Tuesday, October 6, 2015

If It's Tuesday...

I'm busily preparing for a last minute jaunt to Belgium with Miss Donna Penoyer. Donna is teaching, and I'm tagging along for the ride! We'll go to Ghent, Bruges, Temse (where Donna is presenting a whistle class), and then a fast visit of Paris. Get ready for lots of inspiration.

I'm also really pleased to say I have two registered artists for Make Your Mark and one for Metal Clay Immersion. If you missed my last post, I'll be teaching four workshop intensives at my Richmond Virginia Studiolo in 2016. Read all about them here.

Last week I started work on a little amphora which I thought I'd decorate with a carved design. It was 5 cards thick, and very dry, but as I worked on it - it shattered into 5 pieces! After a quiet little temper tantrum, I decided to put it back together like Humpty Dumpty, and fire it anyway. Here's to perseverance! Can I get an Amen!! It's not exactly what I had imagined, but didn't turn out so very badly. I think I'll keep it.

Have a great week, and thanks for visiting.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Path to Perfection

I'll be doing my first craft show in 4 years this November. I used to do the Contemporary Crafts Market twice a year in Los Angeles, but since I moved to Richmond - I got out of the habit. Earlier in the year I applied for the one, really high-end show here. The Craft and Design show put on by the Visual Arts Center where I teach. It's a difficult show to get in to, and I sent in my application just to re-wet my craft show feet, thinking that I wouldn't actually be accepted. But I was! Fancy that. Woo Hoo! (Exhibit your excitement for me here). All very well and good, but since I've been focused on teaching and not making - I don't really have very much jewelry to fill my 8' x 8' booth.

So I've been making new pieces and trying to re work old ones, and in my search of ancient bits and bobs I found a tiny box that used to be a class sample for a workshop that I taught as far back as 2006 or 2007. And my brain's gears started turning... I decided to transform it into a pendant set with an antique photograph of somebody's relative (not one of mine). Since the box was already fired, I had to think carefully about what I wanted to do to it, and in what order the tasks needed to be performed. It was meant to be a table top trinket, so it needed some way of hanging it, it needed a chain, it needed a bezel. So the question became how would I accomplish each, and in what order. And as I worked I came up with a few more decorative details I wanted to add, like the two little beads on the bottom.

First I made the bezel, and soldered it inside the box, next I soldered two jump rings to the back of the box to act as the chain connections.  I was initially thinking of setting two little pearls on the bottom of the box, so I drilled two holes to fit 20 gauge wire into, and then soldered the wire into the holes. Then I stopped and thought some more about how I was going to construct the chain.  Was I going to use leather? Or ribbon? Was I going to wire wrap chain to the jump rings? Solder? I decided to use a handmade clasp that I had fabricated a few weeks before, and wire wrapped the whole thing together, just to see what I thought about it.

Then I started looking at my existing stock and realized that I use little pearls in my work quite a bit, and started looking through my bead containers for another option. I came upon some sliced, green garnet beads and decided to try those. Perfect! But the holes in the beads were too small for the 20g wire pegs - so I had to get out my diamond coated bead reamer to drill them out, and then used 2 part epoxy to glue them to the pegs. Then I decided that the clasp really should be soldered to the chain so that it would be really secure, and that the chain would look nicer if it were connected with a soldered jump ring too. But I had already glued on the little garnets! I knew that it would be a quick operation to solder the chain to the box, so I wrapped sopping wet paper towels around the garnet beads, and soldered the jump ring shut. Worked perfectly! What a good trick. Wish I could remember where I heard about it.

Then I decided that the chain didn't look quite right, and thought I'd attach a short line of beads to one side of the chain. I like to amend/alter commercial chain so that it looks a little more unique. Wire wrapping was the perfect way to 'string' the beads. Then it was time to set the photograph and the rutilated quartz. But how! The bezel was so tight to the inside dimensions of the box that using a traditional bezel pusher was out of the question. I ended up pushing over the bezel with a spatula, and perfecting the edge with a tiny ball burnisher, and the whole thing looks lovely.

So what's the point of this blog post? Is it to tell you my entire process? Kind of, but really it's to inspire you to think about what happens after you make your focal piece. How will it be worn? Do you have the skills to finish it the way you envision? Do you have the tools? If you don't, can you think outside the box to get the job done?

This project was actually very simple, and might have been easier if I had planned the entire thing out from the beginning, but even working as I did - kind of higgeldy piggeldy - I knew I could do it. The thing I thought about before I started was not all the soldering, or the chain design, or how to patina, but I had to know that I would actually be able to set the awkwardly placed stone. I love the way this pendant looks, and I'll try a design like this again, but with the knowledge I now have - I'll be sure to make some adjustments (like making the walls of the box shorter so that the bezel is easier to access), and to think about the work path a little more fully before I start.

Monday, September 21, 2015


I can be scattered sometimes. I start projects and put them down to move on to something else. It's not OCD, it's just that I lose steam for one thing, and get excited about another. So, I'm putting away the ceramics and getting back to my original love - metal clay.

In the past month, in addition to trying to make product for the upcoming Craft and Design show (in November), I decided to create a blog for absolute beginners using metal clay, AND to institute a series of workshops here in Richmond called Studies At The Studiolo.

