Convergent Series

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

Archive for August, 2010

White bronze clay! First-time Trials and Tribulations…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/30

Time to try yet another base metal clay: white bronze from Hadar Jacobson.

When trying something new, it’s fun to have another experimenter nearby to compare notes with. So, once again, I headed up for a few days at Alice Walkowski’s great “Ally’s Art” studio at the National Transit Building in Oil City, PA. (As last month, Alice’s student Virginia was there one afternoon too, now working on a gift for her daughter: I cannot risk giving away the “surprise” but the recipient should be delighted by the artistry and impressed with all the effort in that!)

One afternoon Alice and I each mixed up a batch of white bronze powder and explored working with the resulting clay. Alice posted her version of this story. The mixing process and working properties of white bronze are very similar to those of the yellow bronze I described last month.

Hadar suggests, particularly with white bronze, starting with plain “test pieces” that are the same size (in all dimensions) as the “real” ones you intend to make. How to make “test” pieces with all the quirks of real ones?! I just made simple “real” pieces for my initial tests. Shown first is a partially-polished holiday ornament. It’s the first piece I started to “clean up” after firing, and my immediate reaction was positive.

That feeling did not last as long as I’d’ve liked. Shown next is another attempt at a holiday ornament. It started out the same size as the first, though with an outer border that had been rolled a bit thinner. (That difference was not intentional but, when I noticed it in the drying clay, I chose to leave it, hoping the “sturdiness” of bronze would make that OK.) As I began to clean up this piece after firing, bits of corners and edges broke off. They looked solid: no sign of darker, unsintered clay. So I took a pair of pliers and easily broke off the border down to the thicker center square, then filed those edges smooth. I can try to “reclaim” this with a future experiment in adding a backing layer or other hanging device….

Since my first trials with copper and yellow-bronze involved making little fan-shaped charms, I wanted to try a couple of those in white-bronze too. (These are actually the first pieces I made with white bronze powder: I’d mixed a small batch and formed two fans during a demo of working with clay powders at the August meeting of our local metal clay guild.) Somewhat reminiscent of the edges on the second ornament, above, the fans had thin little tassels that quickly broke off. In other ways, however, these pieces appeared to have sintered.

Now, I’d had tassels break off of a few of my earlier copper and yellow-bronze charms, but only when they’d shown other signs of inadequate sintering. But something else happened with my second white bronze fan charm. As I began its post-fire clean-up, it slipped off my polishing block, landed a mere couple inches down on a metal table-top, and broke. I’d seen no previous sign of cracking, and the relatively thick edge along the break had the white-metal color that I took to mean it had sintered (i.e., I wasn’t seeing the original darker clay). Though I did no more polishing on the front of the piece, I did try polishing up a bit the edge along the break, and it continued to show a solid metallic-shine.

Alice made some pieces too; we fired all of ours together in her SC-2 kiln (muffle-style, front-loading). We generally made “pairs” of pieces, arranged them symmetrically in our firing box, and mapped out where all of them were placed.

These two had been placed along the sides. They were closest to the front, but there was still a good bit of space between them and the door. They had seemed OK at first, as I tested and polished the backs. But once I got a bit more aggressive in polishing the fronts, the dreaded “dark clay below” began to appear, a clear sign that they hadn’t sintered fully. (It’s very obvious on the right side of the piece on the left; it’s also visible elsewhere on that piece and on the one to the right.) These will go back into the “to be fired” box for now; although I have some doubts about how the buffed-down-to-clay parts will look after firing. But these are test pieces, to see what happens.

Despite problems with sintering and breaking, however, the thing I find most frustrating about these “base metal clays” is how few you can fire in a single load. I don’t mind (much) the fiddling with carbon and firing boxes. I don’t mind (at all) the limits on torch-firing (I prefer using a kiln even with silver pieces, not because using a flame bothers me, but because I prefer “full firing” at highest temperature and longer times). I don’t mind the multi-step firing programs, nor re-programming the kiln for different metals or combinations of metals. I don’t mind the longer firing times (e.g., close to 5 hours for this “quick fire” white bronze), plus longer cooling times. But, in comparison to the simple firing process with precious metal clays, if it’s going to involve that many extra steps, and that much more time, then I do wish that I could load up the kiln with as many pieces as I can when firing silver, instead of just a fraction of that amount. Hadar seems to be working on some alternatives that could prove helpful so, at least for now, I’ll remain optimistic.

