Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘fine silver’

“Nest” workshop follow-up: tiny is in!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/30

One of the questions on the evaluations I ask participants in my workshops to fill out is, “Please describe one of the best things about this class.” And one of the most common responses to that goes something like, “I could use your samples for inspiration but then, with your help, I was encouraged to make whatever I wanted!”

The photo with this post shows four pieces related to a class I taught last month. The three to the left of the pencil (included to indicate size) show three of the samples I brought with me. The piece to the far right was made by one of the students.

Silver "nests" class: 3 samples, 1 student piece.
The “nest” piece to the far left is the one that was included in the venue’s printed and online catalogs. But the description said that the techniques could be used to make other designs; participants would not be limited to that exact nest design. And I took several dozen others, showing lots of different ways to apply the techniques.

Reading left to right in this photo, the next piece shows one of those variations. It was a quick sample (done in a previous version of this class) as a demonstration of how to work “balls” (aka dots) into an existing design, how to create a spiral, and how to nestle that up against a dot-filled design. (In-class comment: Had I made that in my studio, instead of in a quick demonstration, I’m sure I would have domed the disk first before adding the embellishments. The flat disk is fine, and was quick to make for the demo, but in the design part of my workshops, I do bring pieces, like the one to the far left, to illustrate how even a little bit of dimensionality adds so much to a final product!)

The third piece was my smallest sample, showing how to fill a little nest inside a cut-out opening (rather than inside a nest from coils). It may be the second-smallest pendant-piece I’d ever made at that point. (I do make smaller pieces, but typically use those as earring components or as elements in larger designs, rather than on their own as pendants.)

I didn’t have time to set up a tripod and fiddle with camera settings, so I don’t have a decent photo of what everyone made (and even the bits farthest to the side on this one are slightly out of focus). But here’s what surprised me about the class: seven out of the total of fourteen pieces that students made in that class were smaller than my smallest sample! And the one in the photo I include here was the biggest of those!

Clearly, the students made what they wanted! I hope they were as happy with their pieces as I was with teaching them.

And I can go with the flow: one of the new workshops I’m now designing for the fall is tentatively called Tiny Is In!

Here’s hoping for a big turn-out for a making-tiny-pieces class! Full details should be available later in August.

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If at first you don’t succeed … create an alternative!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/03

There was an announcement for a Quilt Show at a local venue. (Which one may slip out elsewhere but, for the purposes of this post, I don’t intend to name it… Though I had a few moments of frustration, this is not meant as a rant against them; it is simply intended to describe some aspects of the life of a working artist…)

Here’s something you need to know about that Quilt Show from the start: it was announced as being non-juried opportunity! Entries would be juried for awards, but not to get into the show in the first place. The call for artists said that they’d accept entries all day each day for a week, as long as they still had room to exhibit them.

So I started to design a quilt to enter. My “medium” these days is more often metal than fabric, and my “scale” is typically jewelry-size. I decided to make a quilt-pendant out of fine silver, using the process of sintering powdered metal (aka “metal clay”). I would “piece” samples from a selection of different textures for one side. The other side would be textured with a floral pattern that I would accent by setting a small, yellow CZ into the center of one of the flowers. The pendant would hang by the use of an integral bail: a sort of woven-fiber pattern shaped into a “tube” much as could be used for a fabric quilt displayed as a wall hanging. And, yes, all those elements were deliberately designed as a nod to more traditional quilting!

I hoped that a quilter, or quilt-lover, or quilter-lover would appreciate it during the show and decide to buy it… I also wanted to make a piece that, while it did incorporate a number of elements, wouldn’t be an exceptionally complicated piece to make: I didn’t have a lot of spare time to work on it but, even more importantly, I wanted to keep it to something that could be sold at an “affordable” price! I started it several weeks before the entry-week but, with one thing and another going on, hadn’t finished it as the deadline approached. With a lot of other things on my schedule for every day leading up to the opening of the drop-off time, my only option was to use the one and only day I’d been holding open as a “day to play” for at least a few hours. Instead, I spent all of that time, and more, playing with ways to complete the creation of my quilt piece, then firing it, polishing it, adding a patina, finding a chain that I thought would work well with it, taking a couple photographs, deciding how best to display it, giving it a name, filling out the entry-paperwork, etc. It ended up being a rather long day.

Yellow Flower Birthday Quilt (Both Sides)But, eventually, my Yellow Flower Birthday Quilt pendant was finished and ready to go on display!

First thing the next morning I packed it into a carrier bag and drove off to the Quilt Show venue. I looked around for a couple minutes, taking in pieces from the previous show that were coming down and noting that already a few entries were there for the new one. When the person handling all that was ready for me, she greeted me with a cheerful, “Oh, I didn’t know you made quilts too!”

I pulled the quilt-pendant out of my bag, smiled, and said, “I know this isn’t a traditional quilt, but I read the prospectus carefully, and it does not specify fabric. I hope you’ll take this silver quilt.”

“What? It doesn’t say anything?! That’s a lovely pendant, but please hold on.” She went to get a copy of the prospectus, and came back saying, “You’re right. We never thought to specify fiber as the medium because I don’t think we ever imagined anyone would enter any other kind of quilt.”

“Well,” I replied, “when you’re dealing with creative people, don’t you expect to be surprised? She laughed, with “Personally, I’d be happy to have it in the show, but I think I’d better check.”

The person she went off to check with wasn’t available. She sighed and said, “If you’re willing, you could just leave it with me, and I’ll let you know the final decision as soon as I can.” I said that was fine, we chatted for a moment about logisitics, and then she got a call. No, they wouldn’t accept my quilt. She was sorry but wanted to assure me that before they presented another quilt show, they’d take care to be more specific about their requirements…

The show is now on. Because I’m not naming them, I can’t promote it for them either. In this case, I figure that’s fair enough. I’ve been back, have seen the show, and am impressed with a number of the entries. I did also note that the showroom still has in place several of their usual display pedestals–empty–where it would have been easy to exhibit my quilt-piece on any one of them. But that’s all water under the bridge, as it were.

But … the story doesn’t end there!

This past Sunday was drop-off day for this summer’s Artists Choice show by the Pittsburgh Society of Artists (PSA). Technically, that is a non-juried show too, but one big difference is that this one is not open to everyone, just to artists who have already been juried into the PSA Guild in the first place. It’s always an interesting show. Entries may be from highly prolific artists who are always looking for show possibilities to those who only make a few pieces and seldom enter any shows other than this one. They may be new, experimental works that an artist is just putting out there to see the reaction, or pieces that just did not fit into the “guidelines” for some other show. Now do you see where this is going?!

Yes, my Quilt Show piece has been renamed as Help Me Get Over the Quilt Show Rejection “because It’s Silver, not Fiber”! and entered in the PSA show at the Brew House Association (at the corner of 21st and Mary Streets in Pittsburgh’s South Side flats area). That one runs from July 6 through August 3, 2018.

And I’m still hoping that a quilter, or quilt-lover, or quilter-lover will find it there and want to take it home!

If you’re in the area, please join me at the Opening Reception from 6 to 9 pm on Friday, July 6. (At this point, I’m also hoping to head over to the Closing Reception, same time & place, on August 3, but who knows what may change in my schedule over the next month!)

2018 PSA Artists Choice Exhibition

Regardless of where you’re reading this from, feel free to comment: Do you enter art shows? Why or why not? How do you handle it when a piece doesn’t get accepted? Or gets accepted but doesn’t sell there (especially if you let the announced theme of that show serve as a part of your inspiration for the piece!)?

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Nests … or should I call them Dots & Lines?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/06/21

ProjectSample_SilverNests“Nests” are a workshop-project that I teach every now and then. It’s scheduled again for next Friday, June 29, at the North Hills Art Center. Online registration is available. If you’re interested, please sign up asap: the last day you can register is this Friday, June 22. There are two sessions listed, for afternoon OR evening. Sign up for your preferred time, but please let someone (me or NHAC) know whether or not you’d be able to participate in the other one (in case one or the other ends up over- or under-subscribed).

Having gotten the “promo” stuff out of the way, I’ll get down to the reason I decided to write a whole blog post on it: I’ll use that workshop to talk a bit about how an instructor builds up the ideas for a class. Different teachers may look at theirs in different ways, but this is the approach I favor.

Some “consumer arts & crafts” classes are designed so that participants all make exactly the piece illustrated. Others use the image as a starting point to explore a process or technique. I tend to teach the latter, simply because those are the classes I enjoy taking the most. Of course, participants are always welcome to make something very close to the illustration; it’s just that I encourage exploration, experimentation, and creative variations too.

Unless noted otherwise, I try to design each workshop so it will be great for beginners with metal clay, serve as a refresher for those with limited experience, and offer specific techniques so you can continue to build both your repertoire and your local metal clay community with each new class.

We start with the basics of rolling and texturing clay, cutting it into an interesting shape, giving it some dimension, deciding how to hang it, and more. Students are welcome to make a pendant and / or a pair of earrings.

What varies across my classes is what else we do each time. In this one, we explore ways to hand-decorate those creations with silver strings and balls. So I call the class Lovely Silver Nests because it’s really easy, and fun, to shape those into an interesting “nest” design, as shown in the first photo with this post, my usual illustration for this class.

