Friday, June 28, 2013

What is Your Best Saftey Tool?

There is a long list of safety equipment you might name as most important in your studio. This list  might include: glasses, gloves, masks, ear protection, ventilation, and etc.

Let's look at gloves. Some are rated for applications ranging from 800°F (426.7°C) to 1000°F (537.8°C), while others are rated for lower temperatures. Additionally, some are waterproof or are designed for use with chemicals.

Safety glasses are important, too. Some offer great protection by deflecting objects traveling toward your eyes, while others provide excellent chemical resistance. Still other glasses provide UV protection. Any or all of these can be critical depending on your project and location.

Masks are certainly on the short list. Safety masks range from lightweight, disposable particulate barriers to sophisticated respirators that protect against a wide variety of particulates, gases, and vapors when used with approved cartridges and filters.

I could go on about fire protection and fire extinguishers, but it doesn't matter what or how much safety equipment you have at your finger tips. What matters the most is thinking and planing safety before we act!

For example, before you light up that torch, look around you for any potential fire hazards. Don't walk across the room with a red hot piece of metal to quench it. Bring the water to the hot piece.

I was teaching one day and a student came up to me - from across the room - to ask me if her piece soldered correctly. She was holding it in tweezers. Needless to say, I reached out to grab it to look at it, and it was still hot! Always remember to keep in mind how others might interpret or react to what you are doing.

Don't use gloves rated for 200°F to reach into a 1650°F hot oven. And consider whether you really need to be reaching into a 1650°F kiln in the first place.

Always tie your hair back when using a torch or even a rotary tool if its long enough to get caught in the tool. Make a habit of washing your hands after working with metal clays and before you touch food or your face. This is especially important when working with base metal clays or chemicals like patinas and sealants. Don't let the floor or counter space around your kiln become cluttered. You don't want to trip carrying hot pieces or find yourself looking frantically for a clear space to put a hot bowl of carbon.

All of this is common sense. But sometimes, we (and I include myself here) forget to use the most important safety tool - our brains.

Until next time have fun and keep safely claying around!

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Monday, June 24, 2013

When The Mice Are Away The Cat Should Play

Summertime, HOT, HUMID, LAZY, UNINSPIRING, summertime……at least that’s how it feels here in Florida where the temps are expected to reach the mid-90s this week! 

I think we all love the romanticized idea of summer. It takes us back to the days of our youth; being out of school for summer; going to camp; chilling out in a neighbor’s pool; staying out late to watch the moon come up, roasting s’mores, and camping out. Those were carefree days of sleeping in, having no responsibility, and no deadlines. 

So what happened? We grew up! We went to college; got jobs; raised families; acquired mortgages, car payments, and student loans. We became our parents. Stress pretty much blanked out that little voice inside our head that keeps screaming, “But I’m still just a kid and I want to play, too!” 

And why shouldn’t you? This summer, indulge your inner child and sign yourself up for big kid camp. Give yourself permission to learn something new or build on a skill you already have. If you are a teacher, use this as an opportunity to observe others’ teaching styles.

If money and time are an issue, look locally for a class that may compliment and expand on skills you already teach. This will give you a really big bang for your buck: It increases your marketability, gives you a potential tax deduction, recharges the teaching juices, and gets you out of your structured classroom rut. Check out local museums, galleries, colleges, arts centers, etc.

If your checkbook is bountifully blessed and a real sleep-over camp is possible, pack up the car and hit the road. There are amazing educational, social, and cultural experiences to be had at some of the better and lesser known art schools around the country. Some of my favorites are in the lush forests of the Southern U.S.  Locations like historic and geographically-rich Gatlinburg, TN, Young Harris, GA, and Brasstown, NC, are home to renowned schools like Arrowmont, John C. Campbell Folk School, and William Holland School of Lapidary Arts. 

I call these, “summer camp for adults.” The rooms are adequate, not fancy. Food is good, not gourmet, and there is plenty of it. Scenery is breathtaking and abundant! The air is fresh, clear, and clean. If you are not a hiker, you will regret it. You will not believe how quickly a one-week stay will fly by.

Studios are well lit, abundantly stocked, and open to students most all hours of the day and evening. Instruction is superior! Most teachers are college instructors grateful for a break from the rigors of academia and a few blessed months in the cooler climbs of the south.

Go camping!  Invigorate, recharge your creative juices, and turn back the hands of time.

Until next time…..
Creative blessings,

Linda Kline
Director of Education


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Metal Clay Chop-O-Matic

I've never just happened to come across a coffee grinder in forays into a thrift or big box store and haven't bothered to search one out online because I actually like to reconstitute metal clay scraps the old fashioned way - by hand. I tell my students that I enjoy the physical exertion of chopping greenware, and even keep one particular person in mind when I'm doing it. It's a wonderful stress reliever. Is that so wrong? I'm just kidding of course. Kind of.

