Convergent Series

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

Archive for January, 2011

WPaPMC tries 14K Rose Gold Metal Clay!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/30

Yesterday (January 29), the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild became the first group anywhere to try out 14K Rose Gold metal clay.

A member of our chapter, Michelle Glaeser, announced the availability of this product earlier this month. This will not replace the more traditional yellow gold, but it can be a nice alternative or complement to that color. Michelle and I got to talking and the end result was that, when 14 of our members gathered on Saturday in a local library’s community room, we ended up sharing almost two packs of the stuff. Michelle kept what was left over for her own continued experiments.

Of course, the price of precious metals — including gold and silver — has been climbing lately. So we didn’t go off making big gold pieces. People brought their own creations made using their favorite form of silver metal clay. Some had already been fired so that only fine silver remained; others were still in the dried “greenware clay” state. Each participant bought a little piece (0.2 grams) of rose gold clay with which to embellish them. The open domed disk with a rose gold heart was made by Stephania; the photo shows her little heart, still in the clay state, attached to her piece of pre-fired, un-burnished silver.

Why would we fire the silver first? The basic formula for any “rose gold” involves gold, silver, and copper, and the presence of copper means that the rose gold clay must be fired in an oxygen-reduced environment. But the silver clay itself prefers to be fired with oxygen. If the silver clay has been pre-fired as usual then, once it is in its fine silver state, it can be re-fired with or without oxygen. So you can attach the rose gold embellishment and fire that new bit of clay in activated carbon, which is the easiest way to get the necessary reduction atmosphere. (There are other alternatives, if you really do want to fire the two together, but I won’t go into those here.) We had several stainless steel pans (which can take the heat of the kiln), filled them part-way with carbon, loaded our pieces (as shown), topped that with more carbon, covered it with a lid, loaded those into several of the kilns we’d brought, and set them to fire away!

When the firing cycle was complete (slightly over an hour later) we let things cool down a little bit, removed the pans, and started sifting through the (very hot) carbon for our pieces. Shown, are Dee, Donna, and Nicole searching through one of the pans.

As we found the pieces, they were laid out on a firebrick shelf for a few minutes until they had cooled down to a safe-handling temperature (as shown to the right).

Then we started examining the results. Most turned out beautifully!

Two of mine are shown at the very top of this post. Each little coil used half of the rose gold clay that I had (thus, about 0.1 gram each). My one on the left (up above) is what pieces look like straight from the kiln: the silver looks almost white, and the rose gold looks dark like the clay. The one on the right shows what happens when you burnish and otherwise polish the piece: the silver and rose gold get very shiny and bright. The darker areas on that piece are the result of applying a “liver of sulphur” patina (which turned especially colorful around the rose gold!), and then polishing that off the high points to accentuate the textured areas.

(I’m pretty sure those are Sharon’s hands, in the photo to the left, polishing one of her pieces.)

For a few, the little rose gold embellishments had come loose: with more (and very careful) sifting through the carbon we were able to retrieve those. (They can be reattached and refired.) Michelle’s earlier testing had shown that painting on thick layers of paste worked just fine; we discovered, however, that trying to be “conservative” by just painting on a very thin layer wasn’t a good idea. The way the attachment happens involves a reaction between the silver and gold atoms and, if there’s just a thin gold layer, it all sinks down into (alloys with) the silver. You need to use enough for some to remain above the part that attaches. (Well, and there may also be factors involving the exact temperature and length of the firing, but that’s beyond the scope of this basic report.) Michelle says that she saw no such alloying with embellishments that were at least 2 cards thick, and that is consistent with what we observed. With pieces that big, the shrinkage rate for the rose gold clay appears to be about 15%.

Finally, I will note that regular readers of this blog will know that I emphasize the fact that most of my pieces are fully reversible. This last shot here shows the “other” side of the two pieces with which I opened this post. Though they’re similar in design (but rotated 90° from each other) on the side where I added the rose gold (shown first), this last photo lets you see how different they are on their “other” side.

