Don’t be afraid to experiment with other shapes, patterns, or textures. The easy techniques used in this project can be applied to many other design possibilities.
About the artist:
Marco Fleseri has been making jewelry for nearly three decades. Inspired by geometry, ancient artifacts, biology, and at times the other-worldly, his creations range in style from geometric and mechanical to organic and biological, incorporating gemstones, natural crystals, fossils, or recycled glass with silver, copper, bronze, and gold. Marco produces one-of-a-kind jewelry as well as some limited edition reproductions of his pieces, using time-honored traditional metal-working techniques (fabrication, casting, etc.) as well as newer innovative methods such as metal clay, polymer, and foldforming.
Genevieve Tucci Raised in Baton Rouge as part of an entrepreneurial and artistic family, my passion for creating began at a very early age in my mother’s art studio where I would sit every evening watching her paint, sculpt and design. I was extremely fortunate to attend Baton Rouge Magnet High School which offered stagecraft as an elective. Mrs. Ory, a saint in her own right, gave me confidence and the foundation to safely use powerful saws and tools while my mother gave me the confidence to learn any skill. After graduating LSU with a degree in Arts Administration, I strived for daily creative outlets in order the escape the 9-to-5 and this was also the time my husband and I bought our first home. It meant all the home projects I had been looking forward to could finally happen! It also meant my husband could get me power tools for Christmas, and I would be okay with it.
Thank you readers for another year together creating new jewellery and sharing new ideas. Creative Fire is as always–for metal clay artists, by metal clay artists. It is our community of artists who generously contribute articles and share their photos and techniques. I am forever grateful and proud of our unique international community. We all are striving to learn and better our work as artists.
As seven years of jewellery making draws to a close I’d also like to thank our sponsors for continuing to support our site. PMC Connection, Mitsubishi Trading Materials Corporation, Rio Grande, Cool Tools, Metal Adventures and Metal Clay Academy.
Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and Happy New Year!
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
Editor, Creative Fire www.cre8tivefire.com
We are proud to present the 2nd project in a series brought to you by Cool Tools using their new metal clay, EZ960™ Sterling Silver Metal Clay. Cindy Miller created a beautiful project that both new and experienced metal clay artists will enjoy.
Images of owls have been recorded in art and literature throughout history from the Greek and Romans to numerous Native American tribes. The owl represents wisdom and is associated with inner sight. The owl is associated with the night it has played on the imagination of people throughout time. Here’s a link to learn more about Owl mythology. This is Cindy’s interpretation of an owl totem amulet necklace.
To learn more about our featured artist, please see Cindy’s artist profile by Julia Rai. Cindy was very candid and talked about her journey to becoming a full time jewellery designer.
List of Tools and Materials for the project:
50 grams EZ960™ Sterling Silver Metal Clay
Sculpey III polymer clay
Small Rubber Tipped Shaper Tool
3M Sanding Pads (fine and extra fine)
Wet-Dry sand paper (400 and 600 grit)
3/8 and 3/16 inch circle Kemper Kutters
Small angled sable paint brush
Liver of Sulfur
Optional: Silver Oil paste, 2-bezel cups and 2- 4mm gemstones
Electric programmable kiln
Creating the polymer clay form:
Use conditioned clay to create a ball of clay about 1.5 inches in diameter.
Shape the ball into a slightly flattened rounded heart shape
Place both index fingers on the top of the shape and press to create two eye orbits. There should be a ridge of clay between the eye orbits.
Refine to make the form symmetrical.
Bake using the manufacturer’s instructions.
Wrapping the form:
Roll out the EZ960 sterling clay to 3 cards thick. Use the entire 50 gram pack in order to get an area large enough to cover the form. You will recover the unused clay for use later in the project.
Lightly oil the owl form with olive oil or silicon spray. Gently drape the rolled out clay over the form making sure not to stretch the clay. Gently pat the clay down to adhere to the form. You may need to pinch pleats in the clay around the bottom to get it to form correctly.
Using a tissue blade to trim the clay around the bottom of the form. You will want about 1/4 inch showing on the bottom of the form. This is important in releasing the clay later.
Roll out a small bit of clay to attach as the beak. The shape should be a tapered tube. Using a little slip attach the beak between the eye orbits making sure the edges are securely attached.
Create two small holes for the nostrils at the top of the beak.
Return the remaining clay to an air tight container.
Sculpting the pendant:
When the owl is dry use a fine sponge sanding pad to gently sand the entire pendant. This will soften the sculpting marks. If you find that you want more “feathers” just spritz your pendant with water and wait until the clay has re-soften to the point where you can move the clay with your tools. Allow to re-dry before moving forward.
