Convergent Series

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

Let the Holiday Season Shopping Season Begin … with Small Business Saturday!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/11/25

I don’t care what stores may or many not be open on Thanksgiving, brick & mortar or online ones, I don’t intend to do any shopping that day! There are just a few small things I may head out and try to pick up on Black Friday. For me, Small Business Saturday is the important day, as both as someone who believes in supporting local businesses (both the shops and the local producers of their wares) and as someone who is really, really hoping to sell some of her art in order to earn income towards next year’s looming expenses. (I do love my studio, but I also need to pay for it … and lots more!)

So here are some of the places where you can find my jewelry and/or ornaments! They are listed in roughly chronological order from their special-event start times.

  • November 28 – December 24: Ornament Extravaganza (in addition to all the regular ‘Smiths Shop items) at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (Mt. Lebanon, PA)
  • November 28 – December 6: H*liday mART at Sweetwater Center for the Arts (Sewickley, PA)
  • December 4-5-6: Holiday Gift Shop at the Wilkins School Community Center (Swissvale, PA)
  • December 4-5-6: Studio Open House at my Convergent Series Studio (Regent Square, PA)
  • December 5: Holiday Open House (in addition to their regular Gift Shop hours all the time) at the Hoyt Center for the Arts (New Castle, PA)
  • December 12-13: Studio Open House at my Convergent Series Studio (Regent Square, PA)
  • I also have jewelry items (no new ornaments) up at the Portage Hill Gallery (Westfield, NY). Their hours are much longer during the summer season at Chautauqua; but Audrey will likely have a few events over the coming weekends too, so if you’re in the area, do check that out.

All of these pieces, and lots more, will be available at one or another of those venues. Please stop by if you can and/or tell others from this area where to find them.

(Be sure to note that the Parkway East will be closed December 4-5-6! To get to the events in Swissvale / Regent Square, you’ll have to detour around that. While I understand the necessity, all us vendors impacted by that sure wish they’d announced that closing sooner, so we could have at least tried to plan around it! Please find the detour routes, or try to come out at another time! Thank you!)

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Holiday Season Special Earrings!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/11/22

While I was going crazy coloring ornaments, I also colored a few little copper stampings that I then made into earrings. (Done quickly, most have been colored on one side only: unusual for me, but it makes sense since this is an entirely different process.)

Because of the raw copper underneath, these are bound to come out a bit darker than many of the ornaments, but I still think they make cute little casual holiday treats. I don’t normally like to coat my metal pieces, but I did put a waterproof acrylic coating over the colored side of each piece. I still wouldn’t recommend wearing them while you swim or otherwise expose them to any chemicals but they should hold up under normal use beyond that.

I could make more of those, or just make singles and hang them as pendants … if there seems to be interest. Time will tell!

And then, while I had the stampings out, I made a few red-green-glitter ovals too, and priced those the same as the other decorated stampings. Making those reminded me of a number of the reasons why I am not, personally, a big fan of glitter. (Maybe if I did more with it I’d learn more tricks; I do have some dear glitter-crazy friends and I’m sure they’d be happy to help me. But I do know the basics and my issue is that I think it’s too much mess and and what feels like sheer work to justify in my own mind the end result: it can be nice but I just find other techniques so much more fun!)

Still, I’m happy to fulfill custom order requests: I do have all the stuff to make more and would be happy to keep going until I’ve used that up, should anyone want more once these are gone!

Oh, and both kinds of earrings are offered on hypoallergenic niobium earwires that have been anodized to the nice dark-copper-brown color shown here.

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2015’s Crazy-busy Season Is Here!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/11/20

You’d think I’d know better by now … taking on a whole new project right before crazy-busy-sales season! But why not make something new and fun to help celebrate the season?

Though I have made some new jewelry items in recent weeks, I really have been trying to plan ahead more often (you’ll see there’s a joke here in a moment…) and I had a decent amount of “inventory” on hand from summer and early-fall production sessions. The first photo here, for example, shows a handful of simple sterling silver (.960) and bronze pendants I cut using an electronic cutter by Silhouette America. (For those familiar with them, I have both a Cameo, at home, and a Portrait, in my studio. When I add this to my teaching repertoire, I might get their curio too…)

Then I happened to go to a local (regional) crafts store (Pat Catan’s) just to get a roll of vinyl for a little home decor project I wanted to make as a gift for a friend. Worst part of the story is that they didn’t even have the one I wanted in stock just then. Now, I could well have ordered it from somewhere else online: but I only thought of doing this at the last minute (ha! ha!) and I wanted the vinyl in order to make the gift that day….

So I strolled around a bit looking for something else I could make that afternoon (I needed to deliver it at lunch-time the next day, you see), and there they were: clear glass ornaments just calling out to be decorated! Of course, I bought one box (just one!). Again, of course, I picked up a few other little supplies, added those to some I had on hand already, and had a great time decorating. The next day I gave several to the friend and, on my way home, stopped at a different Pat Catan’s to look over the entire selection, walking out with several boxes each of seven (7!) different size / finish / shape combinations and a months-long project ahead of me.

Though five of the shape-size combos are fairly traditional for ornaments, two have flat bottoms so that, while you can hang them on a Christmas tree, you could instead just set them on a flat surface. The round ones even came with a double-loop around the top so that, if you did set them on a table, you could insert some sort of card in between the loops: a photo, a note, a place-card at the dining table (that your guests could then take home as gifts, perhaps!), etc. I looked at how those were made, and ended up making my own double-loop tops to use on the square ornaments in place of the standard (single-loop) ones they came with.

Then I had a grand time coloring them, most of them both inside and out. I made that style just because I like them the most that way … so if they don’t sell I can still be happy about using them myself!

As is usual for me, they’re finished on all sides! And, of course, no two are alike, not even when I tried to make a pair to match, just to see if I could. (Those do look related, but they still have noticeable differences. So, in the end, I went for variety. I’m happy with variety!)

To be sure, I will still have lots of jewelry available too! I’ll talk about where everything will be available an upcoming post!

Mostly, this will be pendants and earrings in silver and bronze. I’ll have a few pieces in other styles and / or metals, but those are my favorites to work in (at different times, somewhat just depending on my mood because they are different in subtle but important ways).

With daylight hours getting shorter and shorter this time of year, I’m glad to have all these various bits of brightness around me, made of glass and metal and love. I hope they’ll soon find new homes and help brighten up the lives of others too.

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Yes, Thank You Indie Knit & Spin!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/11/16

As Cosy said at the Indie Knit and Spin site: Thank you to everyone who helped make this fall’s event yet another success: workshop students (mine and others), my fellow teachers, other vendors, all the wonderful shoppers, Cosy who organizes the whole thing, and Patty who first clued me in to this event several years ago.

Though I’d said I could fit in up to six people, I was actually slightly relieved when I learned I’d only need to find space to fit in five: that’s five plus a space for me to do demos! (I was then disappointed when one of the students got the time wrong, and arrived “early” for the end of the class, which is the time she thought it would start; sigh!)

In theory, I can fit 10 to 12 student into my studio comfortably (probably 14 in a pinch, though I’ve never gone that far: I prefer to limit class sizes so I’m sure I can give everyone the attention they need and deserve…), this was the first time I ever tried to fit a class in behind the space I use when I set up a shop!

Once I’d left some room for my shop assistant, Kathy, and for shoppers, not to mention a variety of my creations, the space left for the workshop did get a bit cosy! I managed to capture a snippet of it all in the photo here, though I couldn’t back up enough, nor squeeze into any other corners, to capture the whole space. Oh well, this shot is a nice memento of a lovely morning. I thought everyone in the class did well, and I hope they’re happy with their creations and will consider making more! (I did promise them a free firing if they did.) Also, though I can’t imagine why she’d see this (but I’m going to be vague just in case), I hope the mother of one student is delighted with the Christmas-present pendant her very focused and productive daughter managed to make in the time we had together!

Even more, I hope they’ll show me / us what they’ve done with their creations, whether it’s in a comment here or by bringing them (or at least a photo) for the next Indie Knit & Spin! Cosy may not organize classes for that one but, since I did this in my own room, I can offer another button-making workshop then. Even better, in a way: if there aren’t other classes that people want to dash off to, we can have time for a slightly more complex project: instead of just making holes in our buttons to sew through, we could even explore making shank-style buttons too.

Mark your calendar: that’ll be on Saturday, February 6, 2016!

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Yes, hand-made: Buttons at Indie Knit & Spin!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/11/10

The delightful Indie Knit & Spin returns to the Wilkins School Community Center this year on Saturday, November 14, 2015. The marketplace will run from 10 am to 4 pm, and there will be classes running from 9 am to 6 pm!

In one of those classes (10 am to 12:20 pm), I will be teaching how to make your very own silver buttons!

And, you may ask, just how do metal buttons tie into an event aimed at “Everyone who loves to work with beautiful and unique yarn and fiber”? Well, the theory is this: if you’re going to go to all the effort to attend this show in order to obtain fabulous fiber arts products and materials, and then lots more time making your own hand-made creations, doesn’t it make sense to have your own hand-made buttons that you can use on those items?

