Sunday, January 29, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
I decided to look into working with metal clay again when my students wanted to learn a quicker way to make prototypes for casting without the expensive tools and massive time it takes to carve waxes and cast them. So in 2010 I took Level One and Level Two certification with Marlynda Taylor. Soon after that I taught a fabrication class at PMC Connection's main office, and was "discovered" by president Jennifer Roberts. After completing the certification program with Lora Hart in LA, I became a Level One certifying instructor. Two weeks ago I was made a full fledged Senior.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
by Janet Alexander
I am honored to be the new Technical Advisor for the PMC Connection. For this first post, I thought about writing about myself and my experience. But in the end, I decided you’d be more interested in learning some tips! With over the 35+ years of making jewelry I’ve come up with some shortcuts and tips for getting odd things done. I hope to pass some of these ideas on to you in my new role.
So, how about making slip and syringes from PMC Sterling?
Here's what you’ll need:
- Small container with a lid
- 6mm round ball of lump sterling silver clay
- A very small amount of distilled water (start with ½ teaspoon)
- A clay shaper, flat or round
Add a small amount of water.
Mix by pressing the clay against the side of the container until it is diluted to a smooth consistency.
Allow it to sit overnight and it will become very smooth.
You will need:
- An empty syringe (I recycle my used PMC3 syringes.)
- Snake roller
- Small amount of Sterling Silver Metal Clay
Using the snake roller, roll the clay into a tube shape so that it can fit into the syringe tube.
Place the clay into the open end of the syringe, pressing it down into the tube with the plunger.
Keep pressing until all air is out.
Place clean tip on syringe.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Like many artists who make a living from their craft, I have learned some hard business lessons over the years. There are days when I feel like I have made every mistake out there. And then I prove myself wrong and execute some new bone-headed move.
This year, I will be sharing some of those lessons with our readers. Too often, talented artists are forced into other fields to make a living, simply because they fail to manage their business affairs. We’d like to help increase the numbers of successful full-time artisans, so . . .
Lesson No. 1
Know When to Walk Away and Know When to Run
. . . from people and practices that are not working for you.
This is a tough one for me. I love creating new projects, new partnership, and new programs – not ending them. This is especially true when bringing a project or a position to a close means ending a business relationship. But I have learned the hard way, sometimes it simply must be done. Moreover, if you wait too long and let things become more and more dysfunctional, you reduce the chances that you will be able to end a business relationship with grace and without hurting people unnecessarily. This has obvious consequences for the people with whom you are dealing, but you may also be hurting yourself by foreclosing your opportunities for future collaboration.
I tend towards two big sins in this area. First, too often I take up for the business or person who has failed to meet expectations. They will do better next time, I just know it. Second, I cling to what a product or a partnership “could” or “should” have been, instead of what it is. So, I have developed a process for myself, one I have to actively walk myself through when I sense something isn’t working for us.
1) View the situation from a buyer’s point of view.
This is a great tool that one of my favorite legal mediators uses. It goes like this: We are playing Let’s Make A Deal. Behind the first curtain is your lawsuit; behind the second, the settlement proposal. Giving up curtain two (the settlement) is essentially “buying” you lawsuit for that amount. Would you buy your lawsuit for that sum?
In business, the curtains are the costs and benefits of product, person, or project at issue. The question is, knowing what I now know the costs and benefits to be, would I buy this situation again? If the answer is no, I move on the step 2.
2) Take a hard look at what isn’t working and do everything reasonably possible to fix it if you think there is still real potential value.
This is probably where I diverge from many business people who engage in the analysis, make a decision, and the cut the fat. Game over.
I tend to think that if you thought that idea had enough merit in the first place, you owe it to yourself and others involved to try to figure out where you went wrong and fix those things, if possible. Relationships matter in business. A truth too often forgotten these days and a topic for a future post. I believe that building strong and lasting relationships means that you are honest with each other and you fight for each other. I include the word “reasonably” because there are limits. If there is no reasonable way to make it work, you move on to step 3.
