Friday, January 31, 2014

11 Tips for Creating Bezel Settings for Cabochon Stones

Cabochon stones have a flat bottom with the sides rising up into a dome on the stone’s top. They are cut into a convex shape. There is a 90˚ angle where the bottom and the sides meet. The first 1-2 mm up the sides are at 90˚to the bottom and then the stone starts to curve over forming the dome.

The bezel setting holds the stone in place by coming just above the flat sides and folding over them right where the stone starts to curve into the dome.

The bezel is made of thin fine sliver wire.  Bezel wire comes in several heights and styles from plain to decorative.

When working with metal clay, the bezel wire can be embedded into the clay before sintering or it can be soldered on top of the metal clay after sintering.

Tips for Embedding Bezel Wire Into Unfired Metal Clay
  • Make the clay base the bezel is being pressed into at least five cards thick. If using PMC Sterling silver metal clay, make the base six cards thick, allowing for the extra shrinkage rate.
  • Choose the right bezel height. Allow extra height for 1mm of the bezel to be pressed into the metal clay. If the bezel is too tall, thin cardboard can be placed in the setting to raise the stone to the proper height. If cardboard can't be used (due to an opening in the base) then the bezel wire can be filed down to the proper height.
  •  Fit the bezel so that the stone fits loosely inside of it. This allows for slight deformation while sintering.
  • Cutting a hole in the base metal clay inside the center of the bezel helps keep the clay from warping while sintering. Allow for at least 4mm distance from opening to the bezel wire.
  • Filling the bezel with casting investment (the same material as ring plugs) helps keep the bezel from deforming during firing. If you have an opening in the bottom of the bezel, cover it with kiln paper and then pour the investment into the bezel filling it just below the bezel's top edge.
  • Adding decorative syringe or clay work around the outside of the bezel wire helps hold it to the base. 
  • Coating the bottom edge of the bezel wire with oil paste makes the join more secure.

Tips for Soldering a Bezel on Fired Metal Clay
  • The fired metal clay must be burnished in the area where the soldering takes place in order to close the pours of the porous metal clay.
  • Use sterling silver solder either, hard, medium, or soft.
  • If there is texture in that area, it must be smoothed in order to obtain a flush soldering join. It's best to smooth the area while the metal clay is in its dry stage. 
  • The metal clay's shrinkage must be accounted for so that the bezel fits the sintered metal clay. Create a drawing of your design in the finished size, including the location and size of the bezel. Scan the drawing and then print it larger according to the shrinkage percentage of the clay you are using. Use the enlarged drawing as your template for making your metal clay piece. It also allows you to know where not to have texture! Here are the percentages of enlargement for some of the different metal clays.
    • PMC3 and PMC+ shrinkage after firing at 1650F for 2 hours is 15%.  Enlarge the drawing on the printer/scanner by 118%.
    • Art Clay Silver - low fire shrinkage is approximately 9%. Enlarge the drawing on the printer/scanner by 110%.
    • PMC Sterling shrinkage is 15 - 20%.  It's best to err on the large side, so plan on the 20% shrinkage rate. Enlarge the drawing on the printer/scanner by 125%.  

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Friday, January 24, 2014

FREE Project From Hadar Jacobson

Hadar has published a free project for her new One-Fire trio of clays.

View the project and then get started with the clays.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Profiles in Artistry - Kim Nogueria

This year CornerStone will be presenting profiles of some of the metal clay industry's most intriguing artists. This month we start with Kim Nogueria, magical maker of delightful and thought provoking automatons.

PMCC: How long have you been working with metal clay?
Kim: I've been enjoying [using] this remarkable material in my studio for about 5 years.

PMCC: What skills, interests, or achievments did you bring to your designs from previous, unrelated work?
Kim: I have a BA in sociology, and my fascination with human behavior and the human condition in general has only intensified over the years and is what a great majority of my metal clay work is all about. Also, my grandfather made historical dollhouses. I grew up surrounded by antiques and worked in an antique store for a while when I was younger, utterly entranced by the odd and beautifully made things of the past century. I also haunted flea markets on the weekends. My mechanical pieces all reference antique objects, and very often those objects hail from the realm of childhood.

I've been working as a production goldsmith for the past 14 years so I came to metal clay very comfortable with soldering, hand polishing, and working with gemstone beads and stringing pearls. And I had a rudimentary metalsmithing studio in my living room when I started. I'm happy to say it's a step up from rudimentary now.

