Convergent Series

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

Archive for January, 2012

The lifespan of a no-flake-foil firing box….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/30

I folded this little firing box out of No-Flake Foil (from Cool Tools) some time last April, although I didn’t record the exact date because, at the time, I had no clue it was ever going to be worth noting.

I first wrote about this particular box in a post last July, after I’d noticed a little flurry of discussion about what people used to fire the copper, bronze, steel, or other metal clays that needed to be buried in carbon. At that time, I said it had held up just fine through several dozen firings.

I do tend to fire pieces in spurts (some weeks, nothing; other weeks, multiple loads) but, since then (especially, prior to the last “Holiday Season”!), it has survived dozens more.

The last time I emptied it out, however, during this past weekend and after it had provided almost ten months of regular service, I was sad to note that it has begun to sprout a few little holes. They are tiny and not easy to see (so of course I highlighted them with big red arrows for you in the photo!). But I know they signal the beginning of the end for this particular box.

So I thought I should note the date that it has been retired from duty as my primary firing box. My number-two box will step into that role. The experimenter in me isn’t quite ready to part with number-one yet, of course, so I’ve got it stashed away at the moment. I may try using it again a few more times, just so I can document its demise for my own information.

But, really, it’s just foil. There may be nothing more worth noting about it, except that I am amazed, and delighted, that it has already done so well for this long.

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What I did last week (part 2…)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/23

OK, so why did I go off making those domed disks described in my last post? Well, I started them as soon as I received this photo in the mail:

That’s not a piece of mine. It was made by the very talented Maria Richmond, and it was included in an email from the delightful Zelda’s Bead Kit Company, to illustrate a workshop that Maria was to teach there last week.

I’ve wanted to take one of Maria’s workshops for quite some time now; but never managed to have both time and money available to coincide with the projects of hers that interested me the most. But when I saw this one, I contacted her right away, to ask about the size of the disks, and learned that they were some “antique enameling disks” that Maria had bought online to include in the materials-kits for the sessoin. Yes, they are very nice disks, and it’s great that they are now going to good use. But I saw that bracelet and immediately pictured making it with hand-made, textured domed disks, designed and developed using metal clay techniques!

Thus the little collection I made last week: two different metals (copper and rose bronze, from Hadar’s metal clay powders), some of each in two different sizes, all with a deep “rose” pattern on their convex (domed) side, and with either a much finer “rose” pattern or a shallow “fern” or “swirl” on the other (inner, bowl) side (varying in such a way that I could easily tell which was made from which metal). I made those to take to Maria’s class, about twice as many as I thought I’d need, plus a few smaller ones in case I needed some minor adjustments in length.

Now, my larger pieces are slightly bigger than Maria’s disks, and my smaller ones were not quite as big as hers. It looked like five of my bigger ones would come out to just a smidge under six of hers, which seemed like a size I could wear. So I just used those, rather than try to tweak the length any further by varying the size of the pieces.

Following Maria’s instructions in all other regards, the photos to the left and right here show how my bracelet came out. I was delighted.

Maria’s sample, and all of those made in the workshop except for mine, were made entirely of copper elements (not just the disks, but also the coils, links, jump rings, and clasp pieces) and, as a last step, darkened with Liver of Sulphur (“LOS”). I chose, however, not to use LOS on mine. I figured that would overpower the kiln-colors that I liked; the metals will darken soon enough on their own with age.

Then, a few minutes after I finished mine, as I looked at it on my arm, trying to decide which side should face out, I had a real “Aha!” moment. I took it completely apart and, when I reassembled it, I alternated both metals (rose bronze – copper – rose bronze – copper – rose bronze) and the orientation of each piece (rose up, coils up, rose up, coils up, rose up). I then bent the wire-wrap connectors a bit to encourage everything to lie in a particular orientation.

But, even if it rolls up and down my arm, this way I am more likely to have some elements land wire-coil up, and others, rose-dome up, thus featuring both Maria’s wire-work idea and my own metal-clay approach, respectively. (We’ve already discussed the possibility of jointly offering something along this line as a two-part class later in the year.)

