Convergent Series

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

Archive for February, 2011

The little oblong piece that could….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/28

This piece faced a number of challenges coming into existence!

It started out well, but with one small twist. You see, one of the fun things about guild-chapter meetings is that members bring their own favorite tools and let others try them out. At a meeting of the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild well over a year ago, I made several pieces using textures that my guild-mates had brought. Most of those are gone to new owners by now, but the last one I made that day had been sitting in my “figure this out later on” drawer for way too long.

What I made at the meeting was an oblong piece. I trimmed one end straight, rolled that end over a straw and pressed the edge into place, thus forming a foldover bail. On one side was a texture molded by Donna, with alternating stripes of little raised and lowered dots. I don’t remember who brought the gently-striped texture I used on the other side that remains visible, now, only on the bail at the top.

This piece should have come out much the same as the others I made that day but, somehow, it ended up much thinner than the rest. And for some reason (maybe I was getting tired?) I didn’t even notice that until I had it all shaped and starting to dry. Having made it at the end of the day, I didn’t really have time to re-do it. I thought it was too nice to give up on, however, so I didn’t just roll the clay back into a ball for use at another time. I let it dry and put it aside for the time being. And it just took me a long time to get back to it. After finishing a number of the bar-shaped pieces I recently wrote about, I remembered this one.

I had already decided to make it a bit thicker by applying some “mosaic” elements to the “plainer” side. Now, I should have known better about positioning those elements because I’ve had this happen before: once I added the pieces, the “thin” part to which I’d attached them broke apart along a border between two of those.

Not a problem. I stuck the two parts back together then, as you can see above, I added a decorative “bar” along the other side to reinforce that section. I had planned to embellish that side a bit, and the break simply helped define where and how to do that.

Except that, while tidying up the edges of that bar, the thin bit broke again, this time along the (only) other border between mosaic elements (which, once again, I should have known to orient differently).

Not a problem. I stuck the next two parts back together then added a second decorative bar on the non-mosaic side for further reinforcement. Design-wise, I thought that complemented the other bar nicely anyway. And with all the reinforcements, I knew that the final piece (once sintered to “solid” silver) would be fine.

In the process of tidying all that up, however, I decided that the edge along the top of the mosaic-additions didn’t match the rest of it. I rolled out a little rod of clay and attached that. It did seem to finish off (visually) that edge nicely.

Except that, in finishing off (smoothing) the edge of it, a chunk of that addition broke off. That was a real surprise, something I can’t explain. Still not a problem: just more fiddling to get it back in place and hide that seam.

It went into the kiln at last on Friday night, along with pieces from a workshop I’d taught that afternoon. (Once again, of course, I forgot to take photos of those…. That’s understandable. Rachell’s sister Ramona was visiting from Ohio, I did a special little afternoon session for them, and I wanted to have their pieces fired and tumbled and back in time for Ramona to take hers home with her. But, I digress….)

I didn’t actually fire up the kiln until Saturday. Everything came out of there looking fine. I quenched most of the pieces, and even remembered to not quench the pieces to which Ramona had added CZs to avoid shocking those.

As I was doing the unloading a fellow artist from the community center (Amy, who’s a musician) stopped by to say hello, and I showed her the results. I noticed that a bit of kiln-shelf had stuck to my piece, so Amy and I went across the hall to the ladies room so I could wash that off. I then handed it back to Amy, who proceeded to drop it onto the hard concrete floor there.

She was, of course, very apologetic. I said, not to worry, this stuff is sturdy, let’s go back to my studio. I should have known better than to hand it over where I did, should have waited until we were back on carpet-covered hardwood, neither of which would have caused any sort of problem. Even with the concrete, there was no crisis, only a slight ding, and right in front of Amy I think I was able to rework the piece back to how it had been before. (And if you can’t see the repair, then I’m right about that.)

