Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm Back in the Saddle Again - My Silhouette ® Machine is Repaired!

For those of you who have read my problem post on the Facebook MC Silies group or use a Silhouette® machine for cutting your metal clay, this blog post may come in quite handy for you!

Many of us have slid the black rubber o-rings on the feeder bar off to the side to keep them from denting the clay. As I moved mine, one of them broke.

Without the stability of both rings, my machine started feeding the mat unevenly. Replacing the broken rubber ring would mean taking the machine apart and risking other problems. Someone suggested that I remove the ring that was left to see if the mat would then feed into the machine correctly, but I didn't want to do that.

After a bit of research, I ran across a suggestion on Facebook to use a new product that has just come out called Sugru, a self-setting rubber material. It sounded promising, so I ordered some and gave it a try.

I attached the broken rubber ring to the rod on the Silhouette® machine, then took a pea-size portion of the Sugru and kneaded it for a minute to soften it. I then applied the Sugru to the sides of the rubber ring and smoothed it using a razor blade (any flat metal tool should work).

At this point, I left it to set overnight. By morning, voila! It's fixed!
Now my machine feeds the mat in evenly and smoothly and I couldn't be happier. What an amazing new product! This fix was so simple and certainly much more cost effective than a new machine.


by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Inspirational Journals and Your Classroom

Salvador Dali was an amazing artist. Maybe you don’t care for his work. Granted, it’s bizarre. But he must be admired for his revolutionary vision and creative style. His art is filled with images and concepts unlike any other artist….images that many would find scary, even bordering on psychotic.

Perhaps Dali’s work is viewed as unique because he used his dream-inspired visions as the theme for his compositions. Dali reportedly held a big wad of keys in his hand and sat in a huge, throne-like chair about 20 feet from a blank canvas. As his body and mind relaxed into a meditative, near-dreamlike state, he would drop the keys and be jolted back into conscious awareness. He then ran to the canvas and began painting those dream-inspired visions. Dali’s work gained critical acclaim from an artistic community ripe for change and diversity.

I love to tell my students this story about Dali’s innovative search for expanded creativity beyond the “norm.” It works. It’s simple. It’s easy and effective.

I require each of my students to start an inspirational journal. It doesn’t have to be a pricey book. A simple spiral pad from the Dollar Store will work. Or you can splurge and gift yourself a beautiful and meaningful journal – perhaps a keepsake from the gift shop of a favorite museum store or gallery.

The purpose is simple… record all your private visions and sacred thoughts… keep sketches and pictures of coveted designs……to wake in the middle of the night and quickly jot thoughts before they fleetingly elude you in waking hours. Keep it with you at all times and treat it like a sacred tome. Guard its contents. It is the essence of your sacred self and inner artist.

I’ve been honored through the years to see the evolution of my students’ creative journeys through their journals. Some of them have filled multiple books. They see the value of recording what motivates and inspires them. They have grown personally and artistically by filling their books with random thoughts, dream visions, even pictures of jewelry clipped from magazines.                                           

Record it. Save it. Create it.           

Creative blessings,
Linda Kline
Director of Education


Monday, February 24, 2014

Profiles in Artistry - Terry Kovalcik

The second entry in our series Profiles in Artistry offers a peek into the inner workings of the creative brain of Mr. Terry Kovalcik.

PMCC - How long have you  been working with metal clay?
TK - Since around 1999. That's just about 15 years.

PMCC - What skills, interests or achievements did you bring to your work from previous, unrelated enterprises?
TK - Well, first off I've been involved and interested in art most of my life. I've always had the desire to make things. So I did and do! One of my strengths, I feel, is that I have a strong graphic sense and a keen eye for detail. My ability to draw has been a great asset, giving me the ability to sketch what I envision. Working as an illustrator for most of my adult life, I was able to hone my skills with a brush and X-acto knife.

PMCC - How did you discover and/or develop your signature style or technique?
TK - That's a question that is really hard to answer and one I'm not sure I can. I guess I can say, I just did it. I focus on what I'm making and it just evolves. Stylistically, my work comes from what I see that's interesting. I relate to strong design, detail, mystery, mechanisms, nature, and humor - just to name a few of the things that drive me.

"Fougéres Bébé." This locket is a new hinged design, and one of my most
intricate Sterling clay pieces to date. All of the elements
were made from .925 clay including the clasp and bail.
The applique, an original design, was cut on a Silhouette
Cameo cutter from a thin sheet of clay.

PMCC - How and why did you first become interested in 'drawing' with slip (slip trailing)? 
TK - Besides the feeling that I was born with a brush in my hand, most of my artistic career has involved a brush. It's probably the tool I'm most comfortable with other than a pencil. I love the tactile feel of it.

