Convergent Series

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

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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Wrap-up Follow-up

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/10

2016_11_03_DomedHeartBlueBeadEarrings_3761Yep, the Parkway East is closed this weekend for Greenfield Bridge construction, but I’ve decided to have my studio open for another little Open House from 12 Noon to 3 pm both Saturday and Sunday, December 10-11!

I say it’s just a little one because I’m not turning the whole place into a shop again this weekend. I’ll keep one big table to use for trying to get some work done, but I’ll have the other big table, a couple little ones, and the big sideboard all set up for shoppers. (While out holiday-shopping, I bought a few new storage containers, so my “work” goal is just to sort, label, and reorganize my supplies for several new directions I’m aiming for in 2017. That’s all perfectly interrupt-able and, in fact, I’ll appreciate taking breaks to chat with visitors!)

If you don’t make it to Regent Square now, then you’re welcome to come and find me next weekend: I’ll be back out in Mt. Lebanon at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh. I’ll be there for sure for a few hours on Friday (mid-afternoon to closing, at 6), and all day on Saturday (10 am – 6 pm) for sure. I’m not yet sure if those of us having Trunk Shows will be back on Sunday but, if we will be, I’ll post a little update on that on the Convergent Series page on Facebook.

In both places, I’ll have (my usual array of new) jewelry items, plus (items I only offer for sale at special events, such as) my colored glass ornaments and miniature pottery. If you haven’t seen me in a while, you may be in for some surprises!

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Wrapping Up 2016…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/01

Yes, we have a whole month left! The title of this post contains a bad pun … but I’m hoping you’ll wrap up some of my creations as gifts, or receive one wrapped up for you!

Here are places where you can find my art jewelry this December (and you can find me—in person, with extra treats—at those with an asterisk):

  • Holiday Sparkle Art & Craft Market at the North Hills Art Center, now through December 10
  • Holiday mART. Sweetwater Center for the Arts, December 2 – 11
  • Holiday Open House, Hoyt Center for the Arts, is on December 3, 2016, 11 am to 4 pm, and then special holiday sales will continue throughout the rest of the month
  • Studio Open House *, in my studio at the Wilkins School Community Center, December 2 (6-9 pm) and December 3-4 (10 am – 5 pm)
    I’m not promising to be back in my studio all day the following weekend (Dec 10-11) but I’m likely to be there for a few hours at some point. If that’s the only time you can make it, please let me know so we can agree on a time to meet there!
  • Trunk Show *, The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, December 17 (Officially I’ll be there myself just that day, but check with me if you’d like to come out on either Friday (16th) or Sunday (18th) as I may be there part of those days too. And I have a smaller, but still great, selection in the ‘Smiths Shop year-round!)

And, finally, I’m honored that, as a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists, I was able to have one of my pieces selected for display (and for sale) in The New Collective show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The show runs from November 18, 2016, through February 26, 2017, and I sure hope you’ll be able to get over to see all the wonderful artwork that’s been included. To find my entry, first head upstairs and then turn right, and right again, and then head down the last gallery on the right. My Bronze Bead Shelf is at the end of that, on the left. Since it’s framed for display in the show, so you can see only one side there, here’s what it looks like on both sides:

I hope to see you, or to at least have you see my work, at one or another of those events. If I don’t see you in person, there or somewhere, please know how much I appreciate your interest and support, and that I’m wishing you all the best!

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Holiday Sparkle Art & Craft Market!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/11/12

I’m delighted to report that this year some of my creations will be available just north of Pittsburgh in the Holiday Sparkle Art & Craft Market at the North Hills Art Center (whose front facade illustrates this post).

In addition to my jewelry, they have a few of my holiday-season ornaments for sale too. Their front show-room is fairly small, but they have it packed with a wide range of items, most of which are definitely priced for the holiday gift-giving market! (And, yes, a few are priced at special gifts for that special someone!)

I’d like to take a moment to thank some of my friends from the Cranberry Artists Network who told me about this center, and encouraged me to go check it out. If you’re in the ‘burgh and have not been there yet either, this center is at 3432 Babcock Boulevard (which is up near the the north end of Babcock, towards Three Degree Road). The center is open Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 3 pm, and the show runs from November 12 through December 10.

If you’re in the area (and there at the right time), do take a moment to stop in and explore this little treasure.

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Exploring my “Urban Flowers” Series

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/10/17

This post is going to jump into the middle of a story about several different things I’ve been working on: adding a little bit of color to my creations by incorporating some glass (especially dichroic glass) and working with sterling silver metal clays.

Why start in the middle? Well, I really do miss writing about all the explorations I do in my studio. I haven’t been saying much about them lately because we still don’t have reliable internet access in the building … and I used to compose posts as I worked. You can probably imagine that, after a long day of working on explorations (and more), the last thing I want to do is go home and stay up for hours more writing from there. But it’s a gorgeous fall day and I suddenly decided to enjoy it by staying home this morning, sitting out on my back porch with a cup of tea, and writing about a piece I just finished on Friday.

I will provide a bit of background:

The second, or maybe it was the third, piece I ever made using metal clay incorporated a lovely, long, oval, pink glass bead, set with loops of syringe-clay to hold it in place. It was fun to do, but it took me a few more years before I got into adding glass on any sort of regular basis. About six or seven years ago, I went through a phase of using glass fairly often. Then I moved off in other directions, with what remained of my collection of glass pieces sitting in a corner of one of my stash-drawers. I’d acquire another bit of glass every now and then until, a few years later, I made a few more pieces using some of those, and taught it as the final project in a couple of private lessons and multi-session intensive workshops.

