Friday, August 31, 2012

Making Sterling Silver Metal Clay Flexible

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Flexible clay can be used for several things: making a hinge, making woven items, layering, making bezels, and more. It can even be used as a decal. For this month's PMC Sterling silver test, I wanted to find out if I can make flexible sterling silver metal clay. 
The result - yes! But, it must be kept moist until you use it. If it is dry, it will crack.

  • Smooth, thick, and clear report cover (Can be found at office supply store) 
  • Olive oil or other anti-stick solution
  • Glycerin
  • Roller
  • Sterling metal clay (new package)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Card stock paper (equals one card thickness)
  • Zip-lock plastic bag 

1.   Coat the insides of the report cover with a very thin coat of olive oil or your preferred anti-stick solution.
2.   Roll PMC Sterling silver metal clay as thin as possible inside the report cover. 
 3.   Open the report cover and drip 3-4 drops of glycerin onto the clay.
5.   Roll the clay into a tube shape. 
6.   Compress the tube shape into a ball removing all air. 
7.   Repeat the process until the clay is very wet with the glycerin. 
Roll wet clay again.
The clay becomes so wet it can't be picked up.

8.   When the clay starts to stick to the report cover, use the clay itself to pick the remainder up.
9.   Allow the clay to sit for a few minutes allowing the glycerin to soak in by wrapping it with plastic wrap.
10. Once the glycerin has soaked into the clay, repeat the process again.

11. If the clay starts to feel like rubber and tends to not want to stick to itself, STOP! You have almost gone too far.

12. Roll the clay inside the report cover one card thick (by placing it between two pieces of card stock) or roll it out to a your desired thickness. 
13. Dry clay until it is leather hard but not completely dry.
14. Open the report cover and allow it to dry for 20 minutes or so. Flip it over allowing the other side to dry. You may need to keep pressing it down flat if it warps while drying. 
16. Place into a zip-lock plastic bag for storage.
Keep it slightly moist (leather hard) if you plan to weave it, bend it, or cut it with the Silhouette Cameo machine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

“TO DO” or “NOT TO DO”

by Linda Kline
Director of Education

It’s hard to believe summer is winding down, kids are going back to school, and the usual pace and routine of the fall will soon kick in.  Summer zipped by. I always anticipate that the lazy days of summer will give me time to check some projects off my “to do” list: clean out the studio, make new gallery connections, try out some new products and techniques, etc., etc. Unfortunately, none of that happened.  

I did, however, have the pleasure of being one of several artists in residence at Pentwater Shared Space Studio on the shore of beautiful Lake Michigan. This is a marvelous facility run by progressive and liberal-thinking artists….these people really get it! They eat, think, talk, and live life for ART. It was nourishment for my hungry artist’s soul to share their company and space….to gain new perspective on my artistic priorities and passions. 

One day I saw this message posted on the wall:

“How to Feel Miserable as an Artist”  
(Or…What not to do! Underline any that currently apply.)
  1. Constantly compare yourself to other artists.
  2. Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.
  3.  Base the success of your entire career on one project.
  4. Stick with what you know.
  5. Undervalue your expertise.
  6. Let money dictate what you do.
  7. Bow to societal pressures.
  8. Only do work that your family would love.
  9. Do whatever the client/customer/gallery owner asks.
  10. Set unachievable/overwhelming goals to be accomplished by tomorrow.
Wow! Talk about a reality check. It was scary how many of the items on that list were speaking directly to me. 

I’ll never get caught up with my stupid “to do” list so I’ve traded it for a “not to do list.”  Instead of beating myself up and lamenting the things I haven’t accomplished, I remind myself of all the things I don’t want any part of. That “to do” list will always be there….getting bigger all the time. A healthier reality is to keep my artistic vision and priorities in check….thinking creative thoughts, taking creative risks and chances, being true to my own vision of who I am as an artist, designer, and teacher.

What about you? Check all that apply
Until next time…..
Creative blessings,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Helpful Tips About Sparex

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Let's start with what it is - pickling solution - used for cleaning oxidation from base metals and sterling silver. Sparex is one of the leading brands.

There are a few things I’ve learned about using Sparex over the years that I’d like to share with you.

