Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘pendants’

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

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/01/26

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/10/07

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

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

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

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

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

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Sili, Sillier, Silliest

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/30

Lately it seems that all I’ve managed to post about are shows, not the creative process. I do love shows, parties, festivals, and more. I want people to see my creations, those are great ways to enable that, and talking about those is generally considered to be a way to help in finding an audience for my works.

But I also enjoy sharing information about the processes involved in my artwork so I’m going to try to slip in one of those posts today. I’ll discuss a technique I use at times that I only just realized I haven’t written about here: using a little electronic die-cutting machine on my metal clays.

As far as I know, Wanaree Tanner is the one who got the ball rolling on using these with metal clays, traveling around doing workshops and promoting the use of the Silhouette Cameo several years ago. It seemed to me that the thing she promoted most was using them to create your own elaborate bezels for setting stones. She doesn’t seem to be making such a big deal about the Silhouettes any more (though anyone who follows her work can see where she’s still using hers).

I can appreciate the way she simplifies the making of such bezels with that tool; it’s just not a style I want to emulate all that much myself. Cindy Pope seems to be the person now leading the charge with Silhouettes and metal clays, making layered designs, etching words and patterns along various shapes, and doing all sort of things I find much more up my alley, design-wise. (Cindy was also a great house-mate in CA and then host in OR the last time I went out to the west coast!) The photos with this post will illustrate one of the very simplest applications of these cutters.

Several years ago, I bought a Silhouette Cameo. I used it a few times with metal clays, enjoyed the results, but still found my own designs mostly going in other directions. But I do use that device at home for all sorts of useful little paper-crafting tasks which is really what that machine was designed for.

Of course, not long after I bought my Cameo, Silhouette America came out with a new machine, called a Portrait (more compact than the Cameo), and then a newer version of the Cameo (with a touch screen instead of the buttons that both the Portrait and my older Cameo have)! I guess those are why the one I got was available at a really good price at that moment in time! But that’s fine, because they all use the same software, and attachments, and so on.

The biggest difference is that the Cameo will cut up to a 12″ width, while the Portrait only goes to 8″ across. Your big scrapbooking papers, wide vinyl, etc., are going to be 12″ across, so the Cameo is best if that’s the sort of thing you’re ever going to do. Metal clay folks work with small bits of clay, however, ones that are typically just one or at most just a few inches across, so the Portrait is more than enough if you’re never going to work on big projects. At one point (after several months of really good sales at my end … and another really good-price offer at Silhouette’s), I bought a Portrait. I figured that having two could be useful: it would allow me to have one each at home and in studio and, even better, it’d give me more options when I finally get around to trying to teach a workshop on using the tools. (Whatever I’m doing, I’m still always thinking about teaching it to others!)

My Portrait now sits on the table next to the computer in my studio. I’m still not into making Sili-cuts as my primary design tool but, now and then, such as times when I’m feeling a bit of a creative block with other methods, I’ll sit down at computer, sketch out a few simple designs, and use those to cut out a few pieces. Just making something, getting a feel of accomplishment, will usually get me out of feeling stuck again. (And that’s probably why I don’t post much about those creations — they feel more like little “interim activities” to me and, once I’m over whatever stuck-ness I was feeling, I’m not particularly inclined to write about them … much as I do enjoy the process (in limited amounts) and appreciate the opportunities they provide.)

So there I was one day a few weeks ago, with a brand new tube of “One Fire Brilliant Bronze” clay powder. This was the only one of Hadar’s basic “One Fire” clays I’d not yet tried. I wasn’t feeling stuck or anything, I was just looking for something simple to make to try out this new-to-me clay. I had fought a bit with the older Quick Fire Brilliant Bronze: I did like the bright golden color; my problem was that I kept facing challenges with the “bottom side” of textured, reversible pieces I’d made with it. (And regular readers of this blog will know that textured, reversible pieces make up the majority of my creations!) The thing is, with pieces cut on the Silhouettes, you really want one side of the piece to be flat: that helps it to stick better to the cutting mat! So, I thought, if I’m ever going to try this One Fire Brilliant Bronze, using it for plain-backed Sili-cut pieces seems to be the way to go.

So, I mixed up a batch, took a part of that and added a bit of glycerin (which gives the dried clay a tiny bit of flexibility, which is extremely useful as you’re separating your just-cut pieces from the cutting mat!). Then I rolled out a few small pieces with light- to moderate-depth textures on one side only, and set those aside to dry while I sketched a few sample designs. Not imagining I’d have any reason to write about it, I didn’t stop to take any photos. I loaded the clay pieces onto the cutting mat of my Portrait, and cut away. The cutting was the easy part!

As always with a new-to-me clay, I did NOT fill up the kiln for my first firing. I started small, taking just one pendant and two smaller, matching pieces (an earring-pair) and fired those. Massive fail: bubbles and cracks: overfired by a lot! I took another earring pair, dropped the temperature, and tried again. Overfired again but, OK, not quite as much. Another pair, dropped the temp a good bit more, tried yet again. Still a bit bubbly, meaning they were still overfired. To drop any lower, though, I’d be going well below the recommended temperature for that clay, so I went online and asked Hadar herself for some advice. She said the firing range for that clay was actually rather large, she often fired at a temperature close to where I had ended up. Since I know my kiln does actually fire a bit hotter than where I’ve set it, it only took me two more tries before I got things to work out the way I wanted!

But, while waiting for Hadar to reply, I fell into one of those pits where I couldn’t think of anything else to create. So …. I mixed up some .960 clay, and rolled out a number of small, thin sheets of that with textures on just one side.

