Convergent Series

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

Archive for March, 2013

March Meeting of Western PA Metal Clay group

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/03/26

I often intend to write at least a quick note about meetings of the Metal Clay group in Western PA, but then I forget to take any photos and, without those to jog my memory, I then forget all about the good intentions I had. But, on Sunday, I did remember to take camera and grab a handful of quick snapshots, so here are a few things we did at our last meeting. We called it a “Clay Play” day and, while some of us did exactly that, there was more than clay involved too!

We try to have a “special topic” at each meeting. For this, someone will offer to demonstrate a technique that at least a handful of members are interested in either discovering (if they’ve never tried it before) or learning more about (if they have some experience but want to talk about it with others who are interested in the same topic). This may involve metal clay, specifically, but often it addresses some other skill that may be useful. This month, our topic was drilling holes in glass and stones. The first photo (above, right) shows Debbie doing one of several demonstrations of this. She brought a bag full of stones and beach glass that she’d collected on the shores of Lake Superior last summer, ones that were a good “shape” for beginners attempting this task, and let those who were interested have a go with her equipment. She also assembled a one-page handout that covered both the steps involved and the tools used. Thanks, Deb! I’ll have to raid my collection (currently displayed in a glass vase at home) that I picked up the last time I lived in California and would go walking along the shores there. Some of the nicest ones I have came from Moonstone Beach (near Hearst Castle).

Michelle is our “local advocate” for using the Sihouette Cameo cutter in all sorts of ways. She generously brings her set-up to most “play day” sessions (shown, middle left). This time, she brought cardstock from which she cut boxes she uses for selling her Rose Gold and Green Gold clays, and let that run while we did other things. But she also does demos, answers questions from folks wondering if this might be a tool they would use, and even lets folks try out some ideas to see if they might want to take the plunge. Thanks to Michelle too!

We also have a round of Show & Tell at each session. Shown last (lower right) is Sharon, who had just gotten back from a 2-week vacation mere hours before our meeting began. Despite having gotten little sleep during that return trip, she came because she wanted to participate in the stone-drilling activity! She did have a few new fine silver creations to bring, but also displayed a nice collection of bracelets she had beaded at the beach. Will your husband let the rest of us all come with you next year, Sharon?

As for me, no photos yet of what I did, but they’ll show up eventually. In addition to participating in everything else, I had a very productive clay-play day. I made all the elements I’ll need for a dozen pairs of earring and a half dozen pendants. The latter all need to have a few simple embellishments added before they can be fired. I have double-duty plans for some of these pieces.

As part of the accreditation program for Hadar’s Clay teachers, I need to do a series of kiln-tests, using different clays, and record the result. Hoping that mine will come out OK (or, at least, that I understand the parameters well enough that most of them will), I’m going to risk a few of the simplest elements in those tests. If I do have a few failures, I didn’t invest much time or clay in these, so any “loss” will be minimal. More importantly, though, all of the pieces have designs that involve pollinators of various sorts, so all of the ones that do survive can go into the collection I’ll be taking out to the Western PA Garden Marketplace on April 20. How good is that?!

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A Tale of Two Lentils

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/03/23

One of the early assignments in the accreditation program for Hadar’s Clay teachers involved having to make a sealed, hollow bead, and to fire it. (There’s more than that, but this post is only about that part.)

Of course, who can make just one? I did restrain myself: I made only two. Both are “lentil” beads. One was made from Quick Fire Bronze (which I’ve happily used for ages now), and one using Brilliant Bronze (which is newer to me, and not always successful but one I’ve been determined to master). I made all four “pieces” (both sides, both beads) the same size (diameter and thickness). I did drape the Quick-Fire one over a “steeper” curve than I used for the Brilliant Bronze. After completing the rest of the construction process, I fired them (along with several other pieces I was making for the Western PA Garden Marketplace on April 20). Shown, above, are the results.

The Quick Fire one is shown to the left. It sintered and looks great. It held its curvier-shape well, the seams held, and the kiln gave lovely colors (that, for this exercise, will eventually disappear…).

The Brilliant Bronze one is shown to the right. All the seams held together, no cracks appeared, and it appears to have sintered. Well, to be honest, it appears to be over-fired! It has a rough, sort of pitted, almost bubbled surface. Its edges shrank an extra amount, resulting in a sort of “rim” the whole way around it. Worst of all, perhaps, it slumped a bit: its shape no longer has a nice, even, slight curve to it. Instead, it sort of bulges off to one side (which is hard to see in the photo here).

How did this happen? Well, I knew that Brilliant Bronze should be fired about ten degrees lower than the “other” bronze. But there are several “other” bronzes! And I had a copy of Hadar’s shrinkage-rate chart that led me to believe that it could be fired at either the mid- or high-fire range — and there is a “bronze” that fits the bill for “other” at each of those!

So, here’s the secret: If you EVER have ANY sort of problem using one of Hadar’s clays, first be sure you have the latest information! Always go and check her blog (look at the list on the right side of the screen there). Apparently I had missed that there’d been a typo in an early version of the shrinkage chart, so I had not gone to grab the update. The chart that’s out there now makes it clear that Brilliant Bronze is a mid-fire formula only. Meaning I have to fire it a bit lower than the Quick Fire Bronze.

