“I’d love to visit your studio!” by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

w-studio
Not my studio…

Nothing stops me in my tracks quicker than a friendly offer to come to my studio.  My studio has been a mess for years. Last summer I started the mammoth task of cleaning it up. I think it looks pretty good now, but I still fear company. I used to blame the mess. I’ve recently come to the realization that I have other reasons. (Photo is NOT my studio…this is from the magazine Where Women Create, May 2014.)

One of the reasons is that my space is very personal.  I have treasures on display…but not on public display. Rocks collected in Newfoundland, a kazoo Santa gave me, my military dog tags, a metal toy kitchen that was my mother’s, an old lamp in the shape of a green Buddha…stuff I like but that I don’t want to explain to another person why they are special. Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101: Metal Clay “Snakes” – What Are They Good For? By Delia Marsellos-Traister

There are so many creative possibilities with metal clay. One opportunity is to roll coils, or as many of us lovingly call “snakes”. Coils may be used for bails, decorative accents, or as a primary part of a piece.

Right off the bat, let me tell you, that rolled coils, are stronger than syringe coils. There is more metal content by volume in lump clay then there is in syringe clay. This extra strength comes with a trade-off, though. Coils take a while to dry when compared with a rolled-out, flat, piece of clay due to the extra volume. Give coils a good hour to dry in air. If after ten minutes of air-drying, your coil seems stable enough to put in a dehydrator or on top of a warmer, then go ahead and do that. Take care that you don’t move your coil too soon. Otherwise, you risk flattening one side or picking up texture from the tray.

OKAY!  Let’s go!

IMG_3089 Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Jennifer Kahn Rich by Julia Rai

This interview appeared in the 2nd anniversary issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine in 2011.  We loved Jen’s work then and continue to follow her career as a jewellery designer.  (Note: New pieces from 2016 appear at the end of the article along with contact information to see the entire collection.)

MCAM 2.3_Page_37_Image_0003MCAM 2.3_Page_37_Image_0001Jennifer Kahn was born in Miami, Florida and spent her childhood in Marietta, Georgia. At age 10 she moved to Westchester, New York, where she lived until she left to attend the University of Vermont. As she put it, “I seem to have slowly worked my way up the East coast, despite hating the cold!”

MCAM 2.3_Page_37_Image_0002I asked Jen about her earliest creative memory. “My mom would say that it was the way I dressed, mixing colors, patterns, putting outfits together at a very young age. She gave me the freedom to be creative in everything I did. I loved to draw, paint, pretend, decorate things, build forts and create exotic mud stews. I remember making copper jewelry in camp and really loving it.” Jen told me that she always has loved making things and working with her hands but that she didn’t take those activities seriously until she was in college. “I was an English major and wrote poetry, but I didn’t know how those things could have real world applications. I loved my art classes more than anything and my teachers were very encouraging, so I switched to a double major in English and Art. I took every art class available but nothing quite struck me. I knew I liked working small and I most liked the working properties of clay. After working with PMC for a while, I knew I wanted to be a jewelry artist.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0005 MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0004Jen discovered PMC in 2000 during her senior year at the University of Vermont while she was working at the Frog Hollow Gallery in Burlington, VT. “They carried Celie Fago’s amazing jewelry. When she was the featured artist of the month they had a wall of photos of her working with PMC and a display showing a lump of PMC and her finished work. All I could think was, ‘This made that?’ I couldn’t believe such a material existed and it was coming along at a perfect time in my life. I loved the fact that you could work it like clay but that the finished piece was pure silver. I also loved jewelry, so the idea of making my own was very exciting.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0002 MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0001Jen didn’t take to it instantly, though. “Initially I ordered some [PMC] and started working with it in the air, sculpting a little moon. It was drying and cracking before my eyes and the whole experience was very frustrating. I asked my pottery teacher to fire it for me and he was a bit put off [about] using the huge kiln to fire this tiny little cracked moon. I took Celie’s class a few weeks later and learned to work on top of Teflon and under a sheet protector to delay the drying and cracking. The pieces were fired in a small jewelry kiln. By the end of the class I felt confident about working with this strange stuff.”

That experience changed Jen’s life. “Upon graduation I became Celie’s live-in apprentice and teaching assistant and I accompanied her on her travels around the country and abroad,” Jen explained.

MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0003 MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0002I asked Jen what influences her work. “I’m drawn to and inspired by primitive and ancient artifacts and adornment because of the meaning infused into them. These pieces tell stories. They are connected to rituals, history, the land; they carry powers of protection, prosperity. They are culturally rich and full of identity. These days, it’s hard to feel connected, to feel meaning. Everything is so
anonymous and mass-produced. I like the idea of reaching back into time, reaching out into distant lands and pulling those primitive styles forward, adding my voice and giving them a contemporary edge.”

