sign up for one or both of those!

If you can’t make it to one of the above three events, just get in touch and let’s arrange another time that will work for both of us!

(I just realized the photo I added to this post
shows my studio from over three years ago:
I need to get a more up-to-date one!)

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NHAC 2017 Fall Members Show

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/09/08

I’m delighted to report that I have three pieces in the current Members Show at the North Hills Art Center! The pieces were hung as they were accepted last week, but the official “opening” of the show is Saturday, September 9, from 7 to 9 pm, and runs through October 6.

As usual for NHAC, the majority of the entries are paintings. But when I dropped off my art jewelry, I did see fiber art, pottery, mixed media assemblages, and more too! A lot of the pieces were made by students of the center so, if you’re curious about that, this show can also give you an idea of what you might be able to learn in the classes there. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by to check it out! It would, of course, be great to see you at the opening on Saturday but, if you can’t make it then, do go whenever you can.

I’ve already said a few things about each of my entries, separately, in earlier blog or Facebook posts, but I thought I’d assemble a few thoughts on each of them together here. They are all available for purchase at the show.

GWV!

GWV: Give Women the Vote

If you look closely, you may notice that the flowers in this “rose bronze” bracelet are Green (nephrite jade), White (cubic zirconia), and Violet (amethyst). Embellishments in those colors were a code in Edwardian / Art Nouveau times for Give Women the Vote!

This piece was made before either of my other two in this show, but since then I’ve been holding on to it myself. This is the first time I’ve ever really considered putting it up for sale!

Night Moon

Night Moon (front & side views)

As one of the earlier pieces I made with EZ960 after its introduction in 2016, this was made as a class sample, to illustrate the draping/folding process. But it’s notable to me because it’s the first piece I made using only “scraps” from earlier projects. Obviously, that test was successful!

In draping, sometimes the material tells me the shape it wants to form, and that was definitely the case here! The title of Night Moon comes from how, once the piece was completely finished, it suddenly struck me how much it evoked thoughts of a particular night in June of 1988 (a truly wonderful summer!), when I was climbing (well, at that point, descending) Emeishan, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China.

Keystone Wildflower

Urban Flower: Big Keystone (blue-green glass by Elise)

Yes, this is yet another piece from my Urban Flowers series! Like the earlier ones, this pendant was made using sterling (.960) silver for most of the piece, for strength, and in a separate step the dichroic glass cabochon was attached with fine (.999) silver because that form plays better with glass. It hangs on a sterling (.925) silver chain.

The dichro in this piece is a cabochon made by local glass artist, Elise McVeigh. It is also one of the priciest pieces I’ve had in a show in a good while: that is because, at something like 75 mm across, it is one of the largest pieces I’ve made in a good while too! And big uses a lot of silver, so the price simply reflects that. But Elise’s lovely glass is noticeably different from the other dichro cabs I’ve added to my earlier urban flowers, and I just thought it deserved to go into a “statement” piece! I hope it will find a new home with someone who agrees with me.

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2017 Arts on the Riverwalk – please vote!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/09/05

UPDATE: Voting ended at 5 pm on September 9. I didn’t mount quite a big enough Facebook campaign (which really isn’t my style anyway) to claim the $100 people’s choice prize but, as of the last time I was able to check (an hour-ish before the deadline), I had garnered well within the top 10% of votes. So I sure do appreciate the support of everyone who took the time to enter a like-vote on my behalf!

(Also, since it no longer matters, I’ve removed the column of notes on the extra quirks of this particular voting process…. The rest of this post remains as originally written.)

Oh, and the exhibit remains on display at The Confluence cafe through October 26.

I’ve got two pieces in the Arts on the Riverwalk competition, and I’d sure appreciate your vote!

Now, I’ll admit, neither of these pieces were originally made with competition in mind… They were designed as samples for two different classes I taught last fall, and my intention was to illustrate specific technical strategies of construction! In my classes, I also point out that sometimes a design will take a while to tell me what it really wants to be; in the case of these two, they have also taken a while to tell me what they want to be called!

2017_0127_AngledSquareNestWithLinks_and_BronzeDrapedLayeredEmbellished_4037


1. In the pair shown here, the piece positioned towards the left, with a silver pendant on a gunmetal chain, is now titled Overflowing Nest. In the class where I taught that, we covered a range of different “nest-style” constructions, plus I threw in a “bonus” on making links. Time constraints meant I could only illustrate using links this way, as a bail, but the same techniques work for making an entire chain. The other interesting thing about this piece is that it was made for one of the first classes I taught using “EZ960” sterling silver metal clay, and it was made entirely from reconstituted “scraps” that were left over from earlier samples. It’s always good to learn how well different clays do or do not reconstitute, and this sample worked wonderfully.

If you’d like to vote for my “Overflowing Nest” piece, please click to find the instructions here.

(Quick mini-lesson on re-use: Like all clays, scraps can get “worn out” after many re-uses. After just a few repeats, if you’ve treated your clay nicely all along, it’ll be fine. But even after it’s had a long or rough time, it can still be salvaged by mixing little bits of “scrap” in with “fresh” clay! This is one of the things I really appreciate about most metal clays!)


