Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘pendants’

“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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Will you cross a river for a class?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/19

While I work in both precious metals (silver, gold) and base metals (steel, bronze, copper), my classes tend to feature silver. In response to requests for more base metal lessons, I have two bronze workshops coming up at the end of this month.

three samples, two bronze classes
Reversible Draped Bronze
(pendant or earrings)
Friday, July 27, Noon to 4 pm
at the North Hills Art Center
more information
register here
Reversible Domed Bronze
(pendant or earrings)
Sunday, July 29, 1 to 4 pm
at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh
more information
register here

Knowing the local lore of how hesitant some ‘burghers are to cross rivers, I thought I was being clever when I scheduled both of them for basically the same weekend. One north, t’other south. The thing that happened is that some people have signed up for each and, between the two, there are enough people to run a class …. but not quite enough yet to run each of them individually!

If you really want to take one in particular, please sign up for it now! (If it’s cancelled, you’ll get a full refund.) BUT, if you could take the other one, please let either me or your second-choice venue know. My understanding is that registration for each of them will close on Monday (July 23): at 10 am (firm!) for North Hills and a few hours later for Artsmiths. If your first choice is cancelled but there are enough to make the other one run, we’ll let you know that and accept your registration there after the “official” deadline. (That’s why there are deadlines: so we have time to scramble if necessary to keep as many people happy as possible, and still give me time to organize (and, if necessary order) all the tools and materials we’ll need!)

After that weekend, I’ll be back to offering workshops in silver for the next few months. (And using silver, steel, bronze, and/or copper in the pieces I make for (lots of) fun and (a tiny bit of) profit.) If you want to learn about any of those metals, of course, in addition to my pre-scheduled small-group classes, I’m always happy to schedule a private lesson with you in my studio!

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Update: Good news and bad. The bad first: the Friday class at NHAC was cancelled. The good (yay!): The Sunday one at Artsmiths is running! Since most venues (including these) don’t share participant names in advance (just the count: I get the surprise of seeing who shows up at the start of class!), I don’t know (yet) if that’s because new people signed up after I posted this, or whether some NHAC folks did decide to go to a class on the other side of some rivers from their site. Either way, though, I’m delighted to be looking forward to a great class this weekend!

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This weekend, and next!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/07/07

Six-wall panorama of the Instructors Show at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh

If you haven’t been over to The Arsmiths of Pittsburgh to see their great Instructors Show yet, you still have two more chances, this Saturday or Sunday (July 7 or 8). Not only does the show include a range of different styles from the various artists who teach there, but Artsmith’s proceeds from this show will be targeted specifically to support their great education programs!

If you’d like to talk with me in person, I’ll be over later in the afternoon on Sunday. (I should get there at or very soon after 2 pm, and I’ll stay until the closing, at 4.)

Whether or not we manage to connect in person this weekend, we’ll have another chance next weekend! You’ll be able to shop some of my creations and / or talk with me about any of my upcoming classes (at four separate venues), when I’ll hold another Second Saturday Open House session in my studio. That’ll be Saturday, July 14, and I should be there from about 1 to 5 pm. Stop by any time!

Next weekend’s bonus for one or two of my students: If you’d like to come over and use the tools & equipment in my studio during the Open House, I can have part of one table set up for that on the 14th too. Because I’ll have a few of my own projects going too, for students it’s really best if you reach out in advance to be sure I’ll have a spot for you.

(Since I’m still getting questions about these sessions, let me repeat that they are not the same as my private lessons or small group classes: I’m not saying I won’t speak to you at all, because I’ll help as I can. But they’re meant as an opportunity for students, working pretty much on their own, to continue or follow up on projects they’ve already learned how to do … but without having to invest in the great range of tools and supplies I bring to my workshops!)

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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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This Saturday, and next!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/06/07

SampleProject_LentilBeads_Reversible_WonderlandKarmaThis Saturday, June 9, is a “Second Saturday”! So I am, once again, planning a little Studio Open House. For more reasons than it’s worth listing here, this month I’m shifting the time a bit later than usual: 2 to 6 pm. I’ll have pieces for sale, along with information about the various workshops I have scheduled for this summer or might still add to the calendar.

