Metal Clay 101- Paste: “The Thick And The Thin Of It” By Lora Hart

CompletedRepairIt happens to everyone. – both novices and masters. You’re working on a special piece of metal clay, and snap! Something breaks. Or you’re putting together a bead and can’t match the pattern at the seam. Or you simply want to join this element to that one. The most common response to any of these (and a million other) scenarios is to reach for that little pot of slip.

This brand calls it slip, but another refers to it as paste. What’s the diff? The names ‘Slip’ and ‘Paste’ are really interchangeable. In my mind, the real difference is dependant on the water content. Slip can be as thin as nail polish or yogurt while paste is thicker and more like spackle or nut butter. But whatever you call it, it’s one of the most valuable tools in your metal clay arsenal. Unfortunately not all metal clay manufacturers sell ready made slip. Luckily making your own is simple.

How To Make Slip:
1. Put a pea size lump of fresh clay on a piece of glass, plastic, or in a small dish.
2. Dip a spatula in water and blend that small amount into the clay thoroughly.
Repeat once or twice as desired. I call this ‘Sticky Slip’.
3. To make thinner slip, use a spritzer to add water instead of the spatula. Add just one or two sprays of water at a time and blend well to make sure you don’t thin the mixture too much.
4. Let the thinner slip ‘rest’ for a while to allow the binder time to absorb the water and become creamy. I let silver slip rest overnight.
5. Of course you can also add water to ground scraps or sanding remnants until you get the consistency you prefer.

How to Use It:
1. I primarily use sticky slip to join one element to another. I find that the thicker the slip/paste the better the join – especially in the wet stage before firing. Thin slip is, well, slippery and may not hold in the time it takes to dry. You can also use sticky slip to caulk a join in a box, or ‘print’ a design through a stencil.
2. Thin slip can be used to fill a very small divot or pin prick in dry clay, trailed off the tip of your brush to build up a ‘painted’ texture, and of course can also be used to join elements.

The main thing to remember when choosing what material to use for repairs is the water content. Water evaporates. So the more water, the more shrinking while drying, the shallower the repair will become. Which means you might have to repeat the repair over and over. It also means that there’s not much actual clay/metal in that repair, which means it’s weak and may fail after firing.

Fragment Brooch #4 - Use of slip as a texture - Slip PrintingYou also want to think about the position of a repair or join. To add an element on top of another piece of clay as in an appliqué , the slip can be thinner. But when trying to repair a break or make a butt joint, things get a little trickier and thicker slip might be more effective. In either case be sure to firmly hold the join for at least 4-5 seconds to make sure the pieces are really touching well, and not just ‘hydroplaning’ on each other. Experience will be your best teacher. Just pay attention to the clay, and it will show you what it needs to be the best it can be.

(Image at right: Fragment Brooch 4- Use of slip as a texture.)

MCAM 5.1_Page_13_Image_0001Lora Hart focuses on presenting narratives based on family history, world history and natural history. The objects and textures she uses bring forth a time and memory that are unique to each person’s own experience. Every piece is created with the intention of invoking a sense of the familiar, inviting the viewer to recall an experience, reflect on a bygone era, or re-imagine a distant landscape.

Lora was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and moved to historic Richmond, Virginia in 2012. Lora is the Artistic Advisor and one of twenty Senior Instructors for PMC Connection. A metal clay artist inspired by historic imagery, Lora’s work has been featured in books, magazines, and calendars and her jewels are sold in galleries and online. As a designer, educator, and creativity coach, her passion for the art and business of jewelry making has taken her across the United States to help other makers explore their own passions, develop their craft and expand their skills.

