Convergent Series

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

Archive for March, 2010

Moving to a Conclusion (Month of Earrings #30)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/31

My 30th entry for the Month of Earrings Challenge!!!

Having done a simple cylinder (posted as #28), twisted cylinder (#29), and a simple twist (#27), it seemed fitting to finish up with a flourish based on a “twisted tube” theme.

Spinner Twists

Last summer, I’d made a series of “Twistie” earriengs, with a shape rather like that. They are fragile during construction: when I’d break a bit off of one, I’d then trim the other to match. And repeat that as necessary, sigh, until a few twisties ended up far shorter than I’d intended. I was also fiddling around with various ways to drill nice, even little holes to use in attaching them to earwires, without falling prey to distortion (working with wet clay) or even more breakage (once they’d dried). Though I liked the look, and they did sell rather well, I had been thinking I needed to take a different approach if I wanted to enjoy making them.

Looking at the final remaining pair, last fall, I realized: don’t drill a hole at all— build a special little tube, attach it vertically, and run the wire through that! The idea’s been sitting there for several months. This, its first full implementation, seemed a good way to end this month’s challenge.

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Betcha can’t [make] just one! (Month of Earrings #28-29)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/31

At the risk of dating myself, I will admit that I keep thinking of that old potato chip commercial with the tag line, “Betcha can’t eat just one!”

No, Im not eating silver earrings. But, as I commented the other day, I sure do feel like I’m swimming in earring components. I can’t make just one earring. Not even just one pair. But now, it seems, not even one extra component when I think about how to do a piece. Noooo, one “simple” idea sparks a cluster of others. Which, in this context, is a good thing!

As I was making the little cylinder I used in my MoE #3, where I’d gone to some effort to get a nice, smooth base with no visible seam along the edge, I was thinking, “What if I accepted a seam, and decorated with it?”  So, I made several more pairs:

Little Cylinders

The first pair (above) was fairly small, with a curved edge that overlaps about half of the underlying layer.  With a satin finish, an ever-so-slight bit of patina along the edge is just enough to highlight to the curves.  The cylinders, and the glass and Swarovski beads, are free to move on the hand-formed Argentium silver earwires.

The second pair (below), is much longer, with a “deckle” edge, and wrapped on a diagonal such that the overlap gives an interesting twist to the shape. I thought these cylinders could stand on their own, without the need for additional beads. The earwires are sterling (.925) silver.  But I wanted these tubes to be able to spin, so they’re on Argentium sterling silver wires with a ball-end inside the cylinder and a wrapped loop outside:

Cylinders that Can Spin.

For the third pair, I again used twists around a straw.  But, instead of overlapping one larger piece of clay, I made narrow strips that I twisted around a small straw. You’ve already seen that one, back in MoE #26.

Back to the title of this post, then: can I just stop at the Month of Earrings challenge itself? Nooo, of course not! And that’s the point, isn’t it? Just like the challenge of stopping after you’ve eaten just one potato chip versus before you’ve eaten the whole bag of them: the trick here seems to be to take on a handful of challenges, a selective set of them, and to see what that mix will yield.

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Rippled Curve (Month of Earrings #27)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/31

A couple of days ago, as I was looking at how quickly the end of the month was approaching, and how I had a few pieces underway but not quite ready, I got to thinking that maybe I should have a back-up plan, with a few simpler pieces, just to be sure I could have 30 done by the end of the month.

Here’s one of the three I did with that in mind:

Ripples on a Curve

Made from a texture that I’ve found to look nice with a bit of “liver of suphur” patina, trimmed along one edge using craft scissors with a ripple pattern, and dried into a curved half-ring, I decided to see how these would look with more of a “satin” finish than any of the other pieces I’d made so far this month. Liking the result, this is going in as an entry in the Month of Earrings challenge.


What happened to the other two pairs?

When I tried taking photos of them, I didn’t get any shots that I liked. With a more highly-polished surface, either I was getting either a glare from the light or, once I’d diffused that enough more, then too dark an image. I may try to capture those again later. I do have three final ones I can use for the challenge.

In my own mind at least, even though the challenge was to make 30 pairs, since March has 31 days, one will go for that. And the other will go for a sort of “Baker’s Month” (as in “baker’s dozen”) bonus.

