Friday, November 21, 2014

Testing PMC Flex Clay - Using the Cameo Silhouette

The new PMC Flex clay has some great qualities. The obvious is that it is flexible for a long period of time, making it perfect for cutting out on the Cameo Silhouette machine. Cindy Pope tested it in September and wrote about her findings on this Facebook page. She found that it cuts and engraves beautifully.

In this blog I wanted to test the clay a little further. My first experiment was leaving the clay sitting around to dry for several weeks. Sometimes, I don't get around to cutting the design right away, or I have leftover clay I want to cut. In this case, I didn't get around to it for a month.

I was able to engrave and cut the clay without issue, but I wanted to see how flexible the clay was. Could it be domed over a Perfect Match Dome?

I hydrated the clay with a wet brush and allowed it to soak in. I repeated the process over and over; however, it still didn't seem very flexible. I continued trying to rehydrate for several hours. I then tried bending the clay over the dome, but it cracked along the etching lines.

For my next experiment, I rolled some more clay out and dried it overnight. I etched the clay slightly less in depth and then rehydrated it as I had done with the last batch of clay. This time I could see that it was becoming more bendable after hydrating only twice. When I domed it, I pressed it into the dome instead of pressing over the dome. This supported the clay as I pressed it down. Success!

In review, it's best to cut, engrave, and dome PMC Flex within 24 hours of air drying it. Dome it by pressing into the dome instead of over the dome. 

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser

Monday, November 17, 2014


For years creative types used magazines, paste, and a large sheet of heavy paper, to compile a collection of images, words, and quotes that would inspire their art or daily lives. Called "Vison Boards", these collages were tools that helped a person remember influences, plan goals, and chart references. Today we can make use of the high tech, cyber hosted website, Pinterest, to curate entire galleries of photographs.

I'm sure many of you have already discovered Pinterest, some have visited but not yet begun your own page, and others may be put off by the addictive nature of the beast. I totally understand those folks. I avoided joining Pinterest for months for just that reason. "Another time vortex," I thought. Something to keep me from doing 'real' work, another sea to surf in the waters of the internet. But, once I got onboard, I realized what a valuable service Pinterest provides.

For those who may not know exactly how this site works, when you first join (just use your email address - you don't have to connect your FaceBook or Twitter accounts) your 'home' page will be filled with copies of the wide variety of images pinned by the vast universe of Pinterest members. When you 'follow' people or pin boards that you like and that speak to your own interests and aesthetics, the photos they pin will start filling your screen. You can simply 'like' an image or even better - you can re-pin it onto a board of your own. You can also pin images anywhere you see them on the web if you download the "Pin It" button. And, you can even upload an image directly from your computer using the + sign in the lower right of the page. You can create as many boards as you like, on any subject you like, and you can rearrange the order they are displayed on your personal page by clicking, holding and dragging them anywhere you like (I suggest you drag just one or two into place at a time, and then hit refresh to 'set' the board).

Don't know what to pin? How about making a board of just interesting clasps? Or stone settings you like? Or tutorials you want to remember? Of course you probably want a board filled with fabulous metal clay jewelry, but you'll also get a ton of ideas if you look closely at fabricated, historical, tribal, found object, or other kinds of jewelry. Pinning natural objects, architecture, wallpaper and other things might give you ideas for shapes or textures to use. Pinning home decor, fabulous food, and DIY projects will just be plain fun.

Take a look at all the various clickable links at the top of the Pinterest page. You can search for specific categories and pinners, take a look at generalized categories that are the most popular on Pinterest by clicking on the three horizontal lines, refresh the page by clicking the P logo on the left, see if anyone has commented on or re-pinned your photos by looking at the speech bubble on the right side of the page (the bubble is red if there's something to see), and much more. There are many tutorials on using Pinterest on YouTube, but the 'powers-that-be' at Pinterest are always fiddling and changing things around to make things more interesting for us - so what you see today may not be correct tomorrow.

Did you know that PMC Connection has a Pinterest account? And there's even a board there that you can pin to yourself? Just 'follow' us on Pinterest, then contact us on FaceBook (tag my name and I'll see it right away) and tell us you'd like to be added to the board "Metal Clay Favorites". Give us your email address or Pinterest address and we'll send you an invitation. The board will then magically appear on your own Pinterest site and you can add to it just the way you add to any other board. All we ask is that you do some research to give credit to the artist of any piece of jewelry you pin if it's not already listed.

