Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘bronze’

Summer Solstice, Raku Party, Artisan Market

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/06/21

I am really looking forward to the way the North Hills Art Center will celebrate the Summer Solstice tonight … with the opening of their Summer Artisan Market and a Raku Party!

I still have a couple dozen pieces left of the huge batch of Raku pottery I made at IGMA: the video above shows details on a random sample of a dozen from that lot.

Several weeks ago I made a bakers-dozen new pottery pieces out of raku-friendly clay. They’ve since been bisque-fired, so they’ll be ready to put through the Raku-firing process at the party tonight! None of those are like ones in the video: I didn’t want to assume that the set-up there would be appropriate for that particular kind of piece (if you didn’t catch the video when I posted a link to it last summer, check it out now to see what I mean!), so the ones I’ll be firing tonight are items for use in my studio, as I do my own work or by students during classes: a mix of dohgu oki (for tool holders as I work, though these are a bit larger than the hashi oki I typically repurpose that way) and small vases (for tool storage, between sessions). This may well be a round of “no two alike” pieces, where I take advantage of the opportunity to explore the range of new-to-me glazes that will be available tonight.

Three Rivers: Metro MixIf you have never participated in a raku-firing before, know this: Most of the time, when potters or metal clay artists talk about firing something, they refer to loading up a kiln and then going off and doing something else until it finishes. But Raku is not like that! There is a brief period of waiting but, mostly:

Raku reminds me in some ways of torch-firing a piece of metal clay, with smoke and fire, and lots of fun things to observe, and ooohs and aaahs as you get your first glimpse of the firing results, and even more fun once each piece has been brushed / cleaned up.

And, yes, if you’re hesitant, you can observe the smoke and fire parts from a distance. Me, though, I want to be close to the action!

Oh, and there will be lots of action in addition to the Raku-firings. The opening reception for the Summer Artisan Market means there will be snacks and beverages for folks to enjoy while checking out a range of great hand-made products from local artisans. Those wheel-thrown pottery pieces of mine that I mentioned at the top of this post –– on a scale suitable for a doll house or faerie garden –– will be available, along with lots of regular-size pottery from others.

A few of my Urban Flowers and Three Rivers pendants (another new one of the latter is shown with this post), and many more of my styles of neck- and ear-wares will be available. (I really need to remember to take photos after I’ve completely finished assembling my pieces: they do come hung and all ready to wear!)

2015_11_FiveCardHolders_OneGearBusinessCard_PB241207So will dozens of my colorful glass card-holder ornaments! I sell those at the holidays as pieces that can be hung on a tree but, of the ones I’ve kept for myself, I never put them away at the end of that season. Since I’ve decorated then in a whole range of different, bright colors, I weight them down a bit (filling them with rice or lentils), stick little notes, reminders, instructions, or photos in the double-loops on top, and use them to spread bits of cheer around all through the year..

For my local readers, I sure hope I’ll be able to celebrate the Summer Solstice with some of you tonight! If you’re not able to make it for all that fun, but would like to shop at the Summer Artisan Market, it will be open when the center is open through July 8.

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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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Four-week Intro Class: Deadline Extended!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/02/16

Great news! My four-week introductory series on working with silver metal clay still has a few seats available in “Session 2” — from 6 to 9 pm — starting next Thursday (Feb 23) at the North Hills Art Center, and we’ve agreed not to close the registration this afternoon, but leave it open until next Tuesday!

So if you forgot to sign up, there is still time. Or, if you didn’t notice the listing among my classes down the right side of this blog, didn’t check the Classes section of my website, and you’re not on my mailing list nor the one for the North Hills Art Center … well, now you know about the series and that it’s still possible to sign up.

intro class samplesJust register now! Right here!

We’ll cover the basics of designing, texturing, shaping, cutting, and refining pieces. You’ll make a woven piece. And a hollow one (open or closed design: you choice!). With every piece you make, pendant or earrings, you’ll have the option of making it reversible! By the end, we will also have covered various ways to polish and add patinas to your pieces, to help bring out the textured designs. And we’ll have lots of fun doing it all!

For my one- or two-day workshops, registration is usually cut off a week ahead: I need time to order the silver we’ll be using (and I sure don’t want to charge students for overnight shipping)! I have ordered silver clay for those who already signed up for this but, since I’m getting enough to cover all four weeks, I can sneak enough out of that for late-comers to use the first week, and replenish it in time for later evenings.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll be able to join us!

big reversible bronze, both sides with CZsAlso please notice (e.g., down the right side of my blog) that this session will be followed at NHAC by a simple, two-night introduction to making a beautiful piece out of bronze metal clay. Registration for that one will close on March 16. (Bronze is a little trickier to work with than silver, so you may end up making only one piece … but the materials cost less, so bronze worth risking for big “statement” pieces!)

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Yes, Trunk Shows contininue again on Sunday.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/17

Whew, what a day. Today, Saturday, started out with all news outlets stating, “If you don’t absolutely have to be somewhere this morning, please stay home. Don’t even try to go anywhere for several hours and, if you can wait, then please do wait until late afternoon or even tomorrow.”

Well, I was out the door before 9 am, heading over to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh to finish setting up for my Trunk Show that started when the place opened at 10 am. And I sure do want to thank everyone who did venture out to Artsmiths today! All the ‘Smiths Shop artists, and especially those of us holding Trunk Shows downstairs, really, really do appreciate your support.

2016_1216_HeartLock_withPinkCZ_3930Four of us have decided that we will go back again on Sunday, in case folks whose schedules were mangled by this weather would appreciate a second chance. We’re already all set up, so why not?! Several of the others who were there today already had different plans for Sunday and have already left, but Paula Nettleship, Samantha Bower, Larissa Graudins, and I will all be there. Since Sunday wasn’t actually advertized as a Trunk Show day, if people don’t come down to see us, we may decide to leave a little early. Artsmiths is open from 12 Noon to 5 pm on Sunday, though some or all of us might start packing up a bit early. So, if you’d like to come find us, I’d suggest you try to make it to Artsmiths betwen 12 Noon and 3 pm. If you want to come later (i.e., after 3 pm, until about 4:45 … to allow at least a little time for shopping until 5), then please just contact one or more of us (or Artsmiths itself) to let us know you’re coming. Any or all of us will be happy to stay as late as the upstairs is open, as long as we know you’ll be coming to join us!

For now, I include one very quick photo of one of the last pieces I finished up last night, a super-simple design but in my usual make-reversible-designs approach, what looks like the top of a lock from this side, actually shows as a heart on the other! It’s still out at Artsmiths so you could hold it in your very own hands tomorrow…and maybe give it as a gift to someone you hold dear in your heart later in the week?

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Wrapping Up 2016…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/01

Yes, we have a whole month left! The title of this post contains a bad pun … but I’m hoping you’ll wrap up some of my creations as gifts, or receive one wrapped up for you!

Here are places where you can find my art jewelry this December (and you can find me—in person, with extra treats—at those with an asterisk):

  • Holiday Sparkle Art & Craft Market at the North Hills Art Center, now through December 10
  • Holiday mART. Sweetwater Center for the Arts, December 2 – 11
  • Holiday Open House, Hoyt Center for the Arts, is on December 3, 2016, 11 am to 4 pm, and then special holiday sales will continue throughout the rest of the month
  • Studio Open House *, in my studio at the Wilkins School Community Center, December 2 (6-9 pm) and December 3-4 (10 am – 5 pm)
    I’m not promising to be back in my studio all day the following weekend (Dec 10-11) but I’m likely to be there for a few hours at some point. If that’s the only time you can make it, please let me know so we can agree on a time to meet there!
  • Trunk Show *, The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, December 17 (Officially I’ll be there myself just that day, but check with me if you’d like to come out on either Friday (16th) or Sunday (18th) as I may be there part of those days too. And I have a smaller, but still great, selection in the ‘Smiths Shop year-round!)

And, finally, I’m honored that, as a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists, I was able to have one of my pieces selected for display (and for sale) in The New Collective show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. The show runs from November 18, 2016, through February 26, 2017, and I sure hope you’ll be able to get over to see all the wonderful artwork that’s been included. To find my entry, first head upstairs and then turn right, and right again, and then head down the last gallery on the right. My Bronze Bead Shelf is at the end of that, on the left. Since it’s framed for display in the show, so you can see only one side there, here’s what it looks like on both sides:

I hope to see you, or to at least have you see my work, at one or another of those events. If I don’t see you in person, there or somewhere, please know how much I appreciate your interest and support, and that I’m wishing you all the best!

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Two Day Intro to Bronze Metal Clay

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/24

Another workshop I have coming up is one I’m calling Golden Bronze Beauties! It is this week! And there are only a few seats left! (Click the link in the class name to get to the official announcement and registration pages.)

This workshop will offer a simple introduction to working with bronze metal clay. If you’ve been wondering about metal clay, I hope you’ll jump in with this one. Or, if you’ve already worked with silver clays, this will be a great chance to explore a different formula. (Should you know enough to wonder about this, the clay I’ve chosen for us to use in this session is Hadar’s One Fire Brilliant Bronze.)

Everyone will be led through the process of developing your own unique, reversible design for a pendant and / or a pair of earrings, and then working with bronze clay to implement that idea.

This is a two-day workshop! Most of the classes at the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (at least so far) have been one-session-only events. But I asked for two so I could offer one using bronze, and was delighted when they agreed to try this!