Though I originally announced this as a workshop using .999 fine silver (at least 99.9% silver; not 100% only because we can’t swear that there aren’t a few atoms of other stuff in there somewhere), upon some reflection it dawned on me that .960 sterling silver (at least 96% silver, with up to 4% copper) would be better for buttons.

In general, I tend to make a lot of pendants and earrings and, in that context, fine silver is a wonderful material to work with. But metals-folks have been adding a touch of copper to silver for ages because that alloy yields a slightly harder, stronger product, and that’s useful for things like rings or bracelets that tend to suffer a bit more from normal wear and tear.

Now, the most typical alloy, called sterling silver, is referred to as .925: i.e., it’s at least 92.5% silver, and the remaining 7.25% is usually just copper, though sometimes other metals will be included with copper in that 7.25% as well. The problem is that alloys with even just that much copper or other metals then require lots of special handling, firing and/or finishing than does true fine silver.

But, there is yet another compormise: .960! That designation means it’s at least 96% silver. With that mix, you get (roughly) 90% of the strength of .925 sterling with almost none of the extra complications!

So I’m now planning to use .960 for the class, though I will have a bit of .999 on hand just in case anyone signed up specifically because I’d said we’d use fine silver. But I’m assuming the students will all be metal clay beginners, and happy to use the product the teacher is recommending for their buttons.

I’d also said that it’d take just a minor adjustment to turn a button-project into one where the person is making charms, earring elements, or small pendants. We can make any of those out of .999 fine silver or .960 sterling silver.

Last I heard, there were still just few seats left. If you’ve been looking for a good introduction to metal clays, why not sign up for that session! Or, if you can’t make it that Saturday, let me know if you’d be interested and able to come over the next day, on Sunday the 15th. I’m hoping to offer another little introductory session then: the focus will be small earring, charm, or pendant pieces.

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The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh holds its Grand Opening!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/10/25

At last! Though it’s been unofficially open for (exactly!) two months, The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh had its official Grand Opening celebration yesterday. What a treat it was to see the place bustling, with so many people enjoying all the offerings!

In the ‘Smiths Shop, people explored the wide range of artworks available from several hundred artists, all from the local region! Some visitors just browsed. Others made purchases: thank you! Lots of them made notes (mental or physical) about items they may return for later on.

It was great to notice how much interaction there was among various visitors: some conversations were among people who knew each other already, of course, but there were plenty of new acquaintances made as people shared their discoveries.

That was the case not only in the ‘Smiths Shop, but also downstairs during a series of great demonstrations in the spaces that will be opening early next year with more galleries and classroom spaces. (I’m looking forward to teaching there, and to learning from other other Artsmiths!)

There were plenty of interactions in the Koolkat Cafe too, where folks found more chances to chat and share treats with old friends and new acquaintances. That space was bustling all day as people dined and snacked on both regular menu items and specials of the day, and even had the opportunity to listen to a wonderful series of local musicians.

For more photos and videos of this delightful new community resource, feel free to check back to my post from two months ago, the day after Artsmiths’ “soft” opening on August 24.

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Let’s Be Thankful with the Cranberry Artists Network in 2015

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/10/07

Cranberry Twp Billboard announcing the Let's Be Thankful show.It’s time for another show sponsored by the Cranberry Artists Network, and I’m very thankful to report that I’ve had two pieces accepted!

The theme of this show is Let’s be Thankful, and I’m displaying my pieces along with the thankful / gratitude quotations that inspired me as I was making them. I chose to use silver this time, because I wanted its preciousness to help represent the value of thankfulness. Having done that, however, I deliberately tried to keep them fairly simple, with just a few special embellishments, to keep the prices as manageable as I could. Much as I love making more elaborate pieces, I really do want to offer items that are reasonably affordable.

Joyful Gratitude is in a domed triangle shape. It contains a carnelian on its concave side, said to represent joyfulness, as one form of the depth and range of feelings associated with gratitude. Its convex side exhibits the heart where such gratitude is felt, and held. It is offered on a sterling silver chain cut and attached to gratefully “hug” the top of the triangle.

The slightly heftier Grateful Gardeners is a highly textured oval piece. Like much of my work, this piece is reversible. In this case, however, there is one side that feels like the front to me: it exhibits yet another heart-shaped texture accented by a nephrite jade, a stone of the heart signifying friendship, and also considered to be a water-stone and thus appropriate for a garden-theme. The side I think of as the back (though it could well be worn to the front!) contains a sort of secret garden of textured embellishments: a heart, a leaf, a flower, and a butterfly.

The opening reception will be tonight, from 6 to 8 pm. If you can’t get over to that, I hope my local-folks can get over at some point during the show. It runs through November 2 in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center on Rochester Road.

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Love & Commitment

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/09/05

Back in 2012, I wrote about how much I enjoyed making my first bracelet in the Domes & Coils series. I really liked that bracelet: never even considered putting it up for sale, wore it regularly, but somehow (?!) lost it at the last-ever conference sponsored by the now-defunct PMC Guild. Sigh.

Then in 2014, I wrote about another bracelet in that series, one I called Friends & Lovers, that I made to fit the theme of a bracelet-making challenge with a “Romantic” theme. My cousin Debby liked it, dealt with all sorts of technical issues (some hers, some the site where the contest was being hosted) in order to vote for it (didn’t win; I think it came in second but there was just one award) and when, a year later, she found out I had not sold it, said she wanted to buy it to wear later in the year when her son Adam would be marrying Megan. Great! I was glad for her to have it! (And, assuming the marriage lasts, to have it eventually pass on to Megan.)

I knew it would need some minor adjustments to fit her wrist, so I didn’t sent id to her right away. Figured I’d see her at a shower for that wedding, or at one of several other family-events over the summer. But when she said she wanted it was right before I was going to have a show in my studio, so I carefully set it aside for safe-keeping. Now that I had a buyer for it, I sure didn’t want anyone else going for it. Makes sense, right?

Except, then I couldn’t find where I’d put it! I wasn’t worried: as I tidied up all sorts of nooks & crannies in my studio gradually over the summer, I knew I’d find it. Except, I didn’t.

Sooooo, I finally just made another one! Finished it 12 hours before the wedding! The first Domes & Coils just had coiled wire coiled within its domes; Friends & Lovers had beads coiled within its domes; this one has wire coils or beaded coils, alternately, within its domes. I’m making it to the size she said she wanted, but I think it’s going to be a bit small, so I made a couple extra domed-hearts with the nested coils, and I’m going to take those, jump rings, and tools in case I need to do any on the spot adjustments!

I call this one Love & Commitment. Why? Well, I’m telling Debby this: I love you and I made a commitment to have this for you for the wedding, on top of the meaning of the event at which you’ll first wear it. So it just seemed an appropriate name. I sure hope she’ll like it in person as much as the one she only ever saw in a photograph.

Postscript: I’m glad I took the tools: with a bit of fiddling, we got a fit she calls perfect! I was sure I’d taken a photo of her wearing it and grinning ear to ear (over the wedding, I’m sure, not just the bracelet, though she did seem happy with it). But now, I don’t see one of those. Instead, here’s a shot of the happy couple at the “you may now kiss” moment (along with yet another cousin, the priest who married them!), sent with lots of best wishes!

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Welcome: The Arsmiths of Pittsburgh!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/08/25

Way back in 2008, I was delighted when I was first welcomed into Koolkat Designs’ gallery. Even after they crowded the works of so many artists into their small space that they could no longer host workshops (my metal clay ones, and others), I was still very happy for their continued growth. From the moment I heard about their plans to close Koolkat and reopen under an ambitious new plan, I have been eager to see it launched. When my re-application was accepted, I was thrilled to once again be included in this “family” of artists! And now, although the official “grand opening party” has yet to be scheduled, I am excited to be able to share the news that The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh opened for business on Monday, August 24.

I’ve found two articles, so far, that help cheer the opening, from:

And, on the second day it was open, I went down this afternoon to check it out myself.

To be honest, at this point it’s just the “main” floor of Artsmiths that has opened: but that contains the ‘Smiths Shop and the Koolkat Café, both of which are delightful. (Isn’t great how the café name helps to carry on Koolkat’s legacy?) At the café today, I had a wonderful lunch of pesto chicken panini with a cup of chai. (Locals may recognize the café treats, supplied by the Enrico Biscotti company.) Back in this paint, print, and photo section, I found a couple unique cards to go with the hand-made gifts I’m making for two different cousins with imminent weddings.

Artsmith’s lower level, with offices plus additional gallery and classroom spaces will be launched later on. (Yes, my dear followers, space for classes again for those of you on the other side of several rivers from the offerings in my Convergent Series studio! Likely not for a few more months there, but it’s coming.) In the meantime, Kate Wagle Hitmar is using the chained-off stairway landing up here on the main level as a temporary office, so she can be on hand to help the new staff, as needed, with any start-up questions. (Both that and, farther back just before I swing around to catch her, the ‘Smiths Shop check-out counter (as gorgeous as the rest of the art, and made from reclaimed materials), are shown in this little snippet of the wonderful sunlit display space.)

One of the things I love about the new facility is how it provides the space to expand the range of offerings. Though I didn’t actually buy anything from this side of the shop today, I did spend time exploring what all there is. The holiday season will be on us soon enough… Here’s hoping lots of folks will be celebrating with and from here this year!