PMCC: Are you still working as a goldsmith?
Kim: Some times of the year I work every day for several weeks, other very rare times I have 3-4 days off a week. I've also got work to make for several gallery shows this year, so I'm squeezing a lot in, and am thankful for every minute of it!

PMCC: How did you discover and/or develop your signature style or technique?
Kim: This is a long story, bringing together several seemingly unrelated events.

I made these bunny earrings in 2009, using a mold from one of the vintage toys
in my collection. This bunny has shown up in one of my later automatons
 as a wheeled toy that a child is pushing. Never in a million years
would I have imagined that progression!

Event #1 - Odd: While in Plymouth, MA visiting family about 9 years ago I purchased a tiny gumball charm at an antique store as a gift for my husband (he likes old things as much as I do). When the time came to give it to him I realized that I didn't want to part with it. This began an odd, unexplainable obsession... tiny vintage and antique vending machine toys and gumball charms were all I thought about in my free time for several years.

Event #2 - Happy:  In 2011 I won $100 worth of metal clay in one of the last PMC Guild 'Fusion' challenges. Being a profoundly frugal/economically challenged person, suddenly having all this clay was unimaginable!

Event #3 - Sad, Sad, Sad: My son's father passed away. He was very much a part of my family (even though I am remarried) with a unique sense of humor and a profound love for his children.

Event #4 - Normal: I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelly.

This mechanical container started with a photograph of my son
when he was three, hidden from view behind a paper cone of cotton candy.
When you turn the crank of this automaton, he eats his favorite sweet! The
back has a little removable rabbit in a hat and a quote from Erich Fromm that
expresses the universal paradox of Motherhood. The magenta india ink that
I used to color the cotton candy, made of local cotton that I picked myself,
came from my son's Father's estate - and that was very meaningful to me.

Event #5 - Brave: I decided to make a piece to enter into Metal Clay Today's "Metal Clay in Motion" competition. I 'sensed' my way through the piece, following intuition for the first time in my making, only because there were no economic constraints due to the generous amount of free materials [I had won in the Fusion challenge]. I used molds of several vintage gumball charms to construct the figures in the piece, spent several days researching automatons, put the epitaph from Frankenstein on the back using an etched copper mold, and sobbed the day I finished it when I realized what I had made and what it meant to me. This sentence from my website says it most succinctly: "I discovered that by recreating these tiny bits of childhood nostalgia in silver, and animating them with simple mechanics to form an automaton pendant I could express my overwhelming personal grief. This small three-dimensional format that lies close to the body's heart allowed me to integrate universal themes in tandem with my own pain". That was an epiphany for me - "universal themes in tandem with my own pain". It was amazing to me that I could make a piece of jewelry straight from the turmoil of my heart that also encompassed a wider view of the human condition. Once I made this connection, I began in-depth research into automatons, and started a notebook where I explored the state of things inside my heart - worries, questions, concerns wonderings, delights - and created work that put these feelings into 3-dimensional form. After 2 and a half years of this I can report that these studio explorations improved my psychological well being immensely, as well as well as my skills in the studio - a side effect I never expected!

PMCC: How has your work or skill set evolved since you began working with metal clay?
Kim: My early work was tiny and plain, simple and pretty. I was so timid and cautious! In one fell swoop it evolved into larger, more complex constructions with several kinds of clay and metal in each piece as well as found objects - telling a story,  often archetypal. I'm guessing a lot has been pent up inside me waiting desperately to come out. I quickly realized that learning new techniques would enable me to express more in my pieces, so I explored enameling, electroforming, sand casting and keum-boo.

PMCC: Do you teach?
Kim: No.

PMCC: How would you feel about teaching others your signature techniques?
Kim: I don't think I have a signature technique that I use with metal clay, it's more of a signature style. I love to make things move and many very nice people have asked if I would be interested in teaching a project that incorporates movement. There are hurdles to this: (in no particular order)
1. I've never taken a class in metal clay and have some very bad habits that should not be passed on to others in a classroom setting.
2. I need to learn more about mechanical work.
3. I need to translate what I do using solder to only metal clay.
4. I need to figure out a project that doesn't take two weeks to make.
5. Trial and error is often how you make automata, and leads to what some may call failure, but it's really how you learn and make the piece. Making adjustments and/or having to try a different way is normal for this art, but very time consuming. This may not go over very well in a class.