She then headed off to get something to eat, and I proceeded to call Rachell and Ramona to say their pieces were ready for pick-up. While waiting for them to come over and get those, I polished this one up, and headed back over to the ladies room to add the patina.

I finally managed to get photos today to include with this post that show the end result. After all that fiddling, it now weighs in at 8.9 grams of fine silver (i.e., 99.9% of it is pure silver, nothing more). I sure hope the life of this little piece from now on will be smoother than were its beginnings.

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Another great hollow-bead workshop.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/26



I taught a “reversible hollow domed” (aka “lentil”) bead workshop earlier this week at my studio in the Wilkins School Community Center.

Of course, I didn’t think to stop and get good photos of finished student work (lovely as it was, I was overly eager to get it into student hands!) so I illustrate this post with the element I made to demonstrate a number of relevant techniques.

(Except, bezel-setting a stone was not a part of that particular workshop: after class, I added the 6 mm bezel cup, refired the whole thing to secure that, and set the jade cabochon.)

I love the end result, and hope you do too! I’m reasonably satisfied with the photo that shows the jade cab. In my ongoing attempt to learn how to take better photographs of small, shiny, silver objects, however, I will admit that I’m really not happy with the amount of reflection in the other image. (It is, however, the best of about 30 attempts.) Yes, I know ways to solve the problem, just not affordable ones! The month is almost over (Feb is a short one!) and I haven’t make quite enough to cover rent on my studio (and I really do love that space!) let alone the other expenses involved in doing all of this, so the cost of photos (whether by hiring a photographer or investing in additional equipment myself) is one big issue behind this problem.

Still, I love making reversible hollow beads. After my students left this week, I stayed behind and made a number of samples for the three box workshops I have set for early-March. Aside from the fact that I just enjoy making and teaching those (and the way their “reversible” aspect means you get two distinct adornments for the price of one!), I’m also hoping I’ll earn enough from those to cover that month’s rent and, maybe, even this month’s shortfall. (The latter isn’t huge, but it does need to be covered somehow!)

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Another bar-pendant.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/19

This long rectangular piece developed over several sessions.

It started out as a piece I made during a workshop demonstration. First, I made a “backing” piece (I wish I knew of another commonly-accepted word for this because, as I’ll show shortly, in my quest to design fully-reversible pieces, the striped backing can certainly be worn facing the front…)

To that were added three textured squares that were the same width as that piece. Each was just a bit under 1/3 of its length. They were attached so as to leave just enough room at the top to add a simple, smooth, fold-over bail.

That was as far as I went in the classroom. I fired the piece along with those of the workshop participants, polished it, added some patina, and used it for a while as a “sample” piece I’d leave in other locations where I’d also get a “silver mosaics” workshop on the schedule. But, while I was fine with using it like that, for some reason it just never felt “done” to me.

Rummaging through my little bin of cabochons the other day, looking for a bit of red lace agate for another piece I was working on, I found myself digging through a few others I’d used recently that were still on top of the pile. Looking at the green aventurine and the little blue lab-grown spinels, for some reason I just thought of this piece.

When I next had a bit of time, I added bezel cups to each side of the piece, fired those into place, re-polished and re-did the patina, then set the stones.

Now, I do think it’s done. And, unlike the pieces I mentioned in my last post, I’m pretty sure that anyone looking at this one should get that it’s meant to be fully reversible.

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Riding a few waves.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/13

Speaking of inspiration (as I was in my last post) here are a couple photos of three pendants.

I’ve made a number like this. No two alike, but generally long and narrow and curved with a tube along one concave section to serve as the bail (the part from which you hang the piece).

Where’d the original idea come from? A mix of sources. Having grown up near the ocean, having spent countless hours (as a teenager in particular) at the beach, watching the waves, seems to be one of the (many) reasons that I often think in wave-shapes. (See the toggle clasp at the bottom of my last post!) Having rolled out a number of long, narrow rectangles as I was playing with potential ring-shank designs, I thought to use some for other purposes. Wanting to practice making more tubes, this design is well-suited to using those. Having quickly sold the first few I made, there was incentive to continue. And so on….