Aside: My .960 was made by mixing .999 PMC Flex, which serves the same purpose as the glycerin, and .925 PMC Sterling, which gives more strength to the thin pieces that are at the limit in terms of thickness hat the Silhouette Cameo and Portrait machines can cut. I used .960 instead of straight .925 because its firing is as reliable as the super-easy .999 fine silvers…

To keep things simple (since I was just trying to perk myself up during a brief lull!), I used the same sketches as I had for the bronze, cut out nine (9) silver pendants and six (6) pairs of earrings (shown in the first photo in this post), cleaned them up a little bit as needed, and fired them right away.

When I finally got a Brilliant Bronze piece to fire successfully, I took a photo of it.

I then fired all the remaining Brilliant Bronze pieces I had waiting and, when those came out fine too, I polished everything up and took a photo. Well, this isn’t quite everything: it’s just pendants (not any of the earrings) and only the ones for which I had enough chain! I’ll have to get some more for that, and finish off the rest. But I am feeling a great sense of accomplishment!

A few final notes:

  • Hadar also now has a number of “One Fire Flex” clays (not every color in her range, but many of them). The were designed specifically to be used with electronic die-cutters, like the Silhouettes and other machines on the market. I have purchased a bit of that, but have yet to try any. Since the winter of 2007-08, I’ve been adding glycerin to clays (in varying amounts, and to different clay formulas, depending on the amount of “flex” I want in my dried clay, anywhere from just enough to peel away a cutting mat without breaking to wiggly-enough to tie a knot!) and, while it can be nice to get a little flex without having to do that, it’s now so second-nature to me the need to switch is just not urgent…
  • Silhouette America had at least one model before the Cameo, which I think was called an SD (for Silhouette Design, I would think), and they’re about to come out with yet another newer one, the curio (yes, they use lower case for it). The bed of curio will be even smaller than the Portrait, but it will be able to cut thicker materials, meaning thicker layers (less fragile after firing) of metal clay! (Though the Silhouettes are all at the low end of cutting-force compared to other electronic die-cutters, so the curio will still be limited by that with regard to some other materials.) Still, though I’d love to have that option, I need to sell a lot more pieces before I spring for yet another machine… I don’t see the curio replacing my Cameo but, if I were just starting out now, I’d get it instead of the Portrait. Still, having all three could be useful for workshops next year…?!
  • I’ve fired a few more loads in the two weeks since the adventures reported above and, at the same temperature (even just a tad lower with the last, very-full load); all have turned out fine! I’ve heard / read about some people who say they don’t like Hadar’s clays because they seem so fussy. My personal experience is that each new one does seem to have its own personality, what it’s like to work with and to fire, but once you find its sweet spot, it’s then at least as reliable as any of the others on the market. Regardless of whose clay I’m using, the scientist / engineer in me is fine with starting off slow, observing what happens, building my understanding, and then taking off! The next time I go on a real Sili-binge, with much more elaborate constructions, I’ll try to remember to illustrate those here too, eventually. It really is a fun little tool!

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Arts on the Riverwalk 2015

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/18

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

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

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

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PSA’S 2015 Artist’s Choice Exhibition

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/12

I had a great time last night at the opening of the latest show sponsored by the Pittsburgh Society of Artists.

I was delighted to find my entry, a pendant, in the “jewelry nook” between the two rooms downstairs at the Panza Gallery in Millvale, PA. I displayed it in a frame which led the folks hanging the show to place it on the back wall in that nook, which I thought was a great location. You just might be able to spot the frame way in the back of the first photo here! (If you want to see the actual piece, I offered up a photo of that in my last post.)

Aside: I keep going back and forth over whether to display pendants in a frame or out on a bust form. For art-jewelry shows, specifically, I’ll usually hang a necklace on a bust, assuming other jewelers will do the same and the sponsors will be prepared to handle the security involved in such a display. For art shows, on the other hand, where my piece may be the only piece, or perhaps one of only a very few, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, well, though I do think of most show attendees as trustworthy, it hardly seems worth the risk to make my entry so easy for even just one nefarious person to pocket. Does that make me paranoid? Maybe. But I know other art jewelers who won’t even enter shows because they’re worried what might happen to their pieces, and I am willing to put my work out there. So, maybe more cautious than paranoid? I admit to being a bit shy personally, but I’ve always enjoyed having my work out there for others to see and consider, and I’m always thrilled to have intelligent conversations about such creations.

Back to the show itself: I’d never been to an opening at this particular gallery before, so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect in terms of number of people, ease of parking, or anything else. But we found an easy parking space just a block away and, even with that the turnout seemed great: these photos were taken well into the evening, after a number of people had already left, which meant I could capture a few shots that showed some of the art as well as people… For local readers I didn’t see last night, maybe you’ll get over to the show between now and July 24. If you do, please be sure to let me know what you thought of it all!

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My First Show as a Member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/07/03

Somehow, we’ve sped into another month already and on Friday afternoon I dropped of my entry for another Members-Only show, this time for my first opportunity with the Pittsburgh Society of Artists since being juried into that group. Details of the show’s location, dates, and hours are on the “postcard” shown to the right (as usual, click for a larger image where the details should be clearer). I’m so happy to have gotten in this year, and thus find myself able to participate in some of PSA’s 50th Anniversary events. (Though after all my years in community / public radio, I will admit that I still first register the acronym PSA as Public Service Announcement…)

It was fun to see the entries from a number of other PSA members when I dropped off my selection: I got there a little over half-way through the times allotted for that, but I only thought later that I could have asked what proportion of the expected pieces had arrived by then. No matter — I’m still looking forward to seeing the entire show once everything is in place!