(Though I’ll have to go back at another time of day and see what else I can do about all the shadows and reflections, what with glass cases and mirrors everywhere…) if you head over to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh and are wondering where to find my Convergent Series art jewelry pieces, here’s the case to look for at this point in time. If you stop by, please let me know what you think, both of my works and the whole endeavor!

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Hey, what’s up with Carol & Convergent Series this summer?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/08/10

This has been and continues to be a great summer … except for blogging, trying to maybe work on a website, and other such “online” tasks.

Now, there are several reasons for this that I’m not going to go into just now (e.g., and in no particular order: the instant-gratification time-sinks like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., that are full of interesting tidbits but require slogging through far too many individually-irrelevant items to find them; various great travels with friends & family; car-maintenance nonsense that tied me up for a week before getting fixed; ordering, having to wait for, and then trying to learn a new camera; taking workshops & teaching private lessons; my ongoing efforts with the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County especially at the Urban Edible Teaching Garden; and more!).

The thing I will describe in some detail is that ON TOP OF ALL THAT, the internet connection in my studio is failing. It’s definitely the internet-part, not my own computer, as confirmed by the experiences of others in the building, my taking in other devices that work fine via other connections, etc. And there is no easy way for me to fix that.

I mean, how can one complain when one pays nothing for the service?! Yes, I pay a monthly rental for the studio space, all “utilities” included. I get heat for free. I had to buy my own window air conditioning unit, but they put in an extra electrical line that I can use at no extra cost for the AC in summer, or a space heater to supplement battle between the furnace and the leaky windows in the depths of winter, or my kiln (just one of those at the same time mind you but, for the price, that’s ok with me too). There’s water (restrooms, kitchen, and big utility sinks) and trash pick-up and they take care of clearing away snow outside in the winter. And so on. And the building even has a “business class” internet connection, which has let me post away happily for the past few years.

But my studio is in a “community center” building. The folks that run the center just live in the neighboring community; they organize things through phone calls, visits to each other’s homes, or even just walking around “the Square” (as the neighborhood may be called); they do hold only an occasional formal meeting in one of the center’s open rooms when they want input from the community. But the important thing with respect to today’s topic is that they don’t work in the building at all. They have no need for internet service there. And the center’s budget goes for things like all those utilities and maintenance items and such.

So where do the ‘net services dome from? Well, there’s a local Linux User’s Group that used to meet in the building every month. The are the ones who really wanted the ‘net, so they made a deal with the center: they’d provide it, anyone could use it for free the rest of the time, while they’d get a comparable discount in the rental they paid for the meeting room. That worked wonderfully for my first years in that building! (Well, it was configured so you had to re-sign-in every hour or two, so I’d have to time any long sessions (e.g., system upgrades) to fall between that, but again, for the price, that was never a major inconvenience.)

Except, recently, that group has been rotating their meetings around among other locations. Lots of groups do that (including some I’m a part of), so it does make sense. They have left their conmputer and routers and such at the center, and they are still paying the bills, but something is very wrong with it. And they aren’t coming to fix it. And the center-folks won’t touch it because it’s not theirs.

I could take my computer home (nice desktop model with a huge screen) and connect from there. But it was just so very convenient to have that beast in my studio! Especially with metal clays, there is a lot of time that goes into little bursts of just “waiting for something to happen” — waiting for some moist clay pieces to dry before being able to proceed, or for some frozen stash to thaw, or for a kiln-load to finish firing, etc. Those moments are when I would easily catch a bit of “online time” in my studio. And, yes, I could still catch some via one of my “mobile devices” while at home, but for writing and doing photos and such, I just so much prefer the good, big, fast device I’d hooked up in my studio between my big, bright windows and my tidy little photo-taking table. Besides, I don’t have anywhere near as many “gap times” at home, and I’ve already found ways to use the few I do have productively.

So, I don’t know what to do. The big beast is big! If I were to take it home, I’d first have to figure out where it would go, then I’d have the hassle of packaging it all up and hauling the huge box down three flights of stairs at the center followed by up two more flights at home. If there is any chance the ‘net services will return in the next few months, it will just be easier to wait. Until I know more about the possibilities, though, I’m not going to put myself through everything involved in moving it. Instead, I just ask that you bear with me for a little while longer. I’m fine otherwise. (To illustrate, I’m including two photos from last month’s great road trip across PA with my cousin Marie from CA. The first, with my cousins, her nieces, Becky and Katie, at Phipps Conservatory; the second, at Ohiopyle, after we’d spent an afternoon at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.)

Thanks so much for your patience!

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Sili, Sillier, Silliest

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/30

Lately it seems that all I’ve managed to post about are shows, not the creative process. I do love shows, parties, festivals, and more. I want people to see my creations, those are great ways to enable that, and talking about those is generally considered to be a way to help in finding an audience for my works.

But I also enjoy sharing information about the processes involved in my artwork so I’m going to try to slip in one of those posts today. I’ll discuss a technique I use at times that I only just realized I haven’t written about here: using a little electronic die-cutting machine on my metal clays.

As far as I know, Wanaree Tanner is the one who got the ball rolling on using these with metal clays, traveling around doing workshops and promoting the use of the Silhouette Cameo several years ago. It seemed to me that the thing she promoted most was using them to create your own elaborate bezels for setting stones. She doesn’t seem to be making such a big deal about the Silhouettes any more (though anyone who follows her work can see where she’s still using hers).

I can appreciate the way she simplifies the making of such bezels with that tool; it’s just not a style I want to emulate all that much myself. Cindy Pope seems to be the person now leading the charge with Silhouettes and metal clays, making layered designs, etching words and patterns along various shapes, and doing all sort of things I find much more up my alley, design-wise. (Cindy was also a great house-mate in CA and then host in OR the last time I went out to the west coast!) The photos with this post will illustrate one of the very simplest applications of these cutters.

Several years ago, I bought a Silhouette Cameo. I used it a few times with metal clays, enjoyed the results, but still found my own designs mostly going in other directions. But I do use that device at home for all sorts of useful little paper-crafting tasks which is really what that machine was designed for.

Of course, not long after I bought my Cameo, Silhouette America came out with a new machine, called a Portrait (more compact than the Cameo), and then a newer version of the Cameo (with a touch screen instead of the buttons that both the Portrait and my older Cameo have)! I guess those are why the one I got was available at a really good price at that moment in time! But that’s fine, because they all use the same software, and attachments, and so on.

The biggest difference is that the Cameo will cut up to a 12″ width, while the Portrait only goes to 8″ across. Your big scrapbooking papers, wide vinyl, etc., are going to be 12″ across, so the Cameo is best if that’s the sort of thing you’re ever going to do. Metal clay folks work with small bits of clay, however, ones that are typically just one or at most just a few inches across, so the Portrait is more than enough if you’re never going to work on big projects. At one point (after several months of really good sales at my end … and another really good-price offer at Silhouette’s), I bought a Portrait. I figured that having two could be useful: it would allow me to have one each at home and in studio and, even better, it’d give me more options when I finally get around to trying to teach a workshop on using the tools. (Whatever I’m doing, I’m still always thinking about teaching it to others!)

My Portrait now sits on the table next to the computer in my studio. I’m still not into making Sili-cuts as my primary design tool but, now and then, such as times when I’m feeling a bit of a creative block with other methods, I’ll sit down at computer, sketch out a few simple designs, and use those to cut out a few pieces. Just making something, getting a feel of accomplishment, will usually get me out of feeling stuck again. (And that’s probably why I don’t post much about those creations — they feel more like little “interim activities” to me and, once I’m over whatever stuck-ness I was feeling, I’m not particularly inclined to write about them … much as I do enjoy the process (in limited amounts) and appreciate the opportunities they provide.)

So there I was one day a few weeks ago, with a brand new tube of “One Fire Brilliant Bronze” clay powder. This was the only one of Hadar’s basic “One Fire” clays I’d not yet tried. I wasn’t feeling stuck or anything, I was just looking for something simple to make to try out this new-to-me clay. I had fought a bit with the older Quick Fire Brilliant Bronze: I did like the bright golden color; my problem was that I kept facing challenges with the “bottom side” of textured, reversible pieces I’d made with it. (And regular readers of this blog will know that textured, reversible pieces make up the majority of my creations!) The thing is, with pieces cut on the Silhouettes, you really want one side of the piece to be flat: that helps it to stick better to the cutting mat! So, I thought, if I’m ever going to try this One Fire Brilliant Bronze, using it for plain-backed Sili-cut pieces seems to be the way to go.

So, I mixed up a batch, took a part of that and added a bit of glycerin (which gives the dried clay a tiny bit of flexibility, which is extremely useful as you’re separating your just-cut pieces from the cutting mat!). Then I rolled out a few small pieces with light- to moderate-depth textures on one side only, and set those aside to dry while I sketched a few sample designs. Not imagining I’d have any reason to write about it, I didn’t stop to take any photos. I loaded the clay pieces onto the cutting mat of my Portrait, and cut away. The cutting was the easy part!

