Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘Low Shrinkage Steel’

“Cool Sizzle” at Art All Night … Tonight!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/04/28

Yes, the last weekend in April once again brings us Art All Night! And Cool Sizzle will be spending all night night there tonight!

Cool SizzleThe Piece

Living in Steeltown (aka Pittsburgh, PA) it seemed only right that my tenth-ever entry into this annual show should, at last, be made from steel! All my earlier ones used silver, bronze, and/or copper, so steels’s the one metal from my main repertiore that hasn’t yet been shown there.

Specifically, Cool Sizzle was made from a steel that is both “sintered” and “black.” Regular readers of this blog will likely know what that means. If you’ve just landed here from the tag on my piece at Art All Night, the most important things to take from that are:

  • sintered: relatively light in weight for its size, and
  • black: not a shiny, stainless steel.

Sometimes I carefully design a piece (i.e., with a theme and a title from the start) but, more often, I start with a vague idea and see where the piece takes me. This was definitely one of the latter. Late last year (actually, while doing some Christmas shopping) I noticed a silicon trivet / potholder with a cute “flat bubble” design on it that I thought would make a nice “texture stamp” for a jewelry piece, so I bought it as a little gift to myself, and set it aside. Just this past Monday, anticipating Art All Night, I was looking around my studio and debating whether to enter something I already had on hand or try to complete something totally new. I moved the tray of enamel powders that just happened to be sitting on top of that trivet, and I knew: try to make something with it, out of steel, and colored with enamels!

Why call it Cool Sizzle?

The “sizzle” refers, not just to the bubbly pattern, but even more to all the heat involved in making it:

  • construted using the “metal clay” process, it was fired in a kiln to nearly 1900°F for two hours;
  • a certain amount of rust-protection was added via a “hot bluing” process (which turns it black…) of repeatedly heating it with a torch flame until glowing and then rapidly cooling it by quenching;
  • adding color by wet-packing vitreous enamel powders into some of the hollows in the design, which ended up taking five more firings (though only at about 1500°F this time).

And the “cool” refers to:

  • the use of mostly cool colors (blues and green) in the design (with just a touch of yellow (but not red or orange), meant to reflect the piece’s lightness (rather than for warmth)), and
  • how the metal normally feels relatively cool to the touch.

The Event

The rules for Art All Night are simple: one (only one) piece per artist, anyone can enter, with no fees, no jury, no censorship. Also, no sales at the show itself, but participants can offer bids on entries that are then passed along to the artists when they pick up their work. It’s up to the artists to then contact anyone who has bid on their art. If you get one bid at or above your asking price, you just arrange a time and place to make the sale. If you get more than one bid, or offers below your asking price, then negotiations can commence. I haven’t been overwhelmed with bids on every entry I’ve made over the years, but the majority of them have happily gone to a bidder (several at more than my asking price!), and all but one of the others have sold very soon afterwards. (The lone hold-out is actually one of my personal favorite pieces, and I’ve really no clue why it’s still in my collection!)

2018 represents the 21st annual Art All Night event, and the first one not held in the Lawrenceville neighborhood! I wasn’t even living in Pittsburgh when I first discovered it: I was still living in California then, and just happened to be in town for a conference, noticed a little blurb about it in the local arts & entertainment newspaper, and decided to go check it out. And was blown away by this wonderful (then, little) exhibit of community art! It had everything from little-kid “refrigerator” art (with some great bidding wars among grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.!), to people who made something (NFS: Not For Sale) for themselves that they’d just like to let others see, to wild constructions you’d never, ever see in a regular gallery anywhere, to works that were clearly professional creations, and more.

A year (or was it two?) later, I was invited to come back to the area for a job interview around the same time of year. So I checked to see when Art All Night would be, and asked to schedule the trip for dates that could include it. I didn’t get that job but, surprise, a couple years later was invited to interview for a different position. And I scheduled it the same way again! That one ended up involving a lot of negotiating and re-designing and more negotiating before it got sorted out so it wasn’t until a whole year later when a house-hunting trip just happened to coincide again. Oh, and in between there somewhere were a couple little springtime vacation trips to visit with some friends that I also planned for late April. And I’ve continued to go, to volunteer, to offer demos, to enter pieces — one or more of those each year — since actually moving here. And if/when I ever move away, I sure hope I will want and be able to return for future Art All Night events!

