Convergent Series

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

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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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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“Small Works” with the Pittsburgh Society of Artists

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/03/27

What can I say … I’ve been busy making, and otherwise enjoying Spring, and over the next few days I’ll finally be reporting some news. Here’s the first item: this afternoon I was notified that two of my fine silver creations have been accepted into the Small Works show that’s being sponsored by the Pittsburgh Society of Artists. It will be held at the Framehouse & Jask Gallery, 100 43rd Street, Pittsburgh PA 15201, from April 1 through May 13, 2016.

Since I normally do work “small” (at least compared to what a lot of other artists do), I knew this was a show I had to try to get into. I thought long and hard about what to enter and finally decided that, while I do have the skills to design and develop intricate and complex pieces, that’s just not the style I like, neither to work in nor to wear myself. So I went for the fairly simple pieces that are more in line with my typical style.

Back in the fall of 2014, I made a series of pieces with “frames” constructed out of the the same material as the “contents” of the piece inside the frame. The first few were assignments in Hadar Jacobson’s teaching-accreditaton program, and then I kept going with more over maybe the next two months. I’ve been meaning to come back to those for a while now, and this silver-framed silver-plume is one of my newest ones. For the PSA show, it’s displayed in a shadow box with just this side showing. It has an integral tube bail, so the other side really is pretty much a “back” side, but it is still fully decorated and finished in my usual “other side” approach. I’ve got a few more silver-framed silver pieces in the works, and will say a bit more about the collection (with photos of both sides) once I’ve finished several more of those.

In recent months, I’ve also been exploring the use of a different approach to my “woven” pieces. In the past, I’ve always made sure that both sides were always securely framed the whole way around. I did that to ensure that the ends were always positioned safely and securely. With my latest weaves, however, I’m resisting the urge to frame them, and seeing how I can make them work in other ways. Woven Silver Banner Reclaimed is one of my newest examples of that. This one is also being displayed in a shadow box for the show, but it is fully reversible, with different textures showing on the strips from each side. And, yes, there will be more coming in the next week or so on the woven-silver pieces too.

But, for the moment at least, let me just wish everyone a Happy Easter. It’s a lovely Spring day where I am, with lots of delightful ways to continue to enjoy the rest of the day outside! I hope that some local folks will be able to make it to the show’s opening reception this Friday, April 1, from 6 to 9 pm or, if not then, at least at some point during the show.

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Button Class Reminder

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/30

Thanks to Cosy for posting this on the Indie Knit and Spin site. If you want in on the fun next Saturday morning (Feb 6), please sign up as soon as possible!

Note: this is a basic “intro” session so, if you want to make a pair of earrings or a few little charms instead of buttons, that’ll be fine too!

Don’t forget to register for Carol Scheftic’s Button Making Class! Learn to make your own silver buttons. We need at least a few more folks for this class to happen. More information can be found here. We need registrations in by Sunday evening so Carol can order clay.


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Flash class offer: just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/26

The five reversible domed-heart fine silver pendants shown above have all been delivered to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh in Mt. Lebanon and are now available for purchase there. I was thinking about making a few more to have on hand during the studio sale I’ll be holding when Indie Knit and Spin returns to the building where I have my studio.

But they are fun and easy to make so I’m also proposing a class: you can make one as a gift for someone dear to your heart; or come with a partner and make them for each other; or ask your sweetheart to buy you this class as a gift; there are lots of options, even if you’re a complete beginner!

When: Sunday, January 31, 12 Noon to 3 pm
Where: Wilkins School Community Center in Regent Square.
Cost: $50 / person

That price includes both the class and enough silver to make one pendant (approximately 1 inch long). Extra material will be available for purchase if you’d like to make more than one pendant (or, say, a pair of earrings too). Several different styles of chain will also be available for purchase.

You have two days to decide! I know this is short notice, but I need to have at least four (4) people sign up by 10 pm on Thursday, January 28, in order to run this class. (And the maximum number is seven (7) so I can give everyone enough attention.) To sign up, please either send me an email or leave a comment with this post. I will accept people in the order in which they respond! By around noon on Friday, I will send an email to everyone I’ve heard from with: (a) whether enough people signed up to run the class and (b) whether your request was received before the class filled.

I sure hope that a few of you will be able to join me this weekend!