The title of this piece "We Are All Wanderers" comes from  a wonderful Gypsy saying
"We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are filled with wonder and our souls
are filled with dreams". When you turn the clown knob on the bottom left, the ringmaster raises
his arm to welcome you to the circus, just like the world has welcomed my son.

PMCC: How would you like your future with metal clay to evolve?
Kim: One thing I have not had time to work with as much as I want are the beachcombed fragments that I have drawers of. I would also like to incorporate more found object materials and gemstones in my work and explore abstract or dream-like forms in motion.

PMCC:  Why did you choose metal clay as your primary jewelry making material?
Kim: Flexibility, ease of construction, and freedom make metal clay a go-to material for making my automata. Whatever I can imagine, metal clay will help me make. It's giving and joyful to work with! I'm very drawn to it's softness - everything else in my metalsmithing studio is hard!

PMCC: What qualities do you particularly appreciate?
Kim: I love that the clays have varying shrinkage rates and can be reconstituted easily.

PMCC: What would you like new users of metal clay to know?
Kim: Approach the material with joy and openess, not stress or nervousness! Use the material to express what is in your heart.

PMCC: Thanks for a great insight into your creative process Kim! Just hearing about your journey is an inspiration. [To see the automaton in motion - go here.]

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wire to the Rescue!

Whomever Mr. Murphy was, he was either a pessimist or a realist. His long standing and much over-quoted law, “Whatever can go wrong probably will” is, however, a good one for teachers to take to heart. Try as we might to be well prepared for our classes, unanticipated stuff happens. 

I was reminded of that recently when I checked the tracking number of a package I was having delivered for Christmas. The package went to Ohio. I live in Florida. I chuckled to myself thinking of all the times I’ve sweated out the delivery of supplies in time for a class or workshop. Whew!

I’ve learned to have a few quickie projects up my sleeve. I try to always have a stash of emergency supplies tucked away that gives me peace of mind - just in case. A supply of fine silver wire and PMC paste will save the day and wow your students.

First, start with a lecture about the various gauges of wire. I keep a sample of brass and copper wire in assorted gauges, along with a wire gauge meter, that shows how to determine the thickness and number of the gauge. My lecture also addresses the overwhelming options – wire hardness, shape, size, etc. – which are available and how to properly order the wire they need for various projects.

Next, give a demonstration of how to create several different types of ear wires, clasps, and wire wraps for attaching beads and findings. This is a good time to discuss the proper tools for wire wrapping and forming. I encourage students to practice on base metal wire to develop their skills before moving up to the expensive stuff. This is also good time to show samples of fine silver embedded in metal clay and how to firmly anchor it so it won’t pull out post-firing.

Then, for a great take-away project that’s fast and fun, I take a length of fine silver wire (usually 20 g), fold it, and twist it back on itself, wrapping around and around from top to bottom but leaving an open loop (eye ring) at top and bottom. Next, take PMC paste and generously coat the wire with multiple coats to conceal the twists in the wire. Dry thoroughly between layers and fire. This technique produces terrific earrings, circle rings, links and more with very little effort.

Sending you and yours wishes for a joyful and prosperous New Year!

Creative blessings,

Linda Kline
Director of Education

Monday, January 13, 2014

Umbrella Organization

A glass-artist friend told me she was in the stages of creating a second online retail shop. It will specialize in equestrian art and jewelry. She is continuing her original shop, too.  Her question to me was this: “Should I create an “umbrella name” to put both “collections” under?”

Answer? Yes. The best scenario is to have one parent company with various product lines.

This is incredibly liberating if you are an artist. It means you can create freely as you wish, then gently guild any creation into the family (product line) in which it is best suited.

Some examples of this scenario are these.
  • Toyota Motor Company
    • Scion
    • Lexus
  • Kris Kramer Designs
    • Charms for Bracelets
    • The Silver Pendant
  • Hummingbird Art Glass
    • Fire Horse Designs
Your parent company has its brand, which is your mark of distinction, your style, and the artistic flare that is unique to you. All your items in all your product lines must be consistent with that brand.  A product line a group of products that possess similar qualities and share a name. The parent company is often a separate name altogether and it acts like an umbrella for the different product lines.The various product lines may require varied approaches to branding and may appeal to differing customers, but together they make up the heart of the company.

Advantages of this structure include the fact that it can make some promotion and marketing more economical. When you come up with a new product line and market it, you are also marketing the parent company and thus all your lines. Marketing tools can be used or combined for all product lines; as in, why invent the wheel more than once? Introducing a new product line is great way to break into new markets. Also, a new product launched under a parent name gains recognition easily as it is introduced in the market. And once the parent company brand has been accepted, new product lines are a way to test new ideas.