For my local readers, please note that the show’s Opening Reception will be on Saturday, July 11, from 6 to 8:30 pm. I’m planning to go, and I sure hope I’ll see some of you there too! Do let me know if I should be on the lookout for you! Or, even better, let me know if you’d like to carpool. (And, if you’ve never been to the Panza Gallery before, let me know that and I’ll share what I know about parking in that area.)

Ahhh but what to enter?! I debated and debated that with myself until almost the last minute. Finally, I went with the idea to let it be one of the pieces that had gotten me into the group in the first place, the one that resulted from my “Combining Inspirations” from several of my favorite artists.

My hesitation about entering that one was whether or not I should hold it back to use as a sample in upcoming workshops. But I’m happy with the approach to making those, and I’ve been further exploring this approach by making a few other variations to show off in class, so I convinced myself that this is the one that should be given the opportunity to be seen live by a wider audience and, hopefully, find appreciation in a new home!

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June Show-Season Begins: Members-Only Show with the Cranberry Artists Network

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/02

It’s looking like a busy month. I hope I can remember to post all the various announcements! First of all, there’s the inaugural 2015 Members Show with the Cranberry Artists Network (CAN).

I’ve had two pieces accepted for this show (my first since being selected as a member). I chose to enter two reversible pendants. One is made from fine silver (.999) that I’ve hung on a sterling silver (.925) chain. It’s about an inch across, and composed of three separate layers. The middle layer has a texture pattern that displays concentric circles. A good portion of that is visible through an overlay, a highly polished disk with lines radiating out of its center, where I’ve been able to cut a circle out of it that aligns with the circles on the middle piece. I’ve centered all of that a little above and to the left of the center of the piece: that positioning reminds me of the rising sun, which has always been a part of my vision for this side.

There’s a third overlay, placed on the “back” of the inner-circles piece. It displays a textured pattern of (sun-drenched, perhaps) gingko leaves and is embellished with a lilac-colored corundum stone. I don’t know if there is an “official” name for that pale purple stone, other than simply lilac-colored corundum but, if you’re not familiar with it either, just know that rubies and sapphires are also forms of corundum. I do apologize for the quality of the photo, though: tiny shiny objects are just such a challenge to get right….

My second piece in the show is more of what I’d call an “entry level” piece, deliberately kept relatively simple in order to keep the price down for the beginning collector. This one is made of bronze; it’s a little over an inch across and is another of my reversible creations. One side is a textured and domed disk with a single strip overlay as embellishment, which I see as simple but elegant. The other side is then concave, with a faceted stone set into a hand-formed bezel and nestled down into the curve, to help make that side special too. This stone is in the cubic zirconia (CZ) family, a purple color that the vendor calls “Lavender.” This one is hung on a brass chain, one that’s in a style I seem to have been using fairly frequently lately.

The show runs from June 3 through 25 at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, 2525 Rochester Rd., Cranberry Township, PA 16066. The Opening Reception will be on Wednesday night, June 3, from 6 to 8 pm, with lots of good refreshments to complement the delightful art. I’m going, and it’d be great to see a few “locals” there! And for several weeks afterwards, you can still check out all the great art in this show any time the municipal center itself is open.

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Where Oh Where Has Carol Been…?!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/02/03

Long-time readers of this blog will know that, if nothing else, I always post a New Years / Blog Anniversary message. The fact that I’ve not posted since before Christmas, without even I clue I was going off-line for a while should be a big clue that something or other had gone awry.

Well, while close friends know the details, I’m just not one to post all sorts of personal stuff everywhere online, but I will say this much: it wasn’t just one thing…. There was this, and that, and then this other thing, and then on top of all that…. No crisis, as such, just no time left for dabbling online. I’ve no clue if or when I’ll manage to catch up with posts, but I did have to take a moment now to share some news about one great recent treat: two of my pieces were accepted for the Isn’t It Romantic show sponsored by the Cranberry Artists Network (from Cranberry Township, which is north of Pittsburgh, PA).

I didn’t manage to make anything completely new for the event, but entrants were allowed to submit two pieces, and I had on hand two that fit the theme perfectly, so in those went!

There’s Love’s Garden in Pinks, a necklace with a fine silver (.999) focal bead and clasp, strung with some really luscious cloisonne, Swarovski crystal, and glass beads. The fine silver pieces are reversible. The bead has little pink CZs on each side. Its Love side (shown) has a heart-shaped texture, and the Garden side has an acanthus-design. Though I made it back in 2011, I’ve only risked putting it up for sale in one quick event because I kept debating with myself whether to sell it or keep this one for myself. But I’m finally ready to let it go, should someone else now want it, for themself or to give as a gift.

And there’s Friends & Lovers, a bracelet in bronze with glass beads, copper wire, and bronze jump rings. The bronze hearts all have a roses-and-swirls pattern, but I curved them so I could nestle little sweetheart-pink, blood-bond red, & romantic-rose colored beads in their hollows. The toggle clasp was made to match, with an arrow for the bar. I submitted this photo for an online challenge in February 2014, but I never really liked how the clasp worked, so I finally got around to remaking the bar at the end of last year (and just realized I don’t have a photo of that … sigh!). But the arrow-head and “feathers” are the same as shown here; the very subtle difference is that, instead of using a loop in the shaft to hold it together, the latest version has a straight shaft with a U-shaped wire embedded into it. Now that I’m satisfied with its design, I can put it out for consideration by others. As far as its title goes, I’ll share the little inside-joke about it: the snuggly-hearts were meant as signs of Love all along, but it’s one of the first pieces I made out of Hadar’s Friendly Bronze metal clay powder after she made it available. I just couldn’t resist the urge to tie the two together in the title.