Update (8 pm on Thursday): Yes! Thanks so much to everyone who emailed me: this class WILL run on Sunday, as indicated. I’ll email everyone (either later tonight or else tomorrow morning, as noted above) with a few little details.

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A couple of ideas evolve into Cranberry Artist Network “Membrrrs Show” entries….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/26

Winter has arrived and the Cranberry Artists Network has an appropriately-named “Membrrrs Show” opening today! The prospectus for the show was covered in images of snow and icicles and more that made one go “Brrr!” just thinking about them. What might I decide to enter?!!

Well, from fine silver, I’d made a small collection of long pieces, sort of a tube shape, but not all neat and even ones. I’d been playing around with them: I had sort of an idea what i wanted to do (i.e., I really had made them with a vague design in mind), and at one point I’d assembled them into the first necklace shown here (photo at left).

Except, that still wasn’t quite what I wanted. When I got the invitation to apply for the “Membrrrs” show, however, it came to me: ice cubes and cracked crystal, and a few bits to acknowledge that snow does get blackened after a while, and I ended up with the necklace and earring set Warmth & Hugs Ease Icy Days, made from fine silver, crystal, clear and black glass, black onyx, and copper, all hung from an antiqued copper chain with a copper clasp, shown in the larger image to the right.

OK, but I could submit a second entry too. What else? Had my brain, my creativity, frozen? No, I just had a number of other deadlines looming, and multiple experiments with the silver “hugs” had eaten up a lot of my “spare” time to think about this. But, wait, I had a few “spare parts” I’d made “just in case” I needed them for the Love & Commitment bracelet last fall, which evolved into the Love Warms Our Hearts necklace (bronze hearts with copper and glass bead coils, hung from a bronze chain with a bronze clasp; the last photo, left).

I took them up yesterday, and both entries were accepted into the show! It will be running at the Cranberry Township Municipal Building from January 26 through March 3, 2016. Although, technically, it does open today, the “opening reception” will be on Wednesday, February 3, from 6 to 8 pm. I hope I’ll see some of my friends there!

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And now, my original reason for taking the photos with my last post….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/17

I may to have to try to do this again in the summer, when the natural lighting situation is better, because I don’t think these photos tell the tale as distinctly as I’d hoped. But this is one thing I’ve been experimenting with over the past week…. The point is to look at the difference in the color (and size) of the silver pieces at different points in their process. (Next time, instead of trying to capture so many, I think I’ll try to focus specifically on just one or two, with close-ups.)

But here is a shelf-load of pieces, ready to go into the kiln. They don’t look silver-colored at all, do they, even though they are at least 90% silver! Next time, I’ll try to burnish one in the clay-state, to try to show that the silver really is there, but for now:

And here we have that same shelf-load of pieces, after being fired, when the shelf had cooled just enough to safely remove it from the kiln. Note the “white” color of these pieces: this is normal for just-fired metal constructed from silver clay. Comparing this to the previous photo, you can also get a sense of the shrinkage that took place.

And here is that same shelf-load of pieces, after having been run through either a rotary tumbler (with mixed-size and -shape stainless steel shot) or a magnetic finisher (with tiny stainless steel pins). I need to work on the lighting for each of the different versions (and I really struggled with the meager equipment I have to get all of the shined-up ones together without too many shadows or too much glare!), but I hope you can see that they are, at last, starting to look like silver!

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Take a deep breath and “Don’t Panic!”….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/16

On the day I’m going to write about, I was already thinking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when this thing occurred. (I’ll get to the thing in a moment….)

Why THHGTTG? Well, my favorite version remains the original radio plays; and within months I was volunteering with a radio theatre group that was forming at community-radio station WYEP-FM! (Over the decade or so that the group existed, I served as sound man (technical term for that role!), technical director, director, and producer.) When I saw the TV series, there were a few scenes that definitely impressed me, but mostly I thought that my imagination had produced a much richer galaxy than they’d been able to capture on screen (which is a huge part of what I love about audio productions). I went to the movie when it came out (much later, 2005) and I probably would have loved it if I hadn’t already been so spoiled by the earlier versions, but I remember two specific thoughts about that movie:

  • Though it seemed odd to have Simon Jones, who’d played Arthur Dent in both the radio and TV versions, replaced by Martin Freeman, that was still the moment when I realized that MF was an actor I hoped I’d be able to continue watching, and
  • Though it seemed odd to have Stephen Moore, who’d been the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the earlier versions, replaced by another actor, I just melted into my seat when I realized it was Alan Rickman‘s voice I was going to have the opportunity to listen to that evening.