We’ll do all the making on day one. I’ll fire everyone’s pieces overnight and, in the second class, we’ll see how they all turned out, and explore a handful of finishing techniques. With all the base metals, there can be surprises in how they come out of the kiln. On the plus side, your piece may have acquired one of the stunning, but unpredictable, “kiln colors” that, although ephemeral, you may want to try to preserve for as long as you can. Alternatively, it may come out a dull tan or gray color, one that you’ll want to polish off your piece to reveal the golden-bronze color underneath.

Kiln-colors? Consider the photo of three small hashi oki (chopstick rests) that I made several years ago. While the pendants and earrings in the “promo shot” for this class have all been polished to a high shine, two of the three of these rests came out with such beautiful kiln-colors that I couldn’t bear to polish them the same way I did the third one. (I still have these: I actually use them in my studio as dohgu oki (tool rests) to keep brushes and burnishers and other round-handled tools from rolling off my workbench!) I have polished the bright one lightly a few times, but have let the colored ones slowly darken with age naturally and they are still lovely!

Alternatively, on this butterfly pendant with bronze wings (and a copper body), I left kiln-colors in the hollows of the texture, while selectively polishing the high points. That’s the thing with bronze: you can be determined and just polish the whole thing once it’s been fired, no matter what, or you can wait to see what the kiln provides and make your final finishing decisions based on what you’ve been given. Leading you through those options will be the focus of our second meeting this week.

FWIW, that is why all my base metal classes are longer than a single session. If we use just a single metal (bronze, copper, or steel), we meet at least twice: once to cover making and again to cover finishing. And when we start to combine metals, we meet at least three times (more is even better). Mixing metals increases the chance that the pieces will come out of the kiln with some cracking that will need to be dealt with on our second day (i.e., given some simple repairs & refired, and/or otherwise designed-around). Thus, with mixed metals, we need at least one additional day to ensure that everyone can complete their final finishing steps too.

Important Note!

I’m really hoping that this offering garners a good bit of interest! (This, and a four-day one I’ll discuss in my next post: an introductory silver class covering a range of techniques, including several for incorporating some bling that we often skip over in single-session lessons.) If Artsmiths sees that there’s interest in being able to “go deeper” in these processes, that’s what it will take for them to let me offer more like this! If you are interested, and can join us, please do! If your interest has been piqued, but you just can’t make it for those days (or at those hours), please let the folks at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh know: we can modify the scheduling for future sessions if we know what would work better! (And, if we can’t make the timing work in their classroom, I can offer the same thing at my own studio.)

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I found it!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/16

I found the missing Friends & Lovers bracelet!!! I’ve written about this one before.

I first wrote about it in 2014, when I created it for a Valentine’s Day Romantic-theme challenge. It contained domed hearts that were the first trial pieces I made in my own studio with what Hadar was then calling Friendly Bronze (and now calls One Fire Bronze).

The next time I wrote about it was in 2015, when I thought I must have “put it somewhere safe” before an Open House in my studio … because my cousin, Debby, wanted to buy it to wear at her son’s wedding. But then as the big day approached, I couldn’t find it. So at pretty much the last possible minute, I made her another one, Love & Commitment.

Well, I’m here to tell you now that I hadn’t put it away for safekeeping. I had put away a couple other pieces that were already promised to customers, and I found them as expected after the show. I wasn’t sure that’s what I’d done with that bradelet, but I couldn’t imagine where else it could be. Even after making a replacement for Debby, I’d periodically look for it. My studio has many, many little cubbyholes and boxes and drawers full of bins and yet more boxes, so any time I’d decide some section needed to be cleaned up a bit, I’d check all the nooks & crannies to see if the missing bracelet was there. No luck.

But, this week, I was shuffling around some shadow boxes I use when I display pieces in gallery shows and, as I pushed one back into one of the sections in the bottom of an old china closet I use in my studio (for art & jewelry displays on the top, and supply storage below), for some reason that big one didn’t want to go in the whole way. So I got down on my knees and pulled out a couple other frames in the back to see what was wrong. And there the bracelet was, in the very farthest back corner. I have NO IDEA how it got there. None. None at all!

Funny thing is, I discovered it just about a year to the day from when I first realized it had gone missing. I remember when that was because another cousin, Marie, is here now on her annual visit east from Calinfornia, and it was during her visit here last year when I first discovered that I’d misplaced it (though I didn’t admit that to any of my cousins until a couple months later, shortly before the September wedding).

Regardless of timing, I am glad to have recovered it!

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Picnics, and Parties, and Art Shows, oh my!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/09

What’s this mythical concept of “lazy days” of summer? Summers just seem so busy, with all sorts of events and happenings and things to do that one really does not want to miss. That’s not a complaint: it’s just a puzzle to me, where the lazy-days idea came from!

Anyway, amidst all the many things to do all summer, this is a super-busy weekend. Since I post here mostly about art & jewelry / teaching & learning types of activities, I’m going to skip over the truly “personal” events this weekend. I can fill a long post with places my jewelry and other art-creations are going themselves this weekend.

  • Arts on the Riverwalk, in New Castle, PA: The art show that the Hoyt Art Center is running at The Confluence, in conjunction with this event, has its opening tonight, 4 to 6 pm. The show itself will run through August 26. I’ve had two pieces accepted for this, one of which is shown below. Although I was thinking of all the ocean-shore walking I’ve done in my life as I created it, I do enjoy walking along any sort of waterfront, so this still seemed to be an appropriate choice for this show:

  • Community Days in Cranberry Township, PA: The Cranberry Township Community Chest and the Cranberry Artists Network are partnering (for the first time this year) on a show in the Cranberry Municipal Building in conjunction with this annual celebration. The opening reception for the show, Martinis with Monet, held on Wednesday night (for which I managed a post on Facebook, but not here…) was the kick-off event for the weekend-long celebration. The show itself will run through August 3. I’m thrilled to have had two pieces accepted for this show, one of which is shown below. I created Flowers Burst Even Through the Garden Paths for several reasons: primarily to honor Monet’s Gardens in line with the theme of the show, but also as one I could use as demonstration pieces for classes (layering, on the title side, and basic stone setting, on the other side) until it took off for Cranberry and, one hopes, a new home:

  • At the Panza Gallery, in Millvale, PA: The Pittsburgh Society of Artists is having a Members Choice show there this summer. The opening reception is tonight, from 6 to 8:30 pm, and then the exhibit will run through July 29, and be open Wednesdays through Fridays 10-5 and Saturdays 10-3. Silly me, I didn’t take photos of my entry before I dropped it off (because I thought I already had several) but now I can’t find any of them. What’s in the show is the latest piece in my Three Rivers series; an early piece from that is shown below. Both of them have bronze rivers (with “expansion joints” designating the major bridges) flowing through copper neighborhoods, with a cubic zirconia noting the location of Point State Park and its fountain. The one in the show has flowery-garden neighborhoods (not the metropolitan geometry of this one), and by the time I made it I was much better at getting the rivers to work as an inlay in the copper, like actual rivers (as compared to the onlay shown here). And it’s on a fancier chain. But anyone seeing one should recognize the other as different but similar / familiar…

  • ArtBrew at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley, PA: Last but certainly not least, from 7 to 10 pm tonight and tonight only (for this year) we have ArtBrew, the Arts & Crafts Fair where the “crafts” are the beers on tap. I was one of just thirty local artists who were invited to provide pieces for sale in the “arts” arena. Some worked in very beer-specific art forms, while others simply created works that the organizers found interesting. I’m in the latter category, and I’ve no clue how my pieces will do, but figured it was worth a shot. Sweetwater is a great place, and I’m happy to support this summer-fundraiser of theirs through commissions on sales of my work. Most of what I submitted are my earrings and pendants. Some were made using typical “metal clay” techniques, while some reflect other directions I’ve also been exploring. There are, for example, some enamel-on-copper pieces that I made on a whim in the spring. And some pendants and earrings, like the silver earring-elements shown below, that were cut out of clay in the “dry but still flexible” state using an electronic cutting machine on a design I created to fit the amount of material I happened to have on hand at the moment:

    I also had a dozen pottery items accepted for this event! I don’t often post about my clay-clay work here, but you can get a glimpse of the twelve I sent to Sweetwater below. Note: you really should click on this photo! I hope everyone who does will let me know (e.g., via a comment, either on this blog or at the photo-sharing site the click will take you to) whether you were surprised at what you found there, or whether, especially if you feel you know me and my interests, it was what you imagined as soon as you saw this photo.

Here’s wishing everyone a pleasant summer weekend, full of kindness and friendship.

And Happy 200th Birthday to Pittsburgh, PA, today too!

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Summer Workshops Galore!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/03

I’m really excited: The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh has scheduled five of my metal clay workshops in July and August, and two of them are special multiple-day events so I’ll be teaching there for nine days in all during those two summer months!

(Some day, I hope to arrange a lighting set-up that will give me a consistent color background regardless of the time of day when I take my photos … sigh! The shots above show the range from morning to afternoon to after dark at night; and, yes, all of them DID have the same three bright “daylight” bulbs trained on them in addition to the room’s ambient lighting.)

The length of the various sessions does give a hint about the complexity of the different projects, but everything I’ve scheduled at Artsmiths for this summer should be do-able even by complete beginners. The reason I set aside more time for some of them is so that I can welcome even first-time clayers into any of these classes! Folks with some prior experience with metal clay are likely to learn some new techniques, and may well be able to apply their existing knowledge to kick their designs up a notch.

