Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘copper’

Accreditation Program for Hadar’s Clay™ Teachers

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/03/08

Well, I still don’t seem to have my head above water, schedule-wise, but there is a bit of news I’ve been sitting on for over a week now, and I just have to say something about that!

I have mentioned Hadar Jacobson in this blog before. I’ve found myself inspired by much of her metal clay art. I really enjoyed participating in a workshop she taught here just about two years ago (which I reported about in a series of six posts that started here). I find her clays to be delightful to work with. And I’ve been honored to have three of the pieces I’ve made using those clays selected as illustrations in two of her books.

And the latest news items, both Hadar-related, are these:


  1. She is starting an Accreditation Program for Hadar’s Clay™ Teachers … and … [drum roll …] …
  2. She has invited me to be in the “charter group” of teachers to participate in this!

(If it weren’t for the jaw-pain that, at the moment, I know would result from jumping up and down (even just once, let alone for days on end now), I’d show a video of that here. Instead, I’ll just include a photo of of one of my pieces from her book, Patterns of Color in Metal Clay.)

Now, we are just at the beginning of a year-long process. On the one hand, I am thrilled that there will be a cadre of us (all around the world!) spending pretty much a whole year working on a series of common projects, talking about the results, comparing notes, seeing what is and is not reproducible and what really does vary by individual, how to handle all this in various situations both in-class and on-line, and more, all culminating in a series of get-together workshops next year. On the other hand, I am also a bit intimidated to think that this will take a whole year of regular tasks and assignments just to get through the process, so I’m betting that some folks will drop out along the way. At the moment, I am simply hoping that I can hold on (although, of course, another part of me really does want to make it through “with flying colors”…).

But one of the things that really helps to maintain my fascination with the whole metal clay / powder metallurgy process is how intrigued I am by the continual learning that I am privileged to gain with it, and the opportunities I then have to share all that with others through classes, workshops, demonstrations, publications, and more. So that is the spirit in which I accepted the invitation. We’ll just have to see how it goes!

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Posted in Learning Metal Clay, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

2012 Art Buzz Tour — This Weekend

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/12/03

Have you heard the buzz? It’s even louder this year! Over forty artists! Seven sites! All in the Pittsburgh area’s “East End” this weekend. And my studio is one of the locations on it again this year.

At WSCC (where I’ll be), the Holiday Gift Shop will still be running downstairs, and I am pretty sure that Daviea Davis will have her glass mosaic studio open too, upstairs across the hall from mine.

2012 Art Buzz Map

If you’re in the area, I sure hope you can stop by. To say, “Hello” and “Happy Holidays” at least. If, for some reason, you can’t get yourself there in person, how about leaving a holiday greeting as a “comment” on this blog post. Even having you say just “Hello” or “Happy Holidays” would be much appreciated!

I look forward to seeing / hearing from you, dear readers, so I can extend my best wishes for this holiday season to you too, in return, in a more personal way.

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Adding to the stash: Chains!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/11/11

I’ve been amazingly restrained in my bead-buying lately. But I’ve made up for that, in part, by buying chain. Not finished necklace pieces, but by-the-foot lengths that I can cut up into segments and intersperse with beads for hanging some of my hand-made pendants.

The first photo with the post (right) shows spirals with some of the chains I got at Zelda’s store-closing sale. I might have bought more then, but she had already sold out on much of it.

The second photo (left) shows crossed-lines of some small segments of vintage chains that I bought from CoolTools. I might have bought more but, just looking online, I wasn’t sure how big some of the segments / elements were in each design. So I bought short-ish lengths and can just hope that my favorites will still be in stock when I go back to order some longer segments.

And the last photo, again to the right, shows waves of some of the chains that I got from three different vendors at the recent Bead Mercantile show. The brass- and copper-plated finishes are ones I expected; the two brightest “pink” ones (rightmost) are both a somewhat-surprising-to-find rose gold plated. I’m not entirely sure what I may do with those so, again, I just bought a couple relatively short segments that I can play with as I finish assembling pieces for Holiday-season sales. Unless, of course, I decide to just hold off on using the rose gold segmants until I’ve had a chance to make some more pieces in a rose-bronze.

I’ll just have to clear off a work table, then spread out chains and beads and pieces I’ve made, and start rearranging elements until at least some things start to fall into place. I just hope I’ll remember to take a few photos, so I can post some of the results here before the year is out.

Posted in Shopping | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Silver-artists etch copper!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/10/10

I wonder about people who are able to write several posts each day: what’s it like in the rest of their life that they have the time to do that? I’m always busy. That’s meant neither as a complaint nor as an excuse. Without consciously trying, I keep busy. And I do prefer that to ever letting myself get bored! Even if that means it sometimes takes me a while to get around to writing posts that I have on my mind.

Which is exactly what happened with regard to the last meeting of the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild. I still don’t have time to write a complete narration (especially after having side-tracked myself with three recent posts on tumblers and more) so I’ll first just annotate a few of the photos I took, and end with a few comments on the most surprising outcome.

We met on a Monday night in September in Springdale, PA, where Barbara helped everyone with etching copper. This photo shows Susan looking over Sharon’s shoulder as they discuss design issues:

Lois wasn’t sure if she wanted to draw her own design, so Barbara helped her consider the pros and cons of various stamps that she had. (In the end, Lois did draw her own. More on that shortly.)

Clockwise from the left are Ann, Susan, Lindsay, Donna, and Sharon at work, all at different stages in the process:

From left to right, we have Ann, Donna, and Lindsay from a slightly different angle:

I did not get a shot of the sample pieces Barbara shared with us before we started. Then, she spent her time helping everyone else. (Thanks so much!) But here’s a photo showing the pieces made by Ann, Donna, Lindsay, Lois, Sharon, Susan, and me:

We spread them all out, and compared notes. Of course, there were some “obvious” differences. Beyond variations in both our goals and our basic drawing techniques to begin with (Charlie: the talisman I promised you at your last birthday is in there! I just put it in the mail for you but, until it arrives, can you spot it from its symbols?!) we also used a range of different finishing techniques: some people used Barbara’s polishing wheels, others used her torch to heat-patina the pieces, and so on. Some observations were curious: we noted both the appearance of and differences in patterns of “extra lines” that showed up in some of the designs.

But the result that I think we all found the most interesting was the one we didn’t realize was a surprise until Lois pointed it out. (You may have to click that last photo to get it large enough to really see this in the tall piece at the far right.) The “dots” at the end of each branch on the tree were NOT deliberately drawn by her. At an autumn meeting, she had just felt inclined to draw a tree that had already lost all its leaves. So the “dots” must have been the result of holding her pen such that a tiny bit extra ink pooled at the end of each line, making the metal just a tiny bit more resistant to the etching solution! Though unintended, we all agreed that this was a very pleasant little surprise.

And we wished that the meeting wasn’t about to end: It seemed that just about everyone was eager to start another piece in order to try the “Lois’ Dots” technique!

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Yep, I’m still a bit baffled….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/09/10

This will just be a relatively quick little follow up on my recent load of “crispy” bronze and copper pieces.

The two draped pieces actually polished up nicely. Somehow that even helped with the clunky sound they were making, that had made me even more dubious about their quality. The more-irregular one, of course, is still riddled with cracks and tiny holes: it will just look prettier in my “do as I say, not as I do” box of “teaching moments.” But none of the polishing added to the disintegration of that piece, nor did it reveal any holes in the rounder one. OK, so far.

I have not yet tried to polish the tulip with a copper flower on a bronze background because I know that one will take a good bit of work. The other two tulips turned out OK, but not as nice as I’d’ve liked. The bronze (flower) on the one to the left had actually bubbled a tiny bit and, although that did look OK after some grinding, sanding, and polishing, once I exposed it to the patina solution, small spots appeared where the edge of the blisters had been. I’m thinking that the tin in the bronze must have somehow “disappeared” at those points, leaving more copper to react with the patina chemicals. And, despite a lot of grinding on the other one, I did not seem to have eliminated all signs of the earlier cracking.

I have enough else to do right now anyway, I may just put those into the “seconds” bin that’s always seemed popular among my teenage visitors. Less than ideal, but perhaps not a total loss.

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Well, gosh, was that ever exciting…!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/09/09

For a number of reasons not worth going into here, I’ve been a bit distracted lately. No crises, just too many things that need my attention all at once. (Yes, like most 21st Century American women, there are always a lot of demands on my time. But sometimes the number just sneaks up over the top of what is manageable.) And then, there are the days when you think you really are accomplishing something, at last, only to find out that was not the case. This post is a tale of both of those at once.

But, since this is a metal clay blog, let me begin by reviewing the process for firing items made from Hadar’s clay powders. The first photo with this post shows three pieces that had been fired earlier, had cracked a bit in that process, were then patched, and had just been refired in the session to be discussed here. That kind of cracking happens sometimes when mixing copper and bronze, as in these pieces, and the patching and refiring—often multiple times—is just part of the game if you want those mixed-metal (sometimes referred to as “married metal”) looks. (I’ll talk more about that more some other time….)

For full details on the firing process, of course, you should always check Hadar’s blog itself. But, in general, there’s a multi part process:

0. You mix the clay, form the piece, let it dry, and then…
1. You burn off the binder, taking as long as you need according to the size of the piece(s) as well as the method you are using (for jewelry-size pieces, this can often range from a quick 1/4 hour to 2 full hours; larger pieces can take even longer) and, finally
2. You “sinter” the remaining powdered metal into a more solid form during a two-hour firing process.