Back in the early 80s when I had my first real workshop area, a small room off the kitchen, I organized my tools so nicely by hanging them in a cabinet that hung on the wall above a counter top. (Now my tools are all piled up inside a cabinet!) I had my pickle pot sitting on the counter top. It was a simple, small Crock-pot with Sparex mixed with water in it. It was only turned on when I needed to use it. My children were young at the time, so I didn’t use it very often. In fact I was lucky to get to work on my jewelry once a month. Over time I noticed my tools in the cabinet were rusting. In the Dallas area this is not common, especially when they are inside a house.

As time went on the tools became rustier and the ones on the right side of the cabinet were worse than the tools on the left side The pickling solution was directly under the right side of the cabinet. That is when I learned that Sparex, when stored near steel tools, makes them rust. I cleaned my tools, moved the Sparex out to the garage near my husband’s tools, and my tools never rusted again!

Which Tweezers to Use with Sparex Pickle
There is a reason why you should only use copper tweezers to remove your metal from the Sparex pickling solution. That’s because steel tweezers causes a reaction in the Sparex solution. It can plate your work with copper!

For many years many jewelers, including myself, believed that if someone placed steel tweezers into the solution the solution was contaminated and we had to throw out the old solution and make new. Wrong! The reaction happens only when the steel tweezers are in the solution and  the solution has had copper in it. As soon as the tweezers are removed, the reaction stops.

Sparex pickling solution absorbs the copper oxides from copper, sterling silver, brass, bronze, and rose gold, thus cleaning the metal. Over time, the solution takes on a blue tint. This is the copper suspended in the solution. The reaction with the steel tweezers is actually an electrical reaction. Basically, what is really happening is the electrical charge makes the suspended copper, in the solution, plate any other metal in the solution.

A Plating Trick
If you are soldering something copper and want to hide the solder seam, just place the copper item into some used Sparex pickling solution along with some steel wool or steel tweezers and the solder seam becomes plated with copper. Unfortunately, if you unintentionally plate your metal, the only way to remove it is by sanding it off.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

To Market, To Market...

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

We make jewelry.  We want people to buy it.  The more people who see our work, the better our chances are of making a sale.  Enter the internet.  

Online, the possibilities are endless. You just have to take advantage of them. The more locations you present your work, the more people will see it, start lusting after it, and want to own it. Like athletes cross train to build muscles, endurance and agility, cyber sellers need to cross promote to reach a greater audience and to seduce the audience they reach.  Each social networking or cyber commerce site leads a potential buyer to another - and the more times they see something intriguing, the more they’ll want it.

Etsy - The world’s marketplace for all things handmade.  Why would you want to open an Etsy shop? The better question is why wouldn’t you? According to Etsy’s blog “The Storque”  $6.5 million worth of goods were sold in July alone, with over 80,000 new members joining.  Yes, the competition is fierce, especially with jewelry, but where else would you be able to have so many people view your wonderful work?  And the seller support there is amazing. The Resources section has links to great articles to help you get started from how to set up your shop, taking better photos, cooperative advertising ideas, the art of pricing and more. The Virtual Labs offer cyber meetings for newbies, shop critiques and a camera-assisted glimpse into the brick and mortar Etsy labs in Brooklyn on  Craft Night. There are chat rooms, forums and teams for social networking. 

The Artful Home - This site features handmade objects for the home and body, but with a more upscale presentation and clientele. Focusing on North American artists, this is a juried cyber gallery with only about 1200 artists offering about 10,000 items at any given time.  Artists are asked to submit a resumé and photos of their work, which are reviewed monthly by an advisory team. 

Ruby Lane - Is a venue that provides cyber store fronts for both handmade and commercially manufactured goods alike.  The fee system is unique and includes a monthly charge for advertising. Like The Artful Home, Ruby Lane has defined return and exchange policies. One attractive feature of this site includes various audio tutorials including shop set up and fee explanations.

Big Cartel - Want to add a professional looking shopping cart to your existing web site? Big Cartel is a simple, easy to integrate option for those who want to offer their visitors a one-stop shopping experience, without the distraction of other sellers' goods. It also offers the ability to customize the colors and header to blend seamlessly with your web site design. Test out the site for free with 5 items and then upgrade to two different levels to take full advantage of this great shopping cart system.

Offering your goods at more than one location increases your visibility exponentially.

