Friday, November 30, 2012

Does PMC Sterling Silver Clay React to Aluminum?

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Jamie Sells wanted to know if the new PMC Sterling Silver metal clay reacts to aluminum like the fine silver metal clay. 

Over the years I’ve been told not to place my metal clay on aluminum or there would be a reaction, so I never have. With that being said, I don’t know what the reaction is! Inquiring minds want to know now! So, I tested PMC3 and the new Sterling Silver metal clay to find out.

I placed a sample of each clay type, PMC3 and PMC Sterling, on aluminum foil and also samples on an aluminum pan. I cut out a total of four oval discs labeling the discs that are laid on top of foil with an " F" and those laid on top of the pan with a" P". I allowed them to sit there for an hour, until they were fairly dry.

PMC3 on the right and PMC Sterling on left.

PMC3 on the right and PMC Sterling on the left.

The two samples on the foil had a huge reaction as did the foil.

Reactions to the foil.

The foil's reaction.

The two samples on the pan had a less of a reaction to the aluminum.

PMC3 on the left and PMC Sterling on the right.

It looks like the combination of moisture, clay, and aluminum causes the reaction. The PMC3 clay on the pan had less moisture and so had little-to-no reaction whereas, the foil seemed to trap the moisture between the clay and foil.

I fired each sample per the manufacturer’s directions to see if the reaction area would burn off. It did not. The areas that reacted with the aluminum are raised an bumpy. It gives the clay a look of reticulated metal.

Polished metal with reactions to aluminum foil.

Polished sterling silver exposed to aluminum pan.
 So, if you want a cool looking texture, now you know how to get it. Otherwise, keep the clay away from aluminum.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is it Sintered or Not?

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

I recently had someone ask me some questions about a fired metal clay piece that broke from trauma from being hit. They didn’t know if it broke because the clay wasn’t sintered or if it broke because of too much stress. They said the exposed cross-section of the break was a chalky white. It broke where the bail attaches at the main body and in some other thin areas on the pendant.

A good way to find out if the piece isn’t sintered is to take a sharp object like a needle and scrape the broken inside area. If it falls apart then it isn’t sintered. If it becomes shinny from the scratching then it’s sintered.The chalky white color is just the metal not reflecting light because it is rough and porous.

Due to its particle makeup, metal clay is not as strong as sheet no matter how long it’s fired in the kiln at 1650 degrees F. On a molecular level it is porous and those tiny holes reduce the fired metal clay’s tensile strength.

With that in mind, design your pieces so that stronger in areas that will receive the most stress. For example, if you have a bail that attaches to the main body of the piece then make it thicker where it attaches instead of a thin connection. If your design requires that it be thin in that area then re-design it so that the bail is hidden behind the piece.

I hope this answers your questions. Please email me or post a comment if you have any questions about your clay.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

With an Attitude of Gratitude

by Linda Kline

I love Thanksgiving.
In fact, it’s my favorite holiday.

It’s a simple holiday, focused on the 4 F’s:
Family, Friends, Food, and Football!  

I tend to get a bit mushy at Thanksgiving, especially after a couple of glasses of champagne and about 1500 grams of pure fat! Lying around waiting on the pumpkin pie to digest affords the perfect opportunity to focus on all my blessings.

The older I get, the shorter my Gratitude List gets, which sounds a bit strange. It seems like we should have more blessings in our life as we age. It’s funny how the things we once considered important can begin to seem trivial while the things we once took for granted become a very big deal.

Health is at the top of the list. It becomes apparent with each passing year that you have to have good health to enjoy all the other blessings in your life. I used to love living on the edge – rollerblading, skiing, mountain climbing, skydiving. If there was an element of danger involved, I was all in! But these days, not so much. The consequences of an injury or breaking something gets more complicated…..especially if you teach jewelry design for a living! It’s hard to schlepp a kiln or demonstrate a technique with a cast on your arm.

