Friday, May 31, 2013

Mail Order Sales and Shipping Rules

A lot of us sell our jewelry from websites, so its important to know the US guidelines for mail order. 

The Bureau of Consumer Protection working with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers an on-line guide.
According to the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule, you must have a reasonable basis for stating or implying that a product can be shipped within a certain time. If your ad doesn't include a shipping statement, you must have a reasonable basis to believe you can ship within 30 days.

If you can't ship when promised, you must notify the customer of the delay and the right to cancel. For definite delays of up to 30 days, you may treat the customer's silence as agreement to the delay. For longer or indefinite delays, and second and subsequent delays, you must get the customer's consent. If you don't, you must promptly refund all the money the customer paid you without being asked.

You can give updated shipping information over the phone if your Internet ad prompts customers to call to place an order. This information may differ from what you said or implied about the shipping time in your ad. The updated phone information supersedes any shipping representation made in your ad, but you still must have a reasonable basis for the update.

The guide explains possible penalties for non-compliance:

Merchants who violate the Rule can be sued by the FTC for injunctive relief, monetary civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation (any time during the five years preceding the filing of the complaint), and consumer redress (any time during the three years preceding the filing of the complaint). When the mails are involved, the Postal Service also has authority to take action for problems such as non-delivery. State law enforcement agencies can take action for violating state consumer protection laws.

So, I have some more "light" reading for yo all to do. Visit the bureau's web site about complying with the FTC’s Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule it just might save you some grief and $$.

Until later, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kiln Considerations in the Classroom

One of the challenges I face in my weekly classes is how to fire the kiln fast enough to keep pace with student production.  As soon as we enter the classroom, I’m off to the kiln with work students produced at home and brought in for firing.  While that load is firing, they are getting pieces ready for the next load.  There is a constant flow of jewelry going into and out of the kiln in our three-hour class. It keeps me constantly on the move. 

Most teachers would just assume the kiln would be located in the classroom – convenient to use and easily monitored. But many teaching centers have set policies about the operation and location of the kiln.  

After a few smoke alarm-induced visits from our friendly fire fighters (not in MY classroom, thank you very much), the administration of the Vero Beach Museum of Art chose to ban all heat generating equipment from classrooms. Toaster ovens, torches, kilns, and the like, are now restricted to the indoor/outdoor foundry area, far away from the general classroom area.  While I had dire concerns when the edict first came down, a kiln-less classroom has become a real blessing!

I have horrible allergies to burning organic matter. Cork, wood, cotton, etc., set me into a wheezing, coughing, gasping fit when I fire a load of hollow forms, beads, twigs, leaves, and the like. I am extremely grateful my students and I are no longer breathing those fumes. If your classroom, home, studio, or teaching facility is not equipped with adequate ventilation or a professional exhaust system, seriously consider moving the kiln!

Depending on your outlook and level of physical fitness, the distance between the classroom and the kiln can be a “glass half-full/half-empty” scenario. In my case, it’s a hike to the foundry!  Happily, I’ve always been big on walking, and I’m getting a great workout from those multiple back and forth trips!  I may be pooped at the end of class, but there’s no need to hit the gym that day.

With the kiln out of the classroom, I no longer have the worry about practicalities and safety issues, like the nagging concern that someone could be seriously burned.  Or that a student might quench hot pieces and thermo shock all the gemstones. 

Some teachers will enlist an advanced student to help load and unload the kiln. The museum has a strict policy against students entering the foundry, so that’s not an option for me. And truth told, I think it’s unfair to ask a student to assume this task. If a student is paying for the class, they should not be expected to forfeit their creative time or assume that level of responsibility. Also, many unfortunate things can happen during firing. Personally, I’ve had some bazaar kiln experiences.  Once, a malfunctioning thermocouple caused the heat to become so intense that it melted everyone’s project into one big puddle! The burden of responsibility for someone’s art weighs heavy on my mind.  If anything goes wrong, the buck stops with me. I wouldn’t want a student to carry that burden. 

If you plan to delegate the kiln operation to a student, you should consider these points, as well:
* The way items are stacked and loaded in the kiln. No one wants misshapen or warped jewelry designs because their work was not property supported on the kiln shelf.
* Does the load have glass, ceramic, natural gemstones, or other objects that require special firing considerations?
* And, of course, temperature and duration of firing are critical firing factors. 

There is no magic, quick, or simple answer to the questions so many beginners ask, “How long do you fire?” Even the “experts” have different opinions about that topic. I NEVER fire anything according to the printed schedules or product fliers. Students who come to class to have fun and make a few pieces of pretty jewelry won’t be concerned with firing times and temps. Those who take a serious interest in the art form will be willing to invest the time and money to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of the medium.

Note:  Certification gives the ‘biggest bang for the buck’ to achieve a comprehensive education for all things PMC. I strongly endorse the certification program as the best means of immersing one’s self into the artistic technical aspects of why we do what we do. 

Until next time.

