Convergent Series

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

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.

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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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Summer Workshops Galore!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/03

I’m really excited: The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh has scheduled five of my metal clay workshops in July and August, and two of them are special multiple-day events so I’ll be teaching there for nine days in all during those two summer months!

(Some day, I hope to arrange a lighting set-up that will give me a consistent color background regardless of the time of day when I take my photos … sigh! The shots above show the range from morning to afternoon to after dark at night; and, yes, all of them DID have the same three bright “daylight” bulbs trained on them in addition to the room’s ambient lighting.)

The length of the various sessions does give a hint about the complexity of the different projects, but everything I’ve scheduled at Artsmiths for this summer should be do-able even by complete beginners. The reason I set aside more time for some of them is so that I can welcome even first-time clayers into any of these classes! Folks with some prior experience with metal clay are likely to learn some new techniques, and may well be able to apply their existing knowledge to kick their designs up a notch.

If you follow the links above to get more information and/or sign up for a class, you may notice that the descriptions there often talk about making a pendant (and the corresponding photos show a range of possibilities for how you might construct yours piece). Anyone who’s taken my classes already knows that, while I often demonstrate a pendant design, I’m happy to support reasonable variations on any given project. By reasonable, I mean variations that are appropriate to the materials we will be using, appropriate to the skill level of the student wanting to make something else and, tied to both of those, appropriate in the sense of the amount of support you’ll need to succeed at your idea while also being “fair” to others who are trying to complete the specified project. But I want everyone to make a unique piece they are happy with, so there’s a lot of leeway in exactly what you might make! Get in touch with me directly if you have any questions about that aspect of my classes. Or, just come and make some gorgeous, unique, and (probably) reversible pendants!

Also, if you have time and material left once you’ve completed the main project, I’m always happy to have you make a little something else with what’s left, often a pair of earrings or a few small charms, or even embellishments that you might add to future projects. I’ll fire those along with the regular class pieces.

With my one-day classes, I fire pieces for you after class, tumble-polish them to an even, high shine, and return them to the site of the class in about a week. This time, I’m especially happy about the two- and four-day sessions, because I’ll fire everyone’s pieces before the last session listed and then, on that last day, we’ll review and practice a number of different finishing techniques, ones that often get overlooked in the one-day sessions (unless you schedule a time to come to my studio for a private or semi-private lesson on finishing).

I’m going to try to post a little something about each session in the coming week or two but, given how spotty my blog-posting has been recently, I figured I should get the overview up for you to consider all at once now…

ALSO / alternatively …

Is Mt. Lebanon too far for you? Would you prefer another date and time? I’d be happy to teach any of these classes in my studio (in Regent Square) or at another location (that you arrange). Let me know if you’d like to discuss any other possibilities!

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Well, that was a surprise!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/06/30

As promised in my last post, here’s the story behind the earrings whose photo I posted there….

1. In my fairly early days working with metal clays—as soon as I’d moved on from just using a creme brulee torch and bought my first kiln but when I was still working on tray-tables in my family room, years before I started this blog or opened my studio—I found much inspiration in the work of CeCe Wire (one of the pioneers in metal clay techniques), and one of the things I had fun doing was making pieces that played with shrinkage. I learned about the concept in her first book, from 2003, Creative Metal Clay Jewelry: techniques, projects, inspiration, and had that reinforced when I earned my PMC Certification in a course with her, in Baltimore in 2007.

At that point, I’d make a small piece (earrings or small pendants) out of the original PMC Silver formula (no longer available), that had a shrinkage rate of 28% (and had to be fired in a kiln for a full two hours). I’d embellish it with Art Clay Silver, that had a shrinkage rate of 10%. Why those two? Because their shrinkage rates were the farthest apart of all the clays at that time on the market.