She continued, “I’m fascinated by the way things are put together –patched, hinged, riveted, stitched – and often incorporate such connections in my pieces. I gather inspiration from a pattern on a textile, the texture of a leaf, beautiful, old rusty things. I’m constantly trying to fuse old and new, industrial and natural, urban and ethnic.” Jen cites her Journey Necklace as a good example of her influences.

MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0003Jen does most of her work at a desk in her room. She’s just now setting up a studio space in a spare room for her flex shaft, kiln and torch. “I end up doing a lot of wire work and finishing at the kitchen table by the fire – Vermont winters are long and cold!” Her favourite tool isn’t much of a surprise: “Celie’s Nesting Tube Set! She makes a set of brass tubes in eight different sizes that all telescope on a beautiful spiral holder,” Jen explains. The tubes are used for cutting holes or small clay circles.

Her creative process is interesting and she sketches out designs whenever inspiration strikes. “I keep a few sketchbooks. I’ll start one and too much time will pass so I’ll start another, and before I know it I have three half-used books sitting around. More often I’m sketching on the back of receipts or envelopes. My sketchbooks aren’t organized at all. I guess I think of them chronologically and can find things that way.” “Some ideas spring from designs I’ve made already. I like to take [existing] pieces that I make in new directions. When I need inspiration I search the web and through books on ancient and ethnic jewelry. I also flip through fashion magazines. Sometimes an idea will just come to me while I’m driving or as I’m falling asleep. I’ll do a quick sketch and try it out the next time I work.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0001She uses several different techniques in her work. “I use wire work – lots of bead wraps. I love stitching with wire and making metal clay bases for things I can add wire to. I also love riveting.” I asked her what other skills she felt were important for metal clay artists to develop. “Basic metalworking skills: fusing, soldering, cold connections. The more skills you pick up, the more complex your jewelry will become.”

I asked Jen what advice she would give someone who is new to metal clay. “Well, this really is a tip for any artist. Celie told me early on that it’s important that every part of a piece has been thought about. She would say that the back is another opportunity for creativity. For this reason, many of my pieces are reversible. It is a joy to watch people turn my pieces over and be surprised by the other side.” Her necklace with nine large, bezel-set Chinese turquoise cabochons is a perfect example; the backs of the settings are as beautiful as the fronts. I asked her how she constructed this impressive piece. “All the stones were set after firing. The backs of the settings were textured and the bezel walls were made with PMC Sheet. I made the settings 118% bigger than the finished size so that the stones would fit right in after firing. Then I set them as a metalsmith would with a bezel pusher and a burnisher.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0004Jen’s work has appeared in several prestigious publications. “I wrote several articles on setting stones in PMC after firing, followed by a chapter on that subject for Tim McCreight’s book PMC Technic. I was so honored to be a part of that! I also have work in Tim’s book PMC Decade and in Robert Dancik’s Amulets and Talismans. Last year I wrote a chapter on fabric earrings for a Lark book [by Marthe Le Van] called Stitched Jewels and my work was on the cover!” Jen also has won a couple of awards. “In 2003 I won second place in a national juried exhibit by Fred Woell called ‘Positively Precious Metal Clay’.

jk2

She sells her work through several venues. “I have an Etsy shop and I sell my work at an outdoor Artist Market in Burlington on Saturdays from May through October. I also have my work in a lovely accessory boutique in Burlington called Trinket and I do a few local holiday craft shows and trunk shows.” I asked her what tips she had for artists who want to sell their work in the same way. “If you’re selling online, take fab photos. If you’re selling at a craft show, find or make great displays that jive with your work. And for selling in shops, approach shops/galleries very professionally and creatively. Remember, every part of everything is an opportunity to be creative! Use letterhead with an image of your jewelry on it. If you’re delivering work in a box, make the box beautiful. These are all chances to show how passionate and how good you are and to impress that on people.”

jkFor more information about Jen and to see more of her work, visit her web site at www.jenniferkahnjewelry.com or her Etsy shop at www.jenkahn.etsy.com.

 

 

 

Julia Rai iMCAM 5.1_Page_34_Image_0001s 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.

 

“Is it Live, or Is It Memorex?” By Lisa Pavelka


(or What Distinguishes Inspiration from Copying? – For those younger than 40!)

An often-argued creative concept found in all artistic disciplines, is what distinguishes copying from inspiration? It’s a controversial and complicated issue with a lot of gray areas. For what it’s worth, I offer my take on the subject in the article that follows, hoping to give an insight on what I believe are the origins of inspiration.

