Convergent Series

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Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category

NHAC 2017 Fall Members Show

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/09/08

I’m delighted to report that I have three pieces in the current Members Show at the North Hills Art Center! The pieces were hung as they were accepted last week, but the official “opening” of the show is Saturday, September 9, from 7 to 9 pm, and runs through October 6.

As usual for NHAC, the majority of the entries are paintings. But when I dropped off my art jewelry, I did see fiber art, pottery, mixed media assemblages, and more too! A lot of the pieces were made by students of the center so, if you’re curious about that, this show can also give you an idea of what you might be able to learn in the classes there. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by to check it out! It would, of course, be great to see you at the opening on Saturday but, if you can’t make it then, do go whenever you can.

I’ve already said a few things about each of my entries, separately, in earlier blog or Facebook posts, but I thought I’d assemble a few thoughts on each of them together here. They are all available for purchase at the show.


GWV: Give Women the Vote

If you look closely, you may notice that the flowers in this “rose bronze” bracelet are Green (nephrite jade), White (cubic zirconia), and Violet (amethyst). Embellishments in those colors were a code in Edwardian / Art Nouveau times for Give Women the Vote!

This piece was made before either of my other two in this show, but since then I’ve been holding on to it myself. This is the first time I’ve ever really considered putting it up for sale!

Night Moon

Night Moon (front & side views)

As one of the earlier pieces I made with EZ960 after its introduction in 2016, this was made as a class sample, to illustrate the draping/folding process. But it’s notable to me because it’s the first piece I made using only “scraps” from earlier projects. Obviously, that test was successful!

In draping, sometimes the material tells me the shape it wants to form, and that was definitely the case here! The title of Night Moon comes from how, once the piece was completely finished, it suddenly struck me how much it evoked thoughts of a particular night in June of 1988 (a truly wonderful summer!), when I was climbing (well, at that point, descending) Emeishan, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China.

Keystone Wildflower

Urban Flower: Big Keystone (blue-green glass by Elise)

Yes, this is yet another piece from my Urban Flowers series! Like the earlier ones, this pendant was made using sterling (.960) silver for most of the piece, for strength, and in a separate step the dichroic glass cabochon was attached with fine (.999) silver because that form plays better with glass. It hangs on a sterling (.925) silver chain.

The dichro in this piece is a cabochon made by local glass artist, Elise McVeigh. It is also one of the priciest pieces I’ve had in a show in a good while: that is because, at something like 75 mm across, it is one of the largest pieces I’ve made in a good while too! And big uses a lot of silver, so the price simply reflects that. But Elise’s lovely glass is noticeably different from the other dichro cabs I’ve added to my earlier urban flowers, and I just thought it deserved to go into a “statement” piece! I hope it will find a new home with someone who agrees with me.

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2017 Arts on the Riverwalk – please vote!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/09/05

UPDATE: Voting ended at 5 pm on September 9. I didn’t mount quite a big enough Facebook campaign (which really isn’t my style anyway) to claim the $100 people’s choice prize but, as of the last time I was able to check (an hour-ish before the deadline), I had garnered well within the top 10% of votes. So I sure do appreciate the support of everyone who took the time to enter a like-vote on my behalf!

(Also, since it no longer matters, I’ve removed the column of notes on the extra quirks of this particular voting process…. The rest of this post remains as originally written.)

Oh, and the exhibit remains on display at The Confluence cafe through October 26.

I’ve got two pieces in the Arts on the Riverwalk competition, and I’d sure appreciate your vote!

Now, I’ll admit, neither of these pieces were originally made with competition in mind… They were designed as samples for two different classes I taught last fall, and my intention was to illustrate specific technical strategies of construction! In my classes, I also point out that sometimes a design will take a while to tell me what it really wants to be; in the case of these two, they have also taken a while to tell me what they want to be called!


1. In the pair shown here, the piece positioned towards the left, with a silver pendant on a gunmetal chain, is now titled Overflowing Nest. In the class where I taught that, we covered a range of different “nest-style” constructions, plus I threw in a “bonus” on making links. Time constraints meant I could only illustrate using links this way, as a bail, but the same techniques work for making an entire chain. The other interesting thing about this piece is that it was made for one of the first classes I taught using “EZ960” sterling silver metal clay, and it was made entirely from reconstituted “scraps” that were left over from earlier samples. It’s always good to learn how well different clays do or do not reconstitute, and this sample worked wonderfully.

If you’d like to vote for my “Overflowing Nest” piece, please click to find the instructions here.

(Quick mini-lesson on re-use: Like all clays, scraps can get “worn out” after many re-uses. After just a few repeats, if you’ve treated your clay nicely all along, it’ll be fine. But even after it’s had a long or rough time, it can still be salvaged by mixing little bits of “scrap” in with “fresh” clay! This is one of the things I really appreciate about most metal clays!)