And, yep, it’s a two-sided bracelet. Somehow, I just can’t help but make fully reversible pieces. Stay tuned: I’m hoping to find time to finish up yet another variation or two on this in the next week or so.

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What I did last week (part 1…)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/22

The simple answer to, “What did you do last week?” would be, “I made up a handful of textured, domed disks to play with.”

In the rest of this post, I’ll discuss (with illustrations) just what I did. In my next post, I’ll explain why I did that. I hope to add another post, eventually, where I’ll review a few little tweaks I just happened to add to the plan…

I didn’t think to stop and take photos of the earlier stages in the construction of these pieces. Mostly, it was just the usual routine for working with metal clay. I began by mixing up small batches of several of Hadar’s metal clay powders that I wanted to use. The clay was then rolled out, textured (in general, on both sides), cut, shaped, dried, drilled, and in just a few cases, further “refined” (e.g., a few pieces had their edges sanded down just enough so the final result would be even and smooth) before going into the firing pans.

At this point, I started taking photos. (I have found myself tending to take a quick snapshot of each shelf or pan as it goes into the kiln. That way, if anything seems odd afterwards, I’ll have a record of what was where. Though, my usual load involves one-of-a-kind work; with so many similar pieces in this load, that isn’t going to tell me very much, is it? Oh, well.)

This photo shows the thirteen pieces I made. Ten are basic domes. The other three (to be discussed later) are the ones with little wire loops attached to them. (Click on photo to enlarge it, if necessary, to really see any such details….)

The pan to the left contains pieces made mostly using quick-fire copper clay; to the right, mostly using rose bronze metal clay. (One or two of each also contain some pearl gray steel, but those are the ones I’m going to hold off discussing for a while yet.)

The next photo shows two of the copper domes, just as they came out of the kiln. Note the lovely color on the one to the right (convex side up). That was a surprise! (And it’s what prompted me to start my tale here, with the disks themselves, rather than just with how I used them.) I am not used to seeing much color variation on fired copper, at least not seeing it as vividly as I often see with the bronzes. My fired copper usually just looks dark, like the one on the left. Several (though not all) of the copper pieces showed delightful color this time. And the brightest colors all appeared on the convex sides, the side that I had placed face-down during the firing.

This next photo shows two other copper pieces, less colorful from the kiln, and therefore all polished up to a reasonably bright shine:

Here are four rose bronze domes, straight from the kiln. Again, these all show the side I’d fired face-down. In the past, when the bronze pieces came out with colors, it has seemed that the nicest ones seem to appear on the side positioned that way. (Though you can’t count on seeing that at all: you just have to be thankful when you do!)

Then again, this time I noticed some pretty interesting colors on the sides that were face-up as well! The pieces shown in this next photo are just the same four, from above, turned over.

A side note: All thirteen pieces had the same “rose” texture on their convex side. The other side, however, got a slightly different treatment, depending on which metal I was using. I wasn’t sure how much I might care to know which was which as I was later working with them, but that seemed a simple yet unobtrusive way to distinguish the different metals if I wanted to quickly tell them apart.

Here are a couple more rose bronze disks. On the piece to the left, note the little red dot just to the left of the hole at the bottom.

Now, I admit, I didn’t note anything particularly memorable about that dot, itself, until I turned the piece over. Hmmmm. I wonder what tiny bit of something got into my carbon, to create the little, tan “washer” image on this side? You should be able to see it clearly at the bottom of the piece here on the left, just to the right of the hole. Its center matches the position of the red dot.

Well, I’ll never know the answer to the question of what caused that. But, here, you can see all ten disks after I finished polishing them up by varying amounts:

Knowing that the kiln-induced patina-colors are rather ephemeral, that they’ll wear off the high points, at least, as the piece is touched, worn, jostled in a jewelry box, etc., I decided to polish that off all the high points on the convex sides, while still leaving some down in the hollows. (I did give a full polish to a few select pieces that did not show much range in color.) Then I fully polished the concave sides—for several reasons, the decision to go for a full shine there was somewhat beyond my control. Partly, it had to do with how I intend to use these (see my next post). Also, it was due to the polishing tools I have that made it easy for me to limit what I’d polish on the “outside” to just the high points, but that meant I pretty much had to do a full-scale polish down in the “inside” anyway (or else, spend a lot more time on these than I thought they warranted). That was fine. I am happy with the results so far.

