Spring Collection

My Etsy shop is currently updated to include my new Spring collection pieces.  Just in time for Mother’s Day!

Feel free to share with friends and family.  My next show is May 21-22, 2016 at the Canton Festival of the Arts, Canton, GA.  Come and see me!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/reflections1?ref=hdr_shop_menu

 

 

Winter Hiatus

My winter hiatus has come a bit early this year, as I didn’t book any shows for the late fall/Christmas season.  Ah well, my choice and now it is the time for updating my skills, continued learning, and participating more actively within my field.  Specifically for me, that is metal clay art.  A new group has organized that makes me very excited.  It’s called the IMPACT Artist Project and here’s their mission statement:

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“IMPACT Artist Project–The International Metal Clay Project Advancing Creativity & Talent is a non-profit Metal Clay arts community building and outreach program.  The mission of IMPACT and its philosophy stems from a generous attitude of giving and sharing which is overtly present in the Metal Clay arts community.  We have a developed a “team-like” program where IMPACT members, guilds, teachers, teaching facilities, and business work in conjunction to advance and strengthen the creativity, talent of its artists, and support healthy thriving businesses within our international Metal Clay community.”

What a great beginning to a form of organization and purpose.  I have often found that within the world of art, there are very few (beyond guilds)  standards, guidelines and professional guidance as one would see in a business setting.  I think that artists are underrepresented because they have no unifying voice.  I am thankful that the metal clay community is attempting to change that for our form of art.

I will continue to make this blog about my journey with metal clay and as a show circuit artist.  I love to share and teach and I hope that I will be more diligent is this task.  If you are a fellow metal clay artist, check out the website for IMPACT at http://www.impactartistproject.org and see how you can contribute or benefit from.

I am busy keeping my Etsy shop full for any Christmas shoppers and am also working on some custom pieces for Christmas gifts.  I love the challenge of custom work and hope that what I do pleases everyone involved.

Also, a task I don’t look forward to during winter hiatus, is the continued research and learning about upcoming shows and to schedule for 2016.  It starts early (as in right now) for many of the spring shows and even some fall and winter shows for 2016.

 

 

Mistakes, Art and Learning

Inevitably, working with any media in art you will always make mistakes . . for that matter, we make mistakes whenever we are doing things because we are human.  While some mistakes in my field can be costly (silver clay fired incorrectly, copper didn’t melt, shattered glass in the kiln) it can also be a new direction in the process of the creation.  Just this week, I’ve been trying out some new techniques–adding dichroic glass to my silver work, melding white copper with regular copper and working with sheet metal clay.  So, out of the new techniques I was successful with 2 out of 3.  The melding of the two coppers didn’t go as well as planned.

Both copper clays can be combined and fired simultaneously, which opens up lots of creative ideas.  My shaping and sanding when well, however, I made a rookie mistake–one copper cuff I rolled out too thin–when working with metal clay, it is best to keep your bracelets or cuffs between 5-7 cards thick.  Otherwise, you invite cracks and splits when the firing happens–I lost one of the cuffs due to this very reason.  The second cuff was certainly thick enough however, my design was too deep into the clay and allowed natural cracks after the clay dried which I tried to repair.  Most of the time, I have success by shaping the cuffs before firing.  But, you can also shape the cuff after the firing.  This time I shaped the cuff and discovered that the imprint lines of my design caused cracks.

The good news . . I can still salvage parts of this thicker cuff.  Sawing off the cracks and doing some extra sanding with my dremel will create two new pendents that will display the two types of copper.  Due to my other pieces needing my attention these will wait till later.

Here is another failed attempt at blending coppers.  My mistake here was making the base too thin to support the white copper on top.  While this one didn’t turn into anything, it was still a lesson learned!

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Paste, and more Paste, please

Spring has sprung again and that means time for my yearly collection of blossoms and leaves.  Still waiting on my dogwoods to bloom, but have started on some leaves for earrings.  When working with metal clay paste, you have to be sure your organic materials are strong and the ideal size for jewelry.  My collection every year begins with this one simple rule–collect multiple branches and blossoms and then find the right ones to work with back in the studio.  Of course, I work in volume during Spring for the whole collection of my organic pieces for my shows, so I have to make sure I have plenty of paste.

While you can always go the easier route and impress your organics into the clay itself, I find that using the actual organic in the process brings a nicer depth to the piece.  It does require patience and diligence to paste the 20+ layers of metal clay paste but the end results are worth it.