2. The piece towards the right, with a bronze pendant on a brass chain, is now called At a Bend in the River. That main part of this one was also made from a scrap! I’d finished the main demonstration on making a rolled bail on a two-sided piece, but there was a question, so I quickly rolled out another piece of clay to use as an illustration while answering. I was a bit distracted while talking about something raised by yet another student, so I didn’t roll it very straight AND I rolled off the edge of one of the texture sheets with clay squishing out. But I looked at it and exclaimed, “What great luck! This piece just told me how it wants to be built!”

I immediately reversed my plan of which side would be the back or the front, because the place where I’d overshot the texture has that lovely angle-into-smooth look that I just had to put on the outside-front, not tucked under in the back. Since the remaining demonstrations I had planned involved layering elements and how to add a fire-able stone (in this case, a peridot-colored cubic zirconia), I made use of the curve of the piece to embellish it with a piece where I could also talk about design issues for centering, or not centering, any embellishments. Ended up being a very interesting, if unplanned, answer to the original question!

If you’d like to vote for my “At a Bend in the River” piece, please click to find the instructions here.

Also, though I don’t have these specific classes scheduled (yet) for this fall in either of my North Hills or South Hills venues, there’s still time to add a workshop or two in my East End studio. So if you’ve been inspired enough by one (or both) of these to want to learn how to make something like that yourself, please let me know and we can talk about our options!

More on other shows, classes, and more, as soon as I find the time for another chance to post here.

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Cranberry Artists Network

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/04/30

“Happy Camper” Here, again!

I just learned that I have been accepted for membership in the Cranberry Artists Network.

Relatively speaking, this one was fairly easy for me. While they do have a regular screening process (similar to the one I recently described going through for the Pittsburgh Society of Artists), I was admitted through an alternative route: though I still had to do the paperwork and such, and wait until their next screening date, I didn’t have to do all the travel to drop pieces off and pick them back up. Instead, my application was judged based on pieces they’d already seen, when I’d managed a last-minute entry into their Isn’t It Romantic show in February.

I am delighted to have this group offer me recognition as an artist, and look forward to participating in some more activities a little to the north.

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Pittsburgh Society of Artists!!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/04/05

“Happy Camper” Here!

Last Sunday, I went through the screening process to be admitted to the Pittsburgh Society of Artists. This involved:

  • filling out an application (online, in advance);
  • showing up at a certain time and place on Sunday morning to set up a display of three of my recent pieces;
  • going away for a few hours while one or more judges evaluated all the works that had been submitted;
  • returning to pick up my pieces, and
  • going home to await word on the decision.

I delivered and set up my display a little over half-waycoter through the drop-off time period. (From the number of pieces I saw and what I’d heard to be the number of applicants, I do think that the majority of entrants had already delivered and departed.) Once my pieces were all in place, I took a few minutes to look around at the other entries. While many of them were very impressive, there were two artists whose works I was particularly curious about. I actually got to talking to one of them at pick-up time: Ashley had singled out my work as she’d surveyed both rooms too! We were definitely in the minority, having submitted “3-D” pieces for evaluation, rather than 2-D. Turns out, though, that another link is that we’re both members of the Koolkat community (though we don’t remember ever having met at various events there), soon to have our pieces transferred over to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh once that place opens this summer.

Of the three pieces I submitted for screening, the one shown here is the only one for which I can find a decent picture right now. I started it late last year, and it was the first piece I completed this January, but had held off posting about it because I was “saving” it for when I’ll talk about some new workshops I plan to write about shortly. Since I have a couple other pieces in the works that I can use to talk about workshops, you get to see this one now.

Anyway, I did not have to wait toooo long: around 8 that evening an email came in saying, “Congratulations! You have been accepted into the Pittsburgh Society of Artists!” I feel very honored to have been selected as a member of this group (and happy that they accepted Ashley too).

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Trying Hadar’s New Friendly Rose Bronze

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/04/25

Another new formula to play with, another Crystal Bead Bazaar bracelet challenge to enter: guess what I managed to combine … again … eventually! I was incredibly late with my entry but … better late than never!

The challenge was to create a bracelet with an “Edwardian” look. Now, that was a real challenge for me: I’m just not a lacy-gossamer-Edwardian kind of person. (The Edwardian era coincided with Art Nouveau. I love Art Nouveau!!!) But, I finally found time to do some research into Edwardian jewelry, and found that these other two trends also fell into that category:

  1. Botanical influences. OK! I enjoy making flower-designs.
  2. Settings that included Green + White + Violet stones as a code for Give Women the Vote. Yes! I am delighted to do include those too.

The result: I made my own flower-beads out of Hadar’s Friendly Rose Bronze, set them with Green (nephrite jade), White (cz), and Violet (amethyst) stones, strung them on copper wire, connected everything with bronze jump rings (and a bronze clasp, not shown).

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

[Note, that “voting” for that piece via a “like” on Facebook worked only during April, 2014. They announce only the first-place winner, which was not me, and not a surprise since I submitted my entry rather late (though I was not the last to do so!). But here’s a big “Thank you!” to everyone who did vote for it! I’m hoping to enter again in a couple of months, and will post that again here….]