(As usual, clicking on any photo should open a new tab with a larger image.)

Posted in Guild, Learning Metal Clay, Technical Details | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Show Me (Your) Love – I’d Appreciate Your Vote!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/23

[Update: The voting at Metal Clay Today ended at midnight on February 5; results should be posted at metalclaytoday.com on February 10. Thanks so much to everyone who voted for one of my pieces: Each and every one of you is a real treasure!]

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As I mentioned in one or two recent posts, I entered the Show Me The Love Challenge at Metal Clay Today.

The challenge itself was stated simply: “Submit a piece that depicts love.”

OK, there was one other stipulation: at least 50% of it had to have been made using metal clay techniques (my wording, their percentage). But still: simple to describe, a challenge to produce.

With Valentine’s Day (markets…) approaching, of course, I just happened to be working on several pieces that I thought met the requirements. So I sent two of them in!

Here’s how one of them appears (if you don’t see the full description, try making your browser window wider; alternatively, clicking on the image should open it in its own window for you):

That fully-reversible piece is constructed of fine silver (from PMC3). After firing it was lightly tumbled, then work hardened with hammers, polished with a variety of tools, given a liver of sulphur patina, and polished one more time by hand. It is 24 mm in diameter, just a hair under 5 mm deep, and weighs 8.5 grams. The photograph shows it strung on a soft satin cord.

It’s another one of my little basic box construction pieces. From the technical side (i.e., as a class sample), it’s meant to show that all boxes need not be cubes. The curved piece between the two disks was made from a single strip of clay that was dried in a curved shape to match the size of the disks it would support. It was then cut into two pieces, so there’d be room to insert the cord from which it would hang (as well as to allow the space for the “love note”). A square box, for example, would in most cases require four “side” pieces.

Note: The challenge editor omitted the actual title I had given it, and used a small part of a “quotation” from the text I had submitted. At first, I was fine with those changes. If you want to cast your vote for it, however, you need to know that, while the ballot entries appear to be in alphabetical order, it seems that the computer system they used for the ballot resorted them, putting all the entries that started with a quotation mark first. To vote for the piece above, you just have to look for “Show … the Love”! up near the top of the ballot…. It does have my name with it (C Scheftic, the same form as I use on this blog). A link to the ballot is at the end of this post.

And here is my other entry:

I debated about entering this second piece. It’s far more basic than what I expected most others would enter, but, in the end, I couldn’t resist, for the reason given in its description (above). It was made quickly, to illustrate a series of different points during demonstrations in a brief beginners worksop I taught recently. Although it is very simple in design and construction, I think it illustrates a richness of meaning and variety of form that are possible from just about anyone the very first time they try these new and innovative techniques!

As is the case with most of my work, it is reversible. The “beacon” side was made from PMC+ while PMC3 was used on the “heart/love” side. It is 27 by 22 mm, and weighs 5.5 grams. After construction and firing it was lightly tumbled, then work hardened with hammers, polished with a variety of tools, given a liver of sulphur patina, and polished one more time by hand. It hangs from an Argentium silver jump ring on a simple rubber cord.

If you would like to vote for this piece, it’s listed in its correct alphabetical spot, as Love’s Beacon.

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I did debate whether to submit both, or limit myself to just one. In the end, I decided it mattered more to me to get them both out there, on public display, than to fuss over whether I was lessening my chance of winning by possibly splitting “my” votes between them. I figured that each one could stand on its own merits, or not, compared to all the other “love”ly pieces that would also be entered in the competition.

If you want to be fully informed before you cast your vote, you can download a file with all 49 entries in the challenge (it’s over 5 Mb in size) from the source, at:

http://www.metalclaytoday.com/ChallengesPDFs/ShowMetheLoveChallengers.pdf

If, on the other hand, you are one of my dear friends who wants to shortcut that process and just go vote for one of mine, the ballot itself is at:

https://metalclaytoday.justsurvey.me/53682d136179

One vote per person / computer will be tallied. You need not be a subscriber to Metal Clay Today to vote — balloting is open to everyone!

