Friday, December 23, 2011

More Metal Clay "+" Pieces

by Jennifer Roberts

We leave you with our last post before the holidays with more inspiration for your entry in the Metal Clay Artist Magazine contest.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday, get lots of rest, and start 2012 with your creative juices flowing!

Teva Chaffin - Porcelain

Lora Hart - Porcelain

Gale Schlagel - Porcelain

Janet Alexander - Enamel

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wet to Wearable

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

I wore one of my own necklaces to Thanksgiving dinner and my lovely hostess just plotzed over it! She loved the focal Inro type box, the chain design and the overall "look" of the piece. She liked it so much that at the next family dinner, her husband snuck over to my seat and whispered that he'd like to give her a similar piece for Xmas. How fun!! A commission for the holidays. What stress! A commission for the holidays.

The original inspiration
I never do commissions. I'm a teacher foremost and a maker second. I don't really have the dedicated time it takes to do justice to custom designed work. Or the energy to get it done before the buyer forgets that they ordered something in the first place.

The only reason I agreed this time was that it was a design I had done before. I knew exactly how to construct it, how to embellish it, how to hang it, and what kind of patina to give it. I'd worked out all the bugs years ago when I made the first version. It was like sleepwalking. In fact, it was so easy that it went from wet to wearable in 4 days. Not solid working time of course. There were blog posts to edit, and books to write, and kitties to snuggle, in between the forming and sanding and setting and polishing. Making it was a pleasure. And I can't wait to see my benefactress wearing one of my pieces at the next event.

The whole process went so well that the next time I'm jewelry bound, I'm going to try to plan the entire design out on paper before opening a single packet of clay. I have a small wearhouse of unused focal pieces, molded elements, clasps, and chain waiting until I have an imaginative thunderbolt that will inspire me to transform it into wearable jewelry. And I think that somehow I'm not alone.

The finished commission

How much thought do you give to the completed piece before you begin to form the focal? Do you sketch? Make maquettes? Work out the steps in polymer clay?

Kait Schott, Ashley Akers

Do you know what kind of suspension mechanism (bail) you'll create before you start? If you'll add riveted pearls or found objects after it's fired? And what about the hanging material? How many of you are happy to simply hang your work on commercially made chain or finished necklaces?

Meghan Patrice Riley, Bob Ebendorf, Mia Maljojoki (the pink 'chain' is knotted silk)

Have you given thought to alternative materials? How do you think planning in advance would help take your work to a more creative level?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

PMC Sterling and Copper Clay - First Results

by Jennifer Roberts

Hadar is testing the combination of the new PMC Sterling with copper clay and sent us the beautiful examples of sterling and copper below.

Hadar has found that following the PMC Sterling instructions for pieces with both sterling and copper clays can result in melting. So, watch those temps. She is hard at work on the tests and will update everyone when she has perfected a firing profile.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Metal Clay and The Magic of Gemstones

Posted by Delia Marsellos-Traister
Guest Blogger

I personally enjoy placing stones in my work. I am a fan of agates, opals, and other ‘don’t you dare put that in the kiln’ stones. I am a bigger fan of ‘fire in place’ gems. But I’ve not taken the opportunity to test fire a lot. In fact, I don’t actually ‘test fire’ anything. I have a lot of knowledge about gemstones (I’ve been a gem dealer since 1994), so I’ve simply set stones in metal clay and then found out what would happen.

When placing a stone in metal clay there are several criteria I consider:
  • Will it fire okay, at what temp, how long, in the kiln only, is a torch okay, and is it quenchable?
  • Will the material have durability (which is often an element of how it is set, and exactly what the stone is); and does it hold up under use or when someone drops or bangs it against a file cabinet.
  • How lovely it looks, the variety of colors I can choose from and how much it costs.

Some of my favorite gems for fire in place work are Cubic Zirconium [CZ], Yttrium Aluminum Garnet [YAG] and Corundum, aka sapphire and ruby (both laboratory grown and natural).

Cubic Zirconium (CZ). Does it fit my criteria? Sure.

CZ has a base of zirconium and was originally developed for laser use. It’s REALLY pretty and comes in a wide range of colors to play with, has a similar dispersion to diamond (dispersion = how bright and shiny it is) and a beautiful refractive quality (how it responds to light or how sparkly it is).

It’s been my experience that some green and yellow CZ’s might cloud during firing. This has been especially evident when they are fired in copper and bronze clays. Some CZ 's may show abrasion after being rubbed up against things like, for instance, other jewelry in your treasure box. I believe both of these issues may be dependent on where you get the stones. (Editor’s note: CZ’s are made by many companies each of which have a proprietary chemical recipe. Some stones fire perfectly, some not so much. Black cz's are notorious for changing color in the kiln. Which is why you should always buy lab grown stones from retailers that have tested them for use in metal clay.)

According to metal clay instructor Terry Kovalcik it may be the phosphorus in some base metal clays that's causing cloudiness. One expert recommends using magic marker to avoid this anomaly: “You can prevent the cloudiness of CZ's (and probably YAG's) by coating them with magic marker or India ink prior to firing in the copper clay.” (editor's note: Some people on the Yahoo! board have reported success and some failure when trying this trick. Again, this might be due to the exact stone used.)