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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….]

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It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/05/21

… but bronze and copper shrink at different rates that sometimes yield surprises.

If it had turned out OK, I’d’ve been torn: should I polish it up to an even, satin finish, or just leave it with this colored, antique look?

I can try to patch it but then, for several reasons, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll have to polish it. That’s ok.

I was, however, making it in the hope of meeting a deadline that I’ve now missed, so I’m going to Plan B for that and will set this one aside for the time being. I’ll come back to it later on. There’s a story behind the design, that I’ll tell when I’ve worked it all out.

But this is such a dramatic image, I couldn’t resist posting it. (FYI, this piece is the reason I’d mixed up a big batch of bronze, whose leftovers I described in my past few posts.) Sigh.

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Thanks for the Love.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/12

Neither of my entries won a prize in the Show Me the Love challenge but I still wanted to post a quick thank-you to those who did vote for my pieces.

You can see the winners over at the Metal Clay Today website. Second place went to the one I would have put at the top myself. (Even though it came in second, I was glad to see it earn a prize.) The third place price went to the only one of the winners that I actually know. (I enjoyed meeting her at the PMC Guild Conference at Purdue last summer.) I was impressed by many aspects of the piece that earned the first-place prize; although for this particular challenge I wouldn’t have rated any pet reliquary first simply because, while I certainly do appreciate its “love” sentiment, that just didn’t cry out “Valentine’s Day!” to me. But that’s what “elections” are all about, isn’t it? Sorting out the differences among all our opinions.

Although it does not say this explicitly at the Metal Clay Today website right now, I am expecting that images of all the entries will appear in MCT’s Spring 2011 issue once it’s made available online. Thus, if you missed voting during the time the poll was open, you should still be able to catch all of them a bit later on. If you notice any artists whose work you particularly like, why not see if you can find them online and let them know how you feel?!

Oh, and the photo that accompanies this post is one image of another love-themed bead I made, I think it was last autumn.

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Show Me (Your) Love – I’d Appreciate Your Vote!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/23

[Update: The voting at Metal Clay Today ended at midnight on February 5; results should be posted at on February 10. Thanks so much to everyone who voted for one of my pieces: Each and every one of you is a real treasure!]


As I mentioned in one or two recent posts, I entered the Show Me The Love Challenge at Metal Clay Today.

The challenge itself was stated simply: “Submit a piece that depicts love.”

OK, there was one other stipulation: at least 50% of it had to have been made using metal clay techniques (my wording, their percentage). But still: simple to describe, a challenge to produce.

With Valentine’s Day (markets…) approaching, of course, I just happened to be working on several pieces that I thought met the requirements. So I sent two of them in!

Here’s how one of them appears (if you don’t see the full description, try making your browser window wider; alternatively, clicking on the image should open it in its own window for you):

That fully-reversible piece is constructed of fine silver (from PMC3). After firing it was lightly tumbled, then work hardened with hammers, polished with a variety of tools, given a liver of sulphur patina, and polished one more time by hand. It is 24 mm in diameter, just a hair under 5 mm deep, and weighs 8.5 grams. The photograph shows it strung on a soft satin cord.

It’s another one of my little basic box construction pieces. From the technical side (i.e., as a class sample), it’s meant to show that all boxes need not be cubes. The curved piece between the two disks was made from a single strip of clay that was dried in a curved shape to match the size of the disks it would support. It was then cut into two pieces, so there’d be room to insert the cord from which it would hang (as well as to allow the space for the “love note”). A square box, for example, would in most cases require four “side” pieces.

Note: The challenge editor omitted the actual title I had given it, and used a small part of a “quotation” from the text I had submitted. At first, I was fine with those changes. If you want to cast your vote for it, however, you need to know that, while the ballot entries appear to be in alphabetical order, it seems that the computer system they used for the ballot resorted them, putting all the entries that started with a quotation mark first. To vote for the piece above, you just have to look for “Show … the Love”! up near the top of the ballot…. It does have my name with it (C Scheftic, the same form as I use on this blog). A link to the ballot is at the end of this post.

And here is my other entry:

I debated about entering this second piece. It’s far more basic than what I expected most others would enter, but, in the end, I couldn’t resist, for the reason given in its description (above). It was made quickly, to illustrate a series of different points during demonstrations in a brief beginners worksop I taught recently. Although it is very simple in design and construction, I think it illustrates a richness of meaning and variety of form that are possible from just about anyone the very first time they try these new and innovative techniques!

As is the case with most of my work, it is reversible. The “beacon” side was made from PMC+ while PMC3 was used on the “heart/love” side. It is 27 by 22 mm, and weighs 5.5 grams. After construction and firing it was lightly tumbled, then work hardened with hammers, polished with a variety of tools, given a liver of sulphur patina, and polished one more time by hand. It hangs from an Argentium silver jump ring on a simple rubber cord.

If you would like to vote for this piece, it’s listed in its correct alphabetical spot, as Love’s Beacon.