Next on my list, family and friends. I have a very small family. They live 1200 miles away, which means I don’t often see them. But they stay very close to my heart and I miss them like crazy. That’s why my friends have become my family. And the really cool thing……most of my friends started out as my students! That, in itself, has been an incredible blessing in my life. 

I have new students all the time, of course, but my core group has been creating with me for nine years. It’s hard to believe that a little lump of metal clay could bind so many people together and weave such a complex and myriad pattern of life experiences. I think of our jewelry group like a Crazy Quilt – every piece a unique and different  shape, size, fiber, and texture, all blended together to form one amazing creation. We’ve become closer than family, in many ways. We’ve have shared amazing joys and painful losses; celebrated the birth of grandkids, consoled and supported through health scares, cried over the passage of parents, whined about the economy. While I was teaching them to make jewelry, they were teaching me humility, patience, and resolve. So such beautiful jewelry formed; so many amazing blessings shared. 

I wondered what my PMCC instructor friends would say were their greatest blessings, so I posed the question to them. 

Lora Hart said, “So many times life puts opportunities in your path that you weren’t aware existed. I’m so grateful for the unexpected discovery of some kind of stuff called ‘metal clay’ while on an early morning walk when I was at a crossroads in my career. And even more, I’m grateful that an enthusiastic appreciator of my jewelry, who I met at a local craft show, suggested that I teach at a bead shop where she worked. And that she suggested it over and over until at last I listened and submitted a proposal to the owner. Working with metal clay has changed my life in so many ways - introducing me to some amazing artists and friends, providing an opportunity to interact with talented students, and inspiring me to develop my creative practice in directions that I had never considered.”

Janet Alexander contributed, “I am thankful for the synergy that happens in class. When a problem occurs everyone works together to solve it. One student will think of a solution and then another and another. We all end up learning more together!”

Delia Marsellos-Traister added, “I am most thankful for the opportunities of 'possibility' and experimentation in classes. Sometimes artists want to try a new thing and I am so happy when they do…… Except rings in an intro class!”   (That’s okay, Delia.  We all have our breaking point!  ;-)

Gale Schlagel contributed, “Two of the things I love about teaching...being thankful for the experience...1. I love seeing the spark of possibilities in their eyes and 2. I love seeing through their eyes...their vision with their hands. It's inspiring and energizing!”

Sharon Caylor Gillespie beautifully summed up the sentiments of all of all teachers, I think, when she said, “I am thankful first to God for giving me opportunities to live the kind of life I am living, to my family for supporting me in all my many quests in life -- being a wife, mother, daughter, sister and an artist. I am thankful to my students from whom I receive the blessings of teaching me as I teach them. Not only are we getting the new technique, but we are learning to share our talents with everyone. Thank you, Linda, for giving me a moment today to think about how blessed I am.”

Take a moment today to think about all the blessings in your life and send a silent blessing to all the teachers who have challenged, motivated, and inspired you along the way.

Creative Blessings,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Business and Art: Introducing Kris A. Kramer

Business with Art?
by Kris A. Kramer 

To say I’m excited to write for PMC Connection’s CornerStone is an understatement. I get to share my art-related business knowledge? And get to hear about yours via the comments? Are you kidding? I truly appreciate Jennifer and CornerStone readers for this opportunity.

I will be writing about the business side of art and the world of metal clay. Whether you dabble in metal clay for recreation or market and sell it to high-end galleries, there will be topics and tidbits for you. I will include hard, left-brain topics and soft, more introspective topics. Any post can be turned into a task you might want to take on, a validation of what you are already doing, or an opportunity to refine your business even more.

The first puzzlement is this: are business and art mutually exclusive? That is, can you be an artist and an entrepreneur at the same time? The answer to the second question is "no." You can be both - just not at the same time. Can you be comfortably at home and on vacation at the same time? Consider a vacation -  toward the end of it, you kinda want to get back home. When you get home, you are refreshed and see your life differently from the perspective you gained while traveling.