2. The piece towards the right, with a bronze pendant on a brass chain, is now called At a Bend in the River. That main part of this one was also made from a scrap! I’d finished the main demonstration on making a rolled bail on a two-sided piece, but there was a question, so I quickly rolled out another piece of clay to use as an illustration while answering. I was a bit distracted while talking about something raised by yet another student, so I didn’t roll it very straight AND I rolled off the edge of one of the texture sheets with clay squishing out. But I looked at it and exclaimed, “What great luck! This piece just told me how it wants to be built!”

I immediately reversed my plan of which side would be the back or the front, because the place where I’d overshot the texture has that lovely angle-into-smooth look that I just had to put on the outside-front, not tucked under in the back. Since the remaining demonstrations I had planned involved layering elements and how to add a fire-able stone (in this case, a peridot-colored cubic zirconia), I made use of the curve of the piece to embellish it with a piece where I could also talk about design issues for centering, or not centering, any embellishments. Ended up being a very interesting, if unplanned, answer to the original question!


If you’d like to vote for my “At a Bend in the River” piece, please click to find the instructions here.


Also, though I don’t have these specific classes scheduled (yet) for this fall in either of my North Hills or South Hills venues, there’s still time to add a workshop or two in my East End studio. So if you’ve been inspired enough by one (or both) of these to want to learn how to make something like that yourself, please let me know and we can talk about our options!

More on other shows, classes, and more, as soon as I find the time for another chance to post here.

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A Quick Workshops Update

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/08/09

Well, I managed to get three posts up last month as I traipsed up and down the west coast, even though I got little jewelry made and did very little teaching. (The few exceptions will get their own posts eventually!)

Right now, I’m putting together my fall teaching and show (sales) schedules for September through December. I’ll post full details once I’m sure of all the dates various but, since several folks have asked for updates, the general plan goes something like this:

  • Single Session Workshops: a mix of topics, mostly at either the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, or in my own Studio;
  • Multi-Session Classes: one series using precious metals (four meetings using either sterling or fine silver; Sept – Oct) and another series using base metals (five meetings using mostly bronzes, possibly accented with some copper or steel; Oct – Nov) at the North Hills Art Center;
  • An Open House (with both demos and pieces for sale) in my studio during the community center‘s big fall open house day, and another Open House to coincide with Indie Knit & Spin (aka IKS).
  • Because of the IKS-day Open House, I don’t plan to hold either type of button-making class at that event this year. But for those wishing to make buttons, I will be offering two separate classes on that at NHAC this fall.
  • There will, of course, be pieces out for sale at all my “usual” locations, Artsmiths, the Hoyt, and Portage Hill.
  • And I’m hoping to have pieces out for sale at various other market-places, though most of that may be more in the Thanksgiving to Christmas range … with details to follow!


  • Then in the new year, I may try to tweak the plan a bit for winter into spring, swapping some multi-session classes into Artsmiths and my studio; and then offering some single session ones at NHAC.

But in addition to just offering a heads-up about what’s to come, there’s another reason for this post. I have a one-day Easy Earring Extravaganza project scheduled for next week, on August 16, and the deadline for you to register is looming!

Although I promote it as being a chance to make several pairs of earrings, what is an earring but an charm or a small pendant or other such element, where the maker may have just put the hole in a different place! Most of my other sessions go into depth on a particular technique applied to one specific design, but the Earring Extravaganza is different: with that one the goal is to help you go a bit more free-form for quantity, where you produce a number of simple pieces, whether that’d be to give yourself a little treat or to grab a chance to get started on holiday-season gifts.

Now, officially, the deadline is a week before the start of the first class, which is a week from the day I’m posting this! So if you want to join in on that one, please register right away!!! Technically, registration should close at the end of the day on Wednesday, August 9, but I think they’ll hold off closing it until early on Thursday morning. As long as I have the count by 10 am on Thursday, I can still get my order for materials in by that vendor’s 11 am cut-off for shipping, and we’ll be fine. Should you happen to try to register later today, or very early tomorrow, before I have to place the order, and for some reason you can’t get the form to work, please just call or email me on Thursday morning (best time would be between 9 and 10 am), and I’ll be glad to help you!

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“Instructors Show” at the North Hills Art Center

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/07/15

Wow! Another event in the North Hills! Since I only added the Norbth Hills Art Center (NHAC) to my set of teaching venues at the start of 2017, this month provides me with my first opportunity to participate in their annual “Instructor’s Show.”

This post will let you know about the opening of the show, which is, umm, today, Saturday, July 15, from 7 to 9 pm! That just happens to be a few days before I’ll manage to sort out a few specifics of my fall schedule but, as usual, I’ll add them to the bar down the right side of this blog in just a few weeks.

Now, if you’ve already taken a class with me, you probably know that most of them are single-session events: you complete the making of a piece during the class, I fire and tumble-polish it afterwards, and it is returned to the class site about a week later (I am specific about timing in each individual class, depending on my schedule, how much firing time is involved, expected road construction delays, etc.).

And I’ll be offering my two button classes (silver or bronze) exactly that way. In the silver-buttons class, we will make ones that you attach via holes in the surface of the buttons. In the bronze one, you will have the option of using holes or of adding a shank on the back!