I did debate whether to submit both, or limit myself to just one. In the end, I decided it mattered more to me to get them both out there, on public display, than to fuss over whether I was lessening my chance of winning by possibly splitting “my” votes between them. I figured that each one could stand on its own merits, or not, compared to all the other “love”ly pieces that would also be entered in the competition.

If you want to be fully informed before you cast your vote, you can download a file with all 49 entries in the challenge (it’s over 5 Mb in size) from the source, at:

If, on the other hand, you are one of my dear friends who wants to shortcut that process and just go vote for one of mine, the ballot itself is at:

One vote per person / computer will be tallied. You need not be a subscriber to Metal Clay Today to vote — balloting is open to everyone!

And, as I said in the title, should you cast your ballot for one of my pieces: Thank you — I really do appreciate your support!!!

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“Love’s Garden, in Pinks”

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/01/16

I considered entering this necklace in the Show Me the Love Challenge at Metal Clay Today but, in the end, decided not to. “Lentil beads” are fairly common fare in the metal clay community: beautiful (I think) and great fun to teach (lots of “bang for the buck” in general, but especially for a beginner project) but even adorable ones are not very likely to win a competition any more.

Still, I am very fond of the fine silver focal bead in this piece. I’m not much of a “pink” person myself (fuchsia, maybe, or some deep rose and burgundies, but not so much the delicate pinks (that my mother loved to wear)). But I had a couple of adorable, little, pink cubic zirconia and I thought they’d look lovely set in this combo of textures and shapes, so I used them here. I debated putting both on one side, but then chose to set one into each separate texture, and not in the “obvious” locations either. What do you think of those choices? (A click on either of the detail shots, below, should take you to larger versions.)

If you’ve known me and my jewelry for a while and this bead somehow looks familiar, this may be the fourth, or is it fifth?, iteration of how I’ve strung it. I’m getting happier with each new attempt and, with this one, I like the little reversible heart-shaped toggle clasp I (finally!) made to go with it. I think it’s at last time to put it up for sale.

Really, that’s one thing the challenge got me to do: make a little heart toggle for it. And then I decided to enter some other pieces instead. Go figure…

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All 32 pairs, for real (Month of Earrings – Second Summary)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/04/12

Month of Earrings (all 32 pairs)

A few days after the end of the Month of Earrings Challenge, I was talking with another artist about combining various other materials with silver. I thought I’d quickly pull up my summary photo and point out a couple examples. Imagine my surprise when I looked at it, and couldn’t find in it my first couple of entries. Yikes! But, no crisis: I had enough other examples scattered around various places that I could use for the purpose of our conversation.

Later on, thinking back on what I’d done, I remembered that after snapping the first few, I’d promptly stashed them safely into my “get this ready to go out for sale” bin. (Each piece in there still need to be added to my inventory tracking file, noted with the location where I’ll try to sell it, have price noted, and put on a display card.) After that, since there were going to be a number completed in a short time, I’d just let the next few accumulate on the tray in my photo setup. Then I just kept adding to the tray, forgetting there were a few in the to-sell bin. When I took the photo, the space was jam-packed, so it wasn’t obvious that a few were missing. (And it took enough effort to get them to stay lined up as I was trying to light and shoot them, I didn’t actually stop to count them.) Once I realized I’d missed a few, I decided that the next time I set up to take photos, I’d have to re-shoot the “summary” collection. That’s what you see with this post. [And, though it actually took me several more tries to get it right, I did keep counting: this time, all 32 pairs are there.]

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The “extra” pieces (Month of Earrings #31-32)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/04/10

Even though the Month of Earrings Challenge was to complete 30 pairs in a month, since there were actually 31 days in March, here’s #31, a pair of reversible domes (the other side has a random slip-trailed design):

Domed Bubbles

And, because I’m one of those people who is just a bit more comfortable with at least the start of a back-up plan, just in case, here are two views of #32, another reversible pair and (curiously) the only set I made all month that I thought needed some back-up thenselves:

Circles and Blocks (circles side) Circles and Blocks (one showing each side)

The photo on the left shows the side with circles, plus a little silver ball embellishment in the center of one set of those circles on each piece. The photo on the right shows one side, again, with the circles facing out, but the other one has been reversed to show the blocks on that side. The thing is, for some reason, in the kiln these otherwise flat disks “rippled” a bit around the edge. I’ve had pieces curve or warp on a larger scale, either during drying or firing, but I’ve not previously experienced small little rippled ruffles like these have. It is a kind of interesting look, it was just such a surprise to see it.

Although I was able to complete those earrings in March (as I’d mentioned earlier, and they are hidden in my “summary” photo with the April 1 post), I hadn’t gotten any decent individual photos of them. I tried again today, after picking up several interesting tiles (glass, ceramic, and plastic) at the Creative Reuse shop within Construction Junction.

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per Alice’s suggestion (Month of Earrings – Summary)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/04/01

Alice, of Ally’s Art, had suggested I take a photo of all my challenge pieces, and here it is:

Month of Earrings ++

That photo contains all 32 pieces: the thirty I posted at the Month of Earring pool on Flickr, and the two “bonus” pieces I mentioned with MoE entry #27.

To see any of the 30 entries in more detail, either browse back through these posts, or go to Flickr where you can see the entire set.

Whew! It’s been fun….

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Moving to a Conclusion (Month of Earrings #30)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/31

My 30th entry for the Month of Earrings Challenge!!!

Having done a simple cylinder (posted as #28), twisted cylinder (#29), and a simple twist (#27), it seemed fitting to finish up with a flourish based on a “twisted tube” theme.

Spinner Twists

Last summer, I’d made a series of “Twistie” earriengs, with a shape rather like that. They are fragile during construction: when I’d break a bit off of one, I’d then trim the other to match. And repeat that as necessary, sigh, until a few twisties ended up far shorter than I’d intended. I was also fiddling around with various ways to drill nice, even little holes to use in attaching them to earwires, without falling prey to distortion (working with wet clay) or even more breakage (once they’d dried). Though I liked the look, and they did sell rather well, I had been thinking I needed to take a different approach if I wanted to enjoy making them.

Looking at the final remaining pair, last fall, I realized: don’t drill a hole at all— build a special little tube, attach it vertically, and run the wire through that! The idea’s been sitting there for several months. This, its first full implementation, seemed a good way to end this month’s challenge.

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Betcha can’t [make] just one! (Month of Earrings #28-29)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/31

At the risk of dating myself, I will admit that I keep thinking of that old potato chip commercial with the tag line, “Betcha can’t eat just one!”

No, Im not eating silver earrings. But, as I commented the other day, I sure do feel like I’m swimming in earring components. I can’t make just one earring. Not even just one pair. But now, it seems, not even one extra component when I think about how to do a piece. Noooo, one “simple” idea sparks a cluster of others. Which, in this context, is a good thing!

As I was making the little cylinder I used in my MoE #3, where I’d gone to some effort to get a nice, smooth base with no visible seam along the edge, I was thinking, “What if I accepted a seam, and decorated with it?”  So, I made several more pairs:

Little Cylinders

The first pair (above) was fairly small, with a curved edge that overlaps about half of the underlying layer.  With a satin finish, an ever-so-slight bit of patina along the edge is just enough to highlight to the curves.  The cylinders, and the glass and Swarovski beads, are free to move on the hand-formed Argentium silver earwires.

The second pair (below), is much longer, with a “deckle” edge, and wrapped on a diagonal such that the overlap gives an interesting twist to the shape. I thought these cylinders could stand on their own, without the need for additional beads. The earwires are sterling (.925) silver.  But I wanted these tubes to be able to spin, so they’re on Argentium sterling silver wires with a ball-end inside the cylinder and a wrapped loop outside:

Cylinders that Can Spin.

For the third pair, I again used twists around a straw.  But, instead of overlapping one larger piece of clay, I made narrow strips that I twisted around a small straw. You’ve already seen that one, back in MoE #26.

Back to the title of this post, then: can I just stop at the Month of Earrings challenge itself? Nooo, of course not! And that’s the point, isn’t it? Just like the challenge of stopping after you’ve eaten just one potato chip versus before you’ve eaten the whole bag of them: the trick here seems to be to take on a handful of challenges, a selective set of them, and to see what that mix will yield.

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Rippled Curve (Month of Earrings #27)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/31

A couple of days ago, as I was looking at how quickly the end of the month was approaching, and how I had a few pieces underway but not quite ready, I got to thinking that maybe I should have a back-up plan, with a few simpler pieces, just to be sure I could have 30 done by the end of the month.

Here’s one of the three I did with that in mind:

Ripples on a Curve

Made from a texture that I’ve found to look nice with a bit of “liver of suphur” patina, trimmed along one edge using craft scissors with a ripple pattern, and dried into a curved half-ring, I decided to see how these would look with more of a “satin” finish than any of the other pieces I’d made so far this month. Liking the result, this is going in as an entry in the Month of Earrings challenge.

What happened to the other two pairs?

When I tried taking photos of them, I didn’t get any shots that I liked. With a more highly-polished surface, either I was getting either a glare from the light or, once I’d diffused that enough more, then too dark an image. I may try to capture those again later. I do have three final ones I can use for the challenge.

In my own mind at least, even though the challenge was to make 30 pairs, since March has 31 days, one will go for that. And the other will go for a sort of “Baker’s Month” (as in “baker’s dozen”) bonus.

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Silver Meets Deeply-domed Polymer (Month of Earrings #25-26)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/30

I really like the colors and shape of the four smallest cane slices that I found in the box that “Beading Heart” Barbara gave me (with which to explore designs that mixed silver with her polymer); my challenge with those four was how to work with domes of that depth.

One idea was to just let you look deep into them, each with a little bit of silver dangling in back having a shape and texture that would help point the way:

Silver Meets Polymer #8

I was glad that my earlier “movement” pieces had already shown I could have the wire stretch up the back.