But once you know the process, you are free to arrange the strings and balls in various other patterns, instead of or in addition to nests! We also consider several ways to decorate the other side of each piece: with more strings and balls, by using more complex textures, by adding layered embellishments, and more. My goal is to help you create a unique piece of silver art that is reversible.

As usual, those with some previous experience with metal clay are welcome in this class too. My target audience here is not folks who’ve mastered the medium and seek advanced challenges (those, more advanced, sessions are usually just held with a small group in my studio); here, it is people who are curious and interested in learning more about manipulating metal clays in their creations. They may work right along with the beginners, perhaps finding time to create a more complex bail for hanging their piece, or they may add this style of decoration to a more complex project they’ve already mastered. I’m often surprised when folks tell me how hesitant they’ve been to try these specific techniques before this class, and I’m delighted when I see the designs they come up with as soon as they’ve learned how to follow a few specific steps to make this work.

TechniqueSamples_LinesAndDotsSo, while I call the class Lovely Silver Nests, it’s not a nest-project class. It’s a strings and balls techniques class. They can be used in so many ways: on some of the simplest pieces, on many very elaborate designs, and even for pieces constructed solely using them!

That’s why I’m also including in this post a quick snapshot with (a) one pair of basic earrings, and then (b) the back sides (or as I tend to think of them: the simpler, other sides) of three pendants. Even if you only know it as the “back” you can still know that there’s another little piece of art hidden back there!

Hmmm, I wonder if I should call this workshop Dots & Lines then, or leave it as Lovely Silver Nests? I’d love to see photos (or even just links to photos) of what other folks have done with their own dots & lines!

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Cranberry Artists Network Double Feature!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/10

Kepler's Dream Spring Thoughts on a Gray Day
Kepler’s Dream Spring Thoughts
on a Gray Day

I wrote about Kepler’s Dream on Thursday. On Friday, I learned that Spring Thoughts on a Gray Day had been accepted into a second Cranberry Artists Network event, their 2018 Spring Show this year with the theme of Drip, Drizzle & Splash (DDS).

Now, to be honest, I’d wanted to submit both these pieces for consideration for DDS. Except I was in California for the second half of February. How is that relevant? The invitation to submit one piece for the International Womens Show arrived while I was in the air on my way there: ’twas the first message I saw when I turned off “airplane mode” on my phone upon landing. And that is when I saw that the deadline for submission would be the day before I’d return. So, um, I was going to have to submit for that something I’d have ready before heading home! So, as I described in my March 8 post, I decided to enter Kepler’s Dream for that show.

I could still hold onto Spring Thoughts on a Gray Day for Drip, Drizzle & Splash! (And another big “thanks!” to Hadar Jacobson for the recent workshop and also for this photo.)

The prospectus for Drip, Drizzle & Splash, which allowed us to submit two pieces for consideration, had encouraged us to consider “the emergence of new beginnings and the way our weather and environment makes this happen.” While I didn’t have another piece ready that complemented Spring Thoughts, I did have a shamrock piece from my Urban Flowers series that I’d just made in December that seemed to fit the theme. So that was my second entry. And I was delighted to learn that my Metropolitan Shamrock has also been accepted! That show will be hung on the night of March 12 and officially open on March 13.

Urban Flowers: Metropolitan Shamrock
Metropolitan Shamrock

Both shows will be on display through April 5, 2018. There will be a public reception for both of them from 6 to 8 pm on the evening of March 22. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you there!

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SSmSmS: Studio Sessions (mostly) Second (mostly) Saturdays!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/01/13

Happy Winter!  Happy New Year!  Happy Second Saturday!

This is now the fourth of what has become a pattern: spending the Second Saturday of each month in my Studio. I’ve been considering whether to continue the pattern, at least for a while, and make it a more-or-less recurring event.

So, if you’d like to join me for a Studio Session on a Second Saturday in the future, please let me know! At this point, I do not plan to offer actual classes then but will open my studio to others for a small fee: If you already have some clue what you’re doing with metal clay, you’re welcome to just come over and use the facilities in my studio! I will plan to get some of my own making-work done those days too, and we can chat about it as we go. I will have a bit of clay available for purchase too: I don’t promise to maintain a complete stock of every variety, however, so if you want to purchase a particular one, do check with me in advance. (I can get most of them with a week’s notice; if you ask later, however, we may have to add your express shipping fee to what I’d normally charge.)

Since there is a certain amount of clean-up involved in switching between precious and base metal clays, on many Saturdays I am likely to restrict things to precious (silver) metals only. If there is enough interest in base metals, however, I’m happy to occasionally set a session specifically for those instead.

Note that I am qualifying this: I’m not really calling it SSSS, for Studio Sessions every Second Saturday. I’m thinking more along the lines of SSmSmS: Studio Sessions, mostly on a Saturday, and mostly on the Second one of the month.

I may have to shift a few of them to the Friday. (If Friday would, in general, be better for you, let me know. Most months I should be able to accommodate that!) Or maybe the subsequent Sunday. In the occasional months where the second Friday is ajacent to the Third Saturday, I may switch my in-studio time for one or the other so they are consecutive days.

I’ll try to remember to post date and time details each month as an event on the Convergent Series page on Facebook, at this link.

Why didn’t I post earlier about today? Well, I had already agreed to let a few folks come over and use my studio! Space is limited, so please PM me if you want to come in future months.


FYI, here’s one of the things I worked on today: adding bezel cups to a lentil bead. I’d taught a workshop on using fine silver metal clay to make lentil beads last month, at the Appalachian Rock Shop & Jewelry Emporium in Harmony, PA, and made this bead as part of my demonstration. I hadn’t added any embellishments to this particular bead, but fired it along with all the class pieces anyway, despite knowing it needed something! How about a gemstone? Which stone: either this sunstone or the sapphire would look nice with the texture I’d used. Which side: each one has an area where a little stone would fit. Hey, why not put one on each side?!! So I used PMC3 paste supplemented with a few drops of lavender oil to add a bezel cup to each side. And fired it today while working on other projects. This photo shows how I propped it up as the paste on both sides dried, along with the sunstone and sapphire I’ll add after I’m done with patina and polish:

ProjectSample_LentilBead_addingBezelCups_6046

As a teacher of metal clay techniques and processes, there is one thing I particularly like about that photo! Notice how the bead, having been fully sintered in a previous firing, has a sort of matte-white look, while the bezel cups, made from fine silver sheet metal, look more shiny like we typically imagine silver to be. Well, it is all fine silver. The “white” look is just a result of the way the silver crystals form as the powdered-metal pieces in the clay sinter into the solid-metal final form. (It is NOT, as some novices assume, some sort of outer crust that needs to be removed. It IS silver that we want to keep!) With polishing, the invisible-to-naked-eye peaks in the silver crystals will all get pushed over in one direction, and only then will we be able to see the shine that we normally associate with silver. I’ll try to remember to post a picture of this piece once I’ve finished it. (Though I have several others I must finish first….so this one may have to wait until my next Second Saturday Studio Session, in February…!)

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A few final pieces from 2017…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/12/21

Whenever I walked into my studio last week, I passed lots of red and green Christmas decorations throughout the building.

Urban Flower: Lucky Shamrock (Four-leaf Clover)As I sat down with some silver clay and a small box of dichroic glass cabs, I think that decor is what lead me to be drawn to several green pieces.

With over half of my studio turned into a show-room, and only one “holiday” show left after I’d have time to fire and finish anything I made between visitors, I had to work simple.

But then my maker’s-sales brain kicked in and I picked up those green cabs and used them in … shamrocks! Three fine silver pendants for spring.

And the “lucky” four-leaf one, with a “spring green” piece of glass, has already been purchased! Knowing that it will age slowly over time, the customer wanted it like this, without any patina. I managed to grab this quick photograph while the buyer selected a chain to go with it. The photo shows a sterling rolo chain though it went out the door on (what I do agree was a better choice for this particular texture) a foxtail style chain.

Urban Flowers: Two ShamrocksFor those interested in technical details, all three of these were made with PMC Plus and PMC Flex. Why those clays? I’d taught a lentil-bead class last week in which we used Plus, and I had a lot left from a big packet I’d opened there, so I used that for the backing pieces, the leaves, and the bails. To be sure those were fully sintered, that much was fired at full time & temperature: nominally, that’s 1650°F for two hours. (I say nominally because, since my kiln fires about 50° hot, I set it to 1600 … which means it should have fired at about 1650… And I did hold it for two hours.) That gives all the “structural” elements the maximum strength possible for that particular silver formula, even though it would have been way too hot for the glass.

The next day I made the “bezel” elements to surround each glass piece and hold those in place from the top. I used PMC Flex for that. I could’ve used PMC3 or Art Clay 650 or any of the “low-fire” fine silver formulas but, again, the Flex is what I had handy, so that’s what I used. The point here is that I needed a clay that would reliably sinter at a low-enough temperature that I could fire the glass in place! Clay fired down at “glass” temperatures might not be quite strong enough for the leaves (that hang off to the side) or the bail in back (from which the piece is hung when worn), but with a good, strong backing, the use of a lower sintering temperature should be fine for just holding the glass onto strong backing pieces. I used a four-segment program that experience has shown to provide good strength to the silver bezel while keeping the glass happy.