I will try doing a bit more with these base-metal clays when I find spare time. (And write up some notes for here.) From a design perspective, I really like the possibilities from combining several different colors in a single piece. (But I’m not going there until I’ve mastered the firing quirks of the separate metals!) From a teaching perspective, I’d been hoping I could offer base-metal classes where I could charge less for the materials while also letting folks make larger pieces. But if it’s going to take multiple hours-long firings just to complete the pieces for a class, then any savings on materials will be eaten up with larger registration fees to cover everything involved in those firings. I’m not saying I won’t, eventually, both produce pieces and teach classes using these clays. I’m just saying that I’m waiting until more of the kinks in firing them have been worked out before I get as enthusiastic about them as I am about precious-metal clays.

Back to silver for a while!

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Phipps Conservatory: Textures and Designs

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/24

Well, the weather has gotten much more “reasonable” lately, but now I have a number of other things on my calendar, so I still haven’t had a chance to make any more jewelry lately.

But it’s not as though I haven’t been thinking about it when I have a few spare moments. I went to Phipps Conservatory on Saturday and, in addition to the blooms and butterflies, and the special exhibit items of gargoyles and grotesques, I found myself thinking of jewelry textures as we strolled past the multi-layered Torch Ginger and the intricately-twisted Fig.

I have a few thoughts on how I might incorporate those designs into future pieces. I’m a little less certain of how I might interpret the whitewashed conservatory windows. Despite that, I liked the look of them, so I include a photo. And your suggestions are welcome!

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Support networks.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/15

When I take on new passions (like this one for metal clay), I do tend to assume that my friends will accept and support my doing so. (I will, for example, be forever grateful to the group of friends who came down to Art All Night a few years ago, not just because I thought it was a great event, but because I’d taken a very deep breath and agreed to give my very first public demonstrations of working with metal clay at that venue. Did I mention that it draws upwards of 10,000 people?) But it is only fair that these friends are permitted to assume I will do the same for them.

So when my friend Barbara met and married Bob, I happily adopted him as my friend too. And when Barbara supports Bob’s passion for “professional cars,” of course I support both of them in that.

Which is how I ended up spending several hours this afternoon down at the 2010 Muster of the Tri-State Antique Fire Engine Association, a local chapter of the Society for the Preservation & Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America.

This year’s event was, once again, held down along Pittsburgh’s North Shore, near the end of what is called the Allegheny River, just before it joins the Monongahela to form the Ohio. (Local sports fans might describe it as, “right next to Heinz Field” (home of the Pittsburgh Steelers) but I prefer the river-based description myself… Especially because, in the heat of the summer, the pumper-sprays blowing in the wind can be so refreshing!)

A number of photos did not work out (something I knew at the time) because the point-and-shoot camera I had with me couldn’t figure out how to “focus” on the spray-haze. But this last shot has a brown “blob” on the left edge of the big oval arch that is a very oversized bronze sculpture of Pittsburgh’s own (Mr.) Fred Rogers. See, the bronze offers a (long stretch, I admit it) art-metals tie-in after all!

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Charm Bracelet #2 from the Conference

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/13

With tomorrow morning looming as a deadline, since our next guild chapter meeting will start off with a “Show & Tell” session, late this afternoon at last I sat out in the breeze on my front porch and (1) assembled three sizes of bronze jump rings into a simple bracelet and (2) attached my remaining charms from this year’s charm exchange (about 1/3 of my total “haul”). And here it is!

The ones on the other bracelet from this event are all completely, predominantly silver. The ones on this bracelet are either (a) clearly copper or bronze, (b) may contain a bit of silver but that’s not the predominant material, (c) silver wth a color added that I thought would go well with these or, (d) not clear to me exactly what material was used (e.g., the one from Mary Ellin D’Agostino (the narrow rectangle at about 7 o’clock) may (or may not) include a base made of her “married metals” (a self-made alloy of silver and copper clays) with a small silver square-shaped component on top). But, I think these eleven (including one of my very-first bronze fans) make a nice mix.

If you’re one of those people who pays really close attention to details, you may have noticed that neither the description above nor the photo include the concept of a clasp… Oh, well! At one point, I was looking at bronze clasps I might buy and thought, if I buy a chain it’s have one, and if I make a chain I’ll make the clasp to go with it. Well, here I am with a piece that’s calling out for a simple manufactured clasp. I may find one at the shop (Your Beading Heart) tomorrow, or I may just wait until a different opportunity arises. Easy enough.

