Convergent Series

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

Archive for March, 2014

Trying Hadar’s New “Friendly Bronze”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/03/19

While I was out at Hadar’s last month, finishing up my teaching-accreditation requirements, I got a chance to try several of the newest “friendly” (i.e., one-fire) clays that she has produced (and just now made available in her store).

This post is about “Friendly Bronze.” Hadar developed that one specifically to enable the production of various “married metal” designs, which I plan to discuss in some future posts. Before going into such complex designs, I wanted to try out Friendly Bronze just on its own, to get a feel for working with, firing, and finishing it.

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been happily making pieces out of Hadar’s Quick Fire Bronze XT for years (an example from last summer is shown in the first photo, left), despite the fact that it took 8 to 12 hours to complete a firing. (Yes, it takes that long for “quick fire”! But that process includes two firing phases with cool-down in between, so it’s the heating up, cooling down, and reheating of the whole kiln that takes all the time. The sintering part itself is relatively quick.) The whole heating up and firing process of the “friendly” clays, on the other hand, can be completed in just under 3 hours: much better!!! So, back home and on my own, I decided that my first trial run of Friendly Bronze in my own kiln would be a variation on one of my (other, many…) favorite pieces I’d made using some of Hadar’s earlier Quick Fire clays. That one was my own metal-clay-based variation of a “Coils and Domes” bracelet that Maria Richmond sometimes teaches (here and elsewhere) that I wrote about a couple years ago. (Photo repeated here, right. I used “Quick Fire” Copper and Rose Bronze for that one…)

The metal elements for that project can be relatively simple, since they’ll be embellished later on. So I thought they would make good “test pieces” for my first firing of Friendly Bronze. I know that some people just make a plain strip to use as their test piece. And that others jump right in and start an elaborate piece without testing first. Me, I prefer a middle ground: fairly simple, but still something that I can use in a product creation. A handful of little domed hearts seemed perfect to use as my test pieces! I’ve included little photos showing how dark and colorful the results can be (hot from the kiln) as well as how they turn a nice yellow-bronze color with even just a light polishing (the photo shows them a little over half-way through my polishing process).

But I will admit that I had yet another reason for doing that: I wanted to enter the February 2014 Bracelet Challenge on Facebook sponsored by one of my local bead shops, Crystal Bead Bazaar. I needed to dream up, make, and photograph something in less than two days! (Well, I did have a month to dream it up, but I had to make it after getting back from several weeks of travel … on a trip that my luggage full of tools took several more days to return from. But that’s another whole story!) The challenge has a theme each month, and the theme for pieces made in February was “Romantic.” So, instead of wire-queen Maria’s wrapped-coils added to antique enameling-domes, I figured I’d add wired-up beads (in sweetheart-pinks, blood-bond red, and romantic-rose shades) to those brand-new rose-patterned domed-bronze hearts that I made (along with an open-domed heart and clay-tipped wire arrow for a toggle clasp). As far as I know, my entry is the only one that used any metal clay processes!

For the metal-clay part, I just mixed up about 20 grams of Friendly Bronze, rolled out five hearts (using a rose-pattern texture sheet on each side — the same one I used for the domed side of the first pendant shown above!) and dried them over the round domes on a paint palette (a slightly shallower one that I’d used for the bracelet shown above). For the bracelet’s clasp, I made a sixth heart that I also domed but, before it dried, I cut out an inner heart opening. Then I cut a piece of 16 gauge bronze wire, added a hanging-loop, scored each end a little bit, and added a bronze-clay arrow-tip and feather-texture end (actually, just between you and me, for the latter I used a tiny segment of a very geometric, non-feathery design). Once they were dried and all cleaned up, I fired them in carbon according to my usual variation on Hadar’s schedule.

(As I’ve mentioned before, my kiln tends to fire a bit hot, and to spike even hotter just as it reaches the goal temperature. To accommodate the former, I drop Hadar’s temperature by a specific amount; and to work-around the latter, I program a two-segment firing, where I stop it short of goal for a few minutes and let it spike there, then ramp the last few degrees very slowly to keep it from doing that any more. But that’s just a case of knowing my own kiln. A terser person would just have said she fired them according to Hadar’s schedule, but I know some of you read this for the tips I hide in my lengthy prose!) Everything sintered beautifully, and was as easy to clean up as any other bronze I’ve ever used. And I’m thrilled with the final result!

If you like it, I’d sure appreciate your voting for my entry!

[Note, that “voting” for that piece via a “like” worked only during March, 2014. They announce only the first-place winner, which was not me. Since the vote-closing time was not announced in advance, I can’t be sure where this one ended up. But it did seem to have a strong hold on second place for most of the month. So here’s a big “Thank you!” to everyone who did vote for it! I’m hoping to enter again at some point, and will post that again here….]

Posted in Challenges | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Just Some of What I’ll Be Making-With!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/03/08

I thought about using the photo I include here as the “punch line” to the post I wrote yesterday about shopping, then decided it deserved its own little spot.