When I discover that I've forgotten to correctly wrap a lump of clay or left the slip out so long that it's dried solid,  I just get out my handy, dandy tissue blade and begin to chop. It's a pretty easy process actually.

1. First chop up the clay as small as you can. I make thin slices, then dice those into chunks using the same motion the chefs on TV use to prepare parsley.

First stage
2. Next put the crumbs in a mortar bowl, and crush to powder with a pestle. Not the ones used to make guacamole, those are too coarse. I found mine in a restaurant supply store. But places like Sur la Table, Crate and Barrel, and even the local pharmacy carry them for customers to crush herbs and pills respectively. If you don't want to invest in a mortar and pestle or you need to make metal clay powder in a hurry, you can improvise with a small bowl and a tool like the back of a screwdriver. How do I know? I did it in class once. I used a small stainless steel mixing bowl and the wooden handle of my curved burnisher. Worked like a dream!

Notice how the particle size on the
work surface is smaller after I
finished chopping it?
After the clay is powdery, you can reconstitute it the same as you would any other metal clay powder. I spritz 6 - 10 sprays of water on the powder while it is still in the bowl and mix until the powder forms a cohesive dirty ball. Then I place it between two sheets of lightly oiled plastic (like a report cover or two layers of freezer baggies) and roll it super thin. Open the plastic sandwich, spritz the clay two times, fold the clay over on itself twice, close the plastic, and roll again. This action distributes the water very evenly throughout the whole lump of clay. Repeat with single spritzes until the clay feels moist and malleable. Then roll and fold 2 -3 more times, but without adding more water.  Compact the clay into a very small nugget and wrap well in plastic wrap. Give the binder time to fully absorb the moisture by leaving the reconstituted lump over night. It's a little time consuming, but when you come to the bench in the morning, you'll find a perfectly blended, workable ball of clay.
 by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Friday, June 14, 2013

What's in a Name According to the Federal Trade Commission

Did you know the rules and regulations in describing your jewelry are set in laws established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)? If you sell your jewelry in the USA, then you had best read some of these rules to make sure you are within the guidelines!

Did you know it is unlawful to list your lab created ruby as a ruby? Check out the correct listing:

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to use the unqualified words "ruby," "sapphire," "emerald," "topaz," or the name of any other precious or semi-precious stone to describe any product that is not in fact a natural stone of the type described.

(b) It is unfair or deceptive to use the word "ruby," "sapphire," "emerald," "topaz," or the name of any other precious or semi-precious stone, or the word "stone," "birthstone," "gemstone,'' or similar term to describe a laboratory-grown, laboratory-created, [manufacturer name]-created, synthetic, imitation, or simulated stone, unless such word or name is immediately preceded with equal conspicuousness by the word "laboratory-grown," "laboratory-created," "[manufacturer name]-created," "synthetic," or by the word "imitation" or "simulated," so as to disclose clearly the nature of the product and the fact it is not a natural gemstone.

Note to paragraph (b):  The use of the word "faux" to describe a laboratory-created or imitation stone is not an adequate disclosure that the stone is not natural.

(c) It is unfair or deceptive to use the word "laboratory-grown," "laboratory-created," "[manufacturer name]-created," or "synthetic" with the name of any natural stone to describe any industry product unless such industry product has essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as the stone named.

How many of you all have listed your jewelry as "Hand Made" or "Hand Polished"? There are guidelines for using these terms as well. See all of the guidelines here.

Now, it's not to say that the FTC has people scouring craft shows and other venues making sure everything is listed correctly. But, if you are in the business of making jewelry, then you should be aware of the guidelines. So take some time and read through the Federal Trade Commission's web site.

Until next time 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. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Passion to Profile

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

I appreciate artist statements because writing one can be a meditation that deepens an understanding of and commitment to one’s art. It may be new information for you that an artist statement describes the essence of your passion for creating in PMC. Many artists find their statement hard to write; regardless, it is an essential item in your marketing collateral. It is often requested and needed for call-for-artists, for some contests, and for buyers featuring your work, to name a few. It may be hard to write because it means crossing a huge chasm — from passion to profile. And sharing your passion in a statement is a setup for vulnerability.

It puzzles me how hard it is for artists to elicit and express what attracts them to their art and creating, what excites them at a core level, and what truly motivates them. Does it take sitting on a meditation cushion and contemplating one’s navel? Does it require a guru to ask unanswerable questions? My complaint has to do with this mystery. My request for change is this: Let’s make an exercise for this internal quest, for searching our soul, for self discovery. Okay. Here it is, a modified version of a process called Core Transformation (see note 1).

