Artist Profile: Kris Kramer interviewed by Julia Rai

I love texture and anyone who knows me knows my work typically features lots of it so when I first saw Kris Kramer’s work, I was instantly taken by the fabulous textures she uses. And the haunting faces of the animals in her work are so full of feeling. Kris is the owner and artisan at Kris Kramer Designs.

Kris lives in Whitefish, in northwest Montana, which is about 30 miles from the Canadian border. “I live with a little dog, Rose, in a wooded area in a small tourist town that offers recreation all year round. My daughter lives about 120 miles away, and we visit each other often.”

I asked her where she was brought up. “I was raised in Illinois and Wisconsin,” she told me. “I lived in New York in early school years and worked in northern Minnesota in summers during high school.”

Her first experience with metal clay was interesting. “I was working a stressful, 50+ hours, managerial job,” she began. “I wish I could remember the first metal clay piece I saw but can’t. I purchased some on a lark. I experimented with a small bit like I was in biology class dissecting a pithed frog. I fired it then turned it black with patina. It was a blob with pokes, prods, lines, stuff stabbed into it. I was hooked and it became my therapy on Sundays. Eventually, I quit the day job, as the expression goes, and . . . .”

I asked her when she first began creating. “In second grade an assignment was to make a panoramic scene inside a shoebox. I was at a loss. My mother not only helped, she did the entire thing herself. Needless to say it stuck out among the other kids’ projects. I was so impressed though by what she could do that I must have then and there jumped on the creative bandwagon. Thereafter I would pencil-and-paper draw miniature scenes every chance I got. All of these were tiny; so that, when I discovered a new tiny world in metal clay, I felt as if I were coming home.”

Kris creates her pieces in her home studio. “I have a studio in half my garage. My commute to work becomes then a walk across my drive. I am organized and running out of room. Each day on average I spend at least four hours in the studio plus three hours on related admin tasks at my desk in the house.”

With so many hours spent on her business, I asked Kris how she relaxes. “I put on TV a romantic comedy or some music with a good beat along with an apron and cook up or bake something new in the kitchen. Or I sit in a special wicker chair with striped silky cushions and a cup of tea and read something inspirational. Outloud.”

I asked Kris about her creative process. “Early in the morning when I’m fresh from dreamtime, mental images appear in my mind. When I actually take action on one of them, I draw a pencil sketch, which helps me see just how such a thing might be constructed. I find that I can plan in detail but the plan usually changes along the way, and I am more than okay with that. I wing it a lot, too.”

She has a particular piece that means a lot to her. “I made a huge, and I mean huge, pendant once. It weighs probably 100 grams—well, maybe not that much. I made everything from scratch—texture, shape, and more. It is a huge seedpod. It is birthing a new race of humans, a race that cares deeply for Earth Mother Gaia, appreciates diversity among humans, and is kind, sensitive and light-hearted. If you look closely you can see some nascent sprouts (faces) among the emerging seeds.”

Nature is obviously very important to Kris so I asked her about her influences. “My main influence is the level at which I can exist where I live,” she began. “I can walk into the woods and hear a dozen songbirds, feel the deer, bear or mountain lion watch me walk by, see more grasses than I could identify in a botany class in five years, marvel at the hues of only one color in the wildflowers, watch cottonwood fluff float by, catch a photo of an iridescent fly on a leaf …. need I go on?  Someone else might walk up that same path and talk my ear off about something that matters little to me at the time, unless it has to do with nature, love, wisdom, or personal sovereignty.”

These influences are clear in Kris’s work. “Each totem animal pendant I make comes alive. Each one’s personality emerges in the process. Each one’s eyes say something different, but there is a theme. And the theme is laced with sadness and anger, is in their expression that says, ‘Wake up, people.’ Some look off into the distance, perhaps the future. Roads in my work always lead to horizons; maybe the animals are looking there also.”

I asked Kris what other techniques she uses alongside metal clay in her work. “I incorporate other metals, such as bronze, into silver pieces. I want to get back into setting cabochons. I make my own chains or improve upon purchased ones. I rarely solder and wish I could rivet. Mostly though, I’m a silver metal clay purist.”

She went on. “A theme to my work involves landscapes, wildlife, tracks, and flora. Anything I can do to bring attention in a beneficial way to the natural world is what I do.”

Kris told me her feelings about teaching metal clay. “I used to teach classes for up to six people at art centers and community colleges. Teaching to me was like doing shows — schlepping everything around is a lot of work. Now I teach out of my studio, share freely on my website, and build and offer online courses. What will never get old is the part in the metal clay process when you see your silver piece finished for real; there is always a pause, a reflection in appreciation, and a moment of ‘wow!’”