And, as I said in the title, should you cast your ballot for one of my pieces: Thank you — I really do appreciate your support!!!

Posted in Challenges, Events | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

LIttle Silver Boxes (sample #1)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/21

I’ve been playing around with box-shapes lately.

I keep thinking up very complex designs: what can I say, I simply love “puzzle boxes” of all sorts!

But, for silver boxes, at the moment, I’m trying to keep the designs fairly simple because what I’m really making right now are samples for a class I have coming up in my studio early in March (the afternoon of the 3rd or the 6th, as you prefer). [Update: And we’ve added another “section” for those of you south of the ‘burgh: I’ll repeat it again on Saturday, March 12 at Zelda’s down in Bridgeville!] And I really want these particular samples to be ones that even people trying metal clay for the very first time can easily make!

I hope to post several more next month, but I’ve got two ready to share now. The first one, shown here, has been sealed into a “closed” box shape so that it can be worn as a pendant. It’s about an inch across, a little under a quarter-inch deep, and weighs 11.1 grams. Both sides are finished, so it’s fully reversible. (You’ll see another one like that in my next post, which will show something extra-special about that one…) The ones that should appear here a bit later have lids that open.

And, once Spring is on its way, my plan is to have some samples of hinged boxes to show off too. Those are my ultimate goal, but I’m hoping that some of these will help pave (i.e., pay!) the way for those!

Posted in Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

On taking a little break (ha!)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/20

For a whole lot of reasons, not worth going into, I have been going “at full tilt” since the start of the year.

I mean, I was busy back last year as well. In addition to all the usual “holiday season” and “year end” activities, there were the extra “sales opportunities” that took up time both in and of themselves, as well as all the extra time preparing pieces to enter in them. And, as regular readers of this blog will already know, it’s not that I simply procrastinated. I decided to enter a few extra shows only after I’d taken on the rental of the new studio, and then I was hustling to work on both the studio set-up and making more pieces to sell to help cover the rent… Whew! I still run out of breath just remembering that push.

So I pushed a number of other things off until the New Year. And just kept going. And I mean going. Most days started at 8 am and ran until 2 am. It was a hectic pace. But I knew that, within about three weeks, I had a four-day stretch with almost nothing planned, and the very few things for those days were fun and easy.

So, what happened to my four-day stretch? I spent it in bed. Not, however, a four-day vacation spent taking things easy. No, four days lost being sick. Sicker than I have felt in I-forget-how-many years! Saying it was a cold and cough and fever and sinus and splotchy tonsils and chills and itchy eyes and … simply does not do it justice.

Finally feeling a bit on the mend (not over it all yet, but at last feeling like this siege really will end), I insert this note (back) in the space for when I first got knocked out, and will follow it with a few other posts I would have made had I been able at the time….

Posted in Health & Medicine | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/16

It was so great to meet all the “new” people who stopped by my studio “Open House” this afternoon.

As usual, of course, I was so engaged the whole time that I didn’t even think to take any photos, so the one I’m including shows a piece on which I used one of the craft scissors that several visitors seemed to find a surprising part of my toolkit!

Whether you came by because you’d seen my announcement on this blog, on the schedule for the Wilkins School Community Center, in Stephanie Rex’s article for Patch.com, or via any other means, it was great to meet you, share interesting discussion and ideas, and imagine many possibilities for the future.

I hope to see you all again soon! (And, if you didn’t make it over for today’s event, I’ll be holding another free demo session this Tuesday evening, from 5 to 8 pm.)

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Tuesday night update: Thanks ever so much to the folks who came over tonight! Especially with the breaking news, surprising for “our little neighborhood,” of the local robbery spree, it was great to have people turn out!

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

“Love’s Garden, in Pinks”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/16

I considered entering this necklace in the Show Me the Love Challenge at Metal Clay Today but, in the end, decided not to. “Lentil beads” are fairly common fare in the metal clay community: beautiful (I think) and great fun to teach (lots of “bang for the buck” in general, but especially for a beginner project) but even adorable ones are not very likely to win a competition any more.