Disadvantages might include these. Any bad feedback or publicity for one product is a reflection on the parent company. If one product line does not do well, then it might affect the parent company. Make sure that even if one product line has very different qualities than the others, it does not contradict or conflict with the parent company’s brand, your unique mark of distinction. If it does, it may be an obstacle and make for a bumpy business road instead of a smooth one.

One can identify new product lines in a company by the intended customers, the design, the material, the approach to advertising or promotion, the function, and more. For example, my friend’s new product line, Fire Horse Designs, targets horse enthusiasts and contains her equine-related art.

Consider everything you’ve ever created in your mind for a sorting exercise. You’re going to put the items into groups. Sort them based on one or more criteria. Make sure each one fits into one of the groups. Now pick a name for each group. Viola! You now have a parent company, which is the current name of your studio or business, and product lines, which are the names you’ve given your groups.

How many product lines did you come up with? Hopefully, not too many or else that reveals something about your parent company's brand.

by Kris A. Kramer

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rules to Live By: PMC Gold

Someone asked me a question about working with PMC Gold, so here are some things I've learned while working with it over the years.
PMC Gold doesn't like to fuse with fired sterling silver metal clay. The same goes for any other metal that oxidizes. the reason being that the oxidization (tarnish) keeps the two metals from combining. I've even tried to combine them in an oxygen-starved environment, buried in carbon. No luck. At first, the metals seemed to be fused together. But then I started polishing and the gold peeled away from the surface of the other metal. This also happens on occasion with the fine silver metal clays. I say on occasion, because it's been hit or miss for me. Sometimes they fuse and other times they don't.

The best technique of combining the two is incorporating a lock system. I either inlay the gold in the silver so that when the silver shrinks it locks the gold in place. Or, I drill a hole through the area I'm applying the gold to so that the gold is trapped in the hole. The silver shrinks creating a lock.

Another important point to understand is that the more the gold/silver combinations are heated and the hotter they get, the larger the chance that the two metals will alloy together creating a new metal that doesn't look like silver or gold. The gold tends to sink into the silver and gets completely lost.

I have also had artists ask how far a package of the clay go if it is rolled very thin. I haven't tried rolling it out very thin and then measuring it. But, I can say that one package of PMC Gold can make several earrings that are two cards thick and it really goes a long way when inlaid into other metal.

Just adding a little gold to your silver pieces allows you to charge quite a lot more for them. You do the math. Making earrings in silver or sterling silver requires the same amount of labor as making them in gold. But gold commands a higher price. By adding a little bling, gold can help you increase both the variety and the value of your work. 

Until next time have fun claying around.

Janet Alexander
Technical Adviser

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Planning Inspiration

Welcome to 2014! As always, I'm seeing lots of online posts suggesting how to get the new year off to a fabulous start. Diet changes, exercise commitments, organization strategies, and lots and lots of inspirations for artistic creativity. On Facebook alone, there have been groups formed that suggest you draw a sketch a day, choose a word for the year to guide you, fabricate a piece of jewelry a week (your choice), and more.

I have to admit to getting sucked in every year for the past five years to one of these groups or another. Unfortunately I've never lasted the entire year. The best I did was the ring-a-day challenge. I think I made around 54 before fizzling out, but that group brought with it the opportunity to be featured in a Lark book and participation in a group show at the 2011 Seattle SNAG conference. Last year, I tried brooch-a-day and only did five. Didn't last a week. :( This year I'm really going to try to maintain my activity with Sketch-a-Day. That's not too hard, is it?

What is it about the allure of these kinds of challenges? I like the idea because they offer the possibility of learning and experimenting with new forms of fabrication, they stretch my imagination, and they make me think outside the box (is anyone else as tired of that phrase as I am?) Participating in a group challenge also allows me to work on my craft with the support and advice of fellow artists all over the world.

Have you ever taken part in a creative challenge? How far did you get? How did you feel at the end?

I don't regret either signing on, or bowing out of any of these groups. I learned a lot. Sometimes about my 'making' habits, and more often about myself. And that's a fabulous result for any artist.

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Blue Skies and Happy Landings

May your days have skies of blue, the visions for your world come true, your hands be filled with wonder, and the troubles of your life be few.

Here's to a fabulous 2014!