ProjectSample_Glass_SwirlGlassInFineSilverProbably the main reason I didn’t keep pushing with glass is because I’d felt limited to using PMC3 or Art Clay 650: those were the only metal clays that could reliably be fired with glass. Now, those are both fine metal clays: I have been quite happy using either one of them. But glass just isn’t happy at the 1650°F (900°C) for two hours that all fine silver clays require for the strongest sintering, even with those formulas. Although they will technically sinter at lower temperatures and shorter times, they still don’t get as dense, and thus won’t get as strong, as they could do at 1650°F for two hours. They do come out perfectly acceptable, and I hope people will treat any piece with glass somewhat gently … but I just like going for the strongest pieces possible.

Still, I do love glass. So this summer I made some more fine silver pieces with dichroic glass cabochons, called them class samples, and included that process in another four-day session I was scheduled to teach at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh. The first photo with this post shows one of the sample pieces I made for that class. While a couple of my samples used the same PMC3 and Art Clay 650 that I’d used in the past (mostly to refresh my memory of how I’d done it) this one and several others used PMC Flex. Flex is similar to PMC3 but it has a slightly longer working time (good for workshop students not yet comfortable enough with metal clays to work really fast) and it remains a bit flexible when dried (which makes it very useful for anyone fashioning the parts that capture and hold the glass). And, though there’s still the problem of not sintering to the maximum density possible, it does sinter reasonably well at temperatures where glass remains happy. So, for fine silver with glass, it seemed a good choice.

Urban Flower #7 (Blue Lagoon)Now, at last, on to the Urban Flowers explorations:

After I’d made those samples, on some of the hottest days this summer when I just didn’t feel like going out to work in my garden, I got to thinking about a possible new series of pieces, ones I’ve taken to calling my Urban Flowers. They are flower-like designs, but from my imagination. While they may be based on some actual flower varieties (and may or may not be named for their inspiration), I am not attempting to make biologically-accurate representations. They’re just a city-girl’s dreams. The textures come from urban life: wallpapers, flooring, construction debris, household objects, etc., and they feature glass (or, occasionally, something else that is commonly found in urban environments).

Urban Flower #5 (Purple Haze)I’d been happily exploring these designs, mostly using PMC Flex, while working on some other styles completely and, for those, using diy-960 clays (i.e., mixing PMC+, PMC3, PMC Flex, and/or Art Clay 650 with PMC Sterling clay).

And then CoolTools released EZ960. OK, I didn’t really need it, as I’d been doing fine with my various diy-960 combos, but why not give it a try? Soon after, both PMC and Art Clay released their own silver-rich sterlings (PMC One-Fire Sterling, a .960 formula, and Art Clay 950, where the number designation has switched from a minimum Celsius firing temperature to a Fine Silver percentage). I got some of each of those and started testing them too. At some point, I hope to find a chance to write about all that testing. For now, though, let’s stick to the Urban Flowers story.

While I do love the color of plain fine silver, I can also appreciate the gain in strength that it gets when a bit of copper is added to produce sterling silver. And, as noted above, I much prefer to produce pieces that are strong. The 950-960 formulas will be stronger than a 999 fine silver; they get you to almost as much strength as you can get in the great 900-925 alloys. Plus, they have the benefit that they are as easy to fire as the 999 clays (i.e., much easier than the 900-925 ones, where having more copper complicates the firing). So, yes, any 960 (diy or commercial product) will be a compromise, but still an excellent choice.

With one exception: the 950-960 clays need temps and times higher than glass can take without just melting.

But, d’oh, why didn’t I think of this before (even with the .999 fine silver clays!)? I work with base metal clays, and I do some pottery, and we’re talking about multiple firings to get many of those to work. So here’s the inspiration I had, and the first (simple) piece I made to test it out….

I made an Urban Flower base out of EZ960: the petals, the stem (if included), the bail on the back … everything but the glass and the bit that holds the glass in place. I fired all of that according to the schedule for 960, to achieve maximum strength. Afterwards, I positioned a glass cab, surrounded that with a .999 fine silver washer shape to contain it, made sure that was well-attached to the already-fired petals, and fired the whole thing again at a schedule that worked for just the “bezel” and the glass. After a bit of tumbling, polishing, and patina, voila! It may not be perfect, but I am really happy with this result! (Though both the silver and the glass are brighter in person than they look in this photo….)

Urban Flower No. 8 (Gold Cinquefoil)

What do you think?

I do still need to figure out a reasonable pricing schedule to accommodate the fact that I’m doing two firings, and that attaching the unfired clay to the fired metal can be a little trickier than attaching two unfired elements. Though that will add a small amount, in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be much. Once I’ve found time to make more to extend the series, and refined the process of doing it this way, I can see how the time works out and apply that even to my initial-trial pieces too. The only real problem with this approach is the way the two firings will affect trying to do this in a class … but it’s just another reason to offer multi-session workshops, rather than the quick one-shot ones, when including easy but still advanced topics.

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The $100 CAN Show

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/10/13

2012_10_CAN_100Show_postcard_wDatesAndAddress2016_10_CAN_100Show_postcard_imageI had a great time last night at the opening of the Cranberry Artists Network’s (CAN) latest event, the $100 Show. Just in time to jump start your holiday shopping, it’s a Hundred-Dollar Show: everything in the show is priced at an even $100! (Well, to be entirely honest, that’ll be $106 once the tax has been added…)

I have two entries in this show and both pendants are thrilled to be in such good company! (Mine are displayed in the big glass case to the left of the door into the library.) The bronze on copper one already knows who it will be going home with at the end of the show! The all-silver one is still hoping to soon be chosen too … whether it will go off with its new owner or be on its way to becoming a very special gift for someone dear.