This discussion addresses only steps 1 and 2. (I started counting at 0 because the final two steps are often referred to as Phase 1 and Phase 2 firings.)

When Hadar first introduced her clays, the basic process went like this:

A1. Fire the pieces buried in carbon, uncovered, in the kiln. Let everything cool back to room temperature.
A2. Top up the carbon, if needed, and refire the still-buried pieces, uncovered, in the kiln.

Later, although she says that the above process still works, Hadar introduced this alternative approach:

B1. Fire the pieces on top of a layer of carbon, covered, on a gas stove-top.
B2. Immediately and carefully cover the pieces with carbon, then fire them (cooled or not, either way is OK), uncovered, in the kiln.

(There is more to all of it, but we can ignore that for now….) In each case, between step 1 and 2, the pieces are fragile: you have the formed-shape, but it’s then composed entirely of metal powder with no binder holding it together any more. It’s very fragile. I have been under the impression that a few of the main differences between the A and B approaches where that:

– The full B-process takes much less time and consumes less energy than A, but…
– Pieces in the B-method are at a very slightly higher risk of being cracked as you move and bury them.

I’ve been using both, off and on / back and forth, depending on whether I had time to actually watch Phase 1 (B) or didn’t want to watch but could wait longer (A). All the pieces photographed for this post were fired, in a single batch, using the B-process. Two of the three oval pieces (above) were polished up a bit after being fired in the same batch; the third one (left-most) and both of the two round pendants are shown just as they came from the kiln. The thing you can’t really tell from a photo of the two “draped” ones is that they feel, oh how to say this, sort of “crisp”!?

Yes, and the point of this whole post is to admit that I’m the one who crisped them up!

As I said at the start, I had a lot of things on my mind as well as a few people doing things in my studio as I began firing these. I was carefully watching the Phase 1 firing on top of a propane camp-stove on a rolling cart. Some unexpected visitors arrived, adding to the activity in the room. While enjoying the company, all I really wanted was to finish this firing, finish answering questions, go home, and have a nice dinner. I was trying to keep everyone moving along, introducing and talking and answering questions and what-not. When Phase 1 finished, I had to figure out where to put the hot lid safely out of range of the curious visitors, as I rolled carts around and proceeded to the two-hour Phase 2 in a kiln. I got everything situated, got the kiln going, spent the next hour getting questions answered and projects finished, got everyone out of the room, and was walking back to my little “office” area to finish up some paperwork when I looked at the table next to the kiln and thought, “Why is that cup-full of carbon just sitting there?”

OH, NO! I had forgotten to pour it over the pieces after Phase 1. They were in the kiln un-buried in carbon! The whole thing with these clays is they need to be fired in a “reduction atmosphere,” that is, with the carbon reacting with the oxygen in the air inside the firing chamber and thus reducing how much of that oxygen is available to react with the copper at kiln-temperatures. How much? Well, that’s not as clear. But that’s the basic principle, the way to avoid damaging the structure of the metal….

No, NO, NOOOO! If it had just been a few minutes, well, maybe. But we were an hour into a two-hour firing. Were they all ruined? Was there anything I could do?!!

I quickly increased the amount of heat-resistant material I had in front of the kiln, put on my high-heat gloves and IR-safety glasses, grabbed a few tools, took a deep breath, and opened the kiln. One obvious concern: what might the “thermal shock” do to the pieces or even to the kiln itself?!! I whipped the bowl out, set it down, closed the door as quickly as I could. Everything was glowing! In another context, it might have been considered a lovely color, but not here. I gently poured the cup of carbon over the pieces, took another deep breath, re-opened the kiln, replaced the bowl, closed it all back up, took off the safely gear, sat down, and started shaking. What had I just done? Would it work? Should I have just given up on that load? What about the kiln?

And the phone rang. I answered it. A long-time friend, someone I talk with only occasionally, was on the line (er, with cell phone, perhaps I should say in the air?). It had been no more than a minute since I’d closed the kiln back up. (As I reached over to answer the call I was, in fact, thinking how glad I was that the phone had not rung while I was in the midst of that attempted “recovery” process! Even if I had not stopped to answer it, that would have been another distraction at a crucial moment: whew!) My caller asked how I was. I was still shaking a bit, and surprised by the call. I said, “I don’t know. I may or may not have just ruined a whole bowl-full of jewelry pieces.” He’s a sweetheart, someone who has been all “You go, girl!” about my journey down this jewelry-making path, and he launched right into some nice little comments about how “things” sometimes happen and I shouldn’t beat myself up or question my abilities, I was good at this and he knew I knew it, …. When he finally paused for a moment I said, “Thanks. I love your support here. But what really has me worried is that, between the time I spent making pieces, firing some of them once, patching them, making a few new ones, firing those …. if I’ve lost them all, then I may just have lost hours that I simply do not have to spare right now. And it’ll be almost an hour before I know how much time I have just wasted by letting myself be distracted.” Luckily, there was nothing more in danger right at that moment, so we quickly moved on to chat about other things for a while. I didn’t get the paperwork done but doubt I could have concentrated on that anyway. I did get to catch up a bit with someone who’s known me since my teens, and we talked for longer than I’d’ve given myself if I’d still been focused on … paperwork.

So, what’s the outcome?

There was one small crack in the kiln-wall beforehand, and it’s now a bit bigger. Not a serious problem, I think, just one burst of extra-quick aging. I’ll simply continue to keep my eyes on that, and hope there’s nothing more.

The three mixed-metal tulip-ovals had been previously sintered (and were just in that load having some cracks patched) all look like they survived. The patches sank down too much, which may or may not have happened anyway. I can try to polish out the cracks, or else patch the patches and refire them. They don’t seem to exhibit much in the way of the various copper-oxides that we’re trying to avoid via the carbon firings. At this point, though they may not end up being quite as strong as I’d like, I still think they may be OK.

The other two all-bronze draped pendants, well, as I said, they are crisp. The slightly-bigger, slightly-more-irregular one is criss-crossed with cracks and holes. Yes, not just cracks (which I would not have expected from in this single-metal piece) but also little holes that you can actually see light through (which I’ve never seen before, and which are too small to really see in the photo, even if you click to see a larger version). I figure that piece can go into one of my “teaching moment” displays. The other one, well, it doesn’t have all the same cracks and holes, but there’s something odd about it. Maybe it’s just the way the edges curled up, and I’ll get used to it over time, but it sounds a bit crisp too. I may hold onto it, but it’s not one I’d wear because I don’t want to “advertise” a piece I’m unsure about. I may give it to one good friend who I’m pretty sure will be OK with my saying, “I can’t sell this because I’m not sure it will hold up. But if you want it, you can have it on one condition: if/when it breaks or does something odd, give it back to me so I can what happened. I’ll replace it with something else.”

And, finally, there’s that thing about time, and being overloaded just now: which clearly means it’s time to end this post, get some other things done and write about those later on, once I’ve managed to catch my breath again. Oh, and I’m sorry this is so long. It takes me longer to write shorter pieces—to do the editing needed to end up with a shorter piece—and I’m still feeling waaaay behind. So I hope you’re OK with this rambling version of the tale….

Posted in General Techniques, Technical Details | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Two More Charm Bracelets for the Collection….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/08/12

It’s taken me almost two months (where has the summer gone!) but I figured it was time to post a follow-up showing all the treats I got during the Charm Exchange at the 2012 PMC Guild Conference.

With a change of both venue and of overall schedule, there had been a bit of uncertainty as to whether this very popular exchange would even happen at all this time. Once there was confirmation that a modified form of the exchange would take place, and in between lots of other commitments and deadlines, I did manage to make a collection of small, very simple (but, this being me, reversible) charms in a mix of silver (some shiny; some with a patina) and bronze (some the traditional yellow color; others in the more-coppery rose bronze).

Alice and I had a great time “carpooling” out to Kentucky for the conference. Since we’d taken my car the last time we went together, this time we took hers. And she drove, which meant I was able to sit in the passenger seat and add jump rings to all of my charms while we chatted our way across five states: whew! Once I’d finished adding those, I kept going with jump rings and made a pair of bracelets: one out of Argentium sterling silver (with a sterling lobster clasp) and the other out of bronze (with a copper lobster clasp). Admittedly, a moving car is not necessarily the ideal setting for those activities, but it’s not like I was doing complex chain maille, we were mostly on good interstate highways, and Alice’s driving was nice and smooth. (I will let her declare whether that’s her normal mode or a concession to my activities.) So it was easy to complete those tasks and they even added to how quickly the time seemed to pass.

As I’d said before the conference (an event which also happened to extend over the Summer Solstice), I called mine “Moonlit Garden” charms, “not just because I cut them in a waxing/waning moon shape, but also because they have a sort of moonscape texture on one side, and some sort of garden-theme texture on t’other (cherry blossoms, gingko leaves, roses, ferns, or various daisies).” My idea was that all followed that same theme, but no two were alike.

Curiously, as I was adding their jump rings, I did notice three “pairs” that seemed to match up nicely. I stuffed those in a different pocket, thinking I could later sell those as earrings (and make a little money to help recoup a bit of the cost of all the charms…). One of the fifty charms I made went into the thank-you box that was presented to Tim McCreight and I kept a bronze one for my own bracelet as a record of what I’d done. That left me 42 to exchange: an ideal number for the two bracelet-chains I’d just made.