If I was to show you my first metal clay piece - in PMC Standard - you would see signs of  "THE BRUSH'. My first attempt at Painting with Paste was primarily used to enhance and create detail. Now I create entire paintings all over my pieces, inside and out. PMC3 was the breakout material which works best as a painting medium.

Creating a bas-relief design or scene is my way to tell a story. When working on a piece, I'm essentially creating a blank canvas - any shape, any size. Then my graphics are painted to fit the shape.

PMCC - What benefits do you think this method offers over other forms of texture?
TK - I like to give my work my own unique signature and style. Painting with Paste is my way of working in any space, shape or size. This is harder with stamped textures. Using the texture plates to create surface treatments can dictate the shape your piece will become. But sometimes a good texture plate can turn out great when it's enhanced with this painting technique. Painting with Paste amps up your skill level with more freedom and choices.

"Hummingbird". Pendant using Terry's painting technique

PMCC - How has your work or skill set evolved since you began working with metal clay?
TK - I continue to push myself with more complex challenges. Over the years, my work continues to become more thought out, more refined and expressive. I've become more familiar with the metal clays and understand their different personalities and how they work together.

PMCC - Do you teach?
TK - Yes, I do teach and love it!

PMCC - Do you consider yourself primarily a teacher or a maker/seller?
TK - I consider myself a maker and a teacher. And I'm now focusing on the selling aspect. If you're going to be a teacher, I feel you also need to be a maker - they evolve out of each other. In my mind, one cannot exist without the other. A good teacher needs to constantly create in order to constantly grow.

PMCC - How do you feel about teaching others your signature technique?
TK - That's a tough question. In my humble opinion, it's best to teach what you know. What you know best are those things you do - the way you do them and the techniques you use. Art should be more than technique, the technique is not the message or the vision you create, it's just the vehicle you use to get there. Using a good technique is only the beginning. It's what you do with it that gives it soul.

Also as a teacher and artist, you decide what you teach. So the decision in the end is yours. If there's something you don't wish to reveal - you don't. I instill in my students to create their own unique voice - and not mimic someone else.

"Heremita". This large hollow form bead was carved from Coppr® clay.
Using micro carvers, I hold the bead and the carving tool in my hands as
I work - it's an extremely gratifying, tactile technique. To add some whimsy
and movement to the bead, I dangled three copper appendages to the piece
with a cold connection.

PMCC - How would you like your future with metal clay to evolve?
TK - Wow, there's so much more I want to learn and do. I love seeing my creations grow in new directions. One of my goals with my work is to focus more on color. If you've ever seen my illustration work, you see a lot of color. I can envision jewelry pieces with my color palette. I'd also like to see more of my zany humor trickle into my creations.

PMCC - Why did you choose metal clay as your primary jewelry making material? What properties do you especially appreciate?
TK - Well, I came to this material through the polymer clay world. Polymer clay was a good medium for my 3D illustrations. When my wife told me about PMC, I was intrigued and then hooked. For qualities I like working with a clay-like material. And I love that it can take on many textures and forms. It's an extremely versatile material.

PMCC - What would you like new users of metal clay to know?
TK - Learn to draw. It's the basis of all art and the language of seeing; pick up some traditional metalsmithing techniques, have patience and always keep learning; always challenge yourself; and push the envelope.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Your Logo Here

I maintain a website for Montana artists. Each artist has a profile page and one of the graphics on the profile page is the artist’s logo. I’m amazed how many artists do not have a logo. When this happens, I use a photo of a piece of their work, which in my mind causes confusion to site visitors. Perhaps a logo should have been a requirement for the site?

Here are some logos from artists who did submit a logo. I grouped them in frames. I made each one the same height, so you can compare them for negative space and frame.

Take a look and see which ones you like and which ones leave you cold or confused. If you study the logos, you can come up with your own logo criteria. Here are a few tips for starters.