If you follow the links above to get more information and/or sign up for a class, you may notice that the descriptions there often talk about making a pendant (and the corresponding photos show a range of possibilities for how you might construct yours piece). Anyone who’s taken my classes already knows that, while I often demonstrate a pendant design, I’m happy to support reasonable variations on any given project. By reasonable, I mean variations that are appropriate to the materials we will be using, appropriate to the skill level of the student wanting to make something else and, tied to both of those, appropriate in the sense of the amount of support you’ll need to succeed at your idea while also being “fair” to others who are trying to complete the specified project. But I want everyone to make a unique piece they are happy with, so there’s a lot of leeway in exactly what you might make! Get in touch with me directly if you have any questions about that aspect of my classes. Or, just come and make some gorgeous, unique, and (probably) reversible pendants!

Also, if you have time and material left once you’ve completed the main project, I’m always happy to have you make a little something else with what’s left, often a pair of earrings or a few small charms, or even embellishments that you might add to future projects. I’ll fire those along with the regular class pieces.

With my one-day classes, I fire pieces for you after class, tumble-polish them to an even, high shine, and return them to the site of the class in about a week. This time, I’m especially happy about the two- and four-day sessions, because I’ll fire everyone’s pieces before the last session listed and then, on that last day, we’ll review and practice a number of different finishing techniques, ones that often get overlooked in the one-day sessions (unless you schedule a time to come to my studio for a private or semi-private lesson on finishing).

I’m going to try to post a little something about each session in the coming week or two but, given how spotty my blog-posting has been recently, I figured I should get the overview up for you to consider all at once now…

ALSO / alternatively …

Is Mt. Lebanon too far for you? Would you prefer another date and time? I’d be happy to teach any of these classes in my studio (in Regent Square) or at another location (that you arrange). Let me know if you’d like to discuss any other possibilities!

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A couple of ideas evolve into Cranberry Artist Network “Membrrrs Show” entries….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/26

Winter has arrived and the Cranberry Artists Network has an appropriately-named “Membrrrs Show” opening today! The prospectus for the show was covered in images of snow and icicles and more that made one go “Brrr!” just thinking about them. What might I decide to enter?!!

Well, from fine silver, I’d made a small collection of long pieces, sort of a tube shape, but not all neat and even ones. I’d been playing around with them: I had sort of an idea what i wanted to do (i.e., I really had made them with a vague design in mind), and at one point I’d assembled them into the first necklace shown here (photo at left).

Except, that still wasn’t quite what I wanted. When I got the invitation to apply for the “Membrrrs” show, however, it came to me: ice cubes and cracked crystal, and a few bits to acknowledge that snow does get blackened after a while, and I ended up with the necklace and earring set Warmth & Hugs Ease Icy Days, made from fine silver, crystal, clear and black glass, black onyx, and copper, all hung from an antiqued copper chain with a copper clasp, shown in the larger image to the right.

OK, but I could submit a second entry too. What else? Had my brain, my creativity, frozen? No, I just had a number of other deadlines looming, and multiple experiments with the silver “hugs” had eaten up a lot of my “spare” time to think about this. But, wait, I had a few “spare parts” I’d made “just in case” I needed them for the Love & Commitment bracelet last fall, which evolved into the Love Warms Our Hearts necklace (bronze hearts with copper and glass bead coils, hung from a bronze chain with a bronze clasp; the last photo, left).

I took them up yesterday, and both entries were accepted into the show! It will be running at the Cranberry Township Municipal Building from January 26 through March 3, 2016. Although, technically, it does open today, the “opening reception” will be on Wednesday, February 3, from 6 to 8 pm. I hope I’ll see some of my friends there!

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Love & Commitment

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/09/05

Back in 2012, I wrote about how much I enjoyed making my first bracelet in the Domes & Coils series. I really liked that bracelet: never even considered putting it up for sale, wore it regularly, but somehow (?!) lost it at the last-ever conference sponsored by the now-defunct PMC Guild. Sigh.

Then in 2014, I wrote about another bracelet in that series, one I called Friends & Lovers, that I made to fit the theme of a bracelet-making challenge with a “Romantic” theme. My cousin Debby liked it, dealt with all sorts of technical issues (some hers, some the site where the contest was being hosted) in order to vote for it (didn’t win; I think it came in second but there was just one award) and when, a year later, she found out I had not sold it, said she wanted to buy it to wear later in the year when her son Adam would be marrying Megan. Great! I was glad for her to have it! (And, assuming the marriage lasts, to have it eventually pass on to Megan.)

I knew it would need some minor adjustments to fit her wrist, so I didn’t sent id to her right away. Figured I’d see her at a shower for that wedding, or at one of several other family-events over the summer. But when she said she wanted it was right before I was going to have a show in my studio, so I carefully set it aside for safe-keeping. Now that I had a buyer for it, I sure didn’t want anyone else going for it. Makes sense, right?

Except, then I couldn’t find where I’d put it! I wasn’t worried: as I tidied up all sorts of nooks & crannies in my studio gradually over the summer, I knew I’d find it. Except, I didn’t.

Sooooo, I finally just made another one! Finished it 12 hours before the wedding! The first Domes & Coils just had coiled wire coiled within its domes; Friends & Lovers had beads coiled within its domes; this one has wire coils or beaded coils, alternately, within its domes. I’m making it to the size she said she wanted, but I think it’s going to be a bit small, so I made a couple extra domed-hearts with the nested coils, and I’m going to take those, jump rings, and tools in case I need to do any on the spot adjustments!

I call this one Love & Commitment. Why? Well, I’m telling Debby this: I love you and I made a commitment to have this for you for the wedding, on top of the meaning of the event at which you’ll first wear it. So it just seemed an appropriate name. I sure hope she’ll like it in person as much as the one she only ever saw in a photograph.

Postscript: I’m glad I took the tools: with a bit of fiddling, we got a fit she calls perfect! I was sure I’d taken a photo of her wearing it and grinning ear to ear (over the wedding, I’m sure, not just the bracelet, though she did seem happy with it). But now, I don’t see one of those. Instead, here’s a shot of the happy couple at the “you may now kiss” moment (along with yet another cousin, the priest who married them!), sent with lots of best wishes!

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Sili, Sillier, Silliest

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/30

Lately it seems that all I’ve managed to post about are shows, not the creative process. I do love shows, parties, festivals, and more. I want people to see my creations, those are great ways to enable that, and talking about those is generally considered to be a way to help in finding an audience for my works.

But I also enjoy sharing information about the processes involved in my artwork so I’m going to try to slip in one of those posts today. I’ll discuss a technique I use at times that I only just realized I haven’t written about here: using a little electronic die-cutting machine on my metal clays.

As far as I know, Wanaree Tanner is the one who got the ball rolling on using these with metal clays, traveling around doing workshops and promoting the use of the Silhouette Cameo several years ago. It seemed to me that the thing she promoted most was using them to create your own elaborate bezels for setting stones. She doesn’t seem to be making such a big deal about the Silhouettes any more (though anyone who follows her work can see where she’s still using hers).

I can appreciate the way she simplifies the making of such bezels with that tool; it’s just not a style I want to emulate all that much myself. Cindy Pope seems to be the person now leading the charge with Silhouettes and metal clays, making layered designs, etching words and patterns along various shapes, and doing all sort of things I find much more up my alley, design-wise. (Cindy was also a great house-mate in CA and then host in OR the last time I went out to the west coast!) The photos with this post will illustrate one of the very simplest applications of these cutters.

Several years ago, I bought a Silhouette Cameo. I used it a few times with metal clays, enjoyed the results, but still found my own designs mostly going in other directions. But I do use that device at home for all sorts of useful little paper-crafting tasks which is really what that machine was designed for.

Of course, not long after I bought my Cameo, Silhouette America came out with a new machine, called a Portrait (more compact than the Cameo), and then a newer version of the Cameo (with a touch screen instead of the buttons that both the Portrait and my older Cameo have)! I guess those are why the one I got was available at a really good price at that moment in time! But that’s fine, because they all use the same software, and attachments, and so on.

The biggest difference is that the Cameo will cut up to a 12″ width, while the Portrait only goes to 8″ across. Your big scrapbooking papers, wide vinyl, etc., are going to be 12″ across, so the Cameo is best if that’s the sort of thing you’re ever going to do. Metal clay folks work with small bits of clay, however, ones that are typically just one or at most just a few inches across, so the Portrait is more than enough if you’re never going to work on big projects. At one point (after several months of really good sales at my end … and another really good-price offer at Silhouette’s), I bought a Portrait. I figured that having two could be useful: it would allow me to have one each at home and in studio and, even better, it’d give me more options when I finally get around to trying to teach a workshop on using the tools. (Whatever I’m doing, I’m still always thinking about teaching it to others!)

My Portrait now sits on the table next to the computer in my studio. I’m still not into making Sili-cuts as my primary design tool but, now and then, such as times when I’m feeling a bit of a creative block with other methods, I’ll sit down at computer, sketch out a few simple designs, and use those to cut out a few pieces. Just making something, getting a feel of accomplishment, will usually get me out of feeling stuck again. (And that’s probably why I don’t post much about those creations — they feel more like little “interim activities” to me and, once I’m over whatever stuck-ness I was feeling, I’m not particularly inclined to write about them … much as I do enjoy the process (in limited amounts) and appreciate the opportunities they provide.)

So there I was one day a few weeks ago, with a brand new tube of “One Fire Brilliant Bronze” clay powder. This was the only one of Hadar’s basic “One Fire” clays I’d not yet tried. I wasn’t feeling stuck or anything, I was just looking for something simple to make to try out this new-to-me clay. I had fought a bit with the older Quick Fire Brilliant Bronze: I did like the bright golden color; my problem was that I kept facing challenges with the “bottom side” of textured, reversible pieces I’d made with it. (And regular readers of this blog will know that textured, reversible pieces make up the majority of my creations!) The thing is, with pieces cut on the Silhouettes, you really want one side of the piece to be flat: that helps it to stick better to the cutting mat! So, I thought, if I’m ever going to try this One Fire Brilliant Bronze, using it for plain-backed Sili-cut pieces seems to be the way to go.