And, now, I’d like to thank all of the following metal clay artists for exchanging charms with me:

All but one of those charms are shown above. I’m hoping to find time to write about that other one in a separate post….

Also not shown here, but much appreciated as well, are the non-charm trades I received from:

I’m thanking you here too, because I’m not sure when I’ll get around to posting something about how I used your little treats. But I expect they will show up eventually….

For anyone who included a link on the card that came with your charm, I included that on my list. If you didn’t, but I could find you in a quick, easy online search, I added what I found. Otherwise, I’ve just listed you without a link but, if you stumble across this note and have one you’d like me to add, let me know and I will update this post with that information. (Ditto for any other changes or corrections I need to make.)

I sure hope all of you (as well as any of the other artists I somehow missed in the exchange) are as happy with your new charm collection as I am with mine! Happy claying, everyone!

Posted in Events, Guild | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pushing through the storms….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/08/04

Well, I spent all that time preparing for several workshops at various locations where we’d make the items I have taken to calling Push Pendants. And then a couple of them, for perfectly reasonable reasons not worth mentioning here, ended up getting scheduled for September and October instead of this summer. I’m fine with offering this topic later into the fall … it’s just that I’d been so looking forward to doing them sooner. But one of them was scheduled for last Friday evening and was actually held then and … what happened? After extended heat with little rain, that night some flood-generating storms arrived and, of the five students I was expecting, only three had the nerve to venture over to Mars Beads for it.

Thank you so much — Kim, Tammy, and Carol — for braving both the elements and the processes involved to create such delightful pieces! I sure enjoyed spending the evening with you, and I hope you are glad you made it over to join in on the fun.

I’m also glad I remembered to take a photo this time. I take my camera to every workshop I teach and, probably nine out of ten times, I think of it while setting up, and then not again until I’m packing up to leave. I get so focused on what everyone is doing that I forget to step back and snap a shot. But, during this moment when everyone looked both intent on and satisfied with what they were doing, I did take a deep breath and think, “Oh, I should capture this.” So I open this post with what I saw just then.

I will also note that, while these Friday night workshops are fun, they are a little more limited time-wise when compared to what we can do when we have a whole afternoon or an entire day. Which is why I am especially impressed with all the pieces made that night, and include a little view of the final results (fired after class).

To give you a sense of perspective: this was the first-ever time for Kim and Carol to even touch metal clay. Theirs are the two pieces with simple holes and jump rings for hanging them. Tammy, who had attended one other Friday night session about a month ago, was all set to add a few extra embellishments to hers. As shown, the colors are just the luck-of-the-kiln. Each participant can still decide for herself how much she may or may want to shine hers up instead of leaving it like this. Their “other” sides are all nicely textured which, of course, is the thing this time for which I don’t have a photo to post. Sigh. I did take a few shots before delivering the pieces, but they just came out so much darker than the fronts, I don’t think they do justice to those pieces…. So, for now at least, dear readers, you’ll just have to enjoy these sides.

And, if you like these results, do feel free to leave a note of encouragement for these brand-new metal clay craftswomen!

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Pushing, in more ways than one….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/07/18

About a month ago, I wrote a post about some pieces I am calling “Push Pendants” because they are made by pushing some metal clay through a piece of metal mesh. Given that I like making reversible pieces, furthermore, if you read my last post you would have seen a photo of the “other side” of yet another one of these pushed-pieces. The first photo with this post shows its pushed-side, all polished up to a nice shine. (You should be able to tell from the shape which (un-polished) “other” side it matches there….)

They’re fun to make, and I admit the original idea was not mine. They are adapted from a slightly different project I noticed a while ago in Mary Hettmansperger’s delightful book, Mixed Metal Jewelry Workshop. The approach used by “Mary Hetts” is really simple: you make the combo, fire it, then frame it in sheet metal. (Check out her book for all sorts of other useful details!) That strategy minimized one major potential issue: as the clay is fired–both burning off binder and sintering the powder into a solid metal–it shrinks. The wire mesh does not shrink. Warping and cracking can occur in the parts that began as clay! Her process minimizes that as a problem by having you frame the sintered metal with some other solid product (e.g., sheet metal, but you could use wood or fiber or plastic or whatever else you want). First of all, you don’t get very much cracking that way; secondly, you can probably just cover up any you do get.

But I started to wonder: what if you just framed it with more clay from the start? How much of a problem could that be? What are the variables involved? How much more difficult would that make the whole task? Would it still be a good project for a workshop that included both experienced and novice metal clay artisans?

After several months of experimenting (and confirming a few of my suspicions with Hadar Jacobson at the recent PMC Guild conference), it is looking to me as though:

  • With these, it helps if you are someone who is willing to accept what the kiln gives you: they’re not totally unpredictable, but even tiny variations in construction can have very noticeable effects!
  • Giving the piece a bit of curvature, a hint of the direction in which you want it to warp, can be helpful.
  • Really thin surfaces, front or back, do tend to crack.
  • Thicker surfaces have a more complex relationship to the warping and cracking, but there are ways to minimize such problems (and to make it easier on yourself to patch cracks and refire if you find that desirable).
  • The position of the mesh in relation to the frame matters as to whether and how much the piece will crack along the side.
  • The variance in shrinkage rates across the different clays makes a difference in the patterns of shrinkage and warping in these pieces. The pattern of least to worst is predictable; the exact extent seems not to be.

I’ve had people ask me why I bother with these clays if I have such problems with them. Well, the answer is that both the explorations and the results are, overall, delightful. Most of the time, pieces do turn out fine. And some of the so-called problems that do occur are ones I’d never have with silver because it’s just much simpler and more reliable to fire. But I realize that others happen because I try things with these metals that I would never think to try with silver or, if I did think of them, would be unlikely to try because of the price of silver.

In this example, besides simply pushing clay through mesh, I feel like I am pushing the envelope; that is, I feel like I am also extending the current limits of the clay’s performance, going beyond some commonly-perceived boundaries of working with it. I find the process of exploration to be fun, itself, in addition to any reactions I have to the resulting pieces or the subsequent workshops I may teach from what I’ve learned.

Posted in General Techniques, Learning Metal Clay, Teaching Metal Clay, Technical Details | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

A hot ending.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/06/11

After ten days, and increasing heat, this year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival has come to a close.

And a very hot ending it was. Hot for Pittsburgh. And, officially, it’s still merely Spring. What will summer bring? Time will tell….

In the meantime, a few quick comments. The festival organizers rearranged the market yet again, but somehow managed to leave the Koolkat Designs booth down at the very end of Gallery Row. (I added a silly purple arrow to the photo here to show where my pieces were once again displayed on the top corner shelf.)

The trees as well as the breezes wafting up from the Point over the fountain are what made the location bearable on the hottest days. (It was well over 90°F the last weekend; though I did not note the humidity, that was high too.) The photo of the fountain, below, was taken from the same spot as the first shot, though I’d just turned a bit to my right. That location is a bit of a challenge on the windiest-stormiest days but, over the years, Koolkat’s owner Kate and the rest of the crew have figured out increasingly better ways to manage that.

But during the hottest times down there this year, and especially the final weekend of the festival, I kept remembering my mother, standing in the kitchen of our house in South Florida–with the big double patio doors slipped into their wall “pockets” so the whole room was open to any breeze that might come from the ocean and up the canal behind our house–and saying, “The heat won’t get to you as long as there’s a good breeze.” As a child (especially as a teen, and one who was happiest at temperatures she considered cold) I would argue, “I will not agree to anything beyond that the heat won’t get to you as quickly as long as there’s a really good breeze.” I know she’d’ve liked the weather at this year’s festival, and the breezes in Gateway Plaza, and I wish she could see the art jewelry I only really got into making, and even selling!!, after she was gone.

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Doubly-Coiled Metal Bracelets

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/05/15

While it does take study, practice, more practice, patience, practice, skill, more practice, talent, and still more study and practice to do exceptional work with any medium, including metal clay, one of the things I love about this approach is the way that even a first-time novice can actually produce a delightful and amazing piece. You just have to be willing to take the plunge and try it!

But if you don’t really have a clue what the stuff is, how do you convince yourself to do that? As an instructor, one of the challenges I’ve found is to devise projects that are simple enough for even a beginner to complete in a reasonable amount of time, yet with something “new” that the returning student can learn. So I have a particular appreciation for others who clearly address that conundrum.

And there I was one recent day, browsing through my copy of the book, Mixed Metal Jewelry Workshop, by the delightful Mary Hettmansperger, when I saw what she describes as “probably the simplest project in this book.” It involves winding wire into a bangle-bracelet shape, taking some care with the sizing of that, and then wrapping it with “organic coils” of metal clay. The end result is so interesting, but the process permits lots of exploration!

How “wonky” can you make the clay-coils before they break all apart as you wrap them? How thin can you work them before they dry out and crack too much? How thick can they be and still let you wrap them? How does the shrinkage of the clay work with the fixed size of the wire? How (and how much) does any coiling on the wire interact with the coiling of the clay? How can you use combinations of different clays? How do you want to design them so they fit nicely and are comfortable to wear? Those are the questions that came to my mind in the first half-minute of looking at the project; after a few hours of trying this, I had dozens more, going well beyond what was covered in the book.