The same relationship exists between your art and your art business. The business tasks I do at my desk in the house leave me feeling an urgent need to get into the studio. Too much studio time, and I need the focus that results from my business tasks. Each one fuels and feeds the other. It’s an ideal situation. On top of this, I’ve never known anyone to improve their business savvy and not also enhance their artistic skills at the same time. Amazing.

The basic assumptions for my posts are these: you are an artist or artisan; you tap into your creative aspect freely and often; you have a sacred studio or workspace and a personalized art process. I will be talking here then about the organizational and business aspect of art, about artist statements, mission-vision-values statements, about budgets, gallery cover letters, branding, business goals, logos, hangtags, shows, portfolios, press releases, videos, and marketing plans. I’ll cover consignment, commissions, contracts, and more.

All the while I will be trying to understand your needs and what you are curious about. So leave comments, concerns, and questions, anything that puzzles you. I love feedback, too! My wish is to write a blog that excites you, causes you to pause and reflect, and gives you information that you’ve been craving or needing.

Some business tasks might seem daunting. They did for me. I chunked them down and worked in small spurts every chance I could. I remember my daughter watching me, her greatly frustrated mother, ranting about what she had to do that she didn’t think she could. But, I took each daunting task step-by-step, giving myself permission to take the time I needed. Much to my surprise, I ended up being a model and inspiration for my daughter along these lines: you hit a wall; you get through.

Another thing that helped me pump up the business side of my life when I was feeling entrepreneurially inadequate (now that’s a phrase) was a simple piece called “Daily Sharing,” which I will close with today. Here, it applies to a business task or art process, but it works pretty well with a friend or family member, too:
  • Express an appreciation about that business task or about something good in your life.
  • Offer a bit of new information about what you’re feeling about that business task, something that happened to you, some new learning, something that you want to share.
  • Talk about something that puzzles you related to that business task, an issue you’re trying to understand, a quirky thing about it, a not-quite-complete bit of knowing.
  • Talk about something that’s bugging you or irritates you. First say what is working for you then make your valid complaint with a request for change. Explain how you would like this particular business task to change, using only “I” statements.
  • Talk about your wishes, hopes, and dreams or about anything you’d like to see happen to the business task It can be a hope for today, five years from now, or for all time. 
  • Ask your business task, “What do I do or can I do that lets you know I value, accept, or appreciate you?”

Friday, November 9, 2012

Questions I Ask Myself While Setting Up My Studio

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

I am in Alto, NM setting up my new studio and thought I’d like to share with you some of the things I’m thinking about while setting it up.I ask myself some questions and then set it up from there.

First and foremost will I be teaching in my studio or elsewhere?
In this case I’ll be teaching in my studio. So I need to look at what my students will need. Since this is in the mountains, they will need a place to put their coats, boots (it snows here), purses, lunches, and tools.  They will need a workspace.

How many students can my studio accommodate and how will I place/make working stations? Where will I sit to demonstrate?

I think I will set up my bench in front of the built-in counter top with drawers and have my students sit in front of me. I plan to put in a counter top along the right side of the room with flex shafts attached as polishing stations.

My studio doesn’t have heat, so I place this fake fireplace space heater in the room and I made a space next to it for hanging coats. In the future I will make some cubby holes for storage for purses etc.

What will I teach?
I will be teaching metal smithing and metal clay classes, so I need to look at storage for tools, books, chemicals, soldering stations, and a place for my kilns. I have a casting kiln and a PMC kiln both run on regular 110 current which is readily available. I need to store my chemicals in locked cabinets. One cabinet will be for flammables and the other for acids. I use acids for plating and etching. I also need to install a fire detector and next to the entry door a fire extinguisher placed at around 4’ off the ground for easy access. Nothing should ever block the fire extinguisher.

The soldering area will be in the far corner where I can open cross windows allowing for venting. Since I am renting this place I cannot install a vent system. This room has windows on three sides. If I need to vent for soldering or for the kilns, all I will need to do is open opposing windows, and place a small box fan on the window sill with it blowing outward.