The main reason for the slightly-later time is that the Regent Square Civic Association’s Second Saturday event will be at my building, and that’s scheduled for 4 to 7 pm. So I tried to plan my Open House to overlap: you can visit me from 2 to 6, if you’re able to come later in that range you can check RSCA out too, and I can still join them from about 6 until 7.

Follow either link above for a little more information on what each event offers. Stop by for the full effect!

Next Saturday, June 16, is my first workshop of the summer, where The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh will offer my reversible hollow silver bead class.

SampleProject_LentilBeads_Reversible_KarmaWonderlandSome people call these “lentil” beads, because their underlying shape is similar to a very oversized lentil. Others call them “saucer” beads, though I never imagined flying saucers that looked quite like these. Long-time readers of this blog will know, however, that I love making lentil beads, and I think they make a great class projet too. The photos with this post are meant to show that even a complete beginner can master the making of a relatively simple one that is still impressive! Those with some prior metal clay experience can work a few more advanced techniques into their designs, but you’ll have to come to class to see some samples of those!

At Artsmiths, we will cover ways to make yours so it can be worn all by itself as a pendant. Or, if you’re into beading, we’ll cover ways that are ideal for stringing it with a bead selection of your choice. Hint: the pieces in the photos here are designed for beading, but can be worn alone as pendants, as shown. Follow the class link, above, to see some more basic samples and to find out how to register for this session.

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And one miscellaneous musing…

Again, I’m really sorry I haven’t been posting much here lately. (I’m apologizing both to myself and to you!) Facebook is such a thought-sink! I’m not talking about how it can be a general time-sink; I miss all sorts of posts because I don’t spend much time browsing there. But I do spend some participating in a few relevant groups (on specific techniques and on art and jewelry in general; not all the possible ones, but a few!) where I oten find myself anwering questions or making comments there that, pre-Fb, I would have written up as posts here or on public blogs by others.

This bothers me: the class-link above goes to a public page I’ve written, while the two event-links above go to publicly-available Facebook-page events (perhaps with an annoying banner asking you to sign in / up to Facebook, but at least visible). But there’s no way for me to link here to something I’ve written in a “closed” art / jewelry group. I do understand the use of “closed” groups to help reduce the risk of spam, trolls, etc., but I’m still struggling with the idea of spending my time writing up useful information that is then limited in how far it can be shared.

If I’m going to write it up, I want it to be available to anyone who’s interested! Well, of course, I could copy my comments and post them here, but they’re often part of a thread, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable copying all that from a private to a public space; so that would mean re-writing everything to build up my own context. And that’s just more effort than seems worth it when I’d rather be making than writing in the first place!

Have you solved this dilemma? Do you know anyone else who has? Your thoughts (comments, links, pointers, whatever) would be much appreciated!

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“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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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!
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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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2017 Arts on the Riverwalk – please vote!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/09/05

UPDATE: Voting ended at 5 pm on September 9. I didn’t mount quite a big enough Facebook campaign (which really isn’t my style anyway) to claim the $100 people’s choice prize but, as of the last time I was able to check (an hour-ish before the deadline), I had garnered well within the top 10% of votes. So I sure do appreciate the support of everyone who took the time to enter a like-vote on my behalf!

(Also, since it no longer matters, I’ve removed the column of notes on the extra quirks of this particular voting process…. The rest of this post remains as originally written.)

Oh, and the exhibit remains on display at The Confluence cafe through October 26.

I’ve got two pieces in the Arts on the Riverwalk competition, and I’d sure appreciate your vote!

Now, I’ll admit, neither of these pieces were originally made with competition in mind… They were designed as samples for two different classes I taught last fall, and my intention was to illustrate specific technical strategies of construction! In my classes, I also point out that sometimes a design will take a while to tell me what it really wants to be; in the case of these two, they have also taken a while to tell me what they want to be called!

2017_0127_AngledSquareNestWithLinks_and_BronzeDrapedLayeredEmbellished_4037


1. In the pair shown here, the piece positioned towards the left, with a silver pendant on a gunmetal chain, is now titled Overflowing Nest. In the class where I taught that, we covered a range of different “nest-style” constructions, plus I threw in a “bonus” on making links. Time constraints meant I could only illustrate using links this way, as a bail, but the same techniques work for making an entire chain. The other interesting thing about this piece is that it was made for one of the first classes I taught using “EZ960” sterling silver metal clay, and it was made entirely from reconstituted “scraps” that were left over from earlier samples. It’s always good to learn how well different clays do or do not reconstitute, and this sample worked wonderfully.