Where would the art world be if Monet, who is credited as being the father of Impressionism, railed against his contemporaries (including Cézanne, Degas, Renoir) who followed in his footsteps, embracing this new way of interpreting subjects for their work?

Image 2As an artist, I don’t believe that something comes out of nothing. Everything I create is inspired by something; even when I’m not conscious of the origins of the inspiration. If I carefully consider some of my creations, I can recall something that has a hand in my designs and techniques. Perhaps the waves of the ocean, a sunset, or the pattern on a hotel curtain had a role in a creation. Only ego can drive the need to demand a work is truly and purely original.

Image 3That isn’t to say that the fine line between copying and being inspired isn’t easily crossed. As an artist who also teaches, this is a shaky area for many. Personally, do not dictate that once a student has compensated me for my knowledge and shared skill, that they are forbidden from putting the technique or design concepts into practice. That isn’t a universally accepted concept. I hear from my students, over and over again, experiences in which teachers told them they cannot use design concepts or techniques learned in their classes if incorporated in anything they teach or sell. I feel that if a student has paid to learn from me for my time and knowledge, they should be able to duplicate what I taught them for any use they deem acceptable. I do expect that they won’t take undue credit that it’s something they originated or won’t reprint or plagiarize any written material I hand out. Also, I’m careful to credit others when using techniques that I didn’t originate. If I don’t know who to credit, I am still careful to make it clear that I don’t deserve credit for concepts that I didn’t develop.

Image 11My hope is that those who copy what I teach, do so primarily as a means of mastering what they learned. Ideally, whether for fun or profit, students will go on to modify what they learned from me and modify it to bring their own voice and vision to their creations. Regardless, if I’m not ready to have others use what I develop, I shouldn’t put it out there; least of all receive compensation for teaching what I’ve come up with. A common technique used universally in the medium of polymer clay, is the “Skinner Blend.” This is the method for creating gradient blends with two or more colors of polymer clay, developed by Judith Skinner. It is one of the most widely used techniques in polymer clay. It has also been widely modified by myself, and others into more advanced polymer clay effects and techniques. As in the case of Monet, where would polymer clay be if Ms. Skinner, forbade anyone from using her blending method professionally or commercially?

I look, not only to nature, the imagination (which is feed by countless stimuli each day that accumulates over a lifetime) for ideas, but I also find inspiration in the work of others. I find it both within and outside of my chosen mediums. My goal is never to copy, but to create something that is “original” in as far as I use a shape, color scheme, or design concept I create. I don’t want my work to look like an imitation of someone else’s. I don’t think any true artist does.

Image 10Creativity is a slippery slope and ideas don’t occur in a vacuum. This concept is worth repeating if you’re an artist who has ever struggled with the feeling that your creativity has been copied. Ideas don’t occur in a vacuum! On more than one occasion I have experienced or had other artists share the phenomenon of learning that someone else was is doing the same technique or design concept that I (or they) “created.” This is disconcerting when it occurs before I have shared my designs and techniques publicly – in a show, on the Internet, for sale, publication or classes. It can be very humbling to realize that another person has simultaneously or even preceded you in discovered the same “new” technique/design concept as you have.

There is a theory called the “Hundredth Monkey Effect.” It explains that the same idea can mysteriously occur in multiple locations without a direct correlation between them two. There are several websites and even books devoted to this concept. Read it more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect Clinging too tightly to the ownership of an idea is a dangerous thing and can result in a great deal of personal unhappiness. Who among us doesn’t wish to be recognized for their creative innovation? Making this important to yourself as an artist, robs you of your higher purpose to create and can hold you back from personal and professional growth.

Image 12I’ve even been on the receiving end of being accused of taking credit for someone else’s concepts only to find myself having to prove that I developed, introduced or used a design/technique before the accuser. In some cases, it was clear that they didn’t copy me, but it can be uncomfortable to have to defend your work. Having been on both sides of this experience, the oddest example for me was hearing someone I had just met tell me about a friend who told her about a profound artistic experience at an adjacent tradeshow to the one she was working at. Coincidently, I happened to know the same artist personally as a friendly acquaintance. Both of us were demonstrating for the same company, at the tradeshow at the time of this occurrence.

What a shock it was to hear the story retold as it had happened, only it had happened to me! While on a break, I went to the other trade show with a friend. People stopped me to admire work I was wearing. I made it with a new technique I had developed. They though it was a completely different medium and not the one I was using to replicate the look. I went back to the booth where I was working and shared how my “faux’ technique fooled many people at the other show. I shared this story with a group of eight people.