So I was thinking about THHGTTG because I’d been thinking about the various times I’d seen / heard / watched Alan Rickman because this was on the day his death was reported. And when I thought I’d lost a student’s piece, I was already primed to quote from THHGTTG, “Don’t Panic (in friendly orange letters)”!

Lost a piece?! A student’s piece?!! Let me back up from the start. Late last week I got an email from some folks who’d “found me” online, checked my website and saw I wasn’t promoting any classes in the short term, but wrote me anyway. With a friend coming in for the weekend, they’d been hoping to find an introductory metal clay class. I responded that, though I didn’t have an “official” class scheduled, I could free up a couple hours on Sunday afternoon for a “semi-private / custom” lesson on basic techniques. My schedule was tight enough for the day that we wouldn’t have time to make anything elaborate, but there’d definitely be time for a few basic pendant and/or earring pieces: textured on both sides, cut into interesting shapes, embellished a little bit, domed for drying if they wanted, and finished nicely all over. They’d get a feel for working with the clay and, if they wanted, we could cover something more involved later on.

I’m very glad I made the offer: they came on Sunday and were lots of fun to work with! I showed some sample pieces where I’d embellished them with metal clay decorations, but also others where I’d kept the clay-design simple and embellished with beads and wire and such afterwards. It’s always interesting to see different techniques resonating with different people, and that afternoon was no different.

Having fit this into my schedule at the last minute, I said I’d fire and tumble the pieces over the next few days, would have them ready at some point, by the next weekend at the latest, and would send a note as soon as they were ready. So far, so good.

Now, most of the pieces were domed, so my plan was to fire them in a small crucible and provide some support for their shape by nestling them into fine vermiculite. Between all their pieces plus a few I’d made during demonstrations, the bowl was feeling pretty crowded. I wasn’t worried about pieces being so close they’d fuse. But I was a tiny bit concerned that, because having a lot of metal in a close space can help hold heat in that one area, I might have to drop the temperature and/or speed a bit. I could have just poured vermiculite on the shelf to spread things out, but I had a few scraps of fiber blanket, so I took a couple items out of the crucible and placed them on the kiln shelf with a bit of that for support, and it all seemed better.

What I did next is something I learned to do a long time ago: I take a photo of everything on a kiln shelf before I put the shelf into the kiln. I don’t necessarily keep those photos for very long. It’s just that, if I notice anything “odd” when the pieces come out of the kiln, sometimes it’s just useful to be able to go back to the pre-firing photo and double-check what a piece had looked like then.

So I fired them one afternoon, did a quick check once the kiln had cooled a little bit, saw that everything looked fine, and headed off to an evening meeting on another of my activities. I came back the next day, prepared to work on something while the pieces tumbled. In the workshop, I’d talked a bit about the different results I could get if I tossed them with mixed steel shot in my rotary tumbler for a couple of hours versus if I ran them for 20 minutes or so in my magnetic pin finisher. So I was sitting there, lining up the pieces according to which they’d asked to have treated each way, when I realized that one of the smallest hearts was missing.

No panic: I must have just missed taking it out of the bowl. I poured the vermiculite from the crucible into another bowl. No sign of it. Don’t panic! I started looking around my studio. No sign of it. Don’t panic! Because I hadn’t felt like taking time to set up the exhaust system (works fine in the summer; doesn’t have quite a good enough seal for use in cold, wintry weather … another project to finish), I’d just put the kiln on a cart and wheeled it into an unused room to fire the day before. Don’t panic! And I’d moved the pieces around, placing a few with support on the shelf in order that the crucible would have fewer pieces crowded in there, so could I have set it down and just missed putting it back in the kiln? No sign of it in the other room either. Don’t panic! I just kept repeating that to myself. I poured the little bits of vermiculite back and forth yet another time, still no sign of it. Don’t panic!