So, I mixed up a batch, took a part of that and added a bit of glycerin (which gives the dried clay a tiny bit of flexibility, which is extremely useful as you’re separating your just-cut pieces from the cutting mat!). Then I rolled out a few small pieces with light- to moderate-depth textures on one side only, and set those aside to dry while I sketched a few sample designs. Not imagining I’d have any reason to write about it, I didn’t stop to take any photos. I loaded the clay pieces onto the cutting mat of my Portrait, and cut away. The cutting was the easy part!

As always with a new-to-me clay, I did NOT fill up the kiln for my first firing. I started small, taking just one pendant and two smaller, matching pieces (an earring-pair) and fired those. Massive fail: bubbles and cracks: overfired by a lot! I took another earring pair, dropped the temperature, and tried again. Overfired again but, OK, not quite as much. Another pair, dropped the temp a good bit more, tried yet again. Still a bit bubbly, meaning they were still overfired. To drop any lower, though, I’d be going well below the recommended temperature for that clay, so I went online and asked Hadar herself for some advice. She said the firing range for that clay was actually rather large, she often fired at a temperature close to where I had ended up. Since I know my kiln does actually fire a bit hotter than where I’ve set it, it only took me two more tries before I got things to work out the way I wanted!

But, while waiting for Hadar to reply, I fell into one of those pits where I couldn’t think of anything else to create. So …. I mixed up some .960 clay, and rolled out a number of small, thin sheets of that with textures on just one side.

Aside: My .960 was made by mixing .999 PMC Flex, which serves the same purpose as the glycerin, and .925 PMC Sterling, which gives more strength to the thin pieces that are at the limit in terms of thickness hat the Silhouette Cameo and Portrait machines can cut. I used .960 instead of straight .925 because its firing is as reliable as the super-easy .999 fine silvers…

To keep things simple (since I was just trying to perk myself up during a brief lull!), I used the same sketches as I had for the bronze, cut out nine (9) silver pendants and six (6) pairs of earrings (shown in the first photo in this post), cleaned them up a little bit as needed, and fired them right away.

When I finally got a Brilliant Bronze piece to fire successfully, I took a photo of it.

I then fired all the remaining Brilliant Bronze pieces I had waiting and, when those came out fine too, I polished everything up and took a photo. Well, this isn’t quite everything: it’s just pendants (not any of the earrings) and only the ones for which I had enough chain! I’ll have to get some more for that, and finish off the rest. But I am feeling a great sense of accomplishment!

A few final notes:

  • Hadar also now has a number of “One Fire Flex” clays (not every color in her range, but many of them). The were designed specifically to be used with electronic die-cutters, like the Silhouettes and other machines on the market. I have purchased a bit of that, but have yet to try any. Since the winter of 2007-08, I’ve been adding glycerin to clays (in varying amounts, and to different clay formulas, depending on the amount of “flex” I want in my dried clay, anywhere from just enough to peel away a cutting mat without breaking to wiggly-enough to tie a knot!) and, while it can be nice to get a little flex without having to do that, it’s now so second-nature to me the need to switch is just not urgent…
  • Silhouette America had at least one model before the Cameo, which I think was called an SD (for Silhouette Design, I would think), and they’re about to come out with yet another newer one, the curio (yes, they use lower case for it). The bed of curio will be even smaller than the Portrait, but it will be able to cut thicker materials, meaning thicker layers (less fragile after firing) of metal clay! (Though the Silhouettes are all at the low end of cutting-force compared to other electronic die-cutters, so the curio will still be limited by that with regard to some other materials.) Still, though I’d love to have that option, I need to sell a lot more pieces before I spring for yet another machine… I don’t see the curio replacing my Cameo but, if I were just starting out now, I’d get it instead of the Portrait. Still, having all three could be useful for workshops next year…?!
  • I’ve fired a few more loads in the two weeks since the adventures reported above and, at the same temperature (even just a tad lower with the last, very-full load); all have turned out fine! I’ve heard / read about some people who say they don’t like Hadar’s clays because they seem so fussy. My personal experience is that each new one does seem to have its own personality, what it’s like to work with and to fire, but once you find its sweet spot, it’s then at least as reliable as any of the others on the market. Regardless of whose clay I’m using, the scientist / engineer in me is fine with starting off slow, observing what happens, building my understanding, and then taking off! The next time I go on a real Sili-binge, with much more elaborate constructions, I’ll try to remember to illustrate those here too, eventually. It really is a fun little tool!

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PSA’S 2015 Artist’s Choice Exhibition

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/12

I had a great time last night at the opening of the latest show sponsored by the Pittsburgh Society of Artists.

I was delighted to find my entry, a pendant, in the “jewelry nook” between the two rooms downstairs at the Panza Gallery in Millvale, PA. I displayed it in a frame which led the folks hanging the show to place it on the back wall in that nook, which I thought was a great location. You just might be able to spot the frame way in the back of the first photo here! (If you want to see the actual piece, I offered up a photo of that in my last post.)

Aside: I keep going back and forth over whether to display pendants in a frame or out on a bust form. For art-jewelry shows, specifically, I’ll usually hang a necklace on a bust, assuming other jewelers will do the same and the sponsors will be prepared to handle the security involved in such a display. For art shows, on the other hand, where my piece may be the only piece, or perhaps one of only a very few, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, well, though I do think of most show attendees as trustworthy, it hardly seems worth the risk to make my entry so easy for even just one nefarious person to pocket. Does that make me paranoid? Maybe. But I know other art jewelers who won’t even enter shows because they’re worried what might happen to their pieces, and I am willing to put my work out there. So, maybe more cautious than paranoid? I admit to being a bit shy personally, but I’ve always enjoyed having my work out there for others to see and consider, and I’m always thrilled to have intelligent conversations about such creations.

Back to the show itself: I’d never been to an opening at this particular gallery before, so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect in terms of number of people, ease of parking, or anything else. But we found an easy parking space just a block away and, even with that the turnout seemed great: these photos were taken well into the evening, after a number of people had already left, which meant I could capture a few shots that showed some of the art as well as people… For local readers I didn’t see last night, maybe you’ll get over to the show between now and July 24. If you do, please be sure to let me know what you thought of it all!

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My First Show as a Member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/03

Somehow, we’ve sped into another month already and on Friday afternoon I dropped of my entry for another Members-Only show, this time for my first opportunity with the Pittsburgh Society of Artists since being juried into that group. Details of the show’s location, dates, and hours are on the “postcard” shown to the right (as usual, click for a larger image where the details should be clearer). I’m so happy to have gotten in this year, and thus find myself able to participate in some of PSA’s 50th Anniversary events. (Though after all my years in community / public radio, I will admit that I still first register the acronym PSA as Public Service Announcement…)

It was fun to see the entries from a number of other PSA members when I dropped off my selection: I got there a little over half-way through the times allotted for that, but I only thought later that I could have asked what proportion of the expected pieces had arrived by then. No matter — I’m still looking forward to seeing the entire show once everything is in place!

For my local readers, please note that the show’s Opening Reception will be on Saturday, July 11, from 6 to 8:30 pm. I’m planning to go, and I sure hope I’ll see some of you there too! Do let me know if I should be on the lookout for you! Or, even better, let me know if you’d like to carpool. (And, if you’ve never been to the Panza Gallery before, let me know that and I’ll share what I know about parking in that area.)

Ahhh but what to enter?! I debated and debated that with myself until almost the last minute. Finally, I went with the idea to let it be one of the pieces that had gotten me into the group in the first place, the one that resulted from my “Combining Inspirations” from several of my favorite artists.

My hesitation about entering that one was whether or not I should hold it back to use as a sample in upcoming workshops. But I’m happy with the approach to making those, and I’ve been further exploring this approach by making a few other variations to show off in class, so I convinced myself that this is the one that should be given the opportunity to be seen live by a wider audience and, hopefully, find appreciation in a new home!

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Another June Event: The 2015 Three Rivers Arts Festival begins at Noon Today!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/05

The 2015 Three Rivers Arts Festival opens today (June 5) and runs through Sunday a week later (June 14).

The Artists Market will be open each and every day from 12 Noon to 8 pm each day.

Due to a change in the market this year, a few “Gallery Booths” will still be there, but in a different location from recent years and only on the weekends. My work will once again be carried in the Koolkat Designs booth … except Koolkat closed last month and is about to be reincarnated at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh next month. So the booth will have a black-on-white banner saying The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (a bigger version of what’s in the opposite colors on the bottom of the map shown here) with another little banner underneath that identifying it as formerly Koolkst Designs. The little arrow on that little map (which shows only the Gateway Center portion of the market) does point to the location but, if you’re trying to find it, probably the best thing is to know that it’ll be a double-space booth in positions #133-134, on Penn Avenue down at the end closest to the Point, on these dates:

  • Saturday & Sunday, June 6-7
  • Saturday & Sunday, June 13-14

Since there will have to be two rounds of setting up and taking down the booth, on top of new artists with new media to offer at the festival, Koolkat has decided that the only Artsmith’s jewelry that they will carry will be earrings. So that’s all they’ll have of my wares. Here’s a photo with a small sampling of what will be in my section of the booth.