Because it was constrained by the low-shrinkage clay, the high-shrinkage clay would curve and distort in interesting ways: the fun part was trying different locations for connecting the clays to discover what results I could produce. (This was also back in the day when the nominal price of silver was a mere fraction of what it is today…. I am so glad I started that early! Even then, I did feel limited in how much sheer experimenting I could do, but nothing like it would be today….) I did some other clay combos too, but that particular pairing consistently yielded the most interesting results. The relatively high shrinkage of “original” was the key, no matter what other clay was combined with it.

I stopped doing any of that when Mitsubishi discontinued their original formula. Like many others, I was sad to see it go, but I created enough designs in other ways that the loss didn’t feel as devastating to me as it did to some folks. Since then, a few other silver clays have come on the market with shrinkage rates in the range of 20 to 25%, and at times I’d think about reviving that old technique with them, but then would get caught up in other project ideas and that would slide way down on the priority list.

2. I have written here before about how I try to not store “leftover” clay. I just keep making things until I’ve used a packet all up. Some of my earrings are made with leftover bits. Little embellishments can be cut out or coiled up, dried, and used in later creations. The last few dregs can be shaped into little balls, dried, and stored for later use too. If I don’t have time at the end of a work session to use everything up, I will store the last bits for a brief time, but I do try to form those into something useful as soon as I can.

3. Last month, for various reasons (e.g., different projects, classes, demonstrations), I used a number of different clays, including these (as well as several others, but these are the ones relevant to the rest of this post):

Clay Formula Shrinkage Rate
PMC 3 12%
PMC Flex 15%
PMC Sterling 15% – 20%
.960 made with PMC3 Question #1
.960 made with PMC Flex Question #2, this post’s inspiration…

Re Question #1: In a comment on the post where Celie Fago introduced the idea of home-made .960, Holly Gage estimated the shrinkage of PMC3 and Sterling to be about 13%. In a post that further disseminates the idea of using .960, Emma Gordon writes that “You can use PMC3 syringe with it, no problem.”

Now, maybe I’m missing something obvious, but if folks are combining PMC 3 syringe clay with .960 made from mixing PMC3 and PMC Sterling, it seemed as though I should be able to combine PMC Flex lump clay with .960 made from it and sterling: their nominal shrinkage rates are even closer! I had a bit of Flex.960 left from one activity, so I used up those dregs making a couple little pairs of earring bases. Flat ones. Definitely flat. I had a bit of regular Flex left, so I twisted a little spiral-pair for one set of earrings, and made a little twisted rope to embellish the other pair. (With the last few bits, I made a number of little balls which I then accidentally knocked all over my studio floor. I’ll hunt for those eventually!)

And when I fired those two pairs of earrings … the photo below shows what I got! Can you see how far they’ve curved?!! I’m not disappointed in the results. In fact, I’m happily reminded of those early CeCe-inspired domed pieces that were so much fun. It’s just that this is not what I was expecting! The shrinkage rates on these clays are nowhere near as far apart as what I was using in all domed pieces I was making a decade ago — I would have expected this with those. Just not now.

I guess this is telling me I need to find some time (where?!!) to do some more experiments! If you’ve experienced anything like this, intentionally or not, please let me know.

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Just one class this month, and it’s less than a week away!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/06/23

Where did June go?!!  OK, actually, I do know where it went and, now that some of my travels and adventures are over, I’ll relay some stories about that over the rest of this summer.  There’s also a story behind the earrings in this photo, and it will be coming shortly too.

But the important thing today is that these earrings were among a number of sample pieces I made for an upcoming workshop, and I really do need to do my part to get the word out about that now!

Late on the night when I had to get the class description in to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, I decided to call the class “Let’s Get Twisted”! The idea is that we will work with clay that remains somewhat flexible even after it has dried, and each person will be able to add some curled, twisted, or braided embellishments to their own uniquely textured pendant or earrings. Another thing about this class is that I think it’s a nice one for wire- or bead-workers, because you’ll be able to make a piece that lends itself nicely to further embellishments along those lines as well. (Artsmiths’ photo (at the link below) shows a couple more of the sample pieces for this class, and I’ll bring more that day.)