The Isn’t It Romantic show opens tomorrow, February 4. I’ve seen a number of the other entries, and there’s a lot of really great work in this show. There’s an opening reception from 6 to 8 pm (with, I’m told, lots of wonderful sweet treats planned) and, weather permitting, I plan to attend that. If you’re in the area and would like to join me, it’ll be in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, on Rochester Road just west of Route 19.

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Crazy-busy Season

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/12/01

Life tends to get crazy-busy this time of year, for multiple reasons, some of which I’m sure you can imagine and others would take too long to explain. So I’m just going to list a few events you may want to know about should you be interested in seeing some of my work in person:


  • November 30 – December 7: H*liday mART at Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Sewickley, PA

  • December 5-6-7: Holiday Gift Shop at the Wilkins School Community Center, Swissvale, PA

  • December 5-6-7: Open House in my Studio, to coincide with WSCC’s Holiday Gift Shop

  • December 13: Open House at the Hoyt Center for the Arts, New Castle, PA

  • December 13-14: Open House in my Studio, to coincide with an Art Studio tour in Regent Square (Swissvale, Pittsburgh, Edgewood, Wilkinsburg), PA

  • For other venues, please see the list of Ongoing locations down the right side of this blog.

If you find yourself missing any of those, no problem. Just get in touch with me: leave a comment on this post, or message me via Convergent Series page on Facebook (and, while you’re at it, a Like there would be very much appreciated…). We’ll find a way for you to explore my creations!

I’m not sure how much else I’ll manage to post this month. But I have new designs in the works, new workshop pieces I’m testing out plus, of course, new variations of ongoing favorites in both those categories … and lots more for 2015! I look forward to posting about all of those in the New Year, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them too.

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My latest opportunity: at the Hoyt Center for the Arts!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/11/28

I am thrilled to report that my work is now being carried in the Gift Shop at the Hoyt Center for the Arts in New Castle, PA.

I’d mentioned last summer that two of my pieces had been accepted for a juried art show that the Hoyt was curating for The Confluence, also in New Castle. Now I’ll admit that I’d applied to several earlier shows there and had not been accepted for those. But, persistent person that I am (a skill well-honed in my previous academic life, continually applying for grants…), I kept applying because I really did think we’d find a way to connect eventually. I don’t always assume that, but just felt it in this case. And, finally, the Confluence show was a situation where what they were looking for and what I was offering really did match up!

So happily I went up to the Artists’ Reception for that show, where I gladly accepted the award that one of my entries had earned. Of course, I wore several more of my pieces. And, in talking with some of the Hoyt staff there, where they were able to fully see the craftsmanship in my finished pieces, they suggested I get in touch with the manager of the Gift Shop and then told her to expect to hear from me. After a series of emails, and another trip up to New Castle (not a problem: the drive takes at most an hour, and I thoroughly enjoyed the different shows they were running each time!), a small collection of my pendants and earrings are now available in the Gift Shop (including the pendant shown here). If those do well, of course, I’ll deliver more!

There should be a link in the right column of this blog, but here’s the address and related information:

Hoyt Center for the Arts
124 East Leasure Avenue
New Castle, PA 16101 USA
724.652.2882
HoytArtCenter.org

If you’re in the area, please do stop by. It really is a delightful place!

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A Simple Weaving Project with PMC Flex

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/11/25

Let me be clear from the start: I think that “weaving” metal clay is loads of fun, and it produces interesting results. Great combo, eh?

Some Background

I don’t have any decent pictures from when I first started trying to weave metal clay. I don’t even have any of the earrings I made by weaving strings of PMC+ (on my own) or strips of PMC+ sheet (when I took a RioRewards certification class with CeCe Wire, down in Baltimore). Both ways, I had fun doming the results by backing that with the now-discontinued, sigh, high-shrinkage PMC Standard clay. But here’s a pair of the latter that I made in 2010 (yeah, well, I redid the Rio Rewards when Tim McCreight taught it a few miles from my house); this photo is from when I used them as one of my entries in Vickie Hallmark’s Month of Earrings Challenge that year.

Woven Rectangles

While I enjoyed doing this, and I did play around with other weave-spacings, I found that the sheet product had two drawbacks. First of all, you have to be very careful attaching sheet to a backing or frame: not enough water and it doesn’t stick, but too much and you’ve ruined it. Second, another thing I love about metal clay includes the design possibilities with textures, and sheet does not take textures the same way. Early in 2008, not long after Hadar Jacobson’s first book (The Handbook of Metal Clay: Textures & Forms) had come out, I was thrilled to read about how to doctor-up my own clay so that I could texture it but it would still remain flexible, like the sheet product, in the greenware state. Here are several of the first pieces I made with that clay, photographed together to use in promoting the first workshop I taught using this approach.

Three Woven Silver Pendants (Class Samples)

Though my workshops for beginners emphasized making woven pieces that were still essentially flat, on my own I went on to explore a number of other designs. Magic Carpet (or, to those with some knowledge of non-Euclidean geometry, Weaving through Hyperbolic Space), shown below, is one of my favorites from that period.