Creative Blessings,

by Linda Kline
Director of Education

Friday, May 24, 2013

Before the Bell Rings

In another lifetime, I was a personal growth instructor. I partnered with a male instructor and we facilitated a weekend course  . . . creating a better life for yourself. Each student completed an information sheet before the first night of the class. Often, students would walk in to the course room in a ‘state’ - ready to share all and get moving. As instructors, we recognized that the course had begun several days earlier.

As a metal clay arts instructor, I have seen similar moments many times. Sometimes, when a first-time student begins to entertain the idea of taking a class, they will say to me “Do I have to be artsy/an artist/talented/creative?” My first response is, “You are creative everyday!  When you prepare meals; pick out your clothes; manage the household; go to work; handle the bills . . . those are all moments when you are being creative with your time and resources. This class will provide you a new medium for your creative energy.” 

Students have walked into a class and burst into tears, exclaiming that they  “ . . . are not artistic at all.” Recently, a student nearly dropped the class, sharing that they had been up the night before in a state of anxiety about performing well. Let the teaching begin! 

As instructors, our job is part technician and part coach, mixed with a heavy dose of love and compassion. Metal clay art is not ‘easy’ for everyone and it is down right scary to some. It serves a student well if I am empathetic to those fears and coach them through those moments. As a result, I take a very experiential and developmental approach to my teaching. I see each artist as an individual and avoid being so committed to my curriculum that I miss someone’s challenges.

As a ‘coach’, technician and person of love and compassion my first responsibility is to set the stage for the best experience as possible. That requires knowing my craft, preparing for class, and being fully present for each student. And with some students, it means noticing all of the creative baggage they carry into my class and helping them shed it – a little teaching begins before the bell rings. 

by Delia Marsellos-Traister 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Close Distance Learning

We all have questions about process. Including me. And whenever I want more information about a particular technique or need to see a demo, I realize that the internet is my best friend! Surprisingly, there are a lot of great tutorials on Flickr. Some are videos, some require that you click from photo to photo and some will link to another site with all the information.

YouTube is also a wealth of free information. I've learned how to forge a fibula, change the tank on my propane torch, and of course learn a variety of metal clay skills. 

On Flickr search for 'tutorial', 'how to', or 'tute'. With YouTube, just put the exact information you're looking for into the search box. I'm going back right now to look into that torch fired enamel lesson in square #3. These all look great though, so I may spend my morning searching for wisdom!
by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Friday, May 17, 2013

Final Polishing - It's a Catch 22

Photo by Daniel Robinson
Have you ever spent a lot of time polishing your work to its perfection and then finding out you scratched up the other side while polishing? I have several ideas on how to keep that from happening.

If it's a ring, I polish the inside of the shank and then the outside. If it's a two-sided piece, I polish the back first, since it's not as important as the front. Once I finish the front, I can always sharpen up the back if I have created any scratches. And yes, I have many times.

If the front has projections that keep me from laying the piece flat, I find a way to help hold it while I work on the back. One way is to use a thick piece of leather. I am particularly careful to do this while engraving my name on the back. I have two types of leather, thick cow hide and soft deer skin. I use whichever one works best.

Here are some additional ways to hold your piece.

Use scratch foam or a take-out Styrofoam box. I press my setting into the foam and it holds my item in place while I polish.


A padded envelope works well also.

Until next time have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


[Editor's note: As usual, Kris explains words in bold type in an earlier post.]

I’m going to express some appreciations about my PMC journals. Collectively, my journals have turned into a testimonial, historic, and grounding element in my life. They help me remember information, track where I’ve been, and lead to where I might be going. I offer this new information about what my journals mean to me and how they have served me well. 

I have three journals. 

This journal sits on my breakfast counter.
One is a beautiful, marble-paper journal my brother brought me from Italy. I write in it only in #2 mechanical pencil in my best handwriting. I make notes on working with silver, what I want to make next, on experiments, on failures, and successes. Some pages have drawings. I’ve inserted magazine cutouts, like an ad I read which was a story about a lost-then-found a piece of jewelry, as it was a perfect example of how one company capitalized on personalization.

My next journal is on my computer.  I am more expressive and
I use the Search function a lot in this journal.
detailed in this one. I insert photos. I write about places I visit and how those places might influence my art. I include URL’s for online places, phone numbers, email, contact names, and more. I make notes on repeating shows and events to get better at each one. I once copied an entire email exchange with someone who was insisting I did something a certain way. This made me angry. I then found out she had had my best interests in mind all along, but I was blind to this at the time. I shared this part of my journal with her, and we laughed. If I am away from home, I will send myself an email or text with info then copy and paste this into this journal. I write in this journal at least twice per month; it’s on my calendar to do so.

This journal shows the development of my brand. 
My third journal is a drawing pad that I keep at my workbench. I brainstorm on design then decide and draw how best to construct pieces. This type of journal saved a fellow PMC artist from a bad experience—someone accused her of copying a design, a copyright violation. My friend went back in her journal and found drawings that were evidence that the design came from her.