Kris also sells her work. “I sell in about half a dozen shops in Montana. I sell in five locations within Glacier National Park, seasonally obviously. I sell online on Etsy. I sell out of an online retail jewelry site based in Brooklyn. Let me be clear that my work consists of boring production pieces that sell in numbers and creativity-inspired, experimental, one-of-a-kind pieces. You can guess then where each best sells, or if I sell one or more at all.”

I asked Kris what she’s currently working on. “I am not working on anything right now!” she laughed. “What I am doing instead is tumbling each piece on display in my studio (mostly Etsy items) then placing each in a zip-lock bag, adding one anti-tarnish square. You see, I used so much patina this winter, all my pieces tarnished.”

So what about the future? I asked Kris what she wants to achieve artistically or creatively in the years to come. “Sweet question. A vision is necessary, and I do not have one. I think my work could use some more character and artistic infusion. Having said that I need to add that I still believe metal clay has not been fully explored, so whatever I create I want it to be unique, original, outside the box, and new.”

She went on, “As far as where I’m going with my work, I’ll have to ask my hands. Will they hold up and are they willing to give me another five years or more? They are telling me to give up the production work. And to experiment and stretch myself more in silver and other metals. They are telling me to teach remotely way more. And to keep my Life Coaching office in town—I help artists and artisans reach their goals, too.”

 

To see more of Kris’s work or find out about her coaching business, she has multiple places online.

Website http://www.kriskramer.com/
The Silver Pendant on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheSilverPendant
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KrisKramerSilver/
Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/kk999silver/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kkdsilver/, https://www.instagram.com/ilovesilver962/ , and
https://www.instagram.com/shamantotems/
Kris Kramer Coach http://www.kriskramercoach.com/
I Love Silver for Online Courses http://i-love-silver.usefedora.com/

Julia Rai is an award winning artist, teacher and writer well known in the international metal clay community. Her work has featured in a wide range of publications and she writes regularly for print magazines and online. She teaches in her home studio in Cornwall and travels to teach by invitation.

PMC PRESENTS: Fleur de lis Necklace by Kris Kramer

My creations need to hold meaning for me, which is why this necklace has a hand-drawn, personalized version of a Fleur de lis. The Fleur de lis has had many meanings over time and in various contexts. To me the flames represent Love on the left, Power on the right, and Wisdom in the middle. The band holding them together signifies each one of us becomes a enlightened sovereign being when these three flame aspects – Love, Power and Wisdom – are in balanced.

You can make this necklace with whatever design you choose; that is, you do not have to use a Fleur de lis. And do select your own texture and doming shape(s).

It is helpful if you have a clear image in your mind and better yet a sketch. It matters not if your creation turns out like your sketch. For me, just looking at the sketch I begin to understand how I will need to construct the piece and if there are any obstacles to do so.

 

 

 

 

Firing Glass & White Bronze Clay by Carrie Story

Firing glass with bronze might sound impossible, but it is actually very easy to do. You still need to use carbon to assist the bronze with sintering. So, how do you protect the glass from getting carbon in it?

In this tutorial, I will explain how to build a steel mesh box to place over your glass during firing. This technique allows for limitless design options. And, white bronze is the perfect non-precious metal to use with your glass. It fires in exactly the correct range for adhering the glass to the surface of it.

We will be using Five Star Metal Clay and a two-phase firing schedule.

 

 

A hard look at the data behind your slow Etsy sales 2017 by Genevieve Tucci

why are my etsy sales down

Breathe. I know it’s been hard. The bottom dropped out in 2016 and things haven’t gotten much better with the same slow Etsy sales in 2017. You’ve probably seen the same mantra over & over again in forums or on “expert blogs”:

“Better Keywords, Better Photos, More Listings”

That’s not the full story.

slow etsy sales 2017

What?!
A different angle on why my Etsy sales may be down & actual data to back it up?!
Yes.
Continue reading…

Product Review: Five Star Metal Clays by Laura Moore

As a teacher, I feel I need to try every metal clay available so that I can give a knowledgeable opinion. Also, I love to explore and learn about new things! I recently had the opportunity to test the new Five Star Metal Clays made by Carrie Story at Clay Revolution.

This clay was created by Carrie Story, who says, “I have spent the last several years learning, experimenting and testing all sorts of clays. Developing Five Star Metal Clay was the result of finding each limitation and overcoming it. First, it needed to be pre-mixed. Eliminating that step for beginners was extremely important. Next, some color options to make it fun. Five Star Metal Clays come in Copper, Red Bronze, Bronze, Light Bronze, and White Bronze. This range of colors allows for beautiful mixed metal projects and a versatility of color options in non-precious metals. The clays are very smooth which picks up the finest of textures. Each is slightly flexible when dry which is the perfect density for the cutting machine projects. The dry state is also a great density for carving.