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PMC Conference: Demo Sessions.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/13

Most of the lectures and demos were held in what I think of as oversize classrooms at Purdue. (I have, myself, taught in “regular” classrooms (seating up to about 40 students) and in large “lecture hall” settings (holding many hundreds of students) but these are somewhere between those two. Almost as big as a small auditorium (where I’m used to being down in a “pit” looking up at everyone) but with the “flat” aspect of a regular classroom (forcing the teacher to be up on a stage). With a good selection of AV resources available (and you wonder why college tuition is going up…) Hey, Carol, get back on topic about something related to metal clay. But designing and operating such facilities has been a big part of my “other life”… Nevermind that. Focus here. Oh, ok, here goes…

There were a series of “tag team demos” at the conference this year, one during each “lecture sessions” slot. What a dilemma: go to one of the several other concurrent formal presentations, or one of these? Me, I split my time about half and half. (That is, of the five slots, for two I attended a lecture, for two I attended a demo, and for one I split my time about half and half.) If the same number of sessions had been spread across seven timeslots, instead of five, I think I could have gotten to all the ones I really wanted to attend…. (There were also three “general” sessions, and several other slots with different kinds of demos.)

The third of the five tag-team demos was offered by “our” Donna along with Robert Dancik. Most of these two-person demos covered some fairly basic techniques, but it still can be informative to see how someone else works, how they handle various situations, how they describe their thought process as they approach a task, and so on. Debbie and I decided to attend this one, but sat rather far off to the side here: we figured that others who didn’t have Donna in their neighborhood, nor have Robert coming to town in, really, just a few weeks now, should have the close-up seats. Still, I tried to get a quick snapshot of Donna during one part of her presentation.

Should you ever happen to hear anyone talking about Robert and his “big tools” then this second photo is my attempt to capture one small example of that. You may want to try clicking on the image in case you can get a better idea from the slightly larger version there, but he’s holding (and this is also projected on the screen behind him) what I’m guessing might be a pound of brown (uncured) polymer clay rolled into a log shape and he’s just pressed onto it what may be a foot-wide, inch or two thick, foil-covered disc of some sort, and he’s using that to illustrate various aspects of riveting. (If you’ve really seen these up close, and want to correct or help amplify my descriptions, please let me know….)

I can’t resist (trying to) end this series of reports with one more shot of Donna, at the end of their session, displaying an array of her wonderful creatiions spread out in front of her, and projected (to sizes too big for even Carmen Banana to carry off) on the screen behind her. It seemed like just about everyone in the audience who had a camera tried to get their own shot at this point!

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PMC Conference: The Program of Events

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/13

Just a quick note: if you’re waiting for me to do one of my long write-ups on the program sessions themselves, well, I wasn’t really planning to do all that too. Sorry!

Members of our local group (Western Pennsylvania & surrounding areas of OH and WV) can talk with Debbie, Donna and me at our meeting this Saturday. And anyone (local crew or otherwise) for the moment at least can still find some info about what-all was planned via the conference website:

An outline of this year’s full schedule can be downloaded here:

Handouts from a number of the sessions (though not all…) for the event this year (and others back through the years too!) are available to all here:

The one thing that really wasn’t available online ahead of time (and does not appear to have been added since) was the list of presentations held in the Vendors Hall. That schedule included:

– Introducing Something New: PMC Pro — by Mitsubishi (offered several times)
– Using Linda Kaye-Moses Doming Plates — by Whole Lotta Whimsy
– Fabrication with Copper Club Concepts — by Karen Hamilton / naturescapes studio
– Rivets and Gromets — by Chris Darway / Metal Clay Findings
– Wire Braiding & PMC — by Sharon Gillespie / Collage Studio
– Making Flower Forms Using Templates — Mary Ann & Ken Devos
– Alloying Silver & Copper Clays — Mary Ellin D’Agostino
– Masks & Faces Using Drape Molds — Lisel Crowley
– New Armature Materials for Hollow Forms — Mary Ann & Ken Devos
– BRONZclay — Yvonne Padilla / Rio Grande
– HattieS Products — Hattie Sanderson / Metal Clay Supply
– Quickart Templates – Judy Weers / Metal Clay Findings
– Syringe Mastery — Linda Stiles / naturescapes studio
– Rivets — Sherry Haab / Metal Clay Findings

(Links were not provided for those but there should be enough info that you can try searching for the contact people / topics if you want more info.)

