Convergent Series

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

Archive for September, 2010

Well, now I’ve gone and done it.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/09/29

I signed the lease, paid first and last months’ rent, and received the keys. Then I got in my car, headed out to Ikea, picked up a few bookcases and a table (I’d wanted 3, but only 1 was in stock, so I’ll have to go back later…). Brought them back to the studio, hauled them up two flights of stairs (huff, puff, pant, etc.), and assembled them.

My friend Kathy was out of town and, thankfully, her husband Jeff was sort of at loose ends and agreed to help me this afternoon. The photo at the top of this post shows him beaming at what we managed to accomplish. Thanks, Jeff!

Cabinet doors and table legs do remain to be attached, but we quit when I’d reached the 8-hours mark for the day, which did not include our walk around the corner to D’s for a “happy hour” break, and to show Jeff their “beer cave” (where I snagged some raspberry cider) between the hauling and assembly.

As we were packing up to go get some dinner (my treat, of course!), I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful sunset colors out the window to the west.

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Still rising….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/09/28

Silver clay has been available for a little over 10 years. Aside from a relatively brief price spike (well, it did last several years in the late 1970s – early 80s), the price of silver had been fairly stable for decades: a few dollars per ounce.

In the last ten years, the price of silver has risen from approximately $4/oz to $22. That comes out to an average of about a half a penny ($0.005) per day. Except it has not been a steady rise. The start of the climb was very slow, hard to distinguish from normal seasonal fluctuations.

Open Dot Lentil Earrings (One Side)I first got my hands on the stuff about 5 years ago, and began watching silver prices more closely. Over that entire time, the increase averages out to about twice what it had been, but still under a penny a day. (I’m doing rough averages simply to give a sense of how the situation is changing.)

Over the past year, however, the increase has gotten steeper: the one-year average is just about double the five-year average increase. Still under two cents / day but edging up to that.

And over the last six months, its crossed that barrier, with an average of 2.5 cents/day increase in the “nominal” price of silver.

But the increase continues to speed up!!! Nearly 7 cents/day over the last two months, and almost a dime (10 cents) a day if you include only the last 30 days. (That lattermost timeframe is important to me: a dime a day since I agreed to rent a studio! Aack!!)

Lentil with PinkCZs (Both Sides)Mind you, it’s not metal clays that are driving these increases. Investors are doing that; we’re just collateral damage. With unstable markets, economic uncertainties, questionable currencies, etc., investors shift to buying up things like precious metals. And their actions affect the prices that everyone must pay, metal clayers and other jewelers, product manufacturers, and more, and then pass on to the eventual consumer.

I hadn’t planned to mention all this a second time, but I’d had a DVD playing as I worked this morning and, when it ended, the system switched to TV which was showing The View. (I don’t normally watch it–don’t watch much TV in general–but will occasionally catch a couple minutes of something like that before I stop what I’m doing to turn it all off.) There was a discussion of “should you buy gold or platinum now, given how high the prices are” and the answer was that “there is no reason to think they won’t go even higher.” Some “expert” then started advising people to invest “in metals, but on paper” (my terms, not theirs); that is, do it via a broker so that they didn’t have to worry about storing and safekeeping the actual stuff themselves.

And then Whoopi Goldberg chimed in with, “But why not just go and buy some great jewelry?” Sadly, she was answered with a few laughs and a commercial break, and then that segment of the program was over.

But I thought Whoopi offered a great suggestion! Don’t you?

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Measuring the Price of Silver.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/09/17

Do you follow the “price” of silver?

It looks like it hit right around $21/oz on some foreign markets for a brief moment earlier this morning (around 4 am New York City time).

It’s back down by a few cents now (as I write this mid-afternoon) since the New York markets opened. Though prices have been bouncing around higher than “usual” for the past five to seven years, the 20-and-high-change numbers this week are still the highest silver’s been since the price spiked (to as much as $50/oz) in the early 1980s

That’s back when I first got interested in metalsmithing; it was a secondary reason why I didn’t pursue this more actively at that time. The primary reason was that I tried several different classes, all of which were very unpleasant experiences. I wondered then, and more recently confirmed, that it was just my luck to have drawn a few really dreadful teachers. But watching the raw material price climb from its historic $5/oz to $50/oz at the same time sure didn’t provide an incentive to try more classes. Instead, I just started prowling antique shops, estate sales, flea markets, and the occasional museum, to examine and admire older pieces and gain a different kind of education, a better appreciation of what others had done over time with precious metals, gemstones, and more.