3) Call it quits with as few casualties as possible.
What does this mean? You may decide that there is no way you can continue to provide work for a gallery, but you can give them some warning so they are not left with empty shelves. You can tell a vendor that you can no longer use their services, but tell them why before you just go elsewhere. Often, vendors are more flexible that we give them credit for.
The hardest of all, if you have to stop using the services of a real live flesh-and-blood person, be clear. If they ask for second chance, set clear parameters and a timeline for measurement. And when you part ways, don’t mince words and don’t assume that they will interpret your silence as the end of the story. Save room for future endeavors if you like, but don’t lead people on.
My first job as an attorney was with an estate planning firm that had recently added a litigation department, of which I was a part. It wasn’t a good fit and it wasn’t working. They weren’t happy. We weren’t happy. When the decision was made to dissolve the litigation section, we were given plenty of notice and I wound up taking a case on a free-lance basis that turned out to be the most rewarding and fascinating case I ever tried. That little bit of time the firm gave us allowed me to search out my next chapter with an open mind instead of panic. It was the difference between a casualty and a success. It's not always possible to end a relationship on healthy terms. But, where possible, it can be in everyone’s best interest – e.g., I still refer estate planning clients to my old firm.
An important Note
Artists have resources available to them that many other businesses do not. In most states, nonprofits designed to provide free or low-cost legal and/or accoutring advice to artists can help you engage in this sort of analysis, while avoiding potential legal liability where applicable. This is particularly true when dealing with contractual relationships and when dealing with employees, who must be treated very differently from independent contractors, vendors, and customers.
When in doubt, seek legal advice. Always. You’ll thank yourself.
Disclaimer: The materials available on this blog are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of this blog or any of the e-mail links within does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind.
Friday, January 13, 2012
I am happy to congratulate PMCC Instructor Janet Alexander, who today takes on two new roles: Senior Instructor and PMCC Technical Advisor.
Janet was appointed a PMCC Certification Instructor last Summer and has quickly become an invaluable part of our team. Janet's extensive background in metalsmithing and her insightful tutorials featured in our newsletters make her a natural choice for the role of Technical Advisor.
As Technical Advisor, Janet will be a resource for us, for our teachers, and for our students. She will also write for the blog and continue her popular tutorials.
For those of you wondering about former Technical Advisor Mary Ellin D'Agostino, never fear, she is hard at work on a new education degree. She is on hiatus from teaching and writing for now, but plans to remain active in metal clay.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Announcing the first CornerStone challenge for 2012, and the last one before Metal Clay Artist Magazine's "Metal Clay Plus..." design competition deadline of February 29th.
Use one of these four images as inspiration for your design. Keep in mind that inspiration doesn't mean that your piece needs to resemble the source image (although it can). You can use any tiny aspect of the image - the color, a shape, or the feeling it evokes. Sit for a few moments and gaze at the image that most intrigues you. Think of a few words to describe it. Is it whimsical or moody? How 'bout avante garde or peaceful? Does your chosen picture suggest movement or permanence? How might you use those words to fuel your design? Sketch a few variations based on the details that caught your imagination and transform one of them into reality!
|Images sourced from Pinterest and Flickr|
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.
- A winner will be chosen based on their interpretation of the image, innovative use of the second material, and quality of craftsmanship. The winner will be notified via Flickr mail.
- The quality of the photograph will not be taken into consideration, but busy backgrounds, out of focus pictures and shots that are too wide will make viewing the details of your work difficult. Remember that cropping is your friend. Picnik offers free photo editing software that will help you color correct and crop your photos online.
- The final day to post your work will be Saturday, February 4th. The winner will be announced right here on the blog on February 6th and will also be featured in our newsletter.
Friday, January 6, 2012
I began experimenting with Precious Metal Clay (PMC) two years ago. Metal clay offers a quick way of making a piece of jewelry, saving the jeweler hours of work. In one day I can make a prototype and send it off to a casting company to have duplicates made. A jewelry designer can easily texture or hand-carve a piece in just a few hours with metal clay, whereas traditional metalsmithing techniques would take days to complete.