Still, I am very fond of the fine silver focal bead in this piece. I’m not much of a “pink” person myself (fuchsia, maybe, or some deep rose and burgundies, but not so much the delicate pinks (that my mother loved to wear)). But I had a couple of adorable, little, pink cubic zirconia and I thought they’d look lovely set in this combo of textures and shapes, so I used them here. I debated putting both on one side, but then chose to set one into each separate texture, and not in the “obvious” locations either. What do you think of those choices? (A click on either of the detail shots, below, should take you to larger versions.)

If you’ve known me and my jewelry for a while and this bead somehow looks familiar, this may be the fourth, or is it fifth?, iteration of how I’ve strung it. I’m getting happier with each new attempt and, with this one, I like the little reversible heart-shaped toggle clasp I (finally!) made to go with it. I think it’s at last time to put it up for sale.

Really, that’s one thing the challenge got me to do: make a little heart toggle for it. And then I decided to enter some other pieces instead. Go figure…

Posted in Challenges | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Show Me the Love!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/15

Did you enter the Show Me the Love Challenge over at Metal Clay Today? I did, on the last possible day!

Now, I’m really not big into contests and challenges. But I saw that one right as I was starting to work on a few pieces that seemed rather relevant, so I figured I’d give it a try.

The photos with this post are not what I entered. They are from another “love” pendant I made last year. Someone bought it at the “h*liday mART” at the Sweetwater Art Center last holiday season. Of course, I’ve no clue who now has it: was it bought as a gift for someone else, or for the buyer to wear, or what? I hope the person who has it feels well-loved.

I’ll post a link to all the challenge submissions, should you want to vote for one of my entries (or someone else’s…), once Tea Shea, the editor over at Metal Clay Today, makes that available.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

In the news!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/14

OK, so I have a few Valentine’s Special pieces fired, polished, patina’d, and re-polished. They still need to be assembled, strung, inventoried, and tagged. I hope to have a photo or two taken and put up this weekend.

By Saturday, hopefully, because on Sunday afternoon (and, again, this next Tuesday night) I’ll be holding an “Open House” with free demos and discussion in my studio. This metal clay stuff is still new enough, if people want to come over, see it, see a few examples of what can be done with it, and ask some questions before plunking down money for registration and materials in an actual workshop where they can make their own pieces, I figure I can offer that.

The photo that accompanies this post (of me, reacting to having my hair fall in my face just as I was demonstrating how you work with metal clay) was taken by the delightful Stephanie Rex, who interviewed me this past Tuesday about these upcoming Open Houses (and kept asking me to say more about the math references I thought I just made in passing a few times). Her article appeared today, on the Forest Hills – Regent Square section of the Patch.com website.

Posted in Events, Studio | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Trying to catch up.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/13

I’ve been trying to finish up a small collections of “Valentine Special” pieces. I’d like to get them photographed (with likely a few shots posted here) and off to be put up for sale.

But, once again today, I’m running behind. I just didn’t look out the front windows in the morning. I did look out back, saw snow on the ground, but there’s nothing new in that.

I didn’t hear any of my neighbors out shoveling or snow-blowing. I didn’t hear and plows or salt trucks go past.

I didn’t have to be anywhere particularly early, so I wasn’t listening to any morning news (i.e., no need for the morning commute-delay news). I just went about my morning routine, getting ready to face the day. I opened the door to leave. And I was shocked at the amount of new snow to be shoveled out.

I mean, had I known, I could have dawdled a tiny bit less, sped up the routine, and headed out a bit earlier. I just hadn’t thought there’d be reason to do so.

So then I spent close to an hour clearing my walkways, sidewalk, driveway, and while talking with one neighbor clearing about half on another neightbor’s sidewalk.

