Convergent Series

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

Archive for May, 2013

How long did it take you to learn how to do this?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/05/30

So far, I have not made many pieces out of steel. I have used bit of steel as small accents, but only a few times as the main element in my work.

But, over the last few weeks, a number of us who work with and teach about Hadar’s Clays have been doing some explorations with the “Low Shrinkage Steel XT” product. Shown is a photo of a dozen pieces, which are about half of the ones I made during this exercise. While most of them turned out pretty much as I would have expected, there were a few surprises that I’m still trying to understand. I will likely have to make a few more pieces like the surprise-ones (when I find some more time to just explore), to see if the pattern repeats or if the surprises were nothing more than the occasional surprise.

Specifically, we’ve been looking at shrinkage. All metal clays shrink from when you first shape a piece in that medium to when it ends up as fully-sintered metal. Different products shrink different amounts. Some shrink more as they dry (go from wet clay to what we call greenware); others shrink more as they are fired (as the binder burns out and the atoms sinter (arrange themselves into a regular metal structure)).

Even working with just one product, different pieces will shrink different amounts in different directions. This leads to some interesting results, such as the fact that rings (usually) shrink smaller (though how much depends on the size and shape of the ring), the clay around cracks (usually) shrinks away from the opening (thus making it look larger after it’s been fired), and holes (usually) remain about the same size (depending on how big and what shape they are in relation to the clay around them).

With my background in mathematics and statistics, I tend to think of shrinkage as a “degrees of freedom” issue: if a clay wants to shrink a certain percentage and, for some reason, it can’t shrink that much in one direction, it compensates by shrinking more in the direction where it has more freedom to shrink. Except, it’s nowhere near as exact as that might make it sound…. It may vary from one time to the next. It may also vary from one artist to the next.

Why? Is it the amount of water in the clay? The humidity in the air? The altitude at which you work? The attitude with which you work? Phase of the moon? I could go on, but I think you get the idea: some variations are fairly clear while, for others, your guess is as good as mine! (Feel free to suggest additional ideas in the comments: I could use both solid suggestions and a few good laughs!)

But I write all this simply because I wanted to take a moment to say how much I enjoy exploring this entire “powder metallurgy” process: trying slight variations that go increasingly farther away from an original starting point just to see what happens. That is, in relation to the question in the title of this post (which I’ve been asked more times than I care to count) my answer is this: I hope to continue to learn as long as possible. I want to keep adding more information to my store of knowledge but, at the same time, I hope I’m never done learning!

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This Weekend: Open House and More in Regent Square

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/05/17

WSCC posterThis Saturday is the annual community-wide Yard Sale organized by the Regent Square Civic Association.

Because there will be all sorts of folks wandering around the neighborhood that day, it’s also the first day of the Wilkins School Community Center‘s Spring fundraiser, a Plant, Herb, and Used Book Sale from 10 am to 3 pm. (See the poster, above-right.) There are tons of books available but, if you want any of the plants, it’s usually wise to arrive early.

And, because there will be all sorts of folks wandering around WSCC, I’m holding an Open House in my studio too, which is “upstairs, above the front door” at WSCC at the same time too.

Then, on Sunday, WSCC will continue their Book Sale (with even better prices) and I should still be around much of the day because the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild will be holding one of their great Clay Play Days in the classroom next to my studio. In theory, WPaPMC will be there from 10 to 4 but, since we moved the session a week early (to avoid Memorial Day), I’m not sure if the group will actually stay there the whole time. But, if you can’t make it over on Saturday, feel free to try to catch me there on Sunday. I’ll be happy to re-open my studio if you want.

UPDATE: WPaPMC (and I) will be there on Sunday,
12-ish to 4-ish….
The Sunday book-sale runs 12 to 3.

(After that, the next chances to purchase some of my creations will be in our Guild’s booth back at the Creative Marketplace in Verona in early June, and then in the Koolkat both down at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, June 6 to 17. More on those shortly.)

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This Sunday: Creative Marketplace in Verona

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/05/04

Creative Marketplace FlyerA group of folks up the Allegheny River a bit from Pittsburgh itself have organized a new artists market that they are calling the “Creative Marketplace.” It will be held in Verona, PA, on the first Sunday of the month, May through September. Which means that the first one will be tomorrow!

The Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild applied, as a group, and was accepted to be one of the 40 vendors at this event. Which means that our very first group show will be tomorrow too! A couple of our members, the most-seasoned show-vendors, were accepted to have their own individual booths. But, personally, I am really looking forward to being part of our group effort. Some of us have a bit of show experience, while a few of the members who will be joining us are hobbyists who have never sold any of their metal clay creations. While I hope that I am able to sell a few pieces (a girl’s gotta pay the monthly studio rent somehow….), I really hope that our “newbies” will also get the thrill of having their work admired, and actually bought, by a complete stranger. Yes, your friends and family have been telling you they like your work: you want then to say that no matter how they really feel. But it’s such a treat to get that recognition by someone who’s got no other reason to say so. I still feel delight and appreciation when someone chooses to buy one of my creations! I hope I never lose that.

If you’re in the area, and have a bit of time between 10 am and 4 pm on Sunday, I hope you’ll stop by. Do check out our Guild’s booth, but also take a look around at the other creative work being done in this area. Find a very special gift from a local artist for your mother (Mother’s Day is fast approaching!), for another family member or friend, or even for yourself, something you’d never be able to find an a big-box / chain store.

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