If you want to sign up for this session, here’s the link to do so: Let’s Get Twisted! Make a Silver Pendant or Earrings. Please sign up by this weekend to ensure that I will have enough to material for you!

This is a great introductory class for metal clay newbies! Those with some previous experience may be surprised at the working time of this clay! It will be offered on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 from 12:00 Noon to 3:00 pm.

Note: The clay we’ll be using for this class remains reasonably flexible when dry. The little spirals are best made before it is fully dry. Twists and braids can be done either before or after the clay has dried. For those who have heard of (or taken) my class where we actually tie little knots from dried clay, the material we’ll be using for this session is not that flexible. If you’d like me to offer that one again (it’s been several years since the last time!), please let me and/or Artsmiths know, and I’ll get it on the schedule!

Here’s hoping you are looking forward to what this summer will bring as much as I am!

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This Weekend: Open House and More in Regent Square

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/05/13

Spring is trying to spring and, once again, this Saturday is the annual community-wide Yard Sale organized by the Regent Square Civic Association.

Because there will be all sorts of folks wandering around the neighborhood that day, it’s also the first day of the Wilkins School Community Center’s Spring fundraiser, the Plant, Herb and Used Book Sale, from 8 am to 3 pm. There are tons of books available for $1 each (including lots of children’s- and cook-books) but, if you want any of their plants, it’s usually wise to arrive early.

And, because there will be all sorts of folks wandering around WSCC, at the same time as the Plant & Used Book Sale I’ll hold an Open House in my studio too. If you haven’t been there before, come upstairs and find me in Room #25!

The yard sales start early; the Herb, Plant, and Used Book Sale is advertized in different places at starting at either 8 or 9 am; but I have had a verrry long week, and I’m not promising to get over to Regent Square before 9 am. And, since everything will be in full swing by then, I can’t be sure just when or where I’ll be able to park, so I can’t even promise to have the doors open exactly at 9. I’ve been telling folks that on Saturday my show will start around 9 am, and run until 3 pm.

I’ll have my usual Art Jewelry selections and a small number of Aloe Vera plants for sale too. I see those as consistent with my art because a bit of goo from their leaves is great to put on burns … as in those (hopefully little) mistakes with torch or kiln!

Then, on Sunday from 12 – 3 pm, WSCC will continue their Book Sale: a whole bag for just $5! I have to miss most of that (the very long week continues…), but I should get there a little after 2 pm and plan to stay at least until 5 pm, maybe even until 7 pm. If you can’t get to Regent Square on Saturday, you’d be welcome to stop by on Sunday instead. I led a workshop on Wednesday (another really great evening at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh!) and will spend time on Saturday making sample pieces for a June workshop there, so my plan is to run the kiln this Sunday. Firing and cooling of students’ pieces and my samples will take until around 5 pm and, if I think I can hold on until 7, I will also tumble-polish them then. (I really hope I can finish both those tasks on Sunday!) I have to be there while all of that happens, but I can do other things, so that’s when I’ll pack up my display materials, and put the majority of my pieces back into their storage bins. But it’d be great to have company, even folks just stopping by to say “Hi!” while I do that. And if you want to shop, you’d be welcome to dig around in my storage bins while they’re all there on Sunday. (Not as nice as when they’re on displays, but they stay clean and safe if I stash most of them and just rotate a few on display while I work…)

And here’s a final note about the aloes especially for my blog-readers: I keep a few because I like having them. They make babies. I drive to stores, buy nice terra cotta pots and potting soil marketed for succulents, and try to recover the costs of my own activities by selling the potted offshoots. But I’m not trying to make money on the plants themselves: I can’t bear to just throw them into the compost bin (and I refuse to put them into trash!); the extras don’t get quite enough light and nowhere near enough winter warmth off to the side im my studio; and I just want them to go to good homes! For years I grew them just fine in whatever plastic pot and soil I had on hand. Soooo, if you want to bring a medium-size pot with some soil in it, I’ll be happy to let you repot one of my aloes into your container for free! (And that’s the case year-round, not just this weekend, as long as I have aloe-offshoots in my studio…)

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May 12, 18, and 21: More Workshops at Artsmiths!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/05/07

Happy Mothers Day weekend, everyone!

