Monday, July 29, 2013

Making it Your Own

With all the wonderful texture stamps out there to use, you'd think that just using the texture as it is makes your work look unique. Take a look around on Pinterest, FaceBook, and in metal clay magazines and you will see beautiful pieces in all different shapes and forms, but some with the same texture. I personally love some of the texture stamps and use them, but I then add my own carving and decoration to the texture making it my own texture. It's easy to do.

Here are some ways to give the texture a little twist making it different.

Add clay syringe decoration blending the clay into the texture making it look different.

Remove some of the texture by using a craft knife and cut out areas changing the design and then use small files to carve the design deeper and more precise adding a few changes along the way.

Add accents of enamel and small granulation to the texture.

Add decorative granulation to the texture.

Drill holes into the texture and add another medium. This ring has polymer clay in the holes


So, go ahead and use texture stamps as a starting point of your piece and then make it your own.
Until next time have fun claying around.

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New ClayMill Technique + Beautiful Base Metal Necklace

Hadar has been experimenting with the ClayMill and has come up with a new technique, which you can find here. If there is a new way to bend, twist, push, pull, coax, slide, or encourage clay through the ClayMill with interesting results, Hadar is always looking for it.

We're also very happy to share the beautiful work created by one of Hadar's soon-to-be accredited teachers, Komala Rohde. Constructed with Hadar's clays and the ClayMill, this one is a beauty:

by Jennifer Roberts

Monday, July 22, 2013

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

How well are you representing yourself as an educator? Maybe it’s time to upgrade or revamp your submission packages. Artistic teaching credentials, after all, should be an exemplary reflection of the person they represent. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional metal clay instructor, take a critical look at the image your credentials project.

Linda teaching in 2011.

Your teaching package is most likely the first impression a potential employer is going to have about you and your work. If you are seeking a teaching post at a museum, center for the arts, community center, college, etc., you want the reviewing curator, administrator, etc., to have a, “Wow,” reaction to your submission. Even little things can make a big impression and leave a lasting impression.

Paper, Spelling, Grammar: Always write a cover letter to accompany your resume. Your submission should also include an artist’s bio, and artist’s statement. Print on a high quality bond paper using an easy-to-read, generously-sized font. USE SPELL CHECK!!! Have someone proof your submission with a critical eye for text, grammar, etc.

A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words: Include a disc or binder with high quality photographs of yourself along with several photos of your work. If you can afford it, hire a professional photographer. If not, consider bartering with a photographer for classes or a piece of your work. Photos should be a nice representative selection of the types of projects you propose to teach; not necessarily your most challenging or award-winning designs. Limit photos to five or six images.

Testimonials and References: Don’t overdo it. Less is more. Three references and testimonials are sufficient. Make them amazing and get permission from the source to include their phone number if someone wants to follow up for more information.

Manners Matter: In our current it’s-all-about-me-instant-gratification-mind-set, we too often forget the value of humility. State respectfully that you wish to be considered for a teaching position. Do not be demanding or expectant. Your artist’s presentation package should speak to the quality of your professional standards and student interaction.

Next time, I’ll discuss the essential components of preparing a course syllabus and teaching proposal.

Creative Blessings,

by Linda Kline
Director of Education

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's All in How You See It

Light affects everything we do. In our personal lives too much or too little can affect our mood, our physical health and of course the way we see. In our metal clay lives it greatly affects the way our work is perceived.

Amusingly, when I Googled 'unpolished
metal clay' this photo appeared in the first 5 images.
Those are my fingers! Forgive the dirty nail.
First and foremost, there's that 'white coating' that appears on freshly fired silver metal clay which needs to be 'brushed off' before the silver surface of the metal is revealed. WRONG! That surface is a natural function of the way the light spectrum is affected by the coarse topography of unpolished silver metal. Notice I said 'metal', not 'metal clay'. The white coloration also appears on cast silver, and sheet/wire sterling silver that has been heated to the point where the fine silver has been brought to the surface (called depletion gilding).

To clarify this phenomenon with metal clay, think of the fired surface as a jagged mountain range. When light strikes the uneven surface it scatters and only reflects the white part of the light spectrum. In order for metal clay to develop the silver color we've grown to love, we need to flatten those microscopic peaks and cliffs. A wire brush will transform a Himalaya-like surface into gently rolling hills, providing a soft 'brushed' silver gleam. When the wire brush is inserted into a motor tool (Foredom or Dremmel), more force is being applied than when using a hand tool, and the surface is flattened even more, making the brushed finish slightly brighter.