I did choose to add a patina as I finished polishing these two after their second firing. And, if you’re interested in a few notes I wrote about using a mix of sterling and fine silvers in this sort of design, feel free to check out my post from October of last year.

Even though these designs reflect the shape of shamrock (young clover) leaves, because of the textures I used and the glass centers, I’m calling them part of my Urban Flowers series. I never claimed that my urban flowers were going to be biologically correct representations of particular species, more that the plants would serve as “inspiration” for those pieces.

In some ways that concept also fits with the colored glass ornaments I make during the summer (when I can work outdoors). Those are designed with a double-loop on the top of the ornament and a flat bottom to the glass bases: they can hang on your Christmas tree if you want and then, for the rest of the year, you can set them on a table or desk and use them ho hold whatever kind of note or photograph or other reminder that you want!
2015_11_FiveCardHolders_OneGearBusinessCard_PB241207
Similarly, I hope that these shamrock pendants fit both with the green fir / pine / spruce decorations during winter holidays, and can continue being worn to reflect the natural world as spring returns! Or maybe the heart-shaped leaves will even warm someone’s heart in time for Valentine’s Day?! Regardless of the “connection” made, I do hope the rest of these will soon find good, new homes!

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NHAC 2017 Fall Members Show

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/09/08

I’m delighted to report that I have three pieces in the current Members Show at the North Hills Art Center! The pieces were hung as they were accepted last week, but the official “opening” of the show is Saturday, September 9, from 7 to 9 pm, and runs through October 6.

As usual for NHAC, the majority of the entries are paintings. But when I dropped off my art jewelry, I did see fiber art, pottery, mixed media assemblages, and more too! A lot of the pieces were made by students of the center so, if you’re curious about that, this show can also give you an idea of what you might be able to learn in the classes there. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by to check it out! It would, of course, be great to see you at the opening on Saturday but, if you can’t make it then, do go whenever you can.

I’ve already said a few things about each of my entries, separately, in earlier blog or Facebook posts, but I thought I’d assemble a few thoughts on each of them together here. They are all available for purchase at the show.

GWV!

GWV: Give Women the Vote

If you look closely, you may notice that the flowers in this “rose bronze” bracelet are Green (nephrite jade), White (cubic zirconia), and Violet (amethyst). Embellishments in those colors were a code in Edwardian / Art Nouveau times for Give Women the Vote!

This piece was made before either of my other two in this show, but since then I’ve been holding on to it myself. This is the first time I’ve ever really considered putting it up for sale!

Night Moon

Night Moon (front & side views)

As one of the earlier pieces I made with EZ960 after its introduction in 2016, this was made as a class sample, to illustrate the draping/folding process. But it’s notable to me because it’s the first piece I made using only “scraps” from earlier projects. Obviously, that test was successful!

In draping, sometimes the material tells me the shape it wants to form, and that was definitely the case here! The title of Night Moon comes from how, once the piece was completely finished, it suddenly struck me how much it evoked thoughts of a particular night in June of 1988 (a truly wonderful summer!), when I was climbing (well, at that point, descending) Emeishan, one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China.

Keystone Wildflower

Urban Flower: Big Keystone (blue-green glass by Elise)

Yes, this is yet another piece from my Urban Flowers series! Like the earlier ones, this pendant was made using sterling (.960) silver for most of the piece, for strength, and in a separate step the dichroic glass cabochon was attached with fine (.999) silver because that form plays better with glass. It hangs on a sterling (.925) silver chain.

The dichro in this piece is a cabochon made by local glass artist, Elise McVeigh. It is also one of the priciest pieces I’ve had in a show in a good while: that is because, at something like 75 mm across, it is one of the largest pieces I’ve made in a good while too! And big uses a lot of silver, so the price simply reflects that. But Elise’s lovely glass is noticeably different from the other dichro cabs I’ve added to my earlier urban flowers, and I just thought it deserved to go into a “statement” piece! I hope it will find a new home with someone who agrees with me.

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“Instructors Show” at the North Hills Art Center

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/07/15

Wow! Another event in the North Hills! Since I only added the Norbth Hills Art Center (NHAC) to my set of teaching venues at the start of 2017, this month provides me with my first opportunity to participate in their annual “Instructor’s Show.”

This post will let you know about the opening of the show, which is, umm, today, Saturday, July 15, from 7 to 9 pm! That just happens to be a few days before I’ll manage to sort out a few specifics of my fall schedule but, as usual, I’ll add them to the bar down the right side of this blog in just a few weeks.

Now, if you’ve already taken a class with me, you probably know that most of them are single-session events: you complete the making of a piece during the class, I fire and tumble-polish it afterwards, and it is returned to the class site about a week later (I am specific about timing in each individual class, depending on my schedule, how much firing time is involved, expected road construction delays, etc.).

And I’ll be offering my two button classes (silver or bronze) exactly that way. In the silver-buttons class, we will make ones that you attach via holes in the surface of the buttons. In the bronze one, you will have the option of using holes or of adding a shank on the back!