The clay comes in lump form in 20, 50, 100 and 200-gram packs. There are five colors; white bronze, light bronze, bronze, red bronze, and copper.  My first impression was that I love the packaging. It might seem trivial but the vacuum pack has a tear notch. So I don’t have to stop my momentum and pick up my scissors to cut the pack open.

The clay handles beautifully. It has a creamy feel and holds together well, making a nice rolled sheet. I had no problems with cracking during drying- sometimes I push the drying and use a bit of a high heat on the warming tray.

I make molds of botanic specimens and all the Five Star Metal Clays picked up the detail perfectly.

I did a little dry joining, making a paste by mixing a little bit if purified water with the clay. It mixed easily and after application, the join grabbed well. Post-fire I had a good solid attachment.

Sanding is a breeze!  I have been using Prometheus bronze clay. It is a very hard/ sturdy clay when dry; to sand the edges of a production run I use my Jooltool with a 220g wheel. With the Five Star Metal Clays, I can easily use 220g sandpaper or a sanding sponge. The same is true with the final damp edge finish if you use it. With Prometheus I have been using a damped cloth because it shreds any wet wipe I tried on it. I can now go back to wet wipes with the Five Star Metal Clays.

I experimented with combining two color clays; copper with the light bronze. The two clays joined nicely in the wet stage and held together during firing. It made a nice stand out detail on my piece.

Rehydration: I cut and dried some pieces I didn’t like so I ground them and doused them with some water. After rehydrating overnight, the clay was workable again and fired successfully.

The firing! Oh my goodness, the firing! Carrie has worked out the best firing schedule ever. Everything is in round numbers and thousand degree increments. Even I could memorize the simple two-step schedule. I keep a binder of all the clay instructions and always double check before I press start on my kiln. This is a life changer for me! All the clays use an open shelf 1000°F burn off for five minutes.  Then starting with the white bronze at 1300°F it goes up through the colors to 1700°F for copper. All the times are the same; of course, you can adjust for your particular project.

Polishing is fine with either the 3M brushes or a tumbler. All five colors polished to a bright shine. I used Rio’s Midas Oxidizer for bronze to bring out some of the detail. The white bronze did turn a little bit yellow/ gold hued with the patina.

I have enjoyed creating with this clay and it is going to become my go to clay for my bronze clay work.

 

Laura Moore is an artist from Newport Beach, CA. Laura comes from a family with a strong tradition in the arts and sciences. She is a Senior Art Clay Certified instructor, and Rio Grande certified in PMC, she also has a degree in chemistry, and an AS in Ornamental Horticulture. She has worked in wide variety of mediums such as textile arts, ceramics, and landscape design. Her latest expression is a line of jewelry featuring silver medallions made with impressions of plants and other elements from nature. Her medallions are handcrafted using Metal Clay.

www.billysabadkitty.com

 

 

Artist Profile – Anna Siivonen by Julia Rai

Swedish metal clay artist and designer Anna Siivonen has a very distinctive style which makes her work endlessly interesting if a little disturbing at times! She’s uncompromising in her subject matter and is equally comfortable producing cute or disquieting pieces. I’ve never met Anna but have admired her work for quite a while so I was really interested to find out more about her.

“I live in the suburbs of Stockholm in my grandmother’s old house,” she told me. “I live with my man, daughter, and cat. I work from home and spend most my days creating, dancing, doing yoga and hanging with my family. My childhood home is just a few kilometers from here and my mother still lives there.”

Anna has always been creative. “I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t creating in different mediums,” she began. “During the summers I spent weeks with my grandmother in the country side in Finland and she didn’t have any crafting materials so I came up with my own. Among other things I made monster sculptures with old newspapers that I wrinkled together and twisted thread around. I was an introvert kid with lots of imagination and time to kill. So I read and drew and crafted.”

She discovered metal clay quite some time ago.  “I first heard about silver clay in 2005 when I was searching the net for some information regarding ceramic clay. I got intrigued and signed up for the only metal clay class in Sweden that was available. I was blown away with the possibilities of the material but underwhelmed with the class since the teachers was nearly as new to the medium as me and didn’t seem to want to experiment and explore it as I did. The first thing I made was a G-clef that I later repurposed by melting it down to small balls that I made in to a raspberry.  I continued to explore, experiment and learn by myself and I ended up writing the first book about silver clay that was published in Sweden and Finland. Continue reading…

Artist Project Series: Anna Siivonen

This is the sixth project in the Artist Project Series.  Anna Siivonen from Sweden shows how she uses sterling silver metal clay and sterling silver wire. Anna is known for her small, whimsical sculpted metal clay jewellery and she brings that creativity to this project.

Materials and tools:
EZ960 10-20g Sterling Silver Metal Clay (available from Cool Tools)
20-25 cm 1,5 mm thick sterling silver wire
Kids modelling clay or any other cheap and easy to use clay to sketch in.
Paintbrush
Baby wipes
Scalpel
Pliers to cut with and pliers to bend wire with
3M radial bristle disc (120 grit)
Steel block
Rubber mallet
Common metal clay tools
Activated carbon and firing box
steel shot and a tumbler (if you want to give it that extra shine)

Step 1: Read through this step by step description before starting. You could also practice the steps by making the parts in modelling clay. I do a lot of my sketching in modelling clay or in copper or bronze clays. For this project I made several versions in modeling clay so I knew how big to make the parts so that the finished piece would have the size I wanted. You can scale up or possible down the size of the finished design depending on what you want to use it for. If you make the smallest component, the seeds, just a little bit bigger than I describe in the project the finished pieces will be quite a lot bigger. You can also change the design of this project quite easily by making more or less petals, changing their placement and adding other design elements. Try out different layouts in modelling clay before you start with the silver clay. Do not worry about making it perfect in modelling clay. It is more difficult to work in than metal clay in my opinion. If you are going to make a bracelet with a thin wire like in this project the design element should be kept small. To make this bracelet I used less than 10g of silver clay and a 1,5 mm thick and 22 cm long sterling silver wire.

Step 2: Start by making three “seeds” with silver clay, one slightly bigger and two smaller ones. I made my biggest about 1 cm long and the two other ones about 8 mm. Dry the seeds. My flower is going to have five petals and will need 5 seeds, but I begin with making only three so that I do not have that much to reconstitute if I were to change my mind about the size and numbers of petals while making it. Continue reading…

Did you make it to You Can Make It? by Joy Funnell

Petra and Stuart – our wonderful hosts

“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, the best weekend ever” “I’ve been to lots of metal clay conferences but this one stood out for me for the warmth and enthusiasm of the delegates” “It was just magical, everyone was so welcoming and friendly” “When I left I felt like I’d walked back through the door from Narnia” “I learnt so much and made so many new friends, and was still buzzing when I got home”

These are just a few of the comments from the attendees of the inaugural ‘You can make it’ event, who left at the end of the weekend feeling inspired, happy and with lots of new friends!

The YCMI Conference Tutors

You Can Make It 2017 took place in Wareham, Dorset, UK on the 24th – 26th March 2017. It was the brainchild of Petra Cameron Wennberg and was organised by her company Metal Clay Ltd. When Petra first approached me in 2016 to see if I might be interested in teaching at it I jumped at the chance. There hadn’t been any kind of large metal clay gathering in the UK for quite a few years and we were long overdue one. Petra was quite clear. She wanted to organise an event, but to be sure they could make the pricing viable they were asking if the tutors would be prepared to give their time for free – of course I said yes, and so did everyone else! We certainly weren’t going to miss out on it. Continue reading…

Book: Making Metal Clay Jewellery by Julia Rai

For eight years, Julia Rai and I have worked together to promote jewellery making.  Julia writes the artist profiles for Creative Fire and someday I’ll get her to sit still long enough so that I can interview her! Meanwhile this prolific writer and artist has a newly published book to share. The book includes 17 project tutorials giving step by step instructions to make beautiful jewellery in a home environment.

“This is the first book I’ve written and it was really interesting to see the process from start to finish. I have to say, Crowood Press who published the book, were terrific to work with. They guided me as a newbie author every step of the way and were such nice people to work with. It’s so exciting to see it finally in print and I really hope people enjoy it.” Continue reading…

Artist Profile – Iwona Tamborska by Julia Rai

As soon as I saw Polish artist Iwona Tamborska’s work, I knew I had to find out more about her. As a fan of fantasy, myth and fairy tales myself, her work really spoke to me. I asked Iwona what she considers her job title or profession to be. “That is a very good question as I noticed it is quite hard to explain,” she smiled. “I usually start with: ‘I am an artist and work with metal.’ If someone wants to know more, I continue: ‘My works are usually minimal scale sculptures and often have a use as jewelry’. I used to try to use the term ‘art jeweller’, but somehow people had the wrong idea of my work.” Continue reading…