Step-by-Step Project: Sterling Wedding Band by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

Commissions–to take them or not is a question many artists have to figure out for themselves.  About ten years ago the parents of a friend of mine were celebrating a big anniversary and they wanted new wedding bands.  They came to me to make them. I was flattered and scared. The rings turned out well and they have been worn everyday for the past decade.  My friends’ father is a woodworker, gardener, golfer and has worked hard while wearing a fine silver ring…so you can guess that it has been pretty beaten up.  It was flattened and reshaped at one point which work-hardened a few spots.  Over time these spots weakened.  He asked if I could solder the opening.  I figured it would be much better to remake the ring in a stronger sterling silver metal clay.  So here I am with a ring I made over a decade ago–and I need to remake it– “Exactly the same. The fit and shape are perfect.” (Pictured is the old ring and the old texture plate.)

1The first thing I had to do was find the texture sheet I used over a decade ago….in another studio!  My studio moved from a shop I had downtown to my garage–then was cleaned out last summer.  Oy!  I remember finding the old texture sheets and tossing them.  But did I toss them in a “maybe I’ll teach metal clay again someday bin” or in the garbage?  It took me a few hours to find them…but I had them.  Whew!  “Exactly the same” rang in my head!  So here we go…I documented remaking this simple ring band so that you can follow along.

Artist Profile: Véronique Roy Interviewd by Julia Rai

Honeycomb necklace 2

I was introduced to the work of Canadian artist Véronique Roy by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and as soon as I saw her pieces, I knew this would be an interesting article. There is a simplicity and purity about her work that is so attractive, I really looked forward to learning more about her. Veronique was brought up in Montreal and now lives in a small village in the Laurentians which is a mountainous region in Québec, Canada.

“I consider myself as a creator, a maker and a jeweller. Also a businesswoman!” she told me. Her studio even has a name! “I work from a small workshop on the edge of the forest, in my backyard. To get there, I have to cross a little stream that runs through the land. The workshop was built three years ago, with the help of my friends. As my work was encroaching too much on the living space of the house, it was time for a change and to have an exclusive space for Brelokz (the name of my studio).” How cute is this snowy little house, like something out of a fairy tale?Workshop under the snowa

Véronique has always valued her creative side. “Creativity has always accompanied me in how I see life. When I look at things, my eyes capture details that can escape others at a first glance,” she says. “From the beginning, I felt that metal clay would play a central role in my professional development.” I asked her about her first experience with metal clay. “I discovered metal clay almost six years ago. I attended a training course to learn basic silver clay techniques. I immediately fell in love with this somewhat capricious material which allows working in so many different ways. I remember that my first piece (a pendant) was not at all to my taste, but it was a model that was required for certification in the course.”

I find the organic nature of Véronique’s work really aesthetically pleasing. “My creative process can find its initial spark anywhere! Ideas can germinate without my noticing it. Sometimes when I am taking a walk in the forest, or even when I am reading a newspaper article,” she explained. “Nature is my primary source of inspiration. Besides living in a small village in the countryside surrounded by mountains, I also have a personal interest and a formation in herbalism. These played an important role in paving the way to create jewellery from nature’s textures. One day, I was tending to my garden, and saw a tomato leaf wrapped around my finger, which brought a clear image of a leaf ring! Step by step, I started using leaves for my pieces. The four leaf rings are the first pieces that defined my artistic process. I consider them as the basic image that represents my collections. They capture the essence of nature. Simply.”4 Leaf Bronze Rings

“Initially, I started with medicinal plants thanks to the influence of my herbalist background. Then, I started looking for plant textures suitable for the material. Gradually, I evolved towards other materials, always keeping contact with my initial source of inspiration. Honeycombs found their way to my heart and imagination. Oak bark and coral were to follow. I use the materials as simple and pure as possible, without too much transformation, in order to preserve their primary nature. As a result, the essence of nature is captured in metal, eternally.Bark Bracelet
Honeycomb necklace 1
I asked Véronique about her creative process. “When the idea is there, I have to find the source material, and usually make it into a mold. As I only work from organic textures, I have to preserve them to be able to work with them even in winter, when they are buried deep in snow. After the mold is ready, I experiment, try, and test. As soon as I find the form and the finish that I wish to bring out, I go for it. Thus a new collection starts to see the day; quite simply. The process rarely involves designs or notes, but is mainly created in my mind and by taking action. This is also similar to how I live my life. If I have an idea, I have to put it into action as quickly as possible; otherwise, the idea loses its breath and lustre. Living with the passion of the moment!”

