Monday, August 29, 2011

Meet Our Teachers...

Introducing: Peggy Houchin

How long have you been working with metal clay?
About 10 years now.

What did you do before that?
I primarily did pottery, made seed bead jewelry, loved to sew and made my own clothes. When I saw an ad for PMC in Ceramics Monthly, I was intrigued so I ordered some. When I received it, I was totally shocked and thought the rest of it was coming later in the mail. :) I was so used to large quantities of clay (25 to 50 lbs) that I wasn't sure what had happened. Then I realized the order was for 28 grams not pounds!

What other mediums do you work with?
I love anything to do with fiber, felting, knitting & spinning. I also work with polymer clay, and metalsmithing. I still sew occasionally.

How did you come to be a PMC Connection Senior Teacher?
Well, Patty Genack retired and Sherry Fotopolous recommended me. I had been interested prior to Patty retiring but since there was already a Sr. Teacher in Colorado, I needed to wait until 2007 for my big chance.

What do you think is the most exciting aspect of teaching?
I love seeing student's faces when they see their finished, polished pieces! I'm also very inspired by the work I see from my students!

Do you have a studio in your home? What does it look like?
Yes. I actually have 3 different studios. One of them is where I teach my classes and it is fairly neat, lots of equipment. The 2nd one is where I sew and do beadwork and it is very bright and beautiful (fairly organized). The one in the basement is not the neatest, but it works for me.

Do you teach at home or another venue?
Mostly at home, however, I have traveled and taught in Wyoming, Montana and various locations in the Colorado area (Denver, Colorado Springs). I've also taught at the PMC Guild conference in Purdue and Arrowmont in Tennessee.

Do you like to take classes yourself?
Oh my gosh. I want to be a professional class taker! I LOVE taking classes. Anything metal! Anything fiber.

Do you sell your work?
I usually have a Christmas home show and often sell my jewelry privately to friends and family. I was in about 3 local galleries, but decided to stop selling jewelry on consignment.

Where do you find inspiration?
Lots of places. I love seeing the changing colors in nature. I receive a lot of magazine subscriptions and love getting new books that spark my imagination.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have several silversmithing projects that I am working on for a couple of my customers. All have set stones.

Where has your work been published?
HGTV - That's Clever, Creative Jewelry Magazine, Beadwork, PolymerCafe magazine, and Mary Ann Devos' book – “Exceptional Works in Metal Clay & Glass".

Tell us about an artistic hero or influence.
Donna Kato. I've been able to attend several retreats with Donna Kato and she is an amazing artist and person! She is extremely talented and will share ANYTHING with you. She's always so giving and kind. I've always put her on a pedestal and wanted to be just like her!!

My father was very talented with his hands. He was deaf and could make anything! He used to make me these very elaborate stages and just about anything I wanted. All I had to do was explain an idea and he would create it for me (ok - now I'm crying).

Is there a new direction that you’d like to explore?
More metalsmithing and lapidary.

What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
I love being a Sr. Teacher and an artist.

Well, we're sure glad you're a Senior Instructor too, Peggy. Thanks for spending some time with us.

Monday, August 15, 2011

One Man's Trash

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Victorian hair jewelry (source)
Artist Marcel Duchamp elevated found objects to the status of art supplies when he mounted a men's urinal, named it "Fountain" and submitted it to an art exhibit in 1917. Victorians intricately braided, curled, wound, wove and knotted human hair to create heartbreakingly beautiful mourning jewelry. Throughout the ages designers have replicated the look of precious gems with glass, enamel, paste, and painted wood.

Melanie Bilenker hair jewelry
Using a variety of non precious items to enhance and enrich jewelry designs is nothing new. But it seems as if the wealth of unusual craft materials has never been so abundant as it is today. From polymer clays, to faux bone, to Dadaist Duchamp's street finds - 20th century technology has started a trend that is around to stay.

Some artists may be making a political or societal statement by using common components instead of their precious counterparts. Others may be reacting to the skyrocketing price of goods. And still others are more likely simply excited by the ability to express their point of view with such a plethora of inspirational materials. Whatever the motivation - online sites, large publishing houses, world class museums, and high end craft galleries are embracing these artists and the found object trend by mounting exhibitions, publishing books and gloriously showcasing new work.

While traditional jewelry making methods will never fade away, we here at PMCC are thrilled to see such widespread acceptance and celebration of this new art form, and by the spirit of artistic exploration put forth by these contemporary craft pioneers.

By way of of sparking your fertile imaginations, and in anticipation of the Metal Clay Artist Magazine 2011 Design Competition, CornerStone would like to challenge you to create a masterpiece using metal clay and any other material you'd like. Each material must be prominently featured. Simple beaded dangles will not qualify.