Because of the cost of the silver clay, I have learned to reclaim all my shavings, bits of clay that have hardened and pieces that just didn’t work for me before I fired them.  I keep an ongoing collection of my dust and powder from sanding pieces before firing. That’s some valuable silver in all that dust.  Keep it in a dry, air tight container so that you don’t collect dust and junk flying around our air.  When you have enough (I usually use about 6 oz or more of collected material) then you are ready to begin making the paste.  I always buy the ready made paste for each season and then I keep all the jars to use for my reclaimed paste.  Here’s the process:

Gather together the following tools:

Mortar and Pestle (for grinding and mixing), pallet blade, water, PasteMaker by Sherri Haub, Glycerin, by Cool Tools, empty jars for storing paste, mixing bowl with airtight lid (I use the Glad ware bowls) and your reclaimed dust!IMG_1829 (2)IMG_1830 (2)

Your material will look like this when you start–lumps and broken clay pieces.IMG_1831IMG_1832

Keep grinding to reduce your material to powder or small particles.  Use a razor blade to help break down the small pieces into even finer pieces.

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Once you’ve achieved a fine powder, put in mixing bowl and add several drops of the PasteMaker as well as the Glycerin.  You can certainly use water (distilled) as well, but I find the glycerin makes the paste very smooth.IMG_1836

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Keep adding the glycerin, the PasteMaker and/or water to keep developing the powder into clay.  Use lots of motion with your mixing and keep cutting into the paste with your blade.

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The mixture will eventually look like this–really work this with your blade–then you’ll see the paste getting better and better!  At this point, develop the paste to the consistency you want to work with–thinner or thicker–all based on the organic you are pasting to make this decision.

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Once you’ve worked the paste to your chosen consistency–simply place the paste into your empty containers.  I don’t clean them at all–I just scrape out the leftovers to my powder mix and reclaim it all!

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As you can see from the pictures below, I had several types of organic to work with. And plenty of paste to go around. Have fun and feel free to experiment as you now have more material to work with that you already purchased!IMG_1816IMG_1818 (2)

And that tool goes there . . .

After being on Hiatus for a while and getting back into my workshop/studio I realized it was time for an update.  I’m all about organized space and this is especially true in the studio.  There are just too many things that I use that need to be convenient and connected to my work flow.  Being a mid-level manager for many years in corporate America, it was critical to keep all my files, resources and more in the perfect spot in my offices so that I could be my most efficient.  While my middle initial is “E” and stands for my middle name “Eve”, I most often refer to it as standing for “Efficient”. . . .that’s just how my brain works when it comes to work!

When we moved into our new house several years ago, I was beyond thrilled to have a dedicated space for my workshop.  We are blessed with a large finished basement that we have all broken up into “creative areas”–my husband’s wood working tools and sawdust, my MIL’s office and sewing area, and my studio.  Basically, I extended my current setup to include double the space and work surface area.  Most important for me was the ability to have my kiln in the studio with me, yet in an open space to allow for heat “space”.  I was able to include another table and keep my photo area still next to the one window.  I began my jewelry making area in the corner of my very small kitchen at my old house and I used a large part of the back porch for firing torches and kilns.  To have everything in one area for me is luxury at its best for my work.  The only thing I would ever add is a work sink but with no plumbing in our basement that’s something I’ll have to do without.  But I make it work with my “wash tub”, rags and distilled water.

Here are some views of the improved space:

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Here is the entry into my space . . .my brag wall is important to remind my of past success and to keep me focused on doing my very best with each piece.  My main work station is the table with extra lighting for those very small details when fabricating and assembling my pieces.

 

 

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As you go past my work table you’ll note the extra shelves for my clay work and an idea board on the wall.  My great window which gives me great light for my photography.  Another board up on the wall into my new space.

 

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Over to the left of my studio space . .more shelves–can never have enough.  I love the ability to see all of what I have since I collect so many things over the past years to use.  The tall shelf is basically current work stuff–my resources, office supplies, pricing materials, and working trays of pieces.  The shorter white shelf and the table next to it is my sanding station/cleaning station.  I do all my sanding of metal clay away from the primary work space due to the dust and and mess.  I keep separate sanding sponges, cloths and sticks for each metal clay so not to mix the dust particles.  I also collect the shavings to make into paste and more clay (especially the silver).