The whole event was just so jam-packed full of information, and full of time for interacting with other metal clay enthusiasts, that it’d take way too long to report on it all. Just go next time and see for yourself!

I will, thus, start to wind down my conference-reporting. There should be one more post today that may be of particular interest to my fellow clayers in and around the ‘burgh (because it’ll have photos of one of ours). I still hope to post a photo of my base-metal-clays charm bracelet once it’s done. After that, I am praying for a break in the weather, so I can get back to making and to writing about that!

(But, if there’s anything else about the conference you’d like to know, feel free to leave a comment here…. If the weather remains so hot that I’m rehydrating clay via sweaty palms, and unable to even think of turning on a kiln or torch, I’ll appreciate suggestions for what to write about instead!)

Posted in Events, Guild | 2 Comments »

Surprise Appearance!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/11

Carmen [lots of middle names, most ending with the letter “a”] Banana made a surprise appearance at the 2010 PMC Guild Conference!

‘Twas funny to see how many people thought she was a local Purdue student hired for the wonderful reception sponsored by Rio Grande, versus how many realized that she’d driven the whole way out from the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild in Pittsburgh just for this event, metal clay and all.

(‘Twas also interesting to see how many people did and did not realize that the person handing out door prize tickets as we entered was Mr. Bell, the sponsor of that evening’s event….)

The fact that Carmen wears bananas on her head, without obviously sporting a metal clay whistle anywhere, probably added to the confusion over whether or not she also sometimes shrinks herself down to the exact same size as “the whistle lady.”

Some of the party-goers who had not grown up in the US appeared to be a bit baffled by this kind of entertainment. I did not get a photo of the gentlemen from Mitsubishi whose faces read, “We don’t have anything like this at home!” But the delightful (if slightly navigationally-challenged) Moon eventually decided to just take this surprise in stride.

Do you have any “characters” like this in your Guild chapter?

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Von’s Beads

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/10

Lest you think that the only treats I bought were those in the Vendors’ Hall, please let me correct that impression. Although I didn’t go on a buying binge “across the street” either, one of the delights of having the PMC Conference held at Purdue is the chance to shop at Von’s.

Now, West Lafayette is a college town, and Von’s is a sort of all-purpose store. Music and books and toys and more. And beads. Four rooms with beads. Four of them! Shown is one of the two smaller ones: stuffed animals up to eye-level part-way down each side, and then beads everywhere else: along the back walls and, everywhere, up to the old, high ceiling. I snapped this one because it’s the only room of a size that I could entirely capture on my phone’s cameral This is only a taste, a sample, an idea of the possibilities!

That’s the fourth room they opened. The third room is a bit longer and a lot wider with a divider across part of it that adds to the wall space available for hanging beads. It also has a huge collection of greeting cards, and a number of lovely art cards, and gifts and candles and more.

The second room is also kind of small, and is the “rock shop.” It has all kinds of goodies: geodes, fossils, and more, all crammed into a series of shelving units that twist around to fill every possible space. With each visit, you may select one free item from their small stock of sample rocks each with its own information card. I chose a sample of unakite (mostly becasue I’d just bought the fireable triangle CZs and this was a triangular stone I’d have to set post-firing, so I liked the idea of the contrasting processes), and then I bought four small pieces of blue moss chalcedony that I figured I’d use in some experinents I’ve been considering for some handmade prong settings. (Debbie had bought some of Holly Gage’s gorgeous titanium; but I really want to _master_ prongs before I go that route.)

And the first room is almost entirely beads. Well, there are a few narrow shelves with some Native American pottery and wooden boxes, and the checkout counter, but the rest is bead, beads, more beads, tables of beads, walls of beads, strands of beads, tubes of beads, bins of beads, selections of findings, groups of tools, and more.

My selections from there included two bead-types that are not typically on my shopping list: some carved resin beads from the “new arrivals” wall, and some goldstone on a strand that included several different sizes & shapes. Having just started to experiment with copper and bronze clays, I thought these might work well with some new creations there.

And while I was at it, I also picked up a few larger stones, drilled down through the center, including these two: seaweed quartz and porcelain jasper. I’ve been making custom headpins in various shapes, and I plan to do something along that line with these. And the matte black Czech glass beads (from the back of the “fourth” room) were just to fill a gap in the bead-stash that I’d noted a few months ago as I was working out some designs. I’ve no specific plan for them, but I like black with silver, so they’ll be used soon enough.