Véronique likes to keep her creative process somewhat separate from the rest of her life. “I am in the workshop to for the creation process, whereas I have an office at home for complementary processes such as packing online orders for mail,” she explained. “The workshop is the place where magic takes place, and each piece is created from A to Z. While I try to keep regular weekday work hours, in the period of exhibitions (about 15 shows a year) I usually work double time! You can call me someone organised in chaos, which is clearly reflected in my workspace. Forget the Pinterest image of a well decorated workshop, mine is quite far away from that. I make a big clean-up three times a year (!!!)”Workshop1

I asked Véronique to describe her style. “I like to follow trends from a safe distance as I don’t like them to influence my work. Trends come and go, changing in the blink of an eye, and sometimes enjoying rebirth after many years; whereas I prefer to create by remaining true to myself; thus my pieces remain timeless. I consider my style to be timeless, organic, and even pagan to a degree! Simplicity and beauty of nature is reflected on each piece.”

Véronique uses several other techniques in the production of her work in addition to metal clay. “I make my own earring hooks and rings. I recently started collaborating with a company where I have some of my pieces cast in .925 Sterling Silver. This new way of working allows me to give more time for the creative process while somewhat cutting down on the time required for production. A few pieces of my Oak Bark collection will also be offered in gold as of 2016 summer, thanks to a jeweller working with traditional techniques who helped to open a door for a new path!”

I asked Véronique what she does to relax. “Travel, discovering new places, new faces,” she began. “Last year, I had the chance to visit Costa-Rica. This summer, I intend to visit Turkey, and I dream about visiting Spain next year. This, for me, is a way to open the gates for inspiration and restoring the energy that is somewhat depleted come spring (winters are long in Québec). Therefore, I prepare my backpack and hit the road. I also like to read and go to music shows.” I asked her if she wore her own jewellery when she is travelling, or even day to day. “I love jewellery, I create them, but I only wear small bronze studs,” she laughed.

So where does Véronique see herself going with her jewellery creation? “I would simply like to continue finding inspiration,” she said. “Sometimes, around the month of January, I feel like the well is dried up and I will never have any more ideas! It is winter. The high season of shows has just ended, the excitement has waned, and I feel the need to think about the spring and new collection ideas. I ask myself whether I will be able to find new ideas, and continued inspiration is what I wish with all my heart!” She sells her work in several places. “I sell online, through my Etsy shop. My creations can also be found in several stores that sell works of Canadian creators. And I sell in exhibitions all over Québec and Ontario. I believe that by participating in shows throughout Québec and Ontario, I help demystify this material in the eyes of the public and traditional jewelers. I hope to continue doing this and presenting my creations while introducing the material so that one day people will get to know it better. I see myself continuing to work with this material as long as I have fun doing it, because, above all, it is the pleasure that keeps the passion going!” Absolutely!

Finally, I asked Véronique what she is currently working on. “At present, I am working on my Oak Bark collection as well as a small series of jewellery created from Lilac twigs.”Lilac Twig silver ring

It was such a pleasure to spend a little time getting to know Véronique and I look forward to seeing her new work in the years to come. To find out more about Véronique, visit her here…
www.brelokz.com www.facebook.com/Brelokz.Bijoux

www.instagram.com/brelokz https://www.etsy.com/shop/Brelokz

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JULIA RAI is a teacher, writer and artist working in a variety of media. She is the director of the Metal Clay Academy and runs the Cornwall School of Art, Craft and Jewellery. She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vying for attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.

Ow!!! Is Your Work Hurting You?

