Convergent Series

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

Archive for June, 2010

Fine Silver Butterflies.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/28

Periodically I teach a beginning metal clay workshop on Fine Silver Butterflies. I had a wonderful time at one of those this past Saturday, at the delightful Your Beading Heart in Irwin, PA. (Follow owner-Linda’s directions, but not your GPS, if you want to find the place!)

This is a very wide-open, do-what-you-want, workshop, but the butterfly-theme gives us a definite starting-point for our designs. In all my beginner classes, I take an assortment of tools for participants to use, and samples for them to consider if they want. I have neither the space nor time to haul everything around to each workshop but, for the Butterflies class, I make a point of taking all the butterfly-related doo-dads that I have: texture sheets, stamps, pastry cutters, paper punches, etc. Folks can make one or more of: pendants, charms, earrings, key fobs, etc.

(I’ll try to remember to revise this post by adding a photo once they’ve been fired…) I meant to add a photo once they’ve been fired but then I was so eager to get them back to their makers that, sigh, I forgot that step.

I also take other textures, cutters, and such, in case someone comes because they were really interested in the beginner-class, not so much inspired by the butterflies themselves. (The one person in Saturday’s class who fell into that category wanted to make a piece in a shape for which I have an ideal drying-form which, of course, I’d left out of my kit when I added the extra butterfly-theme items! Not to worry, though, we improvised quite well. Have I ever mentioned how much I love this medium for its flexibility?)

Out in my garden at this time of year, however, I start trying to figure out how to make pieces that resemble lightning bugs. I can sculpt the creatures themselves, but how might I best represent their intermittent light, their lovely glow, their gentle motion? I haven’t yet come up with a solution I like for that.

I lived in England for several years and, much as I loved other aspects of gardening in that green land, during my time there I did miss the blinking yellow courtship signals of these critters. (Even though I know about variations in native species, I was stunned to realize they didn’t have lightning bugs! And I’ve encouraged friends I made there to come over at this time of year, to experience for themselves what I was talking about.)

I also spent one spring and early-summer in China. (The photo shows our lodgings near Baoguosi. It was taken one afternoon, walking back from Southwestern Jiaotong University, a day or two before we headed up Emei Shan.) Here, we slept under mosquito-netting while watching the lightning bugs flitter around the room, glowing in a wonderful pale green color. What a delightful surprise that was!

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Two pieces with a trio of good causes.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/24

On Wednesday, metal clay guild-mates Michelle Glaeser, Debbie Rusonis and I led a workshop that was “donated by our Guild” to the Society for Contemporary Craft‘s annual fund-raiser last April. (Donna Penoyer and I offered something similar last year, before I started this blog.)

Here’s how the deal worked:

  • Our guild donated a basic “private lesson” for one to four persons to the SCC. The SCC auctioned it off as a part of their “Out of Hand” event.
  • In thanks for the donation, SCC offered the use of one of their basement studios to our Guild for a day-long “clay play” session.
  • As a result of the auction, a couple of women with no prior experience with metal clay were able to get individual guidance on hand-crafting a piece of fine (.999) silver jewelry of their own design.

‘Twas a wonderful win-win situation all around!

Prior to the lesson, both participants claimed they “were not artistic” and would need a lot of help with their creations. But our guild members knew that one of the delights of working with metal clay is the way that “mere mortals” can produce interesting results right from the start.

We brought examples of pieces we had created and, as a part of the lesson, demonstrated various techniques in the making of several more. We provided our guests with a choice of stamp designs, a collection of cutting tools, plus quick demonstratons on shaping sheets of clay, and rolling little bars, balls, and bails. But the final results (finished on both sides) were entirely the designs of our students, Sandra and Terry, and bore little resemblance to the demo-pieces. At the end of the evening, I expressed how much I’d enjoyed spending the evening with such talented artists.

You can judge yourself, from the results illustrated above.

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Bridgeville Days!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/19

I went down to Bridgeville (again) today. Trish and crew at Zelda’s Beadkit Company were celebrating Bridgeville Days by offering several different "Make & Take" options.

Trish had her usual stash of "kids beads" so that eager youngsters could string their own pretty treats.

Philadelphia-based wire-artist Gina offered several delightful earring and pendant designs. (The photo shows Cherie’s daughter, who quickly mastered the pendants.)

I offered custom decorative head-pins, made by attaching a design in metal clay to fine silver wire.

Darlene and Mike stopped by when I happened to have my camera out. Darlene caught onto the wire working project right away, making a complex and lovely pendant.