I am scheduled be in the booth on Saturday, June 6, from 4 to 8 pm. If you’re around then, do stop by and say “Hello!” Music-wise, that Saturday is what’s being called Bluegrass Day at the festival itself, but just across the river in Heinz Field (where the Pittsburgh Steelers play football), will be the ‘burgh’s offering of the #1989WorldTour by Taylor Swift. Ah, yes, I’ve always considered 1989 a memorable year too: should you stop by the booth while I’m there, do feel free to ask me to share one of my stories from htat year….!

Since I’ll only be working one half-shift, I’ll have plenty of time, off and on, in the market and elsewhere, to just enjoy all the music, art, artists, art-lovers, creativity, makers, and more, filling up the downtown area for those ten days. So do let me know if/when I should be looking out for you at the Festival!

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June Show-Season Begins: Members-Only Show with the Cranberry Artists Network

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/02

It’s looking like a busy month. I hope I can remember to post all the various announcements! First of all, there’s the inaugural 2015 Members Show with the Cranberry Artists Network (CAN).

I’ve had two pieces accepted for this show (my first since being selected as a member). I chose to enter two reversible pendants. One is made from fine silver (.999) that I’ve hung on a sterling silver (.925) chain. It’s about an inch across, and composed of three separate layers. The middle layer has a texture pattern that displays concentric circles. A good portion of that is visible through an overlay, a highly polished disk with lines radiating out of its center, where I’ve been able to cut a circle out of it that aligns with the circles on the middle piece. I’ve centered all of that a little above and to the left of the center of the piece: that positioning reminds me of the rising sun, which has always been a part of my vision for this side.

There’s a third overlay, placed on the “back” of the inner-circles piece. It displays a textured pattern of (sun-drenched, perhaps) gingko leaves and is embellished with a lilac-colored corundum stone. I don’t know if there is an “official” name for that pale purple stone, other than simply lilac-colored corundum but, if you’re not familiar with it either, just know that rubies and sapphires are also forms of corundum. I do apologize for the quality of the photo, though: tiny shiny objects are just such a challenge to get right….

My second piece in the show is more of what I’d call an “entry level” piece, deliberately kept relatively simple in order to keep the price down for the beginning collector. This one is made of bronze; it’s a little over an inch across and is another of my reversible creations. One side is a textured and domed disk with a single strip overlay as embellishment, which I see as simple but elegant. The other side is then concave, with a faceted stone set into a hand-formed bezel and nestled down into the curve, to help make that side special too. This stone is in the cubic zirconia (CZ) family, a purple color that the vendor calls “Lavender.” This one is hung on a brass chain, one that’s in a style I seem to have been using fairly frequently lately.

The show runs from June 3 through 25 at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, 2525 Rochester Rd., Cranberry Township, PA 16066. The Opening Reception will be on Wednesday night, June 3, from 6 to 8 pm, with lots of good refreshments to complement the delightful art. I’m going, and it’d be great to see a few “locals” there! And for several weeks afterwards, you can still check out all the great art in this show any time the municipal center itself is open.

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My computer’s been quiet, though I’ve still been making stuff….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/05/08

Long story not worth going into, but one of many reasons I’ve been relatively quiet online (here and elsewhere) has to do with having lost a whole bunch of photos of recent pieces. Some were great, others were mere experiments, but it’s still a loss.

The photo with this post is not a great one either: it’s just me trying to pick up where I left off on the photos, where I was playing with ways to get photos of a group of pieces (rather than my usual close-up of each individual piece without using any props).

I do know how to fix the background on this; at the time I took it, my focus was on trying to use a glass without any additional fuss in taking care with a background. I still think glass is a good idea, but its just yet another approach that’s best for only a small number of pieces, not the bigger group I was going for here.

Still, I just happen to like all the pieces in this particular set, so I figured I could post it and try to make that clear that focus. They are all made with various beads from my stash, and all feature some sort of hand-made end-caps. The caps are from yet another project that I’ll write more about once it’s farther along. For now, though, I’ll point out that some caps are silver while others are bronze, they vary in thickness intentionally (though I do prefer thinner ones myself), and some were cut with little generic pastry cutters while others were custom-sized to a particular bead and cut using an electronic cutting tool (where those are doing double-duty as part of yet another project…). For these, all the earwires are commercial products.

I have another, much bigger collection of recent pieces on hand-made earwires that I also want to capture in a picture. Regarding the earwires, for silver I tend to make them from spooled Argentium silver wire while, for use with base metals, I tend more towards niobium headpins. I do use other sorts of wire too, but those are my personal favorites. I appreciate the versatility provided by the spooled silver wire: I can ball up the ends if I want, can adjust the length as needed, and hardened Argentium will yield a stronger piece than will fine silver wire … without the need I’d have with traditional Sterling silver to use pickle (acid!) if I heat them up as I make them. But finishing the ends of the niobium is trickier than it is for the silver (even simple smoothing is harder, and achieving a ball-end look is far more effort than I can justify in terms of both cost and time…). For now at least, I’m happy-enough to hand-form those wires from headpins.

If you know of any good online photos of earring collections — six pairs or more all in a single photo — I’d sure appreciate it if you’d leave a link in in the comments for this post! I’m unlikely to copy the approach of any such images directly, but I sure could use some more inspiration on different ways to approach this photo-task. Thanks!

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Combining Inspirations

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/04/15

Two of my favorite art jewelry makers and teachers are Hadar Jacobson and Mary Hettmansperger. I love many of their designs, though I’m rarely if ever inclined to copy any of them (including those in their project books) exactly as shown. What I like is the way they create designs using techniques that inspire me to tweak a little here and a little there, and somehow end up making something that’s much more my own.

Towards the end of last year, I was browsing through one of “Mary Hetts'” older books, Wrap, Stitch, Fold, and Rivet (© 2008), looking for some tip I thought I’d read in it a while ago, when I was stopped dead in my tracks by a project I’d seen before but had never given much thought to, one she calls a “Bead Shelf Pendant.” In it, she talks about cutting, punching, and heat-coloring copper, but at that moment I suddenly saw a variation on it as a great metal clay project as well. The first photos here show one of several fine silver pieces I made as soon after realizing that as I could find the time.

I wore a couple of them throughout the holiday season at the end of 2014, and I probably got more comment and compliments on those than on any other piece I’ve ever made and worn. I’m not just talking about friends and family comments, I’m including store cashiers, physical therapists (yeah, one of the reasons I’ve been off-line a good bit lately), random people sitting near me at concerts, and so on.

Since I had so much fun both making and wearing those pieces, at the start of the year I tried a few others. The second photo here shows one of the first bronze pieces I made in this style. Bronze is a less expensive metal to purchase than silver, so I felt I could afford to go bigger (wider or longer) with the ones I made that way. Mind you, working with bronze (or any other base metal clay, such as copper or steel) takes more time which I feel, in the end, pretty much balances out most of the savings on the materials. The final retail price for a base metal piece ends up similar to that of a silver one of a similar design, because of the extra time one has to spend on it. The thing bronze does allow me, however, is the opportunity to go a bit bigger without having the price of a piece go out of reach. The one shown here (reversible, with a “fiddlehead fern” texture) is about as long as the silver one, but easily thrice as wide.

But, as I was playing around with my first bronze bead shelves, I had another “gotcha!” moment: Foldies! These are also known as Drapings. There’s a great description of the basics of this technique in Hadar Jacobson’s third book (© 2009), Mixed Metal Jewelry from Metal Clay, on pages 104-105. I’ve made a number of such pieces over the years (and posted a number of photos on this blog) but, while I’ve been happy-enough with the ones I have made so far, I have never been totally satisfied with any of the bail designs I’ve used. But, as I was making those bronze bead shelves, it suddenly came to me: make a bead-shelf-foldie…. You’ve already seen on this blog a photo of the first one of those I ever tried (which, for the time being at least, I’m keeping in my own little stash of personal NFS (not for sale) pieces): it’s one of the pieces I submitted with the application that got me admitted to the Pittsburgh Society of Artists.

The bead-shelf-foldie is fun to make out of clay (thanks, Hadar!) and fun to finish and hang (thanks, Mary!), and I find an extra-bonus in having found a way to adapt ideas from two of my favorite jewelry artists. I look forward to stretching this idea even more in the future.

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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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One Little Bit of March Curiosity

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/03/18

Well, actually, the photo does show two curious bits … if you’re counting both pieces that make up one pair of earrings. But it was just one quick little experiment. For some time now, I’d been curious about the “Magical Silver Plating Paste” that, I forget when, I had noticed on Val Lewis’ website. So, after I’d earned a little bit of extra money earlier this month (Thanks, Deb!), I ordered myself a little jar of it to try out.

Now, I will admit to being surprised when I read, in various online forums, about someone having bought some new product who spent hours if not days trying to create some masterpiece with it straight off, and then feels devastated when something goes wrong. Often, something that any experienced person would have known from the start would have gone wrong… Now, I will admit that I’ve had a few big-time failures with things I really thought should have worked, but not many. I tend to start small, first time out, and then work up to bigger stuff, even if something big is the reason I want to head down that path.

So, when the paste arrived, I did not immediately go off trying to plate something big and intricate. Instead, I dug around in the nooks and crannies of the cabinet in my studio where I stash leftover bits and pieces. I found two little disks I’d made months ago out of Champagne Bronze. They were made during a push to produce a lot of earring in a short bit of time. I’d used up all the anodized niobium earwires I had on hand that day, and just stashed a few remaining “elements” in the cabinet to use in the future, once I’d made or obtained more of the wires.