The missing piece was a tiny domed heart. Had it been something I’d made, I would have not had to repeat that mantra as many times: I would just have made another one and found something else to do with the first one if it ever turned up again. But this was not my piece; it had been made by a student. I could offer her some more clay and a chance to remake it. But the missing piece was one by the out-of-town visitor, and apparently she had been the person who’d been most enthusiastic to learn about metal clay and had encouraged a friend in Pittsburgh to find a class they could take together when she’d be here … and this was one of her very first ever pieces. I do remember how attached I felt to my first piece. I had to find this one.

Take it easy, Carol. Don’t panic! Just sit there and think. You took a photo before putting anything in the kiln. See if it’s in that photo (the one shown above). Yes! It was there. So … where did it go?!!

Hold on a minute. Don’t panic! You did something else, not your usual routine, when you checked the pieces last night. You’d been thinking it would be nice to have a good set of before-and-after photos, to show what “dried clay” looks like going into the kiln and how “just-fired silver” looks more white than silver. You took a photo last night so there really is no reason to panic: just check whether the piece was still there afterwards too.

Do my blog readers ever do those “Identify all the differences between these two images” puzzles? (1) One photo of these pieces was taken in the daytime; the other, after dark; so there is a slight change in the overall color tone besides just what is there in the dried- versus just-fired-clay. (2) In the pre-fire case, the shelf is sitting on my metal-top cart; in the post-fire one, I’d put a double layer of black “welder’s cloth” and “kiln posts” on the cart before setting down the then-still-hot kiln shelf. (3) The shrinkage that goes on with the binder-burnout and sintering=phase is visible, which I think is great! (4) But have you, my readers, found the missing piece yet? Is it there, after firing, or not? If it’s not, where could it have gone?

I’ll let you think about that for a moment. I’ll answer, and continue the story, in the comments section of this post. I’d love to see some of your comments there, too.

Posted in General Techniques, Misc. Musings, Teaching Metal Clay | 1 Comment »

One more thought on using my tumbler…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/15

Well, it’s about time! Last night, I finally took two minutes to figure out how to “publicize” a blog post on Facebook. (That time was split between finding where the settings were and choosing among the options available.) And I used that feature for the first time with my last post. This morning, I found the following exchange over there:

Now, Alice is correct. So I could have just “liked” her comment but, well, I admit I don’t know how to be terse, and I thought it was worth trying to be clear about what was going on, for anyone else who might stumble across the discussion here. So I decided that another blog post was in order. Once I’ve got it ready, then I’ll go “like” her comment and share this post too.

This is what my rotary tumbler looks like when I’m ready to use it:

There’s a brown paper bag folded in thirds and stuck under one end. Why?

Well, I don’t think it’s specific to this style of tumbler, though it may be a bit more common with these than with some others. But I discovered this trick with the very first tumbler I ever used: a little, all-plastic, undersized for its intent, rock tumbler for kids. The key is that the barrel has to be in good contact with both rollers, both of which have to be able to turn smoothly.

In an ideal setting, the base would be flat on a table. The motor would turn and the belt attached to it would turn the roller in the middle of the base. That would turn the barrel. Because the barrel is also supported by the other roller–the one at the end–that one would turn too. Thus, the motor, belt, both rollers, and the tumbler would all roll around together.

But, with this particular unit, if I simply put the base flat on the table and set the filled barrel on it, then the roller in the middle–the one that’s driven by the motor–that one turns just fine. That’s my clue that the “belt” connecting it to the motor is adjusted correctly. (If that roller slips, or seems to stick, that’s a sign that the belt needs to be adjusted which, for the record, is a routine maintenance task.)

In my case, however, this barrel would just turn in fits and starts. The “other” roller turns only when the barrel turns, so it’s not helping either. It seems to me that there are two possible solutions (though I do welcome other informed suggestions…):

  1. Slightly raise the end with the motor on it. This pushes the barrel onto the roller at the “end,” which forces that one to move along with the barrel.
  2. Slightly aise the end opposite the motor. This pushes the barrel onto the roller in the “middle,” which reduces the role of the one at the outside end.

I’ve tried it both ways and, in fact, both seem to work. But, as shown in my photo, above, I tend to set things up the first way, so the end with the motor is just slightly higher than the other end. In my logic, the second way seems like it’s putting extra pressure on the motor to do all the work. The first way seems to force both rollers to contribute to the effort, and that’s why I prefer to set it up that way.