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A closer look at the photography station.  Most of it is just sitting there.  The exact set up includes using the light boxes and lights and different backgrounds.  I use the materials from  Modahaus Tabletop Studios.  A truly compact and simple set up along with a good photo app from my IPhone.  I used to use a basic digital camera, however the new technology and the camera apps are quite cost effective and give you great shots.  Just be sure to learn all you can about positioning and lighting your work as well as know what your camera can do.  If this is your business, you need to understand that photos of your work are the only representation you have to jurors and buyers.  Photos can make or break your appearance.

 

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This was my most important update, to have my firing supplies within the studio.  I added this table to the backside of my space and left it wide open to give the kiln free space at it heats up to 2350 degrees!  My tumbler, charcoal pans, enameling stands all make up the rest of the table space.  Another reason for a separate work area for firing gives me space as the charcoal firings can be messy with the dust.  Also, freedom to work my handheld torch with my enameling into metal is important.

So, here is a glimpse of my work space and where I dream, design and do!  Everyone has unique spaces and unique work habits that are just right for you.  In fact, a funny aside from my corporate days.  I was the training coordinator for my area and had dedicated space to conduct the training classes.  One day, setting up for a new class, I was walking around the room with a Kleenex box looking for the perfect place to set it.  My HR friend walked by and was questioning me about why I was taking this task so seriously.  I remember stating to her that there is a spot for everything and that your space and how it was arranged makes a big difference in how your learn.  She simply smiled and shook her head.  Understanding the importance of space and where things work best it not simply a fantasy.  It is a skill that you can learn and an important part of your productivity.  While you could argue that “my messy office works for me”, one only has to look at your production and results to determine if that really is true.  For me and my creative muses, my studio/workshop works for me!

And the winner is . . .

. . . Black!  Yes, I am very pleased with my test shots for the gradient black backgrounds.  Much more polished and professional, which is important for securing a spot in a juried show.  Most juries have only 4 to 5 shots of your work, so it must stand out!  I struggle with showing juries my work in just 4 slides due to the fact that my work is extremely varied and unique.  While I’m happy with the black backgrounds, I still need to work on correct lighting.  My silver pieces seem washed out and they reflect easily.  Ways to reduce reflection include making a white poster board to house your item and cut a hole in it to allow your camera lens to “see”.  I like using the diffused light from the Modahaus Tabletop Photo Studio and their Steady Stand Kit.  These pieces are simple in design, yet ever effective.  You can learn more about their products at  www.modahaus.com

Here are a few of the successful shots from this week:

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You will probably note some of the various lighting attempts.  I will continue to hone these skills and play with natural light as well.  But, I love seeing the pieces against the black.  It works well for all the metal clays.

 

Hiatus and White Copper!

Well, I didn’t know I had been away from my blog this long!  I’ve had lots of non-business, non-jewelry stuff to do (and am still doing), so I thought I would update and try to at least post monthly!  However, during this period of time and one does very little, I have done a lot!

My most recent adventure in clay is working with the new White Copper–wow, and wow again.  It certainly has been fun to play with.  It’s consistency and features in clay are almost identical to the copper clay.  The one big difference is how you fire the White Copper.  It is recommended that you fire a Phase 1 in the kiln for about an hour on a wire mesh to burn out the organic binders.  Then on to a Phase 2 firing in the charcoal and pan.  After firing, you can do the usual metal smith work you would with the other metals . . .I like the shiny brightness after tumbling and then the matte finish as well.  Here is a bracelet and charm with a shiny finish.  It is certainly heavier than silver, but looks more like stainless steel–really neat texture and feel.

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So, this past week, I decided to combine the white copper with regular copper and was completely bedazzled!!  Here is a piece with the two metals side by side:

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Then I decided to blend the two clays together and see what the effect would be.  What was interesting to  me was that despite the product stating you must fire in two phases, I went ahead and fired the blended pieces according to the regular copper firing schedule.  It worked!  And, to test that theory even further, I misplaced a piece of solid white copper along with my regular copper peices (because they look so similar in the green ware stage) and fired it along with the copper and that piece was perfectly sintered and was just fine as the regular firing.  So, for me, I may only keep firing the white copper along with the regular copper.

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As you can see, the first bracelet with the discs has two solid copper pieces and the other three are the blended copper pieces.  A very creamy metal color–some swirls of the copper are evident but all in all, it looks to me like soft pink tones throughout the metal.  Wonderful!  The second cuff bracelet is the solid white copper that fired with my regular copper in the kiln.  No evidence of any problems.  Solid and beautiful!

If you are following my blog, I will be the featured artist at Unicoi State Park in Helen, Georgia, June 14-15!  The summer collection will be available and I’ll be demonstrating my bead making technique with enamel glass and a torch.