Here are some fabrication skills to consider when making metal clay jewelry.
- Implant milled .999 wire instead of extruding syringe clay to make connective links.
- Solder bezels together instead of using metal clay slip. It only takes a few seconds to solder and the join is nearly as strong as the bezel wire itself. Joins made with metal clay slip may break or crack.
- Solder earring posts onto the back of an earring instead of firing in place using slip. The join is stronger and sterling posts won’t be compromised by the high kiln temperatures.
(editor’s note: When using sterling silver with metal clay you have to make a decision whether you want the clay or the wire to be stronger. Metal clay fired at 1650ºF to it’s most dense form will begin to melt the sterling from the inside out and make it brittle. Sterling fired to 1300ºF will be strong, but the metal clay won’t have sintered to its best advantage.)
- Don’t use fine silver wire for earring wires. It’s too soft and won’t hold its shape no matter how much you try to work-harden it. The copper content in sterling silver wire makes it stiffer and allows it to be work-hardened. Learn how to work-harden metal with a rawhide or plastic mallet to provide additional strength.
- Solder jump rings closed instead of using metal clay slip. Solder holds better, looks better, and that is what it was designed for. If you don’t want to solder jump rings, then make them out of heavy gauge wire so they don’t accidentally bend open.
- When making a negative space design in dry clay, use a jeweler’s saw and blade in a traditional ‘piercing’ application instead of filing the design out. A saw will save a lot of working time and there will be less dust and waste material. The cut out piece can even be used in another design.
- Instead of making a round hole in wet clay using a straw, dry the clay and then drill the hole with a drill bit. This allows you to place the hole exactly where it needs to go, choose an exact size for the hole, and create a perfectly round and professional looking hole.
(editors note: Learning basic hard metals skills is not as intimidating as you might think. Some Jr. Colleges, specialty schools and bead shops offer beginner classes in fabrication, and You Tube is overflowing with well-presented how-to videos. At the very least, learn how to make some simple solder attachments and be mindful of when a butane torch will get the job done and when you’ll need a hotter torch to complete more intricate joins.)
Janet is a PMCC Certification Instructor and has been a traditional jeweler for over 35 years. With a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Metals and a GIA certification in diamond grading and stone setting, Janet is familiar with a wide range of production techniques and has a unique insight into the nuances of good jewelry design.
Monday, January 2, 2012
America's Next Top Model, Project Runway, Iron Chef, Design Star, Work of Art, Face Off, Shear Genius. What do all of these reality shows have in common? Challenge! Adventure! Innovation! Self satisfaction! Models, designers, cooks, interior decorators, fine artists, make-up artists, and hair dressers are all clamoring to participate, to stretch their imaginations to the limit, to take advantage of the training; expertise; and passion they feel for their chosen field (yes, yes - I'm sure the lure of fame and fortune doesn't hurt).
I've been fascinated with these public tournaments for years, inspired by each new opportunity to create beauty out of chaos and stimulated by each maker's ability to take unusual (sometimes seemingly impossible) materials or themes and transform them into wonderful confections of artistic expression.
|Some of my unusual materials have included a plastic spoon, papier mache,|
plants (thanks neighbors), and a Coke bottle.
Magazines and jewelry supply companies offer fabulous prize, publicity, and peer admiration incentives to encourage jewelry makers to stretch the limits of their design imaginations. In fact, PMC Connection is partnering with Metal Clay Artist Magazine in their annual design contest. The deadline for "Metal Clay Plus..." is looming at the end of February and to encourage all you enthusiasts take part, we here at CornerStone have been trying to inspire you with images of PMC combined with glass, porcelain, found objects, enamel and other materials.
|I've paired hydraulically formed copper, a porcelain doll,|
a natural cocoon and a paint brush with metal work.