• Blogs - Creating a blog of your own gives you a place to share photos of works in progress and items you’ve listed in a shop, but it also gives potential collectors more insight into your life, work and process. Here’s where you can share tutorials, accomplishments, classes you offer, other artists you admire - anything you that interests you and that you think your readers would find interesting.  A personal blog can be a simple one paragraph, once a week endeavor;  a professional, ad laden, everyday commercial venture or anything in between. It can fit seamlessly into your life and take up as much time as you want to give to it. Or as little. Check out Blogger, Typepad or Wordpress to see which might serve your needs best.

• Visiting other peoples' blogs can also be a great way to get noticed.  When you leave comments on articles they’ve written or products they’ve featured, the editor might take a look at your contact info (which should be your own blog or shop) and offer to feature your work. Their readers might find your comment interesting and want to learn more about the person who wrote it. Then - bingo bango! A new contact you wouldn’t have otherwise made.

• Online Advertising - In addition to posting comments on professional blogs, you can often buy advertising space on them. The ads are usually on one of the sidebars in full view of readers. Find a blog that you think might attract the same type of readers who would be interested in your jewelry and contact them directly to find out about ad space or try out an advertising auction site like Project Wonderful. You choose the price you want to pay and when you want the ad to run, bid on it and Project Wonderful does the rest.

Flickr - I’ve always thought of Flickr as a place that folks upload pictures of their vacations and the kids to share with long distance relatives, but it can be so much more than that. While sharing glimpse of your life, pets, home and hobbies you are allowing potential buyers to get to know “the real you”, giving them a feeling of personal acquaintance. Posting pictures of your works in progress creates an excitement to see the final object and a desire to collect - I speak from experience. I’ve bought some wonderful things from my Flickr contacts. Taking beautiful pictures of your completed work (and tagging it correctly) allows galleries and magazines to find you in a search, providing opportunities you might not otherwise have had. One of my images interested an editor at Belle Armoir enough that she invited me to write an article for the magazine.

Twitter - Twitter is a service that allows members to “tweet” messages of 140 characters or less to their followers. Chirp about little tidbits and snippets of what you’re doing, movies you’ve seen, and yes - products you sell. But take care not to be a constant advertisement. For more on the fine art of Twittering read these two great blogs entries: one and two and visit this Squidoo lens.

These are just a very few of the many marketing venues offered on the web.  There are more storefront sites like ArtFire; Dawanda; and ShopHandmade, more social networking sites like Facebook and Crafthaus, and shopping sites where you can share your own favorites like StyleHive; ThisNext; and Kaboodle. You can advertise your art and knowledge by making videos and sharing them on YouTube or Vimeo. Online promotional opportunities are as vast as the internet itself.  Spend part of a rainy afternoon exploring and discover the new brave new world of marketing possibilities.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Keeping Safety in Mind

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Today I want to touch on something that isn’t really talked about much. For you new metal clay artists out there this is very important. It is your safety. Did you know that every chemical and even metal has a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)?

All manufactures are required to issue these fact-filled data sheets with their product. They are easily found just by conducting an online search for the product in question.

How many of you have read one of these babies?

Did you know if you have a commercial business and use chemicals that many cities require you to keep these sheets in a binder stored close at hand for emergencies? It’s kind of like having a fire extinguisher close by. You never know when you need it until an emergency happens.

One time, years ago, I had some Hydrochloric acid stored in my studio. It was inside a box surrounded with absorbent material. That box was inside a larger box (for added protection). It was nice and safe. I went to move the whole set of boxes when the bottoms of both boxes dropped out! Crash goes the acid all over the floor instantly reacting with the floor material causing a cloud of gaseous smoke!

Since I am an extra cautious person, I had read the MSDS sheet and knew how to respond to the situation. Within an hour or two the acid was neutralized, air cleared in the room, and I was offered a job with the local fire department (this was before there was a Hazmat organization around.)

An MSDS sheet lists "procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.) toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures."*

This leads to one of my pet peeves. How many of you out there have put your hands into a solution of Liver of Sulfur? Did you know that the MSDS sheet lists it as toxic, to be handled only with gloves? Did you know that if it comes into contact with your skin, you should wash with soap and water for 15 minutes and seek medical attention?

Check it out:

So, just because you see videos on the Internet with folks immersing their hands into a chemical, doesn’t mean it’s safe to do it. Please read the product’s instructions and the MSDS sheet for your own safety.

As always, have fun claying around! 

*Wikipedia definition.