The photo shows my first four attempts. (Two were brushed after firing, while two are shown with their magical kiln-colors.) More exist already (still unphotographed…), already veering in other directions, with yet more to come after those! I hope to offer some of those variations in workshops over the summer: Of course, I will credit “Mary Hetts” for the original idea, direct everyone to the book that inspired my path to new options, and suggest that folks get it to inspire their own explorations in other ways.

Of course, one advantage to making pendants and earrings, rather than bracelets or rings, is that exact-sizing is not such an issue with them. Even with cuff- or link-style bracelets, you have more sizing options than with these bangles. So that’s a major feature to address. And one disadvantage to using the “base metal” clays for these is how few you can fire at one time. So this fun project is slow going in its own way, but it’s my incentive, at last, to look at alternative firing approaches. There has to be an easier way to make lots more of these, for my own enjoyment as well as for both my students and customers. Ahhh, just what I needed: yet another exploration on which to spend time! But, what else are summers for, eh?

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Following Up with Alice.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/05/12

Or maybe I should call this post “Slipping Up…”?

Though I hope others find something of interest in this note (like my last post, another example of a piece that just evolved during some demos), my reason for writing about this one is a little exchange Alice Walkowski and I had early this year about a technique (borrowed from the pottery world) called slip trailing, some of which may be found among the posts here (on her blog) and here (on mine).

But, let’s start with the first photo. I had cut the “sunshine shape” out of bronze during a demonstration. At the time, I was making several points. One was about taking care at corners, points, hollows, and such, (regardless of whether you used (my favorite) press-down cutters or (as books and articles often describe) drag-tools with templates to make your cuts). Another was about how, if you had a texture sheet with several different designs on it, you could sometimes get an interesting look by letting the area you cut out cross over from one pattern into another. Because I was focusing on all that, I did not bother to texture the other side before I cut it out. But I liked the result enough that I didn’t continue, as I often do in demos, with just squishing my clay up to reuse later on: I kept it, and let it dry as it was.

As I also reported recently, I’d demonstrated several examples of making and then joining links “invisibly” so I had a pair of linked rounds lying on my worktable. I added them to the “plain” side of the sun-shape. Again, I included my little talk about how, although many metal clay artists would use paste for the connection, I don’t get why so many people do it that way. I use plain water plus a brief moment of patient pressure (no longer, overall, that opening and closing a jar of paste…) and, neat and easy, it works just fine!

Then, someone just happened to ask me about slip trailing. They’d read about it, but didn’t quite get how it worked. So I moistened up some rose bronze clay, and used that to fill an empty, clean syringe so I could start to show the process. But, as can happen in quick, impromptu demos that get me off track of what I was planning to do, I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have to the thickness of the moist clay I was loading into my syringe. And a big “plop” landed on my careful (if quickly-sketched) design, covering several “rays” all at once.

I cleaned it up a bit and then tried, without as much success as I’d hoped, to add a dainty “plop” on the other side, to at least offer a bit of balance to the piece. But it just seemed to continue its own ungainly theme….

Refusing to acknowledge any sort of crisis regarding my lovely textured-star shape, I explained that piece was just telling me what it wanted. So I dribbled on some more goopy rose bronze and then added a few “highlight blobs” of copper clay too. The end result is more “turbulent” than what I’d planned to do, but I decided to just fire it anyway and see what happened. And I think the “stormy” look is just fine, especially in contrast with the precisely-textured first-side. Two different looks in one piece, as I often say!

And besides, by that point, what other reasonable choices did I have? I hope it will find a home with someone who can appreciate the mixture of precision and wildness across its two sides. Some may not, but I’m sure a very special person will, in the end, resonate with it!

(By the way, I did do a second demo using another base piece I had on hand, showing how the results can vary with different consistencies of slip. Much more successful! For reasons not worth going into here (though Alice knows at least one reason why…), I haven’t yet managed to capture a photo of that piece.)

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Having Fun with Bronze, and More.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/05/07

It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything with metal clay recently: I’ve just been so busy with that and other things I haven’t had time to sit at computer and muse. I’m also assembling some new projects for workshops (which I’ll discuss in upcoming posts), so I’m again paying a lot of attention to process: to what I do for a specific reason versus what I do out of sheer habit.

The photo with this post shows both sides of a little piece I made during several demonstrations of working with metal clay in general, and bronze clay in particular. I made the various elements separately, to illustrate a range of techniques at different times. I showed the application of a simple texture with the hibiscus, and the use of a pastry cutter to get the oblong shape.

What started that: I was saying how much I really do like to use cutting forms with metal clay–special “clay” cutters, pastry cutters, even scissors, anything where you are pressing down into the clay. Whenever I can figure out how to do that, I prefer it to the often-suggested needle tools (or X-acto knives) that drag through the clay. The “pressed” cuts are so much cleaner, and it’s very easy to smooth out any small imperfections while the clay is still wet with a finger or other small tool. A “drag through” tool, even a needle or blade with the finest tip, still leaves a rougher edge. You can try to smooth such cuts while wet, but it’s rarely as effective, so you’re forced to sand more and create more “dust.” (“Refine the edge” is the term of art for that process.) Although you can salvage much of the dust, there will still be some that drifts off; besides wasting any metal in that, you’re also wasting time with sanding and clean-up. That may seem like just a small amount of either time or metal, but the “waste-cost” does accumulate with each piece made (especially if, unlike this example, the dust is from a precious metal such as silver!).

Plus, if I want a shape for which I don’t already have a cutter, I can always just make one. I admit that I am someone who’d rather spend my time making a cutter than making dust and then turning that into paste (which is another metal clay “staple” that I do use, but only very rarely)!

Then, in another setting, I showed how to cut out washer-shapes, and how you could even reshape a round washer into another shape, such as the oblongs shown here. In yet another, I showed how to attach two washers to each other with an “invisible join” (here, in yellow bronze; and how to do that with water only, not paste) and how to cut washers and other dried pieces to use in various ways (in rose bronze). At one point, I even made a little ball (in copper) to demonstrate that technique.

Finally, looking over the bits and baubles I had scattered across my worktable from all of that, when I was talking about how I attach pieces of dried metal clay with just water (so yet another situation where I don’t need “dust” to make paste with!), and it just struck me how to assemble those particular bits this way.

Most of the time, I enjoy methodically developing and then executing a deliberate design. But, sometimes, it’s such fun to just let a piece evolve on its own.

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More Mixed Metals

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/04/14

It seems like I’ve been working forever on several mixed-metal pieces, but at last I have one for which I can write a little report.

This one contains my current-favorite three-metal mix: bronze (in the traditional yellow-bronze color, used here as the base), rose bronze (in the slightly more pink color, used here for the bail), and copper (a reddish-brown used, along with those two bronze formulas, in another of my reversible pieces, in the decorative designs on both sides).

Well, technically, all of the metals contain copper: bronze is made from copper and tin. Yellow bronze gets its color (and strength) from a very particular mix of the two; rose bronze shows by its color that it has a higher proportion of copper in its mix, while white bronze (not shown here) contains a higher proportion of tin (which gives it more of a “white metal” color that is lovely, but also makes it trickier to work with (both finicky to fire and potentially as fragile as glass in its final form) so I use (and write about) it much less often…).

The three “flower disks” overlays are, from top to bottom, made from rose bronze, then yellow bronze, and copper. The copper has begun to darken a bit, as copper will; I put the rose bronze disk as far away from it as I could–the rose one will likely darken more than the yellow bronze (which often ages to a greenish hue), but less than the copper. In the middle, the smooth surface of the yellow bronze flower seems to give a very slight hint of the copper in it, more so than does the sandpaper-texture backing of the same metal. The contrasts possible with these metals make exploring them a delightful experience.

Most of the time, anyway (which accounts for part of the delay between posts recently). The other side (photo below / left) has a brushed-satin finish. Here, the bronze base also keeps its yellow color (the reddish tint towards the bottom is just a reflection of the red shirt I was wearing as I took this photograph!), but I applied a bit of patina-solution that would accentuate the differences in copper-content among the metals in the design. The twist inlaid down the middle shows, from the top, rose bronze, copper, yellow bronze; then another twist of rose bronze, copper, yellow bronze; and ends with a tiny hint of rose bronze again. The challenge in hand-finishing this side was to get a smooth, even surface so the patina-solution would not “pool” on the bronze and appear as a smudge (or worse, the start of some rough corrosion) which took several (rather frustrating…) tries. But I kept at it, because the fun part was seeing how the copper stripes darkened just the same as an aged penny would do, while the rose bronze has a sort of dotted appearance featuring a range of hues in a slightly more yellow range.

Now, all I have left to do is to hang it! I plan to use a soft, supple, satin cord, and slip a simple larks-head loop through the bail. One question is whether to crimp metal findings on the cord’s end, and then add a jump ring and clasp, or to skip the findings and instead use a pair of sliding Chinese button knots (thus, making its length adjustable). I’ll answer that once I’ve decided which color of cord to use. (From different sources, some are harder to knot than others: O the tension between artistry and practicality!)

I bet you can understand why I call this piece Three Flowers with a Twist.

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A Three-Metal Mosaic

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/02/23

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post describing and showing a pendant I think of as The Little (Oblong) Piece that Could (because, with each problem, I’d pick it up, dust it off, say a few words of encouragement, and keep it going to completion…).