Gently remove the owl from the polymer form. If the inside is still damp then allow the inside to dry before moving forward.
Sand the back flat by placing the owl on a sheet of 400 grit sandpaper. Use figure 8 motions to sand the pendant
Roll out the remaining clay to 2 cards thick. Lay the owl head on top of the clay and cut out a shape for the back leaving enough room for shrinkage as the clay dries (about 1/8 inch). Cut out a circle in the middle of the back. Make sure your circle is small enough to leave room for attaching bails. Allow to dry.
Assemble the front and the back using ample amounts of slip. Allow to dry. Cut off the excess clay from the back and then use a sanding pad to remove the remaining clay all the way to the seam. Fill any gaps with slip and then dry and sand again until you have a seamless joint.
Cut out two circles .25 wide and 3 cards thick. Cut out the centers leaving to rings for use to define the owl’s eyes. Once dry attach the rings to the center of the eye orbits with slip.
Cut three more rings to attach as bails to the back side of the pendant. Cut the bottom of the rings off just below the inside circle. This will give you a flat spot to use when attaching the rings to the back of the pendant. Rings should be 3 cards thick. The third ring attachment located at the bottom of the pendant is optional. I like to have the option of adding charms to the bottom. Allow the rings to rings to dry then attach with slip.
Use a needle file to refine the beak. Gently file a groove on either side of the beak at the base and then sand.
Sand the entire pendant with an extra fine sanding pad and brush the dust from the surface.
Firing and Finishing:
Support the pendant using vermiculite so that the bails on the back of the pendant do not collapse.
Fire using manufacturers instructions.
After firing, clean the silver with brass brushes, 600 grit sand paper or tumbling if you have a tumbler. I use a magnetic tumbler for about 30 minutes and then tumble with steel shot in a rotary tumbler.
At this point you have the option of re-firing the owl pendant to add bezel cups to the eyes for gemstones. Make sure you rough up the bottom of the bezel cups using a metal file. Use silver clay oil paste to attach the bezel cups. Allow to dry completely then fire again for 45 min. at 1600 (full ramp). After firing you will need to re-polish the pendant in preparation for applying a patina.
Use liver of sulfur to bring up the details in the sculpted areas. I allowed the liver of sulfur to go completely black before polishing but you can stop the process at any stage depending on the coloring you would like to achieve.
Polish the beak and the edges of the eye orbit to a high shine. This will help to define the heart-shape face that is specific to the barn owl. Buff the pendant sides and inside the eye sockets with a heavier grit sand paper (400 grit) to create a contrasting satin finish. This will give the pendant more dimension and highlight the major features of the owl’s face.
I’ve opted to add silver charms to the bottom of this pendant as part of the finished design but this pendant works equally well simply hung from a silver chain.
Cindy Miller is a full-time studio artist living in Huntsville, Alabama. She is one of 200 artist that work at the Lowe Mill complex; the country’s largest privately owned artist community. She has a background in art and anthropology so many of her designs have a cultural component or theme.
A few artist friends have mentioned how bold customers are getting asking for discounts. Oh I know how difficult that is to deal with when you are put on the spot. You want to make a sale, but not at that price. An artist who sells only online says that online customers are even bolder and will ask for 50% discounts. Sometimes even asking for free products in exchange for an article or promotion. The internet seems to give people a veil to hide behind as they are not saying things to the person’s face. An experienced artist once told me not to lower my prices and not to bend to the pressure of discounts. She said that it was so easy to go down in prices, but to bring them back up is harder. If your new low price is known, it becomes your new price.
As the time before the holidays speeds up and patience runs thin, this is a great time for you to set your business apart from the rest. Instead of just making a sale–go above and beyond with your customer service. Did you know that there were trends in customer service? Me neither! I found this article about it. Things to think about adding to the service you give your clients:
Make it easy for customers to get help from real people;
Obsess over every detail of the customer experience;
Be proactive, and don’t wait behind a desk for customer contact
The last point is a good one…ask your customers for feedback. Sounds scary. But it is a great way to learn ways to modify designs, packaging, shipping…etc. I’ve done this in the past and have turned a few buyers into friends. I took their advice and modified my jewellery designs. Win-Win for both of us.
The ocarina is an instrument that still remains beautiful today but connects us to the very roots of art and music. With this project, I will share how I make a whistle from metal clay, and then tune it to create a musical instrument.
Project: Carrie Michael
Photos and illustrations: Carrie Michael
Editing: Joy Funnell and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
Imagine chatting about the history and the future of jewelry design while sitting in a warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with boxes and boxes of mostly vintage beads and jewelry making components. What an astounding wonderland of inspiration! I metwithCarlandElyseSchimel,co-ownersofCJSSalesinNewYork City, one of my favorite places to head for a creative boost.
