Convergent Series

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

Archive for July, 2018

“Nest” workshop follow-up: tiny is in!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/30

One of the questions on the evaluations I ask participants in my workshops to fill out is, “Please describe one of the best things about this class.” And one of the most common responses to that goes something like, “I could use your samples for inspiration but then, with your help, I was encouraged to make whatever I wanted!”

The photo with this post shows four pieces related to a class I taught last month. The three to the left of the pencil (included to indicate size) show three of the samples I brought with me. The piece to the far right was made by one of the students.

Silver "nests" class: 3 samples, 1 student piece.
The “nest” piece to the far left is the one that was included in the venue’s printed and online catalogs. But the description said that the techniques could be used to make other designs; participants would not be limited to that exact nest design. And I took several dozen others, showing lots of different ways to apply the techniques.

Reading left to right in this photo, the next piece shows one of those variations. It was a quick sample (done in a previous version of this class) as a demonstration of how to work “balls” (aka dots) into an existing design, how to create a spiral, and how to nestle that up against a dot-filled design. (In-class comment: Had I made that in my studio, instead of in a quick demonstration, I’m sure I would have domed the disk first before adding the embellishments. The flat disk is fine, and was quick to make for the demo, but in the design part of my workshops, I do bring pieces, like the one to the far left, to illustrate how even a little bit of dimensionality adds so much to a final product!)

The third piece was my smallest sample, showing how to fill a little nest inside a cut-out opening (rather than inside a nest from coils). It may be the second-smallest pendant-piece I’d ever made at that point. (I do make smaller pieces, but typically use those as earring components or as elements in larger designs, rather than on their own as pendants.)

I didn’t have time to set up a tripod and fiddle with camera settings, so I don’t have a decent photo of what everyone made (and even the bits farthest to the side on this one are slightly out of focus). But here’s what surprised me about the class: seven out of the total of fourteen pieces that students made in that class were smaller than my smallest sample! And the one in the photo I include here was the biggest of those!

Clearly, the students made what they wanted! I hope they were as happy with their pieces as I was with teaching them.

And I can go with the flow: one of the new workshops I’m now designing for the fall is tentatively called Tiny Is In!

Here’s hoping for a big turn-out for a making-tiny-pieces class! Full details should be available later in August.

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Will you cross a river for a class?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/19

While I work in both precious metals (silver, gold) and base metals (steel, bronze, copper), my classes tend to feature silver. In response to requests for more base metal lessons, I have two bronze workshops coming up at the end of this month.

three samples, two bronze classes
Reversible Draped Bronze
(pendant or earrings)
Friday, July 27, Noon to 4 pm
at the North Hills Art Center
more information
register here
Reversible Domed Bronze
(pendant or earrings)
Sunday, July 29, 1 to 4 pm
at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh
more information
register here

Knowing the local lore of how hesitant some ‘burghers are to cross rivers, I thought I was being clever when I scheduled both of them for basically the same weekend. One north, t’other south. The thing that happened is that some people have signed up for each and, between the two, there are enough people to run a class …. but not quite enough yet to run each of them individually!

If you really want to take one in particular, please sign up for it now! (If it’s cancelled, you’ll get a full refund.) BUT, if you could take the other one, please let either me or your second-choice venue know. My understanding is that registration for each of them will close on Monday (July 23): at 10 am (firm!) for North Hills and a few hours later for Artsmiths. If your first choice is cancelled but there are enough to make the other one run, we’ll let you know that and accept your registration there after the “official” deadline. (That’s why there are deadlines: so we have time to scramble if necessary to keep as many people happy as possible, and still give me time to organize (and, if necessary order) all the tools and materials we’ll need!)

After that weekend, I’ll be back to offering workshops in silver for the next few months. (And using silver, steel, bronze, and/or copper in the pieces I make for (lots of) fun and (a tiny bit of) profit.) If you want to learn about any of those metals, of course, in addition to my pre-scheduled small-group classes, I’m always happy to schedule a private lesson with you in my studio!

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Update: Good news and bad. The bad first: the Friday class at NHAC was cancelled. The good (yay!): The Sunday one at Artsmiths is running! Since most venues (including these) don’t share participant names in advance (just the count: I get the surprise of seeing who shows up at the start of class!), I don’t know (yet) if that’s because new people signed up after I posted this, or whether some NHAC folks did decide to go to a class on the other side of some rivers from their site. Either way, though, I’m delighted to be looking forward to a great class this weekend!