On one side of that, trying to develop a collage (or mosaic) design, I was applying a series of pieces that went straight across the “base” piece. I’d moisten the base and the mosaic piece, press them together, and wait for that to dry. Then, I’d repeat the process with the next collage piece. But the backing piece, which would of course soften a bit as I applied each next piece, kept cracking along those long and straight borders, so I ended up adding a series of elements to the other side to reinforce it all. That was not a problem, of course, because I like making reversible pieces; I actually found it interesting to think about what I might add from both visual and structural considerations.

Still, there is another way to approach this issue right from the start: design the piece so that no border between the mosaic elements goes entirely across the piece! That is, use the collage pieces to provide the necessary structure right from the start. A very basic example of that is one of the Three-Metal Mosaic pieces I made earlier this winter.

The base of this piece (not shown) was made from Rose Bronze, as was the center rectangle (which is shown in the photo to the right here). Then, going clockwise and starting in the upper left corner, I added alternating “mosaic tiles” of copper and yellow bronze. Although there is some lining up of pairs, I was careful to have no “line” extend the whole way across the piece in any direction! This is the simplest way I know of to avoid the problem I kept having with The Little (Oblong) Piece that Could.

Once I had all these tiles fully assembled, I tidied up the edges as needed (with just a damp sponge; sanding only a tiny bit at the corners, to round them off slightly), and added the Rose Bronze bail. The colors you see are mostly just the differences between the three separate metals, enhanced a bit by some green kiln-produced coloring on both the yellow and rose bronze textured “tiles” in the mosaic (but not, curiously, on the smoothly-extruded bail).

Who knows why, but I don’t seem to have a photo of the other side. Still, trust me, this piece is another of my fully-reversible designs! The other side was made using a delicate texture of tiny flowers, and then embellished with “vines” and “coils” in the three different metals. Since it was while looking at some mosaics in one of the museums I visited last week when I began thinking that I didn’t remember writing a follow-up post to the one about The Little (Oblong) Piece that Could, however, at least I do have this shot of the side that matters for this comparison.

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What I did last week (part 3…)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/02/01

Well, by the time I’ve managed to get around to posting this, I’m really talking about the week before last, but I figured I’d keep the same basic post-title I’d started this series with, and just keep going.

After writing last week about making some textured domed disks, so that I could use them in a bracelet inspired by Maria Richmond, now I’ll talk about how I’d imagined completing the project with an idea inspired by a post by Hadar Jacobson about making magnetic clasps from steel metal clay.

I thought I’d do pretty much just what Hadar suggested. The only difference was that I used a textured layer of her rose bronze clay, rather than the smoother layers of yellow bronze and copper she showed in her instructions. I draped that over a dried layer of her pearl gray steel. After letting it all dry, inserting a bronze wire bail, and “refining” everything, I fired it as recommended.

The rose bronze cracked. The steel under-side (not shown) seems fine.

I tried again, this time using textured copper draped over pearl gray steel.

Again, the steel under-side (not shown) came out fine but, also again, the copper over the top cracked.

I patched and otherwise repaired all three pieces, and refired them.

You can see that much of the wonderful kiln-induced coloring disappeared. (Compare that photo to the first two above; the colors were also mentioned in part 1….) No crisis there. One copper piece (top, above) shows only a tiny bit of cracking, at its edge. That’s not ideal but, at this point, I’m likely to leave that alone because, sigh, the other two came out worse than before! What happened? My guess (and this is only a guess), is that the steel (which sure had seemed to be sintered) had sintered some more (that is, it became denser and thus shrank some more) and the movement associated with that further shrinkage in the steel is what led to the additional cracking in the copper or bronze layer.

If I’d known that was coming, I could have measured everything much more carefully at each step along the way, and used that as a way to test my hypothesis (i.e., the guess, above). But I didn’t know; I just didn’t think to stop and take the time to measure….

Since I’d been stuck with refiring anyway, I tried a couple more. Shown, below, are the initial results from again using rose bronze and copper, respectively, but this time draped over clay made from Hadar’s newer Pearl Gray Steel XT powder. (They differ in size because I made my original textured dome elements in two different sizes as well; I point that out simply so you won’t think any difference you see could be due to variations in shrinkage. That was just my own doing….)

OK, much better! Much less cracking with that mix! Again, sanding the steel on the other side shows that it appears to be sintered. I’m not about to test that by refiring either of these. I’ll just live with a few hairline-crack issues on these pieces; all that means is that I’ll have to think especially carefully about how I use them.

Sometimes, even when I don’t think to do pre- and post-fire measurements, I do still come up with “Plan B” ideas. So, while I was at it, I made a couple toggle clasps using Hadar’s regular (i.e., yellow) bronze powder, to put in the box when I was (re-)firing the other clasp elements. Again, they were made in two different sizes. Their textures, curvature, and size match the domes I made to use with the coils; I added a heavy-gauge bronze wire loop to the toggle bars. In this photo (and the last one above), I show them after firing and after I’d brushed them just enough to confirm that they’ve sintered. I’ll shine them up a bit more before I go to use them in a piece.

Though none of the pieces from my last firing show the lovely kiln-coloring I got with the earlier batches, I do believe that there will be enough acceptable elements in all this that I can finish off my first round of bracelets with a few components left over. Earrings, perhaps? Or the start of a necklace?

[Update: I just added the “oops” tag I’d oops-ily omitted from the original post.]

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The lifespan of a no-flake-foil firing box….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/30

I folded this little firing box out of No-Flake Foil (from Cool Tools) some time last April, although I didn’t record the exact date because, at the time, I had no clue it was ever going to be worth noting.

I first wrote about this particular box in a post last July, after I’d noticed a little flurry of discussion about what people used to fire the copper, bronze, steel, or other metal clays that needed to be buried in carbon. At that time, I said it had held up just fine through several dozen firings.

I do tend to fire pieces in spurts (some weeks, nothing; other weeks, multiple loads) but, since then (especially, prior to the last “Holiday Season”!), it has survived dozens more.

The last time I emptied it out, however, during this past weekend and after it had provided almost ten months of regular service, I was sad to note that it has begun to sprout a few little holes. They are tiny and not easy to see (so of course I highlighted them with big red arrows for you in the photo!). But I know they signal the beginning of the end for this particular box.

So I thought I should note the date that it has been retired from duty as my primary firing box. My number-two box will step into that role. The experimenter in me isn’t quite ready to part with number-one yet, of course, so I’ve got it stashed away at the moment. I may try using it again a few more times, just so I can document its demise for my own information.

But, really, it’s just foil. There may be nothing more worth noting about it, except that I am amazed, and delighted, that it has already done so well for this long.

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What I did last week (part 2…)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/23

OK, so why did I go off making those domed disks described in my last post? Well, I started them as soon as I received this photo in the mail:

That’s not a piece of mine. It was made by the very talented Maria Richmond, and it was included in an email from the delightful Zelda’s Bead Kit Company, to illustrate a workshop that Maria was to teach there last week.

I’ve wanted to take one of Maria’s workshops for quite some time now; but never managed to have both time and money available to coincide with the projects of hers that interested me the most. But when I saw this one, I contacted her right away, to ask about the size of the disks, and learned that they were some “antique enameling disks” that Maria had bought online to include in the materials-kits for the sessoin. Yes, they are very nice disks, and it’s great that they are now going to good use. But I saw that bracelet and immediately pictured making it with hand-made, textured domed disks, designed and developed using metal clay techniques!

Thus the little collection I made last week: two different metals (copper and rose bronze, from Hadar’s metal clay powders), some of each in two different sizes, all with a deep “rose” pattern on their convex (domed) side, and with either a much finer “rose” pattern or a shallow “fern” or “swirl” on the other (inner, bowl) side (varying in such a way that I could easily tell which was made from which metal). I made those to take to Maria’s class, about twice as many as I thought I’d need, plus a few smaller ones in case I needed some minor adjustments in length.

Now, my larger pieces are slightly bigger than Maria’s disks, and my smaller ones were not quite as big as hers. It looked like five of my bigger ones would come out to just a smidge under six of hers, which seemed like a size I could wear. So I just used those, rather than try to tweak the length any further by varying the size of the pieces.

Following Maria’s instructions in all other regards, the photos to the left and right here show how my bracelet came out. I was delighted.

Maria’s sample, and all of those made in the workshop except for mine, were made entirely of copper elements (not just the disks, but also the coils, links, jump rings, and clasp pieces) and, as a last step, darkened with Liver of Sulphur (“LOS”). I chose, however, not to use LOS on mine. I figured that would overpower the kiln-colors that I liked; the metals will darken soon enough on their own with age.

Then, a few minutes after I finished mine, as I looked at it on my arm, trying to decide which side should face out, I had a real “Aha!” moment. I took it completely apart and, when I reassembled it, I alternated both metals (rose bronze – copper – rose bronze – copper – rose bronze) and the orientation of each piece (rose up, coils up, rose up, coils up, rose up). I then bent the wire-wrap connectors a bit to encourage everything to lie in a particular orientation.

But, even if it rolls up and down my arm, this way I am more likely to have some elements land wire-coil up, and others, rose-dome up, thus featuring both Maria’s wire-work idea and my own metal-clay approach, respectively. (We’ve already discussed the possibility of jointly offering something along this line as a two-part class later in the year.)

And, yep, it’s a two-sided bracelet. Somehow, I just can’t help but make fully reversible pieces. Stay tuned: I’m hoping to find time to finish up yet another variation or two on this in the next week or so.

