Convergent Series

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

Archive for January, 2014

A very quick shrinkage comparison of Hadar’s “One Fire Trio”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/25

Here’s a photo showing a few more little bits from my first trial firing of Hadar’s One-Fire Trio. Though I didn’t start out by making them as perfectly-similar as would be required for a scientific comparison, I did roll and cut them to the same size. So, in order, from the most shrinkage to the least are: Champagne Bronze (C), Low Shrinkage Steel XT (L), and Friendly Copper (F).

I’ll have to see if the apparent ratios continue to hold with other cubes. (That is, some differences could just be due to my having mixed more or less water into the different products. And I just stamped the letters in by hand, which could have changed the shapes a bit too.) But, with the other pieces I fired at the same time, the ratios do seem to vary depending on the shape of the piece being fired. I don’t have enough data yet to be sure, and these cubes are the only items where I made three matching pieces to start with.

But I will say that, while the Champagne Bronze cube did shrink somewhere around the proposed 30% rate all around (per the Cheat Sheet for Hadar’s Quick-fire Clays on her blog), a ring shank made from the same batch shrank barely 15% in length and a bit less than that in width. (Its height/thickness is just too small for me to accurately measure whether all the remaining shrinkage went into that, or not.)

Still, I figured I’d share the preliminary results. Please add a comment if you try these clays and find results that are either similar or different!

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Trying Hadar’s New “One Fire Trio”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/24

It’s taken me a while to post again as the state of mini-crises has continued, but I won’t bore you with those details. Instead, I’m delighted to report an exciting new development: At the start of the year, Hadar announced a new One Fire Trio that includes two new metal clay powders that, along with one of her older ones, can be de-bindered and sintered in just one firing (rather than the two separate ones that many others require). Their total firing time is just under 3 hours. Wow! Compared to the usual 8 hours (if you fuss in between) or 12 (if you don’t fuss but do sacrifice more carbon), that’s a huge difference!

The older member of the trio is Low Shrinkage Steel XT. On its own, it could be fired in a single kiln-run, but that limited the combinations in which it could be used. Also, it’s a high-fire clay, so it could only be used in small amounts with some of her other clays, the ones fired at lower temperatures. But, with the introduction of two new clays—Champagne Bronze and Friendly Copper, both of which also use high-fire and single-phase processes—it is now possible to produce more combinations.

Each of Hadar’s metal clay powders have their own advantages and disadvantages compared to the others. No one product (or small set of products) from her or (or any other producer) is yet able to achieve everything an artist might want. But each new combination offers new opportunities, which is what makes them so exciting! I am sure that some people got these clays and proceeded to develop complex creations. But me, I prefer to get to know the clays in simpler ways first, to discover their advantages and limitations. I have a few more-complex pieces in the works, and I’ll get around to completing their construction and firing them eventually. This post will show a few of the simpler pieces I tried first.

The earring pair to the left was made with Friendly Copper. The pair to the right used Low Shrinkage Steel XT in back, with the embellishment in Champagne Bronze. After firing, the copper and bronze were very lightly polished (just a quick pass with one set of (3M yellow) radial bristle disks); the steel is as it came out of the kiln; the earwires are anodized niobium (that I just happened to have handy). If / when I can find the time, I may fiddle with finishing them a bit more but, for now, I just could not resist offering this quick sneak peek!

The second (smaller) photo shows the other side of the steel pair, after each piece has been quickly polished in the same way as the copper and bronze on the fronts. I did that because I wanted to show the polished-steel color on its own, even though I liked the black+gold contrast in the combination on the other side of these. (Although ensuring that the black will stay black—neither shining up to gray nor rusting out—will require some of that additional finishing I just mentioned….)