And, even though I’ve not yet gotten around to replenishing the stash of dark earwires (that I tend to use with bronze), I thought, “Hey, if I plated these, I could use a couple of the sterling earwires I still have in the drawer.” A little later on I came to realize that this design had an interesting mix of two different textures on it: I could try plating just one part and leaving the other in its natural color, so I could then compare how things looked from the start and how the different parts held up over time.

The instructions for the paste say to just apply it with your fingertip, but that the product can stain your skin so it’s best to wear rubber gloves. First time out, I do tend to follow instructions, so that’s what I did. And there I was, holding each of these little (barely 10 mm) disks in the rubber-gloved fingers of one hand while trying to apply the paste with a rubber-gloved index finger of the other one. Oh, and not to the whole piece, just to the bottom half of one side, a decision I made only after I’d begun applying the stuff to the first piece! So, please understand: any “imperfections” in the coverage are entirely due to operator-error first time out. In the future, if I decide I want to plate part of a piece, up to a very specific point, I’ll spend a bit of time before I start thinking how best to achieve that. For a brief, initial trial, however, I am pleased with this result, with a sort of gradual shift from dark yellow bronze to a sort of silvery bronze to a deeper silver.

As to the process, the application was easy! I scooped just one tiny “drop” of the stuff out of the jar, and achieved this coverage on both pieces. It did take about three passes to get what looked like good coverage. I wasn’t at first sure what I was getting, because the stuff looks a dull gray as it goes on. Since my fingertip was a tad moist (per instructions) as I applied it, I waited briefly for some drying to occur. Then I buffed it a bit, decided to add a few grains more to one edge, buffed again, and decided that was fine for now. Again, as instructed, I then gave it a good wash, dry, and polish, before taking this photo.

I have some ideas for more complex copper and/or bronze pieces that I’ve been wanting to make, but have not tried yet because I wasn’t sure that they could bring in enough revenue to justify the time involved in making them. That’s the thing about working in base metals: the materials cost less so customers (understandably!) think they should be priced significantly lower than precious metals, while artists (also understandably…) know it typically takes as much, and sometimes more, time to make a piece out of those materials. My thought in buying this stuff was that being able to promote them as having at least select portions silver-plated might help justify in customers’ minds a more appropriate price, while not adding too much additonal time at my end.

I’ll do a few more experiments on simple, little elements like these and, if I continue to see success with this approach, then I’ll move on to the more complex designs. Whatever the final outcome, I’m sure I’ll have fun experimenting!

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Happy “Super Pi Day”….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/03/14

Well, the long-time math-teacher in me can’t let today’s opportunity pass without at least noting today’s date. I may not do this every Pi Day (3.14 in format), but somehow I can’t let pass the only one this century that goes into extra digits (3.14.15 in mo.da.yr format) without saying something. And, of course, simultaneously wondering how “the ‘net” will do with, I am sure, a lot of people (in each US time zone, at least) trying to post at exactly 9:26 (am or pm) on that date.

You see: 3.14.15 9:26:53.58979 –> 3.14159265358979 –> Pi,   (usually written as the Greek letter Π), which represents the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle…  Like the outside of a nice, round, freshly baked and cooled pie that you’ve just sliced right down through its center….

Nor can the metal clay artist in me ignore a day when it’s suggested to celebrate with a Pie (or two, or more). As I teach how to mix powdered metal plus binder particles into something that feels like dough, then how to roll it out into the desired shape and move the clay into its final position until, at last, firing (baking) it, I often make reference to any pie-makers in the group regarding how similar those actions are in the creation of both pies and metal clays.

And while I don’t typically flaunt my background in math and math-related areas, those familiar with such subjects may also find it relatively easy to pinpoint the occasional mathematical influences in much of my work.   Not exact representations, mind you, but ideas influenced by math-sketches I’ve drawn countless times while teaching it.  Here are a few more samples of that:

But that’s all for the moment: I have pies in the oven that should be done at any moment now! Just in time to go celebrate Pi Day all day! May you find great ways to celebrate the day too.

Posted in Misc. Musings | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Some Bronze Buttons.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/03/12

While I was making the little domed disks I used for the charms I mentioned in my last post, I had another small project going, an item I’d made ages ago and had for some time been wanting to make more of: Buttons!

And then, my colleagues in the Western PA Metal Clay guild decided that our project / activity for our January 2015 meeting would be to make bracelets in the style popularized by Chan Luu, where the closing on her signature pieces involves a hand-made button. So now I had the push I needed to return to button-making.

Except our January meeting was cancelled due to weather issues, and the project was pushed forward into the February meeting. I didn’t want to show button pictures until we’d done the guild-project, so I put off posting about it. And then I got bogged down in snow-shoveling, ice-chipping, pothole-damage to the car, etc., until tonight, at last, I found a few minutes to take a few photos to share here.

First (above) is a photo of eight different buttons: three were made from Hadar’s Quick Fire Bronze and five, from her Rose Bronze.

Second (left) is a photo of the bracelet I made during the guild meeting … for which all in attendance offer thanks to our leader-for-the-day, Sharon Shepard! That one includes yet another of my Quick Fire Bronze buttons.

Third, not shown yet, are the backs of any of the buttons. Regular readers of this blog will know that I usually show both sides of the pieces I make. In large part, that’s because I tend to make pieces that are fully reversible. But buttons may or may not be used in ways that are readily reversible. So I made some shank-style buttons (all the ones shown here feature shank-backs) and some other two-hole ones. I hope to write more about all of them eventually.

But I’m not doing that yet: (A) Part of the button-making involved trying out a handful of different techniques for actually making shanks. While I do know enough to be successful at that, in general, my exploration-goals were to (1) examine how easy/difficult the different ways might be and (2) to be able to test whether any particular approaches held up more/less well after longer-term use. And (B) I’m testing them by further by producing samples of ways to use them well beyond just the Chan Luu bracelets, which also takes time to work out.

Why am I going to all that “trouble” when all I needed was one button for one bracelet at one guild meeting? Because the reason I’ve been wanting to spend a few weeks making buttons, and then several months (or more!) testing them out, is because for a long time I’ve been thinking I should put together a button-making workshop!

There are just soooo many great ways to use buttons and button-shaped elements. I’m looking forward to creating a variety of pieces to incorporate those, myself, and to the further inspiration I’ll get from students when I offer the class. I’ll post places, dates, and times here (and elsewhere) once I am satisfied that I’ve done enough testing. After I’ve taught it (once or a few times) then I’ll be more inclined to come back write more about it here. Please stay tuned…!

Posted in General Techniques, Guild, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Trying to “catch up” a bit: the 2014 Western PA Metal Clay charm exchange

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/02/23

Now, the delay in posting this is not entirely my fault. OK, some of the delay is, just not all of it.

Most (but not all) years, members of the Western PA Metal Clay guild hold a holiday-season charm exchange. For some reason, it rarely gets agreed to very far in advance (which, of course, is why some years it just doesn’t happen…). In 2014, well into the fall, it was decided to not do it in December but, instead, skip that gathering (fair enough, it is a very busy time of year for everyone) and do the exchange in November. Aack!

One of the things with the last minute planning is that we do let people exchange IOUs. That is, if you want to participate, but can’t get charms made in time, you can exchange an IOU that you’ll deliver your charms by our next meeting. Me, I find November easily as frantic a time as December and, though I made several attempts to block out a chunk of time for charm-making, each block kept getting eaten up by something else for which there was no escape. But I do enjoy the exchanges, so I jumped at the chance to use the IOU option. We typically exchange three (3) charms according to some rule or other. In the past, for example, we’ve put all the charms in a stocking and drawn pieces at random. This time, we changed the plan and did direct back-and-forth exchanges.

The first photo shows the charms I received in the exchange. The bee in a circle, highlighted with gold colored guilder’s paste, was from Holly Dobkin. The puzzle piece, highlighted with Vintaj patina color, was from Debbie Rusonis. And the abstract circle, highlighted with a liver of sulphur (LOS) patina, was from Georgie Nix. I love the artistry of all three, in general, and was very happy to receive their 2014 ideas.

Now, I could have posted that much right away. But I decided I wanted to wait until I could post the pieces I offered in exchange. I started them in mid-December (after my last show of the season), but we didn’t have a meeting set for that month, so I let the final step slip into early January. Except, we cancelled the January meeting due to weather issues … and I didn’t want to post my pics until the recipients had their pieces in hand. Finally, we met (despite winter weather this time) in February. Yesterday afternoon. So, at last, here’s what I offered in return. They were made from Hadar’s Quick-fire bronze. (The photos were taken before I added oval bronze jump rings.)

Even though we typically exchange three charms, while I’m making mine I always add at least one and sometimes several more. This time, I tried to make five: three for the exchange, one for me to keep, and one extra for some time when having a little treat to offer would be useful. Except, somehow, I managed to crack one of the pieces while I was joining its two dried segments (I was so annoyed with myself: I even managed to crack both parts at once!) and it just did not seem worth the trouble to try to repair it. Instead, I reconstituted that clay and used it for something else later on.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love to make reversible pieces, and I do that even for little charms. For these, one side simply displays a deeply-textured pattern. I ended up being very happy I’d waited until December to even start these, because that permitted me to use the charms as my very first attempt at a variation on the Chip Inlay Project for the Holidays posted by Hadar Jacobson on December 3rd! The final photos shows what I did on the “other” side of each charm: I made little cups that I could fill with something called “Painted Desert Sand” that I’d gotten a while back for a completely different reason. As my first attempt at this process, I’m definitely keeping the fourth charm, both as a reminder to myself and as a sample to use in discussions with other artists or students.

