Friday, October 25, 2013

What the Heck is This Black Stuff?

I had someone ask me about some black stuff growing on some stored metal clay, so I thought I would address the problem here.

When we wrap our metal clay inside plastic wrap, some of us will brush some extra water on it to keep it moist. This moisture can cause mold to grow on the metal clay. It is harmless and won’t hurt the clay. If you don’t like handling it, you can spray some isopropyl alcohol on it and then wrap it back up in new plastic wrap. This should kill the mold.

I have had no problems with the mold affecting my clay's final form.

Until next time have fun claying around.


by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Monday, October 21, 2013

Your Mission...

Reasons for writing mission and values statements and having a vision are not nebulous. Folks in the business world will tell you in order to successfully run a business, you need a clear vision that tells the purpose of your business and where it is going. Research has shown that the writing of a mission statement is directly linked to greater returns on investment in companies.

If you are a small business owner in the arts like me, then you too know the separation between your work and your life is pretty much nonexistent. You think and feel into your work all the time, during your work hours and, well, 24/7. Or perhaps not.

If you do, your mission statement, values, and vision may be more reflective of you than your business. To me, this is golden and makes the creation of these rewarding. I believe all three can be merged into one vision, which is what you could build or renew soon, maybe today.

I’ve been reading about the Law of Attraction lately and experimenting with it in order to prove it is universal and forever in action. So far, it is. The law says that like attracts like and that by focusing on positive thoughts, one can bring about like results. Whether or not you believe this currently, it might be fun to write, draw, or create your vision as if what you think and feel, what you truly want, will come to you. Let’s make a vision board. Here’s what to do.

Write down answers to these questions with regard to your art-related business.
  • What is one want that I have?
  • Why? As in, what are my reasons for wanting this?
  • What are my beliefs that support my reasons?
  • How will I feel when I have already received what I wanted?
Repeat with your next want.

Assemble all your wants, each with its own reasons and beliefs, together in your mind or on paper in order to have a party. It’s a You-and-Your-Wants Party. Each want is an important guest to be celebrated and honored. Your guests can be bubbles, pieces of jewelry, flowers, characters, anything you want. Take turns asking each want, “What is your positive intention for me?”  Let everyone at the party hear Want’s response.

Then announce to the party, “Is there anyone here that objects to This Want’s positive intention?”
If there are no objectors, celebrate!  Then move on to the next want with the same question (What is your positive intention for me?). If another want does have an objection, validate its concern. Ask that want what it wants that has higher value or change whatever you need to (the first want, the objection, yourself) so that it is a win-win for everyone at the party.

Keep going from guest to guest, want to want, until all objections have been addressed, satisfied, and/or assured.

Now, at a pace that is comfortable to all wants, begin picturing, hearing, feeling how all your wants begin to mingle. Be sure they all come together no more quickly than your unconscious mind can integrate them, fully preserving the positive intention of each in such a way that each gains from the other and no want loses anything. 

When you feel they are all happy, satisfied, connected, supportive, supporting, fitting nicely with each other and with you in the picture, then take a picture.

VoilĂ ! Your vision.

Step into this snapshot fully and completely, noticing how excited you feel. Do this every day, yup, every day. Keep a journal and let all of us know what manifests for you!

*  *  *

If nothing else, you have some material now to write more-conventional statements. Going back to the world of business, there are three statements that might be requested of you at some point.  Here are some examples of a “real” mission statement, values, and a vision.

Mission Statement
Silver Designs produces and markets high-quality, one-of-a-kind, artisan jewelry.

Cathy Smith, the PMC artisan behind the signature style of Silver Designs, values that the silver in her creations contains 40% or more recycled and reclaimed silver. Silver Designs uses high-quality precious metals, cabochons, and gemstones in her artisan jewelry.

Silver Designs produces and sells high-quality, one-of-a-kind, artisan jewelry to collectors and boutique locations worldwide.

by Kris A. Kramer

Monday, October 14, 2013

Working Smarter

While working on a sample in my studio this weekend, I started to think I was making things more difficult than they had to be. I usually think about a new design in my head for long enough that I can almost figure out how to create it in real life. In this case, I wanted to use a variety of components to build multi-sided reliquary niches. As I was fabricating them from individual strips of dry clay and they broke at the seams (multiple times), I began to wonder if all those structures were really necessary to complete the final concept. I decided to put the clay aside for a while and use graph paper to help imagine the final outcome and how I could build my project in a more straight forward way.

I like to make, store, and use components to think on my feet, to help me realize what goes where and how to put things together. I keep a small plastic container filled with dry granulation balls, bails, short tube beads (which can be used for all kinds of things), coil jump rings, and shards of broken projects that I can pull out whenever I need a particular shape. That's how I make the tops of most of my Hollow Rings - by playing with shapes, moving them here and there, and finally settling on a pleasing design.

I used two broken rings, a cracked tube bead, and a small
half lentil from a class demo to make these rings.
By mocking-up the design with a graph card acting as the metal clay 'skin', I was able to see an easier way to get the job done. And I was able to save some of the components I made for another project. Many artists create models from non precious or less time consuming materials to help them imagine the final project. Bronze sculptors may make a papier mache model before starting a ceramic sculpture, which is then molded to make the bronze. Goldsmiths would work out the kinks in an elaborate design in a less expensive metal before committing to gold. Many artists have boxes and containers and table tops overflowing with all sorts of items that they fit together like puzzle pieces until they land on a design they want to develop.