If you’d like to vote for my “Overflowing Nest” piece, please click to find the instructions here.

(Quick mini-lesson on re-use: Like all clays, scraps can get “worn out” after many re-uses. After just a few repeats, if you’ve treated your clay nicely all along, it’ll be fine. But even after it’s had a long or rough time, it can still be salvaged by mixing little bits of “scrap” in with “fresh” clay! This is one of the things I really appreciate about most metal clays!)


2. The piece towards the right, with a bronze pendant on a brass chain, is now called At a Bend in the River. That main part of this one was also made from a scrap! I’d finished the main demonstration on making a rolled bail on a two-sided piece, but there was a question, so I quickly rolled out another piece of clay to use as an illustration while answering. I was a bit distracted while talking about something raised by yet another student, so I didn’t roll it very straight AND I rolled off the edge of one of the texture sheets with clay squishing out. But I looked at it and exclaimed, “What great luck! This piece just told me how it wants to be built!”

I immediately reversed my plan of which side would be the back or the front, because the place where I’d overshot the texture has that lovely angle-into-smooth look that I just had to put on the outside-front, not tucked under in the back. Since the remaining demonstrations I had planned involved layering elements and how to add a fire-able stone (in this case, a peridot-colored cubic zirconia), I made use of the curve of the piece to embellish it with a piece where I could also talk about design issues for centering, or not centering, any embellishments. Ended up being a very interesting, if unplanned, answer to the original question!


If you’d like to vote for my “At a Bend in the River” piece, please click to find the instructions here.


Also, though I don’t have these specific classes scheduled (yet) for this fall in either of my North Hills or South Hills venues, there’s still time to add a workshop or two in my East End studio. So if you’ve been inspired enough by one (or both) of these to want to learn how to make something like that yourself, please let me know and we can talk about our options!

More on other shows, classes, and more, as soon as I find the time for another chance to post here.

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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.

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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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Two More Urban Flowers Burst Into Public View!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/07/13

I seem to be talking about a lot of events in Pittsburgh’s North Hills lately. And now that summer is really here, it seems well past any reasonable point to continue procrastinating about another event up that way which started in mid-spring.

The delay: I can find photos of only two (of the four) relevant pieces. I remember taking photos of the other two, but for some reason now can’t find them, haven’t found the time to really look everywhere both possible and impossible, so let’s just go with what we have!

Four of my pieces are (and have been since mid-spring, thus the selections & their titles) in a “traveling show” that is on display at the Northland Public Library through the end of August!

Two (shown here) are pendants from my Urban Flowers collection. Neither one turned out the way I’d originally intended. Both pieces ended up, instead, telling me what they wanted to be!

Urban Flower: Rainbow Bud Itopped with pollen) Urban Flower: Metro Daisy (small, red & clear)
Early Spring Bud
(aka Rainbow Bud with Pollen)
She Loved Seeing the Flower
Spring from the Pavement

I’d imagined the the larger, pastel-rainbow piece of glass going into a large flower. What with one technical issue after another, minor ones individually but still one after another of them, it ended up insisting it didn’t want to be overwhelmed by a lot a silver but, instead, to clearly be the focal point on a bud, just beginning to open, with a little bit of pollen just starting to appear. I’m OK with that.

The bezel around the red glass is exactly as I’d planned, and I was thinking I might use it on one of my other pieces inspired by Hepatica flowers. But I guess I hadn’t paid close-enough attention, because the flower-base I’d planned to use shrank just a tiny bit more than what would work with that piece of glass. It would have been relatively easy to “adjust” things to force all the pieces to fit. But I set the glass and bezel down for a moment to think about the best way to approach that fix and, when I looked up, I saw this flower next to them! Though I’d had other plans for it, I set the center-piece down and it fit in its space so perfectly that I said, “OK, if that’s where you want to go, that’s where you’ll go!”

The other two entry pieces on display (the ones with their pics missing) are movement-earrings: not the ones with layered elements that I call spinners that rotate around a horizontal axis, but the ones I sometimes also call spinners but also refer to as having movement that will rotate around a vertical axis.n Those links don’t go to photos of the pieces in the Northland show but, instead, the second one links to a different pair from several years ago with a comparable mechanism.