But the thing about it is how much it has grown over the years! It started rather small, but grew quickly. The growth has slowed a bit in recent years, but it is still so very big that finding a suitable venue is now a challenge. Community Development Corporations use it as a way to draw first hundreds, then thousands, and now tens of thousands of people to some huge yet empty building. In addition to the pieces hung on walls, displayed on tables, or built up on-site on the floor, there’s live music, art demonstrations, participatory activities, food & drink, and more. And it really does stay open all night: current hours are from 4 pm on Saturday through 2 pm on Sunday! Adding up the different times I’ve gone to it across all the years, I’ve been there at just about every time of day or night, and the vibe does vary over the duration. Do let me know when you’d like to go!

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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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March 8: International Women’s Day

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/08

Kepler's DreamI call this piece Kepler’s Dream, and it’s the one I chose to enter when I was invited to participate in the Cranberry Artists Network‘s show in honor of International Women’s Day.

Now, IWD is March 8, and the show is only being “hung” that evening. The official dates of the show are March 9 through April 5.  It looks like there could be as many as 33 pieces in the show.

There will be a Public Reception from 6 to 8 pm on Thursday, March 22.

Question: Why enter a piece named after Johannes Kepler for Women’s Day?

Discussion: Well, I was in high school when I first learned of his discovery that planets moved in elliptical orbits around the sun (not the earth!) and the sun itself was not even at the center but at one of the two focal points of that ellipse.

That was also when I first heard about his conjecture from the early 17th century on the efficiency of packing spheres. That was not really proven until early in the 21st! I actually worked for a few years late in the 20th century with some folks who were involved in trying to find the proof!

Anyway, the readings I had been inspired to devour back in high school were key to opening my mind to being able to “think big” about the seemingly-mundane topics we were covering in school. Did you know, for example, that Kepler also published the first description of the hexagonal symmetry of snowflakes?! And he looked at the efficiency of hexagonal packing: think beehives! There’s more: go do some explorations of him yourself!

And so after decades of doing formal mathematics using accurate visual representations of what IS, here I am now doing artistic explorations of what COULD BE. I had no thought of Kepler as I began this piece: it would look rather different if I had! (And such a piece in this line will likely come to exist eventually.) But as I finished it, and looked at the combination of shapes I’d created (sort of oval and round), and thought about the colors I’d chosen (with their references to the skies above), and talked about it with some friends I was visiting at the time, I just began to wonder if Kepler might ever have dreamt anything like this.

Answer: So I named it Kepler’s Dream to honor him for being one of the influences (indirectly and centuries later) on this woman’s life!

Also, re technique: If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may think that this piece doesn’t look typical of my work. And you’d be right! This piece was made using Hadar’s Low Shrinkage Steel (metal clay powder). The back is plain, with just the bail for hanging it. (I do have ideas for other designs, with my usual make-it-reversible approach, but this one was part of the experience of simply perfecting this technique, so I kept it simple!)

After firing so it would sinter, the steel was treated to help it resist rust. Then I applied three different enamel colors into the openings of the embellishments. (Yeah, the mathematician / geometer in me had fun figuring out how to space out three colors among ten spaces, when ten is not an even multiple of three.) Because of the way I applied the enamels, it was easy enough to fire several different colors at the same time; to get good coverage, on the other hand, it took multiple applications of the enamel powders, and re-firing each round, until it came to look like this. As a final step, I applied a light coat of wax which helped to even out the color of the steel and should also help to further protect its finish. I made several others at the same time which I’ll try to remember to discuss in a later post. But I am including a tag with each one warning a buyer that, because steel can rust, I recommend some common-sense precautions: don’t wear it while bathing, showering, or swimming and, if it does get wet, try to dry it thoroughly as soon as possible.

