Monday, August 10, 2015

Welcome to the Master's Registry Prep!

In 2014 I hosted a group of artists in Richmond, Virginia who were all working on the first level of the metal clay Master's Registry. I began a blog in hopes others around the world might want to be 'flies on the wall' of our monthly meetings, and might join in our conversation by brainstorming, asking questions, and just generally feeling like a part of or journey. The group was not as active as I hoped, either in real life or in cyber land, and I lost heart and abandoned this platform.

Because I see so many similar questions on my FaceBook Master's Registry Prep Group and the official Metal Clay Masters Registry Support Group, I'm reactivating this blog as an edited version with pages on specific topics to archive answers to the most common queries. To the best of my knowledge, the official FB group is open only to those who have registered and paid the first installment of the Registry fee. The Prep group is open to all who are in the planning stages, or are actually working on projects. These two groups are very helpful, with lots of interactive conversation and advice. This blog will also be an archive of my personal journey with photos of both submitted and accepted projects. As of August 2015, I'm working on my first level - and I plan on completing all 5 levels including the 51st Master Work.

Julia Rai, who is working towards her 5th level, has written a very comprehensive series of articles about her own journey which can be found here. For more information on the Master's Registry visit the website or contact Abby Johnston.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Level One Finish Line

As  I work on my projects, and realize that I might actually have 10 projects to turn in by the end of July (edit. This didn't happen), I'm looking back at the Registry Book and realizing that there is a section on the Project Review Pages for the artist to tell the evaluators a little about the piece(s). It actually says "Anything we should know about this work? (Optional)" All this time I thought we would have to 'defend' our work in the same or similar way that a graduate student defends their thesis. It's optional? Really? I would think that explaining your process would be really valuable information to include. The Review Pages were sent as a .pdf so they are not editable (that I know of), and the area given to write is very small, especially when you compare it to the area that the evaluators are given to make notes. So I just e-mailed Abby Johnston to see if the pages were available in a word document. I'll let you know what she replies.

So far I've completed A2, A6, B1, B6, D2, D3, and E6. And I know what I'll do for C2 and A3, so I'll need to get crackin' on another Materials project and a Miscellaneous project. I'm sending A3 as a back up, and would like to send a couple more. I know - There's not a 'most dreaded' or one of the Candidate's Choice projects in that list. I guess that's what I'll work on figuring out.

If you remember my plan is to submit one thing I really don't want to do and one Candidates Choice for each level so that I won't be bombarded by negative projects at the end of the process.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When it was good, it was very, very good...

Well, shame on me! I've let this blog lapse through summer, fall and winter. Now that we are at the start of a new year, let me try to get things back on track. My live prep group in Virginia didn't turn out quite the way I had envisioned. There was a lot of interest in the meetings when I first proposed it, but actually getting bodies in a chair, once a month, for twelve months, became a bit of a challenge. Some folks lived an hour or more away, some had commitments that they couldn't (and frankly didn't want to) switch - which is totally understandable, and other's just plain had other things to do. I really appreciate the people who tried to (and succeeded in) come(ing) to every meeting.

In addition to hosting the meetings, I was looking forward to the support and suggestions from the members, as well as offering whatever mentoring I could. When the meetings ran out of steam, so did I. Drat! Life happens.

So I think I'm going to turn this blog into a journal of my personal experiences and thoughts about the Registry process. This morning I posted a comment on the FaceBook Prep group (do you already belong?) and will just re post it here. I think I've talked a little about this before - but the thoughts bear repeating.

I won't promise how regular this blog will be, but I'll try to post at least a couple of times a month. And when I submit, and get back photos of the successful projects, I'll create a separate page for each level, so there's a record. Julia Rai's posts about her own process has been so helpful to me, and I'd like to 'pay it forward' with my own experiences.

There are 5 levels. The first requires two projects from each category. For the rest of the levels, you must complete only one from each category, and the other projects you choose to complete the 10 submissions are up to you. The impulse might be to do all your favorites first - but if you do that, and are planning on completing all 5 levels, then being forced to work on 10 of your most hated/feared projects at once is going to make completion really difficult. To make the process fun as well as achievable my suggestion is to do one 'candidates choice', one most loved, and one most hated/feared project in each level. As you continue in the process, possibly around Level two or three, start thinking about what you might like to do for the final, 51st, 'significant original work'. Chances are that it will be intricate, may involve multiple pieces, and be difficult and challenging. Can you start working on the parts early in the process so you might complete it by Level 5 without as much angst as you would feel by waiting *until* Level 5 to think about it? Michela Verani has said she's thinking about making a chess set using a variety of clay bodies. So - making a few pieces at a time, as she continues to work on earlier levels would give her time to perfect the design (the different clay bodies shrink at different rates making creating a chess set with similarly sized pieces a real challenge) without being overly stressed.