Whether you’re buying, or just browsing, if you’re in the area, do take a little break to stop in and explore the many wonderful paintings, photography, ceramics, glass art, and more, all made by artists in south-western Pennsylvania!

[Late November, post-show, update: It seems this was the most successful show that CAN has run! In the end I sold only one of my two entries (the other one will be available for purchase in my studio in December), but a higher proportion of artists had at least one sale than in any previous CAN show! Whether you bought one of my pieces, or that of another artist, I want to offer my sincere Thank You to everyone who found something that they liked enough to purchase it (whether it was made by me or one of my colleagues) and who thereby helped to support your local artists!]

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Carol’s Fall 2016 Workshops at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/23

To help my local reader or potential visitors with planning their metal clay adventures, here’s a summary of the next round of workshops I have on the schedule at the wonderful Artsmiths of Pittsburgh.  The link at the title for each one takes you to the registration service for it.

For the rest of September and on into October, I’ve chosen to offer a mix of classes where you can learn to create pieces that make a definite statement, or elements to use in more complex designs of your own.

  • Monday, September 26, Noon-5 pm: Sparkle-Dome: Make a Hollow, Reversible Pendant with Bling!
    As mentioned in my last post, “lentil” beads are always gorgeous, and now you can learn to make yours even more special by adding a sparkly cubic zirconia in a simple yet elegant way!
  • Sunday, October 2, 1-4pm: Wrap A Straw in Silver and See What Happens!
    Simple tools can be the best: We’ll texture some silver clay and explore different ways to wrap it around a straw. The end result will be a large, stunning “tube” pendant-bead … unless you’d prefer to make a whole little collection of smaller ones. (The latter make great earrings, but they also pair perfectly with the mini-beads from the October 11 class!)
  • Mini Lentil EarringsTuesday, October 11, Noon-5 pm: Mini-Beads: So Cute You Can’t Stop at Just One!
    Another session making lentil beads, this time learning some of the extra tricks for making little minitature ones! These are great for beaders, or earring-makers, of all sorts. Making these little beads is easy and addictive, and you will find so many different ways to use them. (Hint: they fit wonderfully with the little-tubes you could make in the session on October 2!)
  • Thursday, October 20, 6-9pm: Lovely Silver Nests
    Tiny silver balls are easy and fun to make. They’re a great way for beginners to get a sense of metal clay, and they’re a wonderful way for others to use up bits of clay that’s left at the end of a session. And once you have such a collection, one fun thing to do with them is to collect them into a little “nest” design. (Or, if you prefer, spread them along a coiled “track”!) Explore the possibilities.
  • SimplyStupendousThursday, October 27, 12-4 pm: Simply Stupendous Cylinders
    Whether or not you’ve ever made a tube bead before (which you could have done on October 2), this is the afternoon when you can practice making one or two more and learning how to close one end, which will let you hang them in any of several different ways. (The ones shown in the photo can rotate the whole way around!)

Then, in November, I’ve chosen to focus on sessions were you (yes, you, even if you are a total beginner at this!) can quickly make several simpler pieces … where the emphasis will be on making items you can give as gifts in the coming holiday season:

  • HowCharming_CS_CharmBraceletSaturday November 6, 1-4pm: How Charming!
    OK now, the Holiday Season will be approaching, and you’ll be thinking about gifts, won’t you? But why spend an afternoon shopping, when you can spend it making several adorable little silver charms, ones you can hang from a bracelet, zipper pull, fine chain, earwires, etc. They make wonderful gifts … if you can bear to part with them!
  • SoPrecious_FivePendantsThursday November 17, 6-9pm: So Precious!
    Once again geared for gift-giving, the idea behind this session is to make a very special pendant piece (or two, depending on how carried away you get with embellishing your first one!).

Beginners are welcome at all of these, while the projects are designed so that those with some previous metal clay experience are still likely to learn some new techniques with each one.

Note: the links on each session will open a new browser page where you can read a bit more about each class and register for the session. You may notice some minor discrepancies between what’s shown here and what’s there. Having tried (without success, for technical reasons not worth going into) to set up some the sessions I offer in my studio using the Eventbrite system, I have a LOT of sympathy for the several folks at Artsmiths who worked on setting up the registration pages there. It is not easy! The thing I will say is that the descriptions, date, time, price, etc., on the Eventbrite pages ARE correct. It’s just a few photographs that got mixed up, and a few titles that somehow got changed, from what’s shown above (here is what I submitted for these sessions). So … look at the titles, photos, and summaries here, then click the link and get the full description and registration information there. I hope to see you before autumn has passed!

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Make a Lentil Bead with Extra Sparkle!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/21

Registration has closed for my class on making silver buttons this week, but if you missed it, don’t worry.  I’ll be offering that one again, in my studio, in November AND I’ve got one on making bronze buttons on the studio schedule for February.  Those dates are set to coincide with Indie Knit & Spin, which is a great event that happens in the building where I have my studio.  More on all that next month … because I’ve got several other great classes lined up before those.

The next one will be at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, this Monday, September 26, from Noon to 5 pm.  We’ll make hollow, domed, reversible, silver “lentil-style” beads—one of my most favorite basic shapes to work with!  If you want to add some extra bling to yours, you’ll learn a great way to set a lovely, sparkly cubic zirconia too, using an easy technique that lines up the top of your CZ  with the top of your bead in a very elegant design.