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What I did last week (part 1…)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/22

The simple answer to, “What did you do last week?” would be, “I made up a handful of textured, domed disks to play with.”

In the rest of this post, I’ll discuss (with illustrations) just what I did. In my next post, I’ll explain why I did that. I hope to add another post, eventually, where I’ll review a few little tweaks I just happened to add to the plan…

I didn’t think to stop and take photos of the earlier stages in the construction of these pieces. Mostly, it was just the usual routine for working with metal clay. I began by mixing up small batches of several of Hadar’s metal clay powders that I wanted to use. The clay was then rolled out, textured (in general, on both sides), cut, shaped, dried, drilled, and in just a few cases, further “refined” (e.g., a few pieces had their edges sanded down just enough so the final result would be even and smooth) before going into the firing pans.

At this point, I started taking photos. (I have found myself tending to take a quick snapshot of each shelf or pan as it goes into the kiln. That way, if anything seems odd afterwards, I’ll have a record of what was where. Though, my usual load involves one-of-a-kind work; with so many similar pieces in this load, that isn’t going to tell me very much, is it? Oh, well.)

This photo shows the thirteen pieces I made. Ten are basic domes. The other three (to be discussed later) are the ones with little wire loops attached to them. (Click on photo to enlarge it, if necessary, to really see any such details….)

The pan to the left contains pieces made mostly using quick-fire copper clay; to the right, mostly using rose bronze metal clay. (One or two of each also contain some pearl gray steel, but those are the ones I’m going to hold off discussing for a while yet.)

The next photo shows two of the copper domes, just as they came out of the kiln. Note the lovely color on the one to the right (convex side up). That was a surprise! (And it’s what prompted me to start my tale here, with the disks themselves, rather than just with how I used them.) I am not used to seeing much color variation on fired copper, at least not seeing it as vividly as I often see with the bronzes. My fired copper usually just looks dark, like the one on the left. Several (though not all) of the copper pieces showed delightful color this time. And the brightest colors all appeared on the convex sides, the side that I had placed face-down during the firing.

This next photo shows two other copper pieces, less colorful from the kiln, and therefore all polished up to a reasonably bright shine:

Here are four rose bronze domes, straight from the kiln. Again, these all show the side I’d fired face-down. In the past, when the bronze pieces came out with colors, it has seemed that the nicest ones seem to appear on the side positioned that way. (Though you can’t count on seeing that at all: you just have to be thankful when you do!)

Then again, this time I noticed some pretty interesting colors on the sides that were face-up as well! The pieces shown in this next photo are just the same four, from above, turned over.

A side note: All thirteen pieces had the same “rose” texture on their convex side. The other side, however, got a slightly different treatment, depending on which metal I was using. I wasn’t sure how much I might care to know which was which as I was later working with them, but that seemed a simple yet unobtrusive way to distinguish the different metals if I wanted to quickly tell them apart.

Here are a couple more rose bronze disks. On the piece to the left, note the little red dot just to the left of the hole at the bottom.

Now, I admit, I didn’t note anything particularly memorable about that dot, itself, until I turned the piece over. Hmmmm. I wonder what tiny bit of something got into my carbon, to create the little, tan “washer” image on this side? You should be able to see it clearly at the bottom of the piece here on the left, just to the right of the hole. Its center matches the position of the red dot.

Well, I’ll never know the answer to the question of what caused that. But, here, you can see all ten disks after I finished polishing them up by varying amounts:

Knowing that the kiln-induced patina-colors are rather ephemeral, that they’ll wear off the high points, at least, as the piece is touched, worn, jostled in a jewelry box, etc., I decided to polish that off all the high points on the convex sides, while still leaving some down in the hollows. (I did give a full polish to a few select pieces that did not show much range in color.) Then I fully polished the concave sides—for several reasons, the decision to go for a full shine there was somewhat beyond my control. Partly, it had to do with how I intend to use these (see my next post). Also, it was due to the polishing tools I have that made it easy for me to limit what I’d polish on the “outside” to just the high points, but that meant I pretty much had to do a full-scale polish down in the “inside” anyway (or else, spend a lot more time on these than I thought they warranted). That was fine. I am happy with the results so far.

Please stay tuned to see what I’ve begun doing with these….

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How much to polish?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/12/23

Here’s another butterfly from my recent little extravaganza making bronze pieces alluding to pollinators. I had this one out at the recent open house at Zelda’s, and got into a discussion with another artist (Jan) and a couple other customers from the store.

Jan had taken one of my butterfly workshops where she made several gorgeous silver pieces. I’d tumble-polished them to an even, high shine for her, per her request. And she had them on display, for sale, at Zelda’s. At least one of the customers indicated her opinion that I should have polished my bronze ones as much.

While I did polish the butterfly in this photo a bit, I chose to not take it to that same high level of shine. Why? Mostly because I liked the hints of color hiding down in its hollows. (Same thing with the butterfly shown in my last post.) To me, those subtle hints of color are part of the appeal of the bronze.

To you of course, it may just look like it still needs to be polished some more. If that’s what you want on a piece you’re thinking of buying from me, please just ask! Once I’ve polished it, however, all of it will have that dark-golden yellow tone that bronze takes on. All of the other tints will be gone.

I have done that for all sorts of pieces, but it’s just not high on my list of surface treatments for butterflies. I guess I imagine my Lepidoptera, to appear colorful.

That discussion did prompt an idea for me, for a project for next year: to make a series of pieces that are, not identical, but similar, and finish them in a series of ways. One like these butterflies, another with a solid-color satin finish, and another that is as shiny as I can get it. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the results to appear here, but know it’s on the to-do list at least. If you have done anything similar, please let me know, and we can compare notes!

In the meantime, I’ll close with images (regular readers of this blog may have already seen them) of two silver pieces I’ve made that are much shinier (though I’m not sure how fully that appears in the photos). The pendant has had a bit of patina added down in the lines of its pattern; the ring has some color in the ruby stone that’s set on the top.

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Art Buzz Tour — This Weekend!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/12/09

Have you heard the buzz? Eighteen artists! Seven sites! All in the Pittsburgh area’s “East End” this weekend. And my studio is one of the new locations added this year….

Map of 2011 Art Buzz tour

If you’re in the area, I sure hope you can stop by. To say, “Hello” and “Happy Holidays” at least. If, for some reason, you can’t get yourself there in person, how about saying “Hello” or “Happy Holidays” or something else even more interesting as a “comment” on this blog post.

I look forward to seeing / hearing from you, dear readers, so I can extend my best wishes for this holiday season to you too, in return, in a more personal way.

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Speaking of color, again….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/12/02

Several posts ago, I mentioned that I was thinking of polishing this piece up, more than anything to see just what color the “rose bronze” would turn out to be. As a quick reminder: that’s the only metal I used in the construction of this bead.

The other reason, of course, is that any such patina-color (whether produced by heat, chemicals, or any other method) is still somewhat ephemeral. Since I’d been undecided about polishing it, I hadn’t applied any sort of coating in an attempt to hold the coloring a while longer, and the colors on this rose bronze had darkened noticeably after only a very few weeks, until it was much darker than shown here.

So I had a go at it with some of my favorite little 3M radial bristle disks. I think it shined up nicely!

I should probably also note that one advantage of a nicely polished surface is the way that finish is relatively easy for anyone to maintain over time.

And, I admit, I didn’t go “all the way” with that polishing here either, because I was hoping to keep just a hint of the rainbow-colors that the kiln-firing had produced. And, so far at least, that hint is still there; along the edge of the folds of the layered side, and along the left edge of the side with the coils. Hooray!

Time to send it off to a holiday show, and hope it can find a happy new home with someone who will take delight in wearing it.

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Speaking of metal-colors

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/11/30

Writing my last post got me thinking about metal-colors, so I thought I’d post a few more pictures.

The first photo, at the right, shows a piece with alternating strips of copper and bronze. (In two places, there’s a mixed-metal layer sandwiched in there too, where I used clay containing small, leftover scraps of copper and bronze kneaded together: can you spot them? Click the photo if you want a larger image.) The piece was polished pretty well although, given the tools I have available, the only way I know to get it super-shiny would have also obliterated the slight waves between the layers, so I made a choice when to stop. I wanted to leave a bit of the natural variations between the alternating strips, and I’m happy with the slight satin finish overall.

After a good polishing, it’s almost impossible to distinguish the different metals. So I then used a product called Baldwin’s Patina to bring back the contrast between the polished metals. The copper should continue to darken, very slowly; the bronze may eventually age a bit too, but that should happen even more gradually.

The second photo, left, shows an all-copper piece I made several weeks later, another one of my “draped metal” designs. Can you tell I’m having fun with these?! It’s especially delightful when I work with Hadar’s copper clay, since that one has a texture that feels almost like silk: soft and luxurious to work with!

The draped portion has a very light, random, texture (from sandpaper). After being fired, it was given a light polishing (with those 3M radial bristle disks I’ve mentioned in some previous posts), and then left to age naturally (much as a copper penny will darken over time). At this point, the shiny ball elements do seem ever so slightly paler than the textured area. Overall, however, the piece has darkened more (more quickly) than has the smoother, patina-treated piece shown above. Go figure….

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Plan – Execute – Be Surprised…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/11/26

Another unplanned gap in posting here, sigh. I just did a couple of things that, I’m told, are not what others think of as typical for a grandmother. What can I say? So what if I went to visit the week before Thanksgiving? And spent part of the time helping the younger one with his statistics class? Between my schedule and theirs, my interests and theirs, it sure made sense to me.