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Silver Meets Deeply-domed Polymer (Month of Earrings #25-26)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/30

I really like the colors and shape of the four smallest cane slices that I found in the box that “Beading Heart” Barbara gave me (with which to explore designs that mixed silver with her polymer); my challenge with those four was how to work with domes of that depth.

One idea was to just let you look deep into them, each with a little bit of silver dangling in back having a shape and texture that would help point the way:

Silver Meets Polymer #8

I was glad that my earlier “movement” pieces had already shown I could have the wire stretch up the back.

I had also been particularly happy with the outcome of my MoE #16, so I decided to try swapping the roles of silver and the “other bead(s)” to come up with this pair:

Silver Meets Polymer #9

Which, of course, came to me because, by the time I got to thinking about these polymer pieces, I had a set of little cylinders available. Tubes will be the topic of my next post another post soon but, for now, I’ll just say that, “It sure is fun when things work out like that!”

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Even More Silver Meets Polymer (Month of Earrings # 23-24)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/29

Since my last trials combining my silver work with that of Barbara’s polymer seemed to work out well, here are a few more.

I think these two black-and-white cane slices are my favorites of the ones Barbara gave me.

Silver Meets Polymer #6
I’m glad my earlier trial with the green and black domed pieces turned out as well as they did: that made it easier for me to decide how to build those up.

I tried something different with these:

Silver Meets Polymer #7

When I put these up for sale I will mark them as “reversible” because you can take the dangles off the (purchased, sterling) earwires and turn them around the other way. The “other side” has a bead at the center, but no silver disk covering up any of the delightful color blend. (Sorry, but I just didn’t think to take a photo of that side while I still had some daylight…)

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Silver Meets Polymer Again (Month of Earrings #19-20-21-22)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/28

I’ve been talking lately with my friend Barbara (aka Beading Heart) about various ways to combine metal and polymer clays. She kindly donated a few of her polymer canes to my earring explorations.

Some of them seemed to fit right in with my experiments into the “spinner disk” concept. I think one reason Barbara and I work well together must be because we both like those domed shapes—here are a couple of my earrings made with her domed cane slices (these photos lack a bit of depth…both the polymer in back and the silver disks in front are concave):

Silver Meets Polymer #2 Silver Meets Polymer #3

In some of the all-silver styles I showed earlier, it seemed to make a noticeable difference to the “balance” of the earrings whether the long stretch of wire ran up the front or the back. With these lightweight polymer pieces, however, it doesn’t seem to matter quite so much (though it is still good if the wires are appropriately work-hardened once you’ve got them in place). That is a useful thing to know going forward.

While we’re experimenting, it also makes sense to try comparing flat polymer disks too; again, the canes were provided by Barbara, and I repeated both of the styles of wires I’d used above:

Silver Meets Polymer #4 Silver Meets Polymer #5

I was happy to see that these seem to remain “upright” better than the the ones with big metal disks. That’s good because it provides a practical reason, as well as an artistic one, for using these two materials together.

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Moving Further Along (Month of Earrings #16-17-18)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/27

This Month of Earrings challenge (I’m well into the second half now!!!) has confirmed something I really knew already: I am drawn to movement.

As I was making the earrings with the orange jasper beads and citrus pattern that I mentioned in my last post, I got to thinking about giving a pair some more movement by hanging a another set (with smaller domes) this way:

Spinner Disk Earrings #7

And I’ll admit something: I had already domed those silver disks so that the texture was on the concave side (as shown in a number of my earlier entries). To get them to work for this pair, I had to put them in my dapping block and get them turned the other way. Whew: It worked!

There are several kinds of movement in both of these as well:

Movement Earrings #5 Movement Earrings #6

The four disks with a curve down the middle are leftovers from something else I tried last summer. (Those were OK, but I wasn’t that crazy about them, so I didn’t continue with that idea. I’d already made these four, however, so I just set them aside, knowing I’d find a use for them eventually.) What I did now was to make four more disks, flat ones, and attach them to the back.

Once everything was fired and polished, I decided to apply a patina to one pair, while leaving the other as “naked” shiny silver. Then I balled up the ends of some pieces of Argentium silver wire, and started adding beads. There’s a little bit of color from the Swarovski crystals at each end. To keep those from hitting the silver, next there are little glass beads of a similar color. And to keep all of that lined up nicely and allow the silver beads in the center to spin on the wires, there’s a column of tiny (11/0) glass seed beads down the middle of each tube. It’s a shame they end up hidden, but they serve a good purpose in there.