I had also been particularly happy with the outcome of my MoE #16, so I decided to try swapping the roles of silver and the “other bead(s)” to come up with this pair:

Silver Meets Polymer #9

Which, of course, came to me because, by the time I got to thinking about these polymer pieces, I had a set of little cylinders available. Tubes will be the topic of my next post another post soon but, for now, I’ll just say that, “It sure is fun when things work out like that!”

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Even More Silver Meets Polymer (Month of Earrings # 23-24)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/29

Since my last trials combining my silver work with that of Barbara’s polymer seemed to work out well, here are a few more.

I think these two black-and-white cane slices are my favorites of the ones Barbara gave me.

Silver Meets Polymer #6
I’m glad my earlier trial with the green and black domed pieces turned out as well as they did: that made it easier for me to decide how to build those up.

I tried something different with these:

Silver Meets Polymer #7

When I put these up for sale I will mark them as “reversible” because you can take the dangles off the (purchased, sterling) earwires and turn them around the other way. The “other side” has a bead at the center, but no silver disk covering up any of the delightful color blend. (Sorry, but I just didn’t think to take a photo of that side while I still had some daylight…)

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Silver Meets Polymer Again (Month of Earrings #19-20-21-22)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/28

I’ve been talking lately with my friend Barbara (aka Beading Heart) about various ways to combine metal and polymer clays. She kindly donated a few of her polymer canes to my earring explorations.

Some of them seemed to fit right in with my experiments into the “spinner disk” concept. I think one reason Barbara and I work well together must be because we both like those domed shapes—here are a couple of my earrings made with her domed cane slices (these photos lack a bit of depth…both the polymer in back and the silver disks in front are concave):

Silver Meets Polymer #2 Silver Meets Polymer #3

In some of the all-silver styles I showed earlier, it seemed to make a noticeable difference to the “balance” of the earrings whether the long stretch of wire ran up the front or the back. With these lightweight polymer pieces, however, it doesn’t seem to matter quite so much (though it is still good if the wires are appropriately work-hardened once you’ve got them in place). That is a useful thing to know going forward.

While we’re experimenting, it also makes sense to try comparing flat polymer disks too; again, the canes were provided by Barbara, and I repeated both of the styles of wires I’d used above:

Silver Meets Polymer #4 Silver Meets Polymer #5

I was happy to see that these seem to remain “upright” better than the the ones with big metal disks. That’s good because it provides a practical reason, as well as an artistic one, for using these two materials together.

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Moving Further Along (Month of Earrings #16-17-18)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/27

This Month of Earrings challenge (I’m well into the second half now!!!) has confirmed something I really knew already: I am drawn to movement.

As I was making the earrings with the orange jasper beads and citrus pattern that I mentioned in my last post, I got to thinking about giving a pair some more movement by hanging a another set (with smaller domes) this way:

Spinner Disk Earrings #7

And I’ll admit something: I had already domed those silver disks so that the texture was on the concave side (as shown in a number of my earlier entries). To get them to work for this pair, I had to put them in my dapping block and get them turned the other way. Whew: It worked!

There are several kinds of movement in both of these as well:

Movement Earrings #5 Movement Earrings #6

The four disks with a curve down the middle are leftovers from something else I tried last summer. (Those were OK, but I wasn’t that crazy about them, so I didn’t continue with that idea. I’d already made these four, however, so I just set them aside, knowing I’d find a use for them eventually.) What I did now was to make four more disks, flat ones, and attach them to the back.

Once everything was fired and polished, I decided to apply a patina to one pair, while leaving the other as “naked” shiny silver. Then I balled up the ends of some pieces of Argentium silver wire, and started adding beads. There’s a little bit of color from the Swarovski crystals at each end. To keep those from hitting the silver, next there are little glass beads of a similar color. And to keep all of that lined up nicely and allow the silver beads in the center to spin on the wires, there’s a column of tiny (11/0) glass seed beads down the middle of each tube. It’s a shame they end up hidden, but they serve a good purpose in there.

Then, the Argentium wires are finished with a wrapped loop, and hung on (purchased) sterling silver earwires. For what it’s worth, the tiny coils on the wires can spin as well, if you really want to fiddle with something that small.

(While I’m at this challenge, I’m also making a lot of the earwires I’m using. But I don’t feel compelled to do that for every piece. I’ll make ones where I want some custom design, but I do not feel compelled to make ones that look like ones I could easily buy. I got into all this because I wanted to make things I couldn’t readily find on the market; when I can find an appropriate component to use, I see that as saving me time that I can then spend on special ones.)

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Spinning Right Along (Month of Earrings 13-14-15)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/24

Continuing on the spinner-earring theme for the moment, I still like that little flat-wire spiral on the first set I made. Let me try to turn the earwire around. (Another great customer suggested that, and I was happy to be able to pull these out!. I’m using balled-up wire-ends, not the latchback design of the Art Jewelry magazine project that inspired these particular experiments, so if I put the ball in front, that can help to hold the spiral in place.