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This weekend, and next!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/07

Six-wall panorama of the Instructors Show at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh

If you haven’t been over to The Arsmiths of Pittsburgh to see their great Instructors Show yet, you still have two more chances, this Saturday or Sunday (July 7 or 8). Not only does the show include a range of different styles from the various artists who teach there, but Artsmith’s proceeds from this show will be targeted specifically to support their great education programs!

If you’d like to talk with me in person, I’ll be over later in the afternoon on Sunday. (I should get there at or very soon after 2 pm, and I’ll stay until the closing, at 4.)

Whether or not we manage to connect in person this weekend, we’ll have another chance next weekend! You’ll be able to shop some of my creations and / or talk with me about any of my upcoming classes (at four separate venues), when I’ll hold another Second Saturday Open House session in my studio. That’ll be Saturday, July 14, and I should be there from about 1 to 5 pm. Stop by any time!

Next weekend’s bonus for one or two of my students: If you’d like to come over and use the tools & equipment in my studio during the Open House, I can have part of one table set up for that on the 14th too. Because I’ll have a few of my own projects going too, for students it’s really best if you reach out in advance to be sure I’ll have a spot for you.

(Since I’m still getting questions about these sessions, let me repeat that they are not the same as my private lessons or small group classes: I’m not saying I won’t speak to you at all, because I’ll help as I can. But they’re meant as an opportunity for students, working pretty much on their own, to continue or follow up on projects they’ve already learned how to do … but without having to invest in the great range of tools and supplies I bring to my workshops!)

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A little heat wave surprise!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/05

And now for a different kind of note… With a particularly large number of keep-cool items in my cart at Trader Joe’s last week, as I walked past the large insulated carrier bags they sell I thought, “If this heat wave keeps up, I may have to spring for one of those. But, not today: for now I’m still holding out until I win their bag-lottery. Though if I should ever win that, one of these bags is the very first thing I’ll get!”

What’s the TJ bag-lottery? You may already know, but I’ll explain it for anyone who doesn’t. Different stores (TJ’s and others), in different parts of the country, at different times, handle the issue of “shopping bags” differently. Some expect you to bring your own bags and, if you need them to provide one, they charge you for it. Others provide bags for free (or, more accurately include bags in the “overhead” part of their basic pricing!), but give you a small discount if you bring your own bag. What a few of the Trader Joe’s around here do (and only TJs) is that, if you bring your own bags, you can fill out a little slip and, according to some schedule (I’ve no clue what that is though), they will select a “winner” and give that person a gift certificate for their store.

I take my own bags, regularly fill out one of the raffle / lottery slips, and deposit it in the “treasure chest” box by the exit.

So, there I was on Monday of last week, thinking, “I’ll get one of those insulated bags if / when I win a TJ’s gift certificate.” And, on Tuesday of this week, I got a call from “Shelby” at my local store saying I had just won a $15 gift certificate! I made a special trip over to claim it and pick up one of the large insulated bags. (With tax, that was nearly half of my winnings! I so am grateful I could use it that way, and not feel I had to use it for food!) While I was there, I used the rest of it to grab a couple things I’d missed from my list when I was there this Monday. Those could’ve waited, but the bag was actually helpful for taking my contribution to a Fourth of July picnic.

I bought this bag when I won TJ's bag lottery!

And, finally, now on Thursday night, I’ve found a few minutes to tell the tale. Has anything gone surprisingly well for you recently? Let’s chat about it in the comments!

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If at first you don’t succeed … create an alternative!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/03

There was an announcement for a Quilt Show at a local venue. (Which one may slip out elsewhere but, for the purposes of this post, I don’t intend to name it… Though I had a few moments of frustration, this is not meant as a rant against them; it is simply intended to describe some aspects of the life of a working artist…)

Here’s something you need to know about that Quilt Show from the start: it was announced as being non-juried opportunity! Entries would be juried for awards, but not to get into the show in the first place. The call for artists said that they’d accept entries all day each day for a week, as long as they still had room to exhibit them.

So I started to design a quilt to enter. My “medium” these days is more often metal than fabric, and my “scale” is typically jewelry-size. I decided to make a quilt-pendant out of fine silver, using the process of sintering powdered metal (aka “metal clay”). I would “piece” samples from a selection of different textures for one side. The other side would be textured with a floral pattern that I would accent by setting a small, yellow CZ into the center of one of the flowers. The pendant would hang by the use of an integral bail: a sort of woven-fiber pattern shaped into a “tube” much as could be used for a fabric quilt displayed as a wall hanging. And, yes, all those elements were deliberately designed as a nod to more traditional quilting!

