Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘design’

Combining Inspirations

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/04/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Softly Draping Hard Metals

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/05/25

I have to admit something: I love “draping” metal clay! The clay is so soft and pliable, and the end results are so satisfying!

I am impressed with many of the effects that can be obtained via various “metalsmithing” techniques, but this draping is just sooo different from working with “solid” metal (sheet, wire, etc.). Yes, there are a lot of little “tricks” involved in successfully draping a mix of powdered metal, binders, and water, but it still is a relatively easy process for achieving a look that is much more difficult to achieve via any methods used with, say, sheet metal.

All the photos in this particular post were made with Hadar’s new-ish Friendly Bronze metal clay powder. At one point or another, I’ve draped every clay I’ve ever tried: every brand, every metal, etc. (OK, no, I haven’t done this with gold. It should work, but I don’t feel I can afford to use gold for anything this big. Of course, if you can afford it, I’d be absolutely thrilled to “drape” a gold piece for you on commission!) But all the different brands of silvers, coppers, bronzes, steels: yes! I’ve draped those.

In fact, there’s one very-special thing I do with draping that I teach in my metal clay workshops. Yes, while I do share a lot here on the blog, there’s even more that happens in person! You see, this little post is not only about draping metal clay. It’s also a little bit about workshops. (My plan is to mention workshops a few times, in this and several other posts over the next few months, then tie that together with one specifically about classes and workshops, both ones I offer myself and those offered by others.)

Anyway, the two draped oblong shapes are ones that I made in advance of a recent workshop. They were fun to make. I fired them both before the class; they ended up being about 37 mm long (excluding bail) and 25 mm wide. The idea was for me to have finished polishing one completely, and use the other one in my demonstration illustrating some techniques (and potential issues) in polishing such drapings. They also served to illustrate two of the many different bail-mechanisms that can be used for hanging the piece.

The long and narrow piece was begun during the in-class demo. It illustrates a different kind of draping, and a different kind of bail structure, both of which are harder to describe (but still easy to show) compared to the first two (oblong) pieces. It’s 66 mm long by 24 mm wide, and contains a little over 24 grams of metal.

The last photo shows two sides of a fourth piece. Also constructed mostly during in-class demos, it’s the biggest of this lot: 45 mm high by 56 mm wide. It weighs a little over 33 grams (including a CZ on each side, but excluding all the chain on which it’s hung). While I was manipulating it in class, we talked about things like overall size and weight versus maneuverability and polishing constraints. (You may notice this piece has a separate backing, while the two oblong ones do not, and the longer-narrower piece folds over on itself.)

Have you tried draping metal clay yet? If so, please leave a note about it in the comments!

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Wrapping Up One Year and Opening the Next…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/01

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s time to write my fifth New Year’s Day post.

A while ago, I wrote a piece where I said that sometimes I compare beading to framing. That is, some 2-d artists offer a mix, where some pieces are “basic” ones and others have been “framed.” So the buyer has a choice: they can take the piece home and hang it plainly, or they can add their own framing. Or they can buy an already-framed piece. And I tend to offer pendants, for example, where most of them are on a plain cord so you can wear them but let the unique, hand-crafted piece itself be the focus, or you can take it home and add your own fancier chain or even string it with some beads you have. Or I have a few that I do hang in other ways, so that is an option for people who prefer that.

I got to thinking about that again, in a slightly different way, the past few weeks. ‘Tis the season for wrapping and unwrapping gifts, and for wrapping up one year and unwrapping the next. With this post are photos of a small sample of pieces I made in the process of wrapping up 2013, as I prepare to offer them in opening up 2014 … as objects of art themselves at first and, until they find new homes, as samples for a new workshop series that’s under development. For some reason, these three told me they didn’t want to be hung simply but, instead, preferred to be wrapped up with ribbons or other forms of decoration.

The “sometimes I compare beading to wrapping” analogy hit me as I hung the first piece illustrating this post (above) a hollow bronze “box” accented with copper, rose bronze, and yellow bronze. I just felt it needed to go on the collection of ribbons shown in the photo. (And the inset confirms that, yes, I’m still making reversible pieces.) With all the gift-wrapping that goes on this time of year, I felt that those ribbons wrapped up the “box” in a way that still kept the focus on the special bronze element. You could choose to take it home and hang it some other way, if you wanted, but it’s nicely wrapped just as it is.