It’s been so much fun making all of those (and more in those series) that the seasons have seemed to be speeding by! What about you this year? Please let me know in the comments! Should any of my (local) readers find themselves in that area, please do check out the show and let me know that too!

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2017 Martinis with Monet

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/07/06

2017_MartinisWithMonet_CranberryTownshipsLogoForItFor the second year in a row, the Cranberry Township Community Chest (CTCC) and the Cranberry Artists Network (CAN) are partnering on a show in the Cranberry Municipal Building in conjunction with the Cranberry Township Community Days.

Now the Community Days outdoor festivities will be on July 13, 14, and 15.

But that all kicks off with a special evening on Wednesday, July 12, with the opening reception for the art show, Martinis with Monet. From July 13 through August 10, admission to the show will be free. Three Rivers: When Sun Breaks Through The Clouds (with ruby trillion at The Point) But the opening reception serves as a fund-raiser for CCTC, and a limited number of tickets are available in advance for $10 through their web site or at the Municipal Building Service Center (with just under a week now left), or for $15 at the door that evening.

And I’m thrilled to have had two pieces accepted for this year’s show!

One of them is another piece from my latest round of Three Rivers pendants. I didn’t make this one specifically for this show but I had been thinking what I might enter during a discussion of the movement and light in Monet’s art. My original design for this piece did include the movement of rivers with the sparkly light of the faceted ruby. But it was the surprising gift from my kiln, of the dappled surface-coloring hinting at sunshine and passing clouds on the ruby-side, that made this piece seem an obvious choice for this show! Because of this side, I’ve titled it, When the Sun Breaks Through the Clouds.

Three Rivers: When Sun Breaks Through The Clouds (the side without the ruby!)More colors from that kiln-gift are shown in the small, plain photo of the “other” side of that piece. Bronze firings can yield a wide range of surprises: sometimes the results cry out to be polished to a gorgeous, high shine everywhere, while other times they yield a stunning range of colors in random patterns (like this, with an upside-down rainbow in the midst of a crimson field). Though some people report that they find that unpredictability to be off-putting, for me it is part of what makes bronzes so addictive to work with!

The Artist's Impression Of Warm BlanketsThe colors in the other piece I had accepted for this show come not so much from the firing, but from the underlying colors of various metals, stones, and glass of the piece.

I made the focal bead, the one that generated The Artist’s Impression of Warm Blankets as the title of this necklace (Monet –> impressionism: get it?!), several years ago. It’s a large, hollow bead, with layers of copper wrapped around rose bronze wrapped around yellow bronze, all with various woven textures. It was originally made as part of a series of exercises exploring the various shrinkage rates of different metal formulas in the construction of hollow structures. As I built it, I was thinking far more about those issues that about its actual design but, as soon as I pulled it out of the kiln, I saw myself pulling a (tiny…) bundle of freshly-washed blankets out of the dryer!

Most of the focal beads I made remain just that, the focus of attention, with little to nothing else to distract the viewer’s eye from them. I strung this one on some beading wire, added a clasp, and wore it myself a few times, thinking it needed something else and waiting for it to tell me what it wanted. At a recent bead show, I saw both the stones and the chain, and they immediately reminded me of the features at a cabin I shared years ago with friends on a series of late-autumn trips, where warm blankets were much appreciated as the temperatures dropped at night, and that was it: I’d found what I needed to complete this piece.

I sure hope that one or both of these pieces will find someone else’s heart to warm now too!

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Summer Solstice, Raku Party, Artisan Market

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/06/21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Holiday Sparkle Art & Craft Market!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/11/12

I’m delighted to report that this year some of my creations will be available just north of Pittsburgh in the Holiday Sparkle Art & Craft Market at the North Hills Art Center (whose front facade illustrates this post).

In addition to my jewelry, they have a few of my holiday-season ornaments for sale too. Their front show-room is fairly small, but they have it packed with a wide range of items, most of which are definitely priced for the holiday gift-giving market! (And, yes, a few are priced at special gifts for that special someone!)

I’d like to take a moment to thank some of my friends from the Cranberry Artists Network who told me about this center, and encouraged me to go check it out. If you’re in the ‘burgh and have not been there yet either, this center is at 3432 Babcock Boulevard (which is up near the the north end of Babcock, towards Three Degree Road). The center is open Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 3 pm, and the show runs from November 12 through December 10.

