Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘black spinel’

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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