Please stay tuned to see what I’ve begun doing with these….

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A few quick notes on SOPA / PIPA.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/18

Stepping outside my metal-clay world for a moment, I have signed up with WordPress to display a “Stop Censorship” banner on this blog from Jan 18 (today) through Jan 24 (the date the US Senate is set to vote on SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act).

Clicking on the banner will take you to the website of americancensorship.org where you can find more information, links, petitions, and so on, about all this.

Please understand: I support copyright. I oppose piracy. Strongly, for both.

Full disclaimer: I have produced materials that are protected by copyright. In another part of my life, I have taught about copyright to school teachers, student teachers, university faculty, and graduate students, in both on-site and on-line workshops.

Copyright in the USA is included in our Constitution, which states that “The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

That is, because the intent of copyright protection is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, authors get a mini-monopoly as one inducement to develop new work.

There have been historical limits to copyright as well (e.g., in certain specifics of how the laws apply to libraries and schools) when it appears to conflict with the overriding public interest of encouraging further development. These limits had been considered acceptable because the intent of copyright is to promote progress, and not to promote the author’s own interests nor specifically to increase the author’s own wealth … nor, by extension, the specific interests or wealth of a corporation that buys all or some of an author’s collection of copy-rights.

In recent years, however, some corporations have lobbied for passage of laws that have slowly morphed that understanding in favor of corporate power and wealth over individual progress. While some of the impetus behind recent changes have been due, to be sure, by the illegal actions of some who have chosen to trample on the fair rights of individual authors, creators, and inventors (via actions which I deplore), many recent extensions to the copyright laws have done more to extend corporate financial interests than to actually try to deal with those issues … and have done so in ways that prevent progress more than promote it (which is simply not acceptable either).

At last, with opposition to SOPA and PIPA (the Senate / House versions of a proposed law, respectively), a mix of individuals, groups, and companies have managed to gather some momentum to say, together, “Wait a minute. Many of us do understand copyright, benefit from it, and want to protect it too. But this is not the right way to go about it!”

In a Congress that finds stalemate on so many issues, how is it that you were able to come to agreement on this? Whose pocket are you in this time? Which lobbyists are promoting this? Can’t you stop, take a deep breath, and involve some technology experts in the discussion? (Especially those from the “open source” community, of which WordPress is a part (which is one reason I chose it for my blogging platform!), and not just those from the “all-proprietary” realm…) Can’t you listen to those who are trying to tell you the ways that this so-called “solution” is potentially worse than the original “problem”? Find a better solution, please!

I encourage anyone who happens to read this to urge your legislators to support Copyright as our Founders intended. Limit corporate intrusion into our democracy. Stop censorship. Find effective and appropriate ways to enforce the anti-piracy laws we have already. Oh, and don’t be an intellectual property pirate yourself. Yes, that combo is a tall order, but it’s what we need to do, all of us, so that every individual in this country can have the opportunity, if they wish to take advantage of it, to continue to promote our “progress in science and the useful arts”!

Posted in Misc. Musings | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Third blob’s a charm….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/13

I haven’t updated blog, nor done much of anything non-essential, for over a week. I have read and commented at a few other sites, but that’s easier than coming up with something new myself, given the massive sinus & such infection that invaded my head. I’m perking back up — just in time, I might add, so I can lead a (very full, I hear) Curved Oblong Pendants workshop at Zelda’s this weekend — and I have begun composing several other posts in my head which will materialize after that (and maybe after a couple more classes too … I really am way behind on many fronts). But here’s a quick one in response to my friend Alice’s recent post Third time is NOT a charm!