If you have any other suggestions, or a better way to explain what’s going on here, please contribute to the discussion via the comments below!

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I love my clear plastic hexagonal tumbler barrels!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/13

An art-jewelry-friend of mine, Zoe Nelson, posted this in a metal clay group on Facebook last week. But I check Facebook only sporadically, so I didn’t see it until a day and a half later, by which time she’d already received dozens of suggestions and found a neighbor whose car-repair tool (an oil filter wrench) actually helped to solve the problem.

Until then though, none … none! … of the suggestions were how I would have responded: a few were halfway-decent alternatives, a few were complaints rather than solutions, some were simply sympathetic notes, and the rest were ideas that were far more complicated than I’d’ve thought necessary, a few even likely to damage the barrel. Thus, this blog post, at last, that Zoe knows I’m writing for her (and any others in a similar predicament!) to have for future reference.

I did make a range comments about my tumbler that uses these barrels, and more, a few years ago. (Looking for the link — gosh, that was way back in 2012!) So I have over three more years experience with it since then.

Yeah, the clear plastic lid can be a bit tricky. But (just as Zoe said in her Facebook exchanges with her readers) I’ve had as much trouble, in different ways, with the lid on the kind of barrel that’s made out of black rubber. While your experience may differ, I will take the clear plastic ones any day!

You can follow the link above to read the pros and cons I wrote back in 2012 (and see a few more photos, plus other alternatives, if you landed here without a lot of knowledge of tumblers), but here are the things I want to say now that relate specifically to Zoe’s problem and anyone else who may encounter a similar one.

First of all, let’s try to prevent the problem from the start:

  • After you’ve filled your barrel with shot, water with either a bit of dish soap or burnishing compound, and the pieces you want to tumble, do this: Dip your fingertip in the liquid and run it around the rubber ring that seals between the barrel and the top. You don’t need to soak it, just get it slightly damp. This seems to help it form a good seal.
  • Then put the lid on and turn it backwards until it feels like it is seated correctly and fits smoothly. (I don’t do this all the time, but if it seems to stick at all at the next step, then I always back up and do this!)
  • Turn the lid forward to tighten it. It should turn smoothly and freely: if it doesn’t, stop! If you have trouble getting it on, you will have more trouble getting it off! It should tighten easily. If it’s catching, it’s not seated correctly. Back up a step, and repeat that one and this until you get it to close up easily.
  • Then, tighten it a bit more so that it seals. The lid does need to be tight, but not super-tight. Tip the barrel sideways and turn it around a couple of times (like it will turn on the base), and see if it leaks.
    • If it doesn’t leak, proceed to start tumbling.
    • If it does leak, try to tighten it a little bit more and repeat the test. (If there is some liquid in the little “gaps” in the big part of the barrel, where the straight edges connect to the rim, that might be all that’s leaking. So test it for a bit longer and see if it stops dripping once that has emptied out.)
    • If it continues to fail, don’t over-tighten it! Spin the lid backwards and, if it moves smoothly, go ahead and try to re-tighten it. If it doesn’t move smoothly or still continues to fail, just take it off and start from the first, seal-lubricating step above (checking to see if it may be time to replace that rubber ring).
  • When you’re done tumbling, the lid should come off…. It may take a bit of effort (you did have it sealed up well, you know, so it wouldn’t leak!), but set it down flat on a table, hold the barrel, and figure out how to push down (to press against that great seal you managed to make) and turn the top, let up and turn if you can, push a bit more if necessary and keep trying to turn, until it starts to move.

Now, if that last step doesn’t work, ignore all the suggestions about things like cooling the bottom while heating the top, or hitting the edge of the lid with a knife, or trying to pry the lid off, or any of the other tricks that people have tried in their kitchen, and use the method that I always use in mine and which has always worked on my clear plastic tumbler barrels too. I will quote it directly from the funny but still useful book by John and Marina Bear that is illustrated to the right (just so you get an idea of what the whole book is like, in addition to the tip on what to do…):

Problems with Utensils
Stuck bottle or jar tops

H. Allen Smith revealed to the world the technique for opening all screw-top containers. Now there are untold millions of us who face Mount Kisco or wherever it is he lives and say thank you every time we are faced with an obstinate top.