I hope my guild-mates will let me know how these seem to hold up. I believe they’ll be fine, and I’ll be happy to replace any that appear to have any problems, but I’d sure rather learn about that from a sympathetic fellow artist than a possibly irritated customer. I’ve since used the technique on a few other pieces I’m testing out myself. Basic images of those, if not more detailed reports, will appear here eventually. (For now, I will say only that there are both similarities and differences among various fillers and holding agents…) I’ll say more once I’m confident in what I’m talking about with these, not just displaying untested guesses.

For now, though, I just want to be sure folks know that making these sure is fun!

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Crazy-busy Season

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/12/01

Life tends to get crazy-busy this time of year, for multiple reasons, some of which I’m sure you can imagine and others would take too long to explain. So I’m just going to list a few events you may want to know about should you be interested in seeing some of my work in person:

  • November 30 – December 7: H*liday mART at Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Sewickley, PA

  • December 5-6-7: Holiday Gift Shop at the Wilkins School Community Center, Swissvale, PA

  • December 5-6-7: Open House in my Studio, to coincide with WSCC’s Holiday Gift Shop

  • December 13: Open House at the Hoyt Center for the Arts, New Castle, PA

  • December 13-14: Open House in my Studio, to coincide with an Art Studio tour in Regent Square (Swissvale, Pittsburgh, Edgewood, Wilkinsburg), PA

  • For other venues, please see the list of Ongoing locations down the right side of this blog.

If you find yourself missing any of those, no problem. Just get in touch with me: leave a comment on this post, or message me via Convergent Series page on Facebook (and, while you’re at it, a Like there would be very much appreciated…). We’ll find a way for you to explore my creations!

I’m not sure how much else I’ll manage to post this month. But I have new designs in the works, new workshop pieces I’m testing out plus, of course, new variations of ongoing favorites in both those categories … and lots more for 2015! I look forward to posting about all of those in the New Year, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them too.

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My latest opportunity: at the Hoyt Center for the Arts!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/11/28

I am thrilled to report that my work is now being carried in the Gift Shop at the Hoyt Center for the Arts in New Castle, PA.

I’d mentioned last summer that two of my pieces had been accepted for a juried art show that the Hoyt was curating for The Confluence, also in New Castle. Now I’ll admit that I’d applied to several earlier shows there and had not been accepted for those. But, persistent person that I am (a skill well-honed in my previous academic life, continually applying for grants…), I kept applying because I really did think we’d find a way to connect eventually. I don’t always assume that, but just felt it in this case. And, finally, the Confluence show was a situation where what they were looking for and what I was offering really did match up!

So happily I went up to the Artists’ Reception for that show, where I gladly accepted the award that one of my entries had earned. Of course, I wore several more of my pieces. And, in talking with some of the Hoyt staff there, where they were able to fully see the craftsmanship in my finished pieces, they suggested I get in touch with the manager of the Gift Shop and then told her to expect to hear from me. After a series of emails, and another trip up to New Castle (not a problem: the drive takes at most an hour, and I thoroughly enjoyed the different shows they were running each time!), a small collection of my pendants and earrings are now available in the Gift Shop (including the pendant shown here). If those do well, of course, I’ll deliver more!

There should be a link in the right column of this blog, but here’s the address and related information:

Hoyt Center for the Arts
124 East Leasure Avenue
New Castle, PA 16101 USA

If you’re in the area, please do stop by. It really is a delightful place!

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Another Anniversary: Four Years … and Another Open House!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/10/09

Yes, the room has evolved a bit over the years! This is what it looked like at the beginning of October, four years ago:

And this is what it looked like at the start of October this year, set up the way I tend to have it when I’m working there on my own:

The table in the middle, to the right with a bright blue tablecloth on it is where I work with base metal clays (i.e., bronze, copper, steel), while the one to the left with a white tablecloth is where I work on precious metals (e.g., fine silver or gold). I spent my early metal clay years (back when the only options were among the precious metal varieties) working on a single “TV tray table” in my family room, but now I just love having the space to work that way: it just seems practical to me, as a way to help me remember which clay I’m working on and whether I have to clean off a tool if it’s coming from the “other” table, to avoid cross-contamination. (There’s nothing special about the colors, just that they differ. When I teach a workshop using all one kind of clay, both tables get covered in the same color, and tools can move across without giving it a second thought….) The “CD cabinets” with all the little cubbies behind those work-tables are segregated by metal-type: when I put things away, they go on the side where they were last used. Or, if I’ve already cleaned them up and they can go anywhere next, there’s space designated for that too….

Ahhh, but which side do you think I use when I’m working with sterling silver, since sterling is an alloy of silver and copper? (Leave your guess as a comment on this post!)

Except, right now, I’m not working with metals. I’m trying to clean the room up a bit, put away all the tools (a good excuse to look at the set-up and decide if I need to rearrange few more things), and turn it into my “shop” layout:

Because EcoFest will be happening all over the community center this Saturday, which is an excuse for me to hold an Open House. Here’s an example: two new bronze pieces I’ll have available:

(Sorry for the harsh color of that last photo. In person, they’re still bright but somehow much “softer” in color. Two of my overhead lights are out, one of my photo-station lights went out. (I’d bought a two-pack, so I tried to use the other one, and it’s not working at all either… And, no, it’s not the lamp. I tried the bulbs in a different lamp that I know is working, and they don’t turn on there either.) I’ve been drowning in different deadlines the past few weeks, and I just haven’t had time to deal with specialized light bulbs. And I still have a backlog of PMC Flex pieces to finish, fire, polish, and write about.

If you’re in the SW Pa area on Saturday, October 11, though, do stop by and I’ll be happy to show you what-all I have finished and what-else is in the works. I’ll be there from 10 am to 2 pm. Even if you can’t get to my studio on Saturday, you’d also be welcome to come to the next meeting of the Western PA Metal Clay Guild on Sunday, October 26, from 11:30 am until around 3 pm. I do have to finish off some of the Flex pieces by then, because that’s when I’d promised to do some demos and, if folks want, hold a mini-workshop on Flex. That won’t be in my studio, though; it’ll be in the Art Room at Rodef Shalom (in the Oakland neighborhood, near Carnegie Mellon). One place or another, for those near here I hope to see you; or, for everyone, at least, to hear from you….

Posted in Events, Guild, Studio | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Flexible Greenware, or What Metal Clayers Mean by Flexible Clay….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/09/19

There’s a lot of “buzz” today in the Metal Clay community: Mitsubishi has just released a new fine silver product they’re calling PMC Flex. Well, it’s been available in Japan for a couple months now; the rest of the world is able to order it starting today with, I’ve heard, shipping to commence on Monday. I was lucky enough to get my hands on some of it just this week, so I haven’t had the months of experience with it that some of the official “early testers” have had, but I wanted to report my very first reaction….

First, though, some background. I’ve been working with clays that remain flexible after drying almost as long as I’ve been working with metal clay. I will say, that I find the term “flexible clay” to be a bit confusing: all clay is flexible when you’re working with it! The ones I’m going to talk about today are the ones that remain flexible, that do not get really hard, until they are fired in some way.

Three Woven Silver Pendants (Class Samples)The center pendant in this group of three (photo, left) was one of the first pieces I ever made this way. It was after I’d used some clay at an event where I gave repeated demos, working and reworking it, exposing it to oil (so it wouldn’t stick to the textures I was using with it), adding water (to replace what had evaporated during use, but also risking the washing away of some product, silver and/or binder). By the end of the day, the clay had gone rather funny: it wasn’t acting like clay at all. It had gone from sticky to slippery. It didn’t leave bits stuck on tools or hands but it did sort of slime everything it touched. Was it destroyed? I had no clue. In the very first class I took, I’d been taught that you could extend the working time of clay by adding a very tiny bit of glycerin, but one should take care to not add too much. (And … I later heard that same instructor say she no longer recommended doing that.) I’d read in some online group that you could “revive” clay that had gone “off” by adding a bit of glycerin to it. I’d also heard or read somewhere (in a class? online? this was years ago now..) that you could make clay that would remain flexible after being allowed to dry if you added a good bit of glycerin. No specifics. Nothing about how much, or how one should do it, or just what would happen if you added too much (other than, obviously, thinning the silver out so much that it could not sinter in the kiln). There were just vague comments. Questions I’d seen about such details had remained unanswered. But … I had some glycerin on hand: what more did I have to lose beyond this clay that was unworkable? Why not try it? And, while at it, why not try to go the whole way?

I added some to the wad of muck I had. I kneaded it in. It went even more funny, and not in a humorous way: by then it was falling completely apart. I tried to not panic. I attempted to knead it some more, and it seemed to start getting better. I kneaded a bit more, and worked a bit of water into the clay too. I began thinking this might work, after all, so I rolled it into a neat ball, wrapped it up air-tight, and went to bed, hoping that would all soak in better with time. The next morning, I took the clay out of the plastic, and it seemed much more workable. It didn’t feel like clay fresh from a new pack, mind you, but I could roll out a couple small pieces and texture them. I let all that air dry while I did whatever all else it was I had to do that day (years and years ago now). When I got back to it that evening, it was wonderful: dried out enough that didn’t feel like I could smash it with clumsy fingers, but still soft and pliable enough that I could cut it with scissors and begin to weave it together. I couldn’t get the strips really close together, but that was fine. As I said, above, that weaving is shown in the center of the group of three. (The frame around it was made from fresh, regular clay.)

I had a little bit left from that test, so I added a little more glycerin, kneaded it in (it was easier this time), waited maybe an hour or two, then I rolled out a couple more small bits and left those to dry overnight. Voila! The dried clay was enough-more flexible that I could weave the strips much closer together: the pendant to the right in the collection was the result of that.