To achieve a brilliant silver shine, more polishing is required (tumbling or burnishing) to compress the silvery rolling hills down to a neatly clipped golf tee. Get it? Giant Himalayas to Julie Andrew's musical rolling hills, to a flat, smooth golf tee. Okay. Enough with the geographical references. But you understand my point now, right? We could also think of it as Bart Simpson's spikey hair as opposed to Shaquille O'Neal's bald pate.

Wire Brushed vs. Highly Polished
Next let's talk about that smooth surface we've just developed. Silver has the most reflective surface of all the metals. Which means that when the aforementioned light strikes it, it sends back gobs of silvery goodness back into your eyes. So if there is texture on a highly polished silver surface (which is the best thing about metal clay, right? The ability to easily impress texture into your work?), rays of light are striking every surface and plane and reflecting those surfaces. Which sounds good at first, but what that actually means is that our eyes can't distinguish the details of our textures. Which is why metal clayers generally like to use patina. Patina creates light and dark contrast which accentuates the design we've worked so hard to create. I find that even when I apply a black patina and then polish it all away, there is still enough contrast to highlight my texture.

Wire brushed texture, no patina.
Hard to see the texture isn't it?

As long as we're talking about light and it's properties, let's think about why patina colors change if we apply a sealer of some kind. When light moves through two transparent mediums, say air and sealant, the rays are slowed down and refracted or bent to reflect different colors than we expected. So why do some sealants (like Nikolas Spray) protect and retain the original patina colors? I don't know that much. ;) I just like to believe in magic sometimes. I still think the TV and airplanes are magic too. It's all about the wave. Light waves, air waves, sound waves...

So now that you know more about it, let's stop thinking about the white surface of unfired silver metal clay as something to be 'gotten rid of' and start thinking of it as part of the process.

Posted by Lora Hart

Artistic Advisor

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tips On Pen Plating

Pen plating is a fun process and allows you to accent your pieces with another metal at a minimal cost.

Whether you are plating with a disposable pen plater or a commercial setup, the processes of plating with a pen are the same. The alligator clip attaches to the item being plated (a negative charge) and the fiber tip has a positive charge. A small DC electrical current, low voltage just like low-voltage outdoor lighting, passes from the pen to the item from positive (anode) to negative (cathode). The negative charge attracts and deposits metal ions in the plating solution onto the object.

Plating  Tips
  • Use a razor blade to cut a fine tip, if you have a small area to plate.
  • If you are plating over any metal that oxidizes make sure the plating solution has a metal in it to block the oxides from going through the plating. PMC Connection's brand has this. If you are not using the Wizard plating solution, then you will need to plate with a Nichol first and then the final solution. Nichol block oxides from reaching through the plating. 
  • It's best to use an acid-based solution that is cyanide free. It is safer to use. PMC Connection's plating solutions are cyanide free.
  • The tip must be soaked for at least ten minutes before using, so when I am finished plating I remove the tip from the pen and store it in the solution.
  • When the solution starts crystallizing it has turned bad and should be replaced. 
  • Wear protective clothing such as eye protection and rubber or vinyl gloves while plating. 
  • Always use separate pen tips for different solutions. 
  • Pour a small amount of solution into a small beaker or glass jar to use while plating, so if you should knock it over you haven't lost the whole solution.
  • Place the open container of plating solution on top of a paper towel so that any spillage is contained.

    I hope you all find these tips useful. For a more in-depth information purchase my step-by-step tutorial: How to Pen Plate for only $8 from my web site.

    Until next time, have fun!

    by Janet Alexander
    Technical Advisor


Monday, July 8, 2013

Budgets and Brain Cells

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

The appreciation of this post is that I hope you appreciate that I am NOT an expert on budgets.  I dislike them as much as the next guy. I deal with a budget rather than use it to manage my money, but as you will see, my budget is useful.

What is a budget? It’s an estimate of income and expenditures for a set period of time. A budget is like the limit on your credit card - it tells you when to stop spending, only ahead of time. A budget also is a Google map to reach goals and lets you know if your business, marketing, or financial plan is or isn’t working.

It may be new information that one can’t write a budget without a history of spending. What puzzles me is if a budget is touted as a safety net to debt and a barometer to your business, why is regarded with dread. I don’t even want to write here about a budget or budgeting. It’s painful, like my brain cells are doing Pilates for the first time. I’d rather be playing with metal clay.

But, since I am so into usefulness, I was curious: Is a budget useful? Let’s see. I’m going to look at my own budget in Quicken, right now, and report to you my thoughts and feelings. It so happens it is the end of the second quarter or the halfway point in the year, which is a good time to take a peek.