As always with a new-to-me clay, I did NOT fill up the kiln for my first firing. I started small, taking just one pendant and two smaller, matching pieces (an earring-pair) and fired those. Massive fail: bubbles and cracks: overfired by a lot! I took another earring pair, dropped the temperature, and tried again. Overfired again but, OK, not quite as much. Another pair, dropped the temp a good bit more, tried yet again. Still a bit bubbly, meaning they were still overfired. To drop any lower, though, I’d be going well below the recommended temperature for that clay, so I went online and asked Hadar herself for some advice. She said the firing range for that clay was actually rather large, she often fired at a temperature close to where I had ended up. Since I know my kiln does actually fire a bit hotter than where I’ve set it, it only took me two more tries before I got things to work out the way I wanted!

But, while waiting for Hadar to reply, I fell into one of those pits where I couldn’t think of anything else to create. So …. I mixed up some .960 clay, and rolled out a number of small, thin sheets of that with textures on just one side.

Aside: My .960 was made by mixing .999 PMC Flex, which serves the same purpose as the glycerin, and .925 PMC Sterling, which gives more strength to the thin pieces that are at the limit in terms of thickness hat the Silhouette Cameo and Portrait machines can cut. I used .960 instead of straight .925 because its firing is as reliable as the super-easy .999 fine silvers…

To keep things simple (since I was just trying to perk myself up during a brief lull!), I used the same sketches as I had for the bronze, cut out nine (9) silver pendants and six (6) pairs of earrings (shown in the first photo in this post), cleaned them up a little bit as needed, and fired them right away.

When I finally got a Brilliant Bronze piece to fire successfully, I took a photo of it.

I then fired all the remaining Brilliant Bronze pieces I had waiting and, when those came out fine too, I polished everything up and took a photo. Well, this isn’t quite everything: it’s just pendants (not any of the earrings) and only the ones for which I had enough chain! I’ll have to get some more for that, and finish off the rest. But I am feeling a great sense of accomplishment!

A few final notes:

  • Hadar also now has a number of “One Fire Flex” clays (not every color in her range, but many of them). The were designed specifically to be used with electronic die-cutters, like the Silhouettes and other machines on the market. I have purchased a bit of that, but have yet to try any. Since the winter of 2007-08, I’ve been adding glycerin to clays (in varying amounts, and to different clay formulas, depending on the amount of “flex” I want in my dried clay, anywhere from just enough to peel away a cutting mat without breaking to wiggly-enough to tie a knot!) and, while it can be nice to get a little flex without having to do that, it’s now so second-nature to me the need to switch is just not urgent…
  • Silhouette America had at least one model before the Cameo, which I think was called an SD (for Silhouette Design, I would think), and they’re about to come out with yet another newer one, the curio (yes, they use lower case for it). The bed of curio will be even smaller than the Portrait, but it will be able to cut thicker materials, meaning thicker layers (less fragile after firing) of metal clay! (Though the Silhouettes are all at the low end of cutting-force compared to other electronic die-cutters, so the curio will still be limited by that with regard to some other materials.) Still, though I’d love to have that option, I need to sell a lot more pieces before I spring for yet another machine… I don’t see the curio replacing my Cameo but, if I were just starting out now, I’d get it instead of the Portrait. Still, having all three could be useful for workshops next year…?!
  • I’ve fired a few more loads in the two weeks since the adventures reported above and, at the same temperature (even just a tad lower with the last, very-full load); all have turned out fine! I’ve heard / read about some people who say they don’t like Hadar’s clays because they seem so fussy. My personal experience is that each new one does seem to have its own personality, what it’s like to work with and to fire, but once you find its sweet spot, it’s then at least as reliable as any of the others on the market. Regardless of whose clay I’m using, the scientist / engineer in me is fine with starting off slow, observing what happens, building my understanding, and then taking off! The next time I go on a real Sili-binge, with much more elaborate constructions, I’ll try to remember to illustrate those here too, eventually. It really is a fun little tool!

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Arts on the Riverwalk 2015

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/18

I’m late in announcing this one, but I’ve got two pieces (a “pillow” pendant and a multi-part “spools and lentils” necklace) in another show up at the Confluence Cafe in New Castle, PA. The show opened back during the Arts on the Riverwalk weekend, July 10, but it will stay up for a while, through September 10, so interested folks around here still have plenty of time to check it out.

New Castle is sort of at the limit of what I think of as my “local” area (and, I’m just at the edge of the region the Hoyt Center for the Arts there considers a “local” artist, so at least we match there!). I wish I lived a bit closer, because The Confluence Cafe is just a nice little space! How can you not love a place that uses their chalkboard, not for menu specials, but instead for thoughts like those in the first photo shown here!?

I’ve got a ton of other things going on right now, so the rest of this post will just contain a few of the better photos I managed to capture of the pieces on display. That is, these are the shots that I thought turned out OK; I was talking with friends as I snapped away, and didn’t realize until I got back and started to post that I’d changed an option on my camera and messed up some of the photos, including the ones of my entries! Clearly, I’m not quite as familiar with that new toy as I’d thought. Oh well, these 16 pieces are less than a third of the 51 total entries, but they’ll give you an idea of how strong the show was. (As usual, clicking should open a new page with a larger version of each image.)

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PSA’S 2015 Artist’s Choice Exhibition

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/12

I had a great time last night at the opening of the latest show sponsored by the Pittsburgh Society of Artists.

I was delighted to find my entry, a pendant, in the “jewelry nook” between the two rooms downstairs at the Panza Gallery in Millvale, PA. I displayed it in a frame which led the folks hanging the show to place it on the back wall in that nook, which I thought was a great location. You just might be able to spot the frame way in the back of the first photo here! (If you want to see the actual piece, I offered up a photo of that in my last post.)

Aside: I keep going back and forth over whether to display pendants in a frame or out on a bust form. For art-jewelry shows, specifically, I’ll usually hang a necklace on a bust, assuming other jewelers will do the same and the sponsors will be prepared to handle the security involved in such a display. For art shows, on the other hand, where my piece may be the only piece, or perhaps one of only a very few, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, well, though I do think of most show attendees as trustworthy, it hardly seems worth the risk to make my entry so easy for even just one nefarious person to pocket. Does that make me paranoid? Maybe. But I know other art jewelers who won’t even enter shows because they’re worried what might happen to their pieces, and I am willing to put my work out there. So, maybe more cautious than paranoid? I admit to being a bit shy personally, but I’ve always enjoyed having my work out there for others to see and consider, and I’m always thrilled to have intelligent conversations about such creations.

Back to the show itself: I’d never been to an opening at this particular gallery before, so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect in terms of number of people, ease of parking, or anything else. But we found an easy parking space just a block away and, even with that the turnout seemed great: these photos were taken well into the evening, after a number of people had already left, which meant I could capture a few shots that showed some of the art as well as people… For local readers I didn’t see last night, maybe you’ll get over to the show between now and July 24. If you do, please be sure to let me know what you thought of it all!

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My First Show as a Member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/03

Somehow, we’ve sped into another month already and on Friday afternoon I dropped of my entry for another Members-Only show, this time for my first opportunity with the Pittsburgh Society of Artists since being juried into that group. Details of the show’s location, dates, and hours are on the “postcard” shown to the right (as usual, click for a larger image where the details should be clearer). I’m so happy to have gotten in this year, and thus find myself able to participate in some of PSA’s 50th Anniversary events. (Though after all my years in community / public radio, I will admit that I still first register the acronym PSA as Public Service Announcement…)

It was fun to see the entries from a number of other PSA members when I dropped off my selection: I got there a little over half-way through the times allotted for that, but I only thought later that I could have asked what proportion of the expected pieces had arrived by then. No matter — I’m still looking forward to seeing the entire show once everything is in place!

For my local readers, please note that the show’s Opening Reception will be on Saturday, July 11, from 6 to 8:30 pm. I’m planning to go, and I sure hope I’ll see some of you there too! Do let me know if I should be on the lookout for you! Or, even better, let me know if you’d like to carpool. (And, if you’ve never been to the Panza Gallery before, let me know that and I’ll share what I know about parking in that area.)

Ahhh but what to enter?! I debated and debated that with myself until almost the last minute. Finally, I went with the idea to let it be one of the pieces that had gotten me into the group in the first place, the one that resulted from my “Combining Inspirations” from several of my favorite artists.

My hesitation about entering that one was whether or not I should hold it back to use as a sample in upcoming workshops. But I’m happy with the approach to making those, and I’ve been further exploring this approach by making a few other variations to show off in class, so I convinced myself that this is the one that should be given the opportunity to be seen live by a wider audience and, hopefully, find appreciation in a new home!

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More Fun at Three Rivers, or Ivy Woodrose is simply charming!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/07

I have loved jewelry for ages. Not mass-produced jewelry, but special kinds of pieces ranging from unique antiques to modern artisanal pieces. Talking with colleagues as we staffed the Arsmiths of Pittsburgh booth at the Three Rivers Arts Festival yesterday, I noted that it’s an interest I shared with my mother. Kate said that, in contrast, she and her mother did not share that at all. Now, it’s not that my mother and I liked the same pieces: our tastes were not mere miles apart, the scale was more like galaxies. But we did both relish finding unusual pieces, and we could pretty reliably spot something that the other would just love. This was in complete contrast to clothes: we could rarely buy clothes for the other that the recipient could even tolerate. But we had great success with jewelry exchanges! And then there were further delights when, shopping for the other, we’d also find treats for ourselves….