Then, the other classes I have on NHAC’s fall schedule are a pair of multi-session, multi-project events: one each in silvers (both fine and sterling silver) and base metals (several bronze formulas and copper). We’ll start out with the basics and add new techniques as we go along. I will fire pieces between classes and bring them to the next session. About half the projects will be similar in the two versions although, with the different metals, the results will be very different. So if you choose to take both, you’ll be able to reinforce your skills in slightly different ways. The other half will be entirely different, chosen to take advantage of the differences among the metals. The base-metals course will have one additional session so we will have enough time to cover a few extra finishing techniques appropriate for those.

~~~~~~~~~~

Note:

I’d’ve sworn I’d queued up a post about this show, but it hasn’t appeared and I don’t see it now, so I must have dreamt that post!

Thus this last-minute re-do is short notice for the opening, but the show itself runs through July 28. I’m posting it from a train as I head off for some family-time this weekend. I hope to update it with photos for these classes, not the one from a different class I taught last year at the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (just so there’d be something pretty with this post), once I get back and onto my main computer.

So if you are interested in any of those class ideas, feel free to check back for updates, and let me know if you have any questions or other requests. What’s in this instructors show is what I’ll be teaching at NHAC this fall, but I’m still working on my schedule for south and east of the city. I’ll be announcing the rest of my fall schedule in just a few weeks.

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Two More Urban Flowers Burst Into Public View!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/07/13

I seem to be talking about a lot of events in Pittsburgh’s North Hills lately. And now that summer is really here, it seems well past any reasonable point to continue procrastinating about another event up that way which started in mid-spring.

The delay: I can find photos of only two (of the four) relevant pieces. I remember taking photos of the other two, but for some reason now can’t find them, haven’t found the time to really look everywhere both possible and impossible, so let’s just go with what we have!

Four of my pieces are (and have been since mid-spring, thus the selections & their titles) in a “traveling show” that is on display at the Northland Public Library through the end of August!

Two (shown here) are pendants from my Urban Flowers collection. Neither one turned out the way I’d originally intended. Both pieces ended up, instead, telling me what they wanted to be!

Urban Flower: Rainbow Bud Itopped with pollen) Urban Flower: Metro Daisy (small, red & clear)
Early Spring Bud
(aka Rainbow Bud with Pollen)
She Loved Seeing the Flower
Spring from the Pavement

I’d imagined the the larger, pastel-rainbow piece of glass going into a large flower. What with one technical issue after another, minor ones individually but still one after another of them, it ended up insisting it didn’t want to be overwhelmed by a lot a silver but, instead, to clearly be the focal point on a bud, just beginning to open, with a little bit of pollen just starting to appear. I’m OK with that.

The bezel around the red glass is exactly as I’d planned, and I was thinking I might use it on one of my other pieces inspired by Hepatica flowers. But I guess I hadn’t paid close-enough attention, because the flower-base I’d planned to use shrank just a tiny bit more than what would work with that piece of glass. It would have been relatively easy to “adjust” things to force all the pieces to fit. But I set the glass and bezel down for a moment to think about the best way to approach that fix and, when I looked up, I saw this flower next to them! Though I’d had other plans for it, I set the center-piece down and it fit in its space so perfectly that I said, “OK, if that’s where you want to go, that’s where you’ll go!”

The other two entry pieces on display (the ones with their pics missing) are movement-earrings: not the ones with layered elements that I call spinners that rotate around a horizontal axis, but the ones I sometimes also call spinners but also refer to as having movement that will rotate around a vertical axis.n Those links don’t go to photos of the pieces in the Northland show but, instead, the second one links to a different pair from several years ago with a comparable mechanism.

It’s been so much fun making all of those (and more in those series) that the seasons have seemed to be speeding by! What about you this year? Please let me know in the comments! Should any of my (local) readers find themselves in that area, please do check out the show and let me know that too!

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2017 Martinis with Monet

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/07/06

2017_MartinisWithMonet_CranberryTownshipsLogoForItFor the second year in a row, the Cranberry Township Community Chest (CTCC) and the Cranberry Artists Network (CAN) are partnering on a show in the Cranberry Municipal Building in conjunction with the Cranberry Township Community Days.

Now the Community Days outdoor festivities will be on July 13, 14, and 15.

But that all kicks off with a special evening on Wednesday, July 12, with the opening reception for the art show, Martinis with Monet. From July 13 through August 10, admission to the show will be free. Three Rivers: When Sun Breaks Through The Clouds (with ruby trillion at The Point) But the opening reception serves as a fund-raiser for CCTC, and a limited number of tickets are available in advance for $10 through their web site or at the Municipal Building Service Center (with just under a week now left), or for $15 at the door that evening.

And I’m thrilled to have had two pieces accepted for this year’s show!

One of them is another piece from my latest round of Three Rivers pendants. I didn’t make this one specifically for this show but I had been thinking what I might enter during a discussion of the movement and light in Monet’s art. My original design for this piece did include the movement of rivers with the sparkly light of the faceted ruby. But it was the surprising gift from my kiln, of the dappled surface-coloring hinting at sunshine and passing clouds on the ruby-side, that made this piece seem an obvious choice for this show! Because of this side, I’ve titled it, When the Sun Breaks Through the Clouds.