Here are my suggestions when using CZs:
  • Fire yellow and green CZ’s at no more than 1475ºF for 45 min to an hour in silver clay just to be on the safe side, unless your source for the material has tested them in advance.
  • Avoid using CZ with copper or bronze clays unless you have tried one of the above methods and found it useful.
  • If you enjoy torch firing, be prepared to throw a fiber blanket over the piece when you're finished to allow a slower cool down.
  • Avoid quenching a piece straight from the kiln. If you are really hot-to-trot, leave it in the kiln until it’s about 900 degrees and quench in warmish water.

Now, let’s take a look at Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG).

Many of us are familiar with both aluminum and garnets, but what the heck is Yttrium? It’s a rare earth mineral, also a metal. Like CZ, YAG was originally developed and manufactured for laser use.

I like it because of its dispersion (brightness) and durability, and overall it fires in place well in silver metal clay - up to 1650ºF for an hour (or two if that’s the way you like to fire). YAG wears well, with little to no abrasion seen over the time of wear.
  • Avoid setting YAG in copper or bronze clays, again unless you’ve tried techniques that have worked. It has been a disappointment for me to have both yellow and green YAGs fracture.
  • YAG stands up to quenching and quick cooling in silver clay! But use room temperature (or slightly warmer), not cold, water.
  • If you enjoy torch firing, go for it. Let it cool to room temperature on it’s own.
  • (Editor's bullet point: If you want a true emerald green color - you can't do better than YAG. It's a bit pricey, but it's gorgeous and fires perfectly.)
Okay, last but not least, my very favorite fire in place gem - Corundum (sapphire and ruby) fits all my criteria! Laboratory sapphire has also been manufactured in rods for laser use!

I use faceted laboratory grown stones more often because they’re far less expensive than natural sapphire and have no inclusions (flaws). Lab grown corundum has the same physical and chemical properties as natural corundum. Corundum is made of Aluminum Oxide, which creates “white” or colorless sapphire. In nature, trace elements create the colors you see. Natural sapphire has about 400 color variations.

In my personal experience, all corundum can be safely fired in place in silver, copper and bronze clays at all of the popular firing temperatures. And you can always find plenty of information by simply overwhelming yourself with a Google search to find out if your stones will fire well in the exact type and brand of clay you're designing with.

Corundum can be kiln fired, torched and quenched. More durable than a diamond, it is very useful and valuable. When I say ‘more durable than a diamond’ I’m speaking about commercial grade diamonds that have fracture points (referred to as cleavage) that may cause the stone to break apart on impact. Sapphire has no such cleavage and in fact sapphire powder (grit) is what is often used to polish diamonds.

So there you have it. Some tips, ideas and information that you can draw on when you’re making a choice about what stones may work for you. Have fun, try everything!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Going Up!

Posted By Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

"Hi! My name is Lora Hart. I'm a Senior Instructor and the Artistic Advisor for PMC Connection. As a metal clay maker, teacher, and enthusiast, I love inspiring creative entrepreneurs to discover, re-imagine and refine their artistic voices, develop a conscious intention for their business, and fine tune their working practice. Working one-on-one with emerging artists to take their craft to a new level is one of the most rewarding aspects of my business."

How many times have you been introduced at a party and gotten tongue tied when another guest asked what you do? It's happened to me too many times to recall. What about when someone comments on a piece of jewelry that you're wearing? And how will you describe your craft when it's time to work on a business plan?

You're the best PR person you'll ever have the pleasure to work with. You know exactly what it is that makes you special. Maybe the time has come for you to start sharing that magic with anyone who asks. Wanna write how-to articles? Submit to calls for entry? Interview for teaching opportunities at art centers and colleges? Coming up with a short, introductory, statement in advance will allow you to confidently explain your passions whenever the situation arises.

It's what's known as an 'elevator speech'. A brief blurb that tells your audience a little bit about your life in 15 - 60 seconds. You might include information about your family, day job, hobbies or second job (like jewelry making), or any other interests you have. It's a kind of verbal business card.

The 30 second example at the beginning of this article is one I might use at big jewelry conferences or Guild meetings. I wrote another version to promote my jewelry to potential buyers or galleries. It's a good idea to target each speech towards a specific audience.

The last PMC Guild sponsored metal clay conference is coming up next June in Kentucky. Wouldn't it be fun if we all introduced ourselves with fabulous elevator speeches? Here are some tips to get you going on yours:

• Be sure to include your name.
• Tell an interesting story.
• Share the wonderful details that you think define your life, work and/or craft.
• Talk about your inspirations and how they make you different.
• Keep it short and sweet.
• Let it rest overnight. Re-read it with fresh eyes and re-write until you think it's practically perfect.
• Record yourself. Listen to the rhythm and timing.
• Tighten it up and use a Thesaurus to come up with alternative words that might make the talk more compelling.
• Practice on friends and family until it falls trippingly from your tongue.
• Use it to take you, your craft, and your goals, to the next level of success.