As I said in my last post in April, I sure had a great time teaching at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh last month, and I’m thrilled to have been invited back to offer more courses there this May! Here are the three that are on the calendar for this month. Clicking on each course title should take you to a page where you can read a bit more about the projects and, if you want, actually register for the various sessions.

  • Earring Extravaganza: An Introduction to Fine Silver Metal Clay! on Thursday, May 12, from 6 to 9 pm

    This will be the simplest, most fun, yet easy-going introduction to metal clay that’s possible! In three hours, each participant will create lovely, unique, art jewelry: fine silver (.999) earrings!

    There will be lots of options for texture, shape, and small embellishments, so everyone will come out with their own unique pieces. And, we’ll texture both sides, so each pair will be reversible!

    There will definitely be enough time and materials for each participant to make (at least!) two pairs of earrings … but, remember, since they’ll be reversible, it’ll almost be like getting four pairs from just this one class!

  • Reversible Hollow Silver Art Jewelry Pendant, on Wednesday, May 18, from 1 to 5:30 pm

    The very first piece I ever made using metal clay was one of these “lentil shape” beads, and it can be the first one you make too, if you want.

    Then again, even if you’ve been working with the stuff for a while, this project involves a few special techniques that are also applicable for a range of more “advanced” projects … which makes this a special (and easy) project on which to learn and begin practicing them.

    I find that lentil-beads always seem to be such fun to make: join us, if you can, and see for yourself!

  • Reversible Woven-Silver Art Jewelry Pendant (or Earrings), on Saturday, May 21, from 1 to 5:30 pm

    There’s a long story here, not worth going into but, although I’d hoped to offer this class last month, several situations conspired to prevent that. So we simply rescheduled this one for May! I hope that those who had signed up for April will be able to come to this one; plus, there were a few seats still open in that session so there should still be room for some new-comers!

    There are lots of things I love about this woven-silver project. The one I’ll mention here is that this is a great session for people who like to make and / or wear silver pieces that are big! At times, the sheer cost of the materials can seem somewhat intimidating but, because these designs have so much open space, they require far less material. Relative to many other designs or approaches, you can stay small, and keep your material costs down, or go big, and not have those costs skyrocket. Your choice!

As I said last month, there’s no significance to the specifics of dates and times. That is, if you want to take a workshop and those date/time combos don’t work for you right now, please let me (or Artsmiths) know! All of us are trying out different combinations to figure out what will work for folks who are interested in the classes. As long as we know there’s interest, we can work out other day/time combos for future months, either repeating these topics or adding new projects to the offerings. And I’m willing to offer any of them as small (private or semi-private lessons) or group sessions (if enough people express interest) in my Regent Square studio as well as at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh.

Personally, I think that all of these are lots of fun to make!

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April Recap: First Classes at Artsmiths

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/30

Some days I think to take photos, other days I don’t. I can find no pattern at all to which is which!

But, whether or not I remembered at any point to stop and take photos, I want to say how much I enjoyed my first month of teaching at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh!

Our very first class, on April 14, was an easy introductory session, where we covered learning how to texture metal clay, give it some shape (e.g., by drying it over a dome), and embellish it for a bit of extra oompth (e.g., with balls or coils of clay). In all, in three hours, six students completed twenty-one different pieces!

Now, if you’ve worked with metal clays, one thing you know is that you usually should start out with a little more clay than you actually need to make a piece. You’ll roll it out, but then cut it down to the size and shape you want, and trim away the excess. And the question is, always, what to do with the excess? I’ve already written here about this, but the basic options seem to be: make something else (small) with what you have left; get some more clay and add your leftovers to that to make another piece (bigger); or, go to the bother of saving it to do one of the above later on. (Clearly, I lean towards either of the first two!)