For reasons not worth going into, however, on top of that there was also a bit of a problem with ‘net connections. I could get on, but it involved either various contortions (due to short cables instead of my usual wireless set-up) or tiny keyboard (on phone instead) rather than comfortable seating. So I just figured I’d take time to enjoy the people I was with, give thanks for that opportunity, and think about posting again after I got back to my own home. Even though, now, I’m into the crush of holiday-events, I’ll keep trying to find spare moments….

So, given those surprises, let me re-start with something else that surprised me.

Regular readers of this blog will have already seen the piece in the upper right of the first photo with this post (the one, in that photo, with the black cord). It contains a draped-disk of bronze positioned on a square of rose bronze. The other piece in that photo, in the lower left position and not yet hung from anything, includes a draped-disk of bronze positioned on a square of copper that I finished about a month later (just a few days before I headed out of town).

To summarize: both the draped disks are made from (regular) yellow bronze; the backing disks are made of either copper or (special) rose bronze. At first glance, all the colors seemed fairly close to each other: both yellow-bronzes looked the same, and the copper was pretty close in color to the rose bronze. There was just a tiny bit of “aging” visible on the older, all-bronze piece. I liked how both of them had turned out, so they were among the ones I packed up with chains, beads, stringing material, crimps, jump rings, clasps, plus of course a collection of tools, and headed south on my trip to spend time with “the kids.”

A day or so later, I took out the first one, and chose an assortment of items to hang it from. On multi-strand beading wire, I made little segments of some copper- and bronze-colored freshwater pearls, connected them with chain segments, added one of my hand-made bronze toggle clasps (embellished with a little coil of copper), and connected all the bits together. So far, so good.

The next day, I took out another assortment to work on. This time, I used bronze wire to build up little segments of goldstone beads, and connected them with bits of chain (different than I’d used the previous day). There were more events going on that day so, once I had what I thought was a good length of that, I went off to play.

On the third day, I took out the bronze on copper focal bead. I wasn’t particularly surprised that the copper had begun to “age” already, darkening more (much more quickly) than had the rose bronze piece. But I did find three surprises: (1) the yellow bronze on this piece had started to darken with a distinctly green-ish hue; (2) there were bits of copper near the draped dome that (I am guessing) must have alloyed with the bronze in that (to a sort of rose-bronze that had not been immediately apparent) and those areas were not aging as quickly, leaving them a bit lighter; and (3) that this difference (alloying?) was also visible on the flat side of the piece, where a huge “central’ area of the texture was slightly lighter too. Once I recovered from my surprise, I decided I was delighted with these changes. I finished assembling everything: two more pieces done and ready to be given the opportunity to go to new homes themselves.

As soon as I got back, these were among the pieces I delivered to the Sweetwater Art Center for their annual (and delightful) “h*oliday mART” show. If you’re in the area (they are in Sewickley, PA, just down the Ohio River a few miles from its beginning in Pittsburgh), do check it out; it’s one of my favorite local art shows each year. It will run from November 27 through December 4. (Well, actually, it opens with a preview party / fundraiser tonight, and I’ll be there!)

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It’s always something, isn’t it?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/11/12

Sorry I’ve appeared quiet here lately: It’s busy-season once again. Why do the peaks of show-prep and garden-season always coincide? Both spring and fall! Life is pretty full already, on an ongoing basis, but when the crunch-times hit, well….

Anyway, I’ve been busy, happily-busy but busy nonetheless, building up inventory in advance of the special holiday-sales season. And, as I mentioned in several previous posts, working in non-precious metals seems to ramp up the time-commitments even more, with extra time in clay prep, kiln-tending, post-fire finishing, and such.

Plus, there are always surprises. I was making a number of “focal beads” in a range of combinations of copper and various bronze formulations, and thinking about how I would hang them. So I decided to stock up on a few hand-made bronze toggle clasps while I was at it. Five are shown in the first photo with this post, above.

Basically, that’s what they looked like straight from the kiln. The more-metallic looking one (upper right) was given a quick polish (with one of the 3M radial bristle disks—if you want technical detail, ’twas the yellow one @ 80 grit) just to test whether it had sintered properly. I’ll get around to giving all of them a proper polishing as soon as I can.

But the thing about time and surprises and such is this: one of the five toggle bars I made to accompany those came out with a big crack. (See the lower-left piece in the second photo, which was enlarged a bit to show more detail.) And, of course, it did so in the last batch I’d planned to fire at the moment using the usual “bronze” schedule. (A copper load is ablaze as I write this, but bronze will melt at copper temperatures….)

The crack is mostly aesthetic. That is, there’s enough still holding that I’m not worried about its breaking. It’s just that I have to patch the crack — which will both make it look right and further strengthen it — and then refire the whole thing. Though that’ll mean hours-more of kiln-tending… Might as well sink time into making a few more piece, and fire them at the same time while I’m at it…. That, of course, is part of the “addiction” of working in this medium!

And then I’ll start assembling elements, deciding which clasps I want to go where, and polish and/or patina them as appropriate to where they’ll be going.

The re-fring is not a crisis. It’s just another one of the seemingly infinite “time sinks” this time of year. When I really want to be out in the lovely autumn light, playing in the gorgeous fallen leaves. Will I ever get far-enough ahead to manage something like that?

[Update: I just added the “oops” tag I’d oops-ily omitted from the original post.]

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What constitutes a “fair” price? (part 2 of 3)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/10/26

In Part 1 of this series, I raised the issue of how to determine reasonable prices for the pieces I create, prices that appear consistent across various designs and media. This is getting trickier as I have added materials such as bronze, copper, and steel to my repertoire, and thus moved beyond the silver and, occasionally, gold that I started with. In that previous post, I talked about issues such as the time directly involved in various aspects of creation, including that devoted to preparation, firing, and finishing of each piece. In this one, I will address a number of business-side issues: they include some aspects of creation that are perhaps better grouped together under the category known as …

Overhead. Even though the bronze / copper / steel raw material itself costs less than silver, there are many other higher or additional cost involved in working with the non-precious metals. Here are just a few examples from “behind the scenes” with those:

  • Beyond how the firing requirements of these metals impact my time (discussed last time), each piece that size also puts 8 times the wear & tear on my kiln when compared to a similar piece made from fine silver. On top of that, other kiln-related factors like the time and temperature combinations and the oxygen-reduced atmospheres used with these clays will further shorten the expected lifetime of the kiln. While I do still expect the kiln to last for years, I also figure that I need to add a bit more to the price of each base-metal piece so that, when the time comes, I will be able to replace that relatively expensive piece of equipment earlier than might otherwise be expected.
  • Covering the cost of firing boxes and carbon will also add a little bit to each copper, bronze, and/or steel piece too; they are not needed with the precious metals.
  • Each time I use a new kind of box or of carbon, there’s both time and material involved in testing the firing schedule. I should somehow spread that (small but real) cost over a range of subsequent pieces too.
  • I’m still working out which tools to share across the various metals (meaning I have to spend time cleaning them thoroughly each time I switch between the precious and non-precious metals) versus which tools I use often enough that I should just buy another copy of the same one to use with the base metals (and clearly label each so I don’t get them confused, and have to spend time washing anyway). Either way, however, there are small portions of the total cost to be spread across a number of items I’ll make with them.
  • I ended up buying a small refrigerator for my studio too: while there is a nice little bonus in having that to keep some lunch and beverage items cold, I see it as overhead for these pieces because I need to freeze any pre-mixed clay that I don’t use in a single session.
  • For pieces that require extra finishing time, there is also the cost of extra items used for sanding and finishing since they will thus wear out much more quickly. That also adds a little more to the cost of each such item.

That’s not even a complete list of the extra costs, but it’s a good sample of them. Now, none of those involve earth-shattering amounts. But there are other forms of “overhead” to be accounted for with every piece made, regardless of medium, and then every time you add a few cents for this, and then a few more for that because you’re working with base metals, and then you apply the appropriate mark-up factors (e.g., gallery commissions) to the whole thing …. well, the sum-total of such additions simply runs up the final price of any artwork.

(It is probably worth noting that some price formulas treat various overhead costs in entirely different ways. Some approaches do exclude a lot of factors directly, on a theory that goes something like this: If, for example, Ethel’s studio rental is $X / month, while Fred’s studio costs half that and Lucy works out of her home, and they all do comparable work, does that automatically make Ethel’s products twice as valuable as Fred’s, and even Fred’s more valuable than Lucy’s? Instead, all three could charge an appropriate amount for their time, and then pay any rent out of those earnings. If Lucy and Fred are able to work in cheaper spaces than Ethel, then any money left over after paying the rent would result in a “bonus” for finding economical work-space. Even if I go that route, however, I still need to be sure I’m charging enough somehow to cover “overhead” costs out of earnings.)

But that’s enough from me now on overhead for now. Have you encountered any other important factors, ones that I’ve overlooked here, in working with base-metal clays, that you feel drive up their price? Stay tuned, too, because I’ve got one more post dancing around in my brain that addresses a few other issues related to all this. (The big question, as ever, is when I’ll find the time to get those ideas to move from my brain down to my fingers and onto a blog post! It’s likely to be at least a week, maybe more….)