If you’re in the area (and there at the right time), do take a moment to stop in and explore this little treasure.

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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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The $100 CAN Show

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/10/13

2012_10_CAN_100Show_postcard_wDatesAndAddress2016_10_CAN_100Show_postcard_imageI had a great time last night at the opening of the Cranberry Artists Network’s (CAN) latest event, the $100 Show. Just in time to jump start your holiday shopping, it’s a Hundred-Dollar Show: everything in the show is priced at an even $100! (Well, to be entirely honest, that’ll be $106 once the tax has been added…)

I have two entries in this show and both pendants are thrilled to be in such good company! (Mine are displayed in the big glass case to the left of the door into the library.) The bronze on copper one already knows who it will be going home with at the end of the show! The all-silver one is still hoping to soon be chosen too … whether it will go off with its new owner or be on its way to becoming a very special gift for someone dear.

Whether you’re buying, or just browsing, if you’re in the area, do take a little break to stop in and explore the many wonderful paintings, photography, ceramics, glass art, and more, all made by artists in south-western Pennsylvania!

[Late November, post-show, update: It seems this was the most successful show that CAN has run! In the end I sold only one of my two entries (the other one will be available for purchase in my studio in December), but a higher proportion of artists had at least one sale than in any previous CAN show! Whether you bought one of my pieces, or that of another artist, I want to offer my sincere Thank You to everyone who found something that they liked enough to purchase it (whether it was made by me or one of my colleagues) and who thereby helped to support your local artists!]

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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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Two Day Intro to Bronze Metal Clay

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Note!

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

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

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summer Workshops Galore!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/07/03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALSO / alternatively …

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

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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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This weekend: the nineteenth Art All Night!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/04/23

Yes, once again, the last weekend in April brings us the wonderful community celebration of art that is known as Art All Night.

For this, the nineteenth such event, they’ve returned to switching locations again (hey, it’s a project of the Lawrenceville Development Corporation so besides all the art, part of the point is to get tens of thousands of people circulating through an “empty” site in the hopes that someone will see its potential…!), so I’m eager to see what this one will be like.

Though I had finally gotten comfortable with finding my way to, finding parking relatively near, and finding my way back out of the site they’ve used for the last few years, it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like down on the other side of the 40th Street bridge this year. It’ll also be fun to see all the entries.

I submitted a “woven textured silver” piece that I made, originally, as a sample piece for a workshop at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh. Entering it for Art All Night is sort of a full-circle thing, because I made my first woven silver pieces in 2008, with the clay I’d used while doing my first-ever public demonstrations anywhere that used metal clay, and that was at Art All Night. (Talk about starting big!) I’d over-worked and over-lubricated the clay in the many hours of demos, and I’d heard it might be possible to salvage it by adding some glycerin although the resulting clay would then not harden as it dried but remain flexible … so the obvious thing to try with that was weaving. I’ve made such pieces off an on over the years since then, but I’ve never before entered one in Art All Night. So it seemed about time to do that!

Except this piece, instead of being made from salvaged clay, was made from a mix of fresh clays, PMC Flex and PMC Sterling, to yield a form of sterling silver that contains as much as 96% fine silver. Adding the sterling results in a slightly stronger piece: my earlier ones always had solid “frames” around the weaving which made them strong enough, but the sterling in the mix for a structure like this opens up design opportunities: here, it’s safe to let a few of the ends extend outwards at least a little bit for a more “adventurous” result.

I need to thank Kathy Herbst and Louise Rosenfeld for brainstorming names for this piece, along with Manny Rosenfeld who inspired the name I’ve finally decided to give it: The Empress’s Portal. If you’d like to bid on it at Art All Night, it’s #2919. If you’d like to take a class and learn how to make a piece like this, sign up for one at Artsmiths or get in touch with me to request that I organize one at my studio in Regent Square (or even another venue that you arrange for).

In the meantime, if you’re in the Western PA area this weekend, be sure to check out Art All Night! It’s free and open to the public from 4 pm on Saturday, April 23 straight through until 2 pm on Sunday, April 24. And if you’re not here this weekend, at least consider putting the last weekend in April in Pittsburgh on your calendar for next year!

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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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