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!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Preparing for the Prep

This past Sunday was the first meeting of the Saturday Salon Master's Registry Prep group, and we had 5 talented ladies in attendance. The meeting was chock full of information, discussion, and excitement for the year ahead.

I gave each participant a folder which held a few sheets of lined paper for notes, a few sheets of graph paper for sketches, a print out of the project categories from the Registry website, and a couple of pages of interesting tidbits and questions - which included...

1. List the 5 projects that most terrify/concern/intimidate you. I suggest you do one of these projects at each level. If you leave them all until Level 5 - You may never complete them! Find classes in your area or online that will help you to learn the processes or begin to experiment on your own with inexpensive materials so when it comes time to make the project to send in, you'll be an expert.

2. List the 5 projects you're most looking forward to. Again, do only one or two of these in the first Level. If you do all your favorites, you'll have nothing to look forward to in the future. Making sure you have at least one 'low stress' project to start off with will give each level a nice jump start.

3. Make a list of all skills you have in your tool box that fall outside the realm of metal clay. Knitting, embroidery, soldering, furniture making and other talents may add that 'little something extra' to each of your projects.

4. Make a list of all the techniques you'll need to know for each category of the project list.  To get you started, I've come up with a few for each section:
     Construction - Gem Setting, Soldering, Building concepts (box making etc)
     Color - Enameling, Resin, Patina Varietals, Prisma Color or other dry media technique
     Materials - Riveting, Glass slumping, Forging
     Other Metals - Gold Paste, Keum Boo
     Miscellaneous - Computer Skills (perhaps for E2), Hinges and Catches, Mechanical Connections/Theory, Screw/Thread Fabrication, Sawing/Piercing (for E6)

D7 asks for metal clay to be combined with 'white metal'. Titanium (which cannot be soldered - so you'd need to use a mechanical connection like a rivet); nickel silver, alpaca, and german silver (which are all names for the same white alloy); lead (which may not be the healthiest choice); iron; aluminum; and tin are some of the white metals I thought of.

D6 asks for a copper alloy. Shibuishi and Shakudo are Japanese alloys you can look up in a google search; bronze; brass; and red brass are other alloys made from copper. I imagine you can also just use straight copper for this project.

You may also be able to combine silver clay with base metal clays for the projects in 'Metal Clay and Other Materials'. The guidelines for the Registry were written before those clays came out.

There are a number of projects that have similar techniques, so the learning curve for each of those separate projects may be eased with the repetition.

     B3, B4, and B5 all involve enamel.
     A4, A5 (?), A6, C2, and E4 require boxes.
     A2, A5 (?), and A7 are bead projects.
     D1, D2, D3, D4 all request the addition of gold. Aura 22 or AGS gold slip/paste may be used, or you can make your own from gold lump clay or the rose and green gold clay that is sold by Michele Glaeser.

E1 requires that you make a replica of a votive figure. This does not mean a small, figurative candle holder! defines a votive this way:
1. A votive figure is an image someone creates to use as a devotional offering to a god or some other deity.
2. A votive deposit or votive offering is one or more objects displayed or deposited without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes.

Start to think about how you'll learn the skills that you're not familiar with. There are many YouTube videos on each of these subjects, offers online classes that cover many of them; Hadar Jacobson's blog has a wealth of information for base metal clays - even if you're using another brand; live classes at an art center or community college in your area will help, and plain old self determination will get you through the projects.

Note that although you MAY use a variety of techniques in a single project, your work will be evaluated for only the specific project's required skills. However - the more creative and innovative your project is in it's entirety - the higher marks you're likely to get. So if you make a beautifully constructed, enameled and stenciled box, with a little frog with turquoise eyes set inside that can be removed from it's green plastic lilly pad screw threaded post - you'll likely get great marks, but you won't be able to submit it for A4 and B1 and C6 and E6 and E7. You'll most likely just submit it for A4. Period. But all that other work will definitely impress the evaluators, which may indeed raise the number of points you receive for the design aspect of the project.

If you're working on the Registry, as we are here in Richmond Virginia, I suggest you join the FaceBook group so we can all inspire, support, and cheer each other on as we move through the process. I've set up a Pinterest board, which the members of the Salon will be adding to for inspiration and you're all welcome to follow it too.

Thanks for Reading. See you next month.