Make a list of your 5 most hated/feared projects (C3 is high on my list), 5 of the ones you most want to complete or think will be 'easy', and ideas for the 5 candidates choice projects. The seven other projects (in each level) will be more fun to do once you've made decisions about the 'thorny three'.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tools and tips

Well, there's nothing like publishing a new post right before the next meeting is scheduled, is there?

Kathy Kennedy, Mary Wolf, Sonja Wowk
and a little bit of Bernadine Jones
Last month we had a little show and tell session with pieces we'd all been working on. Bernadine (That's her arm in the far right of the frame) has been working diligently to create some beautiful cylinder or tube beads. She also showed us a bicone bead that broke apart during the firing process. We all agreed that she probably made it too thin and compromised it further while finishing and sanding. 

Mary (top left) was also working on her graduated bead project and shared a fabulous tool she found at a local hobby store. It's a purple plastic form with a series of graduated domes! You can get it here. She also carved her texture design into a thin, flexible, linoleum material by Jack Richeson. More durable than scratch foam, with
sharper more detailed lines. I just ordered some and am looking forward to trying it out.

From the FaceBook group, Leslie also completed her graduated necklace! It's a very popular project. :)  And, inspired by the chimneys at England's Hampton Court Palace, and the carved pillars at the entrance of the Natural History Museum - I'll be making a set of cylinder beads as well, when I get started on A7. Carrie Moyer posted a progress shot of her C4 entry. Just look at the perfection of the layout on the back of the bracelet pannels. Stunning!

Bernadine's copper tubes, Mary's lentils
Leslie's necklace, Carrie's bracelet
As it is, I've completed D2 and D3 which both require gold paste/paint. I've found that when Aura 22 or AGS (Accent Gold for Silver) dry completely, they're impossible to re hydrate without lumps. If you know of a trick other than adding medium or distilled water, let me know! Otherwise at some point I'm going to torch fire my crumbly lumps and send them in for refining. So I definitely suggest doing these projects at the same time. Unless you're going to make paste from lump gold left over from D1. Dried out slip from over-hydrated lump clay, will probably rehydrate perfectly. Or at least that's what I imagine. Don't have any dried out gold hanging around my studio.

I had some trials and tribulations while working with Hadar's one fire bronze on my Cone, Cube, and Sphere - and although I actually love the texture, I'm remaking them for a second try. Hey! Did you hear that
Prometheus came out with an open shelf fired bronze clay? I have a pack waiting for me in my studio and I'll let you know all about it! Carrie Moyer is the only distributor of it at the moment, and you can find out more details here.

What are you all working on? Have you joined the FaceBook Group? We'd all love to know about your experiences, successes, and see if we can help with any issues you're encountering. Let's be more than lurkers (I'm guilty of that too). Let your artistic voices be heard!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Master Thoughts

Today as I struggle with A1 (Cube, Cone, and Sphere), I'm reminded of a side conversation some of my Salon mates and I had a couple of months ago. What is your reason for wanting to get involved in the Masters Registry? I'm actually asking you, the reader, to think about this. Are you an instructor and would like the 'credentials' after your name (to represent the equivalent of an MFA)? How many levels do you plan on completing? Do you want to challenge yourself to learn new skill sets? Take a giant leap outside your comfort zone? Do you want feedback about your current process and level of competancy? Looking forward to the critique and possible re-attempts?

I'm asking because the majority of the folks I talk to are 'just not interested' in some of the more technical or difficult projects. "What's the point? " they ask. "I'll never be interested in that (fill in the blank)". I think that too sometimes. For instance, I'm not really into glass. What skills will I learn during C3 that I'll ever use again? What a waste of time and energy! Or is it? I won't really know until I complete it.

I've taken all sorts of hard metals classes in topics that I know I probably won't pursue. Sometimes because I want to meet the instructor, and sometimes because I think it will make for a fun afternoon making stuff with friends. And I've learned something to take away in each class. Did I run right out and buy a hydraulic press after a two-day class with Cynthia Eid? No. Have I added steel to my materials list after learning how to solder it with Sarah Loertscher? Not yet. So just what is the point of forcing myself to endure the trials and tribulations of the dang cone, cube, and sphere project? What will make this project worthwhile?