Okay, I’m looking at “Inflows” or income. Hmm. I should be making more than I am. In the back of my mind I’m thinking the new sales strategy I implemented in 2013 might not be paying off. This is valuable information for me.

“Outflows” or spending. There are two types: fixed and variable. My actual versus budgeted amounts are not too different. I had estimated my fixed costs well, because I have a long history of my personal expenses. You see, my studio is 10% of my living space and my accountant said I could take a business write off on 10% of my personal expenses (most of them). I did less well but not too bad on estimating my variable costs, because I have had my PMC business only a few years and have a shorter history of spending.

When I compare the Inflows with Outflows, it’s not a pretty site. I am producing and operating as usual but selling less. Here’s what is puzzling: I knew this already. Did I know it intuitively? Did I know it because I enter everything I spend and make in Quicken almost on a daily basis? Did I know it because I have a large inventory right now? Or did I know it because I wrote this dang budget?

Regardless of how I know the status of my business so far this year, I guess I need to take a closer look. Guess what? Exercising those brain cells, my budget gave me some useful details. These for example.

  • Consignment sales are down. Why? Perhaps because I make most of these sales in summer, so that income has not yet hit the books.
  • Likewise, with shows. My retail show season just started so that income has not hit the books yet.
  • My online retail sales are down--maybe because I haven’t been adding new items. I best get back into doing this.
  • The wholesale show I attended didn’t produce as many orders as I expected. Was it the particular show or my products? I’m thinking a little of both - good info for me to know to make changes.
Wow.  I was ready to register a complaint with myself about my sales strategy and make a request for change. But now I’m glad I took a closer look. It looks like this year might be on course with my financial predictions. I need to make some adjustments to my activities and keep going. Brain cell Pilates? Not so bad after all.

I think I’ll sleep better tonight, knowing that I’m on track and not about to lose my shirt. My wish is that you, in your own unique way, build a relationship with a budget. Then ask your budget, “What do I do that lets you know I value you?” Your budget might respond with, “Just pay attention to me once every three months.” You might be surprised at the obvious and subliminal messages your budget might bring you.

Lastly, here are a few ways to make a budget.
  • Notebook and pen. Accounting paper works well.
  • Spreadsheet. Click here (bottom of page) for a link to download an Excel budget example slash template.
  • Financial software such as Quicken and Microsoft Money.
  • Online Financial Software and Apps via a search.

By Kris A. Kramer

Friday, July 5, 2013

Two New (Free!) Projects From Hadar

Hadar is always pushing the envelope and discovering new design avenues with the ClayMill Metal Clay Extruder. And as always, she is generous with her knowledge.

Two new projects and lots of great ideas:

Log Bracelet
(Creating a natural wood grain texture)

Posted by Jennifer Roberts

Monday, July 1, 2013

Using Whatcha Got

The fixin's
A few weeks ago I submitted an entry to take part in a high end craft show here in Richmond Virginia. But as I haven't participated in a retail show in over a year and have precious little to display (especially for a three day show), I decided to beef up my stock of earrings - which are always a best seller.

I used Easy paste solder and put several
'beads' of it on the inside of the tube.
While my work primarily consists of jewels made of metal clay, I also love collecting old bits and pieces of almost everything to use as focal elements. Going through my stash of found objects, I rediscovered some mother-of-pearl handled cheese knives that I purchased at a swap meet in LA a few years ago. Just the handles. No blade attached. But where the blade would have met the handle were lovely embossed strips of fine silver. And looking at them gave me an idea.

By soldering the setting upside down with
the tube on top of the disk, I allowed gravity
 to work to keep the pieces in place. Holding
the flame underneath the screen drew the
solder down onto the disk and bonded
the two parts.
I removed the oval strips from the handles, and dropped them in Attack to remove the remnants of resin which had originally been used to attach the parts. After washing and drying the residue, I soldered the oval tubes to oval disks that I had originally bought to use as stations in the re-conceived chains I like to make. Two holes at the bottom of the tube would hold rivet wire for a kyanite spear bead that had been in my collection for longer than I can remember, and a piece of 20 gauge sterling soldered into a hole the in center of the disk would function as the ear wire. All in all, it took about 3 hours to fashion two pairs of really lovely earrings from materials that I had lying around the studio.

The finished product

When getting ready for a show, the thought of making perhaps a hundred pairs of earrings can be daunting. But if you redesign components you already have, you'll quickly create one-of-a-kind pieces that your collectors are sure to love.

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor