Convergent Series

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

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“Cool Sizzle” at Art All Night … Tonight!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/04/28

Yes, the last weekend in April once again brings us Art All Night! And Cool Sizzle will be spending all night night there tonight!

Cool SizzleThe Piece

Living in Steeltown (aka Pittsburgh, PA) it seemed only right that my tenth-ever entry into this annual show should, at last, be made from steel! All my earlier ones used silver, bronze, and/or copper, so steels’s the one metal from my main repertiore that hasn’t yet been shown there.

Specifically, Cool Sizzle was made from a steel that is both “sintered” and “black.” Regular readers of this blog will likely know what that means. If you’ve just landed here from the tag on my piece at Art All Night, the most important things to take from that are:

  • sintered: relatively light in weight for its size, and
  • black: not a shiny, stainless steel.

Sometimes I carefully design a piece (i.e., with a theme and a title from the start) but, more often, I start with a vague idea and see where the piece takes me. This was definitely one of the latter. Late last year (actually, while doing some Christmas shopping) I noticed a silicon trivet / potholder with a cute “flat bubble” design on it that I thought would make a nice “texture stamp” for a jewelry piece, so I bought it as a little gift to myself, and set it aside. Just this past Monday, anticipating Art All Night, I was looking around my studio and debating whether to enter something I already had on hand or try to complete something totally new. I moved the tray of enamel powders that just happened to be sitting on top of that trivet, and I knew: try to make something with it, out of steel, and colored with enamels!

Why call it Cool Sizzle?

The “sizzle” refers, not just to the bubbly pattern, but even more to all the heat involved in making it:

  • construted using the “metal clay” process, it was fired in a kiln to nearly 1900°F for two hours;
  • a certain amount of rust-protection was added via a “hot bluing” process (which turns it black…) of repeatedly heating it with a torch flame until glowing and then rapidly cooling it by quenching;
  • adding color by wet-packing vitreous enamel powders into some of the hollows in the design, which ended up taking five more firings (though only at about 1500°F this time).

And the “cool” refers to:

  • the use of mostly cool colors (blues and green) in the design (with just a touch of yellow (but not red or orange), meant to reflect the piece’s lightness (rather than for warmth)), and
  • how the metal normally feels relatively cool to the touch.

The Event

The rules for Art All Night are simple: one (only one) piece per artist, anyone can enter, with no fees, no jury, no censorship. Also, no sales at the show itself, but participants can offer bids on entries that are then passed along to the artists when they pick up their work. It’s up to the artists to then contact anyone who has bid on their art. If you get one bid at or above your asking price, you just arrange a time and place to make the sale. If you get more than one bid, or offers below your asking price, then negotiations can commence. I haven’t been overwhelmed with bids on every entry I’ve made over the years, but the majority of them have happily gone to a bidder (several at more than my asking price!), and all but one of the others have sold very soon afterwards. (The lone hold-out is actually one of my personal favorite pieces, and I’ve really no clue why it’s still in my collection!)

2018 represents the 21st annual Art All Night event, and the first one not held in the Lawrenceville neighborhood! I wasn’t even living in Pittsburgh when I first discovered it: I was still living in California then, and just happened to be in town for a conference, noticed a little blurb about it in the local arts & entertainment newspaper, and decided to go check it out. And was blown away by this wonderful (then, little) exhibit of community art! It had everything from little-kid “refrigerator” art (with some great bidding wars among grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.!), to people who made something (NFS: Not For Sale) for themselves that they’d just like to let others see, to wild constructions you’d never, ever see in a regular gallery anywhere, to works that were clearly professional creations, and more.

A year (or was it two?) later, I was invited to come back to the area for a job interview around the same time of year. So I checked to see when Art All Night would be, and asked to schedule the trip for dates that could include it. I didn’t get that job but, surprise, a couple years later was invited to interview for a different position. And I scheduled it the same way again! That one ended up involving a lot of negotiating and re-designing and more negotiating before it got sorted out so it wasn’t until a whole year later when a house-hunting trip just happened to coincide again. Oh, and in between there somewhere were a couple little springtime vacation trips to visit with some friends that I also planned for late April. And I’ve continued to go, to volunteer, to offer demos, to enter pieces — one or more of those each year — since actually moving here. And if/when I ever move away, I sure hope I will want and be able to return for future Art All Night events!

But the thing about it is how much it has grown over the years! It started rather small, but grew quickly. The growth has slowed a bit in recent years, but it is still so very big that finding a suitable venue is now a challenge. Community Development Corporations use it as a way to draw first hundreds, then thousands, and now tens of thousands of people to some huge yet empty building. In addition to the pieces hung on walls, displayed on tables, or built up on-site on the floor, there’s live music, art demonstrations, participatory activities, food & drink, and more. And it really does stay open all night: current hours are from 4 pm on Saturday through 2 pm on Sunday! Adding up the different times I’ve gone to it across all the years, I’ve been there at just about every time of day or night, and the vibe does vary over the duration. Do let me know when you’d like to go!

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