One night I tossed and turned in bed, sore…so sore. I started think about my day and to try to diagnose the causes for my pains.  My hands hurt.  That is easy to figure out…I work with my hands.  While I’ve had TWO carpel tunnel surgeries, my hands and wrists still hurt and still go numb.  I found this article about exercises for hands.  It reminded me that my hands and wrists would benefit from stretching and flexing exercises. I am trying several of their suggested exercises in the morning before I get out of bed.hands

My back and neck hurt too.  “Oy! The pain in my neck and back are killing me.”  Okay, maybe a little dramatic.  I was complaining to a friend who figured that my bench is too high.  I made my bench…it’s a Franken bench—and in theory it would be easy to cut some off the 2×4 legs.  Having tried this in the past and unsuccessfully cut each leg the same… I’m looking into a higher chair or a chair that adjusts better.  My studio chair was a road side find…so I’m sure there are better chairs to be found. franken desk 1

My body also hurts due to decisions I made while in my twenties such as jumping out of “perfectly good planes” with a parachute in the army. I have aches and pains that make sitting for long periods impossible.  To compensate I’ve learned to do many tasks standing up. I added a rubber gym mat where I stand to work, that helped.  And I added more lights—this may sound strange but more lighting improved my posture!  I wasn’t working at weird angles to get the best light.

Where I store my tools is also important to help keep my body happy.  I have a small studio and so I take advantage of all and any areas for storage.  Under my bench I put a set of drawers.  I added wheels and some pegboard to the side.  The idea was that I could pull it out of the way while using the bench and it would provide handy storage.  That is the theory.  In practice–I haven’t the room to pull it out, so I work squished to the left of the bench, the tools on the peg board are hard to get.  (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve dinged my head on my bench pin as I bent over and down to get a tool!)  Having tools handy is obviously important.  I think I’ve held on to this “system” too long and despite the time I spent building it and painting…it has to go.

I hope I’ve started you thinking about where you work and how you work.  For further reading, I recommend this paper that was presented at the 2010 Sante Fe Symposium on the topic of studio ergonomics for jewellers.  In the article, the authors show many examples of solutions from jewellery studios.

540704_577388125607677_846842341_nJeannette Froese LeBlanc is the editor at Cre8tiveFire.com and a jewellery artist. She is definitely “A glass 1/2 full kind of person”. She has learned to enjoy the journey and not solely focus on the destination, which is something her kids taught her.  Look down, look around, enjoy where you are.

 

Project: Miniature Jugs In Silver Metal Clay by Sue Heaser

1.2 extract images_Page_28_Image_0001aI always have loved jugs and I have a much-loved collection of milk jugs in all shapes and sizes. It was natural that I should want to make miniature jugs in pure silver! The project instructions will make a jug about ½” (13mm) high,which is equivalent to 6” (15cm) tall in the standard dollhouse scale of 1:12. These little jugs also look wonderful hanging on a charm bracelet.

The secret to sculpting small miniatures in metal clay is to make the rough shape of the object in fresh clay, dry it, and then refine the shape with sanding, repairing imperfections with paste as necessary.

 

 

Finding My Lost Creative Mojo in Time to Help Relief Efforts in Fort McMurray

EtsyAwards_Productslide_CountrySharing news about my own work feels very strange to me. I’d share this story in a heartbeat if it was about another artist. But I’m biting the bullet and sharing a story for my local paper. I now understand that people are sincere when they say “It is an honour to be nominated”. It really is an honour! I joined Etsy in March and applied for their “New Talent” award. I’m one of 60 Canadians in the contest.

Since the demise of our magazine “Metal Clay Artist” I lost my creative mojo. I floundered in my studio not really doing much more than organizing my supplies. That was until my friend, Alabama artist Kathleen Nowak Tucci quite literally kicked me in the butt! She invited me for a visit and had planned activities to spark my lost creative mojo. Etching aluminum caught my attention. I started by etching images my kids drew and I was hooked. Of course metal clay will work it’s way back into my jewellery line…I have ideas to pair etched aluminum components with metal clay pieces. But that’s going on in the background in my studio. Right now I’m trying to establish a business with my etched jewellery.