Mike picked up the pendants he’d made in my toggle clasp class on Wednesday. (No, no typos in that: I’ll comment more in a moment…) He bought some wire to follow the instructions in one of the magazines on display and, using a mix of tools Trish keeps at the shop plus ones Gina and I had brought, proceeded to make a variation on that. So, though I only met him a few days ago, I do have the impression that Mike follows his own mind. A nice mind, full of creative ideas that produce good results, but definitely his own.

But it’s a good photo: Everyone there is happy.

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From one Metal Clay Fan to Another

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/09

That charm is my contribution to the Charms for Charity fundraiser for this year. Proceeds go to either the American Cancer Society or the Bone Marrow Foundation.

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Let the rains begin!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/07

Of course we should expect rain: the Three Rivers Arts Festival began on Friday, June 4th. This is the fifty-first such event.

You can find some of my fine silver jewelry at the KoolKat Booth, on Gallery Row, in Gateway Plaza by the fountain, in spaces 83-84.

Did you know: The three Galleries are the only booths that will be in the Artists Market for the entire length of the Festival? Individual artists can be there for either three days or five. Three-day booths are down by the Point, for one Friday-Saturday-Sunday stint. Five-day booths are up in the plaza, either the first Friday through Tuesday, or the second Wednesday through Sunday. (For a variety of behind-the-scenes reasons, there may be a few exceptions to those rules, but that’s how it works in general.) So you should try to get to the Market at least twice! And leave yourself time to see the various exhibits too, and listen to some of the wonderful live music.

And, of course, expect it to rain. It always does, for this Arts Festival. I was expecting rain, when I helped work at the booth on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. I was not, however, expecting the blustery storm on Friday night. (I hear it was even worse on Saturday!) Clearly, Kate hadn’t expected it to get quite that bad either, when she planned the booth. (This was the first time KoolKat has ever participated in this market.) Lovely pottery blew off tables onto the Plaza’s concrete floor of our booth. The pottery had been sitting on gorgeous handmade wooden tables whose legs were suddenly standing in several inches of water. (That fix was easy, if less than elegant: the legs acquired several layers of "stockings" of the shop’s plastic bags….) The humans who found themselves standing in three inches of water, on the other hand, just bore their misfortune together in rain-can’t-defeat-us solidarity.

The tornado-warning winds blew rainwater into the jewelry display cases. In general, the pieces themselves could withstand that onslaught, though the inks on many of the tags and a lot of the information about individual artists in the cases became smeared into watery rivulets. Artists’ business cards and display information were simply gone, but I was able to spend some time retagging most of the pieces themselves from information on the inventory sheets that had remained dry, tucked away in the back of the booth. Karen and I also spent time covering the leaky display-case joints with clear packaging tape.

Still, if I had to be in a festival cloudburst, the booth was a good place to be. We were under a tent, not out in the park. No one was injured. And we all learned some lessons that we’ll be able to work around for future shows. So, from the perspective of learning, can we say it was several hours well spent?

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Oh, baby-kiln, please be mine!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/06

The kiln that I mentioned in my last post has been causing me problems came from Rio Grande. Though covered under warranty, they didn’t want to send me a completely brand new one, and I didn’t want to accept a too-heavily-used one. We needed to find an acceptable middle-ground to resolve the problem.

Well, they sent two to another Rio Rewards PMC Certification class, to be held in Pittsburgh, at the Society for Contemporary Craft. (The first one was last January, in the middle of winter.) Tim McCreight came back and taught two classes: one on mold-making and t’other was the actual certification class.

Rio normally sells one of the kilns to a student in the class. (The price isn’t any less than a qualified customer would get, but you save because there are no shipping costs involved). For the second kiln, the host institution has dibs on it first, if they want it, which SCC does not. If there are no other “priority list” people in an area, then the second one goes to a student as well.

Even though I had signed up for neither of those classes, I was designated as eligible for the second kiln. To replace the problem-kiln, one of these two will be heading off with me at the end of these classes.

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Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/05

Though you may have seen one of the small electric kilns used by metal clay artists, you may never have seen the guts of the “digital controller” that’s behind the black faceplate. Here’s one example:

Even if you’ve seen one, have you ever seen a whole collection of them? I now have!

Are you wondering why I happen to have some just sitting in a row like that?

Well, I’m wondering why and none of these led my kiln to work correctly!

The middle one won’t even turn on. The other two (from different batches) won’t hold the kiln at anything even near the set temperature for the required time.

Somehow, I thought that moving from computer visualization into art jewelry would mean I wouldn’t have to spend time writing bug reports any more. Silly me! At least, I know how to make a bug report, so the tech support folks working with me on this are likely to believe I do know how to set up and use the controllers. But I really had not allocated any time for this sort of thing, and what’s happening is that work on my website, and writing on this blog, are getting shoved aside on the schedule once again.

More on this shortly. But I figured I should explain why I’ve been so quiet lately…

Posted in Technical Details | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

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