Take a moment to relax and turn inward. Think about a recent time in which you were creating something and had a moment of pure appreciation and/or excitement about what you were doing. As you relive the experience, notice your internal images, sounds, and feelings. Recognize that a part of you sought out this experience in advance and made it happen. Get to know this part of you. Obviously, this part has positive intentions, and you could thank this part for being within you.
Go inside and ask this part of you "What do you want for me?"  After you ask this question, relax and notice what response you get back from that part of yourself.
Note the part’s response here.   1_______________________
Thank that part for its response and then ask it, “If you could have [insert 1 from above]  fully and completely, what do you want that’s more important?”
Note the part’s response here.   2_______________________
Thank that part for its response and then ask it, “If you could have [insert 2 from above]  fully and completely, what do you want that’s even more important?”
Note the part’s response here.   3_______________________
Thank that part for its response and then ask it, “If you could have [insert 3 from above]  fully and completely, what do you want that’s even more important?”

You get the idea by now. Keep going until no other answer appears and you get to a response that is more of a state of being, such as inner peace, love, okayness, or oneness. A state of being is not a specific emotion, such as delight or joy. You’ll feel totally relaxed here, and there might be a sense that if you could maintain this state of being, then your whole life would be different. 

Now you have some notes that are actually a tangible explanation and expression of the essence of your work and passion. Ask yourself some why questions about particulars, such as, "Why am I drawn to silver?" Draft your statement using these notes, making sure you answer these questions.

Who is the artist?
What does the artist create and what is his/her medium?
Why does the artist make the art?
Where does the artist make the art?
When does the artist make the art?
How does the artist make the art?

You will need six versions of an artist statement. Cindy Kittredge (note 2) says you need a long version (no longer than one typewritten page), a medium length version (one to two paragraphs), and a short version (25-30 words). I’ve discovered that you need each of these written in first person and third person. Thus, six total.

My hope is that you share your first few drafts with a friend or family member. This helps with the vulnerability aspect. What that person can do that lets you know they love you is give you their opinion, since you asked. What you can do that lets them know you love them is thank them and truly consider their feedback. Re-write your statement and share with another friend or family member. Five to seven rewrites is adequate. Stay true to yourself in each one, which will be easy because of the work you’ve done.

1  NLP process and book by Connirae Andreas called Core Transformation:  Reaching the Wellspring Within.

2  Dr. Edrienne L. Kittredge, author of Artrepreneurship: Sustaining the Creative Life and creator of the “Artrepreneur’s Tool Box.”

Photos and Text by Kris A. Kramer

Friday, June 7, 2013

New PMCC Instructors

Peggy and Katherine
Well, one new and one returning! 

We are very excited to share that Peggy Houchin will be returning and Katherine Prejean will be joining our ranks.

Check out their profiles and look for Peggy's classes in Colorado and Katherine's classes in Louisiana.


by Jennifer Roberts

Monday, June 3, 2013

Using Props

A jewelry maker is a problem solver if nothing else. We imagine a design, and then have to figure out how to make it come to life. With both metal clay and metal fabrication, props can be our best friend. Recently I needed to make a join in the center of a curved bracelet part and I needed some way to suspend a clay jump ring while the join was drying. As I looked around my bench top, I noticed my spacing slats and realized I could position the ring on them until the join was solid. I taped two slats together to achieve the correct height, placed them on a rubber block, and balanced the bracelet on the table top and edge of the block. It worked perfectly. Later that week, I wanted to solder an earring post to act as a pearl peg on a finished and fired brooch that wasn't sitting level on my soldering block. Props to the rescue again as I raised one side on a quarter.

A couple of other solutions I've found to common problems have been:

• When soldering a tiny jump ring to a big metal component, I put the component on my table top kiln to heat the larger piece so I can get the solder to flow at the tiny join point. Otherwise the torch flame would have to be used to heat the larger piece of metal so long that the solder would probably never flow. (I have to admit - I tried to do the solder join four times before I thought of using the kiln.)

• For a bead that was formed on a straw that needed to be suspended while drying, I set crumpled paper in a coffee cup which held the straw perpendicular to my work surface until the bead was dry. You could also use rice or upholstery foam as support material. If the straw needs to be horizontal (parallel to your work surface), place it on two wedges of polymer clay, or cut two V-notches into a Styrofoam cup.

Have you found some good solutions to production problems? We'd love to hear!

by Lora Hart 
Artistic Advisor