Metal Clay Artist Magazine had subscribers from all over the world…including subscribers in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I went through our list and tried to contact some of them to see how they were after the huge forest fire that took over their city. I actually found a few who had the same cell phone number as they had when they signed up for the magazine. They were happy to chat. At the same time that I was reaching out to artists, I found out I was in the running  for a $10,000 prize…but it is a “vote for me” contest. I’m currently in 7th place out of 60. I could win it if I had help. And in turn, I could help with relief efforts in Fort McMurray. Many of you know first hand how rocky things were here after the magazine business collapsed. Your generosity and that of my friend Kathleen are inspiring me to shamelessly promote the Etsy contest as I’d like to “Pay it forward” with the prize. So please… “vote for me”.  https://etsyawards.com/ca/Finalist-33/SassyandStella

fireFor background information on the situation in Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada: 1. http://globalnews.ca/news/2679437/fort-mcmurray-wildfire-pet-owners-desperate-to-save-animals-left-behind/

2.http://edmontonjournal.com/business/local-business/insurance-losses-from-fort-mcmurray-fire-could-top-9-billion-analyst-says

Local Artist Wants to Help Fort McMurray Relief Effort as She Competes for $10,000 Prize

Froese LeBlancJeannette Froese-LeBlanc is thrilled to be one of 10 Canadian finalists in the New Talent division and she is eligible for the “Community’s Choice Grand Prize” with a cash prize of $10,000. Voting is taking place online via: EtsyAwards.com in the “Canadian New Talent” division. As her votes come in, Jeannette is dreaming of ways she could use the prize to help with relief efforts in Fort McMurray.

For the past seven years Jeannette promoted the work of other jewellery artists in a magazine she produced called, “Metal Clay Artist”. It was distributed in 67 countries and it was a growing business. “Technology made it possible for 8 people to work in 3 different time zones! It was marvelous! Our editors and designers were located in Canada, the UK, and the USA. Unfortunately, our distributor declared bankruptcy and took ours and many other print magazines down with them. We’ve moved online thanks to our fabulous artistic community and site sponsors.” The new site for jewellery artists is called Creative Fire.

“After mourning the loss of the magazine for about a year, I slowly started to get back into my studio. But I wasn’t going anywhere with my work. A good friend of mine from Alabama invited me to her studio and taught me some techniques for etching aluminum. I haven’t stopped working in my studio since” remarks Jeannette. “It’s funny how even our creative muscles can suffer and get out of shape!”

Prior to starting a magazine, Jeannette was an artist and a school art teacher. “For years I worked in silver and metal clay. But aluminum has changed how I work and how I view patterns. The process takes many steps from setting up the image on my computer to masking the metal, etching, cleaning and polishing. Each step is very different and seeing the pattern evolve is very interesting and often leads me to new ideas.”

When asked why she named her studio “Sassy and Stella” she says, “I know online well as I’ve visited hundreds and hundreds of artists’ sites over the years. But I also knew no one ever spelled my name right so I needed a simple online address. Everything I wanted was taken. I spent weeks trying new names. I asked everyone I knew for suggestions and was just about to give up when my friend’s rescue dog “Sassy” came in the room…followed by her other dog “Stella”. On a whim, I tried their names for an online shop and ‘bingo’ I could get an online site! I think the name really works for my jewellery line, plus, Sassy and Stella are two very cool rescue dogs!”

“Winning this prize could certainly be a game changer for me!” said Jeannette. “There are things I dream of for my studio work that are out of my reach. But instead I want to help someone else. My friend in Alabama was generous in so many ways and I would like to pay it forward. I have so many ideas of how I think $10 000 could help others. I named my studio after two rescued stray dogs…so I think it is quite fitting that I find a way to help some of the animal shelters in Fort McMurray. Many people had to leave quickly and some couldn’t make it home to find their pets. Some pets ran away. Others had to let their farm animals loose as there was not enough time to transport them. I can only imagine how tight resources are in that city to help animals. The prize money could go to some shelters to meet their immediate needs.”

