Convergent Series

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

Archive for December, 2010

Where has the year gone?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/31

I started this blog on January 1, and here it is December 31. How can it be a year already? Weeks, sure. Months, possibly. But a whole year?

And quite a year it’s been too. The new studio tops the looking-back list for me, but then there are also all tne new projects, people, outlets, workshops, opportunities and more.

But I can’t ignore the fact that silver closed out the year trading at $30.92 per troy ounce. It had started 2010 at $16.85. For that matter, it had started 2009 at $11.33.

I wonder where it will be by this time next year? One business report indicates:

Gold rose to within USD 10 of a record high…, closing out an unprecedented tenth annual gain as the combination of a weaker dollar and global economic uncertainty seemed to pave the way higher next year.

The entire precious metals complex had a stellar run in 2010, led by palladium’s 97 percent rise, in a broad commodities rally that pushed the 19-commodity Reuters-Jefferies CRB index .CRB up 15 percent.

Spot silver, too, swept higher for an 83 percent gain on the year, as investors sought the white metal as an alternative to gold. It was the best-performing assets in the CRB, hitting a 30-year peak of USD 30.92 on Friday.

Investors: Please don’t limit yourselves to “plain” silver and other precious metals. Please invest in those of us who are able to turn them into lovely adornments!

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Merry Christmas!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/25

I’m taking a few days “off” from the making of adornments, so I can spend more time with a collection of friends and relatives.

But I thought I’d share this snapshot of one of my Christmas cactus plants … both this and the pale pink one are actually ablaze with flowers at Christmas this year, which is wonderful!

Here’s hoping you find a great collection of wonderful reasons to celebrate this holiday season, whatever holidays you may choose to celebrate.

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Two more tables, at last.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/20

At last, I got the two other tables I’d planned to put in the studio (though I still need to earn some more so I can add better chairs!) but I’m really torn over which way they should face.

Aesthetically, I’ve always thought they should go lengthwise, down the middle of the room. That corresponds to the shape of the room, but it also means I could sit “sideways” and see both out the window to the outside, and out the doorway into the hall, rather than having my back to one or the other of those.

The advantage to crosswise, however, is entirely practical: I can put the “small” ends right up against the wall, where the electrical outlets are, and run cords safely under the table, plus there’s less “conflict” between chairs and where the rugs meet.

For now, I just set it up with one going each direction. I figure I can try each for a week or so, and then decide…. Or, maybe I’ll end up rotating them between positions, lengthwise for when I’m working there on my own, and crosswise for classes?

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Come Home, Little Pendant, Please…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/15

I entered pieces for sale in several special Holiday sales events and was, overall, very pleased with how many of them went off to new homes.

Except for what happened to this one which, though rather simple, was kind of special to me because it’s one I made the first time I ever visited the wonderful, then-new studio of my friend Alice.

It wasn’t sold. (I even saw it on the table less than an hour before the show closed.)

The next day, it was checked off as still being in inventory when the organizers totaled up sales. But it was not with the rest of my work when I went to retrieve the remaining items.

I’m guessing / hoping that some other artist just picked it up with the rest of their pieces by mistake. It should have a tag on in with my name and contact information. I’m hoping whoever has it will find & return it.

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Rivety Bits

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/14

Last summer, I mentioned getting a great little tool that helped one make lovely-looking rivets. What with one thing and another, I haven’t gotten around to implementing many of the ideas I had for using it. But here are three photos of two fairly basic pieces I made recently to explore some of the design issues involved in this approach.

The first one shown (above) used a semi-tubular rivet. That is one that has a closed dome on one side, and an open tube on the other. The only photo I got (before a delightful woman stopped by my studio and bought it right off my worktable) shows the domed-side of that rivet (though I don’t think it’s a very good shot of the little disk with a swirl pattern that the rivet is holding).

The remaining two photos (below) show a piece that uses an eyelet-style rivet. That rivet is made from a tube, so the opening goes the whole way through. (Thanks, Deb, for helping me out with those brass ones that are just the right size!) The nice thing about those is that it was possible to slip a bronze jump ring right through the rivet-opening to use for hanging the piece.

There are two ideas I’m starting to play with in that design: how to select good, complementary patterns as I overlay pieces and, since I try to make as many of my pieces as possible to be fully reversible, how to arrange the bits so the little circle from the rivet-tube lands somewhere that “makes sense” on both sides.