Then, the other classes I have on NHAC’s fall schedule are a pair of multi-session, multi-project events: one each in silvers (both fine and sterling silver) and base metals (several bronze formulas and copper). We’ll start out with the basics and add new techniques as we go along. I will fire pieces between classes and bring them to the next session. About half the projects will be similar in the two versions although, with the different metals, the results will be very different. So if you choose to take both, you’ll be able to reinforce your skills in slightly different ways. The other half will be entirely different, chosen to take advantage of the differences among the metals. The base-metals course will have one additional session so we will have enough time to cover a few extra finishing techniques appropriate for those.

~~~~~~~~~~

Note:

I’d’ve sworn I’d queued up a post about this show, but it hasn’t appeared and I don’t see it now, so I must have dreamt that post!

Thus this last-minute re-do is short notice for the opening, but the show itself runs through July 28. I’m posting it from a train as I head off for some family-time this weekend. I hope to update it with photos for these classes, not the one from a different class I taught last year at the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh (just so there’d be something pretty with this post), once I get back and onto my main computer.

So if you are interested in any of those class ideas, feel free to check back for updates, and let me know if you have any questions or other requests. What’s in this instructors show is what I’ll be teaching at NHAC this fall, but I’m still working on my schedule for south and east of the city. I’ll be announcing the rest of my fall schedule in just a few weeks.

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Spring is coming, and more of my Urban Flowers are blooming!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/03/07

As I mentioned last October, I’ve been experimenting with different ways of incorporating glass into some of my pendants, while also trying to ensure that the process I use for converting (sintering) the clay-like substance I work with into a proper all-metal construction will yield results that are as strong as possible.

I’ve been having a lot of fun doing that: designing pieces, redesigning them when tests don’t work out as planned, and coming up with more ideas for continued explorations. And, now that spring is approaching, I’m delighted to be able to report that two of my experimental blooms will be allowed to sprout (i.e., have been accepted for display in) two upcoming art shows.

From Dark To Light (their Postcard and my Entry)The Cranberry Artist Network’s late-winter show actually opened last week, but the meet-the-artists reception will be tomorrow, March 8, from 6 to 8 pm. If you’re in the neighborhood, do stop by to see my five-petal flower (along the lines of a “cinquefoil”) with a silvery-blue glittery dicrhoic glass cabochon in the center.

On this particular piece, I decided to not try to emphasize the texures on the petals by adding a darker patina. They will darken with age slowly over time but, for this From Dark to Light show, I thought I’d let viewers consider the strong contrast between the darkness of the glass in the center and the bright-light color of the metal that surrounds it. The presentation of any sort of flower also fits the theme, as plants of various sorts begin to emerge in reaction to the increasing duration of light each day. Finally, the addition of a few little silver balls represent a flower’s pollen to remind us of the importance of pollinators for so much of what we appreciate being grown, whether for sustenance or simply for beauty.

One Night Stand (their Flyer and my Entry)A sort of companion to that is my “double shamrock” piece. It will be on display in a sort of companion show, called One Night Stand (take note: it runs for one night only!), at the Mars Area Public Library on (no joke!) April 1 at a special evening event that will run from 6 to 9 pm. They had in mind that their “art show” would include paintings, but I’m not the only one who submitted other media that was accepted so I’ll be interested to see what all makes it into the displays. I am a big believer in local libraries, so I really hope this show will be a success for them!

I chose to try to enter this piece because of the “companionships” I mentioned above. As with all my Urban Flowers, I know that this one does not accurately represent a shamrock. But when I looked at that lovely green and gold glass, I wanted to make something appropirately green for it. And, having just finished the “cinquefoil” I wanted to try a different mechanism for holding the glass in place … without making yet another cinquefoil. I was fairly happy with how it turned out. (Actually, I was very happy, except that I had to add a four-leaf clover design to the back to get everything as secure as I wanted, which looks great but increased the materials cost, and thus the price, a little more than I’d wanted.) I did add a bit of patina to this one, to help bring out the veining in the petals.

Given what I learned with these two, I’ve got several more in the works now. The latest ones have long, thin petals. Maybe I can get them out on display over the summer…!

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Silver Metal Clay on Pottery

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/02/22

For reasons I’ll explain at the end, here are a few examples of pottery I’ve made over the past few years to use in some of my early experiments in adding silver metal clay decorations to them.  Since I’m showing here my first experiments with various techniques, for those I chose to not risk my best pottery pieces and the decorations were deliberately kept very simple. But each of them does seem to have a little story to tell!

  1. I threw, bisqued, glazed, and fired these pieces.  The same electric kiln was used for both firings.  The relatively rough glaze was a deliberate choice … I then smushed some clay onto the surface and fired that with a creme brulee torch to sinter the silver.  For my first-ever attempts at these, I was happy with these results.
    Two Bowls with Fine Silver Silver
  2. I threw several pieces, cutting ridges into their outside surfaces. After bisque-firing those (in a different electric kiln), I glazed the inside and smushed silver clay onto the outer ridges, then fired those (in a gas kiln).  Most turned out wonderfully, and I’ve already sold all of those but the one shown here.  Part of the back of this one did break off. (I used the same glaze inside this one as on the piece in item #3, below.) The fault could have come from either a flaw in the pottery (perhaps I’d cut a ridge a little too deeply?) or because I’d applied the metal clay a bit thicker there (and the shrinkage as the binder burned off and it sintered was too much for the pottery clay), or even from both of those combined… I haven’t yet gotten around to trying to distinguish among those possibilities.
    Bowl with Fine Silver (glazed inside, silver outside)
  3. I threw, bisqued, glazed, and fired this piece.  (Those firings were done in the same electric / gas pattern as #2, above.)  Then I rolled out some “snakes” of a low-shrinkage silver metal clay and spread a tiny bit of overlay paste onto them (in the setting where I made this–not my own studio and I’d forgotten to take a tiny paintbrush for this step–that was far easier than applying paste to the pot). I pressed those onto the vase, and fired this piece yet a third time (and in yet a different electric kiln, a small one that another artist had for firing metal clay molds).  The clay shrank: the upper snake held at the ends but cracked open at roughly 1/4 of the way from one end; the lower one held along its length but pulled up into itself leaving a little smudge of silver paste at the end and at a few places along its side. The little “splats” of silver must have been a bit of clay/paste from my fingers as I was sticking it all together. I didn’t notice those until after the firing, but I really like that accidental result. Now I want to figure out a way to reliably recreate those, especially like the one above and to the right of the top snake!
    Pot with Fine Silver
  4. I threw this piece and bisque-fired it (in an electric kiln).  I applied glaze to the outside.  I rolled several “snakes” of a low-shrinkage metal clay, wet them on the bottom, and applied them in a “spray” pattern to the unglazed inside bottom and edge.  The piece was fired in a gas kiln.  When removed, the silver looked sintered and the patterns were all still intact.  The piece was immediately (i.e., still hot!) dropped into a newspaper-filled can, and covered.  (Those who know the process will recognize that as a “raku” firing!)
    Wide Bowl with Fine Silver (balled by raku)
    This outcome was my biggest surprise! The gas kiln did not over-fire the silver, but the fire from the raku-process did then get the inside of the can hot enough to completely melt the silver!  You may just be able to see some faint hints of where part of the pattern had been: tan spots where some of them were even show little trails of tiny silver balls.  But most of it pulled up into two balls in the center! (Another small bit from the edge must have just fallen off in the raku-can and disappeared as it was emptied out. That’s experimentation!) I was able to get a number of pieces with ball-decorations to survive the raku process (similar look to both #1 and #2 above) and turn out beautifully, but I have yet to figure out how to approach, in raku, designs like those that later developed from the technique I first tried with #3.
  5. While I’m sure that many readers with metal clay experience will have taken their clue from the size of the silver balls and snakes above, I will end with another little pot from that session.  The pencil is there to give you a sense of scale for all these pieces! And if you look carefully, you should be able to see the small (3 mm) clear cubic zirconia I’d set into the wet clay.  All the ones I made with those did survive all three firing steps (bisque and two-part raku).
    Green Crackle Pot with CZ
    While the previous items all show my very first attempt at each technique, this was my second try. The very first piece did have one very tiny crack just off to the side of the CZ, visible but with no obvious damage to the structure. That was probably due to my having used too-wet clay until I figured out that I could set CZs in stiffer clay. That bowl did have a great shape, and another artist really wanted to swap me some art-glass for it!

I’ve been playing around with miniature pottery, off and on, with and without such embellishments, for several years now. Though I have been offering my miniature pottery for sale at various shows, I haven’t taken the experimentation seriously enough to feel inclined to write much about it. (And I’m not teaching this, at least not yet, so I don’t have that inspiration for writing about it either…)

But I decided to post these examples after seeing some experimentation that Terry Kovalchik has been doing, and writing about, with painting silver clay paste onto pottery shards, and reading some of the reactions he’s gotten to that in the Metal Clay Now group on Facebook. (Metal Clay Now is a “closed” group, but readers of my blog who use Facebook are certainly welcome to ask to join it!)

While many of his results are superb (as usual!), Terry has reported some further breakage of the clay shards during the sintering process. But, like my #2 above, that could be from any or all of: a weak spot in the pottery (at initial construction or from whatever created the “shards”), the shrinkage of the silver clay (how thickly or how evenly it’s applied, exactly how it aligns with any weakness in the clay body), or any number of other little peculiarities. So I thought it was time for me to bring out a few of my explorations too, and maybe others will start to chime in with what they’ve tried and how it’s worked out for them.

If you are working with similar combinations, please leave a comment: I’d love to hear from you, see some of your results, and compare more notes!

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Four-week Intro Class: Deadline Extended!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/02/16

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

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

intro class samplesJust register now! Right here!

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

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

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

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

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Yes, Trunk Shows contininue again on Sunday.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/17

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

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

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

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

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Wrapping Up 2016…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/01

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

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

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

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

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

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Exploring my “Urban Flowers” Series

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/10/17

This post is going to jump into the middle of a story about several different things I’ve been working on: adding a little bit of color to my creations by incorporating some glass (especially dichroic glass) and working with sterling silver metal clays.

Why start in the middle? Well, I really do miss writing about all the explorations I do in my studio. I haven’t been saying much about them lately because we still don’t have reliable internet access in the building … and I used to compose posts as I worked. You can probably imagine that, after a long day of working on explorations (and more), the last thing I want to do is go home and stay up for hours more writing from there. But it’s a gorgeous fall day and I suddenly decided to enjoy it by staying home this morning, sitting out on my back porch with a cup of tea, and writing about a piece I just finished on Friday.

I will provide a bit of background:

The second, or maybe it was the third, piece I ever made using metal clay incorporated a lovely, long, oval, pink glass bead, set with loops of syringe-clay to hold it in place. It was fun to do, but it took me a few more years before I got into adding glass on any sort of regular basis. About six or seven years ago, I went through a phase of using glass fairly often. Then I moved off in other directions, with what remained of my collection of glass pieces sitting in a corner of one of my stash-drawers. I’d acquire another bit of glass every now and then until, a few years later, I made a few more pieces using some of those, and taught it as the final project in a couple of private lessons and multi-session intensive workshops.

