Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘tubes’

Where do other workshop ideas come from?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/08/13

I sure do think that it’s loads of fun to wrap strips of clay into cylindrical shapes … and, then, fire them so they turn into sturdy but lovely metal tubes! Do you? Have you tried it? Would you like to come to a workshop and make a few?

One fairly easy thing—something even an absolute beginner can do—is to overlap the material as you twist it around. This gets you a shape I think of as a “lapped cylinder,” one that’s open at both ends. Depending on the texture / design you have chosen, the pattern can remain the same along the full length of the cylinder (upper tube in photo to the right), or it can vary noticeably as you turn it around (lower tube in upper photo at right).

You can hang one or more of these cylinders from some fancy ribbon and you’ll have your very own one-of-a-kind piece of art-jewelry! You can use ribbon just as it comes from its package, or you can use any of a range of braiding and/or beading techniques to make it fancier. It can be as quick and easy, or as elaborate, as you want it to be.

(Not shown in that photo is the way you can even use a matching tube as part of a toggle clasp! I’ll write about bracelets again in a little while, and show that then.)

Cylinders that Can Spin. Little CylindersAn interesting variation on the cylinder involves capping one end and putting a small hole in that, just large enough for a piece of wire to pass through. Then, you can use a headpin (I often make my own!) to either: make a wrapped loop so you can hang the whole thing from an earwire (first photo to the left) or even use a headpin that’s long enough so you can bend it directly into a hand-made earwire (second photo, to the left). Though I illustrate only the second approach with additional beads here (I used crystal and glass), it’s possible to include them (or not) with either style, as you desire.

All of the cylinders described so far are possible outcomes for the workshop I offer periodically called Simply Stupendous Cylinders. Where did that idea come from? I wanted to find a way to offer a shorter, simpler version of a couple of my other favorite projects.

(1) Silver Spools involves another great project. It’s also appropriate for beginners, while those with prior metal clay experience will often have the chance to learn some new techniques. But the strategy used to construct spools just takes a bit longer to complete than does that for simple cylinders. Spools also use up some more material. So I like to offer the simpler version sometimes too, for those who want to try making some tubes but at a slightly lower cost.

Spinner Twists(2) I also love making and teaching others to make “twistie” earrings (or pendants) like the ones shown to the left here. I like their twisted shape, and I especially like the way they can be made to spin on their handmade ear-wires. Surprisingly, however, they are much harder than they may look to make! The Do the Twist workshop where we make these is one of the few I teach involving silver metal clay that I do not recommend for absolute beginners….

Here’s why: The “open twist” shape of this construction is just incredibly fragile in the greenware shape. The end result is sturdy enough, but even the slightest “wrong” move as you do any finishing or cleaning prior to firing can cause a “twistie” to snap into pieces. Then you have to decide: stick them back together (and risk snapping it somewhere else in the process), smooth off the ends of the pieces and just end up with shorter twists (though that smoothing can also lead to more breakage), or rehydrate the clay and try again another day (since, though no clay is lost, it still takes time to get it workable again)? That’s just not a set of choices I want to foist on metal clay beginners! You need not be an expert to make these, but I do recommend waiting until you feel comfortable working with metal clay in both its moist (lump clay) and dried (greenware) states before you tackle this approach. And the cylinders-class is one great way to gain the relevant experience.


If you’re reading this note within about a month of when it was first posted, you can look over to the right sidebar to see when I’ll next be offering the relatively quick and easy Simply Stupendous Cylinders workshop in my studio (in “Regent Square” in western Pennsylvania, where Pittsburgh, Swissvale, Edgewood, and Wilkinsburg intersect…). If you’re interested, just let me know that you want to sign up for it.

If you’re reading this more than a month after it was first posted, you may not see it listed on my evolving workshop schedule. But, at any time, you are welcome to request any of my workshops (regular ones or something special), including the ones discussed here. I’m always happy to offer any of them (at my studio or even at your site) as long as I know there are folks interested in taking them!

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Riding a few waves.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/13

Speaking of inspiration (as I was in my last post) here are a couple photos of three pendants.

I’ve made a number like this. No two alike, but generally long and narrow and curved with a tube along one concave section to serve as the bail (the part from which you hang the piece).

Where’d the original idea come from? A mix of sources. Having grown up near the ocean, having spent countless hours (as a teenager in particular) at the beach, watching the waves, seems to be one of the (many) reasons that I often think in wave-shapes. (See the toggle clasp at the bottom of my last post!) Having rolled out a number of long, narrow rectangles as I was playing with potential ring-shank designs, I thought to use some for other purposes. Wanting to practice making more tubes, this design is well-suited to using those. Having quickly sold the first few I made, there was incentive to continue. And so on….

But there’s something about those sales. I sell my pieces at a mix of venues: shops, shows, private sales on my own, etc. These wave-strips seem to sell very well at external sites. But I’ve never sold one of these myself!

So, while I see these pieces as fully reversible, I have no clue if my customers see them the same way. And, if they think there is a front and a back, which is which?

Your comments on such matters are welcome!

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Betcha can’t [make] just one! (Month of Earrings #28-29)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/03/31

At the risk of dating myself, I will admit that I keep thinking of that old potato chip commercial with the tag line, “Betcha can’t eat just one!”

No, Im not eating silver earrings. But, as I commented the other day, I sure do feel like I’m swimming in earring components. I can’t make just one earring. Not even just one pair. But now, it seems, not even one extra component when I think about how to do a piece. Noooo, one “simple” idea sparks a cluster of others. Which, in this context, is a good thing!

As I was making the little cylinder I used in my MoE #3, where I’d gone to some effort to get a nice, smooth base with no visible seam along the edge, I was thinking, “What if I accepted a seam, and decorated with it?”  So, I made several more pairs:

Little Cylinders

The first pair (above) was fairly small, with a curved edge that overlaps about half of the underlying layer.  With a satin finish, an ever-so-slight bit of patina along the edge is just enough to highlight to the curves.  The cylinders, and the glass and Swarovski beads, are free to move on the hand-formed Argentium silver earwires.

The second pair (below), is much longer, with a “deckle” edge, and wrapped on a diagonal such that the overlap gives an interesting twist to the shape. I thought these cylinders could stand on their own, without the need for additional beads. The earwires are sterling (.925) silver.  But I wanted these tubes to be able to spin, so they’re on Argentium sterling silver wires with a ball-end inside the cylinder and a wrapped loop outside:

Cylinders that Can Spin.

For the third pair, I again used twists around a straw.  But, instead of overlapping one larger piece of clay, I made narrow strips that I twisted around a small straw. You’ve already seen that one, back in MoE #26.

Back to the title of this post, then: can I just stop at the Month of Earrings challenge itself? Nooo, of course not! And that’s the point, isn’t it? Just like the challenge of stopping after you’ve eaten just one potato chip versus before you’ve eaten the whole bag of them: the trick here seems to be to take on a handful of challenges, a selective set of them, and to see what that mix will yield.

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