If you’ve ever been to Von’s, please be sure to add a comment. Or, if you’d like to go to Von’s some time, or want to suggest another great bead shop, note that too!

Posted in Shopping | 3 Comments »

Conference Vendors’ Hall … and my selections

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/09

Well, I’d started writing up reports of various aspects of the PMC Guild Conference at Purdue (for any readers, but these were intended in particular for my local guild-chapter mates who were unable to join Debbie, Donna, and me there this year). Then I got distracted by a few other developments. But here’s another of those reports.

Many of the vendors who sell metal clay and related products participate in a Vendors Hall. Particpating vendors in 2010 included (in alpha-order):

Gem Resources
Metal Clay Findings
Naturescapes Studio

Oregon Sunstone
PMC 123
PMC Connection
PMC Supply
Rio Grande
Whole Lotta Whimsy

and one or two others that I am blanking on at the moment. (If you can identify any others who were there, please leave a comment to help me out and I’ll be happy to update that list!)

I didn’t buy as much this time as I did in 2008: a little bit of that is “the economy” but mostly ’twas because I’ve done a pretty good job of stocking my studio since then. Yes, there are some items I still want, but either they are pricier things (I have to sell some more pieces to earn the money for those) or they just weren’t available at the show. But I did go for one “splurge”….

I’ve been getting e-mailings from Metal Clay Findings for some time now, but had not actually bought anything from them before last week. They have a lot of interesting fine silver components, plus bronze and copper ones, that work well with metal clay (ring shanks, for example, that you can embellish, and embeddable eyelets and bails), although I’ve remained happy working out ways to make my own. But the thing that drew me in this time was this tool:

On the right side of the photo is a little piece I made using the tool at their booth with their sample materials. (Yep, I’ll bring it to Clay Play Day this month for local folks to see.) There’s a rectangular copper blank to which iI added a bronze bail and a little bronze star. Both are riveted on: the bail, with a close-top rivet, and the star with a tube-rivet. You use a separate setting bit for each of those, so that’s the extra handle and little round seat; the allen wrench is what you use to swap that part out.

What the hardened steel tool does is to punch a hole of exactly the right size to accommodate either kind of rivet. Not that one can’t do this by hand, of course, but with this tool it is just soooo easy and quick and smooth. In finished products, what I’ll be trading is this: spreading out the cost of the tool instead of charging for my time to do them laboriously by hand. This may come easy to you, and I’m not too bad myself with larger rivets, but these are lovely little jewelry-size ones! Fiddly to work with, but super-easy to set with this device! I’ve been doodling design ideas, and hope to have some samples shortly. (For me, please note, “doodling” means cutting out and building little 3-D models more often than it means sketching ideas on paper, so that step often takes me a while…)

I also bought a collection of pre-cut rivets and eyelets to use with the tool (though, over time, I will experiment with comparing the use of these versus making my own).

Just for the sake of comprehensiveness, I’ll mention the other “little” things I picked up:

Since I’d broken down and started buying from Metal Clay Findings, I also tucked in a small sample of their bails and embeddables. I look forward to comparing the use of these to the ones I’ve cobbled together by hand:

I’d been perfectly happy using hockey pucks as rubber bench blocks, shown in the upper right of this photo (Go, Penguins!), but I decided to spring for one with a hole in the middle too (upper left). And, rather than have to remember to take brushes from my studio to class sites, I picked up a couple extra of those (one each, brass and steel) so I can just pack a set (probably my older ones) in my class-kit.

And then Gem Resources had a little bin with “3 packs for $10” CZs, so I picked up three sets of cut triangles, in three different sizes. I’ve not done much with ones that shape, but figured this was a chance to give a few a try.

If you were there and found any other goodies, please feel free to leave a comment describing them!

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Problem resolved, and mystery solved.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/08

It’s always something, isn’t it? Just when you think you’re making some progress, sixteen roadblocks suddenly appear. Not necessarily crises, mind you, just things that suck time and energy away from what you’d intended to do.

One of my time-sinks last spring involved problems with a new kiln. I wrote a little bit last June (with this same photo of three of the kiln controllers I’d tested) but the whole story is this:

With a digital kiln, in theory, you should be able to program it and walk away, letting it run while you do something else (whether that’s more jewelry, making dinner, getting a good night’s sleep, or whatever). It should “ramp” up to the set temperature, run through its entire program, and finish with no error code being reported. And mine would appear to do that. Except….