Then, the Argentium wires are finished with a wrapped loop, and hung on (purchased) sterling silver earwires. For what it’s worth, the tiny coils on the wires can spin as well, if you really want to fiddle with something that small.

(While I’m at this challenge, I’m also making a lot of the earwires I’m using. But I don’t feel compelled to do that for every piece. I’ll make ones where I want some custom design, but I do not feel compelled to make ones that look like ones I could easily buy. I got into all this because I wanted to make things I couldn’t readily find on the market; when I can find an appropriate component to use, I see that as saving me time that I can then spend on special ones.)

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Spinning Right Along (Month of Earrings 13-14-15)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/24

Continuing on the spinner-earring theme for the moment, I still like that little flat-wire spiral on the first set I made. Let me try to turn the earwire around. (Another great customer suggested that, and I was happy to be able to pull these out!. I’m using balled-up wire-ends, not the latchback design of the Art Jewelry magazine project that inspired these particular experiments, so if I put the ball in front, that can help to hold the spiral in place.

This pair has three layers of handmade spinners (two fine silver disks plus that flattened spiral of Argentium silver wire), threaded onto handmade 20 gauge Argentium silver earwires with a small ball on the front end:

Spinner Disk Earrings #4

For this next pair, given the design on the disks (especially the smaller ones) I didn’t think they needed a spiral in front. So these just have two fine silver disks threaded onto similar earwires.

Spinner Disk Earrings #5

Since I do seem able to get the wires bent at angles that let the weight of the discs direct them into a reasonable position, let me take that another step with these, where the focus is on lovely round orange jasper beads nestled into domed disks with a citrus-like texture:

Spinner Disk Earrings #6

Ooh, these seem to get yummier with each iteration. (Sorry: it’s the end of the blood orange season for this year—one of my favorite fruits—and I guess I’m thinking about when I should eat the last two of those I managed to buy.)

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Another experiment in design (Month of Earrings 10-11-12)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/21

On the plus side, regarding my earring experiments with a spinner / movement design, I am finding that I can bend and twist the wire in such a way that the pieces do seem to hang in a nice position. But what else can I do to improve the construction process, to reduce the risk to the beads while still getting the practical effect I want from them?

For one thing, I can return to using silver disks with a bit of a hollow-dome shape, into which the beads can safely nestle. And I can try using smooth glass beads, such as these with a lovely rose-colored lining:

Movement Earrings #4

The look seems nice, but those particular beads have a rather large hole. Even though I hammered the wires flat, which widened them a bit, the beads do still want to ride up, and off the earwire, when you put the piece down for storage. Now, I usually sell my earrings with a small rubber or plastic “ear nut” that some people like because they feel it reduces the risk of losing an earring. Carefully replacing that will, of course, help to hold the rose-colored bead in place when not being worn. But I prefer construction methods that don’t rely on such trickery later on.

So the next experiment topped a glass bead with a tiny bugle bead, and then a small seed bead. (Those have been in my stash since I lived in Minnesota, where the temptations of Bobby Bead were oh so near my office in Minneapolis.)

Spinner Disk Earrings #2

That approach appears to have a future although, in subsequent designs, I can plan ahead and make silver pieces that are a better fit with it. For an experiment though (using disks made at random during the February clay play day with my local metal clay guild), I’m happy with those.

Digging through the stash, looking for the Japanese bugle beads for that, I came across a handful of small silver-lined glass beads. (Clearly, I’ve been interested in silver since long before I ever started working with silver clays…) They are smaller than the rose-colored ones, above, with smaller holes. They serve their purpose of helping to hold the various bits together while almost disappearing into the design.

Spinner Disk Earrings #3

So, I’m still learning as I go, but seem to be moving in a reasonable direction. Or, at least I hope I am…

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Crystal bicone beads: both pretty and practical (Month of Earrings #7-8-9)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/18

The domed earrings I entered as my first items for the Month of Earrings challenge are a variation on a project described in Art Jewelry magazine last summer.