In the 1990s, I started experimenting with making some jewelry. My earliest attempts were simple beaded creations of various sorts. I also dabbled a bit in glass-work and polymers and wood and more, but never felt the urge to go full-scale on any of those. Long before that I’d also dabbled in traditional metalsmithing and pottery: those were both far more interesting to me than later media but still had not completely grabbed me. I first heard about metal clays while I was in my beading heyday but for various reasons (including but not limited to a more-than-full-time academic post) I just wasn’t able to pursue it at all at that time. A few years later, enough had changed in my life that I could try to pursue it. I started out slowly but, eventually, I decided to kick it up a notch, moving things off the tray-table in my guest bedroom and into a full-scale studio. By then, my mother was gone and, in fact, I used a fair portion of my “inheritance” from her to set all that up. I figured, if it didn’t work, at least I’d know that I’d tried but, if it did work out, I’d have her (and my dad) to thank for it.

The thing is that now, since both my mother is gone and I’ve started seriously making more jewelry, I’ve pretty much stopped buying it for myself…. Clearly, I can wear anything I’ve made whenever I want (until I sell it), but an even bigger part of it is that I do have a fair amount already, not a whole lot, but enough that I certainly don’t need any more. I still enjoy looking at it, and I believe in helping support other artists, so I do still buy pieces now that I can give as gifts. I’ve continued to buy non-jewelry art for myself and I’ve exchanged pieces with other jewelry artists. I also make a point of taking several of my art- and jewelry-loving friends to shows where I know there will be art jewelers whose work I think they’ll like, and encourage their purchases. But I’ve bought very little jewelry for myself.

But more than zero. And today was one of those “exception” days: I bought a pendant from Ivy Woodrose (aka Ivy Solomon)! I’ve admired her work for years!! I never imagined meeting her in person but there she was, two booths up from the Artsmiths this weekend! I asked if she’d been there before and I’d somehow missed her but no, this really was her first time at Three Rivers. I went up yesterday and gushed and drooled and embarrassed her with my admiration, then went back today with some cash and, after a very lengthy and delightful discussion about techniques and products and sources with this absolutely charming artist (and her congenial husband), I actually bought a piece!

It was a difficult decision, balancing what I wanted against what I felt I could afford. The one I chose has fewer different colors than I first thought I’d pick, but I couldn’t find one with lots of colors that fit both my budget and my personal style. (One or the other, but not both…) I spent a long time debating between this and another “floral” one. That one had more, smaller flowers and thus could fit more pinks and reds and several greens (and far, far less yellow!) than this one. I listened to her talk with other customers about how she’d be happy to listen to the colors the person wanted and the budget she had, and could send her pictures of other pieces that either she had or could (re-)make to suit the person’s taste. But, having decided to get a piece, I just did not want to wait. So here’s the one I picked, and I’m thrilled to have it:

In person, the colors in this one are far brighter, more vibrant, than I was able to capture in this photo. (Sorry, Ivy!) But the image in this one is what captured my heart: the sun / sunflower at the water’s edge (which way is the viewer facing?!), with a hint of sunlight on the water and oddly-geometric constellations / clouds in the sky beyond. Though living in Pittsburgh now, I’ve spent a good third of my life so far on one coast or another, and much of the rest along lakes or streams, loving the water and sunsets (and sunrises too, though I’m less often up for those…) and gardening too. The appeal of the image in this piece, in particular, for me is the way I feel it reflects the following quote, one of my favorites from Douglas Adams (in Mostly Harmless):

“We all like to congregate … at boundary conditions …
Where land meets water. Where earth meets air.
Where body meets mind. Where space meets time.
We like to be on one side and look at the other.”

In the end, the one big problem I’ll have with this piece is that, instead of wearing it, I’ll want to be on the other side so I can look at it myself. But I’ll find a way to manage…

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Another June Event: The 2015 Three Rivers Arts Festival begins at Noon Today!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/05

The 2015 Three Rivers Arts Festival opens today (June 5) and runs through Sunday a week later (June 14).

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

Due to a change in the market this year, a few “Gallery Booths” will still be there, but in a different location from recent years and only on the weekends. My work will once again be carried in the Koolkat Designs booth … except Koolkat closed last month and is about to be reincarnated at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh next month. So the booth will have a black-on-white banner saying The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (a bigger version of what’s in the opposite colors on the bottom of the map shown here) with another little banner underneath that identifying it as formerly Koolkst Designs. The little arrow on that little map (which shows only the Gateway Center portion of the market) does point to the location but, if you’re trying to find it, probably the best thing is to know that it’ll be a double-space booth in positions #133-134, on Penn Avenue down at the end closest to the Point, on these dates:

  • Saturday & Sunday, June 6-7
  • Saturday & Sunday, June 13-14

Since there will have to be two rounds of setting up and taking down the booth, on top of new artists with new media to offer at the festival, Koolkat has decided that the only Artsmith’s jewelry that they will carry will be earrings. So that’s all they’ll have of my wares. Here’s a photo with a small sampling of what will be in my section of the booth.

I am scheduled be in the booth on Saturday, June 6, from 4 to 8 pm. If you’re around then, do stop by and say “Hello!” Music-wise, that Saturday is what’s being called Bluegrass Day at the festival itself, but just across the river in Heinz Field (where the Pittsburgh Steelers play football), will be the ‘burgh’s offering of the #1989WorldTour by Taylor Swift. Ah, yes, I’ve always considered 1989 a memorable year too: should you stop by the booth while I’m there, do feel free to ask me to share one of my stories from htat year….!

Since I’ll only be working one half-shift, I’ll have plenty of time, off and on, in the market and elsewhere, to just enjoy all the music, art, artists, art-lovers, creativity, makers, and more, filling up the downtown area for those ten days. So do let me know if/when I should be looking out for you at the Festival!

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June Show-Season Begins: Members-Only Show with the Cranberry Artists Network

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/02

It’s looking like a busy month. I hope I can remember to post all the various announcements! First of all, there’s the inaugural 2015 Members Show with the Cranberry Artists Network (CAN).

I’ve had two pieces accepted for this show (my first since being selected as a member). I chose to enter two reversible pendants. One is made from fine silver (.999) that I’ve hung on a sterling silver (.925) chain. It’s about an inch across, and composed of three separate layers. The middle layer has a texture pattern that displays concentric circles. A good portion of that is visible through an overlay, a highly polished disk with lines radiating out of its center, where I’ve been able to cut a circle out of it that aligns with the circles on the middle piece. I’ve centered all of that a little above and to the left of the center of the piece: that positioning reminds me of the rising sun, which has always been a part of my vision for this side.

There’s a third overlay, placed on the “back” of the inner-circles piece. It displays a textured pattern of (sun-drenched, perhaps) gingko leaves and is embellished with a lilac-colored corundum stone. I don’t know if there is an “official” name for that pale purple stone, other than simply lilac-colored corundum but, if you’re not familiar with it either, just know that rubies and sapphires are also forms of corundum. I do apologize for the quality of the photo, though: tiny shiny objects are just such a challenge to get right….

My second piece in the show is more of what I’d call an “entry level” piece, deliberately kept relatively simple in order to keep the price down for the beginning collector. This one is made of bronze; it’s a little over an inch across and is another of my reversible creations. One side is a textured and domed disk with a single strip overlay as embellishment, which I see as simple but elegant. The other side is then concave, with a faceted stone set into a hand-formed bezel and nestled down into the curve, to help make that side special too. This stone is in the cubic zirconia (CZ) family, a purple color that the vendor calls “Lavender.” This one is hung on a brass chain, one that’s in a style I seem to have been using fairly frequently lately.

The show runs from June 3 through 25 at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, 2525 Rochester Rd., Cranberry Township, PA 16066. The Opening Reception will be on Wednesday night, June 3, from 6 to 8 pm, with lots of good refreshments to complement the delightful art. I’m going, and it’d be great to see a few “locals” there! And for several weeks afterwards, you can still check out all the great art in this show any time the municipal center itself is open.

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This Weekend: Open House and More in Regent Square, plus a Garden event

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/05/15

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 Herb and Used Book Sale from 9 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. (The hanging baskets, in particular, are looking gorgeous again this year!)

And, because there will be all sorts of folks wandering around WSCC, at the same time as the Herb and Used Book Sale I’ll hold an Open House in my studio too. I’m upstairs, over the front door, in room #25. I only have a few of my Three Rivers pieces left (and none with something sparkly to indicate the Pittsburgh Point Fountain, as shown in the photo here), but I’ll be making more next month and will be happy to take pre-orders at the Open House. And not to worry, I do have a lot of other inventory, mostly my usual pendants and earrings, but also a few other items too.

In addition to my usual Art Jewelry selections, again this year I’ll have a collection of Aloe Vera plants for sale too. They are off-shoots of the ones I keep for burns, as in those little mistakes with torch or kiln…! They’re in good “cactus” potting soil in nice clay pots and I’m basically giving the plants away, asking just enough to cover the cost of the pots and the potting mix and the gas it took me to go get those.