Finally, a big “thanks!” to Hadar Jacobson for the recent workshop and especially for the photo, so I’d have it in time for the show!

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NEW CLASSES! Copper, Bronzes, & Steel: A 4-Part Series in May

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/04/08

In addition to the workshops I’ve offered in fine silver for what seems like ages now, I’ve also been teaching classes in these non-precious metals too, mostly on-demand private or semi-private sessions, plus a few in local bead shops. All were relatively short, covering just one or two techniques in one or two day (or evening) events only.

Now, I’ve taken the best of the best and spiffed them up with some of the things I’ve learned in the last year with Hadar’s group of teachers worldwide. And I’m thrilled to be offering that great new combination in a four-session series, on Sunday afternoons in May, in my studio in the Regent Square (Swissvale) neighborhood, just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Whether you’re a beginner, or already have some experience with metal clay, you will make at least four separate items: a bracelet, a pair of earrings, and two pendants. Some may involve a single metal; others will combine various bronze formulas with copper and/or steel. You’ll learn every step of the process, from design through basic construction and on to final finishing for your pieces.

You’ll get to use at least three different metals (from yellow bronze, champagne bronze, dark champagne bronze, iron bronze, rose bronze, copper, and/or steel). Don’t know the difference between them? You’ll learn that too!

We’ll meet each Sunday in May (4, 11, 18, and 25*), from 12 to 5 pm. That’s 20 whole hours of instruction in a small class (max 6 students)!

* Yes, May is such a busy month! We will meet on Mother’s Day. But let me know if you’re hesitant to sign up simply because May 25 is part of the Memorial Day weekend. Several alternatives for that final date are possible!

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Just Some of What I’ll Be Making-With!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/03/08

I thought about using the photo I include here as the “punch line” to the post I wrote yesterday about shopping, then decided it deserved its own little spot.

The twenty-four tubes in the front are most (but, aack my wallet cries out, not quite all) of what I had shipped back from the workshop at Hadar’s last month: all five of the new clay powders we were able to try out: Champagne Bronze, Dark Champagne Bronze, Friendly Bronze, Friendly Copper, and White Satin. The seven tubes along the back contain prepared clay (i.e., already mixed with water) that I hadn’t yet finished off so, in addition to the new five, there’s also some Low Shrinkage Steel XT and Pearl Gray Steel XT in that row.

What’s missing from the photo? Well, I store my clay in a repurposed CD cabinet with lots of little cubby-holes. I already had spots for the two older steels; had those put away before I thought to take a photo; and then couldn’t even remember how many new tubes I’d added to the existing stash… The thing is, Hadar has at least one more “friendly” clay coming out (i.e., that debinders and sinters in a single firing comparable in length to that of the much-easier-to-fire fine silver), and it’s a Friendly Rose Bronze. I’ve loved working with her original Rose Bronze since I first got my hands on it, so I know I’ll be ordering some of that before I’ve worked my way through all these.

Not to worry, though, I’ve got a workshop series coming up in April and May. It’s based on the Teacher Accreditation program from which I just graduated, expanding offerings I’ve been offering for several years. I’ll be ordering more clay powders for participants to use in that, and will get myself some Friendly Rose Bronze then. (And, no, I don’t know the date when they’ll be officially released to the public. As an Accredited Teacher of Hadar’s Clays, I can get small amounts early, not enough to stock a reseller’s shop, but all that I need for my own testing and teaching, which is great!)

So I need to stop nattering here and go make some pieces to sell, and teach some workshops (including several more using fine silver this month!), to bring in enough money to pay for all these purchases: the travel and workshop expenses, studio rent and insurance, as well as the clays, beads, chains, and all!

~~~~~

p.s., There are still some openings in my various classes and workshops, so do let me know if you’d be interested in taking any of them! (Although, since some have far fewer open seats than others, I suggest you let me know quickly….)

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