Magic Carpet (striped frame side)

After Hadar came out with her own base metal clays, and introduced us to various ways of combining those, I again launched right in to combining those with multi-metal weaves. Here is a piece I called Mixed Metaphors. Hadar was kind enough to include a photo of this in her fourth book, Patterns of Color in Metal Clay, which came out in 2011. (This piece later went to live with my cousin Debby; by then it was also sporting a lovely coiled-copper wire bail.)

PMC Flex

So when I first got my hands on PMC Flex, one of the things I thought to try with it was another woven piece. Yes, I knew I could also explore other styles entirely, and that’s coming. But, first time with a new clay, my inclination is to do something that is already deeply seated in my “finger memory”! Something that I know I can make successfully some other way, such that the question is how this particular clay performs in that approach. So, at last, here’s something of a step-by-step on weaving PMC Flex.

I began by rolling out a few strings (aka rods, snakes, etc.) of PMC Flex. I also textured a few small sheets of clay; after neatly trimming two edges, I returned the extra clay to the package.

Once the sheets were dry, I cut them with a pair of plain scissors. For what it’s worth, I’ve been known to cut moist regular clay the same way, with plain scissors and with fancy-edge crafting scissors. By waiting until your clay has dried to cut it, you remove the risk that you’ll smush the piece, leave unwanted finger- or tool-marks, or stretch the pattern. And, yes, I’ve been known to cut dry regular clay, but there is some risk of breakage doing that. Dried flex clay just cuts beautifully, with ease.

While my flex sheets were drying, I also made two narrow washer shapes. To keep this test simple, they are the same size in both inner and outer dimensions, plain on one side and textured on the other. They were dried over matching light bulbs. One had the texture facing up; the other, facing down. The one on the left (textured on the convex side) was made out of PMC Flex; the one on the right (textured on the concave side) was made from PMC 3. There is no technical reason to use two different clays. I just didn’t want to use the relatively small amount of PMC Flex that I had on components that didn’t require the flex feature, so I used PMC 3 for one of them. Still, I was curious how the PMC Flex would work in this design, so I did use it for the other. (I’ll discuss this more in a moment…)

Next, I started loosely weaving together my strips of dried PMC Flex. My intention all along had been to make a somewhat open weave. I did not plan to push the pieces tightly together (as shown in the PMC+ earrings, above); neither did I intend to leave extremely large openings. What I found was that the PMC Flex could be pushed together as much as is shown in the following photo, but only that much. Had I used PMC+ to make my own diy-flex, I would have been able to snug the strips up even closer. These strips made from PMC Flex felt rather similar to the diy-flex I’ve made from PMC3. (No surprise there, just confirmation: the product is, in fact, marketed as being most-comparable to PMC3!)

My last question for the evening was how well this little woven sample would fit my cut-out washers. There’s no reason one has to get it to fit as well as shown below, though that is a pretty good fit if I do say so myself! The point is that the strips need to be long enough; later on, you can always trim off any pieces that are too long.

The one and only problem I noticed (as you can see, above) was that the inside edges of each the washers were a bit rough. I’m one of those people who tries to minimize the amount of sanding that I do: when I cut moist clay, I just take care to smooth the edges immediately. With narrow-edge washers, however, it can be a bit of a challenge to smooth the inner edges without risk of distorting the shape of the piece. So that is one area that I will “refine” by sanding once the piece has dried. Here’s what I was able to do the next morning. (Note the color change in the photos in the daylight!)

And here’s the thing about that sanding. With diy-flex, I would almost always make the washer / frame shape out of regular (non-flex) clay. Why? Because the diy-flex clay (especially the extra-bendy stuff I could make from PMC+) was challenging to sand. It was so flexible, it just bent away from my sandpaper. I’ve read about heating this new PMC Flex clay to harden it up so that you could sand it. Had that really been necessary, in this instance, it would have made sense to just make the frames out of non-flex clay. But, given the success I’d had with smoothing the sharp-ish edges on the Möbius-strip earrings I’d tried first, I decided to make one frame out of flex clay to see whether or not I could sand smooth its inner edge. As you can see from the images above (especially if you click to enlarge them), I was able to smooth both pieces out nicely. I did hold them both carefully as I did so: the PMC 3 so I would not risk cracking it, and the PMC Flex so it would remain straight-up under my sandpaper. But I did not have to heat the Flex to accomplish this, which really did please me.

Next, I put the rigid PMC3 frame back onto the light bulb on which I’d dried it. (That’s why I’d made that one out of the non-flex clay: there is no reason at this point to have it move at all.) I carefully placed my woven swatch over that, shifting it around a bit until I was happy with its position.

Then I took a dab of water, and attached each strip-end to the frame.

And then, well, I really thought I’d taken photos of the next few steps too, but now I can’t find them. I put a few little end-trimmings in the bigger gaps around the frame to serve as supports. Then I moistened the strip-ends and the other frame element, and squidged all that together. Finally, I took a little bit of moist PMC3 and filled in all the gaps around the outer edges. (I could have used the Flex for that but, again, I was conserving my first batch of it.) Once that was all neat and smooth, I waited until I was sure it was dry. Then I fired it, sitting on top of a little pile of vermiculite to offer a bit of support. After firing, I polished it a bit, and added a liver of sulphur patina, before adding a jump ring from which to hang it.