One note on firing: Hadar says that firing any of the clays in this trio takes her 2:45 (2 hours and 45 minutes). For these, I used a brick kiln, outdoors on a covered patio, when the air temperature was around 25°F (-4°C). I also know that this particular kiln tends to overshoot the goal temperature early on in the firing process, regardless of the temperature of the air surrounding it, though it holds the temperature fine once it’s had the chance to swing up and down a few times. My work-around for that is to set a two-step program, where I first get it near the goal temperature and tell it to hold there for a couple of minutes (allowing it to spike higher there), then ramp it slowly to the real goal where it can hold for the required firing time. With those two differences between my set-up and hers, firing these pieces still took only 2:58. As I said above, that’s a real treat!

Another note on my kiln: I don’t leave it outside all the time. I keep it inside and just haul it out when I need to fire it. (If I fire it indoors in winter, when I don’t have any good way to vent it and I’m using carbon to provide an oxygen-reduced atmosphere inside the kiln, my CO detectors signal a problem!) Hauling it in and out takes only a few minutes each way, so it’s not a major problem, even when the temperatures are in the 20s. But, they’re currently hovering around 0°F, and that puts enough of a strain on my furnace, me, and more. I’m not leaving doors open to move kiln, kiln “furniture,” the stand, various tools, power strip, gloves, safety glasses, and more both out and then back in again.

In other words, even though I have more pieces underway, it may be a while before I get around to firing them and posting the results. It’s just winter … and I don’t mind at all living at winter’s pace … for a while.

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Sigh … I’m feeling just a little sorry for myself …

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/08

I’ll get over it. There’s no major crisis. But I haven’t been able to work in my studio for several weeks now. I don’t do “this” full-time, far from it in fact, but I’m kind of frustrated, now feeling like I’m starting the year far behind schedule!

I knew the building where I rent my studio was going to be “closed” over the holidays, with a lot of painting going on. In theory, that was a good thing. A number of the rooms (not mine) had had some damage from a roof leak. The leak had been fixed last year and the damaged parts patched, but things still looked a bit worn. So they were taking advantage of the holiday-lull to paint ceilings and walls.

And, as a tenant, I have keys and can get in the building even if it’s closed to public events. So, in theory, I could have gone in then. I did stop in briefly a few times, in fact, only to have confirmed my fears that a mid-winter paint job with all the windows sealed shut would mean an atmosphere full of unpleasant fumes. Maybe not as bad as they might have been a few decades ago, but still not ones I wanted to breathe for extended work-sessions. Besides, it was “the holidays,” so I just planned to spend a week celebrating with a range of friends.

Except … the notice about when the painting would be completed was incorrect. Though the painting of “public” rooms finished on December 31, as I’d planned for, there were four more days of painting to be done in the “rented” rooms that had also suffered the leak-damage. With a closed building, that meant probably five more days of fumes. Five more days of avoiding the studio.

Now, the rooms do look lovely! No longer are those spaces all a bland, institutional cream; now their walls sport a range of khaki, yellow, green, and blue colors. Aside from my bit of personal frustration, I must say the place is looking much better. (While I remain glad that I did not suffer ceiling bits falling into my metal clay projects back when the leaks were happening, the down-side there is that it did make my room ineligible for new paint in this round….) Still, though I’d “lost” a few more days, at that point I remained OK.

But … that wasn’t the end of it! I don’t know just what happened, but there was some plumbing issue downstairs that meant no water and limited electricity for a few days. That got resolved. But, then there was a water main break just as the “polar vortex” was approaching: water rushing down the lovely old cobblestone road created a thick, wide stream of icy, deep, freezing slush that basically blocked access to the building. That did get fixed before the depths of the arctic blast reached us, but I knew my room’s lovely-but-leaky windows (the only “original” ones remaining in the building) would leave the room unpleasantly cold. So I decided to wait another day before going back.

Today. Only to find that the furnace that heats my room had gone out. There are, I think, ten separate heating units in the building. All but one are working. But the one that’s out is my main heat source. And, yes, I did think about firing up a kiln. But a unit intended to heat less than 1 cubic foot is not going to have much impact on my 7000 cu ft room (350 sq ft footprint with 20′ ceiling!).

I have an electric space heater that I turned on, which brought the temps up from low-40s to mid-50s. But that’s as far as that little unit can take it. (I do have another space heater at home I could bring over, but I also know that the room’s old circuitry won’t handle it. The heater that is working is plugged into the new line that was installed so I could run any one of kiln or space heater or air conditioning unit.)