Three Rivers: When Sun Breaks Through The Clouds (the side without the ruby!)More colors from that kiln-gift are shown in the small, plain photo of the “other” side of that piece. Bronze firings can yield a wide range of surprises: sometimes the results cry out to be polished to a gorgeous, high shine everywhere, while other times they yield a stunning range of colors in random patterns (like this, with an upside-down rainbow in the midst of a crimson field). Though some people report that they find that unpredictability to be off-putting, for me it is part of what makes bronzes so addictive to work with!

The Artist's Impression Of Warm BlanketsThe colors in the other piece I had accepted for this show come not so much from the firing, but from the underlying colors of various metals, stones, and glass of the piece.

I made the focal bead, the one that generated The Artist’s Impression of Warm Blankets as the title of this necklace (Monet –> impressionism: get it?!), several years ago. It’s a large, hollow bead, with layers of copper wrapped around rose bronze wrapped around yellow bronze, all with various woven textures. It was originally made as part of a series of exercises exploring the various shrinkage rates of different metal formulas in the construction of hollow structures. As I built it, I was thinking far more about those issues that about its actual design but, as soon as I pulled it out of the kiln, I saw myself pulling a (tiny…) bundle of freshly-washed blankets out of the dryer!

Most of the focal beads I made remain just that, the focus of attention, with little to nothing else to distract the viewer’s eye from them. I strung this one on some beading wire, added a clasp, and wore it myself a few times, thinking it needed something else and waiting for it to tell me what it wanted. At a recent bead show, I saw both the stones and the chain, and they immediately reminded me of the features at a cabin I shared years ago with friends on a series of late-autumn trips, where warm blankets were much appreciated as the temperatures dropped at night, and that was it: I’d found what I needed to complete this piece.

I sure hope that one or both of these pieces will find someone else’s heart to warm now too!

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Summer Solstice, Raku Party, Artisan Market

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/06/21

I am really looking forward to the way the North Hills Art Center will celebrate the Summer Solstice tonight … with the opening of their Summer Artisan Market and a Raku Party!

I still have a couple dozen pieces left of the huge batch of Raku pottery I made at IGMA: the video above shows details on a random sample of a dozen from that lot.

Several weeks ago I made a bakers-dozen new pottery pieces out of raku-friendly clay. They’ve since been bisque-fired, so they’ll be ready to put through the Raku-firing process at the party tonight! None of those are like ones in the video: I didn’t want to assume that the set-up there would be appropriate for that particular kind of piece (if you didn’t catch the video when I posted a link to it last summer, check it out now to see what I mean!), so the ones I’ll be firing tonight are items for use in my studio, as I do my own work or by students during classes: a mix of dohgu oki (for tool holders as I work, though these are a bit larger than the hashi oki I typically repurpose that way) and small vases (for tool storage, between sessions). This may well be a round of “no two alike” pieces, where I take advantage of the opportunity to explore the range of new-to-me glazes that will be available tonight.

Three Rivers: Metro MixIf you have never participated in a raku-firing before, know this: Most of the time, when potters or metal clay artists talk about firing something, they refer to loading up a kiln and then going off and doing something else until it finishes. But Raku is not like that! There is a brief period of waiting but, mostly:

Raku reminds me in some ways of torch-firing a piece of metal clay, with smoke and fire, and lots of fun things to observe, and ooohs and aaahs as you get your first glimpse of the firing results, and even more fun once each piece has been brushed / cleaned up.

And, yes, if you’re hesitant, you can observe the smoke and fire parts from a distance. Me, though, I want to be close to the action!

Oh, and there will be lots of action in addition to the Raku-firings. The opening reception for the Summer Artisan Market means there will be snacks and beverages for folks to enjoy while checking out a range of great hand-made products from local artisans. Those wheel-thrown pottery pieces of mine that I mentioned at the top of this post –– on a scale suitable for a doll house or faerie garden –– will be available, along with lots of regular-size pottery from others.

A few of my Urban Flowers and Three Rivers pendants (another new one of the latter is shown with this post), and many more of my styles of neck- and ear-wares will be available. (I really need to remember to take photos after I’ve completely finished assembling my pieces: they do come hung and all ready to wear!)

2015_11_FiveCardHolders_OneGearBusinessCard_PB241207So will dozens of my colorful glass card-holder ornaments! I sell those at the holidays as pieces that can be hung on a tree but, of the ones I’ve kept for myself, I never put them away at the end of that season. Since I’ve decorated then in a whole range of different, bright colors, I weight them down a bit (filling them with rice or lentils), stick little notes, reminders, instructions, or photos in the double-loops on top, and use them to spread bits of cheer around all through the year..

For my local readers, I sure hope I’ll be able to celebrate the Summer Solstice with some of you tonight! If you’re not able to make it for all that fun, but would like to shop at the Summer Artisan Market, it will be open when the center is open through July 8.

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My “Three Rivers” Pendants are back!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/06/08

As soon as I heard the theme that Pittsburgh Society of Artists had chosen for their summer show at the FrameHouse & Jask Galleryda burgh — I knew what I had to do!