Image 14This group included the artist who then went on to tell my story as her own. Later, I saw another artist credit her for the technique in a magazine article. If you’re wondering how I handled it, I decided to let it go. I concentrated instead on developing the technique to take in new and exciting directions. Having done otherwise might have had a crippling effect on my creative ability. My energy was best spent in moving forward in my work and not feeling the need to salve my ego over setting the story straight. This person has to live with their lie, knowing they need the credit belonging to someone else to feel accomplished.

Image 13Of course, this is different from when your design concepts are copied and sold for profit in an arena in which you compete for your livelihood. Companies like Wal-Mart and Target have found themselves on the loosing end of lawsuits where they had taken the designs of independent artists, culled from buyers attending shows and had them reproduced – en mass – without the permission of the artist.

I’ve heard it said that sites like Etsy and Pinterest are nothing more than idea factories for other artists. If I have a problem with anyone using my techniques or design concepts for themselves, then I should not be putting it out there to begin with, knowing that in all likelihood, I’ll never be credited or profit from my concepts. Success as an artist for me is acknowledging that my “original” ideas all have their beginnings in something, but for me, it’s important that something is merely and influence and not a mold for me to duplicate.

Image Credits: All images by Lisa Pavelka, copyright to the artist.

Inspiration Credit for Lisa’s art:
Image #1- Inspired by Karl Faberge
Image #2 – Inspired by Karl Faberge
Image #3 – Inspired by 1960s Optical Pop Art
Image #4- Inspired by Dichroic Glass and Ocean Waves
Image #5 – Inspired by Mardi Gras
Image #6- Inspired by William Morris
Image #7- Inspired by Periscopes

12417893_10208843026693269_1781609695090555594_nLisa Pavelka, a Colorado native who now resides in Las Vegas.  She is an award winning artist, designer and author. Although she is well versed in several mediums, she is best known for her polymer clay expertise. Having worked with the medium professionally since 1989, she has focused her creative energies in taking polymer clay in new directions; especially in the areas of mixed media applications.

As a polymer clay pioneer, Lisa has tackled everything from jewelry making and home décor to scrapbooking and altered arts to name a few. She has shown the crafting world there is almost nothing that can’t be done with polymer clay, whether it’s coming up with new techniques or covering the back of a van.

Lisa is author of three books including the award winning best seller: Polymer Clay Extravaganza (North Light Books), and DVDs—Gifts from the Heart & Hand (Page Sage) and Claying Around with Lisa Pavelka(2007).

Artist Profile-Kathy Van Kleeck by Julia Rai

Kathy Van Kleeck“I was born and raised in Florida, a very suburban, milquetoast, upbringing,” Kathy says. “Considering that upbringing, I find my aesthetic a miraculous transformation and am deeply grateful that I somehow managed to transcend suburbia,” she smiles. “I call my style of jewellery Urban Primitive. It took years to get that dialed in, but I think it perfectly describes my work.”

6, moon goddess kathy van kleeckImage: “Moon Goddess” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Fine silver PMC3 and BronzClay, hand-hewn lapis lazuli nuggets, artisan lampwork glass by Barbara Metzger on leather cord. Metal clays were oxidized straight out of the kiln and not polished or tumbled.

She’s been creative from an early age. “There’s the really early mud pie phase, but my first efforts at actually making something would be when I was about six or seven and my grandmother taught me to sew on her Singer treadle sewing machine. Not sure how I reached the treadle, but I’ve been sewing ever since. I was hell bent on becoming a fashion designer. Now I’m relieved that never happened and I still enjoy making my own clothes.”

She continued, “I was pushing 40 when I began making and selling my jewellery. Before that, my resume reads like a novella. I worked in clothing retail, was a department store buyer at 19 and assistant manager of a mall store boutique at 21, then moved on to more clerical work, working in offices, then banks and real estate lending. My favourite job title was File Librarian for the Medicaid Billing System for the State of Florida … talk about a paper pusher! I’m a firm believer it’s never too late to discover and follow your bliss.”

Kathy considers herself to be a designer/maker rather than a jeweller. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband. “Dave and I will have been married for 36 years in July 2016. We currently share our home with one senior citizen kitty, 18 year old Miss Zoe. Last year we bought a classic mid-century, concrete block and terrazzo floors ‘atomic ranch’. It’s an east/west orientation and has the most wonderful morning and afternoon light, perfect for leisurely mornings sipping tea and reading the NY Times.”

