Convergent Series

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

Archive for May, 2011

Another curious little surprise.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/25

I noticed something in my studio yesterday that, once I got over the surprise, did actually make sense in a way I hadn’t thought about before.

In several other posts, I’ve mentioned that I like making pieces where I weave together bits of metal clay that have been specially treated so that the resulting dried “greenware” remains flexible.

Well, I recently made several pieces using that technique applied to copper, bronze, and steel clays too. I’ll post about those pieces eventually, I’m sure, but it’s the leftover materials from those that are the focus of this post.

With silver metal clay, it’s fine to just leave lying about the dried greenware (whether it’s of the hard or the flexible variety). Dried pieces can just sit there waiting to be fired, and extra bits of dried but still flexible greenware can be left alone waiting to be used in some future project. (Leftover moist clay should be sealed up securely, so it remains moist for future use. Care should be taken with leftover moist clay to prevent it from becoming moldy, but that’s not my point here either….)

With copper and bronze clays, you can leave dried pieces around for a little while, waiting to be fired. Maybe not as long as with silver, since the outer layer will begin to oxidize (tarnish) eventually, but it’s not like you have to rush to get the stuff into the kiln. (Besides, since you can fire fewer of these pieces in a single load than you can with silver, it doesn’t take as long to accumulate a “full kiln load” as it does with silver … though sometimes it does take me a while to find the time to tend to the more complex firing schedules with these clays.) The same seems to be true of stuff that’s been treated to form flexible greenware. It will remain flexible and usable for some time, though not forever. Moist clay should be sealed up very tightly: in addition to preventing evaporation of the moisture in it, you also want to reduce any possible reactions from exposure to atmospheric oxygen and pollutants. Luckily, freezing of any of the moist or dried clays in this family seems to help reduce the oxidation that can form as a result of even limited exposure.

But steel, well, that’s a different beast. It doesn’t just tarnish, it can actually rust, so finished pieces require some extra treatments to help reduce that. But here’s the bit that surprised me when I first saw it, but not once I’d thought about it: specks of rust can form all over any pieces of flexible greenware that are left lying about! Even if it’s only been for a few days, the trick to flexible clay is that it never really dries out and, of course, damp steel will rust for sure….

Shown below are “left over” pieces of flexible greenware. In order, they are: copper, bronze, and now-rusty pearl gray steel. Sigh.

I guess I’ll have to try freezing any leftovers from the next batch I test out, to see how long that holds up.

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Posted in General Techniques | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/21

… but bronze and copper shrink at different rates that sometimes yield surprises.

If it had turned out OK, I’d’ve been torn: should I polish it up to an even, satin finish, or just leave it with this colored, antique look?

I can try to patch it but then, for several reasons, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll have to polish it. That’s ok.

I was, however, making it in the hope of meeting a deadline that I’ve now missed, so I’m going to Plan B for that and will set this one aside for the time being. I’ll come back to it later on. There’s a story behind the design, that I’ll tell when I’ve worked it all out.

But this is such a dramatic image, I couldn’t resist posting it. (FYI, this piece is the reason I’d mixed up a big batch of bronze, whose leftovers I described in my past few posts.) Sigh.

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A different “front” versus “back” question.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/20

To me, this piece (“Bronze Drape #2”) is clearly fully reversible. On the “convex” side, you can see where the bronze clay was casually “draped” into an interesting form. On the other side, a texture covers any cavities. Either side could be worn towards the front.

The “drape” side was polished to a nice satin finish.

The “texture” side was left as it came from the kiln: the colors are just what this piece decided it wanted to have (as maker, I have no control over that) and, though they are not guaranteed to stay the same over time, they could well remain like this for quite a while.

So here’s the question for this one: Do I leave the texture-side alone, or do I polish it? If I leave it alone, I can’t guarantee how long that finish will last. If I polish it, it will lose all the colors and end up a monochrome just like the “drape” side: that decreases the variations, both now and over time, but does produce something that is more stable over the long run.