If you’d like to sign up for it, details on how to register are here.

LentilBead_Wonderland_with4pt5mmCZ_2258 Should you arrive early, consider having lunch at the Koolkat Cafe. You’ll want to start out well-nourished, from there or otherwise, so you’ll be ready to have lots of fun for the rest of the afternoon! During our session, there will be no specific time designated for everyone to take a break at once, but each person will reach stopping-points now and then where it’ll make sense to relax briefly.

byProject_LentilBeads_Twilight_with2mmCZ_partiallyPolished_2260The beads shown here are all just under an inch in diameter. That’s a good size to start out with: somewhere between 3/4 and 1.25 inches across.

We’ll be using a silver-rich version of sterling silver!

In class, I’ll help you understand the major differences (both advantages and disadvantages) of fine silver (99.9% silver), standard sterling silver (must have at least 92.5% silver, with the remaining 7.5% usually copper), and our class-clay (which is 96% silver and a mere 4% copper).

This class makes a great introduction to metal clay: the very first piece I ever made with the stuff was a lentil bead! Then again, if you already follow any metal clay discussions online, you’ll know that this “960” sterling silver is still relatively new in clay form but working with it is being explored by many metal clay artisans.  This will be a chance for you to work with it yourself!   Until recently, I taught classes using “999” fine silver; I still use that for a lot of my pieces and classes, and choose among brands and formulations according to which seems to be the best one for the various designs I have in mind.  But I’m thrilled to have a number of “960” versions available now too, as yet another choice, and I’m selecting projects to offer as classes that allow me to highlight the advantages (or avoid the disadvantages) among the many wonderful metal clay varieties that are now available.

I’ve  been doing some additional behind-the-scenes testing of the various forms of 960: don’t hold your breath waiting, but know that those results will appear here eventually too.  In the meantime, besides that testing, I’m keeping busy in this part-time activity of mine through teaching some private lessons, planning for a guest lecturer session next week on metal Art Jewelry for the Costume Design (undergrad) and Costume Production (graduate) programs in the Drama Department at Carnegie Mellon University, and trying to build up inventory for the holiday-sales season.  And the ‘net connection at my studio still varies from wonky to non-existent.  I do have some great 960 information in the writing-queue, and I am trying to get it in condition to be posted!

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Metal Clay: how can beaders and fiber-folks use it too?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/05

What with all the ‘net-connection issues and photo-sharing dilemmas I’ve been going on about recently, I am waaaay behind in posting about upcoming workshops: sorry! I actually have a bakers-dozen on my schedule already, and I’ll write about the bulk of them as soon as I can. For now however: coming along soon are two metal clay workshops that are not my typical stand-alone jewelry-projects!

Funny thing is, I really didn’t get into this metal clay arena because I wanted to go off making pendants and earrings and bracelets and more. My original goal was simply to find a relatively easy way to make an array of different elements because I couldn’t find ones that I wanted to use in my other creations: bead caps and clasps for my bead-work, buttons for my fiber-work, etc. If you are anything like I was, you should know that my first two classes this month harken back to those beginnings!



Thursday Sept 8, 6-9pm,
Make Your Own Unique Silver Bead Caps
This one is especially for Beaders: Learn to make your own fine silver bead caps, designed to go perfectly with some of the favorite beads in your stash!
Thursday Sept 22, 6-9pm
Silver Button Originals!
This one is especially for Fiber-Artists of all sorts: Hand-made creations deserve hand-made buttons, don’t they?! Whether they will be functional or simply decorative, they might as well be your own hand-made sterling silver treats!

Click on the title of each workshop, above, and it should take you to a page where you can sign up for that particular session. Beginners are welcome! These are fun ways to add both decoration and value to your lovingly-made creations.

Along with my other ‘net- and photo-woes, however, for some reason the folks at Artsmiths who’ve been setting up those registration pages have been adding the sessions, then changing, fixing, and again changing … the names of my classes. Some are showing the names I gave them; others show something that does fit but is not what I was calling them. Who knows? Problem is, the session name shows up in the URL I need to use to add the links! Not to worry, though, I think I’ve (finally!) found a way to add reliable links above but, should they fail, you can also get to them either of these ways (these will require an extra click or two, but they should be more stable…):

I hope I’ll see you there! Then again, if you’re just learning about these now, and the notice is too short for you to make it work with your schedule, let me know!

  • I can find a time to schedule the Bead Caps one again, either at Artsmiths or at my studio. I’m also happy to do one in my studio on making your own toggle clasps: as soon as enough folks tell me they’re interested, I’ll email you about picking a date that will work for everyone.
  • And I plan to hold button-making sessions again when Indie Knit and Spin is on: we’ll be making the same sterling-silver-with-holes buttons on November 12 and, depending on interest, I’ll either repeat that one or lead a session on making shank-style buttons in bronze during their February 25, 2017, gathering. More on those, and other button-options, shortly.

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An Important Question, prefaced by a couple laments….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/08/23

My question, dear readers, is at the very end of my two long laments in this post. If you want the short version, just scroll down to that….

1. RIP Picasa. That’s the saddest part of this post.

I loved Picasa! If you’re not familiar with Picasa, it was the photo-sharing service that I’ve been using for images on this blog since I started it. (The photo illustrating this section is the same one I used on my first post on this blog: an old image of the first metal clay piece I ever made!) Google has “retired” it.

Picasa had a desktop application; it was fine but I have other tools I often use for editing, file transfers, and such, so that’s not what I’m mourning.