Mine was not holding the set temperature. It was yo-yo-ing, getting up ok, not getting too hot (whew! since that would have melted the contents) but it was dropping hundreds of degrees lower than it should have. Thus, all the binder was burning out fine, but some pieces were coming out inadequately sintered. Since it was not reporting any errors, however, I had to watch its display to identify the problem.

The kiln was still under warranty. It really had never worked right. To get coverage, nonetheless, I had to make it clear to the distributor that it wasn’t just some fluke or mistake at my end but, instead, some semi-replicable problem. Since it was not generating any error codes, I had to monitor repeated firings, to document and report what I observed.

Not wanting the expense of shipping kilns back and forth under warranty, these products are manufactured with a number of parts that can be replaced by the end-user. When you report a problem, they try to figure out the cause, and send you the piece to replace yourself. Even if they’re wrong, it’s more of your time than their tech’s that has been wasted, and the postage for shipping a few parts back and forth is less to them than that of shipping the kiln. I don’t mean that as any sort of attack on the kiln manufacturers or distributors, just as a statement about modern business practice in general… Much of the time, the problems are simple, fixed quickly, and everyone is happy.

But, in order to know if the replacement has worked, I needed to again watch it run. And since my kiln’s problem occurred somewhat erratically, I had to watch it a number of times to be sure … that the problem still wasn’t fixed.

After several rounds of this, with no improvement, the distributor agreed to take back the original kiln and let me have a new one. In the end, I was happy with how they handled that, and with the new kiln I’ve been using since mid-June. In other words, the problem has been resolved for a while.

I had said, since I’d spent so much time bonding with that kiln as I just sat there monitoring its operation, if they ever did figure out what the problem was, I’d like to know. I got a message on Friday saying they’d finally gotten to it. Now even the mystery of what was wrong with it has been solved!

After replicating the replacements I’d made, with things like controllers and thermocouple (which I understood they had to do to first check that it hadn’t been “just me”), one of the only other obvious possibilities was the relay. They’d not had me try replacing that. (After the relay, pretty much all that is left is some wire and the actual heating elements, isn’t it?) Well, it wasn’t the relay either. That piece was fine.

The problem was that the plug at the end of the wire that connects to the relay was loose. (I assume that connection is made with a plug — or, more accurately, a lug — rather than a direct soldered joint so that the relay is also user-replaceable.) But there it was, a simple manufacturing error: a crimp that wasn’t tightened down enough. Does that sound familiar, or what?! Ha!!!

Anyway, my website (which I’m trying to do myself) is probably half a year behind where I thought it’d be right now. And a good two of those months are directly attributable to time I spent watching that kiln fail. (Part of my plan for the site had been to work on that some of the times when the kiln just ran in the background.) I know, that leaves another four months to account for (no, dear reader, I won’t bore you with tales of other distractions) but I will publicly admit that I’m happy to know exactly why I lost all that “spare” time … to a kiln!

Posted in Technical Details | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

Wow: I’m featured on Metal Clay Magic!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/05

Magic Carpet (striped frame side)

I am completely amazed to realize that my “Magic Carpet” piece has just been featured on Wendy McManus’s great website, Metal Clay Magic. What an honor!

At the recent conference, I did the same thing Wendy describes: only after our delightful discussion (about brand neutrality in general, the relative oddity of brand-specific guilds, and the potential impact of so many new brands and formulations) did I realize why her name was so familiar to me. Duh!

What a memory she has, though, eventually. This pendant Wendy featured is from several months back, soon after I’d also started Vickie Hallmark’s Month of Earrings challenge.

If anyone landing here from Wendy’s site wants to read more about this particular piece, I’ve posted about it several times: once, describing how it came to be and, again, briefly, after I’d entered it in one of my favorite local shows, Art All Night.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

A Regular Event: The Charm Exchange

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/05

One of the regular events at PMC Guild conferences is an evening reception that involves a charm exchange.

Participation in the exchange is optional, but lots of fun. Prior to leaving for the event, you make up a number of charms: how many is your choice, but if you think that 15-20 makes a good-size charm bracelet, a lot of people will use that as a guide. (Of course, there’s no reason to limit yourself to a bracelet. Some folks will make a necklace. Others will decorate a purse. And so on: it’s entirely up to you!) At the reception, folks will wander around asking, “Do you have charms to exchange?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then you hand one over and get one in return. (At the end, a few people who made a lot will find that everyone else seems to have exhausted their pieces to exchange, but will often be generous and just give away their last few. If you feel so compelled, you can always make a few more and mail them one afterwards.)