I’m later than I’d planned in getting this post up so, if you just can’t get there on Saturday, let me know and we can arrange a time on Sunday if that could work for you. I’m going to the Western PA Orienteering Club‘s meet in Frick Park on Sunday afternoon, roughly 12 to 3, but luckily that’s the one event they hold right in my neighborhood, so I’d be close and happy to meet you in my studio before or after that. (Oh, and the book sale will continue, with even lower prices, during that 12 to 3 span on Sunday, so you could go check that out before or after we meet!) That’d be easy for me to arrange: I won’t pack up most of my pieces and turn the display space back into a work-room until Monday or maybe even Tuesday of next week.

My one disappointment is that there’s another event on Saturday that I’m going to have to miss: I schedule my Open House to coincide with all the Regent Square events, and this one just happens to be the same day, up the street into Point Breeze at the Edible Teaching Garden where I volunteer some time each week. One of our other volunteers applied for a Love Your Block grant from the city, and got accepted! The idea is that they’ll support the cost of some necessary materials if you can get a community group together to volunteer the time needed to work on some neighborhood improvement project. We needed some “hardscape” features for the garden, things like steps at the entrance (several people have already fallen on the slope there, so we have to do something!) and some critter-deterrent fencing. If you’re in the area and able to go lend a hand any time from 9 am to 1 pm, it’d be much appreciated! It’s a great little group working on a delightful urban edible garden project. I’m including the flyer for it here: click to see it full-size.

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The End of One Era Ushers in the Beginning of the Next One…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/05/14

Do you think Koolkat’s space looks bigger or smaller, now that all the art has been moved out? Here are photos from last December and earlier today:

After turning over the keys to the next tenant, those remaining went outside on a lovely spring evening in mid-May and snapped a bunch of photos that I’m sure they’ll be posting in all the usual places. As usual, everyone was watching out for everyone else, in this case the care was extended to the photographers as they kept backing up into the street to get a shot that included both the wonderful Koolkat sign (that will be taken down and preserved) and the folks in the doorway.

In this one of mine, which I just had to capture from a different angle, Samantha, Katie, Kate, and Paula are posing in the doorway for Jeanne, Elizabeth, Maureen, and Carol Beth.

Though it is sad to be saying good-bye to Koolkat Designs, the mood was one of happiness, anticipation, and excitement as we all look forward to the opening of its reincarnation as The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (at some date still TBA) this summer!

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My computer’s been quiet, though I’ve still been making stuff….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/05/08

Long story not worth going into, but one of many reasons I’ve been relatively quiet online (here and elsewhere) has to do with having lost a whole bunch of photos of recent pieces. Some were great, others were mere experiments, but it’s still a loss.

The photo with this post is not a great one either: it’s just me trying to pick up where I left off on the photos, where I was playing with ways to get photos of a group of pieces (rather than my usual close-up of each individual piece without using any props).

I do know how to fix the background on this; at the time I took it, my focus was on trying to use a glass without any additional fuss in taking care with a background. I still think glass is a good idea, but its just yet another approach that’s best for only a small number of pieces, not the bigger group I was going for here.

Still, I just happen to like all the pieces in this particular set, so I figured I could post it and try to make that clear that focus. They are all made with various beads from my stash, and all feature some sort of hand-made end-caps. The caps are from yet another project that I’ll write more about once it’s farther along. For now, though, I’ll point out that some caps are silver while others are bronze, they vary in thickness intentionally (though I do prefer thinner ones myself), and some were cut with little generic pastry cutters while others were custom-sized to a particular bead and cut using an electronic cutting tool (where those are doing double-duty as part of yet another project…). For these, all the earwires are commercial products.

I have another, much bigger collection of recent pieces on hand-made earwires that I also want to capture in a picture. Regarding the earwires, for silver I tend to make them from spooled Argentium silver wire while, for use with base metals, I tend more towards niobium headpins. I do use other sorts of wire too, but those are my personal favorites. I appreciate the versatility provided by the spooled silver wire: I can ball up the ends if I want, can adjust the length as needed, and hardened Argentium will yield a stronger piece than will fine silver wire … without the need I’d have with traditional Sterling silver to use pickle (acid!) if I heat them up as I make them. But finishing the ends of the niobium is trickier than it is for the silver (even simple smoothing is harder, and achieving a ball-end look is far more effort than I can justify in terms of both cost and time…). For now at least, I’m happy-enough to hand-form those wires from headpins.

If you know of any good online photos of earring collections — six pairs or more all in a single photo — I’d sure appreciate it if you’d leave a link in in the comments for this post! I’m unlikely to copy the approach of any such images directly, but I sure could use some more inspiration on different ways to approach this photo-task. Thanks!

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Cranberry Artists Network

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/04/30

“Happy Camper” Here, again!

I just learned that I have been accepted for membership in the Cranberry Artists Network.

Relatively speaking, this one was fairly easy for me. While they do have a regular screening process (similar to the one I recently described going through for the Pittsburgh Society of Artists), I was admitted through an alternative route: though I still had to do the paperwork and such, and wait until their next screening date, I didn’t have to do all the travel to drop pieces off and pick them back up. Instead, my application was judged based on pieces they’d already seen, when I’d managed a last-minute entry into their Isn’t It Romantic show in February.

I am delighted to have this group offer me recognition as an artist, and look forward to participating in some more activities a little to the north.

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Combining Inspirations

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/04/15

Two of my favorite art jewelry makers and teachers are Hadar Jacobson and Mary Hettmansperger. I love many of their designs, though I’m rarely if ever inclined to copy any of them (including those in their project books) exactly as shown. What I like is the way they create designs using techniques that inspire me to tweak a little here and a little there, and somehow end up making something that’s much more my own.

Towards the end of last year, I was browsing through one of “Mary Hetts'” older books, Wrap, Stitch, Fold, and Rivet (© 2008), looking for some tip I thought I’d read in it a while ago, when I was stopped dead in my tracks by a project I’d seen before but had never given much thought to, one she calls a “Bead Shelf Pendant.” In it, she talks about cutting, punching, and heat-coloring copper, but at that moment I suddenly saw a variation on it as a great metal clay project as well. The first photos here show one of several fine silver pieces I made as soon after realizing that as I could find the time.

I wore a couple of them throughout the holiday season at the end of 2014, and I probably got more comment and compliments on those than on any other piece I’ve ever made and worn. I’m not just talking about friends and family comments, I’m including store cashiers, physical therapists (yeah, one of the reasons I’ve been off-line a good bit lately), random people sitting near me at concerts, and so on.

Since I had so much fun both making and wearing those pieces, at the start of the year I tried a few others. The second photo here shows one of the first bronze pieces I made in this style. Bronze is a less expensive metal to purchase than silver, so I felt I could afford to go bigger (wider or longer) with the ones I made that way. Mind you, working with bronze (or any other base metal clay, such as copper or steel) takes more time which I feel, in the end, pretty much balances out most of the savings on the materials. The final retail price for a base metal piece ends up similar to that of a silver one of a similar design, because of the extra time one has to spend on it. The thing bronze does allow me, however, is the opportunity to go a bit bigger without having the price of a piece go out of reach. The one shown here (reversible, with a “fiddlehead fern” texture) is about as long as the silver one, but easily thrice as wide.

But, as I was playing around with my first bronze bead shelves, I had another “gotcha!” moment: Foldies! These are also known as Drapings. There’s a great description of the basics of this technique in Hadar Jacobson’s third book (© 2009), Mixed Metal Jewelry from Metal Clay, on pages 104-105. I’ve made a number of such pieces over the years (and posted a number of photos on this blog) but, while I’ve been happy-enough with the ones I have made so far, I have never been totally satisfied with any of the bail designs I’ve used. But, as I was making those bronze bead shelves, it suddenly came to me: make a bead-shelf-foldie…. You’ve already seen on this blog a photo of the first one of those I ever tried (which, for the time being at least, I’m keeping in my own little stash of personal NFS (not for sale) pieces): it’s one of the pieces I submitted with the application that got me admitted to the Pittsburgh Society of Artists.

The bead-shelf-foldie is fun to make out of clay (thanks, Hadar!) and fun to finish and hang (thanks, Mary!), and I find an extra-bonus in having found a way to adapt ideas from two of my favorite jewelry artists. I look forward to stretching this idea even more in the future.

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Pittsburgh Society of Artists!!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/04/05

“Happy Camper” Here!

Last Sunday, I went through the screening process to be admitted to the Pittsburgh Society of Artists. This involved:

  • filling out an application (online, in advance);
  • showing up at a certain time and place on Sunday morning to set up a display of three of my recent pieces;
  • going away for a few hours while one or more judges evaluated all the works that had been submitted;
  • returning to pick up my pieces, and
  • going home to await word on the decision.

I delivered and set up my display a little over half-waycoter through the drop-off time period. (From the number of pieces I saw and what I’d heard to be the number of applicants, I do think that the majority of entrants had already delivered and departed.) Once my pieces were all in place, I took a few minutes to look around at the other entries. While many of them were very impressive, there were two artists whose works I was particularly curious about. I actually got to talking to one of them at pick-up time: Ashley had singled out my work as she’d surveyed both rooms too! We were definitely in the minority, having submitted “3-D” pieces for evaluation, rather than 2-D. Turns out, though, that another link is that we’re both members of the Koolkat community (though we don’t remember ever having met at various events there), soon to have our pieces transferred over to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh once that place opens this summer.