Now, if I were keeping this piece for myself, I know what I’d do: I’d keep the “rustic” look for now knowing that, if/when it did change in a way I didn’t like, I could always just polish it then. (Or put it back in the kiln to see if any nice colors might reappear on a subsequent firing: something that is totally unpredictable.)

But I don’t intend to keep it: it’s going up for sale in a couple weeks. (By which I mean, a gallery will be trying to sell it on my behalf, so I won’t be able to “explain” the finish myself.) I’m still tempted to leave it like this, but I could be talked into polishing it if you thought that would be a significantly better approach here.

Please leave a comment!

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Does this piece have a “front” and a “back”?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/18

After making the two-hearts piece I mentioned in my last post, I still had a bit of prepared-bronze left, so I just kept going. This is what I did with almost all the rest of it:

Concave Side Convex Side

Do you think this piece has a distinct front and back? If so, which is which to you? Or, do you see it as fully reversible, that is, with it being possible to call either side the front?

While a wearer can decide which side to wear facing out, when it’s displayed for sale, only one side will face out. When it goes to a gallery for sale, which side would you put facing out?

Posted in Learning Metal Clay | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Two Hearts, revisited

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/16

Back in March, when I was writing about some of my trials with Art Clay copper, I used several photos of the piece shown to the left (as well as others) to illustrate what I was talking about.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I encountered some major problems working with that clay. Not to say I’ll never try it again, but I’ve been really busy lately, and I had other products to use and things to make when I managed to find some spare time.

Still, I liked that two-heart design (’twas just from a very inexpensive rubber stamp I bought soon after a very special couple announced their engagement) so, the other night, when I had a bit of Hadar Jacobson’s bronze clay left over, I used the stamp again, with one of her techniques: I made the base out of bronze, with copper inlaid to follow the stamp’s design.

Admittedly, this approach resulted in a few small glitches too. I lost a little bit of the inner edge of the top heart while never quite getting all the spirals to reappear, but I kind of like the little random “blobs” so that’s ok for a “practice” piece.

The thing that surprised me most was the way this domed a bit when it was fired! Being bronze, after its been fired there’d be no way (certainly not with the relatively simple set of tools I’m working with…) to either achieve that (as an afterthought) or undo it (if it bothered me). But I found it a pleasant surprise so I’m just going to appreciate it without, at least for the moment, being concerned about understanding why that happened.

Though, of course, I know I will eventually have to make a number of other pieces, varying slightly on the overall approach used here, to try to figure out the pattern of when that does and does not happen. How long can I savor the moment before being driven back to figure that out?

Metal clays may be relatively easy to work with, but part of what I love about this is puzzling out all the different quirks….

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Time for a little R & R….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/13

I’ve just had “one of those” weeks. The sort of thing where there’s not really anything going on that I might call a crisis, just one where for various reasons, and with several looming deadlines, everything seems to be a lot more complicated and/or take much longer than I’d’ve ever expected. Thus, no time left for blogging. Sigh….

So it was great when Rachell and Ramona came over for some workshop time yesterday afternoon. ‘Twas a “vacation day” for them, and their relaxed holiday mood turned it into a wonderful little break for me too.

I did manage to capture a few images of the twelve (12!) pieces they finished (though OK, some of those will go together in pairs or threes, so we’re talking six final products. But five of those sets are fully reversible, so you could say that gets the count back up to eleven! That’s great for four hours, don’t you think? (And that doesn’t even include the three other pieces they got started and will finish the next time when, hopefully, yet another sister (Renee) will join in on the fun too).

The reason why I’m rattling on about numbers is that I know a number of those were made with the intention of being gifts, so I don’t want to give away any secrets by posting my snapshots of them. All I can say is, if you’re a friend or family member on their holiday gift list, you should hope that you’re one of the ones for whom these are intended…

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

Demos at Art All Night 2011.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/05

I’m way behind schedule for meeting several deadlines, so I haven’t had time to go through my snapshots from Art All Night and try to assemble a bit of a story. But I figured I’d at least find and post a couple for now. This first one will confirm that we were there or, at least, listed as the “Precious Metal Clay Guild” on the big Thank-You Board. (Technically, we are the “Western PA Chapter of the Precious Metal Clay Guild” but what’s here is close enough!)