I think this is the first project because it requires so many techniques that will be invaluable for the other 49. Learning how to construct those forms, without the benefit of a step by step tutorial, readily available molds, or a background in engineering will force me to problem solve and think for myself. That one technique (problem solving) will help me build boxes and the other hollow shapes required in many of the projects (A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, C2, E1, E4, and probably many others). Learning to create a uniform, untextured surface and invisible seams will help me finely finish the remainder of my work. If I construct these forms with base metal clay (as I am), I'll have to devise a way of firing in carbon that will not distort the carefully constructed geometry that I've worked so hard to perfect.

So, if you were considering skipping A1 (or any other unsavory project) or leaving it till last, I encourage you to consider another path. Consider the less obvious aspects of those constructions and how they might impact your future design strategy. You never know how mastering an unpleasant task will change your point of view.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Catching Up

March's meeting was an intimate visit with two of the members. We had a little enamel demo and talked about experiments they had conducted at home. It was a short, but sweet meeting. I suggested they look out for Pam East's DVD's which were to be released soon. Since then I received my Kickstarter supporter advance copy of Enameling on Silver Clay and have to say - it's a fabulous resource with in depth tutorials of both producing a metal clay object and enameling it. There is also a version for copper clay, and I think I'll have to buy that one too. Pam also wrote a book a few years ago, which is a wonderful bench side reference. In addition, Linda Darty's book The Art of Enameling describes all forms of enameling and has a wonderful gallery. Truly an encyclopedic reference book that I find very helpful.

April brought two cyber members who hadn't been able to make the third Saturday meeting. Because of Easter, the date was changed to the 4th Saturday, and they made the trek. Roxan and Heidi gave a great infusion of energy into the meeting and we were able to ooh and ahh over the work Roxan brought for show and tell, much of which she is thinking of submitting for one or another of the projects. So she is more than halfway to her L1 goal!

I had some questions about a few of the projects, and Tim McCrieght was generous enough to take some time to answer them. With this new clarification, I'm going to go through my own stash of existing work to see if any will fulfill the requirements. Here are my questions, and Tim's answers:

LH - A4: Do you specifically want a 4 sided box, or can we add more panels? [ I was specifically thinking of Gordon Uyehara's Dinosour box when I asked this.]
TMc - Any number of panels is ok.

LH -  A6: A 'box' is usually thought of as square or round. May we make any shape as long as it has a friction lid? [Friction means that the tension of the lid holds itself inside the box with no other mechanical mechanism. Although the guidelines say that the box may be any depth and size, I was wondering more about the shape of the box - as in a vessel form.]
TMc - Any shape is ok.

LH - A9: Must the chain be soldered, or is fusing ok? The description online references sterling first, but then both fine and sterling is suggested. Do you prefer one over the other? Could we use copper?
TMc - The primary goal of this project is controlled soldering. Fusing would be okay, but since a fused chain is actually more difficult, I don't know why anyone would go there. Copper or brass could be used, but because chains are time intensive and material light, I think most people would choose to use a precious metal like sterling. Fine silver is ok, though as a metalsmith I'd point out that a sterling chain will last longer.

LH -  B1: Should we use only a gemstone cabochon or would a flat bottomed, found object (such as a shell or button) be ok as long as it's fully bezel set?
TMc -This should be restricted to a gem in order to keep the evaluation process uniform. Of course there are thousands of gem options, but if we deviate from that it becomes difficult to compare among objects. [Drat! That leaves out many of my existing pieces.]

LH - B2: Must the faceted stones be fired in place or is setting after firing ok?
TMc - Either.

LH - B8: Is there really anything other than colored pencil that would fulfill this project? 'Blend Colors' makes me think that the other materials I've thought of are out.
TMc - You're right that colored pencils are the most common solution, but it is possible to buy paint powders, and for all I know, brightly colored spices might work when combined with a vehicle such as wax. Just wanted to leave the door open for something we might not have considered.

LH - B9: Do patina samples have to be made on metal clay? Is sheet metal ok? What about more than one variety, such as fuming on bronze along with a resist technique on silver for example?
TMc - Yes, working on sheets of copper and brass alloys is probably the best way to go. You'll notice that base metals offer a lot of possibilities, while those people who confined themselves to metal clay didn't get wide results.