Where I’m feeling the loss involves their web-based photo sharing! I’ve not tallied the exact number, but I have put thousands of photos there, organized into albums by topic or event. There was a total-memory limit, but I was conservative, posting copies of my images that were too small for most print situations but generous for general web-viewing, because making them accessible on the web was my goal. (In about eight years I had not yet used ten percent of the quota.)

What a really valued was their click-able options for including either a tiny (“thumbnail”) or small version of photos I wanted to share in this blog. Readers could get a view of what I was trying to illustrate while taking up only a small amount of bandwidth / data usage. If you wanted to see more, you could always click on any image to have a larger version open in a new tab or window. That whole operation was seamless, for me as the writer as well as for you as the reader.

Now, the good news is that most of the small views are still available in these posts, so readers looking at older posts (e.g., finding them in web searches, which I can see happens a lot) can still get the idea of what I’m talking about when I reference them. A few seem to be missing, from when I wasn’t thinking and clicked a different spot while connecting, but those will be easy to fix (ha: when I find the time!). The bad news is that all the click-to-enlarge photos are gone!

I have not lost my originals. I will admit, however, that those are not as well-organized as what I had on Picasa. I worked from various different locations, and backed up my originals from there as I went along, so they are scattered about in different places … which had not been a problem in the past, because if I wanted to find the big originals I could always go to Picasa and find the little clues I’d hidden there for myself as to where they were… Grrr!

I can still get to all of my public albums via Google Photos. I strongly dislike the design of that interface! I’m not going to go and re-do the links to display all the photos I’ve already posted, but I feel zero inclination to use that for any more of my images. Google claims it’s better for mobile applications, but I’m trying to share photos outside of just Google. For my own purposes, I find it awkward to use. And, yes, I an used to switching between lots of different applications, so it’s something more than that.

I have a few photos on Flickr. I really only used that when I wanted to participate in some Flickr-group thing (e.g., Vickie Hallmark’s Month of Earrings challenge back in 2010, which began here) that required you to link to Flickr files. But it took several more steps to be able to include one of those shots in my blog, so Picasa was my default for here. Flickr did improve the interface a bit over time, not as good as Picasa’s was but less clunky than it had been. My primary concern for shifting over there right now is that Flickr is part of Yahoo! and Yahoo! is having its own issues at the moment…

I have a bunch of photos on Facebook, but there is zero way to keep everything organized there. Yes, I can create some albums for posts on my own timeline. But, aside from the fact that some places I want to share them on Facebook won’t let me share them from those albums (no, they want me to upload a version of the file specifically for that situation…?), photos I put there are really only easily made public within Facebook. That’s too restrictive. For my primary stash, I want my public photos to be public, and I want my restricted-access photos to be available to people to whom I provide access myself, and both settings should be regardless of whether viewer is currently, or ever, logged in to Facebook or any other service!

I have an account on Instagram, but don’t see a way to organize things there. It’s just a chronological stream. Or am I missing some key feature: can I create albums there? If so, can I sort them various ways (e.g., by first / last date or title)?

I have a couple of YouTube channels. I’m working on some videos for those (that I’ll write posts about eventually). But that’s different from what I want to do with photos here. I have some GigaPan albums. But those are mostly for other kinds of projects I’m involved with entirely.

Yes, for this blog, I could just insert photos directly via WordPress. I may be forced to do that here until I can find a new service that helps me keep my photos organized. For that matter, I have a whole domain, and could share photos from there! Except then I’d have to access them by file-name rather than by image-appearance, and my memory works far better and faster when it’s processing images.

I know that I have lots of options, mentioned here and otherwise. I’m not seeking a service that does everything. But I do need to find a good replacement for the sheer organizational assistance that I had with Picasa…..

2. WSCC’s woes.

Which brings me to my second lament: the building where I have my studio is having its own issues. The connection should become clear in a few moments.

My Studio Space, before I filled it up!I love the space I have at the Wilkins School Community Center. I looked for studio space for several years before I found that spot. I can’t imagine not having it, nor finding a place with the features I love about it anywhere else. (The photo illustrating this section shows what the space looked like the day I first saw it and decided to rent it!)

The site is a decommissioned school building, still owned by the borough but managed by a local community group that gets to use it in exchange for handling all the maintenance. And in a building that is 89 years old, that is piling up. I’m on the top floor, but in the middle, so I didn’t suffer much from the roof leaks that were fixed a few years ago. I was delighted to be among the first rooms to have its overhead lights replaced. Being on the top floor has sheltered me from various plumbing / drainage leak issues; there are no “private” rooms in the basement, in fact, so it’s just private parties renting the kitchen and auditorium who have suffered from those (and, of course, the center itself, when it loses room rental income while incurring plumbing costs…). And now, there is crumbling concrete and masonry on the outside that is going to involve some hefty repair costs. I’ll probably post info about calls for local support for that in the near future. For now, there’s one more item to address…

Regular readers may have noticed my comments in recent months about issues with internet access. I really have no clue what went wrong there. The Linux group who manages that for the center (in exchange for reduced rental rates for their meeting spaces… are you getting an idea of how the whole system operates?) said we needed some new equipment. Now, Amy and I, who have rooms on the top floor, are puzzled by this. If we’d brought in new, more modern devices, ones that didn’t work on the old set-up, that could have made some sense. But we’re still just trying to connect devices that we used to be able to connect, but now we can’t even find a signal… One can frequently be found downstairs, and at times there is a weak one in the upper hallway, but once you go into the upper rooms, the signal is gone. A parade of people have been in and out, working on some bit or another of the system, for months. They don’t tell us when they’re coming, report that they have fixed something and it’s now all working again, but when we get in to our rooms, no, we still don’t have a signal. If I sit with my laptop in the hallway I can work, but the laptop has its own problems, and the hallway is noisy and full of echoes and other distractions that I prefer to avoid. My favorite machine, a desktop device I have tucked away out of sight of casual passers-by along with my wireless printer, now sees nothing. And because net-access in select rooms is just one item in a huge list of maintenance issues, there are long gaps between attempts to get it working. The latest story is that someone else is coming out to see if they can resolve this (by switching to a different ISP) in early September. Here’s hoping!

