BOOK REVIEWS by Pat Evans

MCAM 5.1_Page_16_Image_0002HOW TO MAKE SILVER CHARMS FROM METAL CLAY
By Sue Heaser,
Apple Press, 2013.

I always look forward to a new metal clay book from Sue Heaser, but I must admit I had my doubts as to whether the subject of making charms could support an entire tome. It can. In How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay, Heaser gives a superb mini course in metal clay techniques through the medium of charms.

Fifty projects, each with several variations, encompass a wide variety of designs, from tiny books to animals. Techniques used include everything from rolling and cutting clay to molding, sculpting, using resin and coloring the finished product in several ways. I particularly liked Heaser’s techniques for sculpting polymer clay originals then molding them for use with silver clay. For hesitant sculptors, this method avoids the worry of silver clay drying out while working, and it allows for multiples to be molded easily. Each project gives both an exploded diagram and an actual size image of the tiny finished piece. The book also includes a number of ideas on ways to use the finished charms and some simple ways to make bracelets from chain and cord.

Although the subtitle says the book includes instructions for all skill levels, most of the projects are for beginners or early intermediate metal clayers. Teachers will find it a solid resource for introducing metal clay techniques using small amounts of silver clay, while Heaser’s excellent description of techniques will let do-it-yourselfers progress easily. Some of the easier projects make good projects for parties. All in all, this is a truly “charming” book!

MCAM 5.1_Page_16_Image_0001METAL CLAY 101 FOR BEADERS
by Kristal Wick,
Lark Jewelry and Beading, 2013.

Kristal Wick is a beader who loves metal clay, and this book is her ode to combining the two. Some of the 23 proj- ects emphasize the beading, some the metal clay, but the majority are an integrated balance of the two media. Metal leaves are sewn into a peyote cuff; a silver and resin flower is both toggle and focal element for a tubular herringbone weave lariat.

The techniques section of Metal Clay 101 for Beaders includes metal clay basics, bead stringing tips and bead stitches. While the instructions are clear and well-illustrated, there is a clear expectation that readers are coming from a beading background. In keeping with the emphasis on beading, most of the metal clay projects are basic “roll, texture and cut” designs, sometimes with stacked pieces adhered with paste—or even epoxy—for dimension. I didn’t understand the use of epoxy in several of the pieces when the sections could have been adhered with traditional metal clay techniques. More experienced metal clay artists who are using this book for inspiration may prefer to use more traditional metal clay methods to achieve the looks.

If you’re a beader who wants to incorporate your own findings, focals and accents to your work, you’ll find a wealth of ideas in Wick’s work. Artists who are already familiar with metal clay can find inspiration to accent their work with beading techniques. Everyone will draw inspiration from the lovely gallery of work from well-known metal clay artists such as Jackie Truty and Lorena Angulo.

MCAM 5.1_Page_17_Image_0001SILVER CLAY WITH STYLE
By Natalia Colman,
Search Press, 2013.

If you enjoy incorporating a variety of jewelry making techniques in your jewelry, then you’ll want to browse through Silver Clay with Style. This book, originally published in the UK in 2011, has 22 silver clay jewelry projects, many of which incorporate techniques such as beading, textiles, wire wrapping and polymer clay. I especially loved her fabric cuff bracelet.

Colman’s designs are clean and modern. She includes four designs for men’s jewelry (although women may find them appealing, too.) The book starts with a solid techniques section which includes a particularly good description of how to achieve a mirror finish. Instructions are clear and extensively illustrated. My favorite section, however, is Colman’s one page chapter on design. Her explanation of deconstructing a frog in order to create a design is a wonderful teaching moment.

This book for advanced beginner to intermediate metal clay artists can inspire the reader to use Colman’s concepts to move into creating original designs.

MCAM 5.1_Page_17_Image_0002PAT EVANS keeps her hoard of jewelry making tools in San Jose, CA. She is a Senior Art Clay instructor and holds PMCC Level III and Rio Rewards PMC certifications. Pat has been teaching about crafts and creativity to both children and adults for more than 20 years, and she loves to encourage students in finding and playing with their inner artists (generally along with a nice selection of tools). Contact her at pat@metalclayartistmag.com

Metal Clay 101: Moisture Retention and Storage By Kris Kramer

Since the finest creations are made with the freshest of clay, keeping your clay fresh is critical for a good result. Moisture keeps binder in the clay at its peak performance, allowing you to best texture and join clay in your beautiful creations.