LH - D5, 6, 7, 8: With all the base clays available, do you specifically want silver metal clay and sheet base metals, or can we use base metal clays with base sheet metal? I'm assuming the idea is to use sheet, milled, or found object metal of some kind with clay?
TMc - This is a bit of a quandry. You are correct that the projects predate these base metal clays. The idea was to expose participants to various metals so they would understand the benefits and drawbacks of each. Personally I think the inherent qualities of the metals are more obvious in sheet metal and wire so I would recommend that form, but I could accept metal clay versions.

LH - E5: Should we use 30 grams of a single clay body (all silver for example) or may we use more than one type (one silver piece, one copper, one bronze) as long as the weight totals 30 grams?
TMc - I think everyone so far has interpreted the project in a single metal, perhaps because it's easy to start with a 30 gram lump and work from there, but I see no reason why this couldn't be made of various clays.

LH - E9: May we implant an existing nut and screw in a design, or is the point to make a metal clay connector?
TMc - The idea is to make a threaded closure from scratch, examples of which you can find at the website. There are other projects where a manufactured threaded unit might be included.  [D9 for example] 

LH - Because the online guidelines were written before the development of all these different clay bodies, I wondered if the references to silver clay in many of the project descriptions meant that silver was the only material we could use. This is Tim's reply:
TMc - All types and brands of metal clay are accepted. The only exceptions are D1, D2, D3, and D4, all of which require gold in one form or another. Two of these projects require Aura 22 or a similar liquid coating, and I am not aware of this being applied successfully to anything other than silver, so that is de facto required there.

Mr McCreight is a very busy man with many projects and commitments on his plate, and I'm very grateful that he was able to take the time to share his insight. Hope this helps you in your Master's Registry journey too.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

And We're Off...

Winter has been less than kind to us this month. A couple members had trouble with the commute, and others escaped to warmer climes, so it was an intimate gathering last week.  We started off the meeting with a little discussion of what folks had done so far, and then moved into a sharing and critique of existing work. I was the only one who had actually started to make a project, but the others had some great ideas and were well into the planning process. 

I thought it might be helpful to look at our work as it evolves with the same kind of eye that our evaluators might examine it with. I passed around a piece I might submit for A6 - (Box with Friction Lid) and asked everyone what they thought of it. When I look at it, I see only flaws. I see aspects I like as well, of course - but the flaws just scream out to me. I wondered what  the other members would notice, and if you look closely you might see the three things that annoy me. If you do, list them in the comments section!

In the spirit of complete transparency, I had the idea for this little vessel last December, bought supplies and then finally decided to make it. While I was working on it, I had no intention of submitting it to the MR, but now I'm thinking about it. I'm not sure an amphora fits the description of a box perfectly, but it does have a friction lid! What do you think? Is it a box?

During our discussion,  I realized that none of the other members of our group intend to attempt all 5 levels when one of them said "Why would I ever want to do the glass project?" (C3). That started us on a whole new train of thought. What is your purpose for doing the Registry? If you're a teacher perhaps you want the accreditation to bolster your teaching cred. Perhaps you like the idea of evaluation to help you move to a higher level of finishing and design. Maybe it's all about the photos. Or maybe you want to push yourself into new territory - but only so far. 

My goals are a combination of the above. Yes, I'd like the initials after my name, and the sense of accomplishment that go with that 'degree'. But mostly I want to push my own boundaries, branch out into new territory of making, learn something I don't currently have any experience with. The photos are a bonus, but I'm really looking forward to the evaluation. I think I have a pretty good sense of design and function. I know I'm pretty detailed with my finishing. But often we don't see details that others might see, don't have their aesthetic, and don't really have their unbiased eye to allow us to judge our work in the same way. 

It's not that their creative opinion matters more than ours. They won't be making decisions based on pure artistry. But allowing other eyes to 'see' aspects of our work that we might not have noticed invites our own eyes to see in a different way.

So what are your reasons for starting the Master's Registry process? I'd really like to interact with more than just my Richmond group, and to have you interact with each other. I bet we could all use some support and have other artists to bounce ideas off of as we develop and work on our projects, right? Since the official group is only open to confirmed Registry participants, I've started a new Facebook Group that will be open to people who have not yet paid for the level one registration. Of course, all those working on the Registry are welcome - even if you have paid the first fee. Ask questions, share successes, post photos. Let's keep each other company and be accountable during this first, potentially scary, level. Hope to see lots of requests to join the group. And please always feel free to post anything in the comments here on this blog.

Thanks for reading!