But there’s something about those sales. I sell my pieces at a mix of venues: shops, shows, private sales on my own, etc. These wave-strips seem to sell very well at external sites. But I’ve never sold one of these myself!

So, while I see these pieces as fully reversible, I have no clue if my customers see them the same way. And, if they think there is a front and a back, which is which?

Your comments on such matters are welcome!

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Thanks, Cindy G., for the inspiration!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/12

Where do you get your inspiration? Your ideas for what to make?

That’s not a question I’d actually think to ask of many artists, though I have heard others ask it. (Of some artists, yes, I might think it, because I truly cannot imagine what would lead someone to make what they’ve produced. But only a few of those are ones for which I’d really want to know the answer, if you know what I mean… And, of the ones where I would want the answer, I’d be more likely to ask one or more specific questions, starting from a specific piece, rather than lead with such a general one.)

I just always figure, in general, that inspiration, while not always direct, still comes from some mix of internal and external sources: something you see or do or hear or … that connects to something you think or feel or wish or dream … that connects to the specific set of skills you happen to have or to be trying to acquire and strengthen … that combines with a variety of other bits of you and your life and comes out as the piece in question.

In the grand scheme of my own life, this idea of being an “artist” myself is a relatively recent development. For decades, yes, I admired art, and bought pieces I wanted when I could, while I worked in various aspects of “scientific visualization.” There I was trying to make concrete images of abstract ideas … so I’m having fun going in what feels like the other direction now. But one thing that has surprised me, since I got involved in all this, is the number of people who try to describe to me other pieces they want to insist that I should make. That is something I never would have imagined telling another artist. Am I a couple standard deviations off the norm on that? Do lots of people think that’s a good conversation starter, one to which I’ve just always been oblivious?

Wave and Curve Toggle ClaspNone of that, of course, applies to the photos with this post. What inspired me to make the above comments just now was simply the concept of where inspiration comes from! In the case of those earrings, above, it was Cindy, a friend from the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County. She came over to meet me at my studio one day, before we headed out on a project for that; she admired a necklace I had made (a couple years ago now, but whose clasp I still use as a class-sample) and commented on a couple pairs of earrings that I had on display for sale. Hearing her comments on both of those at the same time, it suddenly struck me to make a pair of earrings using a part of the design, and some of the same beads, as the necklace. They’re now for sale at KoolKat in Mt. Lebanon, PA.

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Thanks for the Love.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/12

Neither of my entries won a prize in the Show Me the Love challenge but I still wanted to post a quick thank-you to those who did vote for my pieces.

You can see the winners over at the Metal Clay Today website. Second place went to the one I would have put at the top myself. (Even though it came in second, I was glad to see it earn a prize.) The third place price went to the only one of the winners that I actually know. (I enjoyed meeting her at the PMC Guild Conference at Purdue last summer.) I was impressed by many aspects of the piece that earned the first-place prize; although for this particular challenge I wouldn’t have rated any pet reliquary first simply because, while I certainly do appreciate its “love” sentiment, that just didn’t cry out “Valentine’s Day!” to me. But that’s what “elections” are all about, isn’t it? Sorting out the differences among all our opinions.

Although it does not say this explicitly at the Metal Clay Today website right now, I am expecting that images of all the entries will appear in MCT’s Spring 2011 issue once it’s made available online. Thus, if you missed voting during the time the poll was open, you should still be able to catch all of them a bit later on. If you notice any artists whose work you particularly like, why not see if you can find them online and let them know how you feel?!

Oh, and the photo that accompanies this post is one image of another love-themed bead I made, I think it was last autumn.

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Charmed (by) the Love of Craft

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/10

The Society for Contemporary Craft held a great little double-event this evening.

