Convergent Series

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

A few final pieces from 2017…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/12/21

Whenever I walked into my studio last week, I passed lots of red and green Christmas decorations throughout the building.

Urban Flower: Lucky Shamrock (Four-leaf Clover)As I sat down with some silver clay and a small box of dichroic glass cabs, I think that decor is what lead me to be drawn to several green pieces.

With over half of my studio turned into a show-room, and only one “holiday” show left after I’d have time to fire and finish anything I made between visitors, I had to work simple.

But then my maker’s-sales brain kicked in and I picked up those green cabs and used them in … shamrocks! Three fine silver pendants for spring.

And the “lucky” four-leaf one, with a “spring green” piece of glass, has already been purchased! Knowing that it will age slowly over time, the customer wanted it like this, without any patina. I managed to grab this quick photograph while the buyer selected a chain to go with it. The photo shows a sterling rolo chain though it went out the door on (what I do agree was a better choice for this particular texture) a foxtail style chain.

Urban Flowers: Two ShamrocksFor those interested in technical details, all three of these were made with PMC Plus and PMC Flex. Why those clays? I’d taught a lentil-bead class last week in which we used Plus, and I had a lot left from a big packet I’d opened there, so I used that for the backing pieces, the leaves, and the bails. To be sure those were fully sintered, that much was fired at full time & temperature: nominally, that’s 1650°F for two hours. (I say nominally because, since my kiln fires about 50° hot, I set it to 1600 … which means it should have fired at about 1650… And I did hold it for two hours.) That gives all the “structural” elements the maximum strength possible for that particular silver formula, even though it would have been way too hot for the glass.

The next day I made the “bezel” elements to surround each glass piece and hold those in place from the top. I used PMC Flex for that. I could’ve used PMC3 or Art Clay 650 or any of the “low-fire” fine silver formulas but, again, the Flex is what I had handy, so that’s what I used. The point here is that I needed a clay that would reliably sinter at a low-enough temperature that I could fire the glass in place! Clay fired down at “glass” temperatures might not be quite strong enough for the leaves (that hang off to the side) or the bail in back (from which the piece is hung when worn), but with a good, strong backing, the use of a lower sintering temperature should be fine for just holding the glass onto strong backing pieces. I used a four-segment program that experience has shown to provide good strength to the silver bezel while keeping the glass happy.

I did choose to add a patina as I finished polishing these two after their second firing. And, if you’re interested in a few notes I wrote about using a mix of sterling and fine silvers in this sort of design, feel free to check out my post from October of last year.

Even though these designs reflect the shape of shamrock (young clover) leaves, because of the textures I used and the glass centers, I’m calling them part of my Urban Flowers series. I never claimed that my urban flowers were going to be biologically correct representations of particular species, more that the plants would serve as “inspiration” for those pieces.

In some ways that concept also fits with the colored glass ornaments I make during the summer (when I can work outdoors). Those are designed with a double-loop on the top of the ornament and a flat bottom to the glass bases: they can hang on your Christmas tree if you want and then, for the rest of the year, you can set them on a table or desk and use them ho hold whatever kind of note or photograph or other reminder that you want!
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Similarly, I hope that these shamrock pendants fit both with the green fir / pine / spruce decorations during winter holidays, and can continue being worn to reflect the natural world as spring returns! Or maybe the heart-shaped leaves will even warm someone’s heart in time for Valentine’s Day?! Regardless of the “connection” made, I do hope the rest of these will soon find good, new homes!

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