Her work is so unique, I asked her what her main influences are. “It kind of depends on what I’m making. My more minimal CORE body of work tends to be inspired by patterns in nature and clothing. Repetition of form is a regular theme in my work. How many ways can I use just one element? And in clothing, I’m kind of obsessed with a whole genre of European and Japanese designers whose work is raw and somewhat avant-garde.”

“I get a regular dose of inspirational juice via the designers I follow on Instagram and Pinterest like Jaga Buyan (http://www.jagabuyan.com/), Kapital (http://kapital.jp/, Yohji Yamamoto (http://www.yohjiyamamoto.co.jp/en/), Marc le Bihan (http://www.marc-lebihan.com/), Avant Toi (http://www.avant-toi.it/), Rundholz (http://www.studiorundholz.com/).”

“My Urban Primitive work is inspired by the ornament of ancient cultures of the South Pacific, Oceania and South America as well as Japanese folk potters. And for general visual juice, the NY Times Style magazine and the Wall Street Journal monthly magazine always have at least one little inspiring bit of something.” I asked Kathy which of her pieces she feels reflect these influences best. “My ‘Stacked Cubes’ necklace is an excellent example of the clothing/repetition inspirations and ‘Aegean Muse’ very much speaks to the Oceania/tribal influences.”

3,stacked cubes kathy van kleeckImage: “Stacked Cubes” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Hadar’s low shrinkage steel and BronzClay on hand-plied linen cord with fossilized bone fragments.
4, aegean muse kathy van kleeck
Image: “Aegean Muse” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Fine silver PMC3 with assorted gems and artifacts.

Like many of her contemporaries, Kathy first heard about metal clay in the article in Ornament Magazine in the 1990’s. “I can honestly say that article changed my life,” she explained. “It was about the first group of makers with Tim McCreight at the helm, set up for a week or so by Mitsubishi at Haystack School in Maine.

Coming from a clay and pottery background and having no real interest in traditional metalsmithing or fabrication, it was literally a dream come true.” “My clay background was immensely helpful – no fear of kilns! Late ’97, I bought a 100 gram lump of original PMC, hauled out my clay tools and dove in with a tiny clay test kiln with manual controls that I rigged up with a digital pyrometer. I had to watch the temperature and dial down the controls until I could get it to hold at 1650 for the 2 hours. Tedious, but that was long before there were any small, affordable digital kilns. I think the first things I made were some dangly bits for earrings and beaded necklaces.”

1, first metal clay earrings kathy van kleeck 2,mixed beaded necklace kathy van kleeckImages: First metal clay earrings and mixed beaded necklace by Kathy Van Kleeck.
She went on, “I was a founding member of the PMC Guild, got my PMC Certification soon after it began and used to teach quite a bit. I was the first person to teach metal clay workshops at the John C Campbell Folk School in NC as well as the long running ArtFest retreat in WA.”

“I loved sharing the excitement of my beloved metal clay. It was like being a wizard and sharing alchemical secrets. My interest in teaching waned once all the different types of certification started happening and metal clay began to catch on. It was becoming too competitive and I turned to the quiet of my studio and being a maker. I’m often asked if I teach and still think about diving back in. I’m just not sure what I could share that would be new or inspiring. I’d love to hear any feedback or ideas your readers might have.”

She continued, “My way of working with metal clay is decidedly different from most of what I see online in the forums and in publications. In the earliest days, I dove into testing the limits of metal clay using the techniques of my handbuilding clay background. I created elaborate constructs, like the ‘Scabbard Pendant’ made from fine silver PMC+ and 24k gold; holes in the lid are the result of diamonds burning up in the kiln. I found out about a week later that diamonds start to burn up around 1250F. What I initially perceived as a disaster worked out nicely as it allows a peep into the locket!”

8a, scabbard pendant kathy van kleeck 8b, scabbard pendant detail kathy van kleeckImage “Scabbard Pendant” by Kathy Van Kleeck
“A few years later I made my ‘Fairy Box’ made using PMC3 with a white beach glass knob and glass frit accents. The silver fumes the white glass, turning it amber in the firing.”

9, fairy box kathy van kleeckImage: “Fairy Box” by Kathy Van Kleeck

“These are what I think of as my fancy, ‘look at what I can do’ show pieces. Each new version of metal clay allowed an expansion of techniques and experiments which led to my jewellery getting more and more elaborate as in my ‘Vertebrae’ collar.” This is PMC3 and white beach glass fumed by the silver, recycled glass beads wrapped with PMC3 strips, and the pendant is beach glass and glass frit. It’s all lashed together with linen.”