Make any piece of jewelry or table top item using metal clay (any color) and another material and post the results in the CornerStone Challenge Flickr group.
• Each material must be featured (almost) equally, visually if not in mass.
Include a description of how you made your piece and tell us about your inspiration. There's a space for text right under the photo.
• Be sure to write your real name with the description of the piece.
• The winner will be notified via Flickr mail

The final day to post your work will be [edit] October 28th. The winning entry will be chosen based on quality of craftsmanship, artistry, and innovative use of materials. The winner will be announced right here on the blog on October 31st and will also be featured in our newsletter. As an extra enticement - PMCC is happy to offer the winner a $25 gift certificate to

Here's to creativity, new paths and pushing ourselves to be all that we can be.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Teaching From Home: Weighing The Options

by Linda Kline

Director of Education

There’s no place like home.”
- Dorothy, from the “Wizard of Oz”

Dorothy said a mouthful with these few words. Perhaps your dream job is to be a teacher of jewelry arts and to travel to different locations to offer classes. It sounds great, doesn’t It, going to new locations; checking out different studios and arts centers; meeting new and interesting people; and teaching a diverse audience a myriad collection of topics and techniques? And, yes, it is fun! But it also comes with a big reality check after you’ve done it a time or two.

You discover soon enough that it sounds more glamorous that it actually is to schlep your bag of teaching tricks all over the countryside. Its heavy work and it requires lots and lots of sorting, shipping, ordering, coordinating, and planning, planning, and planning.

Last month I talked about some of the various options available to teachers in their own community. One that I didn’t explore is the simplest and most affordable – Home Sweet Home.
It’s easy to host classes in the comfort and convenience of your own home. There are, however, lots of factors that need to be considered before you give it a go.

First and foremost, is your home adequate for classes? Do you have ample seating space and appropriate lighting? How many students can you reasonably accommodate? Do have an official “business,” meaning, do you have the appropriate license to operate a business from your home? Is your home zoned to allow the operation of a business? Do you have insurance?

These are all very touchy subjects, and some of these are concerns you may never have considered. Insurance, for instance, is a very serious issue. Will your students be covered under your existing homeowner’s policy in the event of an accident, fire, or injury? Or maybe you’ll need an optional business policy. These types of policies can be very pricey and come with lots of different types of exclusions.

How will you find students? If you teach in a studio or arts center, they generally advertise and help you promote your classes. If you teach from home, however, you won’t have that luxury. You’ll need to do the marketing yourself.

Do you rent your home? You’ll want to be sure to check with your landlord to be sure he or she has no objections. Do you live in an apartment, condo, or neighborhood with a homeowner’s association? These types of residential communities often have very strict policies. Make sure you know the rules before you feel the wrath of the condo commandos or angry neighbors.
Weather you rent or own, parking can be a real issue. Some neighbors just don’t appreciate excessive traffic in the neighborhood. As a courtesy, always let your neighbors know if you plan to have a group function. Most people are fine as long as you keep them in the loop and let them know it’s not a “regular” event. Who knows, they may even want to sign up for your class. ;-)

Thinking through these issues before you offer your first class can make all of the difference in your experience and your ultimate success. I regularly teach from my home and I’ve been very fortunate that I have very supportive neighbors and very flexible of students. I think most students enjoy the luxury of being in my home. They appreciate the benefit of coming to a comfy, homey environment, and I appreciate the benefit of not having to load all my teaching “crap” into the car, set it up, tear it down, and drag it back home again. I’ve built a dedicated group of students who have been with me for many years. We’ve grown into a really close and connected group, but there’s always room for one more.

Teaching from home isn’t for everyone, but it has some lovely advantages.
Creative blessings,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Health, Safety, & Copper-Based Metal Clay [Copper I]

by Mary Ellin D'Agostino
Technical Advisor

This is part 2 of my ongoing series on Metal Clay Health and Safety.

Many of us have been using copper-based base metal clays for for a while and, while there have been a few complaints from people who have skin sensitive to the copper, no-one has reported any major illnesses. Still, I have wondered since the beginning about the health and safety issues associated with copper and bronze clays. I have sporadically researched this issue over the past two years. Even though I don’t feel I have fully grasped the issues and I have yet to find a definitive answer, I am going to pass on what I have learned and it is going to take at least a couple of posts, so stay tuned for more after this....

Natural Copper. Photo from

Copper is one of the first malleable metals humans learned to work and is abundant in our lives. We use copper for everything from water pipes to jewelry. Copper is an important trace element our bodies require, but it is also a heavy metal and overexposure to it can have serious health consequences. Exposure routes are through skin absorption, ingestion, and inhalation

For the most part absorption through the skin, one of the main exposure routes for metal clay artisans, does not appear to cause serious health problems. Some people’s skin is sensitive to copper. If you suffer from a rash or itching after using copper containing base metal clays, you will want to take precautions (wearing gloves) or discontinue use of the product. One of the biggest drawbacks to making copper and bronze jewelry is the reactive nature of the copper. In addition to irritating skin, it may turn the wearer’s skin green as copper oxides are formed and rub off onto the skin. While this is not a health hazard, it is unsightly and many people refuse to wear copper and bronze jewelry for this reason. The resistance to copper jewelry can be partly resolved by making sure that copper elements do not come into contact with the wearer’s skin or by placing a silver barrier, such as a ring liner, to prevent copper-skin contact.