This pair has three layers of handmade spinners (two fine silver disks plus that flattened spiral of Argentium silver wire), threaded onto handmade 20 gauge Argentium silver earwires with a small ball on the front end:

Spinner Disk Earrings #4

For this next pair, given the design on the disks (especially the smaller ones) I didn’t think they needed a spiral in front. So these just have two fine silver disks threaded onto similar earwires.

Spinner Disk Earrings #5

Since I do seem able to get the wires bent at angles that let the weight of the discs direct them into a reasonable position, let me take that another step with these, where the focus is on lovely round orange jasper beads nestled into domed disks with a citrus-like texture:

Spinner Disk Earrings #6

Ooh, these seem to get yummier with each iteration. (Sorry: it’s the end of the blood orange season for this year—one of my favorite fruits—and I guess I’m thinking about when I should eat the last two of those I managed to buy.)

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Another experiment in design (Month of Earrings 10-11-12)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/21

On the plus side, regarding my earring experiments with a spinner / movement design, I am finding that I can bend and twist the wire in such a way that the pieces do seem to hang in a nice position. But what else can I do to improve the construction process, to reduce the risk to the beads while still getting the practical effect I want from them?

For one thing, I can return to using silver disks with a bit of a hollow-dome shape, into which the beads can safely nestle. And I can try using smooth glass beads, such as these with a lovely rose-colored lining:

Movement Earrings #4

The look seems nice, but those particular beads have a rather large hole. Even though I hammered the wires flat, which widened them a bit, the beads do still want to ride up, and off the earwire, when you put the piece down for storage. Now, I usually sell my earrings with a small rubber or plastic “ear nut” that some people like because they feel it reduces the risk of losing an earring. Carefully replacing that will, of course, help to hold the rose-colored bead in place when not being worn. But I prefer construction methods that don’t rely on such trickery later on.

So the next experiment topped a glass bead with a tiny bugle bead, and then a small seed bead. (Those have been in my stash since I lived in Minnesota, where the temptations of Bobby Bead were oh so near my office in Minneapolis.)

Spinner Disk Earrings #2

That approach appears to have a future although, in subsequent designs, I can plan ahead and make silver pieces that are a better fit with it. For an experiment though (using disks made at random during the February clay play day with my local metal clay guild), I’m happy with those.

Digging through the stash, looking for the Japanese bugle beads for that, I came across a handful of small silver-lined glass beads. (Clearly, I’ve been interested in silver since long before I ever started working with silver clays…) They are smaller than the rose-colored ones, above, with smaller holes. They serve their purpose of helping to hold the various bits together while almost disappearing into the design.

Spinner Disk Earrings #3

So, I’m still learning as I go, but seem to be moving in a reasonable direction. Or, at least I hope I am…

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Crystal bicone beads: both pretty and practical (Month of Earrings #7-8-9)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/18

The domed earrings I entered as my first items for the Month of Earrings challenge are a variation on a project described in Art Jewelry magazine last summer.

In that article, both disks were cut out of a sheet of sterling silver, then hammered, filed, and assembled with a small bead onto hand-shaped sterling silver earwires. Since I’m one of those people who rarely follows a recipe exactly, not even the first time any more, the first ones I made based on that article used one disk of fine silver and one of copper (no sterling for either). I chose to dome both of those, and then used a little flattened spiral of sterling in place of the bead. I did follow the instructions for how to make the earwires … almost! I made a small modification to the back, however, to help hold all the pieces upright at the ear. Problem is, while these pieces do hold together wonderfully while being worn, the components want to slide around on the wire when you take them off and put them into your jewelry box between wearings.

Having made those, it’s (now) clearer to me why the instructions were written the way they were, and which variations affect which aspects of both look and practicality. Ah, let’s hear it for variations! I can use the Month of Earrings challenge to explore some more of those, and see which ones do and do not work reasonably well, which ones may be even more of an improvement on the original!

For now, two tweaks:

  • The bead in front, and the wire that bends around it, help to hold the disks in place when you store the earrings. Though I like the look of my little flat wire spiral, that didn’t have quite enough bulk to serve the same purpose. Let me try some little Swarovski crystal beads instead.
  • The latchback earwires offer one kind of look, and the weight of wire towards the back helps to nudge the earrings into a nice hanging position. Can I get a good position if I turn the earwires into a slightly simpler “french” style? (I consider this in part because several regular customers who saw the first ones asked if I could make some this way instead.)

Here goes…. First, several experiments with crystals. One set in an indigo color (plus, instead of two round disks, one round disk that can spin and one oval one that swings back and forth for a bit of sassy movement):

Movement Earrings #1

And another set in a peridot color (plus, one round disk that can spin if you want, and a little square in front that can swing):

Movement Earrings #2

I discovered a small problem there, probably due to my wire-working skills, but it was very easy to chip a bit of the crystal in the process of trying to neatly bend the wire into position. So, for now, one more trial, this time with small silver-lined clear glass beads surrounding each crystal, to offer a smidgeon of protection:

Movement Earrings #3

That did make the assembly a lot easier, but I do slightly prefer the look of the single crystal bead on each piece. What do you think? (Thanks for any comments … hint, hint!)