And I have to give this group credit for finding ways to use all their clay. First-timer Linda, in particular, kept making smaller and smaller pieces, using the bits she cut out of one piece as elements on their own, and using the final dregs to make tiny ball embellishments.

Everyone’s pieces fired beautifully, but I didn’t think to get a photo of that. No, what I did capture was when, after I’d fished Linda’s last three teensy pieces out of the shot, someone surprised me by pounding on my studio door, and I dropped them back onto the shot. At least, they landed on top, so I didn’t have to search through the whole barrel-full again. Still, can you spot all three pieces in this photo?!! (I think two are pretty obvious, but not the third, which was the center she’d cut out of the little gear/sun-shape.)


Then, on February 21, I taught a “Draped Silver” class. Didn’t take a photo of that group at work…. Don’t have a good photo of all my samples either, but I include here two older pics of two pieces each, one pair in .999 fine silver, and one pair in bronze and copper (because that’s my best one of little “ball nest” embellishments).

In this class, we worked in .960 silver. That allowed us to roll the pieces nice and thin, which is the key to making draped metal clay pieces. It also let us make them fairly thin without having to add a backing or frame for protection.

Several of the folks in this session had taken one of my earlier classes (at Artsmiths or my studio) and had seen a wide range of my textures; for this workshop, however, I took only shallow-texture choices.

The last photo with this post shows the fired and tumbled pieces from this class (though, for some reason I don’t understand, it is not a good representation of any of the colors, nor the textures; though you can see the range of interesting shapes that folks made). The one with wire, beads, and chain (middle of top row) is the one I made as an in-class demonstration. It’s a slightly different color from the other pieces because, before I added the beads and chain, I gave it a very light Liver of Sulphur (LOS) patina and then polished off most of it. But I returned the students’ pieces all shiny-silver, and will let them decide if they want to leave them like that, or if they want to add a patina. I do love patinas but, sometimes, and especially with broad, shallow textures like many of these, I think that pure silver shine is wonderful!

I did have a third class scheduled for April, Woven Silver on April 26 but, as I mentioned before, April was a killer month. (I mean that literally: suddenly, randomly, several friends and parents of friends all died.) It got to the point that I just couldn’t swing that class. I didn’t get a clay order in on time (to get it without express shipping charges) and, even if I had made it to class with clay, it’s not clear where my head would have been. I want workshop participants to know that I am there with them, ready to present, encourage and help! So we rescheduled that one, for May 21.

I’ve got two other classes scheduled for May too. I’m really looking forward to those! More on all that shortly!!

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2016 Art All Night — Quick Recap

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/24

That community-wide celebration of creativity know as Art All Night was held this year, as usual, on the last weekend in April. This was the 19th such event, and I’ve been going for something like 15 (or is it 16?) of those. Note: I have not lived in Pittsburgh that long! I stumbled across my first one while I was still living in California, and just happened to be visiting here the weekend it was taking place. In subsequent years, if I was planning a trip here in the first half of the year, I’d do my best to arrange it to include the weekend of Art All Night! After I moved here, I’d refuse invitations to do other things that weekend. Art All Night drew me in again and again!

This year, however, things got tough. I had a piece selected and framed to enter, registered it, and my schedule was open. The latter ended up being a good thing: without going into details, a special person in my life passed away a few days before. So, with calendar clear, I was able to help out with some arrangements, attend the wake and services, etc. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, this was but one of several dear folks I lost in March and April….Sigh.) Although the events associated with this one interfered with Art All Night in general, at least the venue was located between them and my home. I did manage to drop a piece off and pick it back up in the designated hours, and I was even able to pop in for a quick run-around of about 40 minutes on Sunday afternoon (instead of the many hours I typically spend on the Saturday night!). Ten minutes of that was spent talking with some folks I knew, and the rest was a quick dash to view several thousand entries in minutes! Whew!

With that, let me present a few (very few) of the pieces that caught my eye (and my camera’s lens). Small versions should be visible right in this post, but clicking on any of them should open a new window with a larger view.