The largest hazard associated with skin contact for metal clay users is the potential for ingestion of copper-based clay residue on hands. Always be sure to wash hands thoroughly after using copper or bronze clays and before eating. Avoid eating picnic or finger foods after working with copper and bronze clays. The possibility of ingestion of residue on hands is the main reason I do not recommend allowing children to work with copper or bronze clays.

I highly discourage teachers from doing children’s classes using copper and bronze clays. Stick to the silver clays when working with kids.

Most copper absorption is through the digestive system, so ingestion (eating or drinking) of too much copper can cause stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea. More serious health risks are associated with very high levels of copper toxicity and will be discussed, along with inhalation in my next blog. In the meantime, if you can’t wait, you can read this basic Wikipedia article on Copper in Health.

Part 1 of the series on Metal Clay Health and Safety.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Meet Our Teachers...

Introducing: Teva Chaffin

How long have you been working with metal clay? 
I began my adventures (and addiction) with this wonderful medium in 2008. I traveled to Colorado, Florida and East Tennessee and Texas for the certification classes.

What did you do before that? 
My art background consists of pencil and/or pen drawing, in addition to acrylic and oil painting. I began drawing as a very young child. In fact, I never remember life without art. As a teenager, my income came from drawing and/or painting old home places instead of babysitting as my friends did.

What other mediums do you work with? 
I'm also metalsmith, working with sheet metals such as copper, brass, and sterling silver. I just received my first order of Titanium and am very excited to get started experimenting.

How did you come to be a PMC Connection Senior Teacher? What year
I knew from the very beginning of my adventures that I wanted to be a Senior Teacher. I always enjoyed sharing and guiding others in many aspects and thoroughly enjoy teaching about this wonderful medium. In 2009, I submitted all required documents, was asked to visit Mary Ann and Ken Devos in Florida and was selected as a Senior Instructor.

What do you think is the most exciting aspect of teaching? 
Absolutely, without a doubt: sharing. Sharing techniques and excitement! I love the ah-ha moments that occur each time a beginning student realizes the workability and the wonders of PMC. Also I must say that I enjoy and also appreciate the experience and lessons that I receive while teaching when those class challenges pop up.

Do you have a studio in your home? What does it look like? 
Yes currently I have a one-room studio, which is not quite large enough. Once an artist begins to collect all the wonderful tools and equipment needed to work in a variety of mediums, you tend to outgrow your studio space. My husband just recently surprised me with a building permit to build my new studio. I am excited as it will be so spacious and set up so perfect to hold at least 2 classes at the same time. Plans include five metalsmithing stations in addition to two classroom table areas. I am very excited!

Do you teach at home or another venue? 
I will teach anywhere on the globe. “Have kiln - will travel!” Currently I offer classes in my home studio in addition to traveling to present classes. As a member of MTGMS (Middle Tennessee Gem & Mineral Society) I also teach classes at the local Fifty Forward Center.

Do you like to take classes yourself? What kind? 
I am a “lifetime student” and love to take classes. I feel as an instructor it is my responsibility to keep my skills current and top notch in addition to learning new techniques that I can share with my students. I have spent the past two years with consecutive metalsmith classes. I attempt to seek out artists whom excel in their field and are willing to offer private instruction workshops so that I can absorb as much as possible.

Do you sell your work? Where? 
I do sell my work... to anyone, anywhere possible. I am currently in two local galleries (Gallery 202 in Franklin, TN and Harpeth Art Gallery in Pegram, TN), several local shops and one Bahamian Island shop.

Where do you find inspiration? 
Most definitely from nature. I was fortunate to have lived in a country setting during childhood and I recall spending hours at end in the woods. I have always found comfort being surrounded by nature (trees, flowers, wildlife). After all, my name Teva means nature in Hebrew. What a coincidence...

What are you working on at the moment? 
I have discovered a strong attraction to PMC3 syringe. I am working with perfecting using the syringe as a pencil. Imagine drawing with a syringe! I am loving it.

Where has your work been published? 
Pictures of my creations have appeared in the Metal Clay Magazine and the Nashville Arts Magazine.

Tell us about an artistic hero or influence. 
I have two artistic heroes or influences. One is Georgia O'Keeffe and the other is Mother Nature. I admire Georgia's combination of styles that include realism, cubism and modernism. I appreciate her approach to creating art as she saw it while not being concerned with what “Professional dealers or collectors” desired. In most of Georgia's creations, she included a reflection of nature as well - whether in form or content. Mother Nature is the most wonderful of artists; beginning with the shapes, colors, and textures of all things natural.

Is there a new direction that you'd like to explore? 
Yes, funny you would ask. I am very interested in pursuing small sculpture with PMC. I have dabbled a little and nearly ready to jump right in more.

Thanks for this look into your world Teva! Can't wait to see your new work.