I hoped that a quilter, or quilt-lover, or quilter-lover would appreciate it during the show and decide to buy it… I also wanted to make a piece that, while it did incorporate a number of elements, wouldn’t be an exceptionally complicated piece to make: I didn’t have a lot of spare time to work on it but, even more importantly, I wanted to keep it to something that could be sold at an “affordable” price! I started it several weeks before the entry-week but, with one thing and another going on, hadn’t finished it as the deadline approached. With a lot of other things on my schedule for every day leading up to the opening of the drop-off time, my only option was to use the one and only day I’d been holding open as a “day to play” for at least a few hours. Instead, I spent all of that time, and more, playing with ways to complete the creation of my quilt piece, then firing it, polishing it, adding a patina, finding a chain that I thought would work well with it, taking a couple photographs, deciding how best to display it, giving it a name, filling out the entry-paperwork, etc. It ended up being a rather long day.

Yellow Flower Birthday Quilt (Both Sides)But, eventually, my Yellow Flower Birthday Quilt pendant was finished and ready to go on display!

First thing the next morning I packed it into a carrier bag and drove off to the Quilt Show venue. I looked around for a couple minutes, taking in pieces from the previous show that were coming down and noting that already a few entries were there for the new one. When the person handling all that was ready for me, she greeted me with a cheerful, “Oh, I didn’t know you made quilts too!”

I pulled the quilt-pendant out of my bag, smiled, and said, “I know this isn’t a traditional quilt, but I read the prospectus carefully, and it does not specify fabric. I hope you’ll take this silver quilt.”

“What? It doesn’t say anything?! That’s a lovely pendant, but please hold on.” She went to get a copy of the prospectus, and came back saying, “You’re right. We never thought to specify fiber as the medium because I don’t think we ever imagined anyone would enter any other kind of quilt.”

“Well,” I replied, “when you’re dealing with creative people, don’t you expect to be surprised? She laughed, with “Personally, I’d be happy to have it in the show, but I think I’d better check.”

The person she went off to check with wasn’t available. She sighed and said, “If you’re willing, you could just leave it with me, and I’ll let you know the final decision as soon as I can.” I said that was fine, we chatted for a moment about logisitics, and then she got a call. No, they wouldn’t accept my quilt. She was sorry but wanted to assure me that before they presented another quilt show, they’d take care to be more specific about their requirements…

The show is now on. Because I’m not naming them, I can’t promote it for them either. In this case, I figure that’s fair enough. I’ve been back, have seen the show, and am impressed with a number of the entries. I did also note that the showroom still has in place several of their usual display pedestals–empty–where it would have been easy to exhibit my quilt-piece on any one of them. But that’s all water under the bridge, as it were.

But … the story doesn’t end there!

This past Sunday was drop-off day for this summer’s Artists Choice show by the Pittsburgh Society of Artists (PSA). Technically, that is a non-juried show too, but one big difference is that this one is not open to everyone, just to artists who have already been juried into the PSA Guild in the first place. It’s always an interesting show. Entries may be from highly prolific artists who are always looking for show possibilities to those who only make a few pieces and seldom enter any shows other than this one. They may be new, experimental works that an artist is just putting out there to see the reaction, or pieces that just did not fit into the “guidelines” for some other show. Now do you see where this is going?!

Yes, my Quilt Show piece has been renamed as Help Me Get Over the Quilt Show Rejection “because It’s Silver, not Fiber”! and entered in the PSA show at the Brew House Association (at the corner of 21st and Mary Streets in Pittsburgh’s South Side flats area). That one runs from July 6 through August 3, 2018.

And I’m still hoping that a quilter, or quilt-lover, or quilter-lover will find it there and want to take it home!

If you’re in the area, please join me at the Opening Reception from 6 to 9 pm on Friday, July 6. (At this point, I’m also hoping to head over to the Closing Reception, same time & place, on August 3, but who knows what may change in my schedule over the next month!)

2018 PSA Artists Choice Exhibition

Regardless of where you’re reading this from, feel free to comment: Do you enter art shows? Why or why not? How do you handle it when a piece doesn’t get accepted? Or gets accepted but doesn’t sell there (especially if you let the announced theme of that show serve as a part of your inspiration for the piece!)?

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