In some ways a victim of its own success (i.e., as a way to get thousands of people to wander through unused or under-utilised buildings) since the number of enthusiastic entrants and attendees continues to grow, finding a new venue can be a challenge. But finding the venue is easy: just look for the sign:

This greeted people as they approached the entrance ramp on Sunday. There was more chalk art all around the inside, but I suspect this would have been scuffed out even more had it been there at the entrance through the all-night event. (The bottom line says: No angst. No ennui.)

With almost 4,700 squares, the title, “Yep, I impressed my Mom’s Quilting Group” offered a warm welcome to all near the entrance.

This spray-painted Hobbes was the next piece that drew me in, and the title “True Love” did seem to fit it many different ways!

Amidst a dizzying display of the creativity in this community, soon I was catching glimpses of artwork by folks I know. Fellow-Artsmith Audra Azoury’s “Assemblage” (top-center) was the first one I spotted. I’m showing the whole panel it’s on because I also wanted to capture “Sailing Deer Lakes.” Although I don’t know that particular artist nor the specific subjects, it also brought a smile to my face.

Next, I spotted this piece by my metals-buddy, Barbara Kaczor. I wish we could have toured the show together!

In another whole part of the building I caught my neighbor Sabina Rosenfeld’s framed quilt. I got a kick out of the price on it: not because of the exact number she’d used, but that instead of OBO, she’d put “or reasonable offer.” Isn’t that what so many of us want when compromise is necessary: a reasonable offer?!!

This little collection of cats caught my eye too. I captured the image but only later, when I’d run into Sabina and Peter and she said she was looking to find the location of “a board with little cats cut into it,” did I find out that this was the work of Sabina’s brother.

There seemed to be a lot less jewelry this year than there has typically been in the past. I captured images of these two. There were only maybe three others that I couldn’t get (either the lighting was a challenge, or there were too many people hanging out in front of them).

Then, I had to capture these shots for my friend, Sally, with whom I went to a number of Art All Night events, after I moved here and before she moved away. She and her sweetie, John, will know why these brought them to mind.

I am pretty sure that the name given on this entry is that of the photographer who took the picture, not the artist who actually created the image. I love the original, and notice it every time I drive west on Penn Avenue. The wooden railing on the front is an actual railing; the bride who appears to be entering the next unit in the row is actually painted onto the next building.

At another time, while I might have enjoyed the wood-work on this piece, I’m not sure I would have chosen to highlight it. But with all the current uproar over who uses which rest-room, I figured I should note the artistry here, if nothing else, on this single sign:

The whole show took up three huge rooms. I didn’t take all the equipment I can sometimes get my hands on for taking panoramic photos, but I did try to capture a 360° view of the entire northern (river-side) room from what must have been the all-night “dance floor” in the middle of it. Because it’s flattened out, it gives much more weight to the “wall” that appears in the middle than it does to either of the two sides. But there are hundreds of pieces on panels to the left, toward the front of the building, and then almost as many more behind it.

That shot, above, gives you a glimpse of the venue, but no clue of the experience. It was sooooo empty just then, right as they were insisting that everyone had to leave so they could get everything set up for the pick-up process. For most of the 22-hour run, it is packed with participants. I heard a number of people who’d come down on Sunday said they’d tried to come down earlier in the show, and simply could not park and get in, and they’d had to leave and come back several times before they could. (Despite many things I like about Pittsburgh, they’ve been cutting back on public transportation way too much; and when you can’t use it reliably, people use it less and less even during the limited times / places it is available. Because they don’t feel they can count on it. But I digress….)

Each year there seems to be some surprising “trend” among the entries. That is, something I notice being repeated a number of times that is way higher than I might ever have guessed for that style or approach. When I have more time than I did that Sunday, I’ll then trace my steps back and try to capture shots of all the entries that fit the trend. This time, I didn’t have the time, but the following picture sort of illustrates two trends I noticed:

  • A surprising number of entries (relative to the whole show) included seemingly-random patterns of circles.
  • A surprising number of entries by young children (relative to the total number in this category) were displayed in extremely fancy frames!