Until those problems started, I’d had a pretty good system working in my studio. Those of you who use metal clays know that there are times when you are “waiting for something to happen.” For moist clay to dry. For dry clay to rehydrate. For a kiln to fire. Etc. Sometimes those steps can be rushed, but often the final outcome is better if one can wait patiently. I can fill in the gaps with other construction or finishing processes, of course, but I would also often fill in the gaps with tech-tasks: editing photos; uploading those; tending to blog, Facebook, etc. In the gaps, they didn’t seem like chores: they were efficient, effective uses of waiting-time. But if I have to take time to tend to them after I’ve left the studio and gone home, which is supposed to be my refuge and not my work-place, then much less of that gets accomplished. And it spirals down even further.

I haven’t been writing about all my recent explorations (e.g., with various forms of “flex” and/or “sterling” clays, more experiments with cutting and engraving with the Silhouettes, excursions into different forms of clay entirely, and more!), which means I’ve actually been thinking less about possible variations … because those come to me while writing … which means I haven’t been making quite as much as I could either.

It also means I haven’t been able to spend gap-time there exploring alternative photo-sharing sites. Which leads to….

3. An Important Question: What’s a good photo-sharing service, and why?

The net-access issues I will leave to the community center’s governing board, but I sure could use some help identifying a good photo-sharing service. When I do manage to get online, I can do searches and read reviews but (a) I find a lot that are out of date, which I’m sure of because Picasa is listed as being among the best yet that’s what I’m being forced to replace, and (b) I’d also appreciate being able to see (and discuss) what folks who are at least somewhat “like me” are using!

  • I’m not trying to post photos to sell so, while I can add a bit to my jewelry sale prices to compensate for additional overhead, I can’t offset much price for the service that way.
  • I need space for a lot of photos, but few of them need to be super-high resolution: my aim is easy ‘net-access, not best-print quality.
  • I want an _easy_ interface for getting a link I can stick in a blog post, a Facebook post, etc.
  • I want an _easy_ way to reference photos of different sizes (e.g., tiny for a blog sidebar, small for a post, medium when I want to show off some special feature).
  • I want settings that allow me to switch between:
    • full-public access (my primary use, where people like my blog readers can see my images without having to be logged in to some service),
    • various forms of limited access (I don’t put anything online that I’d be concerned if it went public, but I may for example want to limit access for certain images that are part of a collaboration), or
    • private, just for me ( I often use the latter while building a story, and then open up access when I have a collection ready).
I sure hope I will get some good recommendations, in comments here or via email. Thanks for ANY help you can offer at this time!

Posted in Misc. Musings, Photographing Jewelry, Studio | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Two Day Intro to Bronze Metal Clay

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/24

Another workshop I have coming up is one I’m calling Golden Bronze Beauties! It is this week! And there are only a few seats left! (Click the link in the class name to get to the official announcement and registration pages.)

This workshop will offer a simple introduction to working with bronze metal clay. If you’ve been wondering about metal clay, I hope you’ll jump in with this one. Or, if you’ve already worked with silver clays, this will be a great chance to explore a different formula. (Should you know enough to wonder about this, the clay I’ve chosen for us to use in this session is Hadar’s One Fire Brilliant Bronze.)

Everyone will be led through the process of developing your own unique, reversible design for a pendant and / or a pair of earrings, and then working with bronze clay to implement that idea.

This is a two-day workshop! Most of the classes at the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (at least so far) have been one-session-only events. But I asked for two so I could offer one using bronze, and was delighted when they agreed to try this!

We’ll do all the making on day one. I’ll fire everyone’s pieces overnight and, in the second class, we’ll see how they all turned out, and explore a handful of finishing techniques. With all the base metals, there can be surprises in how they come out of the kiln. On the plus side, your piece may have acquired one of the stunning, but unpredictable, “kiln colors” that, although ephemeral, you may want to try to preserve for as long as you can. Alternatively, it may come out a dull tan or gray color, one that you’ll want to polish off your piece to reveal the golden-bronze color underneath.

Kiln-colors? Consider the photo of three small hashi oki (chopstick rests) that I made several years ago. While the pendants and earrings in the “promo shot” for this class have all been polished to a high shine, two of the three of these rests came out with such beautiful kiln-colors that I couldn’t bear to polish them the same way I did the third one. (I still have these: I actually use them in my studio as dohgu oki (tool rests) to keep brushes and burnishers and other round-handled tools from rolling off my workbench!) I have polished the bright one lightly a few times, but have let the colored ones slowly darken with age naturally and they are still lovely!

Alternatively, on this butterfly pendant with bronze wings (and a copper body), I left kiln-colors in the hollows of the texture, while selectively polishing the high points. That’s the thing with bronze: you can be determined and just polish the whole thing once it’s been fired, no matter what, or you can wait to see what the kiln provides and make your final finishing decisions based on what you’ve been given. Leading you through those options will be the focus of our second meeting this week.