The technique: Bang the top flatly on a hard surface, like the floor. Not the edge, but the flat surface of the top. Just once. Hard. That’s all. And to think of all those jars we used to hold under hot water.

(Not that I want to date myself here, but I found that book in what must have been just a few months after this version was published. I have the 1973 UK edition: that’s the year I moved there — my second real full-time job after college — and I suddenly found myself cooking in a somewhat different kitchen using a number of unfamiliar local ingredients, and in London at that time there was a waiting list of over a year and a half to get a phone installed! (I was there for only two years, to the day! So I never even applied to the waiting list. We had postal service twice a day, and lots of people I knew didn’t have a phone either: we could simply write letters back and forth to make plans for the evening! But I digress…) Transcontinental phone calls back then would have been way too expensive anyway… so I had no way to call my family or old friends for help and there were times when I just wasn’t ready to admit to my new English friends some things that tripped me up. The book was a hoot — written by former New Yorkers living in the UK — so although it did use the British terminology I was just beginning to learn, the attitude sometimes felt familiar. And it was helpful too! People seem to either love or hate that book, and I’m one of the former….)

Anyway, there may be a few “bad” clear plastic tumbler barrels out there (and others that have been damaged by mis-use) that are harder to tighten, and those will also be harder to open. But I have two myself: one marked A for the Latin Argentium aka silver (or other precious metal) pieces, and the other, marked B, for pieces containing any form of Base metal. I’ve used a few others at meetings or workshops. I’ve seen people struggle to get them to seal and I’ll admit I struggled with mine the first few times I tried to use them, until I got a feel for it. Like riding a bike (or rolling out metal clay) once you "get" it, it seems easy!

And, every time I’ve had a problem closing any of those barrels, I’ve just loosened the lid, spinning it backwards until I’m sure I’ve got it seated right, and closed it back up with little difficulty. If I tighten it just enough to get a seal (and even that does take a bit of practice to get the feel, but it will come if one remains calm and pays attention), it may take a bit of oomph to get it to start to open, but it will come loose again. Or, if it does resist, just use the tip above: lid down, flat, once, hard.

Because we do need to be able to retrieve our beauties once they’ve completed their tumble-burnishing, don’t we?!!

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Buttons, Buttons, Yet More Silver Buttons!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/12

Did you miss the button-making class at Indie Knit and Spin last November? If so, you’re in luck: I’m offering it again at the February 6 session, from 10 am to 12:30 pm!

We had a great time last year! A number of folks wandering along the hallway, checking the vendors and classes in other rooms, stopped in to see what we were doing and said they wished they’d signed up. There aren’t going to be many (if any) other classes at the February event but, since I’ll be using my own studio (i.e., Cosy doesn’t need to pay to rent another whole room for the class, and WSCC doesn’t need to schedule other events around IKS’s use of yet another of the by-the-hour classrooms), I said I’d be happy to offer this one again.

Please note: You don’t have to make actual buttons in this workshop! If you’d prefer to make a focal piece to serve as an embellishment on your fiber work, or just want to make some other type of decoration, that’s OK too. Unlike most of my workshops, where I make a point of showing how to make two-sided pieces, for buttons which are typically sewn down onto some fabric, we will just be texturing the “front” side of our pieces. But all it takes is a shift in the placement and/or size of the holes we’ll make in our pieces, and you can have another form of decoration for your work or even a few charms, earrings, or a pendant. It’s up to you!

  • For more details, see the Button Making post at the Indie Knit and Spin website.
  • As described there, to sign up for the class, send an email to
  • Please sign up by 8 am on Monday, February 1, so I can have time to place an order that morning for enough material to use in the class. Seating is limited but, if spaces remain after that deadline, I’ll allow others in if but only if I have enough material for late-comers to use.

Once again, I forgot to tell Cosy to change the write-up but, as I discussed last fall, I’m planning to use .960 Sterling Silver for the class. If anyone has problems with that alloy, I will have on hand the .999 Fine Silver mentioned in the class description for you to use. The techniques used are the same either way.