Of the three pieces I submitted for screening, the one shown here is the only one for which I can find a decent picture right now. I started it late last year, and it was the first piece I completed this January, but had held off posting about it because I was “saving” it for when I’ll talk about some new workshops I plan to write about shortly. Since I have a couple other pieces in the works that I can use to talk about workshops, you get to see this one now.

Anyway, I did not have to wait toooo long: around 8 that evening an email came in saying, “Congratulations! You have been accepted into the Pittsburgh Society of Artists!” I feel very honored to have been selected as a member of this group (and happy that they accepted Ashley too).

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One Little Bit of March Curiosity

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/03/18

Well, actually, the photo does show two curious bits … if you’re counting both pieces that make up one pair of earrings. But it was just one quick little experiment. For some time now, I’d been curious about the “Magical Silver Plating Paste” that, I forget when, I had noticed on Val Lewis’ website. So, after I’d earned a little bit of extra money earlier this month (Thanks, Deb!), I ordered myself a little jar of it to try out.

Now, I will admit to being surprised when I read, in various online forums, about someone having bought some new product who spent hours if not days trying to create some masterpiece with it straight off, and then feels devastated when something goes wrong. Often, something that any experienced person would have known from the start would have gone wrong… Now, I will admit that I’ve had a few big-time failures with things I really thought should have worked, but not many. I tend to start small, first time out, and then work up to bigger stuff, even if something big is the reason I want to head down that path.

So, when the paste arrived, I did not immediately go off trying to plate something big and intricate. Instead, I dug around in the nooks and crannies of the cabinet in my studio where I stash leftover bits and pieces. I found two little disks I’d made months ago out of Champagne Bronze. They were made during a push to produce a lot of earring in a short bit of time. I’d used up all the anodized niobium earwires I had on hand that day, and just stashed a few remaining “elements” in the cabinet to use in the future, once I’d made or obtained more of the wires.

And, even though I’ve not yet gotten around to replenishing the stash of dark earwires (that I tend to use with bronze), I thought, “Hey, if I plated these, I could use a couple of the sterling earwires I still have in the drawer.” A little later on I came to realize that this design had an interesting mix of two different textures on it: I could try plating just one part and leaving the other in its natural color, so I could then compare how things looked from the start and how the different parts held up over time.

The instructions for the paste say to just apply it with your fingertip, but that the product can stain your skin so it’s best to wear rubber gloves. First time out, I do tend to follow instructions, so that’s what I did. And there I was, holding each of these little (barely 10 mm) disks in the rubber-gloved fingers of one hand while trying to apply the paste with a rubber-gloved index finger of the other one. Oh, and not to the whole piece, just to the bottom half of one side, a decision I made only after I’d begun applying the stuff to the first piece! So, please understand: any “imperfections” in the coverage are entirely due to operator-error first time out. In the future, if I decide I want to plate part of a piece, up to a very specific point, I’ll spend a bit of time before I start thinking how best to achieve that. For a brief, initial trial, however, I am pleased with this result, with a sort of gradual shift from dark yellow bronze to a sort of silvery bronze to a deeper silver.

As to the process, the application was easy! I scooped just one tiny “drop” of the stuff out of the jar, and achieved this coverage on both pieces. It did take about three passes to get what looked like good coverage. I wasn’t at first sure what I was getting, because the stuff looks a dull gray as it goes on. Since my fingertip was a tad moist (per instructions) as I applied it, I waited briefly for some drying to occur. Then I buffed it a bit, decided to add a few grains more to one edge, buffed again, and decided that was fine for now. Again, as instructed, I then gave it a good wash, dry, and polish, before taking this photo.

I have some ideas for more complex copper and/or bronze pieces that I’ve been wanting to make, but have not tried yet because I wasn’t sure that they could bring in enough revenue to justify the time involved in making them. That’s the thing about working in base metals: the materials cost less so customers (understandably!) think they should be priced significantly lower than precious metals, while artists (also understandably…) know it typically takes as much, and sometimes more, time to make a piece out of those materials. My thought in buying this stuff was that being able to promote them as having at least select portions silver-plated might help justify in customers’ minds a more appropriate price, while not adding too much additonal time at my end.

I’ll do a few more experiments on simple, little elements like these and, if I continue to see success with this approach, then I’ll move on to the more complex designs. Whatever the final outcome, I’m sure I’ll have fun experimenting!

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Happy “Super Pi Day”….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/03/14

Well, the long-time math-teacher in me can’t let today’s opportunity pass without at least noting today’s date. I may not do this every Pi Day (3.14 in format), but somehow I can’t let pass the only one this century that goes into extra digits (3.14.15 in mo.da.yr format) without saying something. And, of course, simultaneously wondering how “the ‘net” will do with, I am sure, a lot of people (in each US time zone, at least) trying to post at exactly 9:26 (am or pm) on that date.

You see: 3.14.15 9:26:53.58979 –> 3.14159265358979 –> Pi,   (usually written as the Greek letter Π), which represents the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle…  Like the outside of a nice, round, freshly baked and cooled pie that you’ve just sliced right down through its center….

Nor can the metal clay artist in me ignore a day when it’s suggested to celebrate with a Pie (or two, or more). As I teach how to mix powdered metal plus binder particles into something that feels like dough, then how to roll it out into the desired shape and move the clay into its final position until, at last, firing (baking) it, I often make reference to any pie-makers in the group regarding how similar those actions are in the creation of both pies and metal clays.

And while I don’t typically flaunt my background in math and math-related areas, those familiar with such subjects may also find it relatively easy to pinpoint the occasional mathematical influences in much of my work.   Not exact representations, mind you, but ideas influenced by math-sketches I’ve drawn countless times while teaching it.  Here are a few more samples of that:

But that’s all for the moment: I have pies in the oven that should be done at any moment now! Just in time to go celebrate Pi Day all day! May you find great ways to celebrate the day too.

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Some Bronze Buttons.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/03/12

While I was making the little domed disks I used for the charms I mentioned in my last post, I had another small project going, an item I’d made ages ago and had for some time been wanting to make more of: Buttons!

And then, my colleagues in the Western PA Metal Clay guild decided that our project / activity for our January 2015 meeting would be to make bracelets in the style popularized by Chan Luu, where the closing on her signature pieces involves a hand-made button. So now I had the push I needed to return to button-making.

Except our January meeting was cancelled due to weather issues, and the project was pushed forward into the February meeting. I didn’t want to show button pictures until we’d done the guild-project, so I put off posting about it. And then I got bogged down in snow-shoveling, ice-chipping, pothole-damage to the car, etc., until tonight, at last, I found a few minutes to take a few photos to share here.

First (above) is a photo of eight different buttons: three were made from Hadar’s Quick Fire Bronze and five, from her Rose Bronze.

Second (left) is a photo of the bracelet I made during the guild meeting … for which all in attendance offer thanks to our leader-for-the-day, Sharon Shepard! That one includes yet another of my Quick Fire Bronze buttons.

Third, not shown yet, are the backs of any of the buttons. Regular readers of this blog will know that I usually show both sides of the pieces I make. In large part, that’s because I tend to make pieces that are fully reversible. But buttons may or may not be used in ways that are readily reversible. So I made some shank-style buttons (all the ones shown here feature shank-backs) and some other two-hole ones. I hope to write more about all of them eventually.

But I’m not doing that yet: (A) Part of the button-making involved trying out a handful of different techniques for actually making shanks. While I do know enough to be successful at that, in general, my exploration-goals were to (1) examine how easy/difficult the different ways might be and (2) to be able to test whether any particular approaches held up more/less well after longer-term use. And (B) I’m testing them by further by producing samples of ways to use them well beyond just the Chan Luu bracelets, which also takes time to work out.

Why am I going to all that “trouble” when all I needed was one button for one bracelet at one guild meeting? Because the reason I’ve been wanting to spend a few weeks making buttons, and then several months (or more!) testing them out, is because for a long time I’ve been thinking I should put together a button-making workshop!

There are just soooo many great ways to use buttons and button-shaped elements. I’m looking forward to creating a variety of pieces to incorporate those, myself, and to the further inspiration I’ll get from students when I offer the class. I’ll post places, dates, and times here (and elsewhere) once I am satisfied that I’ve done enough testing. After I’ve taught it (once or a few times) then I’ll be more inclined to come back write more about it here. Please stay tuned…!

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Trying to “catch up” a bit: the 2014 Western PA Metal Clay charm exchange

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/02/23

Now, the delay in posting this is not entirely my fault. OK, some of the delay is, just not all of it.

Most (but not all) years, members of the Western PA Metal Clay guild hold a holiday-season charm exchange. For some reason, it rarely gets agreed to very far in advance (which, of course, is why some years it just doesn’t happen…). In 2014, well into the fall, it was decided to not do it in December but, instead, skip that gathering (fair enough, it is a very busy time of year for everyone) and do the exchange in November. Aack!

One of the things with the last minute planning is that we do let people exchange IOUs. That is, if you want to participate, but can’t get charms made in time, you can exchange an IOU that you’ll deliver your charms by our next meeting. Me, I find November easily as frantic a time as December and, though I made several attempts to block out a chunk of time for charm-making, each block kept getting eaten up by something else for which there was no escape. But I do enjoy the exchanges, so I jumped at the chance to use the IOU option. We typically exchange three (3) charms according to some rule or other. In the past, for example, we’ve put all the charms in a stocking and drawn pieces at random. This time, we changed the plan and did direct back-and-forth exchanges.