Friends give me newspaper clippings—in they go.
It puzzles me that I never know when I’m going to journal or that I do journal, yet the pages just
stack up organically. In a way I have a fourth journal but this one is simply an 8 ½ X 11 X 5 inch box. I put in here any hard-copy piece about my art, my business, or me as an artist. Yesterday I received an email from a large company and at the top was a photograph of one of my pendants. I printed it, and into the box it went. Again, the mystery is that suddenly this box is full, and I need to start another.

Journaling is like an antidote for the pace of today’s world. My complaint with a request for change is this: instead of zooming through the day receiving and reacting to the blitz of mini-info’s, we can we wake up in the morning asking ourselves, “What would I like to see happen for today?” In my mind, a positive change would involve something that slows life down enough to infuse each second with mindfulness and appreciation. For me, this is what journaling does. Remember to journal your wishes, hopes, and dreams to shape your day, your life.

One of my wishes is that you re-visit your journals in two to five years and be amazed or amused at your personal growth and evolution. I want you to laugh at the younger you. I want you to be re-inspired by and re-awakened to your nascent creativity. 

Never give your journal to anyone to see or read. Never throw away or lose your journal. Journals do not sell at garage sales. You’ll have a hard time finding one in a thrift shop. Since you can’t take your journals with you to the Other Side, eventually you’ll pass them along to your kids, another family member, or a dear friend. What can you do that lets your loved ones know you love them? Hide your journals just right, so that they can inherit them. Journals are another way you and your work will live on.

Posted by 
Kris A. Kramer 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Learning Something New

Sarah Loertscher

As a teacher, I know that there's nothing that will stretch my imagination and inspire new directions in both my personal work and in my teaching practice like learning a new technique. So recently I a took a class at the Visual Arts Center here in Richmond, where I hold Intro classes. 'Steel Fabrication for Jewelers' was taught by the very talented Sarah Loertscher. Sarah demonstrated a plethora of techniques, of which I attempted two designs. And true to my modus operandi - didn't complete.

My lovely chain. Somtimes I used just the right amount of solder
and sometimes I got lazy and cut too big a piece.

We used plain ol' mild steel binding wire from the hardware store to form jump rings to be made into chain or bracelets or whatever we could dream up. I really loved this project for a variety of reasons. First and foremost - I'm not at all ambidextrous and have always babied myself by holding the torch in my dominant hand, switching at the last minute when I needed to use a soldering pick. This is a big no-no in the metal working process. So this time I 'forced' myself to put the torch in my left hand and hold the pick with my right. And by the end of the day, I almost had the technique down pat. Almost. Sarah showed us a great trick to help steady a shaky non dominant hand. By using the pick to guide the torch tip just at the bend of the nozzle I had almost as much control as if I were using my right hand to control the flame. I'll be practicing this technique more, until I perfect it.

These modified rings would be great chain 'stations' or post earring elements.
The half ring is held in place with a third hand while soldering.

Sarah uses black welder's flux called 'Stay Silv' most often when soldering steel, but admits that traditional, white, 'Handi Flux' works, too. It just doesn't offer as much working time as black flux does. There's no specific solder for steel, so we used medium silver solder (you can, of course, also use the beautiful but spendy 18K gold solder if you wish). We bridged our work over two firing bricks, so that we could get the flame under the seams and draw the solder down. A metal tripod would have been too much of a heat sink.

Rachel Rader's line of jump rings turned bangle bracelet.

On Saturday we learned to saw mild or stainless steel sheet to make other elements.  Never use good tools on steel! Sheet metal cutters and sheers will dull and get chewed up by steel. Also keep steel away from a rolling mill for the same reasons. We used a #3 blade to cut our small squares of metal. Sarah had to take the big sheets she had brought to the university's giant, heavy duty guillotine cutter to make sample size squares for us (The VisArts Center has a guillotine - but it wasn't sturdy enough for this job). You could ask your vendor to cut the sheet, but there would most likely be a charge for this service. Mild steel is easier to saw and to solder, but stainless is... well... stainless. So it doesn't tarnish or rust as easily. The emphasis in on stain LESS, not stain free. Sarah suggested we use a sealant like Renaissance Wax or a similar product to protect the surface of mild steel for about a year or so.

My slotted earrings. Well, they're almost earrings. Any day now...

We learned how to use slots to build dimension into our work, score a line with a triangle or square file to make a sharp bend, do solder inlay,  place oxidized work in muriatic acid (get it at the hardware store)  for a super fast pickle clean up, use both heat and gun bluing for patina, and to use Super Sunsheen Polishing liquid in the tumbler to condition not only the shot, but the finished jewelry. Sarah has some mild steel pieces that haven't rusted in over a year after a tumble in Super Sunsheen.

Class samples. Notice the little blue rectangle on the 2nd sheet of paper?
That's silver solder inlay in mild steel with gun bluing patina.

This class was a wonderful three-day treat, and I highly recommend that you think about taking a workshop in a technique that isn't quite your cup of tea. I guarantee it'll spark your creative imagination.

Posted by Lora Hart 
Artistic Advisor