10, glass vertebrae kathy van kleeckImage: “Glass Vertebrae” by Kathy Van Kleeck
“Then I reached what felt like maximum capacity in my work. I had begun to see things that I wanted to translate into my jewellery, especially difficult since a great source of inspiration was world music videos. I mean really, how would I go about translating the feeling I got from those videos into jewellery? But those videos had a look and feel that I wanted in my work. Two in particular, Juno Reactor’s ‘God is God’ (https://youtu.be/v8LY2VgiikE) and Gjallarhorn’s ‘Suvetar’ (https://youtu.be/-e_7C99bOgU) were pivotal in helping me identify the style I was aiming for.”

“In August of ’05, with family visiting, I was out of the studio for several weeks. When I went back to work, something clicked and everything changed. Layers of complexity were peeled back and I started making components that were as minimal as possible, which led to my signature piece, ‘Coin Necklace’ using PMC3 and silk cord.”

11, coin necklace  kathy van kleeckImage: “Coin Necklace” by Kathy Van Kleeck
12, rustic portal kathy van kleeck“I wanted to celebrate the clay, not hide it. I wanted someone to look at a piece and see my fingerprints, the edges that had been nudged and smushed, the smeared openings where the clay had been pierced. I wanted them to look at the piece and know it was different, created in the magical, alchemical way of metal clay. This ‘rustic portal’ component sums up everything I love about metal clay. “

I asked Kathy about her creative space. “My studio is in my home,” she began. “I work at all hours and whenever inspiration strikes which would make having an outside studio less than ideal. I tend to be a neat freak when I’m not working. But in the midst of creating a new piece or series my worktable can look like an explosion went off. I’m in my studio most week days. I start off with my mondo mug of PG Tips, getting caught up on emails and a bit of social media and then try to be working by 10. I’ll work until it’s time to start dinner, usually around 5. I try to take weekends off with my husband, but if I’ve got a big order or a show in the queue, I’ve been known to work 12 or 14 hours a day for the duration until I’m done.”

5, worktable kathy van kleeckImage: My 8’ long worktable, scavenged from an old elementary school where I rented studio space in 1994

13, thoughts made real kathy van kleeck

The nature of Kathy’s work is pretty organic so I was interested in how much planning goes into each piece. “I sketch a bit, but not much. I’m more likely to write descriptions of ideas with very rough sketches. In addition to bigger focal elements, I like to make a whole bunch of components, lots and lots of the same element. My CORE group of work is all about repetition of form and it’s always a joy to sit at my worktable working out all the ways an element can be used.”

“For the Urban Primitive pieces, I sit down to my worktable, see where my gaze lands and start pulling out gems and artifacts and bits and bobs. It feels very much like composing through improvisation. I assemble my palette and let intuition guide me. The completed piece is always a delightful surprise.”

As such a lover of metal clay, I asked Kathy if she used any other techniques in her work. “I do utilize some silver smithing skills, mostly very simple soldering with a butane torch and easy solder paste,” she explained. “I make all my own findings, ear wires and clasps. My variation on the “S” hook is forged and soldered. And cord, golly do I love making cord. I’ve taught myself how to ply cord into various thicknesses in lengths up to 6’ or 8’ and, via YouTube, how to braid 3 and 5 loop cords. The loop braided cords are time consuming and the length is limited by my arm span, not much as I’m 5’2”, but they are complex and lovely and a nice complement to my more minimal pieces. The cords in combination with hand cut leather and stitching provide a beautiful, earthy element to the work.”

I asked Kathy if she had a particular piece of work that really means something to her. “I remember the first big piece I sold. It was called ‘Le Monde’. It was a statement piece of graduated, highly textured original PMC beads alternating with artisan lampwork glass Basha beads by Barbara Metzger and Rory Ross’ raku beads. I was at a really teeny local craft show and had the piece with me, basically for show. A couple I knew, well known collectors and art patrons, wanted to buy it. I was stunned. ‘How much was it?’ Uhhhh, $800? SOLD! I packaged the piece up, sent the lovely couple on their way and then promptly burst into tears. I felt like I had truly arrived.”

7, le monde kathy van kleeckImage: “Le Monde” by Kathy Van Kleeck

I asked Kathy to tell me a bit more about where she sells her work. “At first, I sold my jewellery at juried craft fairs and wholesale to small galleries and women’s boutiques,” she explained. “In ’06 I designed a lovely little wholesale collection and connected with a team of sales reps. Through what was then the Gift Show circuit, they got my work into museum stores like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Seattle Art Museum and high-end craft galleries like Real Mother Goose in Portland, OR and the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite.

