Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘slip’

Following Up with Alice.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/05/12

Or maybe I should call this post “Slipping Up…”?

Though I hope others find something of interest in this note (like my last post, another example of a piece that just evolved during some demos), my reason for writing about this one is a little exchange Alice Walkowski and I had early this year about a technique (borrowed from the pottery world) called slip trailing, some of which may be found among the posts here (on her blog) and here (on mine).

But, let’s start with the first photo. I had cut the “sunshine shape” out of bronze during a demonstration. At the time, I was making several points. One was about taking care at corners, points, hollows, and such, (regardless of whether you used (my favorite) press-down cutters or (as books and articles often describe) drag-tools with templates to make your cuts). Another was about how, if you had a texture sheet with several different designs on it, you could sometimes get an interesting look by letting the area you cut out cross over from one pattern into another. Because I was focusing on all that, I did not bother to texture the other side before I cut it out. But I liked the result enough that I didn’t continue, as I often do in demos, with just squishing my clay up to reuse later on: I kept it, and let it dry as it was.

As I also reported recently, I’d demonstrated several examples of making and then joining links “invisibly” so I had a pair of linked rounds lying on my worktable. I added them to the “plain” side of the sun-shape. Again, I included my little talk about how, although many metal clay artists would use paste for the connection, I don’t get why so many people do it that way. I use plain water plus a brief moment of patient pressure (no longer, overall, that opening and closing a jar of paste…) and, neat and easy, it works just fine!

Then, someone just happened to ask me about slip trailing. They’d read about it, but didn’t quite get how it worked. So I moistened up some rose bronze clay, and used that to fill an empty, clean syringe so I could start to show the process. But, as can happen in quick, impromptu demos that get me off track of what I was planning to do, I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have to the thickness of the moist clay I was loading into my syringe. And a big “plop” landed on my careful (if quickly-sketched) design, covering several “rays” all at once.

I cleaned it up a bit and then tried, without as much success as I’d hoped, to add a dainty “plop” on the other side, to at least offer a bit of balance to the piece. But it just seemed to continue its own ungainly theme….

Refusing to acknowledge any sort of crisis regarding my lovely textured-star shape, I explained that piece was just telling me what it wanted. So I dribbled on some more goopy rose bronze and then added a few “highlight blobs” of copper clay too. The end result is more “turbulent” than what I’d planned to do, but I decided to just fire it anyway and see what happened. And I think the “stormy” look is just fine, especially in contrast with the precisely-textured first-side. Two different looks in one piece, as I often say!

And besides, by that point, what other reasonable choices did I have? I hope it will find a home with someone who can appreciate the mixture of precision and wildness across its two sides. Some may not, but I’m sure a very special person will, in the end, resonate with it!

(By the way, I did do a second demo using another base piece I had on hand, showing how the results can vary with different consistencies of slip. Much more successful! For reasons not worth going into here (though Alice knows at least one reason why…), I haven’t yet managed to capture a photo of that piece.)

Posted in General Techniques, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Third blob’s a charm….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/13

I haven’t updated blog, nor done much of anything non-essential, for over a week. I have read and commented at a few other sites, but that’s easier than coming up with something new myself, given the massive sinus & such infection that invaded my head. I’m perking back up — just in time, I might add, so I can lead a (very full, I hear) Curved Oblong Pendants workshop at Zelda’s this weekend — and I have begun composing several other posts in my head which will materialize after that (and maybe after a couple more classes too … I really am way behind on many fronts). But here’s a quick one in response to my friend Alice’s recent post Third time is NOT a charm!

Alice was talking about slip-trailing, which is a technique borrowed (as far as I know) from pottery. Thinned-down clay (slip) is poured (trailed) across a piece. Some metal clay folks do extremely precise designs, carefully dripping tiny amounts of slip at a time off the tip of a paintbrush; others do more random designs (as I did in the first photo shown with this post, above) by letting it dribble out of the end of a syringe that you hover over the piece, often moving that around in a somewhat random pattern. (Other tools, and combos of those approaches, are also possible, but I won’t go into all that now.) Alice wrote that she and a friend tried this recently (Alice has done this a few times before) and, though the friend seemed to achieve some good results, Alice ended up with some “blobs” that she was less than happy with.

Now, I could have just left a sympathetic comment on Alice’s post, but the reason I’m writing all this here is so I can show her (and you too) the second photo. It’s also a slip-trail design, but what you see is nothing like I had in mind when I started it. My goal had been something geometric but, as Alice herself often says, sometimes a piece will tell you what it wants to be.

And this one was quite emphatic. I trailed the line down the center. Fine. I trailed a second line. Blob! Not sure what to do with that, I trailed a third. Another blob. I sat there, frustrated, looking at the blobs.

And I saw tulips! Two distinct flowers, which led me to imagine a third tulip-blob that had simply grown off the top of the frame. And that was it: the piece had told me what it wanted to be. I took out a paintbrush and very carefully squeezed in just a few tiny leaves, to help confirm the image.

The only problem with writing this post, of course, is that I’ve now publicly admitted that the design on that piece was sheer luck. Or, maybe the artistry in it was recognizing the luck?

Here’s wishing Alice, and all my other readers, the ability to recognize good luck when it pops up in front of you!

Posted in General Techniques | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Double Duty (Month of Earrings #4-5-6)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/16

I led a great little class on Sunday at KoolKat. Several returning students and one enthusiastic newcomer. Each participant made four to six pieces that could be used for pendants, charms, or earrings.

On the “second” side, we used a variety of slip-trailing techniques (with the consistency of the slip itself ranging thick to runny; using refilled syringes, a spoon, paintbrushes; etc.). On the first, we may have rolled it out with a texture, or left it smooth, or applied slip there too.

Reversible Earrings #1

While I was demonstrating rolling, texturing, cutting, hole-making, plus slip trailing and other forms of embellishments, I was able to make several more pieces for the Month of Earrings. After they were fired, I applied a patina using “liver of sulphur” and hung them on sterling silver earwires in such a way that they can be slipped off (ha…) and turned around depending on which side you want to show in the front.

Reversible Earrings #2Reversible Earrings #3

As photographed, these three pairs illustrate the sides with stamped textures.

Posted in Challenges, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Slipping In a New Class

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/02/24

At last, my Spring class schedule is starting to evolve. While there are several interesting ones approaching, the title of this post refers to the next one up, on March 14. It should be lots of fun!

I call it “Along the Silver Trail” because we will be creating designs in silver using a technique, adapted from a rather widely used practice in the pottery world, known as “slip trailing.”

While writing this post, I did a quick search for some simple sources of information about the pottery-version of this technique. I found two, at and Wikipedia, each with an interesting illustration or two.

In the metal clay version, we start by using regular (thick) clay to make a basic shape, let that dry and refine it as needed, then we add trails of runny (watered-down) clay (known as “slip” or “thin paste”) to create the design.

It is possible to create very controlled drawings that way, but another alternative is to just “go with the flow” and create more “organic” designs.

Those are a few samples of some pendants and earrings I made up a couple nights ago. There are a couple more of my dome shapes, some gentle waves, and some basic flat shapes. As with all my pieces, each of them is reversible. The other side may also have a slip-trail design, or it may be polished very smooth, or it may have a textured pattern. Anything is possible!

This is a great technique for beginners, but it’s also a class where someone with more experience in metal clay can expand their repertoire.

If you’d like to sign up for the class, contact the host site, KoolKat Designs in Mt. Lebanon. If you have any questions about the class, please just leave a comment here.

Posted in Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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