Posted in House & Home | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

At least it’s cosy _inside_ my studio.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/11

The streets outside my studio were clear when I arrived at noon. I planned to meet a couple different people over there today. The first one was set to arrive at 1 pm, which is right when the snow started falling. The photo was taken around 4, while I thought there was still enough light to show the hill. It’s one of the lovely old brick streets in this neighborhood: great most of the time but slippery in situations like this. The snow was still falling when I left at 6:30, though just lightly by then. Hmmm, will I go over tomorrow?

I hope so! I’ll have to see what the weather brings. I have a number of pieces started and I’d like to make progress on them. I rarely start one piece and stick with it until it’s done. I’m far more likely to start several, and swap around among them. This isn’t a lack of focus on my part. (Yeah, sometimes I do have that problem, but it exhibits in other ways….) It’s more that I’ll start one and, while I’m waiting for that clay to dry some, I’ll start another, and perhaps yet another. Then I’ll move to a later step in the process for the first one. And so on. Sometimes, while working on one I’ll get an idea about something I’d rather do differently, on it or one of the others that are in the works. Nonetheless, that back-and-forth process seems to be more efficient than one-at-a-time. To me at least — what about you?

Posted in Misc. Musings | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Thanks, Kathy (and Jeff)!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/06

Don’t GrayC (for “gray cat” but pronounced “Gracie”) and Bailey (named for Bailey Ave, overlooking the Monongahela River, from where he was rescued) look like they approve of the gift Kathy & Jeff got me for Christmas (delivered early this year)? Or would you say they think the wrapping was the best part?

The gift itself is a (rather old, used, but still working) Excalibur dehydrator. I normally just let my metal clay pieces “air dry” myself. For classes, I’d used the “low tech” solution: a hair dryer jammed into a small opening cut into a cardboard box. But Kathy is a somewhat avid Ebay shopper and, this time last year, I’d asked her to keep her eye on them and let me know if she ever found one that looked like it might be going at a reasonable price. She found this one right when I was feeling overwhelmed by the expenses in setting up new studio. Good friend that she has been for decades, she just went and bought it herself, as a gift from her and Jeff. I can’t wait to try it, especially for a whole class-full of pieces: Thank you!

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p.s., The flowered rug on the floor was the gift my mother and I gave to Kathy and Jeff at their wedding. I bought the materials, and Mum hooked the rug.

Posted in Studio | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Happy New Year!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/01

As I’m sure you know, people will often start a project with enthusiasm. Then, after a while, it starts to feel more like a chore, and they drop it.

Well, if it seems like a chore, that makes sense. The question, which applies to many aspects of life, is how to keep it fresh and interesting and motivating.

In that sense, the “it” can be anything. For me, in the context of writing here, there are several relevant “it” possibilities: the making of jewelry and other small adornments in general, making them through the specific application of “metal clay” techniques, and writing about both via this blog.

WordPress has launched a “program” to encourage people to continue to maintain blogs that they have started. There are two: postaday2011 and postaweek2011.

Now, for me, the thought of having to post every day holds no interest. To me, that would become a chore. But averaging once a week is about the goal I set myself when I started this, one year ago today.

I have not gotten upset with myself when, on occasion, I’ve gone more than a week without posting: if I didn’t have something to say, why write just to be writing? Or, if I was so busy, so otherwise engaged for a week or so, why stress out just to post, rather than wait until a better moment? As long as I averaged that pace over about a month (and occasionally posted more when I really did have more to say) that has seemed fine to me.

In that context, I am tagging this post as my entry into the “postaweek2011” program. I’ve no clue if I’ll both feel inclined and remember to tag every post that way: seems kind of silly to me to over-tag things. But I’ll try to remember to include that at least some of the time.

The thing I’d appreciate would be to see more comments in response to my posts. Through basic statistics such as number of hits, I can see that people read them (though I can’t tell who you are): Please speak up!

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The photo shown with this post is the same one I used when I launched this blog a year ago today: the large, central, “fine” silver bead is the very first one I ever made using metal clay techniques. Clearly, I’m still motivated to make small adornments that way!

Posted in Misc. Musings | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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