Convergent Series

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

Archive for June, 2017

Summer Solstice, Raku Party, Artisan Market

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/06/21

I am really looking forward to the way the North Hills Art Center will celebrate the Summer Solstice tonight … with the opening of their Summer Artisan Market and a Raku Party!

I still have a couple dozen pieces left of the huge batch of Raku pottery I made at IGMA: the video above shows details on a random sample of a dozen from that lot.

Several weeks ago I made a bakers-dozen new pottery pieces out of raku-friendly clay. They’ve since been bisque-fired, so they’ll be ready to put through the Raku-firing process at the party tonight! None of those are like ones in the video: I didn’t want to assume that the set-up there would be appropriate for that particular kind of piece (if you didn’t catch the video when I posted a link to it last summer, check it out now to see what I mean!), so the ones I’ll be firing tonight are items for use in my studio, as I do my own work or by students during classes: a mix of dohgu oki (for tool holders as I work, though these are a bit larger than the hashi oki I typically repurpose that way) and small vases (for tool storage, between sessions). This may well be a round of “no two alike” pieces, where I take advantage of the opportunity to explore the range of new-to-me glazes that will be available tonight.

Three Rivers: Metro MixIf you have never participated in a raku-firing before, know this: Most of the time, when potters or metal clay artists talk about firing something, they refer to loading up a kiln and then going off and doing something else until it finishes. But Raku is not like that! There is a brief period of waiting but, mostly:

Raku reminds me in some ways of torch-firing a piece of metal clay, with smoke and fire, and lots of fun things to observe, and ooohs and aaahs as you get your first glimpse of the firing results, and even more fun once each piece has been brushed / cleaned up.

And, yes, if you’re hesitant, you can observe the smoke and fire parts from a distance. Me, though, I want to be close to the action!

Oh, and there will be lots of action in addition to the Raku-firings. The opening reception for the Summer Artisan Market means there will be snacks and beverages for folks to enjoy while checking out a range of great hand-made products from local artisans. Those wheel-thrown pottery pieces of mine that I mentioned at the top of this post –– on a scale suitable for a doll house or faerie garden –– will be available, along with lots of regular-size pottery from others.

A few of my Urban Flowers and Three Rivers pendants (another new one of the latter is shown with this post), and many more of my styles of neck- and ear-wares will be available. (I really need to remember to take photos after I’ve completely finished assembling my pieces: they do come hung and all ready to wear!)

2015_11_FiveCardHolders_OneGearBusinessCard_PB241207So will dozens of my colorful glass card-holder ornaments! I sell those at the holidays as pieces that can be hung on a tree but, of the ones I’ve kept for myself, I never put them away at the end of that season. Since I’ve decorated then in a whole range of different, bright colors, I weight them down a bit (filling them with rice or lentils), stick little notes, reminders, instructions, or photos in the double-loops on top, and use them to spread bits of cheer around all through the year..

For my local readers, I sure hope I’ll be able to celebrate the Summer Solstice with some of you tonight! If you’re not able to make it for all that fun, but would like to shop at the Summer Artisan Market, it will be open when the center is open through July 8.

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My “Three Rivers” Pendants are back!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/06/08

As soon as I heard the theme that Pittsburgh Society of Artists had chosen for their summer show at the FrameHouse & Jask Galleryda burgh — I knew what I had to do!

PSA's postcard for the showI’d had a lot of fun, back in the spring and summer of 2014, when I made a whole series of “Three Rivers” pendants. I started in the spring, figuring out how to make them. Although they all had the same basic idea, with Pittsburgh’s “three rivers” flowing across them, no two were alike. The pieces were different shapes; the “land” and “rivers” were made from different metals textured with different patterns; the rivers might be recessed, inlaid, or overlaid; and some had an extra element, a triangular stone (rounded or pointed, cabochon or faceted) set at the place that locals know as “The Point” (where, in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio River, which flows down into the Mississippi and, eventually, into the Gulf of Mexico). I sold some of those at the Three Rivers Arts Festival that year. I had two (ones with fewer ‘burgh-specific features) accepted into The Confluence show sponsored by The Hoyt at The Confluence Cafe in New Castle later that summer. (The piece shown, next, left, even earned a Merit Award there!) And I kept selling the rest off in various other shows and shops throughout the rest of that year and the next.

Now, I meant it when I said that I had a lot of fun making them. But some of that “fun” involved facing and overcoming a lot of challenges, doing a lot of problem-solving. I was mixing metals: various bronze formulas along with copper and a couple different steels. And, because those all have different shrinkage rates (and those with stones had extra stresses because the stones do not shrink), there is a certain “failure rate” in the process. What’s a failure? Well, sometimes little cracks appear that are readily fixed, though that results in another whole round of firing, in which there is yet another chance of failure. Other times, however, the cracks are so significant that it’d take more time to fix them than to just make a whole new piece. While I do enjoy the challenge of getting everything to ‘play nice” together, there’s a limit to how much one can add to the “overhead” price of pieces to cover all the time and materials that go into both “research and development” and “unavoidable losses” while keeping the pieces reasonably affordable. So, after a half-year binge, I moved on to other design challenges.

But I kept thinking I wanted to make more, and the PSA theme was just the push I needed. Of course, it’s never simple. Since the last time I made them, I’d been working more with some different metal formulas, so another round of “R&D” was required! Oh, and while I was at it, I had decided to try to develop yet another approach to distinguishing the rivers from the land.

Three Rivers: Metro (their postcard and my entry)In my first few firings, the successes all had the most simple designs; ones that failed had the more complex (and thus more interesting) mixes, and those all failed in ways that I considered beyond repair. Ah, the challenge: I will make this project work!

Oh, and I’d also decided to make these on the larger side. Not huge but, since I was working with base metals (various bronzes, not silver or gold) I could afford to risk pieces that started out around two inches in diameter. (After shrinking during firing, those would end up about 1.75″ across.) I also made some oval pieces, ones that started out at 1.5 by 2.0 inches, and shrank to around 1.3 by 1.75 inches.

Of course, making them that big then limited the number of pieces I could fire in a single load…. Each load does add a small amount to the time I spend, but the real issue is having pieces stack up just waiting to be fired. Since I make one-of-a-kind pieces, and rarely do real production / volume work, I don’t consider that a major issue. It’s not meant as a complaint, but I mention it to explain to some readers why testing that, in a production environment, might be measured in weeks ends up taking me months….

I’m going to keep experimenting with these over the summer, and hope to eventually report on a few more here. In the meantime, though, I’m now presenting the first one that will appear in public, having been accepted the PSA show that opens tomorrow, Friday, June 9! For the piece I submitted to the da burgh jury I decided that, rather than worry about going complex, I’d stick to a simple design and go for a double-hit at the theme:

  1. The design is a basic, overhead view of Pittsburgh and its Three Rivers, AND
  2. The black spinel trillion cabochon set atop the golden bronze metal show the same black & gold of Pittsburgh’s major professional sports teams!

I added a small image of it to my version of PSA’s postcard, above, but here’s a bigger look at it. This is just my basic inventory shot because, silly me, I forgot to take a picture as it appears in the show, hung on a really nice necklace that alternates large loops with short chain segments. To see that, come to the FrameHouse & Jask Gallery this month!

ThreeRivers: Metro Pendant (with Black Spinel Trillion at The Point)

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