Both were sort of built on their current ongoing exhibit, DIY: A Revolution in Handicrafts, which runs from 10 September 2010 through 26 March 2011.

One was called For the Love of Craft and, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, it was an opportunity to participate in a range of hands-on (DIY…), family-friendly, art-making activities, many of which involved heart images and other expressions of love (e.g., you could decorate your own large heart-shaped cookie to present to your loved one).

Tonight’s other event was the opening of the Charmed II display in the society’s Store. From their description: “Charms can be purchased individually for a charm bracelet, or can be worn alone as a pendant. Buy a pair of [the lighter] charms to wear as earrings, or give one to a friend, a sibling, or significant other. Charms are a great way to start your collection of artist-made jewelry, or to add to your existing collection.” [the note was mine, after really admiring some of the largest pieces…]

Now, I’ve got nothing against hearts, sweets, DIY, or Valentine’s Day, but I think the photo that accompanies this post might give a hint of which was the driving-factor behind why I went… I never was much of a charm-bracelet person until recently, but metal-clayers do tend to be charm-exchangers… (The photo shows the four charm bracelets I’ve filled with charms from various exchanges.) Of course, those are mostly quick production numbers, little mini-art pieces, but still intended simply for random exchange.

The charms in SCC’s Shop right now may be small (with some not so small) but they are still full-scale art… If you’re interested in having one, get it while you can!

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Who, Me? runs until February 26.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/09

I meant to take some pictures at the opening of the Who, Me? show at Sweetwater, then forgot to take my camera. So the photo with this post is another one of GrayC, taken last week when I stopped by to visit her (and her humans, who cooked up a great dinner) when I dropped off Moon ‘n At for the exhibition. Oh well, just scroll back for my earlier post about the show and my entry.

On opening night (5th), after a great dinner at Little Athens in Sewickley with Jeff, Lyn, Kathy, and Jack, we headed over to the opening.

There were 25 pieces on display. It looked like 20 were by women, and 5 by men. Does that mean women are that much more reflective / introspective / what? than men? (Not that I expected men to dominate the show either. The 4:1 ratio itself, much more than the direction, is what caught my eye. Not that I expected equal numbers, necessarily, just that the disparity was big enough to strike me.)

Twenty of the entries were, in one way or another, actual self-portraits. That is, if you lined up the artists and those portraits, I think it would be relatively easy to match up which was whose. (They were not necessarily mirror-images of the person, in the present time, but there was enough immediate visual information in some way to ease the matching without resorting to other less direct indicators.)

Once we got to counting, we noted also that, of the five that were the most abstract representations of the person, it looked like two were by men, and three were by women (including mine). But, due to the different counts overall, that means a full 40% of the men, but only 15% of the women, represented themselves more abstractly. Hmmm…?

But, really, the most important thing to count may be days-left to see the show. It’s free, and runs through Saturday, February 26. If you’re in the Western PA area, I hope you’ll help support the local arts community by checking it out, and spreading the word about Sweetwater in general. (If you’re reading this from elsewhere, the equivalent action is to find a good arts organization in your area to support, and add a comment about it here!) Thanks!

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Reworking, and rethinking.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/07

Several years ago, I made a fine silver piece that I intended to use with a copper disk that I had enameled. Individually, I thought they were fine, if just a bit plain, but when I put them together, I just didn’t like how they looked in combination.

So I set them both aside, figuring that one day a reasonable alternative would come to me.

Well, the lovely enamel disk is still sitting there, waiting to inspire some other components. But the silver piece has undergone a gradual evolution.

First, it acquired a fine silver bezel cup, and then a small stone. Better, but not quite enough.

A bit of silver wire was added to it; while that didn’t conflict with the rest of the piece, it didn’t seem to add enough to justify what it would add to the cost to keep wrapping more. I left what I had there, because an idea was forming…

Late last week, while waiting for some earring components to finish up in the tumbler, I picked up some pieces of copper and bronze wire and added those. At last, the pendant had the impact I’d been seeking!