“I also know that there are artists in Fort McMurray are who will be affected by the down time for their businesses as the city recovers. I recently talked to a jewellery artist from the area about getting art supplies in the hands of artists, art students and teachers and hiring them to give free art lessons.  A lot of the area children could benefit from art therapy.  Creativity helps with stress and depression and there is a lot of healing to happen in the Fort McMurray area. This prize money could do a lot of good there.”

etsy finalist sassy and stella dot comTo vote for Jeannette Froese-LeBlanc: https://etsyawards.com/ca/Finalist-33/SassyandStella

Metal Clay 101: Rolling Textures by Kris Kramer

index1 When I rolled my first textures in metal clay, I was excited by the results and truly amazed at the level of detail the clay picked up. Then I moved on to a stage where I noticed tiny cracks in the clay, which left me rolling a texture more than once to get the results I wanted. Time went by and I began to notice double imprints or shadows in the designs, then various depths to my textures that I also didn’t like. I was evolving into a metal clay texture aficionado.

To save you months and years of becoming a texture expert, here are some tips for rolling clay for texture:
-Fresh clay makes for the best imprints.
-Always apply non-stick material to all surfaces that your clay touches. This includes your hands.
-Try to roll either from the top down or bottom up with open hands in one smooth,continuous roll for the cleanest details.
-Keep your texture mats clean, and store them in a clean storage container.

index3 index2Lora Hart gave the following technique a name that I had not heard before. She called this Reduction Rolling. Here is how to get the perfect texture, after you’ve incorporated all the above. The principle behind the Reduction technique is this: clay that is compressed only downward leaves a much better impression than clay that is compressed downward plus across the texture mat.
1. Roll your clay flat one or two cards thicker than your intended texture, depending on the depth of your desired texture.
2. Place this flat-rolled clay on the texture mat or tile with thickness cards or slats.
3. Roll to the desired thickness, as above.

Texture Mat Not Big Enough?
If your texture mat or tile is small so that thickness cards or slats are hard to position well, then use other cards, slats, or texture mats to build up platforms on each side on which to set your thickness tools.

kris_kramerAbout the Author: Kris’ home and studio are in Whitefish, Montana. Kris is a certified Precious Metal Clay (PMC) instructor at PMC Connection. She has taught metal clay classes at a community college, at art centers across the country, and out of her studio. Now her teaching presence is online at I Love Silver, which one can access via her website, kriskramer.com. Also at kriskramer.com is a video showing Kris’ art process, access to Kris’ Etsy shop, and lots of free information for all metal clay artists. Link for her page at PMCC: https://pmcconnection.com/education/teachers/kris_kramer

“Metal Clay 101″ is a monthly series of articles written by the teachers at PMC Connection.

Artist Profile-Patrik Kusek

 

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Patrik Kusek placed 2nd in this years Saul Bell Design Award in the Metal Clay Category.  I had a chance to ask him a few questions about his piece and his studio work.

2016_SBDA_PatrikKusekIN3 2016_SBDA_PatrikKusekIN2Creative Fire: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your Saul Bell Design Award winning piece?
Patrik Kusek: The piece if part of an ongoing series of work that deals with my mother’s dementia. Molds were made from 18th century plaster cameos called Tour Cameos. I used these to create each of the cameos in the necklace. Tour cameos were collected by Europeans while on their “Grand Tour” As long as 3 years were spent aboard learning about different cultures. I used the Tour Cameos as a metaphor for my mothers life. The fractures and spotty gold represent my mothers memory which is fading away.

CF: Could you have imagined today’s level of metal clay work 10 years ago? Do you think there will be the same level of technical advances in the next 10 years in metal clay art?
PK: I  could not have imagined the beautiful work that is made from metal clay today. When I first started using metal clay I could count on one hand the really great metal clay artists. Now we are fortunate enough to have wonderful artists world wide and the new generation is pushing creativity to it’s limits. I don’t think there will be much more advancement in metal clay. There might be smaller achievements but not breakthroughs of the past few years. Metal clay is just a material, and the focus for the future is expressing artistry through the medium of metal clay.

CF: Do you have any advice for a new to metal clay jewellery maker?
PK: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, we all make mistakes and with metal clay you can always reconstituted, recycle or refine it.
 