PSA's postcard for the showI’d had a lot of fun, back in the spring and summer of 2014, when I made a whole series of “Three Rivers” pendants. I started in the spring, figuring out how to make them. Although they all had the same basic idea, with Pittsburgh’s “three rivers” flowing across them, no two were alike. The pieces were different shapes; the “land” and “rivers” were made from different metals textured with different patterns; the rivers might be recessed, inlaid, or overlaid; and some had an extra element, a triangular stone (rounded or pointed, cabochon or faceted) set at the place that locals know as “The Point” (where, in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio River, which flows down into the Mississippi and, eventually, into the Gulf of Mexico). I sold some of those at the Three Rivers Arts Festival that year. I had two (ones with fewer ‘burgh-specific features) accepted into The Confluence show sponsored by The Hoyt at The Confluence Cafe in New Castle later that summer. (The piece shown, next, left, even earned a Merit Award there!) And I kept selling the rest off in various other shows and shops throughout the rest of that year and the next.

Now, I meant it when I said that I had a lot of fun making them. But some of that “fun” involved facing and overcoming a lot of challenges, doing a lot of problem-solving. I was mixing metals: various bronze formulas along with copper and a couple different steels. And, because those all have different shrinkage rates (and those with stones had extra stresses because the stones do not shrink), there is a certain “failure rate” in the process. What’s a failure? Well, sometimes little cracks appear that are readily fixed, though that results in another whole round of firing, in which there is yet another chance of failure. Other times, however, the cracks are so significant that it’d take more time to fix them than to just make a whole new piece. While I do enjoy the challenge of getting everything to ‘play nice” together, there’s a limit to how much one can add to the “overhead” price of pieces to cover all the time and materials that go into both “research and development” and “unavoidable losses” while keeping the pieces reasonably affordable. So, after a half-year binge, I moved on to other design challenges.

But I kept thinking I wanted to make more, and the PSA theme was just the push I needed. Of course, it’s never simple. Since the last time I made them, I’d been working more with some different metal formulas, so another round of “R&D” was required! Oh, and while I was at it, I had decided to try to develop yet another approach to distinguishing the rivers from the land.

Three Rivers: Metro (their postcard and my entry)In my first few firings, the successes all had the most simple designs; ones that failed had the more complex (and thus more interesting) mixes, and those all failed in ways that I considered beyond repair. Ah, the challenge: I will make this project work!

Oh, and I’d also decided to make these on the larger side. Not huge but, since I was working with base metals (various bronzes, not silver or gold) I could afford to risk pieces that started out around two inches in diameter. (After shrinking during firing, those would end up about 1.75″ across.) I also made some oval pieces, ones that started out at 1.5 by 2.0 inches, and shrank to around 1.3 by 1.75 inches.

Of course, making them that big then limited the number of pieces I could fire in a single load…. Each load does add a small amount to the time I spend, but the real issue is having pieces stack up just waiting to be fired. Since I make one-of-a-kind pieces, and rarely do real production / volume work, I don’t consider that a major issue. It’s not meant as a complaint, but I mention it to explain to some readers why testing that, in a production environment, might be measured in weeks ends up taking me months….

I’m going to keep experimenting with these over the summer, and hope to eventually report on a few more here. In the meantime, though, I’m now presenting the first one that will appear in public, having been accepted the PSA show that opens tomorrow, Friday, June 9! For the piece I submitted to the da burgh jury I decided that, rather than worry about going complex, I’d stick to a simple design and go for a double-hit at the theme:

  1. The design is a basic, overhead view of Pittsburgh and its Three Rivers, AND
  2. The black spinel trillion cabochon set atop the golden bronze metal show the same black & gold of Pittsburgh’s major professional sports teams!

I added a small image of it to my version of PSA’s postcard, above, but here’s a bigger look at it. This is just my basic inventory shot because, silly me, I forgot to take a picture as it appears in the show, hung on a really nice necklace that alternates large loops with short chain segments. To see that, come to the FrameHouse & Jask Gallery this month!

ThreeRivers: Metro Pendant (with Black Spinel Trillion at The Point)

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Will I see you this weekend?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/05/20

May 20: Once again, it’s the great, big Regent Square Community Yard Sale … so that’s the day Wilkins School Community Center will have its annual fund-raiser, which this year features “Books, Beer, Plants, and Dogs” … and I’ll have my studio open from around 10 am until at least 2 pm.

Urban Flower: Cinquefoil (Blue Glitter Glass)

Jewelry will be available (at regular prices) plus I’ll be featuring lots of little, potted aloe plants too, and those will be available at yard-sale prices.

I’m at WSCC, upstairs, in Room #25. Please come on over!

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Spring is coming, and more of my Urban Flowers are blooming!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/03/07

As I mentioned last October, I’ve been experimenting with different ways of incorporating glass into some of my pendants, while also trying to ensure that the process I use for converting (sintering) the clay-like substance I work with into a proper all-metal construction will yield results that are as strong as possible.

I’ve been having a lot of fun doing that: designing pieces, redesigning them when tests don’t work out as planned, and coming up with more ideas for continued explorations. And, now that spring is approaching, I’m delighted to be able to report that two of my experimental blooms will be allowed to sprout (i.e., have been accepted for display in) two upcoming art shows.