The first photo shows the charms I received in the exchange. The bee in a circle, highlighted with gold colored guilder’s paste, was from Holly Dobkin. The puzzle piece, highlighted with Vintaj patina color, was from Debbie Rusonis. And the abstract circle, highlighted with a liver of sulphur (LOS) patina, was from Georgie Nix. I love the artistry of all three, in general, and was very happy to receive their 2014 ideas.

Now, I could have posted that much right away. But I decided I wanted to wait until I could post the pieces I offered in exchange. I started them in mid-December (after my last show of the season), but we didn’t have a meeting set for that month, so I let the final step slip into early January. Except, we cancelled the January meeting due to weather issues … and I didn’t want to post my pics until the recipients had their pieces in hand. Finally, we met (despite winter weather this time) in February. Yesterday afternoon. So, at last, here’s what I offered in return. They were made from Hadar’s Quick-fire bronze. (The photos were taken before I added oval bronze jump rings.)

Even though we typically exchange three charms, while I’m making mine I always add at least one and sometimes several more. This time, I tried to make five: three for the exchange, one for me to keep, and one extra for some time when having a little treat to offer would be useful. Except, somehow, I managed to crack one of the pieces while I was joining its two dried segments (I was so annoyed with myself: I even managed to crack both parts at once!) and it just did not seem worth the trouble to try to repair it. Instead, I reconstituted that clay and used it for something else later on.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love to make reversible pieces, and I do that even for little charms. For these, one side simply displays a deeply-textured pattern. I ended up being very happy I’d waited until December to even start these, because that permitted me to use the charms as my very first attempt at a variation on the Chip Inlay Project for the Holidays posted by Hadar Jacobson on December 3rd! The final photos shows what I did on the “other” side of each charm: I made little cups that I could fill with something called “Painted Desert Sand” that I’d gotten a while back for a completely different reason. As my first attempt at this process, I’m definitely keeping the fourth charm, both as a reminder to myself and as a sample to use in discussions with other artists or students.

I hope my guild-mates will let me know how these seem to hold up. I believe they’ll be fine, and I’ll be happy to replace any that appear to have any problems, but I’d sure rather learn about that from a sympathetic fellow artist than a possibly irritated customer. I’ve since used the technique on a few other pieces I’m testing out myself. Basic images of those, if not more detailed reports, will appear here eventually. (For now, I will say only that there are both similarities and differences among various fillers and holding agents…) I’ll say more once I’m confident in what I’m talking about with these, not just displaying untested guesses.

For now, though, I just want to be sure folks know that making these sure is fun!

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Where Oh Where Has Carol Been…?!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/02/03

Long-time readers of this blog will know that, if nothing else, I always post a New Years / Blog Anniversary message. The fact that I’ve not posted since before Christmas, without even I clue I was going off-line for a while should be a big clue that something or other had gone awry.

Well, while close friends know the details, I’m just not one to post all sorts of personal stuff everywhere online, but I will say this much: it wasn’t just one thing…. There was this, and that, and then this other thing, and then on top of all that…. No crisis, as such, just no time left for dabbling online. I’ve no clue if or when I’ll manage to catch up with posts, but I did have to take a moment now to share some news about one great recent treat: two of my pieces were accepted for the Isn’t It Romantic show sponsored by the Cranberry Artists Network (from Cranberry Township, which is north of Pittsburgh, PA).

I didn’t manage to make anything completely new for the event, but entrants were allowed to submit two pieces, and I had on hand two that fit the theme perfectly, so in those went!

There’s Love’s Garden in Pinks, a necklace with a fine silver (.999) focal bead and clasp, strung with some really luscious cloisonne, Swarovski crystal, and glass beads. The fine silver pieces are reversible. The bead has little pink CZs on each side. Its Love side (shown) has a heart-shaped texture, and the Garden side has an acanthus-design. Though I made it back in 2011, I’ve only risked putting it up for sale in one quick event because I kept debating with myself whether to sell it or keep this one for myself. But I’m finally ready to let it go, should someone else now want it, for themself or to give as a gift.

And there’s Friends & Lovers, a bracelet in bronze with glass beads, copper wire, and bronze jump rings. The bronze hearts all have a roses-and-swirls pattern, but I curved them so I could nestle little sweetheart-pink, blood-bond red, & romantic-rose colored beads in their hollows. The toggle clasp was made to match, with an arrow for the bar. I submitted this photo for an online challenge in February 2014, but I never really liked how the clasp worked, so I finally got around to remaking the bar at the end of last year (and just realized I don’t have a photo of that … sigh!). But the arrow-head and “feathers” are the same as shown here; the very subtle difference is that, instead of using a loop in the shaft to hold it together, the latest version has a straight shaft with a U-shaped wire embedded into it. Now that I’m satisfied with its design, I can put it out for consideration by others. As far as its title goes, I’ll share the little inside-joke about it: the snuggly-hearts were meant as signs of Love all along, but it’s one of the first pieces I made out of Hadar’s Friendly Bronze metal clay powder after she made it available. I just couldn’t resist the urge to tie the two together in the title.

The Isn’t It Romantic show opens tomorrow, February 4. I’ve seen a number of the other entries, and there’s a lot of really great work in this show. There’s an opening reception from 6 to 8 pm (with, I’m told, lots of wonderful sweet treats planned) and, weather permitting, I plan to attend that. If you’re in the area and would like to join me, it’ll be in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, on Rochester Road just west of Route 19.

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The Reindeer and The Hare

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/12/22

This post about The Reindeer and The Hare is a quick, semi-apologetic variation on the theme of The Tortoise and The Hare. (And, if WordPress puts a big gap between this and the next bit, all I can say is that I’m seeing it at times too and, despite everything I know about web pages, it’s a puzzle to me too…)

The Hare represents me trying to write a piece for the Blog-Hippity-Hop that Kim Paige invited me to join. I don’t have a hare photo to use to represent myself here, so how about the top one to the right, showing the very first piece I ever made using metal clay / powder metallurgy techniques, in a lentil-bead workshop.

I strung it with lovely cracked-crystal beads that I’d been saving for something special. ‘Twas made in a workshop offered one autumn years ago, and I thought the beads would also be a great lead-in to the wintry holiday season that was almost upon us. I wore it just about everywhere the rest of that year!

I do have a very specific Reindeer, along with Santa, to represent the entire Holiday season that is in full swing, again, right now. You can see them in this other photo, taken along Carmel Valley Road one Christmas Eve ages ago it seems, back during the first year I lived in Monterey, and worked in Pacific Grove, California. (They appeared along that 10 mile stretch every Christmas Eve I was out there and stayed up for, I forget exactly how long, but at least thru the New Year, and maybe even the full Twelve Days of Christmas. I wonder if they still show up: if you know for sure, please leave a comment about them!)

Note that the crossing-signs are meant to warn drivers, Santas, or hares to avoid collisions. And this little hare, your author here, is in red lights flashing brighter than Rudolph’s nose warning-mode right now: with blogging and seasonal overload on a major collision course.

But this in not a race, and that’s as far as I got with the “story” of those characters so I will just add that …. my blog-hop post IS coming. Soon. Well, soon-ish. Really! If you got here via a hop from Kim’s Facebook page or her blog (where I did comment immediately that I might not get a post up today), I’ll note again there when my post is up. As soon as I catch my breath. Or, you’re welcome to just check back here….. Thanks so much for your understanding!

In the meantime, best wishes to you for your holiday-season, for any and all holidays you are celebrating at this time of year!


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On remembering to take photos….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/12/18

I like photography. A lot. I like taking photos. I buy photos at art shows and such. I frame and hang both kinds of photos all over the place.

But, much of the time, I get caught up in what I’m doing, whatever it is I’m doing, and my brain just does not go to, “Hey, stop and take a photo of this.” Even if I’m surrounded by people taking then, and anymore even if I’m at some event where my view is blocked by people holding up their phones to capture it rather than just being in the moment and enjoying the view right then, I still don’t think to do the same thing myself.

I go to some events specifically to take photos. Then, I may remember to take a few some of the time. I take thousands each summer at the various garden-related projects I work on, for example, because my role there is often to be the event’s photographer. Until or unless I pitch in to help with some task, and then it takes me a while to remember to clean my hands up a bit and re-grab the camera… On this blog you may have noted, three posts back, that I got so involved in making my woven piece that I forgot to take photos of the process I was trying to record….

Thus, I have no photos of all the wonderful shows and events I mentioned in my last post. I went to, and enjoyed, all of them. And I really should pause my story here to thank all the wonderful people who purchased some of my creations, as well as the delightful ones who just stopped by to say hello.

Back to tonight, when my brain did something ever so slightly different: When I saw Samantha Bower step up to take a photo of Adam from Wigle Whiskey at Koolkat Designs, I managed to take a few too! It’s such a great little place, jam-packed full of all sorts of goodies for this season and throughout the year.

With Koolkat reinventing itself as the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh next spring (an event I’m really looking forward to, as both an artist and a teacher!), this may be the last time I’ll think to take a photo there, so I figured I should share here one from tonight.

‘Twas a delightful evening of shopping and spirits along with the rest of the Koolkat crew & clientele.

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