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WPaPMC 2010 Holiday Charm Exchange

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/12

A few days ago I said I’d write another post about one other activity at the holiday-season meeting Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild: our charm exchange. While a charm exchange can happen any number of ways, we typically swap three at a time. Each person makes three, all of them go into a grab-bag, and then the bag (or box or hat or whatever) gets passed around the table three times, with each participant getting to select one charm each time. (If you happen to grab your own, or a duplicate of one you already got this time, you just put it back and pick a different one.)

We set up some other rules too, though we’re not at all strict about enforcing them. One of the so-called rules for this one was to make your charms follow a theme that represented some aspect of either Pittsburgh or southwestern Pennsylvania. Your choice how to implement that.

My charms, above, incorporate three ideas. First of all, the overall shape of the charm itself refers to Pittsburgh’s history as the “Steel City.” It is loosely based on a part of the logo for both US Steel (based here) and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The embellishments on one side are meant to represent the “Three Rivers” (where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio river, which flows into the Mississippi and then on to the Gulf of Mexico). Historically, that confluence was a major factor in much of the development of this area. The branching design on the other side, in one way, could be taken as reinforcing the rivers-theme but, even more, it is my way of noting the oft-repeated comparison that Pittsburgh does not always feel like a city, but more like a “big small town” in the way people connect to and interact with each other.

One of our members, Barbara, had made charms for the exchange but was at the last minute unable to join us. So we managed to let her participate in absentia, and I am holding onto the ones that were drawn for her until she can get over to pick them up.

Two of the charms Barbara got are shown above. The one that I really had trouble getting even a halfway decent shot of (because of its smooth texture and bright shine) is an adorable Pittsburgh Pieroghi that Sally made. The other, with a holiday-theme instead of Pittsburgh (see what I mean about following, or not, the rules?) is a great little Christmas tree ornament from Lois.

Both Barbara and I got one of Michelle’s charms (below, left). She didn’t actually follow the rules either, but admits that after the fact she came up with an explanation that almost works.

Michelle moved here just a few years ago from New Mexico, and still marvels at the brightness, intensity, and color range of autumn leaves in this area, so her charm with an autumn leaf and a little acorn fits that part of it (even though the majority of it is not made from some form of metal clay … which was another (unenforced) rule).

The other charm shown above is the one I got from Alice, with her impression of the Smithfield Street Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh. (Another rule was to ID your charm on the outside of its package, so people could re-choose if they got a charm from someone they’d already exchanged with. Alice, like several other participants, ID’d hers on the inside…) Even though I had earlier exchanged with Alice, I’m glad I got that one: for a number of years I worked right at the end of that bridge (for two different companies, both in the same building, between the two different times I spent in grad school), and I walked over it regularly.

The other charm I got is this amazingly detailed house by Holly Dobkin. It reminds me of the house I lived in the last time I lived in Pittsburgh … which included the time I worked next to the Smithfield Street bridge. (I keep coming and going: I’m currently on my fifth different time here.) So for me, this one matches up beautifully with Alice’s charm. And it almost goes with Michelle’s: although, for me, acorns remind me of my house when I lived in Minnesota, all of them still resonate with “home.”

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What I learned from the latest tripped circuit.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/10

I was just too tired after the WPaPMC meeting in my studio Wednesday night to do much clean-up. Alice W and Carol D were staying over at my house, and we did simply haul out the trash and such, but that was about it.

I was running all over the county on Thursday, so I didn’t make it back to the studio then. Today, I did get over, and the first thing I chose to do was to vacuum the carpets and wood floors pretty thoroughly. And for some reason that tripped the circuit breaker.

I had overhead lights on, small FM radio on, and the vacuum. Furnace was running, but apparently on a different circuit. Power went out: vacuum stopped, overhead lights went out, and radio switched over to run on its own battery power. At least, this time (unlike what happened last month) I knew where to go to reset it. And this time, with mid-afternoon sunlight in the hallway, I read the labels on the various circuits, clearly left over from 30-some years ago when this was an actual school.

The switch for my room was labelled “Library.” Which actually makes sense, given the size and “feel” of the room, which never had seemed right for a classroom. I really like the thought that I’m now working in what had been the (small, primary school) library!

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WPaPMC @ WSCC

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/09

The Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild held its inaugural meeting in May of 2008 in the Trevanion Room of the Wilkins School Community Center–the same center where I now have my studio. At that meeting were the three founding members (me, Donna Penoyer, and Jan Durkin), along with four other charter members (Alice Walkowski, Karen Haugh, Laura Tabakman, and Stacey Carulli who was representing Beyond Beads). In both 2008 and 2009, the shop Beyond Beads hosted our holiday season meeting but, between our growth and their move to a location with less meeting room, we were not able to hold it there this year.