(Image: Wire wrapped stone necklace design by Carl Schimel.)
The CJS Sales warehouse is located on 36th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in New York City. Savvy jewelry designers can spend hours poring through this extraordinary trea-sure trove that holds literally millions of vintage beads and jewelry making supplies with limitless design potential. The Schimels are constantly seeking out great buys on anything that might be used for making jewelry and accessories.
“We bought a chandelier store that went out of business…[and] a rhinestone factory. We try to keep things that will be inspiration for people and [are] also unusual and different. We price at what we bought it at, so you can get quality vintage parts that are not found on today’s mar- ket at great prices,” said Elyse. To help designers compete and allow their work to stand out, Elyse and Carl sell only to wholesale customers who come to the warehouse. “We do not sell on the internet or show broad images. We do this to protect our buyers. Our customers are very knowledgeable. We believe in promoting design- ers, fostering new ones, to give them an edge.”
(Image: The Milwaukee Sentinel – July 31, 1969)
As a jewelry maker, I marvel that Carl stayed constantly ahead of the curve with his fashion-forward jewelry designs for more than 50 years. It was fascinating to listen to him talk about why he created the line and the manufacturing hurdles he had to overcome to get “Kim Crafts- men” jewelry out to buyers.
I was curious about how the Kim Craftsmen showroom and design space morphed into this vast warehouse of jewelry making supplies.
Elyse explained, “When Carl was liquidating [his jewelry manufacturing business] I started cold calling people. He thought it was cute [and] he was giving me a 100% commission. I started to bring in big accounts, he started to buy [at] fire sales and we started a wholesale liquidation business.” Carl adds, “If I had to describe the business I’d say it is a designer’s quarry. Designers come here to dig out treasures.”
I can personally attest to the digging! When I pay Carl and Elyse’s warehouse a visit, I come prepared by dressing as if I were to go climbing, I bring a rolling suitcase (after one visit where I lugged 30 lbs of beads in a shoulder bag thirteen blocks in NYC) and of course water and a cell phone—in case I get lost or to keep track of time. Losing a day in here is an easy thing to do!
As Elyse showed Art Deco glass beads, unfinished brooch components from the 1950s and mouth-blown glass beads, her father talked about how the artist’s hand should be apparent in his or her work. Carl used the term analog to explain how he worked. “To me [using] a pencil is analog. When you write with a pencil there’s pressure, there’s a difference in how it looks. You can write the same thing ten times…it will be the same each time but [also] different. When I caged stones using wire wrapping the concept being used was ‘mass individuality’; everyonecould have a caged stone but all of them were different.” Today he is intrigued by the idea of what he might have made if metal clay had been on the market when he was making fashion jewelry. “What happens is, as an artist you use the materials that are available at that time in the best ways that you can. But can you imag- ine what Alexander Calder would have done if [metal clay] had been available to him?”
Elyse models one of her father’s body jewelry pieces. This image is reminiscent of a photo from a 1969 newspaper article about his work.
Calder, a world renowned sculptor best known for inventing the hanging kinetic sculp- ture form known as a mobile, had a tremendous influence on Carl’s jewelry design. “When I got his…enormous book of jewelry it showed him working in his studio…a lot of his style of jewelry was much more understandable to me. He wasn’t using goldsmith tools, sized for jewelry making. His tools were large anvils with heavy handles, blacksmith tools, as he was used to making large mobiles and stabiles so there’s immediacy to the way Calder worked, and it showed in his work. If you look at his pieces, there’s a freshness still to his work. You can feel the hand, the way he twisted and moved to create his pieces. That’s analog!” Carl exclaimed. “You can always recognize his tools…for example if he used a hammer with a scratch on it, it would show on his piece like a fingerprint.” Carl went on to explain how metal clay is analog. “It is hands-on. In an age where a tremendous amount of design is going digital, the look is just opposite—180 degrees opposite. I’m sure [the artists using digital design tools] are very, very fine designers. It doesn’t look like jewelry that I’m used to. Metal clay takes me back to when we made jewelry. And we wanted to call it ‘Artistry in Metal’ because at that time, in the 50s and 60s and 70s, bench designers sat down and worked with the material, they under- stood the material. Metal clay is another vehicle for artists to express themselves. It is a phenomenal material….”
(Photos of jewelry by Kim Craftsmen, a company owned by Carl Schimel and his brother.)