Of course, the nominal price and the actual price differ as well. That $20-something an ounce is what a large-scale “investor” might pay for quantities of the stuff. They are the ones who drive the prices. The actual small-scale jeweler (and hobbyists) will pay much more, once you’ve added on the mark-ups for various brokers (those involved in trading the raw material), fabricators (who turn ingots into sheet or wire, or reclaimed fragments into the powders used in metal clays), distributors, shippers, and more. Thus, in round numbers, when the nominal price of silver is around $20, I figure it’ll cost me at least $50. (I still don’t want to think what I’ll do if the nominal price reaches $50…)

Oh, and the ounces we’re talking about are troy ounces. I resist the urge to include here a math lesson on troy versus avoirdupois weights. (Gold and silver merchants use the former; bakers and butchers use the latter.) I can do so if anyone requests it…. For now I’ll just point out that a troy ounce is heavier than an avoirdupois ounce, while a troy pound is lighter than an avoirdupois pound! Which is why a lot of people prefer metric measures: a gram is a gram, a kilogram is a thousand grams, no matter what you’re weighing.

There are many sources of information on precious metals prices, should you want to track them yourself; for now I’ll provide two links. Both have daily and historical charts, but:

  • also has hourly information for several recent days and
  • At the bottom of this page is a chart that goes back before the silver price spike I mentioned above.

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A 25-foot-long drying tray?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/09/17

I’m trying to figure out how to arrange my studio-to-be. Here’s another photo of the space, facing back t’other way:

From Studio

This is in a former elementary school now being used as a community center. One thing I find particularly interesting is that one side-wall has a chalkboard along its entire length. It’s been painted-over, so I can’t use it as an actual chalkboard (well, not unless I re-paint it with chalkboard paint, which I am considering doing for a _small section_ of it…). I cannot hammer into it to hang anything, but there is a rail above the board that I can use as a sort of “picture rail” if I want. Whether I hang items from that, or just tack them onto the board-area, I’m thinking I can use a lot of that “board” space to display an assortment of useful printed materials. (And I have prints and artwork to hang above it, including a framed set of Escher’s Metamorphosis II that is almost 13 feet long.)

Working in metal clay, however, I do keep thinking that at least some of that chalk tray (a bit over 25 feet (7.6 meters) long) looks like it’d make a superb clay-drying rack (with a nice safety-lip along its edge)! But it’s rather low-down (27 inches (about 0.7 m) from the floor). If it were higher, I could imagine fitting tables or storage or something underneath it. Since it’s sticking out, there are a number of things I cannot push completely against the wall in front of it. I can put any of my taller bookcases / display units along the wall opposite that, but at least part of the tray will be blocked by some work benches.

Stay tuned to see how this plan evolves…. And, of course, constructive suggestions for designing this space are welcome!

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Late Summer Weekends.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/09/13

What is it with weekends as summer draws to a close, so jam-packed with all sorts of things “to be fit in” before the season ends? This past weekend was one of those. I’ll mention a few of the more relevant events.

On Satuday, I went to the InterGalactic bead show as it passed through town. I didn’t buy very much: the thought of picking up much of anything that I’d then have to move at the end of the month when I get my new studio put some brakes on those tendencies. I did buy a few tools, ones that I’ll discuss later, once I’m settled into studio and happily using them. And I bought a couple little pieces to use in displaying work in that studio. I was really trying to resist buying beads, though I did pick up one quartz piece and a few hanks of crystals (sample shown right).

After that, I headed over to meet some friends (and just run into others, of course) at A Fair in the Park, which is one of my favorite local shows. No photos of my purchases there, however, all of which will be holiday gifts and those folks may read this. (Then I ended the day with a great barbecue dinner in perfect late-summer weather.)

On Sunday, our local chapter of the PMC Guild met for a “field trip” to the Carnegie Museum. Nominally, it was to see the current special exhibit, “Pittsburgh Adorned,” but the best part was that you had to pass through the wonderful halls of Minerals and Gems to get to that. We checked out a few other exhibits quickly and had a short business meeting over drinks in the “Fossil Fuels” cafe (which you access by going through the Dinosaur Hall…). Then, most folks headed home, while Barbara and I (we’d carpooled) decided we had enough time left to head down for the tail end of the grand opening weekend of the Pittsburgh Public Market. Interesting food and crafts but, for local readers of this blog, probably the best news is that the wonderful Zelda’s Bead Kit Company has a booth there too!

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A Room of Her Own!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/09/03

From Studio

I can’t believe I’m doing this: I’m going to rent this studio, starting next month!

After nearly 4 years of begging space here and there, trying to work in nooks and crannies, paying for sites where I could teach, etc., I finally decided to try dedicating a space for “Convergent Series” designs to live and, hopefully, grow.

I’ve no clue how much chance I’ll have to post about playing, working, or teaching with metal clay for the next few weeks. Look for “grand opening” info in early October.

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