My last comment here is that using the frame-ring made out of PMC Flex for the second side was a bit of an experiment. I wasn’t sure if the flex-aspect would help, or cause problems, in that step. In the end, I think it’s a bit of six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other. Its flexibility let me wiggle it around a bit to line everything up nicely; its flexibility also let one little segment end up a tad out of alignment. My current thinking about future pieces is that, with simple frames like this, I’ll probably go back to making both sides out of non-flex clay. For less-precise shapes, making it possible for the second side to be “flexed” to match the first (but out of a clay that can still be sanded as needed for clean edges) could be a real advantage.

Here’s the final result: one photo that shows both sides:

Your comments on this are welcome!

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Hot from the Kiln (or, A Little Steel to New Castle)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/09/05

Here’s a peek at another of my Three Rivers pieces.

I say “peek” because the main image shows what it looked like straight from the kiln, cooled off a bit but not cleaned up at all (which should be pretty obvious, from the carbon-crumbs still clinging to it…). Just peeking out from behind is a hint of what it now looks like, what you’ll see if you find me wearing it tonight at the “Public Reception” up at The Confluence in New Castle, PA.

This is a Pittsburgh piece for sure. I embedded a trillion-shaped CZ into a little steel frame and positioned that at “the Point.” The “neighborhoods” are made from copper, with various garden-theme textures. I used those to reflect how much I appreciate all the green space in Pittsburgh.. I even continued that idea on the other side, which is all-copper with a rose-themed texture. The three rivers are made from bronze, with “expansion joints” positioned to reflect the locations of the major bridges. It is technically-convenient to add a few of those gaps, so I figure I might as well make them design-appropriate while I’m at it….

That sort of problem-solving is part of why I have so much fun working in this medium of powdered metals! What captures your interests that way (whatever is your favorite medium…!)?

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At a Confluence: Updates!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/08/25

This post will follow up on my earlier post about the show, At a Confluence, that’s running from August 15 through November 13, 2014. First, since I just included a link before, without details, this time I’ll include some specifics right here on the post:
The Confluence
address: 14 E Washington St, New Castle, PA 16101
phone: (724) 698-7604
hours: Mon – Sat: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Next, I’m thrilled to report that one of my pieces, Sparkle (Together) on a Stormy Night (shown, right), earned a “Merit Award“!

And … there’s going to be a Public Artist Reception on Friday, September 5, from 5 to 7 pm. If you can get yourself over to The Confluence for that, it’d be great to see you there!

Finally, if you’re not already familiar with The Confluence itself, here are a few things you might find interesting: It’s a social enterprise venture developed by Cray Youth & Family Services of Lawrence County, PA, to (in their words): generate revenue [via both sales & donations] to help support their critical and life-changing programs; offer free events that build community; provide a safe gathering place for all children and families; and provide employment opportunities to young people.

While I am certainly delighted to be a part of this art show, and proud to be recognized with an award, the thing that really makes me happy is that it’s all a part of such a great enterprise. This is a case where, by asking you to join me, I’m hoping you will help support this whole project.

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“At a Confluence” at The Confluence

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/08/15

confluence |ˈkänˌfloōəns; kənˈfloōəns|
noun
ORIGIN late Middle English : from late Latin confluentia, from Latin confluere ‘flow together’

  • the junction of two rivers, esp. rivers of approximately equal width
    here at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers;
  • an act or process of merging
    a major confluence of the world’s financial markets.

Many thanks to my fellow Koolkat artist Judi Erno for giving me a heads-up about the exhibit, At a Confluence, juried by the Hoyt Center for the Arts, and to be displayed in the Art Gallery at The Confluence coffee house in New Castle, PA, from August 15 to November 13, 2014. Judi saw the Call for Artists and recognized how perfectly my new series of pendants might fit with that theme. I’m delighted to report that two of my pieces have been accepted for this show:

Zipping Along Together
Bronze on Copper
Sparkle (Together) on a Stormy Night
Copper on Bronze with CZ

The At a Confluence exhibit runs from August 15 to November 13, 2014. Should you find yourself in that part of Western Pennsylvania during that time, do check out the show, as well as the reading room & lending library (with delightful artist-created shelves!). At the coffeehouse, you can also enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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I Made It Onto “Hadar’s List”!!!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/02/14

It has been one long, fun, hard, exciting, challenging year, with lots I’ve learned and still more I’ve been inspired to explore further, but I’m now a “graduate” of the Hadar’s Clay™ Teachers’ Accreditation Program.

As I write this, there are about two dozen of us around the world. Maybe a dozen or so more should be added in the next month. There’s a second group that should finish before the end of the year. I feel truly honored to have had the opportunity to spend the past year working with such an amazing and wonderful group of artists and explorers.

I look forward to the adventures we’ll continue to have together, and to continuing to share them with my students and with all my other readers here. Check for links to my workshops down the right side of this blog. My first four-part series based on this program will run in my studio during April and May of this year. (I’m still teaching silver too, and have four individual classes set up for that in March.) Do let me know if you’re interested in either the silver classes or the base metals series … or both!

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Wrapping Up One Year and Opening the Next…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/01/01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2013 Art Buzz Tour — This Weekend!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/12/14

Have you heard the buzz? Six sites! All in the Pittsburgh area’s “East End” this weekend: Regent Square, Swissvale, and Squirrel Hill. And my studio is one of the locations on it again this year.

I’ve got lots of jewelry on offer, plus a handful of other small adornments.

I also have aloe vera plants that need a new home, babies that i repotted from some of the big ones I keep around. (I do work with hot metals here!) BONUS: small ones are free with a purchase of $35 or more (or a discount can be applied to the price of any of the larger ones if that’s what you prefer).