From Dark To Light (their Postcard and my Entry)The Cranberry Artist Network’s late-winter show actually opened last week, but the meet-the-artists reception will be tomorrow, March 8, from 6 to 8 pm. If you’re in the neighborhood, do stop by to see my five-petal flower (along the lines of a “cinquefoil”) with a silvery-blue glittery dicrhoic glass cabochon in the center.

On this particular piece, I decided to not try to emphasize the texures on the petals by adding a darker patina. They will darken with age slowly over time but, for this From Dark to Light show, I thought I’d let viewers consider the strong contrast between the darkness of the glass in the center and the bright-light color of the metal that surrounds it. The presentation of any sort of flower also fits the theme, as plants of various sorts begin to emerge in reaction to the increasing duration of light each day. Finally, the addition of a few little silver balls represent a flower’s pollen to remind us of the importance of pollinators for so much of what we appreciate being grown, whether for sustenance or simply for beauty.

One Night Stand (their Flyer and my Entry)A sort of companion to that is my “double shamrock” piece. It will be on display in a sort of companion show, called One Night Stand (take note: it runs for one night only!), at the Mars Area Public Library on (no joke!) April 1 at a special evening event that will run from 6 to 9 pm. They had in mind that their “art show” would include paintings, but I’m not the only one who submitted other media that was accepted so I’ll be interested to see what all makes it into the displays. I am a big believer in local libraries, so I really hope this show will be a success for them!

I chose to try to enter this piece because of the “companionships” I mentioned above. As with all my Urban Flowers, I know that this one does not accurately represent a shamrock. But when I looked at that lovely green and gold glass, I wanted to make something appropirately green for it. And, having just finished the “cinquefoil” I wanted to try a different mechanism for holding the glass in place … without making yet another cinquefoil. I was fairly happy with how it turned out. (Actually, I was very happy, except that I had to add a four-leaf clover design to the back to get everything as secure as I wanted, which looks great but increased the materials cost, and thus the price, a little more than I’d wanted.) I did add a bit of patina to this one, to help bring out the veining in the petals.

Given what I learned with these two, I’ve got several more in the works now. The latest ones have long, thin petals. Maybe I can get them out on display over the summer…!

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Silver Metal Clay on Pottery

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/02/22

For reasons I’ll explain at the end, here are a few examples of pottery I’ve made over the past few years to use in some of my early experiments in adding silver metal clay decorations to them.  Since I’m showing here my first experiments with various techniques, for those I chose to not risk my best pottery pieces and the decorations were deliberately kept very simple. But each of them does seem to have a little story to tell!

  1. I threw, bisqued, glazed, and fired these pieces.  The same electric kiln was used for both firings.  The relatively rough glaze was a deliberate choice … I then smushed some clay onto the surface and fired that with a creme brulee torch to sinter the silver.  For my first-ever attempts at these, I was happy with these results.
    Two Bowls with Fine Silver Silver
  2. I threw several pieces, cutting ridges into their outside surfaces. After bisque-firing those (in a different electric kiln), I glazed the inside and smushed silver clay onto the outer ridges, then fired those (in a gas kiln).  Most turned out wonderfully, and I’ve already sold all of those but the one shown here.  Part of the back of this one did break off. (I used the same glaze inside this one as on the piece in item #3, below.) The fault could have come from either a flaw in the pottery (perhaps I’d cut a ridge a little too deeply?) or because I’d applied the metal clay a bit thicker there (and the shrinkage as the binder burned off and it sintered was too much for the pottery clay), or even from both of those combined… I haven’t yet gotten around to trying to distinguish among those possibilities.
    Bowl with Fine Silver (glazed inside, silver outside)
  3. I threw, bisqued, glazed, and fired this piece.  (Those firings were done in the same electric / gas pattern as #2, above.)  Then I rolled out some “snakes” of a low-shrinkage silver metal clay and spread a tiny bit of overlay paste onto them (in the setting where I made this–not my own studio and I’d forgotten to take a tiny paintbrush for this step–that was far easier than applying paste to the pot). I pressed those onto the vase, and fired this piece yet a third time (and in yet a different electric kiln, a small one that another artist had for firing metal clay molds).  The clay shrank: the upper snake held at the ends but cracked open at roughly 1/4 of the way from one end; the lower one held along its length but pulled up into itself leaving a little smudge of silver paste at the end and at a few places along its side. The little “splats” of silver must have been a bit of clay/paste from my fingers as I was sticking it all together. I didn’t notice those until after the firing, but I really like that accidental result. Now I want to figure out a way to reliably recreate those, especially like the one above and to the right of the top snake!
    Pot with Fine Silver
  4. I threw this piece and bisque-fired it (in an electric kiln).  I applied glaze to the outside.  I rolled several “snakes” of a low-shrinkage metal clay, wet them on the bottom, and applied them in a “spray” pattern to the unglazed inside bottom and edge.  The piece was fired in a gas kiln.  When removed, the silver looked sintered and the patterns were all still intact.  The piece was immediately (i.e., still hot!) dropped into a newspaper-filled can, and covered.  (Those who know the process will recognize that as a “raku” firing!)
    Wide Bowl with Fine Silver (balled by raku)