** So many photos on Pinterest are uncredited and it's really a shame, so I'm on a mission to encourage folks to rewrite the description of a pin to include important information. When you click on a full size image, you'll be sent to the original source of that exact image. You can then (hopefully) see the artist's name and change the description below the photo. **

I've made 130 boards (at the time of this writing) focusing on jewelry and teaching, but also have some featuring my home design aesthetic, memories of LA, quotes, and other things that interest me. Feel free to take a quick look around and see if there's any board you'd like to 'follow'. You can 'unfollow' them at any time. Look at the stats above the photos on my personal (or other peoples) 'title' page and you can see who I'm following and who's following me. You can follow every single board with just a single click of your finger, or choose individual boards that look particularly interesting (you probably don't want to see links to Moving Tips do you?).

If you click on an image in a collection, you'll go right to the full size copy of it. If you look in the upper left above that image, you'll see the person who pinned it - then if you click on their name or avatar you'll be taken to their home page. It's a wonderful, vicious, circle of inspiration.

Want our readers to follow you? Go to FaceBook and leave the link to your own Pinterest board.

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Monday, November 10, 2014

Keeping Opened Metal Clay Hydrated While Not in Use

The PMC brand clay package has a lock closure that keeps the package tightly sealed. However, this isn't enough to keep the plastic-wrapped clay from drying out over time.

A great way to store your opened clay is to use a Clay Vault. It comes with small moisture absorbing crystals (polymer gel) that, when exposed to water, expand to more than ten times their volume, holding the water inside them. They are also non-toxic. As they dry out they shrink back down in size. They last for a year or more before they decompose. These crystals can also be added directly to the PMC package to keep clay moist.

Another option is to purchase water beads found in the floral department in stores. A small 10g package costs less than $2 and lasts for years. I have yet to use up the package I bought three years ago.

Of course, when storing the clay in one of the above containers, it's best to wrap it in plastic wrap. I learned a great tip about cutting the plastic wrap into smaller usable sizes from Lorrene Baum-Davis.

Take the roll of plastic wrap out of the box. Using a razor knife, cut a slit down the roll's length through all layers, then make a cut in the center around the plastic roll. Now, when you remove a piece of plastic wrap, it's already cut into small rectangles!

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser

Monday, November 3, 2014

In The Studio - Making Rivet Heads

See how close the rivet heads
are to the U shaped elements?
The other day a friend of mine asked for help getting ready for a show after she injured her hand. One of the tasks I agreed to do was to rivet a brooch that had been partially completed. Kim had already cut the backing, soldered pin parts, drilled holes for the rivets, and attached squared off, U-shaped elements to hold a chain. The rivet holes were really close to the U elements, and since I don't do much riveting on a regular basis I was worried that I would mar the metal or the U elements while hammering the rivet head. I was originally taught to rivet both heads on the wire while it was in the rivet hole - moving back and forth from one side to the other, but I knew I needed to alter that technique to complete this project.

I curled the ends of the wires, so they
wouldn't fall out. 

First, I tried to rig a micro bench block. The rivet making theory is that metal has to touch metal has to touch metal - hammer to wire to steel bench block. But with all the bits that were soldered to the back, I couldn't easily place the wire on my 4" block to rivet it. So, I took a small dapping tool, turned it upside down, fitted it into my vise, carefully settled the wire onto the flat end of the mandrel, and started tapping away. It worked, but the wire kept slipping around and I formed a very unattractive rivet head.

You could also perform this technique
using a wire gauge. Instead, I just took
a scrap piece of brass and drilled holes
with the drill bit/wire gauges I use most often.
Then I thought if one rivet head was already formed, I could easily thread it through from the back and just complete the connection on the front of the pin. I used my butane torch to form a ball on the end of a piece of 18g wire (the size of the existing holes), drilled an 18g hole in a piece of brass and all the way through my bench pin, threaded the balled wire through the brass and bench pin, and hammered the ball into a rivet head! So easy. I'm going to use this method from now on. I'm sure other fabricators have already discovered these tricks, but they were real "aha!" moments for me.

Some folks have trouble balling the end of sterling wire without getting an unattractive rippled surface. This ripple is just like reticulation, it's the copper content of the sterling moving under the top layer of silver, deforming it. Don't quote me (perhaps our Tech Advisor and resident goldsmith, Janet Alexander, will chime in in the comments section), but I think this effect has to do with the rapid cooling of the metal.

Oxidation formed by balling wire
is really thin and can be removed easily
with sandpaper. No need to pickle.
What I do is to hold the wire perpendicularly at the very tip of the inner blue flame (which is the hottest part of the flame) until a ball is formed, but instead of quickly removing the wire, I linger a second or two slightly above in the bushier part of the flame and very slowly move the wire upwards to cool it. Then I drop it in water to quench it. This slower ball forming method has never failed me. I always get a smooth sterling ball. Of course you could use fine silver, which doesn't deform at all, but fine silver is softer than sterling and isn't always an option.

I'm so glad I was able to help out a friend, and learn something new in the process.

Posted by Lora Hart ~
Artistic Advisor