Monday, July 28, 2014

File Folders Save Metal Clay Costs!

Whenever I am working on a complicated project, I break out a manila file folder and create a cardboard model of my concept. Last year when I created the linked bracelet for NEST, I used folder cardboard to figure out how to link my pieces and to find out how many pieces I would need for my length. This process also allows me to figure out problems along the way.

I am in the process of creating a box in PMC3. The box has to end up a specific size after firing, so I made a model of the finished size out of the cardboard. Then, I separated the parts, scanned them, and enlarged them 118% to allow for shrinkage. The pieces become templates for cutting out my clay.

Now, I have to figure out some complicated angles for my lid. The top of the lid is already fired. I couldn't fit the cardboard to the unfired clay, so I am creating my model now.

After fitting the folder board under the top, I disassemble it to make my template and then enlarge it in the scanner to compensate for shrinkage. This saves me from making lots of mistakes in metal clay! 

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Imaginings

I don't sketch much. The style I have developed doesn't really lend itself to preconceived notions, but now I'm working on a project that involves bezel setting a cabochon. I've set 'things' before, but mostly photographs, shells, pebbles, and the like. This project specifies a gemstone cabochon. My first step in designing with the stone taking precedence was to look at photos of jewelry I admired and figure out what elements made the pieces successful in my mind. I noticed that most of them had details that created visual movement and gave my eye more than one set of information to take in. Meaning that the piece held my interest and invited me to discover more about it. I also looked at work that I did not react to and realized that those pieces were very one dimensional, and uninteresting to me. Now - what holds my interest is very different than what may hold yours, but this way of looking at a piece of jewelry results in a unique understanding of your preferences.

My second step was to choose a cabochon from my collection and begin to design a setting. Tracing the outline of the stone on a piece of graph paper, I drew a number of sketches around the shape. It was fun! I was suddenly coming up with a number of variations that I hadn't imagined before!

Sketching a piece before producing it can take so much of the experimental guess work out of the process. In some cases this might be a detriment - but in others - a gift.

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tips on Working with Metal Clay Rings and Paste

I like to make my dry clay as finished as possible before firing. This makes polishing the fired piece easier later.

When I create a ring band in metal clay, I get rid of the seam by wetting the seam with a brush and then pressing clay into any lines and crevices. I use a flat clay shaper for this task.

After drying the ring band, I then sand it by wrapping a narrow piece of 320 grit sandpaper around a 1/2" wooden dowel rod. Use a wrist twisting motion to sand any imperfections out on the ring's inside surfaces.

I know we have all had the problem of paste drying out when not in use for a few days. Use a container with a tight lid, place a wet sponge in the bottom and then put the paste jar on top of the sponge. Close the container's lid tightly! This helps keep that paste from drying out so fast!

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser

Monday, July 7, 2014

Studio Mambo

See all that pink lipstick? And this is the table after being
cleaned. With cleanser!
Arranging furniture and work stations in my studio is a never ending process. When I moved to Virginia from LA a couple of years ago, I was so excited to be able to set up a permanent space in a private, off-site building. I used to work on my desk. And eat on my desk. And write on my desk. My life revolved around my desk.

Now, I have two lovely spaces situated around a main 'conference' area where I teach certification classes. One room is for bead, catalog, findings, and shipping materials storage. It also houses my two kilns. The other has a soldering station and two metal clay work tables. Along with other sorts of small storage units and drawers.

Earlier this week I saw that one of the other artists in this building had given up her space and left her big wooden work table behind. Score! She was a make up artist and mixed lip sticks and creme eye shadows on it, so there was a fair amount of clean up and sanding of edges and corners to do.

In preparation I decided to move around the furniture in my little studio. Funny saying that. I thought my desk studio was small. I moved in here and thought it was a palace. Now that I've been here two years, I wish it were bigger! Are we ever satisfied? Sigh.

I really got a good idea of how small it was when a couple of friends dropped in with their dogs. The original set up included a peninsula that I had to walk around. It looked nice, but in reality it was very inconvenient - like an obstacle course. Add in two extra human artists and two furry artists, and it was like a prison cell.

This new arrangement feels so spacious! At least it will until I drag that huge work bench in here. Then we'll see. It will house my small anvil very nicely, and perhaps allow me to set up a permanent place to take photos. Not quite sure yet. The possibilities are endless!

What kind of space do you work in? Load a couple of pictures onto our Facebook page, we'd love to compare notes.

Posted by Lora Hart ~
Artistic Advisor