In that article, both disks were cut out of a sheet of sterling silver, then hammered, filed, and assembled with a small bead onto hand-shaped sterling silver earwires. Since I’m one of those people who rarely follows a recipe exactly, not even the first time any more, the first ones I made based on that article used one disk of fine silver and one of copper (no sterling for either). I chose to dome both of those, and then used a little flattened spiral of sterling in place of the bead. I did follow the instructions for how to make the earwires … almost! I made a small modification to the back, however, to help hold all the pieces upright at the ear. Problem is, while these pieces do hold together wonderfully while being worn, the components want to slide around on the wire when you take them off and put them into your jewelry box between wearings.

Having made those, it’s (now) clearer to me why the instructions were written the way they were, and which variations affect which aspects of both look and practicality. Ah, let’s hear it for variations! I can use the Month of Earrings challenge to explore some more of those, and see which ones do and do not work reasonably well, which ones may be even more of an improvement on the original!

For now, two tweaks:

  • The bead in front, and the wire that bends around it, help to hold the disks in place when you store the earrings. Though I like the look of my little flat wire spiral, that didn’t have quite enough bulk to serve the same purpose. Let me try some little Swarovski crystal beads instead.
  • The latchback earwires offer one kind of look, and the weight of wire towards the back helps to nudge the earrings into a nice hanging position. Can I get a good position if I turn the earwires into a slightly simpler “french” style? (I consider this in part because several regular customers who saw the first ones asked if I could make some this way instead.)

Here goes…. First, several experiments with crystals. One set in an indigo color (plus, instead of two round disks, one round disk that can spin and one oval one that swings back and forth for a bit of sassy movement):

Movement Earrings #1

And another set in a peridot color (plus, one round disk that can spin if you want, and a little square in front that can swing):

Movement Earrings #2

I discovered a small problem there, probably due to my wire-working skills, but it was very easy to chip a bit of the crystal in the process of trying to neatly bend the wire into position. So, for now, one more trial, this time with small silver-lined clear glass beads surrounding each crystal, to offer a smidgeon of protection:

Movement Earrings #3

That did make the assembly a lot easier, but I do slightly prefer the look of the single crystal bead on each piece. What do you think? (Thanks for any comments … hint, hint!)

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Double Duty (Month of Earrings #4-5-6)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/16

I led a great little class on Sunday at KoolKat. Several returning students and one enthusiastic newcomer. Each participant made four to six pieces that could be used for pendants, charms, or earrings.

On the “second” side, we used a variety of slip-trailing techniques (with the consistency of the slip itself ranging thick to runny; using refilled syringes, a spoon, paintbrushes; etc.). On the first, we may have rolled it out with a texture, or left it smooth, or applied slip there too.

Reversible Earrings #1

While I was demonstrating rolling, texturing, cutting, hole-making, plus slip trailing and other forms of embellishments, I was able to make several more pieces for the Month of Earrings. After they were fired, I applied a patina using “liver of sulphur” and hung them on sterling silver earwires in such a way that they can be slipped off (ha…) and turned around depending on which side you want to show in the front.

Reversible Earrings #2Reversible Earrings #3

As photographed, these three pairs illustrate the sides with stamped textures.

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Finding the “Right” Use for Various Components

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/13

A third pair of earrings for the Month of Earrings challenge:

Silver Meets Polymer #1

A good number of years ago, the daughter of a friend received a collection of packages of polymer clay as a gift from one of her aunts (in another state, over 1000 miles away). None of me, my friend, nor her daughter had ever worked with the stuff before (though I’d at least seen pieces made with it). As a subsequent gift from me to this friend (who said she wanted “time” more than anything else), I said I’d figure out what to do with the clay and, the next time the kids had a day off school on a workday for the parents, I’d take the day off to stay with them and hold a little “polymer party” to keep them busy for several hours. (She was delighted with the offer!)

Between seeing the daughter’s clay and making the offer, I did spend one evening experimenting with polymer, just to see what I might be getting myself into. I gave some of my results to the children, and kept a few others that I’ve used here and there over the years. The blue and white beads, above, are the only ones remaining from that episode. Little leftovers, different from each other in size and shape, they have been sitting in one of my bead-stash boxes biding their time.

The little round silver ball has been sitting in a silver-stash box as well. (You laugh at all this talk of stashes? Please leave a comment describing yours, dear reader!) The base was made as I was showing a friend how to work with cork clay: I make small, simple demo pieces and wait for some other opportunity to use them. Mine sat there, unfired, for months. One day when I was trying to show a student some things about manipulating a syringe full of clay, I pulled out the little ball, and illustrated my comments by decorating it.