  • For a time, obsess over logos. Look at logos on each URL you visit. Look at the logos of PMC artists and jewelers. Analyze each one as to what’s working and what’s not. For sure, do not copy or imitate any.
  • Match your logo to your audience, leaving your clients with the emotional personal experience you want them to have.
  • Make your logo active, not passive. A flying bird might be better than a perched one.
  • Be consistent with your brand. If I’m an impressionist painter, why would my logo be black and white block letters? A good resource for your brand-consistent logo is your sketchbook or journal.
  • Think about the space around your logo, which is empty of content, and your logo’s frame. A line? Empty space? A frame of some sort? 
  • Draft and sketch many versions. Make yourself do yet another sketch and another. Try different layouts, shapes, words, etc. Eventually something will grab you, but this is not the end of the journey.
  • If you get one part that you like, print out a bunch of copies and keep drawing versions.
  • Fonts and typefaces—you’ll likely use one. If you must use two, the general rule is to contrast a sans serif font with a serif (a slight finishing-off stroke on each letter) font. Make sure your font matches your brand. Know that if you use an esoteric font, you’ll have to use it online in a graphic file such as a .jpg, .png, or .gif. The Internet automatically changes odd fonts to a common one. Do avoid frilly and gimmicky fonts.

  • Negative space is critical. Check out FedEx’s logo for an example of negative space. I never saw the arrow created by the E and x until just now. Have you noticed it? 
  • Build your logo so it works in black and white, as well as color. This might lead you to consider tones instead of simply colors. Experiment with contrast. Similarly, it would be best if your logo worked on light and dark backgrounds.
  • Try different sizes and versions - print, computer-screen, and mobile-device versions.
  • Show your logo design around and get feedback.

Do you think it's worth it, putting a little creative time and effort into your logo? If you have one (awesome), is it time to revisit and revise it?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Secrets to Bezel-setting Stones With Points

We all love to use oddly shaped stones in our pieces! They make our work unique. But they come with some challenges for setting them, especially around the points. Knowing a few good solutions can make all the difference.

Stones With Points
How do you get that bezel to fold down and not leave an unsightly gap?

There are actually three ways to handle this problem. Depending on how sharp the point is and what tools you have available.

Rounded Point 

1.   Start at the point first. Using a bezel pusher, push the bezel down over the point first and then move to each side, smoothing it away from the point. This keeps the metal from folding up into a pucker at the tip.
2.   If you find that it is hard to push, try filing the bezel wire thinner in that area. Be sure to stay off the stone! Cover the stone with masking tape or hold your finger over the stone so it can't be filed.
3.  After folding the bezel over the stone, finish smoothing it by using fine sandpaper or a rubber polishing wheel on a rotary tool.

Sharper Point

1. Starting at the point, file the bezel thinner as described above and then fold the bezel over the point. Continue around the stone   working away from the point.

2.  If you still can't get that pesky bezel to fold over the point, use a reciprocating hammer tool (info below) to shape the bezel.

If you have a flex shaft, remove the universal hand piece and attach the reciprocating hammer piece. With the tip of the hammer just barely above your finger tip, lightly hammer the bezel flat.

Make sure not to hit the stone or it may chip! 

The reciprocating hammer has a flat tip that moves in and out of the hand piece like a tiny jack hammer. This movement can be adjusted on the hand piece. The tool easily moves the metal over the stone and flattens it out. One of these tools costs a little over $100 and is worth every penny.

3.  After folding the bezel over the stone, finish smoothing it by using fine sandpaper or a rubber polishing wheel on a rotary tool.  

Very Sharp Point 
In this case, the tip is a 25 degree angle. Thus, the corner must be folded over.

Corner with gap open (left) and hammered closed (right.)
1.  Using a jeweler's saw, cut the bezel at the tip of the stone.
2.   File the edge on each side of the cut a little thinner.
3.  Fold the bezel over itself at the corner. If you're lucky, the bezel folds over without leaving a gap.
4. If needed, use a reciprocating hammer to push the gape closed. Be careful so you don't chip the stone!

by Janet Alexander
Technical Adviser

Monday, February 10, 2014

Get Social With Us!

One of PMC Connection's main goals is to inspire our friends, fans, and blog readers. To that end, we created our very own Pinterest pin boards filled with fantastic imagery of all kinds, including of course beautiful metal clay jewelry.
Because we know that all artists are different, and take inspiration from many places, we'd like to invite you to post images of metal clay jewelry that you love too! If you'd like to participate, just 'Follow' our boards and then post a comment on any blog post with the email address associated with your Pinterest account. We'll 'invite' you to join the Metal Clay Favorites pin board, and then we'll delete the email address from our blog. And we promise not to save it. We respect your privacy and would never spam or sell your information to anyone else! We're notified whenever a comment is posted, so we'll be quick to send the invite and delete your information.

Artist: Anna Siivonen. Pinned by: Lora Hart
All we ask is that you credit the artist and take credit yourself for posting the pic. Or if you'd rather - just say Posted By: Anonymous. If you're re-pinning, and there is no artist credit listed - try clicking on the picture so it takes you back to the original source, then you can change the text to include the maker. We can't wait to see your pins! Thanks for joining in.

Posted By Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor