Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Steeling Beauty

Sarah Loertscher

This past weekend I took a class at the Visual Arts Center here in Richmond, where I also teach. 'Steel Fabrication for Jewelers' was taught by the very talented Sarah Loertscher. Sarah demonstrated a plethora of techniques, of which I attempted two designs. And true to my modus operandi - didn't complete.

My lovely chain. Somtimes I used just the right amount of solder
and sometimes I got lazy and cut too big a piece.

We used plain ol' mild steel binding wire from the hardware store to form jump rings to be made into chain or bracelets or whatever we could dream up. I really loved this project for a variety of reasons. First and foremost - I'm not at alllll ambidextrous and have always babied myself by holding the torch in my dominant hand, switching at the last minute when I needed to use a soldering pick. This is a big no-no in the metal working process. So this time I 'forced' myself to put the torch in my left hand and hold the pick with my right! And by the end of the day, I almost had the technique down pat. Almost. Sarah showed us a great trick to help steady a shaky non dominant hand. By using the pick to guide the torch tip just at the bend of the nozzle I had almost as much control as if I were using my right hand to control the flame. I'll be practicing this technique more, until I perfect it.

These modified rings would be great chain 'stations' or post earring elements.
The half ring is held in place with a third hand while soldering.

Sarah uses black welder's flux called 'Stay Silv' most often when soldering steel, but admits that traditional, white, 'Handi Flux' works too, it just doesn't offer as much working time as black flux does. There's no specific solder for steel, so we used medium silver solder (you can, of course, also use the beautiful but spendy 18K gold solder if you wish).  We bridged our work over two firing bricks, so that we could get the flame under the seams and draw the solder down. A metal tripod would have been too much of a heat sink.

Rachel Rader's line of jump rings turned bangle bracelet.

On Saturday we learned to saw mild or stainless steel sheet to make other elements.  Never use good tools on steel! Sheet metal cutters (guillotine sheers and the like) will dull and get chewed up by steel. Also keep steel away from a rolling mill for the same reasons. We used a #3 blade to cut our small squares of metal. Sarah had to take the big sheets she had brought to the university to cut into sample sizes for us. You could ask your vendor to cut the sheet, but there would most likely be a charge for this service. Mild steel is easier to saw and to solder, but stainless is... well... stainless. So it doesn't tarnish or rust as easily. The emphasis in on stain LESS, not stain free. Use a sealant like Renaissance Wax or a similar product to protect the surface of mild steel for about a year or so.

My slotted earrings. Well, they're almost earrings. Any day now...

We learned how to use slots to build dimension into our work, score a line with a triangle or square file to make a sharp bend, do solder inlay,  place oxidized work in muriatic acid (get it at the hardware store)  for a super fast pickle clean up, use both heat and gun bluing for patina, and to use Super Sunsheen Polishing liquid in the tumbler to condition not only the shot, but the finished jewelry. Sarah has some mild steel pieces that haven't rusted in over a year when tumbled with Super Sunsheen.

Class samples. Notice the little blue rectangle on the 2nd sheet of paper?
That's silver solder inlay in mild steel with gun bluing patina.

Thanks for a great class Sarah! It was a wonderful 3 day treat.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weekend Eye Candy -Steel Edition

This weekend I'll be taking a steel jewelry class. The photo in the catalog is of a pair of earrings, so maybe that's what I'll come home with. We'll be learning how to solder on steel, which is very different (and more difficult) than soldering silver or copper. Exciting!

Then on Sunday I'm going up to DC to see the Smithsonian's Craft2Wear exhibition with Cindy Silas where we'll meet up with Jeannette LeBlanc as she helps her friend Kathleen Nowak Tucci man her booth.

Have a great and creative weeked!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weekend Eye Candy - Leaf Edition

It's that time of year again. Now that I'm in the east, I can actually see the leaves change. There were a few trees in LA that developed some color, but nothing like I'm expecting this year.

One of the greatest things about artists is how they each interpret a theme differently. All leaves, All unique. Here are examples of chasing and repousé, forging, carving, slip painting, piercing, soldering, and gluing; using steel wire, silver wire, resin, natural leaves, wood, sterling, metal clay, gold, and iron. Styles are simple, complicated, modern, gothic, realistic, and interpretive. And all are beautiful.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changin'...

Fall is has arrived in Richmond! The trees are just starting to blush, the days are darker a little earlier, and today I wanted to turn on the heat. If I were still in LA, I'd think it was January. That's how (not really) cold it gets in Southern California.

Ella under cover

My iPhone tells me it's 46º with an expected high of 55º. Brrr.... Definitely sweater weather. Maybe even a light jacket. If I owned one. Until I can get to the store I'll just layer like I did in Venice. The kitties don't seem to mind the cooler weather much. Diego was curled up on the bed when I got back from breakfast, and Ella is firmly ensconced under the covers. A new trick I think she's really enjoying.

Diego cuddling on my arms as I type

I tried turning on the heat, just to warm things up a bit, but I'm not sure it's working. Sigh. The joys of living in a 1928 building. Until I figure out the furnace, I'm very happy to have my old sheepskin lined Merrells on hand to keep my toesies cozy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Weekend Eye Candy - Back Edition

In honor of Lorena Angulo's wonderful exhibition "Behind the Brooch" on Crafthaus and the fact that I have been dealing with nasty back pain for about a week, I did this week's search using the word 'back'.

Hope you all have a creative and pain free weekend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stu, Stu, Studio!

My new shop is still a work in progress, but I wanted to share it's humble beginnings with you. My first off site work space is located in a wonderful old industrial building that has been re-imagined as an artists studio cooperative called Artworks in Richmond Virginia, about 4 miles from my apartment. And I've gotta say - the lack of cat hair, kitties wanting to be cuddled, mindless tv noise (always on for company), comfortable couch singing like a siren - makes it a very attractive place to go in the morning. Me likey!

'12 Studiolo by lorahart

Yesterday I chose to bring the computer so I could get some writing done. Blog posts for CornerStone, an article for MCAM, teaching proposals, etc. And as always I had Skype open while I was working, so Miss Vickie was able to find me. We generally talk every day for a half hour or so, but it was such a lovely surprise to talk to her in my studio.
I've had a hard time really getting started back in my metal clay habit. Too many distractions in the past few months, and as we parted,Vickie encouraged me to make just 'one little thing'. Perhaps a jump ring. ;)

I remembered that I needed 'something to torch fire' for a class demo on Saturday, so I pulled out the clay to make a couple of earring components, complete with slip printing. I thought it would take 5 minutes at the most. But I'm so out of tune, that the slip had to be removed and re applied about 5 times! So frustrating. It's like anything else in life. Use it or lose it. But luckily another truism also applies - just like riding a bicycle, work out the kinks, and sooner or later you'll be rolling right along.

I still have more writing to do today, but tomorrow Holly will be joining me here for a long distance play date (also on Skype) and I'm hoping that I'll be able to get right back on that horse and gallop my way back to creativity.