    This outcome was my biggest surprise! The gas kiln did not over-fire the silver, but the fire from the raku-process did then get the inside of the can hot enough to completely melt the silver!  You may just be able to see some faint hints of where part of the pattern had been: tan spots where some of them were even show little trails of tiny silver balls.  But most of it pulled up into two balls in the center! (Another small bit from the edge must have just fallen off in the raku-can and disappeared as it was emptied out. That’s experimentation!) I was able to get a number of pieces with ball-decorations to survive the raku process (similar look to both #1 and #2 above) and turn out beautifully, but I have yet to figure out how to approach, in raku, designs like those that later developed from the technique I first tried with #3.
  5. While I’m sure that many readers with metal clay experience will have taken their clue from the size of the silver balls and snakes above, I will end with another little pot from that session.  The pencil is there to give you a sense of scale for all these pieces! And if you look carefully, you should be able to see the small (3 mm) clear cubic zirconia I’d set into the wet clay.  All the ones I made with those did survive all three firing steps (bisque and two-part raku).
    Green Crackle Pot with CZ
    While the previous items all show my very first attempt at each technique, this was my second try. The very first piece did have one very tiny crack just off to the side of the CZ, visible but with no obvious damage to the structure. That was probably due to my having used too-wet clay until I figured out that I could set CZs in stiffer clay. That bowl did have a great shape, and another artist really wanted to swap me some art-glass for it!

I’ve been playing around with miniature pottery, off and on, with and without such embellishments, for several years now. Though I have been offering my miniature pottery for sale at various shows, I haven’t taken the experimentation seriously enough to feel inclined to write much about it. (And I’m not teaching this, at least not yet, so I don’t have that inspiration for writing about it either…)

But I decided to post these examples after seeing some experimentation that Terry Kovalchik has been doing, and writing about, with painting silver clay paste onto pottery shards, and reading some of the reactions he’s gotten to that in the Metal Clay Now group on Facebook. (Metal Clay Now is a “closed” group, but readers of my blog who use Facebook are certainly welcome to ask to join it!)

While many of his results are superb (as usual!), Terry has reported some further breakage of the clay shards during the sintering process. But, like my #2 above, that could be from any or all of: a weak spot in the pottery (at initial construction or from whatever created the “shards”), the shrinkage of the silver clay (how thickly or how evenly it’s applied, exactly how it aligns with any weakness in the clay body), or any number of other little peculiarities. So I thought it was time for me to bring out a few of my explorations too, and maybe others will start to chime in with what they’ve tried and how it’s worked out for them.

If you are working with similar combinations, please leave a comment: I’d love to hear from you, see some of your results, and compare more notes!

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Four-week Intro Class: Deadline Extended!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/02/16

Great news! My four-week introductory series on working with silver metal clay still has a few seats available in “Session 2” — from 6 to 9 pm — starting next Thursday (Feb 23) at the North Hills Art Center, and we’ve agreed not to close the registration this afternoon, but leave it open until next Tuesday!

So if you forgot to sign up, there is still time. Or, if you didn’t notice the listing among my classes down the right side of this blog, didn’t check the Classes section of my website, and you’re not on my mailing list nor the one for the North Hills Art Center … well, now you know about the series and that it’s still possible to sign up.

intro class samplesJust register now! Right here!

We’ll cover the basics of designing, texturing, shaping, cutting, and refining pieces. You’ll make a woven piece. And a hollow one (open or closed design: you choice!). With every piece you make, pendant or earrings, you’ll have the option of making it reversible! By the end, we will also have covered various ways to polish and add patinas to your pieces, to help bring out the textured designs. And we’ll have lots of fun doing it all!

For my one- or two-day workshops, registration is usually cut off a week ahead: I need time to order the silver we’ll be using (and I sure don’t want to charge students for overnight shipping)! I have ordered silver clay for those who already signed up for this but, since I’m getting enough to cover all four weeks, I can sneak enough out of that for late-comers to use the first week, and replenish it in time for later evenings.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll be able to join us!

big reversible bronze, both sides with CZsAlso please notice (e.g., down the right side of my blog) that this session will be followed at NHAC by a simple, two-night introduction to making a beautiful piece out of bronze metal clay. Registration for that one will close on March 16. (Bronze is a little trickier to work with than silver, so you may end up making only one piece … but the materials cost less, so bronze worth risking for big “statement” pieces!)

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For that last-minute Valentine’s Day gift!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/02/12

2016_11_03_DomedHeartBlueBeadEarrings_3761Subscribers to my newsletter already know this, but as I’m tidying up my studio this afternoon I’ll have my big wooden cabinet set up for anyone who’d like to do some last-minute shopping for Valentine’s Day from 4:30 to 6:00 pm.

I don’t have a huge number of Valentine-themed pieces left at this point, but what’s left does cover the whole range from simple earrings to beaded necklaces with hand-made, silver, heart-themed focal beads, and some pieces in between. I will also have a lot more, in a variety of other styles.

Can’t make it to my studio this afternoon? When I was over at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh yesterday, I noted that they still had in stock a few of my Valentine-themed pieces too. (Artsmiths, and the other sites listed down the side of my blog, do have lots of other items too.)

Really last-minute shoppers have one more option! Though I rarely make it over to the studio on Mondays, this week I should have a chance to spend a couple hours there in the late afternoon / early evening range. That’s Monday the 13th. I’m not promising exact hours for that yet but, if you’d like to shop then, let me know when and I’ll be happy to confirm a time for you!