Furnace-guy has been called, and is scheduled to check it out tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. If we’re into a situation where obtaining parts is an issue, the back-up plan is that I’ll move what I need into a room across the hall. It’s a nice space in many ways but the lighting in that room is entirely different from what I have in my studio. And moving and settling in will take up time too. So I’m hoping the furnace-fix is an easy one.

And I know it will all get resolved. I’ll get back to work. It’s just that I’d just been soooo looking forward to finishing some catch-up tasks before deadlines started heating up again. And, poof!, day-after-day, that fantasy has now evaporated. I’m just not feeling as resilient as I wish I could manage right now…. So using my computer (which, of course, is in the cold studio) I post this, quickly for the moment, with very cold fingers, and apologize that I’ve not yet managed to update the information down the right side here, nor the Classes page on my website. It’s coming…

(The photo with this post shows the back deck of my house one year when I lived in Minnesota. It was taken five days after a frozen-rainstorm in January, 1996, that was followed, on February 2 of that year, by record-setting cold temperatures (-60° F in northern parts of the state, merely in the -50s where I lived). I really am trying to regain a sense of perspective here!)

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Wrapping Up One Year and Opening the Next…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/01

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s time to write my fifth New Year’s Day post.

A while ago, I wrote a piece where I said that sometimes I compare beading to framing. That is, some 2-d artists offer a mix, where some pieces are “basic” ones and others have been “framed.” So the buyer has a choice: they can take the piece home and hang it plainly, or they can add their own framing. Or they can buy an already-framed piece. And I tend to offer pendants, for example, where most of them are on a plain cord so you can wear them but let the unique, hand-crafted piece itself be the focus, or you can take it home and add your own fancier chain or even string it with some beads you have. Or I have a few that I do hang in other ways, so that is an option for people who prefer that.

I got to thinking about that again, in a slightly different way, the past few weeks. ‘Tis the season for wrapping and unwrapping gifts, and for wrapping up one year and unwrapping the next. With this post are photos of a small sample of pieces I made in the process of wrapping up 2013, as I prepare to offer them in opening up 2014 … as objects of art themselves at first and, until they find new homes, as samples for a new workshop series that’s under development. For some reason, these three told me they didn’t want to be hung simply but, instead, preferred to be wrapped up with ribbons or other forms of decoration.

The “sometimes I compare beading to wrapping” analogy hit me as I hung the first piece illustrating this post (above) a hollow bronze “box” accented with copper, rose bronze, and yellow bronze. I just felt it needed to go on the collection of ribbons shown in the photo. (And the inset confirms that, yes, I’m still making reversible pieces.) With all the gift-wrapping that goes on this time of year, I felt that those ribbons wrapped up the “box” in a way that still kept the focus on the special bronze element. You could choose to take it home and hang it some other way, if you wanted, but it’s nicely wrapped just as it is.

With the second piece (left) as I made the hollow “draped” pendant, I just knew it was one of the pieces that I’d want to hang some other way, so I made a toggle clasp to match it. Then I hung the main bead on a piece of bronze wire, with some tiger eye beads that seemed to go with its coloring, plus a few spacer beads (mostly to protect the tiger eyes from the ends of the wire wraps), and then used some brass chain between all that and the clasp.

With the third piece, a hollow bead then “wrapped” in several different textured layers, I went even further. This time I added jasper, petrified wood, and garnet beads, linked together with bronze wire, plus a bit of brass chain (not shown here) near the lobster clasp I used as a closure.

Three different ways of “wrapping” a piece up in a somewhat decorative fashion. I hope those who wear these pieces (or even just view their photos) will appreciate the original bronze “focal” beads as well as the way each one has been wrapped up for them to wear. As to the workshops, I hope to have that schedule posted (at least in draft form) within a week.

In the meantime though, I still have a bit more New Year celebrating to do. Here’s wishing you a happy and productive 2014!

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