I got there a little before 6 pm and Donna arrived a few minutes after. We were scheduled to give demos until around 10 pm, though it was more like 10:30 when we actually finished up. We were in the same space our guild chapter had last year, just off to the side of the ramp that connects the two main buildings of the art show.

There seemed to be more lights in full operation than there’d been back in our corner last year! So our little tables were somewhat brighter than they’d been then, which made it a bit challenging to see the “glow” of pieces being torch-fired. But, only a little bit more and, once again, that burning binder and glowing metal served well to draw people over to see what was going on. We had a pretty steady flow of interested observers until, maybe around 8 pm, I began to notice a bit of a crowd building up in the aisle between us and the ramp.

At first, I just saw this guy from the back: he was also facing the ramp, trying to draw people down into “our” corner. Or, should I say, trying to get his, ah, “friend” to draw them down. Though coiled up in this shot, when I saw it stretched out it looked to be a least six feet long (maybe more, but definitely under eight).

That’s when the “aura” around us changed: I’m not trying to imply that it got better, or that it got worse, just that it changed. Some people came over because of the snake, and then stayed to see what we were doing. Others came over regardless of the snake, because they wanted to know what we were demonstrating.

I do know, however, that at least some people didn’t even see us because of the snake. Several of my neighbors, for one example: One mother stopped by to say hello, but I later found out that neither the father nor their children in that family had even seen me. He said, “As soon as I saw that snake, I just looked the other way, and headed the girls right over to some performers on the other side of the room.”

That’s too bad. Though I was too busy to get a chance to engage this fellow in conversation (and of course he disappeared right as we started to pack up our materials), from the little I was able to overhear off and on, he seemed to be doing a good job of trying to explain that snakes are a part of our ecosystem, that only a very few of them are dangerous while most are not, and that the majority of them would usually rather you just quietly pass them by and leave them alone … the same thing you would wish of them. Luckily, a lot of people were still able to walk past this pair–stopping to visit with them, or not, as they preferred–to see what we had going on.

Oh, and in that photo, you can see Donna, second from the left (and facing right), in the midst of a torch-firing demo. I couldn’t find a way to get both the snake and the torch in the same shot, so I just grabbed a shot from this angle and then went back to talking with folks who’d come over to see the metal clay display.

After we were all packed up, Donna left to get some sleep (she was heading down to the metal clay retreat sponsored by PMC Connection at Arrowmont, leaving at 7 am the next day). But I stayed and wandered around, looking at the art and talking with various people, for a couple more hours.

‘Twas a fun evening! I hope to find time to post a few notes on the show itself in about a week.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/02

… you may notice that I just changed its visual “theme.”

I had been using a WordPress theme called Garland, but I just switched it to Andreas09. I’m not sure about this one: much as I like “silver” in jewelry, I’m not a big fan of “gray” as a decorative color in other settings. But this theme had enough other features that I did like, so I decided to give it a try.

Why? Though I liked many of Garland’s features, I recently realized the “full site” was not showing up well on small devices. (The special version for those was fine, but if you wanted to view the full website itself, there were some problems.)

Andreas09 appears fine in both mobile and full-website versions. The part I’m less certain about is that it lets me specify some color choices, but not everything. For example, I can change the color along the top (which I have done, to one that seems to go well with some of my studio colors) and that leaves the gray sides alone. But, if I change out the gray along the sides, then both the top and the sides seem to change to that same color. And that’s a problem: The title at the top appears in white (so you need a dark background to see that) while the text down the sides is dark (so you need a light background). So for now at least, I’m living with the blue-ish top bar (which I like) and the gray-sides (which I’m telling myself are silver and that’s good).

Comments on this change are welcome! (Or, if you blog on WordPress and know how to tweak the colors on this theme further, please speak up.)

Time to get back to making jewelry though. I have several pieces that must be finished asap; after I’ve met that challenge, I’ll post photos from Art All Night and, from back before that, Terry Kovalcik’s workshop.

(I sometimes wonder if I’d be in fine shape if there were 28 hours in a day, and 10 days in a week…. Do you?)

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

 
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