If you’d like to get updates on when my studio is open for shopping, when I’ll have pieces at other shows, or hear about my upcoming workshops, use the link at the top-right of my blog (and duplicated here for today).

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December 27, and I was mowing my lawn?!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/27

And now, a little diversion from art into practical issues of life.

Six weeks ago, I thought I’d put my lawn mower away for the winter. The last leaf pick-up the city offered was on November 10, which is later than it’s been in other recent years. By then, I’d gradually trimmed the grass down for its last mowing, cleaned up the mower for the winter, and tucked it away.

I knew, however, that I wasn’t done. My trees still had leaves! I’d cleaned up those that had fallen from the apple tree and other shrubs along the sides and in the back, and I was willing to let any remaining ones that fell just be for a while. I leave stray apples down in the back yard too: deer from the park can come and find them during the winter! Then I do the final clean-up there in the spring. But I try to keep the front tidier.

By Thanksgiving weekend, the sweetgum tree in front had dropped no more than 100 leaves: the many, many thousands it bears usually fall over the course of that whole month. At the end of November this year, I just shoveled up those first few and dumped them in the compost. And then the busy-season started: shows and events and last minute requests plus gatherings and baking and decorating and visitors and whatnot. The first week of December, only a few more leaves dropped. Then, suddenly, a week before Christmas (during my last Trunk Show of the season), there was the first real deep-freeze, followed by a quick warm-up with heavy rain, and they all dumped straight down in a day or two, piled up in a soggy mess. I guess that’s better than dry and blowing all over the neighborhood! But these were clumped together inches deep on the eastern-third of my front yard under the tree. Every now and then I’d find a few spare daylight hours when I’d think I could try to work on that, but those just never happened on dry-enough days.

Still, despite a lot of rain, it rarely went below freezing. The grass kept growing. And with short days, it seemed to do the thing plants do during their “growing season” when there’s not enough light: it shot up another six inches or more!

I thought maybe I’d try to deal with all this yesterday, with temperatures in the 60s (SW Pennsylvania the last week of December, and temps in the 60s?!!). But it rained all day. I did, at least, take down the “window boxes” full of flowers that I hang from the porch railings. I could, of course, do that from the shelter of the porch.

Today it only reached into the 40s, but it was clear. I didn’t have as much free time today, but I did manage almost four hours out there! I raked up about 80% of the leaves and sucked those through my mulching leaf vacuum. (I wouldn’t have had to rake if they’d been dry. But wet, they stick together and clog up the machine’s nozzle unless I “fluff” them up.) The rest just got mulched in with the grass when I mowed the lawn.

Since we’re just past the solstice, the days are short: so my last hour out there was after sunset! A few days shy of the new moon, there was no helpful light from that, but streetlights and holiday lights did offer some aid. By the time I’d finished collecting leaves and mowing, however, the mower, leaf vacuum, rake and shovel all went straight back into the garage. And the thing I’m debating tonight is whether to take time in the morning to clean them up again for winter storage, especially the mower, or just figure I may need it again in a few weeks.

I can’t believe I’m having that thought! I also can’t believe that it wasn’t until well after dark before I said to myself, “I really should have thought to take a photo while there was still some light!” Oh well. I hope you enjoy the story!

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Yes, Trunk Shows contininue again on Sunday.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/17

Whew, what a day. Today, Saturday, started out with all news outlets stating, “If you don’t absolutely have to be somewhere this morning, please stay home. Don’t even try to go anywhere for several hours and, if you can wait, then please do wait until late afternoon or even tomorrow.”

Well, I was out the door before 9 am, heading over to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh to finish setting up for my Trunk Show that started when the place opened at 10 am. And I sure do want to thank everyone who did venture out to Artsmiths today! All the ‘Smiths Shop artists, and especially those of us holding Trunk Shows downstairs, really, really do appreciate your support.

2016_1216_HeartLock_withPinkCZ_3930Four of us have decided that we will go back again on Sunday, in case folks whose schedules were mangled by this weather would appreciate a second chance. We’re already all set up, so why not?! Several of the others who were there today already had different plans for Sunday and have already left, but Paula Nettleship, Samantha Bower, Larissa Graudins, and I will all be there. Since Sunday wasn’t actually advertized as a Trunk Show day, if people don’t come down to see us, we may decide to leave a little early. Artsmiths is open from 12 Noon to 5 pm on Sunday, though some or all of us might start packing up a bit early. So, if you’d like to come find us, I’d suggest you try to make it to Artsmiths betwen 12 Noon and 3 pm. If you want to come later (i.e., after 3 pm, until about 4:45 … to allow at least a little time for shopping until 5), then please just contact one or more of us (or Artsmiths itself) to let us know you’re coming. Any or all of us will be happy to stay as late as the upstairs is open, as long as we know you’ll be coming to join us!

For now, I include one very quick photo of one of the last pieces I finished up last night, a super-simple design but in my usual make-reversible-designs approach, what looks like the top of a lock from this side, actually shows as a heart on the other! It’s still out at Artsmiths so you could hold it in your very own hands tomorrow…and maybe give it as a gift to someone you hold dear in your heart later in the week?

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