Alice was talking about slip-trailing, which is a technique borrowed (as far as I know) from pottery. Thinned-down clay (slip) is poured (trailed) across a piece. Some metal clay folks do extremely precise designs, carefully dripping tiny amounts of slip at a time off the tip of a paintbrush; others do more random designs (as I did in the first photo shown with this post, above) by letting it dribble out of the end of a syringe that you hover over the piece, often moving that around in a somewhat random pattern. (Other tools, and combos of those approaches, are also possible, but I won’t go into all that now.) Alice wrote that she and a friend tried this recently (Alice has done this a few times before) and, though the friend seemed to achieve some good results, Alice ended up with some “blobs” that she was less than happy with.

Now, I could have just left a sympathetic comment on Alice’s post, but the reason I’m writing all this here is so I can show her (and you too) the second photo. It’s also a slip-trail design, but what you see is nothing like I had in mind when I started it. My goal had been something geometric but, as Alice herself often says, sometimes a piece will tell you what it wants to be.

And this one was quite emphatic. I trailed the line down the center. Fine. I trailed a second line. Blob! Not sure what to do with that, I trailed a third. Another blob. I sat there, frustrated, looking at the blobs.

And I saw tulips! Two distinct flowers, which led me to imagine a third tulip-blob that had simply grown off the top of the frame. And that was it: the piece had told me what it wanted to be. I took out a paintbrush and very carefully squeezed in just a few tiny leaves, to help confirm the image.

The only problem with writing this post, of course, is that I’ve now publicly admitted that the design on that piece was sheer luck. Or, maybe the artistry in it was recognizing the luck?

Here’s wishing Alice, and all my other readers, the ability to recognize good luck when it pops up in front of you!

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Starting 2012 with a note of appreciation.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/01

fireworks above skyline -- just some clipart I found online for thisFor my New Year / Blog Anniversary post this year (third time now, wow!), I want to take a moment to say a few words of “Thanks” to all the wonderful folks who have expressed interest in my art and supported my various efforts in that realm.

I’ve tried to do some of that at appropriate moments all year, and I still think fondly of y’all. But, recently, I’ve been feeling it was time for another statement of gratitude. It’s taken me until today because, although I do love all the wonderful light in my studio, we are well into that time of year, when I just need more hours of daylight! And while I am often happy to make art at night, it still seems, to me at least, like the “balancing act” that includes all the holiday-season activities (on top of everything else) is so much more of a challenge when the “balance” between day and night swings so far away from daylight. In the past few weeks, of course, the balance has already begun slowly shifting back to more daylight so, as the New Year begins, I decided I had to take a moment to stop and once again offer some words of “Thanks!”

Especially as last year drew to a close, I was delighted to see everyone who came over for my Open House during the Art Buzz tour, and for the event at Zelda’s the following weekend. I also appreciated everyone who attended any of the holiday-special shows where my jewelry was available. (The photo to the right is of my studio, turned into a shop for the Art Buzz weekend, shortly before I opened up for the second day; I meant to take more photos, both there and at Zelda’s, but just never thought to do so when the rooms were jam-packed full of such interesting people! Clearly, I’ll have to work on some better display options if I do that again but, for the moment, let me bask in having managed to convert it from workspace to shop at all!)

‘Twas really wonderful to see everyone. Especially delightful was having people turn up in my studio who knew me from when I’d lived here before, some that I hadn’t seen since before I’d moved away the last time (first to the Monterey – Pacific Grove area of CA; then to the Twin Cities area of MN; then back to CA, but down the coast in San Luis Obispo, aka SLO-town … so, you see, that could have been a while!). Also great was having other folks show up who have been customers of this current venture of mine, to talk about what they might next like to purchase or to learn. And, of course, it was wonderful to meet all the new folks: ones who’d come up to my space after WSCC’s Holiday Gift Shop or as part of the great Art Buzz tour, and others who were customers at Zelda’s and came over to see the sorts of things I offer there. I must also include my other friends who just happened to stop by at some point, and especially those who finally came to visit my studio for the very first time. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to spent time together other again in the new year!

Last but not least, I want to note my appreciation for the (increasing number of) readers of this blog. (I can see from my “statistics” page that you are out there: what can I do to encourage more of you to leave a comment every now and then?)

Best wishes to all!

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