ProjectSample_Glass_SwirlGlassInFineSilverProbably the main reason I didn’t keep pushing with glass is because I’d felt limited to using PMC3 or Art Clay 650: those were the only metal clays that could reliably be fired with glass. Now, those are both fine metal clays: I have been quite happy using either one of them. But glass just isn’t happy at the 1650°F (900°C) for two hours that all fine silver clays require for the strongest sintering, even with those formulas. Although they will technically sinter at lower temperatures and shorter times, they still don’t get as dense, and thus won’t get as strong, as they could do at 1650°F for two hours. They do come out perfectly acceptable, and I hope people will treat any piece with glass somewhat gently … but I just like going for the strongest pieces possible.

Still, I do love glass. So this summer I made some more fine silver pieces with dichroic glass cabochons, called them class samples, and included that process in another four-day session I was scheduled to teach at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh. The first photo with this post shows one of the sample pieces I made for that class. While a couple of my samples used the same PMC3 and Art Clay 650 that I’d used in the past (mostly to refresh my memory of how I’d done it) this one and several others used PMC Flex. Flex is similar to PMC3 but it has a slightly longer working time (good for workshop students not yet comfortable enough with metal clays to work really fast) and it remains a bit flexible when dried (which makes it very useful for anyone fashioning the parts that capture and hold the glass). And, though there’s still the problem of not sintering to the maximum density possible, it does sinter reasonably well at temperatures where glass remains happy. So, for fine silver with glass, it seemed a good choice.

Urban Flower #7 (Blue Lagoon)Now, at last, on to the Urban Flowers explorations:

After I’d made those samples, on some of the hottest days this summer when I just didn’t feel like going out to work in my garden, I got to thinking about a possible new series of pieces, ones I’ve taken to calling my Urban Flowers. They are flower-like designs, but from my imagination. While they may be based on some actual flower varieties (and may or may not be named for their inspiration), I am not attempting to make biologically-accurate representations. They’re just a city-girl’s dreams. The textures come from urban life: wallpapers, flooring, construction debris, household objects, etc., and they feature glass (or, occasionally, something else that is commonly found in urban environments).

Urban Flower #5 (Purple Haze)I’d been happily exploring these designs, mostly using PMC Flex, while working on some other styles completely and, for those, using diy-960 clays (i.e., mixing PMC+, PMC3, PMC Flex, and/or Art Clay 650 with PMC Sterling clay).

And then CoolTools released EZ960. OK, I didn’t really need it, as I’d been doing fine with my various diy-960 combos, but why not give it a try? Soon after, both PMC and Art Clay released their own silver-rich sterlings (PMC One-Fire Sterling, a .960 formula, and Art Clay 950, where the number designation has switched from a minimum Celsius firing temperature to a Fine Silver percentage). I got some of each of those and started testing them too. At some point, I hope to find a chance to write about all that testing. For now, though, let’s stick to the Urban Flowers story.

While I do love the color of plain fine silver, I can also appreciate the gain in strength that it gets when a bit of copper is added to produce sterling silver. And, as noted above, I much prefer to produce pieces that are strong. The 950-960 formulas will be stronger than a 999 fine silver; they get you to almost as much strength as you can get in the great 900-925 alloys. Plus, they have the benefit that they are as easy to fire as the 999 clays (i.e., much easier than the 900-925 ones, where having more copper complicates the firing). So, yes, any 960 (diy or commercial product) will be a compromise, but still an excellent choice.

With one exception: the 950-960 clays need temps and times higher than glass can take without just melting.

But, d’oh, why didn’t I think of this before (even with the .999 fine silver clays!)? I work with base metal clays, and I do some pottery, and we’re talking about multiple firings to get many of those to work. So here’s the inspiration I had, and the first (simple) piece I made to test it out….

I made an Urban Flower base out of EZ960: the petals, the stem (if included), the bail on the back … everything but the glass and the bit that holds the glass in place. I fired all of that according to the schedule for 960, to achieve maximum strength. Afterwards, I positioned a glass cab, surrounded that with a .999 fine silver washer shape to contain it, made sure that was well-attached to the already-fired petals, and fired the whole thing again at a schedule that worked for just the “bezel” and the glass. After a bit of tumbling, polishing, and patina, voila! It may not be perfect, but I am really happy with this result! (Though both the silver and the glass are brighter in person than they look in this photo….)

Urban Flower No. 8 (Gold Cinquefoil)

What do you think?

I do still need to figure out a reasonable pricing schedule to accommodate the fact that I’m doing two firings, and that attaching the unfired clay to the fired metal can be a little trickier than attaching two unfired elements. Though that will add a small amount, in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be much. Once I’ve found time to make more to extend the series, and refined the process of doing it this way, I can see how the time works out and apply that even to my initial-trial pieces too. The only real problem with this approach is the way the two firings will affect trying to do this in a class … but it’s just another reason to offer multi-session workshops, rather than the quick one-shot ones, when including easy but still advanced topics.

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Carol’s Fall 2016 Workshops at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/23

To help my local reader or potential visitors with planning their metal clay adventures, here’s a summary of the next round of workshops I have on the schedule at the wonderful Artsmiths of Pittsburgh.  The link at the title for each one takes you to the registration service for it.

For the rest of September and on into October, I’ve chosen to offer a mix of classes where you can learn to create pieces that make a definite statement, or elements to use in more complex designs of your own.

  • Monday, September 26, Noon-5 pm: Sparkle-Dome: Make a Hollow, Reversible Pendant with Bling!
    As mentioned in my last post, “lentil” beads are always gorgeous, and now you can learn to make yours even more special by adding a sparkly cubic zirconia in a simple yet elegant way!
  • Sunday, October 2, 1-4pm: Wrap A Straw in Silver and See What Happens!
    Simple tools can be the best: We’ll texture some silver clay and explore different ways to wrap it around a straw. The end result will be a large, stunning “tube” pendant-bead … unless you’d prefer to make a whole little collection of smaller ones. (The latter make great earrings, but they also pair perfectly with the mini-beads from the October 11 class!)
  • Mini Lentil EarringsTuesday, October 11, Noon-5 pm: Mini-Beads: So Cute You Can’t Stop at Just One!
    Another session making lentil beads, this time learning some of the extra tricks for making little minitature ones! These are great for beaders, or earring-makers, of all sorts. Making these little beads is easy and addictive, and you will find so many different ways to use them. (Hint: they fit wonderfully with the little-tubes you could make in the session on October 2!)
  • Thursday, October 20, 6-9pm: Lovely Silver Nests
    Tiny silver balls are easy and fun to make. They’re a great way for beginners to get a sense of metal clay, and they’re a wonderful way for others to use up bits of clay that’s left at the end of a session. And once you have such a collection, one fun thing to do with them is to collect them into a little “nest” design. (Or, if you prefer, spread them along a coiled “track”!) Explore the possibilities.
  • SimplyStupendousThursday, October 27, 12-4 pm: Simply Stupendous Cylinders
    Whether or not you’ve ever made a tube bead before (which you could have done on October 2), this is the afternoon when you can practice making one or two more and learning how to close one end, which will let you hang them in any of several different ways. (The ones shown in the photo can rotate the whole way around!)

Then, in November, I’ve chosen to focus on sessions were you (yes, you, even if you are a total beginner at this!) can quickly make several simpler pieces … where the emphasis will be on making items you can give as gifts in the coming holiday season:

  • HowCharming_CS_CharmBraceletSaturday November 6, 1-4pm: How Charming!
    OK now, the Holiday Season will be approaching, and you’ll be thinking about gifts, won’t you? But why spend an afternoon shopping, when you can spend it making several adorable little silver charms, ones you can hang from a bracelet, zipper pull, fine chain, earwires, etc. They make wonderful gifts … if you can bear to part with them!
  • SoPrecious_FivePendantsThursday November 17, 6-9pm: So Precious!
    Once again geared for gift-giving, the idea behind this session is to make a very special pendant piece (or two, depending on how carried away you get with embellishing your first one!).

Beginners are welcome at all of these, while the projects are designed so that those with some previous metal clay experience are still likely to learn some new techniques with each one.

Note: the links on each session will open a new browser page where you can read a bit more about each class and register for the session. You may notice some minor discrepancies between what’s shown here and what’s there. Having tried (without success, for technical reasons not worth going into) to set up some the sessions I offer in my studio using the Eventbrite system, I have a LOT of sympathy for the several folks at Artsmiths who worked on setting up the registration pages there. It is not easy! The thing I will say is that the descriptions, date, time, price, etc., on the Eventbrite pages ARE correct. It’s just a few photographs that got mixed up, and a few titles that somehow got changed, from what’s shown above (here is what I submitted for these sessions). So … look at the titles, photos, and summaries here, then click the link and get the full description and registration information there. I hope to see you before autumn has passed!

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Metal Clay: how can beaders and fiber-folks use it too?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/05

What with all the ‘net-connection issues and photo-sharing dilemmas I’ve been going on about recently, I am waaaay behind in posting about upcoming workshops: sorry! I actually have a bakers-dozen on my schedule already, and I’ll write about the bulk of them as soon as I can. For now however: coming along soon are two metal clay workshops that are not my typical stand-alone jewelry-projects!

Funny thing is, I really didn’t get into this metal clay arena because I wanted to go off making pendants and earrings and bracelets and more. My original goal was simply to find a relatively easy way to make an array of different elements because I couldn’t find ones that I wanted to use in my other creations: bead caps and clasps for my bead-work, buttons for my fiber-work, etc. If you are anything like I was, you should know that my first two classes this month harken back to those beginnings!



Thursday Sept 8, 6-9pm,
Make Your Own Unique Silver Bead Caps
This one is especially for Beaders: Learn to make your own fine silver bead caps, designed to go perfectly with some of the favorite beads in your stash!
Thursday Sept 22, 6-9pm
Silver Button Originals!
This one is especially for Fiber-Artists of all sorts: Hand-made creations deserve hand-made buttons, don’t they?! Whether they will be functional or simply decorative, they might as well be your own hand-made sterling silver treats!

Click on the title of each workshop, above, and it should take you to a page where you can sign up for that particular session. Beginners are welcome! These are fun ways to add both decoration and value to your lovingly-made creations.

Along with my other ‘net- and photo-woes, however, for some reason the folks at Artsmiths who’ve been setting up those registration pages have been adding the sessions, then changing, fixing, and again changing … the names of my classes. Some are showing the names I gave them; others show something that does fit but is not what I was calling them. Who knows? Problem is, the session name shows up in the URL I need to use to add the links! Not to worry, though, I think I’ve (finally!) found a way to add reliable links above but, should they fail, you can also get to them either of these ways (these will require an extra click or two, but they should be more stable…):

I hope I’ll see you there! Then again, if you’re just learning about these now, and the notice is too short for you to make it work with your schedule, let me know!

  • I can find a time to schedule the Bead Caps one again, either at Artsmiths or at my studio. I’m also happy to do one in my studio on making your own toggle clasps: as soon as enough folks tell me they’re interested, I’ll email you about picking a date that will work for everyone.
  • And I plan to hold button-making sessions again when Indie Knit and Spin is on: we’ll be making the same sterling-silver-with-holes buttons on November 12 and, depending on interest, I’ll either repeat that one or lead a session on making shank-style buttons in bronze during their February 25, 2017, gathering. More on those, and other button-options, shortly.

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Summer Workshops Galore!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALSO / alternatively …

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

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Just one class this month, and it’s less than a week away!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/06/23

Where did June go?!!  OK, actually, I do know where it went and, now that some of my travels and adventures are over, I’ll relay some stories about that over the rest of this summer.  There’s also a story behind the earrings in this photo, and it will be coming shortly too.

But the important thing today is that these earrings were among a number of sample pieces I made for an upcoming workshop, and I really do need to do my part to get the word out about that now!

Late on the night when I had to get the class description in to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, I decided to call the class “Let’s Get Twisted”! The idea is that we will work with clay that remains somewhat flexible even after it has dried, and each person will be able to add some curled, twisted, or braided embellishments to their own uniquely textured pendant or earrings. Another thing about this class is that I think it’s a nice one for wire- or bead-workers, because you’ll be able to make a piece that lends itself nicely to further embellishments along those lines as well. (Artsmiths’ photo (at the link below) shows a couple more of the sample pieces for this class, and I’ll bring more that day.)

If you want to sign up for this session, here’s the link to do so: Let’s Get Twisted! Make a Silver Pendant or Earrings. Please sign up by this weekend to ensure that I will have enough to material for you!

This is a great introductory class for metal clay newbies! Those with some previous experience may be surprised at the working time of this clay! It will be offered on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 from 12:00 Noon to 3:00 pm.

