Monday, April 11, 2011

Whizbangs & Whirligigs

Posted by Jennifer Roberts

Of all the classes we are offering at our 2011 International Artists' Retreat, Jennifer Smith-Righter's Metal in Motion class has drawn the largest number of questions from potential students. So, we asked Jennifer to tell us what's it all about? Is it really as complex as it looks? How will skills learned translate to students' personal styles? Is the class about a specific project (that beautiful gear piece) or developing a fundamental understanding of using motion in your work?

1) Why make jewelry move?

I have always been fascinated with things that have moving parts. I want to fiddle with them. I don't want it to just sit there. The art of making things move goes all the way back to Hero of Alexandria. Although Romans were masters of sculpture, they longed for a little dynamism after a while and Hero gave them just what they wanted. He would fascinate temple goers with his moving doors and flying chariots. He created motion with his little machines!

2) What is the easiest way to make motion with metal clay jewelry?

The easiest way is to take a couple of contrasting metal clay pieces, drill a hole in their centers, put a balled wire up through the hole and melt the unballed end.

3) How were your first spinning pieces made?

I have a large collection of molds. One day, I had several stamped out pieces and was just playing around with them, arranging them this way and that. I had a small, a medium and a large piece. I stacked them on top of each other and thought they would look cool if they rotated! So I drilled a hole in the center of each piece and fired them. After firing and polishing them, I balled my wire and assembled them as I described before. Voila! It worked!

4) How do you recommend a student get started?

I will provide access to my favorite molds I've made for these kinds of projects and show you how easy it is to ball the wires so that your pieces are as dynamic and fun as any I've ever made. In no time you'll have your own favorite molds and develop your own style!

5) That gear piece looks really complicated? How did you first conceive of it?

Well, let me just say that it wasn't the first piece I ever made -- it was a progression! Once I felt really comfortable making spinning pieces, I was wanting to make things a bit more elaborate. Instead of making a flat piece of metal spin, I thought it would be interesting to make a box spin. So I took one mold and pressed out two identical pieces from it. This would be the lid and the bottom of the box. To the bottom of the box a wall was added and the box was drilled though the center just as the other spinning pieces and assembled in the same fashion.

6) But there's more to the gear piece that just a spinning box -- what's the secret?

The center is a spinning box -- but the outer piece is too! I created the center box first and then created another box -- two identical pieces raised apart from each other with walls. The inner box slides into the center of the outer box and is held in place by a single wire, just like all the others!

Editor's note: We will have plenty of torches on hand - no need to bring your own.

Join Jennifer and PMC Connection this May at our International Artists' Retreat in Gatlinburg, TN.

For more about the retreat:

The Retreat Website
Mountain Laurels and Metal Clay
Learn the Hard Way


Beadsme said...

I would love to do a metal clay course but there are not many here in Aus.

Made By Tammy said...

I wish I lived closer!
Jennifer Smith-Righter's work is Amazing.