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.