For fire proofing, I will place some left over granite on top of the counter top. Solderite board works great too. I will attach some backer board or Hardie Board on the wall behind the soldering areas to fire-proof them.

That's my plan so far. As I set up, I will continue to think about these practical and safety concerns and adjust accordingly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Note to Self...

Posted by Lora Hart 
Artistic Advisor

This morning I searched my favorite travel site looking for the best airfare to next year's SNAG conference in Toronto. The conference is in May 2013, but I want to plug it into my calendar and buy the ticket so I don't procrastinate, or find an excuse not to go, or just plain get caught up in my day-to-day life, and miss out on the opportunity.

This past summer I let a few creative prospects pass me by. There were calls for entry; teaching possibilities in the Southwest and Northeast; a major, fine craft exhibition; and a local show that were all planned or presented without me because I allowed myself to be sidetracked by life. I didn't make the travel plans or write the syllabus, or do whatever prep needed to be done to ensure my participation in the timely manner required.

Not only does one need to know about the submissions, proposals and events before they happen or merely plug them into a calendar, you must actually create a plan of action, perhaps months in advance, and detail the action steps in the calendar before the event's deadline. A calendar that you'll actually look at from time to time. Oh - I have a slick calendar on the wall of my studio with pretty, inspirational pictures in it, and others on my computer, phone, and iPad. There may even be dates flagged and cryptic notes jotted in the little boxes of days - but all to often I look at it, only to be dismayed by my last minute perusal, lack of planning, and poorly described happening. So, out I go today (as soon as the shops open) to buy a nice, big, boring, utilitarian calendar/journal/book in which I can write long messages to myself in the clean, white, empty pages that will (hopefully) turn my good intentions into plans of action.

November  15 2012, Ornament my Dear Metal clay design competition sponsored by Metal Clay Today.

January 14 2013, Tales of the Heart - Competition sponsored by Mitsubishi Materials.
Details and more info here.

May 15 - 18 2013, Toronto. SNAG conference - Meta Mosaic, Society of North American Goldsmiths. Not just for metal workers - this is a fabulous all-jewelry conference that will provide a similar educational experience to our beloved metal clay conferences.

June 2013, Palm Springs Ca. Metals Week at Idyllwild. Metals Week is designed to be a week of creative and social renewal where you can relearn how to be open to learning and seeing from a creative perspective. Five full days with one instructor - focusing on hard metal techniques. Following metals week is a one week intensive with metal clay artist Jonna Faulkner in the same idyllic surroundings. 2013 program TBD.

August 9 - 12 2013, San Diego Ca. Metal Clay by the Bay - A premier conference for All metal clay artists. Classes offered in paired teamings by some of the best instructors around.

September 5 - 8 2013, Connecticut. Metal Clay MoJo - A multi faceted program including technique demonstrations, presentations, round table discussions, panel discussions, critique sessions, open studios, and more. Post conference classes will also be offered.

November 1 - 3 2013, Chicago. SOFA Art and Design Fair - Gallery Presented Masterworks of Contemporary and Modern Art and Design. An exhibition of some of the best fine craft artists and galleries in North America.

Ongoing - Crafthaus - Calls for entry and job opportunities are listed for members. Online exhibition opportunities as well as print publications and live shows/xhibitions are shared here.
 Lark Books - Submission details for upcoming Lark Books publications. Up now - 500 Traditional Quilts. Deadline February 28.

No date yet, but check here for information on the next Art Clay World Conference in Europe.

Registration closed for 2013 - The Saul Bell Design Award - Don't miss out in 2014. Dates to be announced.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Putting Our Best Foot Forward

by Jennifer Roberts

Progress! When it comes to creating a website, it can feel painfully slow. But I am thrilled to announce that we've launched a new section for our PMCC Instructors and have upgraded our class page. 

Instructions for those of you who post on our class page are coming next week. In the meantime, take a look at our crack staff.

I'd also like to congratulate Lora Hart, Teva Chaffin, and Janet Alexander for having their work published in Hattie Sanderson's Contemporary Metal Clay Rings. Beautiful work!