While the other side is fully finished, the overall piece is unusual for me because it isn’t truly reversible. Although my to-do list is already overflowing, I probably should include more wire wrapping, in both design and practice, until I figure out how to both create and execute more reversible designs. Except … that’s one of the things I just love about metal clay: making reversible pieces with it is easier than with just about any other medium I’ve ever tried! And I love that two-for-one feeling of accomplishment.

For now, however, I am much happier with how this particular piece has ended up. My original plan of backing it with an enamel disk would have made it more of a front-and-back pendant as well, and this iteration simply allows it to remain that way! As my friend Alice says, sometimes you just have to let the piece tell you what it wants to be.

It has 2″ of fine silver wire (22 gauge), 6″ of copper (20 gauge), and 10″ of bronze wire (24 gauge) wrapped around its 6 mm green aventurine cabochon and a fine silver rod that crosses the disk.

Now, all it needs is a good home. Let me know if you’d like to give it one!

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Who, Me?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/03

“Who, Me?” is the name of the Febrary, 2011, art exhibition hosted by Sweetwater Center for the Arts.

The call-for-artists said: Enter a piece that communicates something that is uniquely YOU. Consider what your art reveals about you as a person, or what kind of habits, struggles, joys, patterns, quirks or obsessions you have discovered in making art.

I thought immediately of the piece I call “Moon ‘n At.”

Now, if you’re not a Pittsburgher, you may not get the “joke” in the title. But locals will often end a sentence with the phrase, which I would think means “and all that” or, perhaps, “and everything that goes along with all that” simply said with the shorter one and a half syllable sound, “‘n ‘at.” (Yep, it’s definitely said in more than one but less than two full syllables ‘n ‘at!)

Note, that ‘n ‘at does not mean “et cetera.” It does not mean “and so on.” When I first became aware of it, I thought it was totally superfluous. As I heard it more often, I came to think that it’s more like, “imagine my train of thought continuing even though I’m stopping here.” As in, “Most days, I really enjoy writing this blog ‘n ‘at.” Or, “I had a great time last week at the Harry Manx concert ‘n ‘at.” Or, “I’m finding this hard to explain to readers who may not be from around here ‘n ‘at.”

And, for years, if people used the expression in written form, it might have been spelled ‘n ‘at as I’ve done above. Although some times it might be n ‘at, while at others, ‘n at. Until the era of text messaging, that is, when it became shortened yet further, to simply n@!

Which is how a necklace featuring three handmade, reversible, hollow, fine silver beads — with a sort of bubbly (moonscape) design on one side, and a pattern of spirals (@-signs) on the other — gained the title, “Moon ‘n At”!

Oh, but that’s not the end of it. Noooo. Sewickley, where this show takes place, is just across the Ohio River from Moon Township. (Both are just down-river from the Pittsburgh “Point” where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio.) And that’s the area where I lived for a few years as a child (when my family first moed here, before they headed off to Florida).

So here’s a version of the artist’s statement I wrote to accompany the piece:

Though I lived here briefly as a child (in the “Moon” area), we then moved to Florida. I later returned to SW PA, where I’ve just celebrated my “silver” anniversary of living here and embracing the winters (“snowflake” obsidian), industry (glass & steel), raw materials (represented, color-wise, by onyx, jet & hematite), three rivers (the dangles), and dialect quirks (‘n @). Assembling these components, I was amused to notice all the connections!

(The “silver” anniversary refers to a total number of years, but not consecutive ones! I’m currently on my fifth stretch of living in the Western PA area!)

The “Who, Me?” exhibit runs from Saturday, February 5, through Saturday, February 26. Admission is free. As I understand it, Moon ‘n At was the only jewelry-piece that was juried into the show. I feel very honored by that.

There will be an opening reception on the 5th, from 7 to 9 pm, and I definitely plan to head out for that. Will I see you there?

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