The twenty-four tubes in the front are most (but, aack my wallet cries out, not quite all) of what I had shipped back from the workshop at Hadar’s last month: all five of the new clay powders we were able to try out: Champagne Bronze, Dark Champagne Bronze, Friendly Bronze, Friendly Copper, and White Satin. The seven tubes along the back contain prepared clay (i.e., already mixed with water) that I hadn’t yet finished off so, in addition to the new five, there’s also some Low Shrinkage Steel XT and Pearl Gray Steel XT in that row.

What’s missing from the photo? Well, I store my clay in a repurposed CD cabinet with lots of little cubby-holes. I already had spots for the two older steels; had those put away before I thought to take a photo; and then couldn’t even remember how many new tubes I’d added to the existing stash… The thing is, Hadar has at least one more “friendly” clay coming out (i.e., that debinders and sinters in a single firing comparable in length to that of the much-easier-to-fire fine silver), and it’s a Friendly Rose Bronze. I’ve loved working with her original Rose Bronze since I first got my hands on it, so I know I’ll be ordering some of that before I’ve worked my way through all these.

Not to worry, though, I’ve got a workshop series coming up in April and May. It’s based on the Teacher Accreditation program from which I just graduated, expanding offerings I’ve been offering for several years. I’ll be ordering more clay powders for participants to use in that, and will get myself some Friendly Rose Bronze then. (And, no, I don’t know the date when they’ll be officially released to the public. As an Accredited Teacher of Hadar’s Clays, I can get small amounts early, not enough to stock a reseller’s shop, but all that I need for my own testing and teaching, which is great!)

So I need to stop nattering here and go make some pieces to sell, and teach some workshops (including several more using fine silver this month!), to bring in enough money to pay for all these purchases: the travel and workshop expenses, studio rent and insurance, as well as the clays, beads, chains, and all!


p.s., There are still some openings in my various classes and workshops, so do let me know if you’d be interested in taking any of them! (Although, since some have far fewer open seats than others, I suggest you let me know quickly….)

Posted in Shopping | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

I’ve been shopping….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/03/07

I hang out with beaders even though I don’t do a lot of beading myself. (I’ve discussed that in several other posts, with topics such as finishing, framing and wrapping … as in wrapping a package, not the wire-wrapping my bead-friends will think of first!) Still, I like the bead shop “culture” and the exuberance of some larger bead shows (not so much the huge, exhausting ones; I prefer “medium” sized shows … ones I think of as being bigger than a typical shop): I enjoy spending time at those, shopping, just looking, and talking with others I meet there.

So in my recent West Coast trip, I had a great time checking out Harlequin Beads & Jewelry in Eugene, Oregon. Sally and John, the friends I was visiting, had a few other commitments on the Friday afternoon. John biked over to the University of Oregon, where he’s auditing a class. Sally and I went out to lunch, followed by a stop at Harlequin where we both picked up some items. Then, while she went a couple blocks away to work for a couple hours, I sat in the shop working the bits Sally had bought into a necklace she plans to give to her granddaughter. It had adorable little shamrock and Celtic knot beads (for her Irish heritage) in sterling silver that I interspersed with sapphire-colored crystals (the color of her birthstone) and finished with sterling chain and clasp. Too bad that I didn’t get a decent photo of that. But I can show you the two strands of beads I brought home for myself…

The day after I got home, the Intergalactic Bead Show was in town. A number of my local bead-friends added a lot to their stashes from that! I got were a few chains (one a very practical copper, two a nice but slightly pricey rose gold). I did pick up just couple strands of beads too, in colors I thought would go with some of the copper and bronze I’ve been working with lately. Still, my haul from that was tiny compared to what I know some others headed home with.

The next weekend, when Bead Mercantile came to town, I heard much less about stash-building. I’m not sure if those friends were shopped-out, or what. But, personally, I was much happier with what I found there, even though I will admit I didn’t buy any beads from the traveling vendors there either.

With my own travel-bills yet to pay, I restricted my bead-buying there to “local artist supports other local artists” purchases:

Jessica Rutherford was there with some of her gorgeous hand-made glass beads, but what I took off her hands were a few items from her “stash clearing” sale, big jade washers and double-drilled snowflake obsidian beads, all of which will combine well with other beads already in my own stash.

My one real splurge in all this shopping involved two lovely hand-made glass beads from Karen Leonardo. I’ve admired her work for years, thinking that many of her designs in glass exhibited a style and sensibility compatible with what I often try to do in metals. It may take a while for my clay to tell me how it wants to play with either or both of these beads, but now I can take my time admiring them as I contemplate that. The hard part is going to be putting up for sale whatever the result ends up being!

Finally, though, I know that if we want vendors to come to town, we really need to support them when they do. So I spent the rest of my money buying chains! The lucky-thirteen different styles or colors shown below (in increasing-price order, from left to right) were chosen because I thought they might go well with pieces made from the same metals as shown in my own hand-made piece I display with them (it’s Low Shrinkage Steel, Copper, Champagne Bronze, and Dark Chanmpagne Bronze).

Now it’s time to get back to work. I’m preparing for a class I’ll be teaching this weekend (a mosaic project in silver), and hope to return to making next week.

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