So along comes this earring challenge. I looked at those three pieces and said, the silver ball is a little smaller than the polymer one, but the three pieces do sort of go together. Make a fourth variation. Thus, the brand-new silver cylinder.

When I went to put them all together, I decided I didn’t want to do the “usual” thing of putting a pair of beads on some wire, topping that with a wrapped loop, and dangling that from an earwire. (I do have some like that in the works. It’s just not what I wanted for these.) I wanted a one-piece construction: for each earring I made a headpin (by cutting two pieces of Argentium sterling silver wire and using a torch to ball up one end of each), put the silver and polymer beads on those (in opposite orders), topped each pair with a tiny white seed bead, and bent the rest of that metal into its own earwire.

One main reason for the usual (two-part) process is to hold it all together. The wrapped loop at the top helps prevent the components from just sliding off the wire and getting lost. Here, instead, I added the tiny seed bead on top: its hole is far smaller than those of the other two components of each piece. After bending the earwire into shape, and rounding off the far end, I flattened the curved part some with a hammer. That serves two purposes:

  • It work-hardens the wire a bit, which should help it last longer, and
  • The flattening makes the wire too big for the little seed bead to pass, thus forcing all the beads to stay on the wire!

I sure hope someone will like them enough to buy them and give them a good home.

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Speaking of Weaving Silver

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/11

I probably should mention that Woven Silver is the topic for my next class. I’ll be back at KoolKat again for that one, on March 28. It’s a class that’s open to beginners, so the kinds of things you can expect to make are along these lines:

Three Woven Silver Pendants (Class Samples)

But, as I said in the post before this one, I’m working on a little collection of “three- dimensional” woven pieces too, and looking forward to being able to teach an intermediate-level class this summer where students can learn that too. Whether flat or curvy, weaving flexible greenware is lots of fun!

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Weaving a Saddle Shape

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/10

But of course, I’m easily distracted from the earring challenge. The Bead Mercantile show came to town last weekend. As I approached the Talisman booth, my attention was immediately captured by these beads:

I cried out “Ooooh!” as I grabbed a strand of them. Several friends from the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild were there too, and they commented that the beads were interesting. But none of them said it with the sort of enthusiasm that I clearly felt.

For me, that is, it wasn’t just the beads. Yes, I like them, but the exclamation was because I knew I was going to leave the show and go figure out how to make a piece like this from metal clay:

At this point, they don’t quite go together. I like the shiny silver (a bit more muted in the photo than in reality), but the pendant needs a bit of a patina if it’s going to be strung with those particular beads. I just figure that I’ll wear it like this for a few days, to see what kind of reactions I get to it as a solo piece, while I give a bit of thought to how I might modify the construction process I devised so that making a whole series like this might be reduced to a reasonable amount of effort.

Once I’ve had a chance to make several more, then I’ll figure out which one(s) to patina and string with the beads that inspired them, and which to just hang on good chains all by themselves. Some final results should appear on this ‘blog eventually!

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Domed Weave Earrings

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/04

And the Month of Earrings challenge lets you go back and include anything you made since the start of the year. That is, the month is really three months long: isn’t that a delightfully generous deadline?

Woven Rectangles

I made that pair while Tim McCreight was in town in mid-January, teaching classes at the Society for Contemporary Craft.

I set that photo up so that clicking on it will switch to a page with a larger image and brief description of how these were made.


A later addition to this post: I forgot that I had an old photo of the woven-sheet earrings from the class I took with CeCe Wire down at the (then-wonderful but now-defunct) Made in Metal in Baltimore:

(While my more recent photos aren’t great, looking back at that one I can see some improvement…)

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Month of Earrings

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/01

OK, I went and did it. I signed up for Vickie Hallmark’s challenge for a Month of Earrings. It’s been going since the start of February, but it actually runs through the end of March. So I should be able to do it…

I can’t enter these. I made (and sold) them several years ago, one of the first pairs of earrings I ever made:

But the pair I put in for my first entry are ones I’ve already shown on this blog, talking about domes. So I thought I’d post that picture for now.

One pair down, twenty-nine to go. (Why) does that sound so much more manageable than two earrings down, fifty-eight to go?

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