(The one to the left in the trio was made later; the photo is an old image, taken to promote one of the first “woven silver” workshops I taught.)

But this getting-more-flexible trend was appealing. I had just a tiny bit left, so I added one more drop of glycerin to that. (Proportionally, with how little I had left, that was a huge amount more!) Again, I kneaded that in and wrapped it up. The next day, I found it that my final scrap was flexible enough that I could tie it into this little knot. I used the entire last bit in making this, spending time adjusting the knot to the middle so the ends would line up, meaning I didn’t have to trim any off. I used fresh wet clay to add the little coil along the top. Once that had dried (hard), I made a loop from fine silver wire and embedded that into the top. I apologize for the quality of that image: it’s a detail from a very old photo, but it’s all I have to show of that piece now.

Magic Carpet (striped frame side)Over the next few years, I continued to make my own silver clay that would remain flexible as greenware, playing with weaves, knots, twists, and other shapes in various ways. The curved-square piece to the left (which I’ve called Magic Carpet in public but is, to the mathematician that’s still quietly in me, a basic example of creating a bit of hyperbolic space…) is but one of such explorations. I learned about Hadar Jacobson and that, in her first book, The Metal Clay Handbook: Textures and Forms, she talked about this, which is one of the main reasons I bought that book … which, eventually, led me to learning much, much more from her and her approaches!

When Hadar came out with her clays, I played around with them for a bit. But I didn’t go all-in for her clays until two things happened around the same time: Hadar herself came to town (well, our local metal clay guild chapter brought her in!) to teach a workhop on her “married metals” approach (which I took), and I started playing around with adding glycerin to her original line of clays, which she now calls the “flex” powders, because they are the most (not the only, but the most) conducive to having glycerin added to yield clay that stays flexible if you want that. (If you want the clay to dry hard, just don’t add anything besides water to the powders.) Mixed Metaphors, shown to the right (before it got its bail and went to live with my cousin Debby) is one example using copper, bronze, and a little bit of steel while combining married metals with weaving.

The other thing that people do with glycerin-enhanced metal clay is to cut it with electronic cutters, like the Cameo and Portrait products from Silhouette. (That was actually one of the things I’ve been hoping to write a bit about this coming winter!) People started by cutting out the very thin PMC+ “sheet” product with that. (I don’t know this for sure, but it would not surprise me to learn that “sheet” was the inspiration for trying glycerin! Though “sheet” acts somewhat differently than does glycerin-enhanced clay, with both the point is that they never quite dry out completely, and thus remain flexible. While sheet does make nice, plain embellishments, the advantage to glycerin-enhanced clay is that you can add textures in various ways, and make it thicker or thinner as required for your design.) When folks started trying to cut sheets of regular clay with it, the question became whether it would be helpful (or not) to add glycerin. (The short answer is: sometimes, yes; sometimes, no. The full answer, available now in various online sites, will be tackled here in future posts … eventually!)

At last, on to the new PMC Flex fine silver metal clay. Needless to say, when I first heard about the new PMC Flex, I was both eager to try it it and wondering why one might purchase that rather than just go the DIY route. When I first got my hands on a pack of it, I began by trying the techniques I have in finger-memory, the ones I’ve been doing and teaching for years, just to see how it performs. The very first thing I did was to grab a little piece of it (a bit less than 1 gram), and roll it out into a “snake” or “rod” shape. I left it to dry over night.

The next morning, I measured it: 3.25 inches long, and the size of 15 gauge wire. (Clearly, it will have shrunk a bit while drying, and will shrink even more when it’s fired. But that’s it’s “dry” measurement.) It seemed like it would bend, but felt a little stiff. I’ve had that experience with the glycerin-enhanced clays too, and found that gently “working” the piece along its length will often make it more pliable: I tried that with this piece, with the same good result.

I then tried to tie it into a knot. The photo shows how far I could get it to go before feeling a lot of resistance. (The calipers shifted a bit as I was setting up the photo, so they represent a visual guide and not an exact measurement, but that’s OK for this very-preliminary report…) If I want more elaborate knot designs, I know how to get a tighter bend with my DIY-flex (as shown, for example, even in my first silver knot above, which began with a bit of clay about the same size as this). Still, this PMC Flex will clearly be great for a variety of other applications. I plan to write more about those, with photos, in future posts. As ever, as time allows…. But I’ll close by saying that it is a lot of fun to have such a delightful new toy to play with!

Update:  With Hadar Jacobson’s Flex-clay powders, one trick to slightly increasing the flexibility of a piece of “dried” clay is to refrigerate it for a little while.  I tried that with the above piece and it seemed as though it was going to let me pull it a little bit tighter.  That is, until is broke just about in half.  I’ll use the two pieces some other way, but figured I should note that (as a reminder to myself, as well as information to you…).

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One More Garden Interlude: Field Day at the Edible Teaching Garden. Plus Fall Open House Dates.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/09/12

Yes, I do have art + jewelry topics in the queue to write about, but my spare-moments-brain is still focused on garden events. Our “Field Day” Celebration at the Edible Teaching Garden is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, September 13, from 12 Noon to 2 pm. It’s free, open to the public, and we’re hoping we’ll have a great turn-out. If you’re in the area and able, please do stop by.

The Edible Teaching Garden, maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County, is located in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, at the corner of Thomas and Lexington. Folks around here seem to go by landmarks a lot, so the other way to describe it is this: just one long-block down and around the corner from the East End Food Co-op, sort of across the street from Construction Junction and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative ReUse. (It’s directly across from the Allegheny County Police Headquarters: on our volunteer “work nights” we often see the local TV news folks shooting their “live” reports on “our” sidewalk, with that building behind them. But Construction Junction and PCCR are “more art-related” ways to describe where it is: see, I really am trying here!) The first photo, above / right, just taken on Wednesday, shows our branching sunflowers (they were a donation, and we don’t know the exact variety), our amaranth (that one is called Love Lies Bleeding), and hints of more, along with a few of our volunteers who were finishing up a discussion about some plans for Saturday.

We’ll be working in the garden for a month or two more (the timing will depend, in part, on the weather), but I’ll be shifting back to spending a lot more time on my Art Jewelry and Other Small Adornments, in preparation for the upcoming holiday-sales season. In fact, I just finished the first steps in making a few more dohgu oki (tool rests), my variation on hashi oki (chopstick rests) that I use as holders for small tools (though they would also work for chopsticks if you wanted). I tried a new approach for shaping them that worked really well, so I’m happy about that! I hope to get those finished and fired this weekend too! This particular batch, mostly Friendly Bronze, has a butterfly theme, in honor of the “parsley worm” (the caterpillar form of a Swallowtail Butterfly) that Eric found in our parsley bed. I’m really glad he rushed over to get me so I could capture a quick photograph:

Last fall, I sold a number of dohgu oki in the Open House I held in my studio the day that Indie Knit and Spin was happening in the same building. I’ll be holding another open house to coincide with that again this year (the date is November 15). Even before that, I’ll be having an open house to coincide with Eco Fest (that date is October 11), so I figured I should get a head start in stocking up on those. Lots of good dates in this post: I hope many of you will be able to join me for any or all of those!

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Hot from the Kiln (or, A Little Steel to New Castle)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/09/05

Here’s a peek at another of my Three Rivers pieces.

I say “peek” because the main image shows what it looked like straight from the kiln, cooled off a bit but not cleaned up at all (which should be pretty obvious, from the carbon-crumbs still clinging to it…). Just peeking out from behind is a hint of what it now looks like, what you’ll see if you find me wearing it tonight at the “Public Reception” up at The Confluence in New Castle, PA.

This is a Pittsburgh piece for sure. I embedded a trillion-shaped CZ into a little steel frame and positioned that at “the Point.” The “neighborhoods” are made from copper, with various garden-theme textures. I used those to reflect how much I appreciate all the green space in Pittsburgh.. I even continued that idea on the other side, which is all-copper with a rose-themed texture. The three rivers are made from bronze, with “expansion joints” positioned to reflect the locations of the major bridges. It is technically-convenient to add a few of those gaps, so I figure I might as well make them design-appropriate while I’m at it….

That sort of problem-solving is part of why I have so much fun working in this medium of powdered metals! What captures your interests that way (whatever is your favorite medium…!)?

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At a Confluence: Updates!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/08/25

This post will follow up on my earlier post about the show, At a Confluence, that’s running from August 15 through November 13, 2014. First, since I just included a link before, without details, this time I’ll include some specifics right here on the post:
The Confluence
address: 14 E Washington St, New Castle, PA 16101
phone: (724) 698-7604
hours: Mon – Sat: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Next, I’m thrilled to report that one of my pieces, Sparkle (Together) on a Stormy Night (shown, right), earned a “Merit Award“!

And … there’s going to be a Public Artist Reception on Friday, September 5, from 5 to 7 pm. If you can get yourself over to The Confluence for that, it’d be great to see you there!

Finally, if you’re not already familiar with The Confluence itself, here are a few things you might find interesting: It’s a social enterprise venture developed by Cray Youth & Family Services of Lawrence County, PA, to (in their words): generate revenue [via both sales & donations] to help support their critical and life-changing programs; offer free events that build community; provide a safe gathering place for all children and families; and provide employment opportunities to young people.

While I am certainly delighted to be a part of this art show, and proud to be recognized with an award, the thing that really makes me happy is that it’s all a part of such a great enterprise. This is a case where, by asking you to join me, I’m hoping you will help support this whole project.

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