CF: You teach classes on your techniques. Do you have advice for your students about the difference between inspiration and the copying your work.
PK: It’s a thin line to walk sometimes because we encourage our students to copy our work in class but primarily to learn the technique. However they should take the technique and use it to express their own vision. Inspiration is a starting point, a jumping off point to express the idea. A good artist will put there own unique voice into the piece.
 
CF: What 5 tools do you always have on your bench?
PK: JUST 5????? JoolTool, Dockyard Carving tools, Textures rollers, Water, iPad for music or movies or CNN.

CF: What is your favourite quote?
PK: I don’t really have a favorite. It’s more like my favorite for now…”Commit to Mastery” I like this because it applies to just about any medium. As adults I think we can get too bogged down with being perfect right out of the gate. We need to remind our-self to take our time to really learn the process. If we commit to mastery it becomes a life long process not just a weekend workshop.
 
CF: If you could spend a day with any artist (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
PK: Picasso, Paris, 1920’s — need I say more?
 
CF: What’s next for you? (Art shows, lectures, new work….)
PK:I have a couple of videos coming out soon with Interweave. Base metal mosaics and micro mosaics. I love these techniques used in the video they are dramatic yet straightforward.
Thank you Patrik for taking the time to share your responses to our questions.  And once again, congratulations on your award.  Your design is stunning.
Reference: To see more about the Saul Bell Design Award and all of the winners and finalists: http://www.saulbellaward.com/Winners/Year/2016

Hot Topic: Copy-Cats

copycat

Image credit: www.mostlychelsea.com

cop·y·cat
ˈkäpēˌkat/
noun: copy-cat
-(especially in children’s use) a person who copies another’s behavior, dress, or ideas
-denoting an action, typically a crime, carried out in imitation of another.

Creative Chat with Artist Anna Mazoń

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We wanted to catch up Anna since our last interview in MCAM in the Fall of 2013.
I can’t believe it was 3 years ago already! Time flies and so many things happened since then. Thanks to Metal Clay Artist Magazine I started teaching in other countries – I travel a lot ever year and meet fantastic people all over the world. I also learned a lot of new, different techniques and refined those I already have been using. Recently I also started creating a permanent collection of my designs (in addition to my one of a kind pieces) using lost wax casting technique for making pieces from hand sculpted metal clay prototypes. This medium still excites me so much! It brings endless possibilities both for hobbyists creating things once in a while and full time businesses.in_the_eye_of_the_beholder04

Tell us how the style of your work has evolved? Where do you get your design inspirations?
I get my inspirations mostly from Nature, but understood in many different ways. Sometimes just straight from it – raw impressions, forms that I simply see during my walks or hiking trips. Trees, flowers, stones… Sometimes I find my inspiration in Nature as seen through “glasses” of ancient cultures – expressed in myths, old tales, folk songs, philosophy. I am also inspired by modern Earth­-based religions and sometimes fantasy books. Everything that explores our relation with Nature is my inspiration. Recently I am also taking a little journey inward, seeing myself as a form of a microcosm reflecting Nature. I focus on my emotions, reactions to loss and this intense longing to know the answers I will probably never know. This is still before me – I mostly have a lot of sketches, but I guess that my recent piece “Natura abhorret a vacuo” shows this direction the best.index

leshy01slavic_tales_autumn_biesGenerally I feel my style and designs are much more effortless now than there were a few years ago. I focus mostly on what I want to do, what I want to say, rather than how to do that from technical point of view. I see this tendency in whole metal clay community – more and more people are becoming really skilled in metal clay. We know more, we are able to do more. But the thing is that this is the point where real journey and challenges begin. When you can do whatever you have in your mind, then you have to face the question – what do I really WANT to do? How does is it really say “me”? What I want to say through what I do? WHY I am doing this in the first place?lunula