With the second piece (left) as I made the hollow “draped” pendant, I just knew it was one of the pieces that I’d want to hang some other way, so I made a toggle clasp to match it. Then I hung the main bead on a piece of bronze wire, with some tiger eye beads that seemed to go with its coloring, plus a few spacer beads (mostly to protect the tiger eyes from the ends of the wire wraps), and then used some brass chain between all that and the clasp.

With the third piece, a hollow bead then “wrapped” in several different textured layers, I went even further. This time I added jasper, petrified wood, and garnet beads, linked together with bronze wire, plus a bit of brass chain (not shown here) near the lobster clasp I used as a closure.

Three different ways of “wrapping” a piece up in a somewhat decorative fashion. I hope those who wear these pieces (or even just view their photos) will appreciate the original bronze “focal” beads as well as the way each one has been wrapped up for them to wear. As to the workshops, I hope to have that schedule posted (at least in draft form) within a week.

In the meantime though, I still have a bit more New Year celebrating to do. Here’s wishing you a happy and productive 2014!

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Some Thoughts on Finishing: Design Considerations!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/10/07

Continuing thoughts from yesterday’s post, where I said I was prompted to write some notes by recent comments about tumbling on the Metal Clay group on Yahoo, here I am going to try to make a few points about the intersection between design and finishing that I’ll illustrate with some photos of pieces I was making as I was coming to grips with some of these concepts myself. I apologize for the quality of some of the photos; while the last one was taken recently, the first five were all taken years before I even thought about starting this blog.

The lentil bead, shown to the right, is the very first piece I ever made using metal clay techniques! At that point, I was focused mostly on the mechanics of construction. While not ignored completely, design was really low on my priority list. I just wanted to make something that worked. This one was tumbled by my first instructor in her rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot. I was perfectly happy with its all-over shine. Well, to be honest, I was utterly thrilled to have made something that could appear that evenly shiny! I did add a slight liver of sulphur (LOS) patina to help emphasize the textured design.

After that, I went on to try making more pieces myself. In general, they had an overall texture of some sort or another, with embellishments or impressions or openings added to that. I tried constructing a variety of shapes. Eventually, I decided to try making a small “pillow” shaped bead, and my first attempt at that is shown in the pair of photos to the left. The top image shows the piece, with its just-fired look straight from the kiln. By the time I tried this, a friend had found a small kids rock tumbler that we’d appropriated for use with tiny fine-silver loads.

Now, the thing about this pillow bead is that, although there is a bit of a textured design on it, much of its surface is just plain smooth. And shot polishes up a piece by banging on it. The bangs are very slight (I’ll say more about this in my next post, on work hardening) and, while the results of those bangs really are not very obvious in highly textured areas of metal, they seem much more obvious on a large smooth surface. I don’t know: could this be why some people report tumbling their silver for 24 hours or more?! The instructions for the rotary tumbler I now have (see my last post, towards the bottom) say that loads should be done in two hours. Back when I was trying to polish this piece, I think I probably ended up running it for 3 hours or a bit more (checking its progress periodically) and it did get better with more time. But, at that point, I decided it had been beaten up enough. Though there is nothing terribly wrong with the results (click on the photo to get a bigger version that may (or, sigh, may not) make this clearer), it just does not look quite as even as I had gone to great pains to make it. And the unevenness did not jump out at me when it was in the kiln-white stage that I so happily noted (with some white-balance error on the camera…) before I tried to tumble it.

All of which taught me that, while tumbling can be great for some surfaces, it’s not necessarily great for every surface.

So, when I fired the next pillow bead I tried, I did not just plop it into a tumbler. I simply checked that it looked OK out of the kiln, and carefully set it aside. In a couple months, I’d be going to a PMC Guild conference, and I was signed up to take a pre-conference class. I decided I’d take this piece with me, and ask the instructor for suggestions on how to finish it.