Note: The clay we’ll be using for this class remains reasonably flexible when dry. The little spirals are best made before it is fully dry. Twists and braids can be done either before or after the clay has dried. For those who have heard of (or taken) my class where we actually tie little knots from dried clay, the material we’ll be using for this session is not that flexible. If you’d like me to offer that one again (it’s been several years since the last time!), please let me and/or Artsmiths know, and I’ll get it on the schedule!

Here’s hoping you are looking forward to what this summer will bring as much as I am!

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May 12, 18, and 21: More Workshops at Artsmiths!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/05/07

Happy Mothers Day weekend, everyone!

As I said in my last post in April, I sure had a great time teaching at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh last month, and I’m thrilled to have been invited back to offer more courses there this May! Here are the three that are on the calendar for this month. Clicking on each course title should take you to a page where you can read a bit more about the projects and, if you want, actually register for the various sessions.

  • Earring Extravaganza: An Introduction to Fine Silver Metal Clay! on Thursday, May 12, from 6 to 9 pm

    This will be the simplest, most fun, yet easy-going introduction to metal clay that’s possible! In three hours, each participant will create lovely, unique, art jewelry: fine silver (.999) earrings!

    There will be lots of options for texture, shape, and small embellishments, so everyone will come out with their own unique pieces. And, we’ll texture both sides, so each pair will be reversible!

    There will definitely be enough time and materials for each participant to make (at least!) two pairs of earrings … but, remember, since they’ll be reversible, it’ll almost be like getting four pairs from just this one class!

  • Reversible Hollow Silver Art Jewelry Pendant, on Wednesday, May 18, from 1 to 5:30 pm

    The very first piece I ever made using metal clay was one of these “lentil shape” beads, and it can be the first one you make too, if you want.

    Then again, even if you’ve been working with the stuff for a while, this project involves a few special techniques that are also applicable for a range of more “advanced” projects … which makes this a special (and easy) project on which to learn and begin practicing them.

    I find that lentil-beads always seem to be such fun to make: join us, if you can, and see for yourself!

  • Reversible Woven-Silver Art Jewelry Pendant (or Earrings), on Saturday, May 21, from 1 to 5:30 pm

    There’s a long story here, not worth going into but, although I’d hoped to offer this class last month, several situations conspired to prevent that. So we simply rescheduled this one for May! I hope that those who had signed up for April will be able to come to this one; plus, there were a few seats still open in that session so there should still be room for some new-comers!

    There are lots of things I love about this woven-silver project. The one I’ll mention here is that this is a great session for people who like to make and / or wear silver pieces that are big! At times, the sheer cost of the materials can seem somewhat intimidating but, because these designs have so much open space, they require far less material. Relative to many other designs or approaches, you can stay small, and keep your material costs down, or go big, and not have those costs skyrocket. Your choice!

As I said last month, there’s no significance to the specifics of dates and times. That is, if you want to take a workshop and those date/time combos don’t work for you right now, please let me (or Artsmiths) know! All of us are trying out different combinations to figure out what will work for folks who are interested in the classes. As long as we know there’s interest, we can work out other day/time combos for future months, either repeating these topics or adding new projects to the offerings. And I’m willing to offer any of them as small (private or semi-private lessons) or group sessions (if enough people express interest) in my Regent Square studio as well as at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh.

Personally, I think that all of these are lots of fun to make!

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April Recap: First Classes at Artsmiths

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/30

Some days I think to take photos, other days I don’t. I can find no pattern at all to which is which!

But, whether or not I remembered at any point to stop and take photos, I want to say how much I enjoyed my first month of teaching at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh!

Our very first class, on April 14, was an easy introductory session, where we covered learning how to texture metal clay, give it some shape (e.g., by drying it over a dome), and embellish it for a bit of extra oompth (e.g., with balls or coils of clay). In all, in three hours, six students completed twenty-one different pieces!

Now, if you’ve worked with metal clays, one thing you know is that you usually should start out with a little more clay than you actually need to make a piece. You’ll roll it out, but then cut it down to the size and shape you want, and trim away the excess. And the question is, always, what to do with the excess? I’ve already written here about this, but the basic options seem to be: make something else (small) with what you have left; get some more clay and add your leftovers to that to make another piece (bigger); or, go to the bother of saving it to do one of the above later on. (Clearly, I lean towards either of the first two!)

And I have to give this group credit for finding ways to use all their clay. First-timer Linda, in particular, kept making smaller and smaller pieces, using the bits she cut out of one piece as elements on their own, and using the final dregs to make tiny ball embellishments.

Everyone’s pieces fired beautifully, but I didn’t think to get a photo of that. No, what I did capture was when, after I’d fished Linda’s last three teensy pieces out of the shot, someone surprised me by pounding on my studio door, and I dropped them back onto the shot. At least, they landed on top, so I didn’t have to search through the whole barrel-full again. Still, can you spot all three pieces in this photo?!! (I think two are pretty obvious, but not the third, which was the center she’d cut out of the little gear/sun-shape.)


Then, on February 21, I taught a “Draped Silver” class. Didn’t take a photo of that group at work…. Don’t have a good photo of all my samples either, but I include here two older pics of two pieces each, one pair in .999 fine silver, and one pair in bronze and copper (because that’s my best one of little “ball nest” embellishments).

In this class, we worked in .960 silver. That allowed us to roll the pieces nice and thin, which is the key to making draped metal clay pieces. It also let us make them fairly thin without having to add a backing or frame for protection.

Several of the folks in this session had taken one of my earlier classes (at Artsmiths or my studio) and had seen a wide range of my textures; for this workshop, however, I took only shallow-texture choices.

The last photo with this post shows the fired and tumbled pieces from this class (though, for some reason I don’t understand, it is not a good representation of any of the colors, nor the textures; though you can see the range of interesting shapes that folks made). The one with wire, beads, and chain (middle of top row) is the one I made as an in-class demonstration. It’s a slightly different color from the other pieces because, before I added the beads and chain, I gave it a very light Liver of Sulphur (LOS) patina and then polished off most of it. But I returned the students’ pieces all shiny-silver, and will let them decide if they want to leave them like that, or if they want to add a patina. I do love patinas but, sometimes, and especially with broad, shallow textures like many of these, I think that pure silver shine is wonderful!

I did have a third class scheduled for April, Woven Silver on April 26 but, as I mentioned before, April was a killer month. (I mean that literally: suddenly, randomly, several friends and parents of friends all died.) It got to the point that I just couldn’t swing that class. I didn’t get a clay order in on time (to get it without express shipping charges) and, even if I had made it to class with clay, it’s not clear where my head would have been. I want workshop participants to know that I am there with them, ready to present, encourage and help! So we rescheduled that one, for May 21.

I’ve got two other classes scheduled for May too. I’m really looking forward to those! More on all that shortly!!

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April 14, 21, and 26: Workshops at Artsmiths!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/07

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m on the schedule to teach three workshops at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh as they launch their Underground classrooms this month. I feel very honored to be one of the first four instructors invited to teach there, especially knowing the caliber of the other artists in that group!

All of my classes this month are suitable for beginners. Those who already have some experience with metal clays are also welcome to participate and learn new techniques. I’m listing three separate classes here, and you’re invited to take one or two or even all three of them! (Just click on the link for each one, of course, to see more details.)

We’ll make a pendant in each session; if there’s time and interest, participants may want to try making a second pendant or a pair of earrings too. I sure hope that some of my readers here will be able to join us there!

Also, there’s no significance to the specifics of dates and times. That is, if you want to take a workshop and those date/time combos don’t work for you right now, please let me (or Artsmiths) know! All of us are trying out different combinations to figure out what will work. For April, select Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday slots were the only ones being tried, and there were other events besides classes on some of those days (e.g., the SOS_Underground opening I mentioned in my last post). But, as long as we know there’s interest, we can work out other day/time combos too.

Or, for that matter, you can just come out to my studio for a class too so, if there’s something you really want to try out, please let me know and we can find a time that’ll work for us.

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“Small Works” with the Pittsburgh Society of Artists

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/03/27

What can I say … I’ve been busy making, and otherwise enjoying Spring, and over the next few days I’ll finally be reporting some news. Here’s the first item: this afternoon I was notified that two of my fine silver creations have been accepted into the Small Works show that’s being sponsored by the Pittsburgh Society of Artists. It will be held at the Framehouse & Jask Gallery, 100 43rd Street, Pittsburgh PA 15201, from April 1 through May 13, 2016.

Since I normally do work “small” (at least compared to what a lot of other artists do), I knew this was a show I had to try to get into. I thought long and hard about what to enter and finally decided that, while I do have the skills to design and develop intricate and complex pieces, that’s just not the style I like, neither to work in nor to wear myself. So I went for the fairly simple pieces that are more in line with my typical style.

Back in the fall of 2014, I made a series of pieces with “frames” constructed out of the the same material as the “contents” of the piece inside the frame. The first few were assignments in Hadar Jacobson’s teaching-accreditaton program, and then I kept going with more over maybe the next two months. I’ve been meaning to come back to those for a while now, and this silver-framed silver-plume is one of my newest ones. For the PSA show, it’s displayed in a shadow box with just this side showing. It has an integral tube bail, so the other side really is pretty much a “back” side, but it is still fully decorated and finished in my usual “other side” approach. I’ve got a few more silver-framed silver pieces in the works, and will say a bit more about the collection (with photos of both sides) once I’ve finished several more of those.

In recent months, I’ve also been exploring the use of a different approach to my “woven” pieces. In the past, I’ve always made sure that both sides were always securely framed the whole way around. I did that to ensure that the ends were always positioned safely and securely. With my latest weaves, however, I’m resisting the urge to frame them, and seeing how I can make them work in other ways. Woven Silver Banner Reclaimed is one of my newest examples of that. This one is also being displayed in a shadow box for the show, but it is fully reversible, with different textures showing on the strips from each side. And, yes, there will be more coming in the next week or so on the woven-silver pieces too.

But, for the moment at least, let me just wish everyone a Happy Easter. It’s a lovely Spring day where I am, with lots of delightful ways to continue to enjoy the rest of the day outside! I hope that some local folks will be able to make it to the show’s opening reception this Friday, April 1, from 6 to 9 pm or, if not then, at least at some point during the show.

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Flash class offer: just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/26


The five reversible domed-heart fine silver pendants shown above have all been delivered to The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh in Mt. Lebanon and are now available for purchase there. I was thinking about making a few more to have on hand during the studio sale I’ll be holding when Indie Knit and Spin returns to the building where I have my studio.

But they are fun and easy to make so I’m also proposing a class: you can make one as a gift for someone dear to your heart; or come with a partner and make them for each other; or ask your sweetheart to buy you this class as a gift; there are lots of options, even if you’re a complete beginner!

When: Sunday, January 31, 12 Noon to 3 pm
Where: Wilkins School Community Center in Regent Square.
Cost: $50 / person

That price includes both the class and enough silver to make one pendant (approximately 1 inch long). Extra material will be available for purchase if you’d like to make more than one pendant (or, say, a pair of earrings too). Several different styles of chain will also be available for purchase.

You have two days to decide! I know this is short notice, but I need to have at least four (4) people sign up by 10 pm on Thursday, January 28, in order to run this class. (And the maximum number is seven (7) so I can give everyone enough attention.) To sign up, please either send me an email or leave a comment with this post. I will accept people in the order in which they respond! By around noon on Friday, I will send an email to everyone I’ve heard from with: (a) whether enough people signed up to run the class and (b) whether your request was received before the class filled.

I sure hope that a few of you will be able to join me this weekend!