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Double Duty (Month of Earrings #4-5-6)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/16

I led a great little class on Sunday at KoolKat. Several returning students and one enthusiastic newcomer. Each participant made four to six pieces that could be used for pendants, charms, or earrings.

On the “second” side, we used a variety of slip-trailing techniques (with the consistency of the slip itself ranging thick to runny; using refilled syringes, a spoon, paintbrushes; etc.). On the first, we may have rolled it out with a texture, or left it smooth, or applied slip there too.

Reversible Earrings #1

While I was demonstrating rolling, texturing, cutting, hole-making, plus slip trailing and other forms of embellishments, I was able to make several more pieces for the Month of Earrings. After they were fired, I applied a patina using “liver of sulphur” and hung them on sterling silver earwires in such a way that they can be slipped off (ha…) and turned around depending on which side you want to show in the front.

Reversible Earrings #2Reversible Earrings #3

As photographed, these three pairs illustrate the sides with stamped textures.

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Finding the “Right” Use for Various Components

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/13

A third pair of earrings for the Month of Earrings challenge:

Silver Meets Polymer #1

A good number of years ago, the daughter of a friend received a collection of packages of polymer clay as a gift from one of her aunts (in another state, over 1000 miles away). None of me, my friend, nor her daughter had ever worked with the stuff before (though I’d at least seen pieces made with it). As a subsequent gift from me to this friend (who said she wanted “time” more than anything else), I said I’d figure out what to do with the clay and, the next time the kids had a day off school on a workday for the parents, I’d take the day off to stay with them and hold a little “polymer party” to keep them busy for several hours. (She was delighted with the offer!)

Between seeing the daughter’s clay and making the offer, I did spend one evening experimenting with polymer, just to see what I might be getting myself into. I gave some of my results to the children, and kept a few others that I’ve used here and there over the years. The blue and white beads, above, are the only ones remaining from that episode. Little leftovers, different from each other in size and shape, they have been sitting in one of my bead-stash boxes biding their time.

The little round silver ball has been sitting in a silver-stash box as well. (You laugh at all this talk of stashes? Please leave a comment describing yours, dear reader!) The base was made as I was showing a friend how to work with cork clay: I make small, simple demo pieces and wait for some other opportunity to use them. Mine sat there, unfired, for months. One day when I was trying to show a student some things about manipulating a syringe full of clay, I pulled out the little ball, and illustrated my comments by decorating it.

So along comes this earring challenge. I looked at those three pieces and said, the silver ball is a little smaller than the polymer one, but the three pieces do sort of go together. Make a fourth variation. Thus, the brand-new silver cylinder.

When I went to put them all together, I decided I didn’t want to do the “usual” thing of putting a pair of beads on some wire, topping that with a wrapped loop, and dangling that from an earwire. (I do have some like that in the works. It’s just not what I wanted for these.) I wanted a one-piece construction: for each earring I made a headpin (by cutting two pieces of Argentium sterling silver wire and using a torch to ball up one end of each), put the silver and polymer beads on those (in opposite orders), topped each pair with a tiny white seed bead, and bent the rest of that metal into its own earwire.

One main reason for the usual (two-part) process is to hold it all together. The wrapped loop at the top helps prevent the components from just sliding off the wire and getting lost. Here, instead, I added the tiny seed bead on top: its hole is far smaller than those of the other two components of each piece. After bending the earwire into shape, and rounding off the far end, I flattened the curved part some with a hammer. That serves two purposes:

  • It work-hardens the wire a bit, which should help it last longer, and
  • The flattening makes the wire too big for the little seed bead to pass, thus forcing all the beads to stay on the wire!

I sure hope someone will like them enough to buy them and give them a good home.

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Domed Weave Earrings

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/04

And the Month of Earrings challenge lets you go back and include anything you made since the start of the year. That is, the month is really three months long: isn’t that a delightfully generous deadline?

Woven Rectangles

I made that pair while Tim McCreight was in town in mid-January, teaching classes at the Society for Contemporary Craft.

I set that photo up so that clicking on it will switch to a page with a larger image and brief description of how these were made.

A later addition to this post: I forgot that I had an old photo of the woven-sheet earrings from the class I took with CeCe Wire down at the (then-wonderful but now-defunct) Made in Metal in Baltimore:

(While my more recent photos aren’t great, looking back at that one I can see some improvement…)

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Month of Earrings

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/01

OK, I went and did it. I signed up for Vickie Hallmark’s challenge for a Month of Earrings. It’s been going since the start of February, but it actually runs through the end of March. So I should be able to do it…

I can’t enter these. I made (and sold) them several years ago, one of the first pairs of earrings I ever made:

But the pair I put in for my first entry are ones I’ve already shown on this blog, talking about domes. So I thought I’d post that picture for now.

One pair down, twenty-nine to go. (Why) does that sound so much more manageable than two earrings down, fifty-eight to go?

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