Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘sterling silver’

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

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/03/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Four-week Intro Class: Deadline Extended!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2017/02/16

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

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

intro class samplesJust register now! Right here!

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

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

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

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

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Yes, Trunk Shows contininue again on Sunday.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/17

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

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

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

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

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Wrapping Up 2016…

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/12/01

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

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

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

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

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

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Exploring my “Urban Flowers” Series

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/10/17

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

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

I will provide a bit of background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban Flower No. 8 (Gold Cinquefoil)

What do you think?

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

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Carol’s Fall 2016 Workshops at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Make a Lentil Bead with Extra Sparkle!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/21

Registration has closed for my class on making silver buttons this week, but if you missed it, don’t worry.  I’ll be offering that one again, in my studio, in November AND I’ve got one on making bronze buttons on the studio schedule for February.  Those dates are set to coincide with Indie Knit & Spin, which is a great event that happens in the building where I have my studio.  More on all that next month … because I’ve got several other great classes lined up before those.

The next one will be at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh, this Monday, September 26, from Noon to 5 pm.  We’ll make hollow, domed, reversible, silver “lentil-style” beads—one of my most favorite basic shapes to work with!  If you want to add some extra bling to yours, you’ll learn a great way to set a lovely, sparkly cubic zirconia too, using an easy technique that lines up the top of your CZ  with the top of your bead in a very elegant design.

If you’d like to sign up for it, details on how to register are here.

LentilBead_Wonderland_with4pt5mmCZ_2258 Should you arrive early, consider having lunch at the Koolkat Cafe. You’ll want to start out well-nourished, from there or otherwise, so you’ll be ready to have lots of fun for the rest of the afternoon! During our session, there will be no specific time designated for everyone to take a break at once, but each person will reach stopping-points now and then where it’ll make sense to relax briefly.

byProject_LentilBeads_Twilight_with2mmCZ_partiallyPolished_2260The beads shown here are all just under an inch in diameter. That’s a good size to start out with: somewhere between 3/4 and 1.25 inches across.

We’ll be using a silver-rich version of sterling silver!

In class, I’ll help you understand the major differences (both advantages and disadvantages) of fine silver (99.9% silver), standard sterling silver (must have at least 92.5% silver, with the remaining 7.5% usually copper), and our class-clay (which is 96% silver and a mere 4% copper).

This class makes a great introduction to metal clay: the very first piece I ever made with the stuff was a lentil bead! Then again, if you already follow any metal clay discussions online, you’ll know that this “960” sterling silver is still relatively new in clay form but working with it is being explored by many metal clay artisans.  This will be a chance for you to work with it yourself!   Until recently, I taught classes using “999” fine silver; I still use that for a lot of my pieces and classes, and choose among brands and formulations according to which seems to be the best one for the various designs I have in mind.  But I’m thrilled to have a number of “960” versions available now too, as yet another choice, and I’m selecting projects to offer as classes that allow me to highlight the advantages (or avoid the disadvantages) among the many wonderful metal clay varieties that are now available.

I’ve  been doing some additional behind-the-scenes testing of the various forms of 960: don’t hold your breath waiting, but know that those results will appear here eventually too.  In the meantime, besides that testing, I’m keeping busy in this part-time activity of mine through teaching some private lessons, planning for a guest lecturer session next week on metal Art Jewelry for the Costume Design (undergrad) and Costume Production (graduate) programs in the Drama Department at Carnegie Mellon University, and trying to build up inventory for the holiday-sales season.  And the ‘net connection at my studio still varies from wonky to non-existent.  I do have some great 960 information in the writing-queue, and I am trying to get it in condition to be posted!

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

Posted by C Scheftic on 2016/09/05

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by C Scheftic on 2015/06/07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Misc. Musings | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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