So, while Livia’s “Spring Chickens” are not exactly random patterns of circles, they are an interesting minor variation on that theme. And the frame on this child’s art does definitely fit the pattern for the work of 6 year olds this year,

I took the time to capture that last photo, above, as I tried to find the right angle at which to shoot the whole panel on which my entry was displayed. Can you find mine?

In case you can’t quite see my entry, The Empress’s Portal, in that shot, I’ll repeat here the close-up I posted a few days ago, the one I took to keep in the records of my creations:

Until next year, then… Be creative!

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This weekend: the nineteenth Art All Night!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/23

Yes, once again, the last weekend in April brings us the wonderful community celebration of art that is known as Art All Night.

For this, the nineteenth such event, they’ve returned to switching locations again (hey, it’s a project of the Lawrenceville Development Corporation so besides all the art, part of the point is to get tens of thousands of people circulating through an “empty” site in the hopes that someone will see its potential…!), so I’m eager to see what this one will be like.

Though I had finally gotten comfortable with finding my way to, finding parking relatively near, and finding my way back out of the site they’ve used for the last few years, it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like down on the other side of the 40th Street bridge this year. It’ll also be fun to see all the entries.

I submitted a “woven textured silver” piece that I made, originally, as a sample piece for a workshop at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh. Entering it for Art All Night is sort of a full-circle thing, because I made my first woven silver pieces in 2008, with the clay I’d used while doing my first-ever public demonstrations anywhere that used metal clay, and that was at Art All Night. (Talk about starting big!) I’d over-worked and over-lubricated the clay in the many hours of demos, and I’d heard it might be possible to salvage it by adding some glycerin although the resulting clay would then not harden as it dried but remain flexible … so the obvious thing to try with that was weaving. I’ve made such pieces off an on over the years since then, but I’ve never before entered one in Art All Night. So it seemed about time to do that!

Except this piece, instead of being made from salvaged clay, was made from a mix of fresh clays, PMC Flex and PMC Sterling, to yield a form of sterling silver that contains as much as 96% fine silver. Adding the sterling results in a slightly stronger piece: my earlier ones always had solid “frames” around the weaving which made them strong enough, but the sterling in the mix for a structure like this opens up design opportunities: here, it’s safe to let a few of the ends extend outwards at least a little bit for a more “adventurous” result.

I need to thank Kathy Herbst and Louise Rosenfeld for brainstorming names for this piece, along with Manny Rosenfeld who inspired the name I’ve finally decided to give it: The Empress’s Portal. If you’d like to bid on it at Art All Night, it’s #2919. If you’d like to take a class and learn how to make a piece like this, sign up for one at Artsmiths or get in touch with me to request that I organize one at my studio in Regent Square (or even another venue that you arrange for).

In the meantime, if you’re in the Western PA area this weekend, be sure to check out Art All Night! It’s free and open to the public from 4 pm on Saturday, April 23 straight through until 2 pm on Sunday, April 24. And if you’re not here this weekend, at least consider putting the last weekend in April in Pittsburgh on your calendar for next year!

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April 14, 21, and 26: Workshops at Artsmiths!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/07

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m on the schedule to teach three workshops at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh as they launch their Underground classrooms this month. I feel very honored to be one of the first four instructors invited to teach there, especially knowing the caliber of the other artists in that group!

All of my classes this month are suitable for beginners. Those who already have some experience with metal clays are also welcome to participate and learn new techniques. I’m listing three separate classes here, and you’re invited to take one or two or even all three of them! (Just click on the link for each one, of course, to see more details.)

We’ll make a pendant in each session; if there’s time and interest, participants may want to try making a second pendant or a pair of earrings too. I sure hope that some of my readers here will be able to join us there!

Also, there’s no significance to the specifics of dates and times. That is, if you want to take a workshop and those date/time combos don’t work for you right now, please let me (or Artsmiths) know! All of us are trying out different combinations to figure out what will work. For April, select Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday slots were the only ones being tried, and there were other events besides classes on some of those days (e.g., the SOS_Underground opening I mentioned in my last post). But, as long as we know there’s interest, we can work out other day/time combos too.