Lo and behold, for the class she had a magnetic pin polisher for us to use! When I told her what I was hoping to be able to achieve for this piece, she suggested that tool immediately.

Here’s the thing: with a rotary tumbler, you put pieces in and then check on them periodically. After a couple of hours, in general, they appear done. Until they are done, they are simply not-done. It’s hard to describe, but easy to see. I think that what I’m seeing is that the shot keeps banging on the piece until it’s all evenly shiny; when it’s not done, it’s just not yet even. But with the magnetic pin polisher, pieces go through states. It goes from kiln-white to gray to brushed/satin to reasonably smooth to shiny. Oh, and it does that quickly: 10 to 15 minutes usually gets a piece through the entire cycle! You can just take a piece out whenever it’s reached the stage you like. You can leave it like that, or move on to hand tools (e.g., a flexshaft) to further finish select areas. The creative possibilities are thus multiplied!

So, for my second pillow piece (shown, right, both sides), I took the piece out when it had reached a nicely polished but still somewhat satin-y stage. I then applied a patina with Liver of Sulphur: I didn’t really care what specific color I’d achieve (knowing that would change over time anyways), but what I did want was to “help the design to pop” from the contrast. On the bamboo side, I just wiped the patina off the high points with a Sunshine cloth, which pretty much preserved the satin finish overall. That was my goal: to give it a look that corresponded to my memory of misty mountainside bamboo gardens from when I’d visited China (in the late 1980s). On the birdcage side, I attacked the high / smooth areas with a Pro Polish pad, which did result in a slightly more polished, shinier, finish while leaving a rougher surface in the hollows. That kind of variation is exactly what I wanted.

I think that sort of variation is reasonably visible in that pillow-piece photo. I’m not so sure it’s as clear in the lentil bead shown next, to the left, but I’ll still try to describe what I see in it. At that point, I had moved on to exploring the construction of hollow beads with openings in them, varying the size and location of those. Some pieces had little gems inside, others had little textured embellishments. This one simply had a nice, smooth disk. (‘Twas a fluke that resulted from the design I’d pressed into the other side, but I decided I liked it.) What I then wanted was for the inside to end up with a satin sort of look. If I’d put it into a rotary tumbler, first of all, that central disk would have ended up all very shiny but, beyond that, I could not be sure that the shot would be able to polish all the way to the edges inside and that difference might be visible through an opening that large. Again, this is a case where the magnetic pin polisher came to my rescue on the design side! I put the piece in it for (I did not keep notes but assume it was about) 8 to 10 minutes. Once I’d taken it out and rinsed it off, I continued to polish the high points on the outside by hand, using a stainless steel burnisher of some sort (it’s been a while now: I think I was still using stainless steel cutlery at that point, though I may have gotten my first actual burnisher by then).

Similarly, with my biggest-ever pillow bead, with one side shown to the right, I did not want all of it all shiny either. I’ve seen a number of pieces made by others using this same texture, and what I wanted for it involved having more contrast between the peaks and the valleys. Magnetic pin polisher to the rescue again! The whole piece was finished to a brushed look, then I went after the peaks and edges with a burnisher.

I know I had my first stainless steel one by the time I made this piece, because I do remember using that burnisher for setting the moonstone. Since I’m admitting all sorts of things here, I will also say that’s only the second stone I ever bezel-set. It was, in fact, almost my first. Until I had the thought that maybe, just maybe, I should try it first on a smaller piece. This “pillow” had been an experiment to see how big of a hollow piece I could make and have it not slump. This one did give ever such a tiny bit in the firing, but it did so in such a way that it really went “with the flow” and looks intentional. Whew! This was back before prices, of silver itself let alone the manufacturing mark-ups, started creeping up. Even then, risking something well over an ounce of silver on an experiment was an adventure! But (true to form, I guess), I digress, so….