Not to worry, I thought (way back, months ago, before I’d actually moved into new studio), I can now just offer to host that one. Although we have over 60 local “members” in our online community, we rarely get more than about twenty at any one particular meeting. We’re actually delighted with our current size: big enough to have a great mix of people, but with a small enough regular attendance that we can still fit into a range of different sites!

What with the first serious cold snap and snow of the season, a series of nasty “bugs” going around, and all the activities this time of year, I was delighted when sixteen members still managed to get to our annual “Holiday Season” meeting on Wednesday night. We could have squeezed in a few more, had they shown up, but sixteen was just about the right number to fit in, ah, cosily. The photos with this post were taken during a break for refreshments and small-group discussions.

Our meetings always start with a “show & tell” session. Particpants show off their latest creations and talk about making them: new techniques tried, problems encountered, work-arounds involved, lessons learned, etc. Others are free to ask questions or offer suggestions. Lots of ooh-ing and aaah-ing is involved. New rings, in particular, seem to get delayed in their trip around the table, as people try to figure out which finger they best fit and how they feel, as well as how they were made. If you weren’t at the meeting, you can see photos of a few of the rings and other pieces that were passed around, such as two of the rings Donna Penoyer made for Whole Lotta Whimsy’s Master Muse projects, and one of the rings and a couple other pieces that Holly Dobkin made for Morgan Contemporary Glass’s annual Teapots! exhibit. (If any other members have relevant online-links, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add them here.) My major new creation for the Show & Tell this time, of course, was the studio in which we met!

Lindsay Newell, who came to join us after a number of years doing traditional metalsmithing (using sterling silver) had requested a demo and discussion on making fine silver bezels. Several other members generously met that request: Donna P demonstrated several techniques and issues with using fine silver bezel wire; Michelle Glaeser demonstrated the use of PMC+ sheet clay on a metal clay backing piece (one of the “Jen Kahn” approaches). In both, other members chimed in with additional questions, tips, and more.

If I can find the time in a few days, I’ll add another post discussing some other items from that evening. For now, however, I close with the thought that, in this season of giving, then, I want to thank everyone who gave something to help make that evening such a success.

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A Holiday Butterfly

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/04

One of the things I love about metal clay is that (once you become comfortable with it) you can quickly create something simple but special, as well as far more elaborate designs.

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County had their annual Holiday Gala last night (Friday). Part of that is a “gift grab bag and exchange” (with an extended set of rules I need not explain here … but it’s fun).

The gift is to cost no more than $10. Every year, some gift-givers clearly adhere to that limit; others either exceed it or show some savvy bargain-shopping. I’ve taken to making a small silver piece that would retail for more than $10 but has no more than that amount of silver in it. (So the pieces are getting smaller as the price of silver rises, but let me not digress…) I’m donating my time to it, but everything I do for the PSMGs involves donating time, so…

… there I was, Thursday night, thinking, “Yikes! I meant to make something for the PSMG Gala this year. Luckily, I still have just enough time to do so!” What to make: for that audience, something that included both blooming and pollination would be perfect.

I had an opened packet of PMC3 with just a little more than the appropriate amount of silver left in it. I rolled it out between two versions of a “cherry blossom” texture, cut out a butterfly shape (saving the excess for yet another project), and draped it over a large plastic “jelly bean” shape to dry (thinking that would give it, if you allow a bit of artistic license, sort of an “in flight” shape).

Of course, there were more steps: smoothing the edges, making the hole for hanging it, etc. Plus the firing and polishing. I do admit I didn’t take the time, or silver, to add a little butterfly “body” nor to add antennae or other embellishments — I often do that for pieces I plan to sell but, with that “$10” limit, I was sticking to the basics.

This little butterfly did seem to be a hit. The rules for this gift exchange include a mechanism that permits participants to “steal” opened gifts from each other (with some limits). And this piece was one of the ones grabbed the maximum number of times. It ended up with Lyn, and I know she’ll give it a good home.

Now, all I need is to find a few spare moments to start on some more basic curved shapes, to have as samples for my next round of workshops involving “domed” pieces. I’m never sure how much to schedule for the depths of winter: will the weather be cooperative on some random date six or eight weeks ahead? But I’m happy to set up extra ones on short notice: just get a few friends together and let’s make some pretty and shiny adornments, domed or otherwise!

(Sorry to readers on RSS feed: I seem to have hit publish when I meant to be still saving drafts.)

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