I couldn’t agree more! Combine metal clay with some of the vintage beads and findings at CJS Sales and you’d have an exquisite combination of a modern material matched with vintage beads. If travel to New York City is not an option, seek out your own local charity, “antique” shops, or online for vintage elements to add to your own jewelry. When I find my creativity waning, a visit here spurs new ideas in new directions. It is like going to a museum for in- spiration, except that here you can take home the items that inspire you and use them in your work! Elyse showed me old pedals from a ma- chine. I forget what machine they were for because I was focused on the typeface used for the logotype imprinted on them! Inspiration for a new line of necklaces, perhaps? Now how to explain to the TSA agents at the airport that I need to bring home a half dozen metal pedals even though I have no idea what they are for!
CJS Sales: www.cjssales.com, 16 West 36th Street, 2nd floor, between 5th and 6th Aves., New York, New York 10018 (212) 244-1400
It is very hard for some artists to write an artist statement and it is sometimes equally hard for others to read. It is easier to write a bio and to tell others where you’ve been and what you’ve done. But it is so much harder to explain why.
Having an artist statement prepared is a great way for customers to connect with your work and it gives shops and galleries “sound bites” to use to promote your work. After having suffered through the agony of writing my own artist statement I can tell you that the most important thing about an artist statement is the process of writing one. I found it helped me sort out my own artistic history and methods. It has helped me to clarify the direction of my work and it has jump started a new body of work. Despite already knowing how important one was to have, it’s not something I’d written for myself.
I rewrote my artist statement. (After I raided my kids’ trick or treat bags, walked the dog, tidied my studio…procrastination is one of my rituals before writing.) I read some guidelines about artist statements and I started over. I hope my new version is a real artist statement. And I hope that when you need to write one you can remember that they are very hard for most artists to write—give yourself a break.
Wet, dry, push, pull. Whatever method you choose, with time and a little practice you can create beautifully carved metal clay.
Carving in wet clay can give you curved edges and a sculptural feel. (See opening photo.) The clay is wet and the tools used are generally soft and rounded. Wet clay added to wet clay can be shaped by pushing the clay into place. Large amounts of wet metal clay can be cut off and small amounts brushed off with a wet brush. Often artists working “wet on wet” will simply brush each side of clay to be joined with a swish of water from a paint brush. Just about any tool can be used with wet metal clay and most people like to use traditional clay carving tools. In general carving wet clay involves a pulling technique, where the tool is being pulled toward you to remove clay. Another way to think about it is that the clay you are removing is moving toward you. Fortunately, clay carving tools are readily available and inexpensive.
The method that I prefer is carving dry clay, which creates crisp, clean lines even on textured surfaces. (See Cat Tail Brooch photo.)I use micro wood carving tools to do this. When using a wood carving tool, you will be using a pushing motion to remove clay. The clay you are removing will be coming off the tool in front of your tool. Keep in mind, you can achieve a slightly different result depending on whether you carve into leather hard or fully dry clay. Fully dry clay will create more resistance which can give you more control, especially when you are first starting.
I generally use a pencil to draw my carving lines if I am doing a detailed carving or I want very crisp, specific cuts in my clay. If I want a more organic look, I will only mark starts and stops for my lines. I will then do a very shallow carve to create a guide for the tool when I am carving deeper. This allows me to move the first cut along a line, easily seeing my marks in front of the tool. After the shallow groove is in, I let carving tool to track in the groove while making the deeper cuts.
The trick to nice clean carvings is to remove a little clay at a time. You can always remove more clay, but it is often difficult to cleanly add clay back where you have removed too much. Also, make sure your piece has good support under it where you are carving. If you are carving a domed piece, leave the piece on the form while carving.
As always, safety is key when you are carving. Clay carving tools can be sharp and pointy and can easily injure if you are not paying attention. If you are using wood carving tools, note that these are extremely sharp and placement of your hands so the tool is always moving away from your fingers is important.
Once you have control of your carving technique, you can carve shallow, intricate designs. You can also take a completely different approach and create negative spaces by carving all the way through a layer of clay to make an open space. The sky’s the limit. Enjoy!
Dona’s love of jewelry began as a child, sitting on the floor for hours with her mom’s jewelry box. She began designing her own jewelry in high school and spent time studying the work of a jewelry designer and family friend. During her career in high tech, Dona traveled the world fascinated by the cultures and their use of color and texture.
After leaving the high-tech world, Dona returned to her love of jewelry design. Her work is influenced by the places she has lived and traveled, bringing the textures of nature into her designs. Her love of stones is featured in her one-of-a-kind pieces which showcase the stones she has collected.
Dona currently teaches classes in jewelry design and techniques. Her students continue to be an inspiration to her, fascinating her with the unique perspective each student has conceptually and artistically.
Dona is an award winning artist. Her work is featured in stores and galleries throughout the Northwest and in print.