As a regular lurker and participant of (almost) all discussions about metal clay on Facebook, I see that although there are many educational options for more advanced students, beginners tend to have to fend for themselves. Either by reading books, viewing videos, or counting on local instructors to really know their stuff. Which sometimes they don't. So the Spring Studies focus on introducing an emerging metal clay maker to all the basic skills they'll need to get started.

Summer Studies invite experienced users to step up their game by learning some new concepts and techniques while making a variety of interesting hollow objects. Each workshop is 3-4 days long ensuring that there is plenty of time to work, interact with fellow students, and just plain have fun!

I love teaching. I love metal clay. I'm honored to be able to blend those two loves. And I'm really excited to put these two blogs out to the community. I hope they'll inspire a few fabulous makers to plunge into the art of metal clay.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Looks

Things are out of the inaugural glaze firing! Interesting results. Tell me what you think of my first efforts.

These are the only ones I've done a shiny glaze on. I like the
form of the little handled one, but the glazes ran. Maybe the first coat
wasn't dry enough. And I think it needed more than one coat. It's not
saturated enough. The larger vase in the back was one of my
hand thrown attempts. It had an odd shape so I 'ovalized' the
profile. Now it has a little pot belly. Kind of cute.

Not sure if you'll be able to tell, but this these two were given
the same underglaze. The one in back came out first and I
hated the finish. Then I put the tipped one in to refire at the final
temperature, and lo and behold, the finish completely changed.
Now I like it. I'll do a little sanding on the rear one and refire.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Making Lemonade

The other day I got to my studio before the building officially opened and decided to treat myself to a cup of coffee from the cafe next door. I opened my studio door, grabbed my wallet and put down my purse. Then I let the door slam behind me. LOCKED OUT!! Drat. With nothing to do, I had a little breakfast and read the paper, then decided to walk around the building in hopes that the manager had come in early. No luck. But while moping and staring at my closed studio door, I realized that the clay room door is broken and is therefore always open. Joy! So I got out my supplies and made some little pots. So fun. When the building manager finally arrived two hours later to open my door, I was so ensconced in what I was doing that I never did get around to playing with metal clay. And the next day I had to put some finishing touches on my work, so didn't work on my metal clay projects that day either.

First day before details were added. The triangular shape
will be a salt/pepper dish.

What I love about ceramic clay? That it can be worked wet for sooooo long. What I'm not so much liking? That when it's bone dry, it's very fragile (chips when you sand it) and cannot - simply can NOT be joined to either dry or wet clay. Using lentil beads as an example - we're used to letting them dry, sanding the bottoms to a knife edge, and using slip to join. With ceramic clay, parts need to be assembled at the leather hard stage at the latest, by scoring and using slip. So I'm wondering about some of the professional work I've seen - how do they get such a sharp join line? I know - practice, practice, practice. Sigh.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Already... I just found out that I'm wait listed for a big craft show here in Richmond, so my little pots must wait. I haven't done a show in 3.5 years, since the last Santa Monica Contemporary Craft Market in LA. I have almost no jewelry to sell, since I've been spending all my creative time making samples for classes - so I have to get on the ball creating merchandise for the Craft and Design show in November. 6 months seems like it should be a long enough time to create some product, but I'm doing a workshop in Boston next month, and planning a trip to England in October and still have classes to teach, so I'm pretty short on time. Not that I'm complaining. It's sometimes difficult to change hats from my teaching persona to my creative persona, so I'm actually pretty excited to see what I come up with!

I'd show you a picture of my latest pot, but I'm having the worst time getting the phone to download them. When they finally appear, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Something New

Hello again! Thanks for checking in. This past spring I decided to take a ceramics class just for fun. And I really liked it. Imagine that! For the first 5 weeks I did exactly the projects the instructor suggested. Namely coil built pots and a try at the wheel. Throwing and I are not friends. That's not to say that we couldn't find common ground - but I'm not that interested. I did manage to throw a few pots, but most of the time I made big mish mosh mistakes. Understandable for a newbie. My walls were too thin, I couldn't achieve height, I bottomed out until there was no bottom at all... I don't think I have the hand strength to throw pots. And my back hurt from bending over the wheel. So I decided to make use of the most basic metal clay building technique - the lentil bead.

I found a couple of stainless steel forms in the back room of the ceramics area, used a yogurt container to cut out two disks, and formed two little bowls. When they were leather hard, I took them off the forms and joined them together with watery slip. Although it's a very similar technique to making a metal clay lentil bead, it is also very different. Some aspects of joining ceramic clay I like better, and for some I'd rather use metal clay. But all in all - I'm very fond of my new hobby. So much so that I've decided to challenge myself to learn more about ceramic clay and glazes by making 100 of my little pots. I'm up to 7 now - even making it to 20 seems like a lot! So I'll re consider at that point.

I think I'll post a picture of each pot as I complete it in some way. They will either be fired, glazed, or just greenware. I'm starting my experiment by just getting better at making the pot shape, then I'll experiment with textures, then I'll explore more glazing and finishing techniques.

Here are my first pieces:

The rounded lentil before the hole is made, Two pots hand shaped and paddled into new contours (The little lentil pot was
formed over a large plastic easter egg), Raku fired pots made in class - the spiky one is a successful wheel thrown effort.