Plus you’re welcome to share some of my cookies and hot mulled cider. (I also got the makings for cranberry-orange frosties but, with all the snow that’s falling, I’ll save that until there’s a request or I run out of cider, whichever comes first.)

Happy Holidays to all!

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Double Double Duty

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/11/15

I love it when I can save myself some time, effort, and / or money by getting “double duty” out of something. It’s great whenever it happens, but it’s a special treat at this time of year. (That is, as anyone in any aspect of retail sales know, during the time when the holiday-sales season approaches, schedules fill up, and spare time simply evaporates!)

So the reversible fine silver pendant with a lab-grown pink corundum stone shown with this post was a real treat:

  • I made the “base” piece as part of my demos during a recent beginner’s workshop. I fired it with the student pieces, which got that out of the way quickly too. Then, I added the bezel cup and “sapphire” as my part of my demos during a session on adding a stone to a finished piece. Two classes that were lots of fun and one piece that worked for both. Double duty.

  • But the double-double comes from the fact that the piece is now done, and into inventory for one of my pre-holiday shows! It’s going out to the H*liday mART at Sweetwater Center for the Arts (November 30 – December 8). I hope it will go home with someone else who falls in love with it there. But the timing is such that, if it ends up coming back with me, I can offer it again at my studio, with all the other pieces I’ll be saving specifically to offer there during the Art Buzz Tour (December 14-15).

While the making and placing of tags is nowhere near as much fun as is the making of these pieces, I’ve found I can overcome the boredom of that by imagining the people who will attend such events, and imagining those who may connect with one (or more) of my creations. I hope you’ll be among them, for real.

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Another “It’s Always Something, Isn’t It?” Situation

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/10/26

Another gap in blogging, it seems: I guess I could just post text without photos, but somehow my writing-mind goes blank without images. And I’m really short on images at the moment: the little camera I use here for jewelry photos died right after my last post. Given the symptoms, I don’t think it’s a mechanical failure of the basic camera mechanism; this is a little digital camera and it looks to me like something has gone haywire in the digital processing part of the device (some “chip” issue). Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t had time to even figure out where to take / send it to see if it’s something fixable (in an affordable way), or if I’ve been pushed into replacement-land (i.e., expense). Sigh.

I borrowed a camera for a few hours today for something else I had to do (i.e., photos required, deadline firm) and, while I had it, grabbed a few quick shots of new jewelry items. The ones I include with this post show a pendant in Copper and Bronze. One side (bigger image here, right) shows some “cane slices” from fairly near the end of a cane (where the disks of each metal are fairly large). The top one, in fact, had a huge copper center. I could have drilled into that and added some bronze but, I will admit, I took the “easy way out” for a change: I saw that space and said to myself, “If I put this one at the top, I can drill a hanging-hole right through that copper area!” I’m happy with that solution.

I’m OK with the fact that it developed some gaps between the square elements as it was fired. I did spend some time debating with myself whether to fill the gap between the copper and bronze rings in the fourth element down from the top. That also appeared only after the whole piece had been fired, so patching would have required a second firing (and, thus, possibly more gaps elsewhere that might bother me more). The “ridged” area between the third and fourth elements only showed up this clearly after I’d polished the whole thing and applied the patina solution to bring out the contrast between the two metals. I could probably have gotten that out with a file but, afterwards, the whole piece would have needed more polishing and another round of patination. This is a small, relatively simple piece, meant to be a somewhat inexpensive option for someone who likes my work in this technique but doesn’t want (or can’t afford) the larger, more complex ones. Doing either of those “repairs” would have bumped the price up (or forced me to take a loss on that time and energy). I love the look of this technique when it all works perfectly, but I’m torn about how many pieces to make using it because of the time it takes (both just to do it at all, and then to do all the extra “fixing” it so often involves) compared to the prices at which I’ve seen these pieces sell (or, when marked higher, not sell…). Clearly, this is a situation where artistry bumps right up against reality! Does that happen to other people? How do you deal with it?

Of course, this being me, the piece is reversible! The other side (smaller image here, left) has copper in a sort of woven design (that reminds me of some of my mother’s wicker baskets) embellished with three bronze bars. The techniques used on that side are just so much more reliable. I am constantly asking myself, “Should I just stick with this sort of work, overall?” Questions like that come into extra-sharp focus as one addresses the issue of replacing equipment like a jewelry-grade camera. (Trust me: for this, I need a camera with a particularly good “macro” mode, one that not only shoots good close-ups but also captures those colors especially well.)

But I’ll worry about camera later. I have a whole collection of bronze and/or copper pieces made and fired, but somehow not quite finished. Some have not yet received any polishing, let alone any other finishing. Some are polished but need a patina to either accent their textures or contrast the different metals used. Some have made it through all of that, but need to be hung on something. I’m hoping I can borrow camera again to photograph those when they’re done, and then I’ll enter them into inventory and make their sales-tags. I’ve got a week to get all that done (along with my next assignment for the workshop I’m doing with Hadar); then I’ll clear off my worktable, wash all the tools and such, set the space up in its workshop configuration, and turn back to silver for a few weeks.

The next workshop I’ll be teaching will be another silver one: we’ll be making reversible pendants, textured on both sides, and curved into interesting shapes (domed disks, wavy oblongs, free-form curves, etc.). It’s a great project for beginners (first timer through advanced-beginners…), and is scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, November 9. There are still a couple seats open … so do let me know if you’d like to join us!