I’m really proud of the fact that at one point I had close to 50 wholesale accounts, all done by me, all fine silver PMC. I supported our family and put my husband through his first librarian certificate degree with my jewellery. These days, I have a couple of galleries that I still work with, but now I sell my work mostly through my own website.”
landscape rings kathy van kleeck
landscape trio 3 kathy van kleeckImages: “Landscape Rings” and “Landscape trio 3” by Kathy Van Kleeck

I asked Kathy what she is currently working on. “Interesting thing, this question and it’s got me quite gummed up. I’ve been developing a new group of jewellery with the working moniker of Bare Bones, looking to the ornament of very primitive cultures for inspiration and how to loosen up my already minimal work, make things less pristine. I’m exploring how I can further deconstruct what I do, make it less refined, almost crude, but still wearable and durable. I thought I was moving right along on this recent track, but deciding on an image to share stopped me dead. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of tweaking, more exploration and revisiting some themes of past work.”

“Whatever I do next, it will be the most authentic expression of my aesthetic to date and since it’s all still very much in my head, I don’t have any images to share. As of right this moment, the ideas feel very fresh and exciting, making me want to step immediately away from this keyboard and get to work!”

She went on, “PMC3 remains my favourite metal clay as it allows me to work very dry, folding and layering components till they barely hold together. To a lesser degree, I also use BronzClay and Hadar’s Steel. I’d like to do some larger, focal pieces in combination with other mediums. Right now, concrete is calling to me and maybe fused glass or eco resin or some combination of all of the above mediums and metal clays. A lot of what I do is pretty minimal and rustic. I want to go even further with that, in the vein of “art brut”, create work that is raw, but full of heart and life, work that is stripped to the absolute and essential core, but fully resolved and engaging.”

ruby landscape ring kathy van kleeckImage: “Ruby Landscape Ring” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Sterling PMC, patina is straight out of the kiln and a result of how it was situated in the charcoal. The intention is for the ring to develop a “personal patina” as the ring is worn over time, polishing is not encouraged.
Finally I asked her where she sees her work going in the next five years or so. “I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer set long range goals. Through my 20 + years of making jewellery, lots of goals and aspirations have come and gone, many have been met, others have lost their significance or priority. An example, for years I was a huge fan of Ornament Magazine and had visions of being on the cover. But a few years ago that shifted, I gave away my huge magazine archive, dropped my subscription and now rarely buy the magazine.”

“Ultimately, I will always be a maker, working with my hands and creating, staying open to new things and new avenues of expression. I hope that whatever I make, along with the intentions of love and respect I put into everything I do, will be well received. I’m enormously grateful that my maker’s journey continues, no end in sight.”

To see more of Kathy’s work, visit her website http://www.kathyvankleeck.com/

12347681_10154340055124045_4667653997826735386_nInterview Author: 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.

Making Modern Electrum, an Experiment by Lynn Cobb

PMC Gold spinning element

Since gold clay is so expensive, might there be a way to combine it with silver clay and still have a finished metal that appeared gold in color, but would be less pure than PMC Gold clay and therefore, a little less expensive?

The ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of such an alloy, which occurred both naturally and man made. They called it “electrum” and used it for coins, jewelry and plating. My reading led me to discover that an alloy of more than about one third silver would result in a metal that appeared silver, that is, no gold color at all. Ancient alloys seemed to be no less than about 20% silver. Therefore, my plan was to combine a variety of gold and silver PMC mixes so that the alloys were in that sweet spot of 20-30% silver, to see what shades of gold would result. Continue reading…

The Challenge of an Art Challenge by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

IMG_3639IMG_3676In January I saw a post by Penny Akester from the U.K. asking for interested artists to participate in a collaborative jewellery project.  I jumped at the chance as I was feeling creative and was up for a challenge.  The idea was to have 3 randomly chosen artists work on a piece of jewellery.  In the challenge I was involved with 3 pieces.  The first piece started with my own materials and idea.  I made an etched aluminum cuff. (Pictured at left.) 

13131417_1093184770727401_3856596614720890021_oMy cuff was mailed to artist Hayley Kruger in the U.K. who in turn cut out pieces of it and added to it using paper, crayons, pespex and ink

13048165_514836378703244_4773527584586649183_o13083174_514836372036578_4706185693448659737_nA third artist, Lisa Welbourn made a necklace from the work of the first two artists. She added sterling silver, silver clay, lava beads, rubber neck cord.  Lisa also decided to combine some of the elements to make them double sided.

A second piece I worked on was started by Joy Funnell.  Can you imagine receiving a fine silver and enameled piece from Joy and you are to “change” it or work on it?  Oh I was a bit scared! It was a beautiful piece!