startled strachy_na_lachyThe style and design of your work is very recognizable. How long has it taken you get to the place that your artistic voice is so strong?
Honestly I feel that finding your own style is a process which starts far before you even think about actually creating something. It’s like a potential, a seed within you which is nurtured by your upbringing, by things that happen to you, your actions and all things around you. When you start making things – bringing them from your mind into physical plane – it sprouts. For me it felt like the most natural thing in the world – like speaking my mother tongue. I knew since I made my very first piece of jewellery that this is my style. But don’t get me wrong – the fact that you discover your style is only the beginning. This is were years of hard work (and fun!) start. You have to learn to use it in a beautiful, skillful way. Just like we can speak a language just so­ so, struggling to barely communicate or to create most beautiful, refined poems, saying words straight from your heart. For me it took years, and I feel I still have so much to learn! Exercising your artistic voice is a never-ending, exciting journey. I think that my point is that your style, your designs feel genuine, truthful, only when they come from within you, from who you are, who you are becoming during your whole life, what you actually feel. Otherwise it’s just like trying on masks in a shop. The effect might be pretty, might be interesting, but will never be true.

cobalt_faeryYou teach classes on your techniques. Do you have advice for your students about the difference between inspiration and the copying your work.
Funnily, people who try to copy my style or particular pieces are not those who take my classes or even meet me in real life. During my workshops I teach skills, certain techniques which lead every student to creating a piece that is completely different, depending on who they are, what they like, where they are on their journey of creating their strong artistic voice. It’s just amazing to see how varied are pieces made during each of my classes, even though, they are constructed using exactly the same techniques. It’s also super inspiring and humbling for me. A few days ago I came back from United Kingdom, where for the first time I taught a new, two days class, I created this year. I brought some class samples as I usually do, I thought I knew what kind of pieces I might expect from students. But then – it turned out that at the end of the class I saw a whole bunch of pieces I would never even think about in a million years! This is the most rewarding experience both for the teacher and students. That’s why I always give my students time to look at the samples, to think about what they want to make, to plan a design, I encourage them to bring their sketchbooks if they have one. I always say, that spending time on designing, even during the class, is really worth it. You don’t want to spend 2­3 days working on something that you hate ;­) or doesn’t feel right, because it’s completely not you.

index22Again – I think teaching classes, in a way is similar to language lessons. I am just trying to add some new “words” or, lets say, “grammar constructions” to my student’s vocabulary. They can use them in as many different ways as possible. We are all very different and we came from different places and this is the most beautiful thing to me. But even if you attend classes where you recreate a particular project from beginning to the end, situation is exactly the same. You don’t learn a poem by heart to repeat it over and over in random moments. You learn it because it makes you a more beautiful person. It enriches you. It enables you to maybe create something on your own.

golden_roadWe have noticed that there are imitators of your style. Some people say that it should be considered flattery. What are your thoughts?
Ha. That’s a difficult question. On purely intellectual level I believe this is, indeed, a form of flattery. But it doesn’t feel like one at all. Situations when your work is being imitated are simply super stressful, hurtful and disheartening. It feels really unfair, when you know how long was your journey, how much of yourself you put in your work, and then someone just takes superficial, visual layer of it, and recreates it. Just because they are manually skilled, and for some reason they thought it would make them successful in one way or another. In such situations you just wonder if people see the difference at all. I also wonder what a copyist have to feel. I usually choose to believe that maybe they don’t really understand what they are doing. But that’s just me :­). I can’t imagine someone consciously choosing copying if they have something to say on their own. It would be just excruciating to hide behind a mask all the time. I also wonder if such situations affect me financially – I won’t pretend – my passion is also my work and source of income. Being copied not only means having your feelings hurt, but also a possible financial loss. I think that copying is not totally bad though – personally I believe it’s ok to learn by copying, if it’s your way of learning, perfecting your skills. But then just don’t publish what you make, and definitely don’t call it your own. It’s as simple as that.knotted_tree_of_life over_the_waves

Thank you Anna for taking the time to chat with us!  Best wishes on your upcoming classes!

Where to find Anna: http://drakonaria.com/
http://drakonaria.etsy.com/
http://en.dawanda.com/shop/drakonaria

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