FWIW, that is why all my base metal classes are longer than a single session. If we use just a single metal (bronze, copper, or steel), we meet at least twice: once to cover making and again to cover finishing. And when we start to combine metals, we meet at least three times (more is even better). Mixing metals increases the chance that the pieces will come out of the kiln with some cracking that will need to be dealt with on our second day (i.e., given some simple repairs & refired, and/or otherwise designed-around). Thus, with mixed metals, we need at least one additional day to ensure that everyone can complete their final finishing steps too.

Important Note!

I’m really hoping that this offering garners a good bit of interest! (This, and a four-day one I’ll discuss in my next post: an introductory silver class covering a range of techniques, including several for incorporating some bling that we often skip over in single-session lessons.) If Artsmiths sees that there’s interest in being able to “go deeper” in these processes, that’s what it will take for them to let me offer more like this! If you are interested, and can join us, please do! If your interest has been piqued, but you just can’t make it for those days (or at those hours), please let the folks at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh know: we can modify the scheduling for future sessions if we know what would work better! (And, if we can’t make the timing work in their classroom, I can offer the same thing at my own studio.)

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The evolution of two “old favorite” classes!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/21

It’s time to follow up on an earlier statement, and write a little bit about some upcoming classes. But since this is (what is often called in social media circles) Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d include a few notes on how the ideas and directions for two popular sessions have evolved over time, since I’m repeating them on a couple of Saturday afternoons this month (soon!) and next.

Reversible Draped Silver
Saturday, July 23, 2016 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM (EDT)

I must admit that the idea for this came from Hadar Jacobson. I’ve made pieces, and then been asked to teach classes, using both precious metals (silver) and base metals (bronze, copper, steel).

We texture the clay and then roll it thin in order to get it to drape nicely. With .999 fine silver, that produces pieces that seem to me to be a bit too fragile, risking bending or breaking at the thinnest points. We can solve that problem by adding a backing layer, or at least a frame, to provide additional stability.

When we use base metals (like these in bronze and copper), we get pieces that are a bit harder. Thus, most of our pieces can just be folded and embellished. They rarely seem to require extra layers for sturdiness, though of course those can always be added if desired from a design standpoint.

I will admit that I never tried making these with .925 sterling silver: I don’t particularly like fussing with the firing schedule for that clay, and have only used it for a handful of different designs. But last winter I started making these with .960 sterling which is much easier to fire than is the .925 form, and they turned out great. So that’s what we used the last time I offered this as a class, and it’s what we’ll be using again this week.

At this point, we’ll still be using “homemade” .960, that will come from mixing .999 and .925 clays. There is a commercial version now available, EZ960, that’s recently been released. We won’t be using that here simply because I haven’t yet had enough time to experiment with that to feel as comfortable as I’d like using it in a class. I want to learn any and all potential pitfalls with it myself before foisting it on a room full of students! Stay tuned for news in that arena.

Reversible Woven Silver
Saturday, August 27, 2016 from 1:00 PM to 5:30 PM (EDT)

Three Woven Silver Pendants (Class Samples)The way I began to make these pieces, and lead students in making them, has had a number of inspirations. Hadar, again, was one of them, but so were CeCe Wire, a project in the RioRewards certification program, plus a whole range of others (such as some of Mary Hettmansperger’s metal-weaving projects).

Sometimes, as in the silver pieces above, the weaving would be the main element in the design. Other times, as in the mixed-metals piece shown next, the woven portion is more of an accent to another important part of the design. Because of the thin nature of the strips used in the weaves, however, I always made sure that their ends were securely tucked into a frame.

Ahh, but do you remember the .960 silver I just mentioned above? Yes! While I’ll still guide students through some dos and don’ts in letting small ends hang out, we can now be far more adventurous in allowing that. We no longer need to be completely constrained by framing. Again, we can use solid frames if we want that in our designs, but it’s now an option, not a requirement. This class is going to be another one that’s lots of fun!

If you’re in the western PA area, or can get here for one or both of those dates, I hope you’ll join us!

Please note: The links in the title of each session above take you to the site from which you can reserve a seat at that particular class. In each case, the materials provided will be enough to make an interesting pendant. If you want to divide it in half and make earrings instead, that’s fine with me. If you want to buy a bit more material and make something big or even (if you find yourself so comfortable with this material that you are able to work quickly enough to…) make both a pendant and a pair of earrings, that’s yet another option.

Also: I’ve got two other workshops coming up this summer, both of which are multi-day events. I’m hoping to write about those soon too, but the ‘net access in my studio is getting increasingly less reliable (we’re hoping for a fix next month…), so I’m struggling to keep up with online announcements. But you should know that all my workshops at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh are announced on the Eventbrite system. If you are interested in a specific class but for some reason can’t make it on the given date(s), please let me know. I’m happy to repeat any of my sessions on another date, whether it’s back at Artsmiths again, in my studio, or at another site.

Posted in General Techniques, Teaching Metal Clay, Technical Details | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

I found it!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/16

I found the missing Friends & Lovers bracelet!!! I’ve written about this one before.

I first wrote about it in 2014, when I created it for a Valentine’s Day Romantic-theme challenge. It contained domed hearts that were the first trial pieces I made in my own studio with what Hadar was then calling Friendly Bronze (and now calls One Fire Bronze).

The next time I wrote about it was in 2015, when I thought I must have “put it somewhere safe” before an Open House in my studio … because my cousin, Debby, wanted to buy it to wear at her son’s wedding. But then as the big day approached, I couldn’t find it. So at pretty much the last possible minute, I made her another one, Love & Commitment.