Let me close with a more recent piece that is another example of how I see finishing and design to interact on so many levels. In the case of this bronze piece, left, the mini magnetic pin polisher would not have been a good option: its pins are so tiny, they’d have worked their way into the design in ways that would have been impossible to remove. But, even more than that, I just loved the coloration that the kiln-gods chose to give this piece on the flat side, the one with the butterfly. Though I don’t often try to preserve colors in my metal pieces, this was one where I really did think that was worth trying. Problem was, the kiln-color on the other side was sort of yucky. It really was calling out to be shined up. But, if I’d put it in my rotary tumbler, that would have affected the butterfly-side too, removing all the kiln-colors and leaving it just shiny-yellow. There’s no way I wanted that! So I took out my rotary tool and started working my way through various attachments on the curved side. This being bronze, I know I started with some radial bristle disks (yellow, red, blue). Since I hadn’t planned to write about that process (I put far more thought into the color on the other side!) I didn’t keep notes but I also know I didn’t do anything special. Which means that, after the radial bristles, I gave it another quick hit with either a silicone or a rubber polishing wheel (most likely, whichever happened to be closest to my hand at that moment or else, since this is a recent piece, I’d be more likely to remember).

But the reason I wanted to end this post with that piece, in particular, is because the thread in the group that started all this was from someone asking about tumbling her bronze because she was not getting the results she wanted from the burnishing technique she’d been using. I’ve not seen any of her results, so I’ve no clue whether or not she’d consider this acceptable or not. All I know is how happy I was with this particular result, myself, achieved without using any sort of tumbler.

There’s one more issue I’d like to address about tumbling. But I’m out of time now. That one will have to wait for tomorrow….

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Sometimes I compare beading to framing….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/08/06

Much of the time, on this blog, I show a piece when I’ve completed the cycle of converting it from the “raw” form (metal that feels like clay) into its “finished” state (hard metal). With earrings, of course, I’ll show those complete, meaning connected to earwires (or posts or clips or…); that is, ready to wear. But I often will post here photos of pendants in a very plain state: just sitting there or, at most, strung on a simple cord of some sort. In this context—that is, since this is a ‘blog that’s mostly about using metal clay techniques—that seems appropriate to me.

And, sometimes, I actually offer them for sale that way. Why? Well, to me, there’s a lot of “artistry” in that main piece. While I do hang pendants so that they are wearable immediately, I don’t see why I should force everyone to buy an expensive chain or other fancy decorations simply so they can own a piece of my art jewelry. What if they like the main piece but not the other doo-dads? What if they already have a wonderful chain or necklace that they think would complement my little piece of metal art? Many of my beading-friends see my simply-strung pieces as incomplete. While I understand that their artistry is in their beading, and appreciate it for what they can do, I just don’t think every piece needs that double-dose of artistry (both in the focal bead and in the hanging mechanism). It’s almost like I see myself as I view a print-maker, photographer, or other 2-D artist, for example, who offers a number of pieces simply matted. I’ve bought plenty of those over the years, and then framed them as I want (keeping or even changing the original matte board) so it will fit in where I want to hang it.

Of course, those same 2-D artists will also have a select number of items available that are not just matted, but also framed and ready to hang. I have bought a few of those (though, nowhere near as many as I have un-framed) and I do offer a few pendants hung on something a bit more elaborate. I try to do that in such a way that the beading or chain complements the focal piece without competing with it: trying to find the right balance between adding an interesting touch without going overboard. So I thought I’d wrap up my recent round of reporting on the “push” pendants, for the moment at least, by showing what I ended up doing with (adding to) a couple of those pieces.

In closing, I will ask: do you agree or disagree with my comparison of hanging pendants to framing pictures? Answers, and other comments, are welcome!

Posted in General Techniques | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Contrasting Textures in a Design

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/07/10

In my last post I said, about the design of a ring with a butterfly sort of camouflaged against some roses, “I know that the butterfly would stand out more from the flowers if I’d used textures with more contrast.” When I teach, I try to take a few sample pieces to illustrate such a statement, so I thought I’d post a couple of those here too.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I tend to make pieces I consider to be “reversible” ones. One side may well be more “striking” than the other but, even with those, I figure that there are days when a person may want a look that is more or less flashy. Both of the pieces illustrating this post are examples of the “other” side of a piece (so you may see them again at some point if / when I choose to talk about other aspects of their construction.). But both of them illustrate how a simple variation in the texture can help an embellishment to stand out.