~~~~~

Update (8 pm on Thursday): Yes! Thanks so much to everyone who emailed me: this class WILL run on Sunday, as indicated. I’ll email everyone (either later tonight or else tomorrow morning, as noted above) with a few little details.

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

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/26

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

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

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

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

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

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And now, my original reason for taking the photos with my last post….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/17

I may to have to try to do this again in the summer, when the natural lighting situation is better, because I don’t think these photos tell the tale as distinctly as I’d hoped. But this is one thing I’ve been experimenting with over the past week…. The point is to look at the difference in the color (and size) of the silver pieces at different points in their process. (Next time, instead of trying to capture so many, I think I’ll try to focus specifically on just one or two, with close-ups.)

But here is a shelf-load of pieces, ready to go into the kiln. They don’t look silver-colored at all, do they, even though they are at least 90% silver! Next time, I’ll try to burnish one in the clay-state, to try to show that the silver really is there, but for now:

And here we have that same shelf-load of pieces, after being fired, when the shelf had cooled just enough to safely remove it from the kiln. Note the “white” color of these pieces: this is normal for just-fired metal constructed from silver clay. Comparing this to the previous photo, you can also get a sense of the shrinkage that took place.

And here is that same shelf-load of pieces, after having been run through either a rotary tumbler (with mixed-size and -shape stainless steel shot) or a magnetic finisher (with tiny stainless steel pins). I need to work on the lighting for each of the different versions (and I really struggled with the meager equipment I have to get all of the shined-up ones together without too many shadows or too much glare!), but I hope you can see that they are, at last, starting to look like silver!

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Buttons, Buttons, Yet More Silver Buttons!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/12

Did you miss the button-making class at Indie Knit and Spin last November? If so, you’re in luck: I’m offering it again at the February 6 session, from 10 am to 12:30 pm!

We had a great time last year! A number of folks wandering along the hallway, checking the vendors and classes in other rooms, stopped in to see what we were doing and said they wished they’d signed up. There aren’t going to be many (if any) other classes at the February event but, since I’ll be using my own studio (i.e., Cosy doesn’t need to pay to rent another whole room for the class, and WSCC doesn’t need to schedule other events around IKS’s use of yet another of the by-the-hour classrooms), I said I’d be happy to offer this one again.

Please note: You don’t have to make actual buttons in this workshop! If you’d prefer to make a focal piece to serve as an embellishment on your fiber work, or just want to make some other type of decoration, that’s OK too. Unlike most of my workshops, where I make a point of showing how to make two-sided pieces, for buttons which are typically sewn down onto some fabric, we will just be texturing the “front” side of our pieces. But all it takes is a shift in the placement and/or size of the holes we’ll make in our pieces, and you can have another form of decoration for your work or even a few charms, earrings, or a pendant. It’s up to you!

  • For more details, see the Button Making post at the Indie Knit and Spin website.
  • As described there, to sign up for the class, send an email to cosymakes@gmail.com
  • Please sign up by 8 am on Monday, February 1, so I can have time to place an order that morning for enough material to use in the class. Seating is limited but, if spaces remain after that deadline, I’ll allow others in if but only if I have enough material for late-comers to use.


Once again, I forgot to tell Cosy to change the write-up but, as I discussed last fall, I’m planning to use .960 Sterling Silver for the class. If anyone has problems with that alloy, I will have on hand the .999 Fine Silver mentioned in the class description for you to use. The techniques used are the same either way.

(What problems, you may wonder? .999 means it’s 99.9% silver, and only silver; it’s not certified at 100% simply because no manufacturer is going to swear that not even an atom or two of something else managed to sneak in there somehow, but it’s as pure as reasonably possible. Whereas .960 means it’s only 96% silver and 4% copper has deliberately been added, so if you are someone who reacts badly to copper (or to traditional .925 sterling silver, which contains up to 7.5% copper), then you may want to stick to fine silver. It is extremely rare for anyone to have a bad skin-contact reaction to silver alone; most people who say they’re allergic to silver are actually reacting to the copper in sterling (not the silver element itself), or else to some patina chemical or polishing compound applied to their silver (which I am happy to omit for anyone with a sensitivity–there are several products I’ve learned to avoid myself!).)


Here’s looking forward to another fun class with more great participants: it’s only a little over three weeks away now, so please sign up soon.

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Yes, hand-made: Buttons at Indie Knit & Spin!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/11/10

The delightful Indie Knit & Spin returns to the Wilkins School Community Center this year on Saturday, November 14, 2015. The marketplace will run from 10 am to 4 pm, and there will be classes running from 9 am to 6 pm!

In one of those classes (10 am to 12:20 pm), I will be teaching how to make your very own silver buttons!

And, you may ask, just how do metal buttons tie into an event aimed at “Everyone who loves to work with beautiful and unique yarn and fiber”? Well, the theory is this: if you’re going to go to all the effort to attend this show in order to obtain fabulous fiber arts products and materials, and then lots more time making your own hand-made creations, doesn’t it make sense to have your own hand-made buttons that you can use on those items?

Though I originally announced this as a workshop using .999 fine silver (at least 99.9% silver; not 100% only because we can’t swear that there aren’t a few atoms of other stuff in there somewhere), upon some reflection it dawned on me that .960 sterling silver (at least 96% silver, with up to 4% copper) would be better for buttons.