Well, I’m here to tell you now that I hadn’t put it away for safekeeping. I had put away a couple other pieces that were already promised to customers, and I found them as expected after the show. I wasn’t sure that’s what I’d done with that bradelet, but I couldn’t imagine where else it could be. Even after making a replacement for Debby, I’d periodically look for it. My studio has many, many little cubbyholes and boxes and drawers full of bins and yet more boxes, so any time I’d decide some section needed to be cleaned up a bit, I’d check all the nooks & crannies to see if the missing bracelet was there. No luck.

But, this week, I was shuffling around some shadow boxes I use when I display pieces in gallery shows and, as I pushed one back into one of the sections in the bottom of an old china closet I use in my studio (for art & jewelry displays on the top, and supply storage below), for some reason that big one didn’t want to go in the whole way. So I got down on my knees and pulled out a couple other frames in the back to see what was wrong. And there the bracelet was, in the very farthest back corner. I have NO IDEA how it got there. None. None at all!

Funny thing is, I discovered it just about a year to the day from when I first realized it had gone missing. I remember when that was because another cousin, Marie, is here now on her annual visit east from Calinfornia, and it was during her visit here last year when I first discovered that I’d misplaced it (though I didn’t admit that to any of my cousins until a couple months later, shortly before the September wedding).

Regardless of timing, I am glad to have recovered it!

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Picnics, and Parties, and Art Shows, oh my!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/09

What’s this mythical concept of “lazy days” of summer? Summers just seem so busy, with all sorts of events and happenings and things to do that one really does not want to miss. That’s not a complaint: it’s just a puzzle to me, where the lazy-days idea came from!

Anyway, amidst all the many things to do all summer, this is a super-busy weekend. Since I post here mostly about art & jewelry / teaching & learning types of activities, I’m going to skip over the truly “personal” events this weekend. I can fill a long post with places my jewelry and other art-creations are going themselves this weekend.

  • Arts on the Riverwalk, in New Castle, PA: The art show that the Hoyt Art Center is running at The Confluence, in conjunction with this event, has its opening tonight, 4 to 6 pm. The show itself will run through August 26. I’ve had two pieces accepted for this, one of which is shown below. Although I was thinking of all the ocean-shore walking I’ve done in my life as I created it, I do enjoy walking along any sort of waterfront, so this still seemed to be an appropriate choice for this show:

  • Community Days in Cranberry Township, PA: The Cranberry Township Community Chest and the Cranberry Artists Network are partnering (for the first time this year) on a show in the Cranberry Municipal Building in conjunction with this annual celebration. The opening reception for the show, Martinis with Monet, held on Wednesday night (for which I managed a post on Facebook, but not here…) was the kick-off event for the weekend-long celebration. The show itself will run through August 3. I’m thrilled to have had two pieces accepted for this show, one of which is shown below. I created Flowers Burst Even Through the Garden Paths for several reasons: primarily to honor Monet’s Gardens in line with the theme of the show, but also as one I could use as demonstration pieces for classes (layering, on the title side, and basic stone setting, on the other side) until it took off for Cranberry and, one hopes, a new home:

  • At the Panza Gallery, in Millvale, PA: The Pittsburgh Society of Artists is having a Members Choice show there this summer. The opening reception is tonight, from 6 to 8:30 pm, and then the exhibit will run through July 29, and be open Wednesdays through Fridays 10-5 and Saturdays 10-3. Silly me, I didn’t take photos of my entry before I dropped it off (because I thought I already had several) but now I can’t find any of them. What’s in the show is the latest piece in my Three Rivers series; an early piece from that is shown below. Both of them have bronze rivers (with “expansion joints” designating the major bridges) flowing through copper neighborhoods, with a cubic zirconia noting the location of Point State Park and its fountain. The one in the show has flowery-garden neighborhoods (not the metropolitan geometry of this one), and by the time I made it I was much better at getting the rivers to work as an inlay in the copper, like actual rivers (as compared to the onlay shown here). And it’s on a fancier chain. But anyone seeing one should recognize the other as different but similar / familiar…

  • ArtBrew at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley, PA: Last but certainly not least, from 7 to 10 pm tonight and tonight only (for this year) we have ArtBrew, the Arts & Crafts Fair where the “crafts” are the beers on tap. I was one of just thirty local artists who were invited to provide pieces for sale in the “arts” arena. Some worked in very beer-specific art forms, while others simply created works that the organizers found interesting. I’m in the latter category, and I’ve no clue how my pieces will do, but figured it was worth a shot. Sweetwater is a great place, and I’m happy to support this summer-fundraiser of theirs through commissions on sales of my work. Most of what I submitted are my earrings and pendants. Some were made using typical “metal clay” techniques, while some reflect other directions I’ve also been exploring. There are, for example, some enamel-on-copper pieces that I made on a whim in the spring. And some pendants and earrings, like the silver earring-elements shown below, that were cut out of clay in the “dry but still flexible” state using an electronic cutting machine on a design I created to fit the amount of material I happened to have on hand at the moment:

    I also had a dozen pottery items accepted for this event! I don’t often post about my clay-clay work here, but you can get a glimpse of the twelve I sent to Sweetwater below. Note: you really should click on this photo! I hope everyone who does will let me know (e.g., via a comment, either on this blog or at the photo-sharing site the click will take you to) whether you were surprised at what you found there, or whether, especially if you feel you know me and my interests, it was what you imagined as soon as you saw this photo.

Here’s wishing everyone a pleasant summer weekend, full of kindness and friendship.

And Happy 200th Birthday to Pittsburgh, PA, today too!

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