Or, for that matter, you can just come out to my studio for a class too so, if there’s something you really want to try out, please let me know and we can find a time that’ll work for us.

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April 2: Artsmsiths’ Underground Opens!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/02

The Underground is now open at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh. The launch was tonight, with a great “SOS_Underground” exhibit by one of Pittsburgh’s oldest guilds, the Society of Sculptors (SOS).

For more photos from the exhibit, feel free to check out the Artsmiths’ album from the show on Facebook.

The opening reception was lots of fun, and the exhibit runs through April 30. Should you go some time this month, it’s possible I’ll see you there. I’ll be heading back down to Artsmiths several more times this month for sure.

Yeah, I probably should admit that what has me most excited about the Underground is that classes are starting at Artsmiths this week!

With great sessions planned from Olga Mihaylova, Nan Loncharich, and Maria Richmond, I’m delighted to report that I’m also on the schedule … to teach classes in one of the underground classrooms on April 14, 21, and 28! More on all that shortly….

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April 1: no joke!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/01

What a great evening! I’d planned to treat a good friend to a birthday dinner (’twas actually yesterday, but Friday is a better night for going out), although I’d said we’d have to meet in the Lawrenceville neighborhood first because I wanted to go to the opening of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists’ (PSA) Small Works exhibit too. (I knew that’d be ok since this is someone who’s an active supporter of the arts!)

So we walked in, and headed down one aisle admiring the selections. It was fairly crowded at the beginning, but I managed to wave “Hello” to a couple of artists I know. Too far apart for an actual conversation, I was a bit puzzled when, instead of a waved “Hello” in return I got a wave and a mouthed “Congratulations!” What, I thought, am I missing some bit of social etiquette where we congratulate each other for having our works accepted into a show? It was a members-only show, and you could submit either one or two pieces for consideration. Of the 72 artists who’d applied, 45 had been accepted: 15 had two pieces in the show, and 30 had a single piece on display, for a total of 60 pieces. Now, I did have two pieces accepted, but three award-winners had already been announced and I wasn’t one of those. I knew all of that, from the mailing that PSA had sent out to its members, listing everyone whose work was in the show, and an interesting statement from the juror (which you can read there).

And then I turned the corner into the bigger room, and my entries leapt out at me! What in the world had I done to deserve a wall to myself! The photo below is a 270° panorama of three walls of that room. I shot it later in the evening, after the crowd had thinned out enough that you could see some of the artwork from afar. (And, while the artwork stayed in place, some of the people moved around which is why a few of them are partly cut-off or extended…. But the photo is about the art, so I’m using it anyway.) From left to right, there is a wall full of art, then a second wall of a different height with a strip of artworks, then a third wall with windows and a brick wall in between those, with just two pieces … mine.

You should know that these “small works” could be a maximum of 12 inches in any dimension. My pieces, in silver, were much smaller than that, 40 x 28 mm and 39 x 18 mm. (For those who don’t convert millimeters to inches regularly, 18 mm is just under 3/4 of an inch, and 40 mm is just over 1 1/2 inches.) For display purposes, I’d hung them in 10 x 12 inch black shadow boxes that I’d bought because they fit the specs for this show. And there they were, set off from all the paintings and photographs (plus more jewelry and sculpture, all of which was in two “aisles” behind me as I shot this).

I rarely post photos of myself, but here’s one taken of me next to my entries. And, if you look really closely, you’ll see a little red dot on the tag for the piece I’m standing next to, which means that one had already been sold, either as the show was being hung or in the first few minutes that it opened. That was the reason for the congratulations!

To the person who made my evening via their purchase, I want to say “Thank you!” And I hope that many of my fellow-artists will be thanking their purchasers before the show ends, on May 13. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area and want to check it out, it’s at the Framehouse & Jask Gallery.

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