IMG_4566 (2)My thoughts were to leave it as it and build around it.  So I added it to a leather bracelet.  I attached it with silver wire and class beads and I carved a pattern onto the leather and I coloured the leather to bring out the beautiful blue enamel in Joy’s piece.

13265922_10208796020565321_7355467968641715417_n13247965_10208796020485319_6382875796425232347_oA third artist added silk thread to the holes I made in the leather and added a patina the silver.  I hope the artist who receives this one loves it! Each artist participating in the challenge will get to keep one of the finished pieces!

Now that I’ve finished with my contributions to the project, I’m looking at the finished challenge pieces and I’m wondering if I would do an art challenge again.  YES! Yes I would participate in another collaborative art project. Even though this challenge cost me a lot more than I anticipated–I had not realized we’d work on 3 pieces and that most would need to be mailed to the U.K. (That’s my fault-I signed up for a challenge from the U.K.!) I also had not anticipated how hard it would be.  I sweated a lot trying to come up with an idea for Joy’s piece! (As I’m sure the artist did who received my cuff and then cut it up!)

I now have a greater appreciation for the work (and sweating) that goes into collaborative art pieces.

The “Pass it Along” project organizer Penny Akester has a site set up to show off the completed pieces and explains,  “The project is now just finishing its first run, and there are 55 jewellers from across Europe and America taking part. We have each started a piece, passed it along to the next person for them to add to or adapt it, and then passed it along again so we have each now received a third piece that we now have to complete. The 55 pieces we have created are now completed, and starting to join our online exhibition / gallery space at http://passitalongproject.weebly.com/.”

540704_577388125607677_846842341_n

Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is the editor of Creative Fire and former editor of Metal Clay Artist Magazine.  She keeps a studio in rural Ontario, Canada and works in etched aluminum and metal clays. You can find her work online www.SassyandStella.com

Product Review: EZ960™ Sterling

25 and 50g large“EZ960™ Sterling” is a new clay launching this week from Cool Tools!  It is another invention by Bill Struve.  Cool Tools and Bill worked together on this new clay and decided to name it “EZ960™ Sterling” which is an easy name to remember. However, if they had asked for my opinion on the name I would have called it, “Easy-Wonderful-Strong-Beautiful-The Metal Clay You’ve Only Dreamed About”.  Maybe that name wouldn’t fit on the labels?

Valerie Bealle EZ960 braceletI feel very privileged to have been in on the testing of this new clay.  Full-disclosure: I love it.

This sterling silver metal clay is open shelf fired in a kiln. Other comparable brands require mixing or firing in activated carbon. This hybrid sterling clay is .960 when fired and can be hallmarked Sterling Silver. Sterling Silver is the industry standard for jewelry and is known for its strength that can withstand everyday wear and tear.

Lisel Rings Group EZ960

Cool Tools, offers 25g and 50g packages http://www.cooltools.us/EZ960-Sterling-Silver-Clay-p/ezs-025-p.htm

Here is my review of the new clay:
WET FORM: Moisture content and workability
:As I waited several weeks to test the clay it may have lost some of its plasticity while in the temporary wrapping. I added a few drops of water and worked it in and found the clay to be beautifully smooth, easy to roll, it picks up texture nicely and joins are solid. (My release agent was olive oil.)

DRY FORM: How was the flexibility, was it easy to carve, sand, join? What an amazing clay to carve! There are no “tears” at the end of a push with a carving tool. Clean edges!

Firing:No blistering or cracking. In my first firing I forgot to support a ring and so it slumped. I was curious about the clay and hammered the ring round and straight–it could take the abuse! All items out of the kiln have the satisfying “clink” of sintered metal and they are a matt grey. Some pieces I hammered and others I tumbled.

Shrinkage:Ring #1-1.5mm thick wet clay, wet clay size: 11.5, dry 10.5 and after firing 9.5,
Ring #2-1.5 mm thick wet clay, wet clay size: 12.5, dry 12 after firing 10.

Rings warped in the firing, as I forgot to support them properly, hammering them brought them back into shape without increasing the size.

Finishing:I hammered some pieces directly out of the kiln and then I tumbled them to finish the polishing. Rings were polished further with a 3m polishing brush and patinaed with LOS.

“Cool” Video to check out with Lisel Crowley. http://www.cooltools.us/EZ960-Sterling-Adjustable-Ring-s/2468.htm

540704_577388125607677_846842341_nJeannette Froese LeBlanc is the editor of Creative Fire and is an avid jewellery designer.  She has worked in metal clay since it first came on the market. You can find her jewellery online: www.SassyandStella.com.

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. Continue reading…