In general, I tend to make a lot of pendants and earrings and, in that context, fine silver is a wonderful material to work with. But metals-folks have been adding a touch of copper to silver for ages because that alloy yields a slightly harder, stronger product, and that’s useful for things like rings or bracelets that tend to suffer a bit more from normal wear and tear.

Now, the most typical alloy, called sterling silver, is referred to as .925: i.e., it’s at least 92.5% silver, and the remaining 7.25% is usually just copper, though sometimes other metals will be included with copper in that 7.25% as well. The problem is that alloys with even just that much copper or other metals then require lots of special handling, firing and/or finishing than does true fine silver.

But, there is yet another compormise: .960! That designation means it’s at least 96% silver. With that mix, you get (roughly) 90% of the strength of .925 sterling with almost none of the extra complications!

So I’m now planning to use .960 for the class, though I will have a bit of .999 on hand just in case anyone signed up specifically because I’d said we’d use fine silver. But I’m assuming the students will all be metal clay beginners, and happy to use the product the teacher is recommending for their buttons.

I’d also said that it’d take just a minor adjustment to turn a button-project into one where the person is making charms, earring elements, or small pendants. We can make any of those out of .999 fine silver or .960 sterling silver.

Last I heard, there were still just few seats left. If you’ve been looking for a good introduction to metal clays, why not sign up for that session! Or, if you can’t make it that Saturday, let me know if you’d be interested and able to come over the next day, on Sunday the 15th. I’m hoping to offer another little introductory session then: the focus will be small earring, charm, or pendant pieces.

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Let’s Be Thankful with the Cranberry Artists Network in 2015

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/10/07

Cranberry Twp Billboard announcing the Let's Be Thankful show.It’s time for another show sponsored by the Cranberry Artists Network, and I’m very thankful to report that I’ve had two pieces accepted!

The theme of this show is Let’s be Thankful, and I’m displaying my pieces along with the thankful / gratitude quotations that inspired me as I was making them. I chose to use silver this time, because I wanted its preciousness to help represent the value of thankfulness. Having done that, however, I deliberately tried to keep them fairly simple, with just a few special embellishments, to keep the prices as manageable as I could. Much as I love making more elaborate pieces, I really do want to offer items that are reasonably affordable.

Joyful Gratitude is in a domed triangle shape. It contains a carnelian on its concave side, said to represent joyfulness, as one form of the depth and range of feelings associated with gratitude. Its convex side exhibits the heart where such gratitude is felt, and held. It is offered on a sterling silver chain cut and attached to gratefully “hug” the top of the triangle.

The slightly heftier Grateful Gardeners is a highly textured oval piece. Like much of my work, this piece is reversible. In this case, however, there is one side that feels like the front to me: it exhibits yet another heart-shaped texture accented by a nephrite jade, a stone of the heart signifying friendship, and also considered to be a water-stone and thus appropriate for a garden-theme. The side I think of as the back (though it could well be worn to the front!) contains a sort of secret garden of textured embellishments: a heart, a leaf, a flower, and a butterfly.

The opening reception will be tonight, from 6 to 8 pm. If you can’t get over to that, I hope my local-folks can get over at some point during the show. It runs through November 2 in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center on Rochester Road.

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Arts on the Riverwalk 2015

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/18

I’m late in announcing this one, but I’ve got two pieces (a “pillow” pendant and a multi-part “spools and lentils” necklace) in another show up at the Confluence Cafe in New Castle, PA. The show opened back during the Arts on the Riverwalk weekend, July 10, but it will stay up for a while, through September 10, so interested folks around here still have plenty of time to check it out.

New Castle is sort of at the limit of what I think of as my “local” area (and, I’m just at the edge of the region the Hoyt Center for the Arts there considers a “local” artist, so at least we match there!). I wish I lived a bit closer, because The Confluence Cafe is just a nice little space! How can you not love a place that uses their chalkboard, not for menu specials, but instead for thoughts like those in the first photo shown here!?

I’ve got a ton of other things going on right now, so the rest of this post will just contain a few of the better photos I managed to capture of the pieces on display. That is, these are the shots that I thought turned out OK; I was talking with friends as I snapped away, and didn’t realize until I got back and started to post that I’d changed an option on my camera and messed up some of the photos, including the ones of my entries! Clearly, I’m not quite as familiar with that new toy as I’d thought. Oh well, these 16 pieces are less than a third of the 51 total entries, but they’ll give you an idea of how strong the show was. (As usual, clicking should open a new page with a larger version of each image.)

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More Fun at Three Rivers, or Ivy Woodrose is simply charming!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/07

I have loved jewelry for ages. Not mass-produced jewelry, but special kinds of pieces ranging from unique antiques to modern artisanal pieces. Talking with colleagues as we staffed the Arsmiths of Pittsburgh booth at the Three Rivers Arts Festival yesterday, I noted that it’s an interest I shared with my mother. Kate said that, in contrast, she and her mother did not share that at all. Now, it’s not that my mother and I liked the same pieces: our tastes were not mere miles apart, the scale was more like galaxies. But we did both relish finding unusual pieces, and we could pretty reliably spot something that the other would just love. This was in complete contrast to clothes: we could rarely buy clothes for the other that the recipient could even tolerate. But we had great success with jewelry exchanges! And then there were further delights when, shopping for the other, we’d also find treats for ourselves….

In the 1990s, I started experimenting with making some jewelry. My earliest attempts were simple beaded creations of various sorts. I also dabbled a bit in glass-work and polymers and wood and more, but never felt the urge to go full-scale on any of those. Long before that I’d also dabbled in traditional metalsmithing and pottery: those were both far more interesting to me than later media but still had not completely grabbed me. I first heard about metal clays while I was in my beading heyday but for various reasons (including but not limited to a more-than-full-time academic post) I just wasn’t able to pursue it at all at that time. A few years later, enough had changed in my life that I could try to pursue it. I started out slowly but, eventually, I decided to kick it up a notch, moving things off the tray-table in my guest bedroom and into a full-scale studio. By then, my mother was gone and, in fact, I used a fair portion of my “inheritance” from her to set all that up. I figured, if it didn’t work, at least I’d know that I’d tried but, if it did work out, I’d have her (and my dad) to thank for it.

The thing is that now, since both my mother is gone and I’ve started seriously making more jewelry, I’ve pretty much stopped buying it for myself…. Clearly, I can wear anything I’ve made whenever I want (until I sell it), but an even bigger part of it is that I do have a fair amount already, not a whole lot, but enough that I certainly don’t need any more. I still enjoy looking at it, and I believe in helping support other artists, so I do still buy pieces now that I can give as gifts. I’ve continued to buy non-jewelry art for myself and I’ve exchanged pieces with other jewelry artists. I also make a point of taking several of my art- and jewelry-loving friends to shows where I know there will be art jewelers whose work I think they’ll like, and encourage their purchases. But I’ve bought very little jewelry for myself.

But more than zero. And today was one of those “exception” days: I bought a pendant from Ivy Woodrose (aka Ivy Solomon)! I’ve admired her work for years!! I never imagined meeting her in person but there she was, two booths up from the Artsmiths this weekend! I asked if she’d been there before and I’d somehow missed her but no, this really was her first time at Three Rivers. I went up yesterday and gushed and drooled and embarrassed her with my admiration, then went back today with some cash and, after a very lengthy and delightful discussion about techniques and products and sources with this absolutely charming artist (and her congenial husband), I actually bought a piece!

It was a difficult decision, balancing what I wanted against what I felt I could afford. The one I chose has fewer different colors than I first thought I’d pick, but I couldn’t find one with lots of colors that fit both my budget and my personal style. (One or the other, but not both…) I spent a long time debating between this and another “floral” one. That one had more, smaller flowers and thus could fit more pinks and reds and several greens (and far, far less yellow!) than this one. I listened to her talk with other customers about how she’d be happy to listen to the colors the person wanted and the budget she had, and could send her pictures of other pieces that either she had or could (re-)make to suit the person’s taste. But, having decided to get a piece, I just did not want to wait. So here’s the one I picked, and I’m thrilled to have it:

In person, the colors in this one are far brighter, more vibrant, than I was able to capture in this photo. (Sorry, Ivy!) But the image in this one is what captured my heart: the sun / sunflower at the water’s edge (which way is the viewer facing?!), with a hint of sunlight on the water and oddly-geometric constellations / clouds in the sky beyond. Though living in Pittsburgh now, I’ve spent a good third of my life so far on one coast or another, and much of the rest along lakes or streams, loving the water and sunsets (and sunrises too, though I’m less often up for those…) and gardening too. The appeal of the image in this piece, in particular, for me is the way I feel it reflects the following quote, one of my favorites from Douglas Adams (in Mostly Harmless):

“We all like to congregate … at boundary conditions …
Where land meets water. Where earth meets air.
Where body meets mind. Where space meets time.
We like to be on one side and look at the other.”

In the end, the one big problem I’ll have with this piece is that, instead of wearing it, I’ll want to be on the other side so I can look at it myself. But I’ll find a way to manage…

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