(What problems, you may wonder? .999 means it’s 99.9% silver, and only silver; it’s not certified at 100% simply because no manufacturer is going to swear that not even an atom or two of something else managed to sneak in there somehow, but it’s as pure as reasonably possible. Whereas .960 means it’s only 96% silver and 4% copper has deliberately been added, so if you are someone who reacts badly to copper (or to traditional .925 sterling silver, which contains up to 7.5% copper), then you may want to stick to fine silver. It is extremely rare for anyone to have a bad skin-contact reaction to silver alone; most people who say they’re allergic to silver are actually reacting to the copper in sterling (not the silver element itself), or else to some patina chemical or polishing compound applied to their silver (which I am happy to omit for anyone with a sensitivity–there are several products I’ve learned to avoid myself!).)

Here’s looking forward to another fun class with more great participants: it’s only a little over three weeks away now, so please sign up soon.

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Year #7: Here we come!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/07

Am I really already into my seventh (7th!!!) year of musings here?!  Hard to believe that, but it’s true.

I’m a few days late with this one, but things got even crazier than usual at the end of the year.  So instead of posting on my New Year’s Day blogging anniversary, I’ve managed to do this on an alternative holiday, one of several for Christmas as calculated on the Julian Calendar.  What can I say: I do understand the math involved, and why not find another reason for a celebration!

Part of my year-end disruption was due to the main interstate highway near my house (locals call it the Parkway East) being closed for a week so the city could demolish a deteriorating bridge that crossed it.  (How bad?  So bad it had made it onto 60 Minutes last year!)  There had been a temporary fix a while ago: they built a second bridge underneath it, not for anyone to cross mind you, just to serve as a sort of diaper to catch the bits that were falling off the upper bridge so they wouldn’t land on cars driving down the interstate highway!  So the demolition involved covering the interstate with lots of dirt, imploding both bridges down onto the pile, and then hauling everything away.

Now, I tend to use the back roads and simply avoid that stretch of freeway, so the closed road itself was not the problem. No, the problem was that no matter where I wanted to go, I’d’ve had to drive on, or at least try to cross, the detours. For a day or two, no problem; but for a whole week, well, I just left town. Here’s what I missed:

(I like the angle of that video: it shows both structures being taken down, but it definitely plays with the speed (slowing it at the beginning, and speeding it up later on). A more accurate idea of how it went can be found here, though that one was shot from much farther away in a city park, the closest that a “civilian” could get … while I was hundreds of miles away!)

I hadn’t decided exactly how long I’d be gone.  I had friends coming to town from across the country that week and I did want to see them.  But then there arose another complication: if I stayed in town, there were to be several days when I couldn’t get into my studio!  The general community center activities that go on in the building were on hiatus for the week between Christmas and the New Year, and they decided that would be a good time to paint all the public-area floors.  So I left late the night before I thought both the highway and the building were closing, only to learn the next time I checked email that, at the last minute, the painting had been delayed for a few days.   And the Parkway was still closed.  So I didn’t come back early, but instead stayed away a while longer.  And then … yes, there’s more!  The painters took longer than expected, and didn’t quite finish everything, but their time was running out because the community center did have events planned.  I never got the all-clear notice I’d been promised but, finally, I went over yesterday and found that I could get in.  So, now I’m writing!

Happy New Year!  Here’s hoping that everyone’s complications are finished from last year, and we can just get down to some serious work in the realm of having fun in this new one!  The photos with this post showing a pendant from several different angles are one that I started making last year….  It’s made from .960Plus silver clay (a mixture of .925 PMC Sterling and .999 PMC Plus).  That’s the clay we used for the Button Making class at Indie Knit and Spin last November.  I had some mixed clay left over after I’d finished doing my demonstrations in the class but, rather than think about how to store it, I went the route I usually take and just made something with it! (For technical accuracy: the spiral is from plain .999 PMC Plus that I had left over from the previous day….)

Because having several layers loop over the top to form the bail meant that area was thicker (and thus, likely to take longer to fully dry), I didn’t fire it right away with the class pieces.  Instead, I waited until the next month when I made some earrings.  I’d used .960Flex for those, but the same firing schedule works for any form of .960, so I fired this pendant with those earrings.

Having made the earrings just in time for my last Holiday-season show last year, I polished and added a patina to them, but I ran out of time before I got to this big piece.  The first thing I did when I got back into my studio was to finish it up, so I’d have art-jewelry photos to accompany my first post of the year!  I’m happy with how it turned out.  I still have to select a chain on which to hang it.  But I’m back in the groove for the year, and looking forward to new adventures.  And I hope you are too!


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