[Update: Yes, well, that “maybe more” was right. I got sidetracked into a variety of other projects in a number of other areas. And, with metal clay, I’ve been trying to work out a number of new ideas. I’ll be discussing a few of those next. I do still plan to return to this topic but, when I didn’t finish it up in October, I’m thinking I may now just put it on hold until after the holiday season. More shortly….]

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What constitutes a “fair” price? (part 1 of 3)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/10/21

I sure like working with many of the “base metal” clays (various versions of copper, bronze, and steel). I like the results I can achieve. But I also struggle with how to price these: How do I find that balance point where customers think my prices are fair while I feel adequately compensated?

Now, I do understand the various “formulas” that makers might use to calculate the price for their work. I’m fine with numbers, whether straight from such a formula or even after “tweaking” them a bit. I can figure the cost of the materials, a price for my time and/or an amount for general overhead (rent, insurance, equipment, consumables, etc.), plus a factor for the retail side (to cover commission to a gallery, entry costs for shows, etc.). I will price a number of pieces, sort them by price, compare that to recent history of items that have sold or remain unsold, and look to see if anything seems out of line. I may adjust individual items up or down a small amount: I’ll then bring in a bit more or less on some individual pieces but, overall, I want prices to look both consistent and reasonable.

I have been getting some very positive responses to the look of pieces I’ve made this year in copper, yellow- and rose-bronze, and steel. But a few people have indicated that they would expect those to be very inexpensive, because of the material. I try to explain that the price includes factors for both material and time, and that the time for design and basic construction does not go down for a unique “art jewelry” piece just because the metal itself costs less. At that point, I’ll try to steer the discussion away from price and more into the artistry involved in various pieces.

But, really, there’s more to it even than that, things I don’t tend to go into with a typical customer. (I may cheerfully offer something like, “You’d be welcome to take one of my workshops, and learn what all is involved! This material is relatively easy to work with, and fun, and you’ll see how making a piece can take a number of hours. Give it a try!” If that gets a positive response, then I may add a few more details: “a minute or so of free lesson right now!” Though I aim to keep that light and non-technical, I may point out something like the extra steps it takes to combine several metals in a single piece.) Still, I find myself wanting to think through a bit of what else is involved, to get a better grasp on it myself. I figure I can share some of those details here … and welcome your comments!

Once I’ve figured out what seem to be the most important factors, I can try to figure out how to distill those down for a short response to a potential buyer. In this post, I plan to address prep time, firing time, and finishing time. In a day or two or three, I’ll add a second post looking at overhead costs; and finally (it may take me a bit longer to get to that one) I hope to post about some other factors, like learning curves, brand variations and, perhaps, a few other issues.

Preparation Time. I really like working with Hadar’s delightful clays. Each of those comes as a powder that must be mixed with water before you can use it. This is not difficult, but it takes some time. How much to mix? If you don’t mix enough for a particular session, then you have to take the time to stop and mix up more. So it seems better to mix up a bit more than you think you will need (although you then have to find a way to store the excess, which I’ll address in my next post, on overhead costs). That mixing-time adds to what you have to include in the time it took to make each individual piece: it doesn’t take a lot of extra time, but there is enough to count.

Firing Time. This is probably the biggest issue. Together, those four rose bronze pieces I posted about last week “filled” the firing box in my kiln. Because I need not worry about creating an oxygen-reduced atmosphere when I fire precious metals, had I made silver pieces the same size I could have fit at least four times as many into a single firing. (I could have fit at least twice as many on a kiln shelf (probably more!), and I certainly could have fired two shelves at a time.) And, since these clays must be fired twice, that means I could have fired thirty or more silver pieces in the time it took me to fire those four bronze ones!

(And, this particular issue gets magnified even more when you consider the “overhead” issues involved in all the extra firing. I’ll discuss that further in part 2.)

Finishing Time. Some designs (e.g., inlays and mokume gane effect) are very interesting to see and lots of fun to make, but do require that a lot of time and effort be expended on post-fire polishing to come out looking really great. Other styles (e.g., basic textures) are more comparable in the time they take to finish across all the different products (precious and non-precious metals alike). Still others, however, seem to come out somewhere in between (e.g., various “draped” pieces), and I’m still exploring how best to approach building those so that they are appealing to look at yet not way out on the difficult end of the scale to finish.

Those three aspects are probably the easiest to address, in very simple terms, concerning “hidden factors” in the price of a product. In subsequent posts, I’ll outline a few others. As ever, I welcome comments from fellow artists, students, customers, and other readers of this blog….

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Trying Rose Bronze (Part 4 of 4 … for now, at least)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/10/15

Before I end this series of posts about rose bronze, I’ll note the one major lesson learned (or, more accurately, re-learned) while working with that form of metal clay for the very first time:

Precious Metal Clays (silver, gold) and Non-precious ones (bronze, copper, steel) differ in how they dry! I can’t quantify the difference, but it’s there, mixed in with a number of related factors. With silver, for example, I will often just let pieces air-dry. I will have several pieces under construction at once so, while one is drying, I’ll work on others. If I want to finish a particular piece more quickly, I’ll put it in dehydrator. (I have a very old Excalibur that I use in my studio. For workshops elsewhere, I cart around a hairdryer and a cardboard box with a hole for the dryer nozzle.) I have several mug warmers, but rarely use them.

With non-precious metals, “the word” is that they may not sinter as well if they’ve been air-dried: It’s best to dry them as quickly as possible. When Hadar was here last March, we did use mug warmers in that workshop. I’ve done that with other pieces made since then too: not a deliberate choice, but more because I was rearranging furniture in my studio and didn’t have a good place for the dehydrator during the stretch when I made a lot of other bronze and copper pieces. With these, however, I just stuck them into the dehydrator, like I do with silver I want to dry quickly. Wrong!!! ‘Tis best to keep this stuff right in front of you, on a mug warmer, so you can flip them over frequently to avoid warping. (Silver may warp too, but there’s a difference: either it takes a bit longer to happen, such that it’s easier for me to catch before it gets really bad, or else I somehow work more quickly with the product, such that I’m setting a new piece off to dry and thus checking on previous ones more quickly. I am tempted to believe it’s the former but, since before this I never thought to time it all, I can’t rule out the latter.)

I had to apply some serious repair techniques to several of these, to restore flat surfaces that had warped so much that elements I’d planned to pair up and attach together no longer fit snugly against each other. It wasn’t that difficult to do, but having to re-moisten the warped surfaces and press them between two flat surfaces did take up both time and workspace area that could have been used more productively.

Hadar does say that flat pieces are the most likely to warp while drying but, in this case, even the simple domed piece (lower left) warped slightly out of round. I did not try to repair that. I decided that, by sheer luck, that piece looked fine even if it is slightly oval. But I’ll have to pay more attention to domed pieces in the future too, because there are times when that will matter.

Still, I think the all turned out fine in the end and I had lots of fun making these pieces. Plus, working on them helped to generate some other ideas I want to try out with these clays too. As ever, the question remains: how to find the time to make them! Please stay tuned for reports on that….

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Trying Rose Bronze (Part 3 of 4)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/10/14

So far, I’ve polished five of the eight sides, plus just the edge of a sixth. I may or may not polish the remaining three.

The thing about polishing is that it removes all the really vivid coloring that often comes out during the firing. And, although you can still see a bit of contrast between the yellow- and rose-bronze colors, even that is no longer anything like the difference that was there before the pieces were fired. But polishing does give that more-expected “metal” look to the pieces. I like the result of polishing, but I also like the look from not polishing absolutely everything. What about you?

The one thing that is tempting me to polish at least part of the double-drape piece in the upper right position is to check its color. (Or, I could just wait and check this with some other pieces later on.) Because it seems that the “rose” of the domed circle (lower left), as shown on its one fully-polished side, is darker than the “rose” of the two that have some yellow bronze elements in addition to ones in rose bronze (upper left and lower right). Did the addition of the yellow bronze lead to that? Or is it, at this point, just a spurious correlation from insufficient data?

Time will tell, I guess: How might the color of these pieces change over time? Will I see the same effect in future pieces of pure rose bronze, of rose with yellow bronze, of rose bronze with copper, etc.? What if I made several more “pairs” of pieces, with half having different “color” elements attached as I’ve done here, and the other half with elements attached (perhaps riveted?) together after firing? Hmmm, thinking about how to test that has prompted a few new designs entirely in my mind.

That’ll take me a while to get to. In the meantime, I’ll finish this series shortly, with one more post where I’ll share some notes to myself about what I want to remember from the making of these pieces.

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Trying Rose Bronze (Part 2 of 4)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/10/13

Returning to the same four pieces I introduced in my last post, the photos here show what they looked like straight from the kiln. All the colors, from the vivid yellow and rose ones to the charred black, are simply what the kiln chose to give me.

Perhaps I should add that the “charred” black is just a “color” — the texture of the metal itself held up just fine.

Notice that, at this point, only the flat side of the square one (lower right in the second photo) really seems to show that I used two different colors of bronze.

The other thing I notice is that the “convex” sides are, in general, darker than the “other” sides. When placed in the firing box, I just happened to position them so all the convex sides faced up (i.e., like the first photo in each pair that I’m using with the posts in this series). At this point, I suspect that positioning, not doming, is the cause of that darkening, but it’s something I’ll try to remember to keep checking in the future.

After taking those photos, it was time to go do some post-fire polishing. I’ll show the results from that shortly….

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