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2012 Art Buzz Tour — This Weekend

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/12/03

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

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

2012 Art Buzz Map

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

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

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Productivity!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/11/05

I led a “woven silver” workshop at the weekend. The first photo (right) shows the pieces that were made that afternoon and, um, once everyone got a roll, that evening too. (Yes, a few didn’t involve weaving. That’s OK too.) In that image, no finishing has taken place: it shows the “white” appearance of the silver crystal structure straight out of the kiln. I just wanted to grab a quick photo, while I could, to show how productive the session had been.

The second photo (left) of the folks at the west-side table at work is mostly a sort of visual note to myself to try to remember to take photos more often, in class but also elsewhere. Because the caption for that image should be, “No! I won’t look up! I will not look at the camera! No!” Still, I’d like to thank everyone who was there for being such good sports … in every other way.

I haven’t posted over the past couple of weeks because I’ve done all sorts of things where I just did not think to take any photos. You might think that I would have taken photos while attending a workshop on photographing artwork. But no, there were lots of handouts and images of copyrighted work and discussion and more. Even though I had both of my cameras with me, the only times either one came out of its bag were to show a few images that were already on their memory cards.

You might think I’d’ve taken some shots at our recent metal clay guild chapter meeting but, no, I didn’t even think to take a camera to that. We had an opportunity to play with the Silhouette Cameo cutter that one of our members has gotten; we did lots of great planning for next year; and there was all the usual sharing and showing and telling and hand-on time and more. But no photos….

I also didn’t think to take a camera on any of my recent shopping expeditions. But, now that I think of it, I have added a few interesting items to “the stash.” Maybe I can manage to (remember to) take photos and write in the next week or so, before those elements finish going to into pieces and out for holiday sales events.

It is such a busy time of year, with all the autumn chores and the lead-in to the season of holidays, I am sure you, dear reader, are keeping busy too. Please know that I hope you are feeling productive!

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Sometimes I compare beading to framing….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/08/06

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

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

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

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

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Pushing through the storms….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/08/04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pushing, in more ways than one….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/07/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Starting Out by Layering.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/05/29

OK, now, let me get back to silver again…. While I’m perfectly happy to have beginners in sessions like the box-pendant workshop I mentioned in my last couple of posts, I also enjoy offering start-up workshops with much simpler projects. Especially with silver: many people are happy to dive right in and try it but, especially given the price of silver these days, some may be more hesitant, concerned about doing something wrong, perhaps not yet fully grasping how easy it is–with metal clay–to just squish it up and start over! (Well, there are a few limits, but it sure is easier to “just start over” without any waste using the metal clay approach than it is with traditional metalsmithing.)

In the past, I’ve offered a collage / mosaic class that’s pretty straightforward; this summer I’ll be offering one (or more) with the option of doing a somewhat simpler layering approach.

With this post are photos showing both sides of three of the sample pieces I made for this. I try to make ones that I can use to present a number of design and construction issues.

Just few of the points I can make with these are issues involving: using a texture stamp, creating your own design, and combinations of those; deep versus shallow textures and various ways they interact; rolling “coils” and “balls” of clay and different things you can do with those; pre-fire finishing of textured versus plain areas; and more.

Of course, we’ll also cover the different methods of joining pieces–wet to wet, wet to dry, and dry to dry–and how to “reactivate the binder” in dry elements for secure joins.

Also, using these (and a number of other examples I’ll bring to class), we can discuss a range of ways to hang a pendant. Of the three sets of images I chose to show here, my own opinion is that:

  1. one works just fine in general;
  2. one is OK as long as you pay attention to what you hang it from; and
  3. one needs “something else” (which I’ll take to show) to make it work reasonably.

Can you tell which is which?

Also, later this summer I’ll be offering one or more Add-a-Cab workshops. Folks who’ve taken a class from me, or from someone else, or who’ve made a piece on their own, will be able to come and add a (most likely 6 mm) cabochon to it. This will be an introduction to stone-setting, so you can see what’s involved, before you get into doing something more complicated (which I’ll address in other workshops later on). I may use one of my layered pieces in the demo for that. I think I’ve picked one out for that purpose, but I’m still debating if that’s the right one. If you have a suggestions there, feel free to chime in with a comment on that too.

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Speaking of Box-with-Pearl Pendants….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/05/25

Even though my last post did open with a comment about silver projects, it may have been a bit misleading. So, just for the record, while silver is great for making the pendants described there, not required! It is, for example, perfectly possible to make the Box Pendant with an Inset Pearl in bronze.

After making several samples to use in discussing various aspects of the design and mechanics of the project, I thought of one other issue regarding placement of the pearl in relation to the hanging mechanism that I wanted to remember to mention in class. Rather than sink more money into making yet another silver piece to illustrate this, I figured I might as well make it in bronze. (I’ve got a couple workshops, after the pearl box pendant one, that will use bronze in various ways, so I can also use this as a way to segue into that in class….)

I didn’t have any bronze wire in the right gauge to use for setting the pearl, so I tried a piece of copper I had that was the right size. And, hmph, it broke off as I was trimming it to size. (This was jewelry-grade copper, and I fired it just to the bronze-sintering temperature, so it should have held up…) The good news is that at least it broke off perfectly flush with the little plug into which I’d set it. So, rather than attach the pearl to that post, I simply attached it directly to the plug. Not ideal, but it’ll work for a demo. I’ll have to get some bronze wire that size because, in other gauges, it’s held up just fine through even multiple firings. And wear this piece around for a while, to verify that such an alternative connection will hold well enough.

It’s a tough job, wearing all this jewelry, but someone has to do it…..

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