The thing that is worth noting is that this is a sort of grab-bag event. Only rarely do you see in advance what you will be getting in exchange for your piece. You are just trusting that the people who attend this event are mostly interesting and creative people who’ll have produced something worth having. Most of the time, that is the case; and I just hope that most of the people who get one of my charms will appreciate what they have received as well.

All those little fan-shaped pieces I’ve blogged about in recent weeks were my entries into this event (and its spin-off, the Charms for Charity raffle, which raised a bit under $10K this time around). I had a few silver ones (made from PMC+), plus some copper and bronze ones (from Hadar’s powders). I took the grab-bag aspect one step further: I had them all in my pocket, and just grabbed one at random to hand out each time.

I took 30 in all. (I think it was 2 silver, 10 copper, 18 bronze. Or close to that.) Shown above are the 20 silver charms I got. I’ll post a photo of the other ten, all base metal (except one that has a silver base but includes some (again, this is what I think it is) resin in a sort of bronze-color that I thought went better with those). I’ve decided to assemble a bronze bracelet to hang those from, however, and add one of my own fans and maybe another small early experiment or two, so it may be a little while before I post that….

Some people include interesting elements. My biggest surprise, this year, was my exchange with Nicola Callow of Murano Silver in the UK who handed over a bar of all-natural handmade soap.

Now, Nic did get that this was a charm exchange. The soap was a bonus. A bonus that matched her charm! Note the round charm with a flower-shape having a red (resin, I think) heart in the center up at the top of this image (clicking on the image will open a larger version of it) that has the same design as the yellow flower in the soap.

The thing is, I’m now up to four charm bracelets (one from 2008, one from exchanging with folks in my local guild chapter, and these two from 2010), and I’m really not much of a charm-bracelet person. Oh well. One thing I do like to do with these bracelets is to take them when I teach metal clay classes. Even though the pieces are very small, they are a good way to open up discussions on a range of topics: design, construction, finishes, specific artists, and more. Lots of fun!

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Guild Chapters: Display Cases

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/04

Three of us from the Western PA area (Debbie, Donna, and me) went to this 2010 conference. One of the first things we did (before & during the registration hours) was to set up a display showcasing the work of some members of our local chapter.

In addition to the three of us, we had entries from Alice, Ann, Holly, and Stephania. Thanks so much to everyone who contributed! We had the first case as you entered the hallway, and Debbie and I commented on how it seemed that, every time we came through the door or down the stairs, there were a few people clustered around our display, pointing and talking about the contents.

I will admit that I really wish more of our members (there are over 60 people in our Yahoo group, for example) would have chosen to have their work included. We see such beautiful creations passed around during the Show and Tell sessions at our meetings. I would argue that every one of those pieces is at least as good as those in some of the other displays.

Some groups had, for example, items that were clearly from introductory classes, or were the set pieces from certification classes. And that’s fine: everyone was a “beginner” when they started out! And there are rising stars across the world now too, but there is no reason that the local “displays” should be devoted to those people only (the ones whose works makes it into journal articles and museum or gallery shows and thus have a variety of ways to have their work seen by others). I’m happy to have such pieces in our display, but this is a wonderful opportunity to mix those in with other creations.

What I saw as the “strength” of many of the displays (including ours, despite my comments above) is the way they seemed to illustrate collegiality among makers at all levels. I’ve no idea what the metal clay community may be like decades into the future but now, at just over one decade old, it still appears to be populated by a number of very open and helpful people. I hope that spirit lasts.

I did have some trouble getting decent photos of the display case contents: the fingerprint-covered glass doors and hallway activity and somewhat harsh lighting did not make it easy. I doubt I’ll post here (m)any of the shots I did try to take this year, though I will try to figure out how to get some of them to an upcoming meeting, at least, for my chapter-mates to see. In the meantime, if you want to see some samples, the PMC Guild has posted a few samples from the 2008 conference; if they update that site with 2010 photos, I’ll note that in a future post.

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Arriving at the Conference: Goodies

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/04

I’m just back from the 2010 PMC Conference at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, with nearly 300 participants this year, from (as I recall, at least) the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. So my next few posts will cover a range of different items, activities, and impressions from that.