It was a simple task, but one that really helped me realize the
final design and how to go about making it.
Taking a moment to leave the clay, and 'play' with pencil and paper also helped relieve some tension I was feeling. When I got back to work, I was able to move forward with energy and assurance.

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Thursday, October 10, 2013

More Ideas On Using Scrap Metal

In my last post, I discussed the option of sending your unwanted fired metal clay to a refiner in order to regain value from scrap and fired pieces you just don't want to keep or sell.

Another way of reclaiming your metal from a fired metal clay piece is to melt it down and cast it into something else. There are several ways of doing this.
  •     Water casting
  •     Sand casting
  •     Cuttle bone casting
  •     Straw casting
  •     Lost wax casting
All of the above processes involve using a torch to melt the metal in a crucible and then pouring the metal into the mold. Each of these processes use a different mold type including water, sand, cuttle bone, straw or investment for lost wax casting.

Water casting is fairly simple and only takes a few tools to complete: a crucible, flux, stir rod, torch, and metal bucket of water. You can do this with gold, silver, sterling silver, bronze, brass, or copper. If melting bronze, brass or copper, you may need a hotter torch as they have a higher melting temperature than the other metals. Water casting produces small organic shapes that can be used independently or conjunction with other metal pieces by soldering, riveting, or embedding  in un-fired metal clay.

Sand casting involves using commercially created sand that is mixed with glycerin, making it clump together, and a metal casting frame. Sand casting allows for 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional casting. The sand is packed into one side of the frame, talcum powder is spread across the inside sand as a parting compound, and then the other side of the frame is packed with sand. The sand can be carved into or you can make an impression into the sand with an object. Supplies needed for this casting include sand, frame, talcum powder, crucible, and torch. Here is a link to a video on casting in sand, (slide the player button up to 1 minute to get past the introduction.) Sand Casting Video.

Cuttle bone casting uses the Cuttle Fish bone as mold for casting the metal. Cuttle bone is the white chalk looking item placed in bird cages for them to peck on. Its easily found in pet supply stores. Cuttle bone casting is much like sand casting in that it can be carved into as a mold or an object can be pressed into the soft side, making a mold. The molten metal is poured directly onto the cuttle bone. Cuttle bone casting can give a texture to metal or you can keep it smooth. Here is a quick video about it: Cuttle Bone Video.
I also have a step-by-step tutorial on cuttle bone casting for sale on my web site at Cuttle Bone Casting Tutorial.

 Straw casting, also known as broom casting, has less of a controlled outcome. The process involves pouring the molten metal over wet broom straw stacked on end in a tin can.  The metal forms around the wet, burned straw. The finished product looks like dripped metal. Here is a short video showing broom casting: Video on Broom Casting.

Lost wax casting involves making a wax model, encasing the model into a plaster-type substance called investment, melting the wax out, leaving an open cavity and then forcing the molten metal into the open cavity. This process takes expensive equipment. You can hire a knowledgeable jeweler to create the mold and cast the item. There is an article written on this subject in the October edition of  Metal Clay Artist magazine. Check it out on page 56.

Until next time have fun claying around.


by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Monday, October 7, 2013

#PMCLINKS - Win 100 grams of PMC Sterling

The 4th Anniversary issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine is out and featured in it is the article, Links in the Chain. We were thrilled to be part of this project, together with Mitsubishi and MCAM.

So what's it all about?
We gave eleven artists 100 grams of PMC Sterling and asked them to make a bracelet. We gave them the freedom to work large and to try new things. The artists created eleven incredible bracelets, which were then donated to the non-profit organizations of their choice.

Get your copy to read about their artistic processes and the charities that were so deserving of their gifts.

Eleven is kind of an odd number, isn't it?
It is. And it means that there is room for one more bracelet - yours! We want to give a lucky winner 100 grams of PMC Sterling to make the bracelet of your dreams or whatever else your heart may desire.

How to Enter

1) Post a picture on Facebook.

Post a picture of:
  1. A bracelet you have made in metal clay, or 
  2. A drawing of the bracelet you would make it someone offered you 100 grams of PMC Sterling to do it. 

Post it on your own Facebook page, on our Facebook page, or on Metal Clay Artist Magazine's Facebook page.

2) Tag your image with #PMCLINKS.
What exactly are hashtags? They are words or phrases preceded by a "#" that allow you to find and sort content by that category. Search Facebook for #PMCLINKS or click on that tag and pretty soon you will see all of the related posts - starting with the link to this one. Include that tag in the text with your image and you'll be entered.

No purchase necessary. Deadline to enter is Thursday, October 31, 2013.
We'll choose a random winner on Friday, November 1, 2013. 

The winner will receive 100 grams of PMC Sterling to enjoy however they see fit!

Above: The MCAM cover piece from Links in the Chain, "Gentle Hands," by Janet Alexander.

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Instructor!

You've read her advice on the business of art here on our blog, now please help us welcome Kris Kramer as our newest PMCC Certification Instructor!

Read about Kris here.