So the next time I fire Brilliant Bronze, I’ll just lower the firing temperature a few degrees more, and look forward to an even more successful outcome.

In the meantime, though, I have a collection of pieces with butterflies, with roses, and with hibiscus flowers that I made out of Quick-Fire Bronze XT (the high-fire bronze formula) that are calling out to be fired next. Here’s hoping!

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Found!!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/03/16

My bifocal safety glasses have reappeared! I am delighted!

They went missing months ago. I forget when. Maybe October? Sometime back during the big making-rush before the holiday sales season.

I kept thinking, “Where could they have gone?” And, eventually, “I really need to replace those.” Then, when I was off placing an order for something or other, I’d forget about them—didn’t need them to do that! Later, when I wanted to use them, I’d remember. And think, no, they cost enough as it is and I’m willing to pay that, but I’m not going to pay an extra full shipping and handling charge just for them. Next time I place an order…. And the cycle continued.

Today, I was working on some pieces for an assignment in the accreditation program for Hadar’s Clay teachers. I’d finished the necessary pieces but thought, hey, why not make a few other things too, to be efficient and fire up a full kiln-load. I was just finishing up on a few flower-theme pieces for the Western PA Garden Marketplace on April 20 when, carrying several from the dehydrator back to my worktable, I dropped a little dried-clay (“greenware”) tulip onto the floor. Being still-fragile in that state, it broke into several pieces. And they went heading in several different directions. As I was crawling around on the floor trying to retrieve those, something caught the corner of my eye. What is that, I thought?

I reached under the middle of the futon in a corner of my studio. I had to lie down on the floor and stretch to reach the black “thing” I could barely see. When I got my hand on it, I was suddenly pretty sure what it was, but I actually had to do some maneuvering to get it out from under the base of that seating. And, yes, it was the missing bifocal safely glasses!

I have no idea how they got there. I have no idea how I did not see them when I moved everything around doing a major clean-up before the Art Buzz tour last December. I suspect that they may have gotten extra-hidden by all that moving, because there’s no way they could have just fallen down to where I finally found them. But who knows….

All I know is that they are back and I am very happy!

They are an incredibly useful tool!

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Accreditation Program for Hadar’s Clay™ Teachers

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/03/08

Well, I still don’t seem to have my head above water, schedule-wise, but there is a bit of news I’ve been sitting on for over a week now, and I just have to say something about that!

I have mentioned Hadar Jacobson in this blog before. I’ve found myself inspired by much of her metal clay art. I really enjoyed participating in a workshop she taught here just about two years ago (which I reported about in a series of six posts that started here). I find her clays to be delightful to work with. And I’ve been honored to have three of the pieces I’ve made using those clays selected as illustrations in two of her books.

And the latest news items, both Hadar-related, are these:


  1. She is starting an Accreditation Program for Hadar’s Clay™ Teachers … and … [drum roll …] …
  2. She has invited me to be in the “charter group” of teachers to participate in this!

(If it weren’t for the jaw-pain that, at the moment, I know would result from jumping up and down (even just once, let alone for days on end now), I’d show a video of that here. Instead, I’ll just include a photo of of one of my pieces from her book, Patterns of Color in Metal Clay.)

Now, we are just at the beginning of a year-long process. On the one hand, I am thrilled that there will be a cadre of us (all around the world!) spending pretty much a whole year working on a series of common projects, talking about the results, comparing notes, seeing what is and is not reproducible and what really does vary by individual, how to handle all this in various situations both in-class and on-line, and more, all culminating in a series of get-together workshops next year. On the other hand, I am also a bit intimidated to think that this will take a whole year of regular tasks and assignments just to get through the process, so I’m betting that some folks will drop out along the way. At the moment, I am simply hoping that I can hold on (although, of course, another part of me really does want to make it through “with flying colors”…).

But one of the things that really helps to maintain my fascination with the whole metal clay / powder metallurgy process is how intrigued I am by the continual learning that I am privileged to gain with it, and the opportunities I then have to share all that with others through classes, workshops, demonstrations, publications, and more. So that is the spirit in which I accepted the invitation. We’ll just have to see how it goes!

Posted in Learning Metal Clay, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Another gap, sigh….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/03/01

Dentistry logoWell, I still haven’t managed to say much again lately, in more ways than one. Sorry!

I have really been trying to get back to this blog, and lots of making, and teaching, and more.

Instead, I have been spending way, way, way too much time (and money….) at one “dentist” or another. Or recovering from having gone to dentist … various specilists … oral surgeon …. Are you starting to get the idea here?

I won’t bore you with details, except to say that all that has in fact been going on since mid-January. Please understand that metal-clay things are still going on too, just more in the background: I have managed to make some new pieces and teach private lessons, at least, and I will schedule public classes and write about all of it as soon as I can.

In the meantime, your good wishes are much appreciated.

Posted in Health & Medicine | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

 
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