Rarely terse myself, I’ll give lots of detail. While some readers will surely choose to merely skim this, I figure that detail will (a) be good for someone new to this who might appreciate it and (b) as a log for myself, should I ever want to go back and review any part of that.

I’ll start at the beginning, with registration. When you sign in at the conference, you are given a name badge and a carrier bag. The badge clips onto a rather long lanyard. This is a great design because it means you can either (a) take it off that and clip it onto your clothing as you choose, or else (b) wear it on the lanyard but hanging well away from any of the lovely pieces of jewelry you brought to wear. The font used for the names is fairly large, which permits most people to read them from a distance. Some people hand-write where they are from on the tag too.

This year the carrier bag was black with red trim and lettering, sponsored by Eclectica. In it was a large, clear plastic water bottle from Rio Grande. There was also an “easy rolling sheet” from Metal Clay Today that consisted of a sheet of graph paper, ruled 1/4 inch, with two thin sheets of plastic (a bit thinner and more flexible than the “report covers” I sometimes use) along one edge, so you can put your clay between those two to roll it out.

It also contained the following items (or, in some cases, coupons you could turn in to receive them):

I did find all the “pampering” products a bit of a surprise, such as the sample of hand & body balm from Oregon Sunstones and a little scented oil diffuser set with reeds from Rio Grande. But a nice surprise. (Note for next time: Open everything up while you’re there. I didn’t open these until I got home, and was sorry to see I’d missed the raffle ticket that was to be turned into the booth for Oregon Sunstones in the Vendor’s Hall.)

The “aluminum detector” fromNatureScapes Studio is a bit of an in-joke: it’s a magnet, so if it sticks to the tool in question that indicates the item it steel which is safe to use. If it doesn’t stick, then the item could be aluminum (which you don’t want to leave in contact with your metal clay) or some other non-ferrous metal (which might be OK, or might not, and you get to decide what risk-level you can handle…).

There were a couple different notepads, from PMC Connection and the Masters Registry, always useful at an event like this. (Though one pad and one something to write with might have been a better mix! Still, I’d brought a couple pencils, so I was set.)

The small Sunshine Cloth, also from Rio, was a good idea. For anyone not already familiar with those nice yellow polishing cloths, it was a good introduction to the product. Better yet, since (almost) everyone had come to the conference with an assortment of jewelry items, it was very useful for those last-minute touch-ups, or for a bit of cleaning after a number of people had handled and admired your work.

Also included in the bag were two bronze-related items from Rio Grande. There was a coupon for a 30 gm (sample) pack of the new “quick fire” bronze clay from (the one made by Bill Struve at Metal Adventures). When I’d at last decided to try some bronze clay, I’d chosen to start with Hadar Jacobson’s quick-fire powder, so it’ll be nice to have this to try for sake of comparison. The last item (that I remember) in the bag was a small embeddable bronze bail that will be nice to try using with that sample.

One thing I somehow missed at registration was the sticker-table. You can embellish your badge with a range of stickers that enable you to spot people you may know online (e.g., on the MetalClay group at Yahoo) but not in person, or who participate in various activities (e.g., have signed up for the Masters Registry program). Oh well, no crisis over that.

Especially because one reason I was distracted is that I took the time to sign up for one of the last remaining “1-2-1” slots. There is a marker board with a number of columns (times) and rows (people). The people listed down the side are “senior” folks of various sorts, and the timeslots are 20 minutes long. You get to spend that time talking privately with your person about any topic you wish to raise.

One of the 1-2-1 people was Jack Russell. He is not actively involved in working with metal clay. Instead, his own “arts” are sculpture and photography, and working with other arts-related agencies (e.g., the NEA). In particular, he spent many years as director of the Brookfield Crafts Center in Connecticut, which had the “nerve” to sponsor one of the first major events to showcase pieces made using metal clay techniques. I signed up to talk with him on Friday afternoon, and took advantage of the opportunity to engage in some discussion about how he saw metal clay fitting into the larger “arts & crafts” world. Since I am coming at this from a non-arts background (if you don’t already know my background, my blog-page on “Who’s This Blogger?” has some info), I found that to be a pleasant and informative session.

Over the next week or so, I’ll post some more “notes from the Conference” on a variety of topics. Feel free to add comments or ask questions! (Just, please, be patient if I don’t respond right way, especially if I know that, “It’s coming!” I don’t spend much time online, and try to not let myself get toooo distracted when I am there… Thanks!)

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