The first piece, in bronze, shows a dragonfly with a simple “sandpaper” texture floating over a span of leaves and tendrils. In this case, the colors are simply from “the luck of the kiln” although, if I wanted, I could further differentiate the dragonfly foreground from the leafy background by polishing one and leaving the other untouched. (I’m actually still thinking about whether I may do that.)

The second piece, in fine silver, shows a butterfly with a “smooth” finish impressed into a span of cattails. The liver-of-sulphur (“LOS”) patina that gave me some nice blue edges also helps with the differentiation.

In both cases, the relative plainness of the insect shapes help them to stand out a bit from the deeper textures of the vegetation. Of course, one could also do this the other way ’round, say, with a highly-textured insect on a leaf-shape with just a bit of simple veining.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll make a few of those the next time I go on a pollinator-design binge.

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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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Another bar-pendant.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/19

This long rectangular piece developed over several sessions.

It started out as a piece I made during a workshop demonstration. First, I made a “backing” piece (I wish I knew of another commonly-accepted word for this because, as I’ll show shortly, in my quest to design fully-reversible pieces, the striped backing can certainly be worn facing the front…)

To that were added three textured squares that were the same width as that piece. Each was just a bit under 1/3 of its length. They were attached so as to leave just enough room at the top to add a simple, smooth, fold-over bail.

That was as far as I went in the classroom. I fired the piece along with those of the workshop participants, polished it, added some patina, and used it for a while as a “sample” piece I’d leave in other locations where I’d also get a “silver mosaics” workshop on the schedule. But, while I was fine with using it like that, for some reason it just never felt “done” to me.

Rummaging through my little bin of cabochons the other day, looking for a bit of red lace agate for another piece I was working on, I found myself digging through a few others I’d used recently that were still on top of the pile. Looking at the green aventurine and the little blue lab-grown spinels, for some reason I just thought of this piece.

When I next had a bit of time, I added bezel cups to each side of the piece, fired those into place, re-polished and re-did the patina, then set the stones.

Now, I do think it’s done. And, unlike the pieces I mentioned in my last post, I’m pretty sure that anyone looking at this one should get that it’s meant to be fully reversible.

Posted in General Techniques | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Another Basic Shape

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/02/07

Here’s another thought from a lesson-idea involving basic round shapes and other elements of design.

I made this one last summer.

Blossom Medallion

My intention had been to set the two circles, one inside the other, and then decorate the boundary between them.

Except, I was assembling it on a stormy evening, and the power went out. Somehow, I stuck my thumb down right inside the center circle, leaving a very neat thumbprint right on the pattern which still resulted in a rather messy look.

One thing I’ve learned (in some cases, the hard way), whenever I encounter a problem (in silver, or elsewhere in life), is that the best way to resolve an issue is often to look for a simple solution. Working and re-working can, if intended, be a fine approach. But that may not be so good when I find myself just trying to fix a problem.

In this case, when the lights came back on, I did not invest a lot of my own energy into fixing my earlier mistake. Instead, I just made the small disk that sits on top, applied it to simply cover the part I’d messed up, and added just a little bit of decoration to enhance that.

That is, rather than spend a lot of time fussing over the piece, here I just let go of my original idea, applied a simple fix, and then proceeded to make something else. I can always come back to my earlier plan some other time, at a moment when I can imagine it anew.

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Basic Shapes

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/02/02

I spent much of today trying to sort out spring teaching schedule; and it’s still not done.

Working with the products and tools is one aspect of the classes, but there are also questions of design. What is your goal? What look do you want to achieve? What message do you want to convey? How much attention do you want to draw?

And, thinking about that aspect of teaching brought to mind a couple of basic samples I made very early on:

Two Pendants with Plume Design

Both contain the same basic “artwork” in their textures. But one is round, and domed, while the other is oval, flat, and layered. Yes, there are many things one could to to “improve” either one, but the point of these two is just to start the discussion about comparing and contrasting two similar yet different executions of a very simple design.

As they now stand, which one appeals most to you? Why?

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