Everyone develops his or her particular way to store clay for the short- or long-term. Here are some tools and processes to know about while you develop yours. Many of these tools can be purchased or homemade.

While Working — Parked Clay
Never, never leave your clay out exposed to air while you are working on a creation. Continue reading…

Kenji von Achen-Interview by Julia Rai

MCAM 5.1_Page_28_Image_0001Jewellery artist, metal clay instructor and business owner Kenji von Achen lives in what many of us would regard as the most romantic city in the world, Paris. We’ve been Facebook friends for a long while and I love keeping up with what he’s up to, but interviewing him for this profile was a revelation. He’s had several careers, has an interesting family history and a positive and uplifting attitude to life – and yes, there’s a little bit of romance, so read on and find out more about this charming man.

The youngest of three children, Kenji has two older sisters, one of whom passed away in 2000. His father is German, born in rural Illinois, and his mother is Japanese American, giving him his interesting name. “My pieces are signed just using KENJI,” he explained. “It’s not a ‘Sting’ or ‘Cher’ type of thing, it’s only because nobody ever spells my last name correctly anyway and also because I’m definitely assured that they’ll massacre the pronunciation,” he laughed.

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My Secret Garden Collection

His parents met just after his father left the military during the Korean War. His mother and her family spent three years during the Second World War in captivity. Kenji explained, “They were forced to live in different ‘internment camps’ that were built for Americans of Japanese ancestry. In fact, they were horse stables that were converted into barracks. I don’t know a whole lot about that period of her life as a lot of Japanese Americans don’t really like talking about that period. Over the years I’ve learned a little more about life in the camps but most of that information has only come from reading books and doing research.” Continue reading…

Showing Up and Playing By Catherine Davies Paetz

JustShowUp_ChristinaRosalie1The other day I was at Trader Joe’s, checking out with my bags in hand. The cashier asked if I wanted to enter a drawing to win a gift card–a “reward” for bringing my own bags (as if saving our planet isn’t reward enough, but that’s another story). I almost said no, because I fill out a ticket every time and I haven’t won yet. But then I thought about the saying, “You can’t win if you don’t play,” which I often use to encourage people who ask about entering a show or submitting work to a book or event. So I filled out the ticket again.

That experience got me thinking more about entering, submitting, and the whole jury process for artists. Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” I think that goes hand in hand with “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Many people don’t even try to submit work because they don’t think their work will be accepted, or they fear rejection. But in order to have any chance of being accepted, you have to show up and play. Continue reading…

With These Hands by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

 

I make jewellery.  No wait.  I MAKE jewellery.  workingThese days my hands are never clean looking. Normally I don’t really care what my hands and nails look like. But recently while out to dinner with some friends I felt like the “one of these things doesn’t belong.”  Each of my friends had such nice nails.  Nicely painted nails, clean hands.  We were sharing sushi so I felt the need to announce that my hands were in fact “clean”.   As I said the words, I realized that I wasn’t ashamed.  The public announcement was to put the other diners at ease.  I am actually very proud of my raggedy nails and the permanent black stains.  To me it is a sign that I am working in my studio.  I am making jewellery. Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Michela Verani by Julia Rai

I’ve known award winning artist Michela Verani for a while now, having first met her at a metal clay conference in the US. She and I share a love of sci-fi and we are also both participating in the metal clay Masters Registry programme so we have lots in common.Verani - Phoenix full necklace

Visitor to the studio1Michela lives in Londonderry, New Hampshire with her furry friends, a dog called Tolliver and a cat called Yang. “Tolliver is a Bouvier des Flandres and Yang is a dumpster kitty,” she explains. “My home is at the end of a dead end dirt road and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods and my messy gardens.  Whenever I am at home Tollie and I take a daily walk in the woods.” Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101: Where to Begin: Choosing Your First Metal Clay By Dona Miller

101 montana-agate-pendant-Dona-Miller-DesignsWorking in a new medium can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. As anew metal clay artist, your first question may very well be “Where should I start?” There are many varieties of metal clays to choose from and where you start your journey can have an enormous impact on where it leads.

Looking metal prices, one would think that base metal clays would be the best way to get started in metal clay. However, the firing of base metals is complex and often takes trial and error to get it right. In addition, base metal clays must be fired in carbon in a kiln.

So which metal clay should you choose to start? I start my students with PMC3.

101 Donna 1PMC3 is a fine silver clay (.999 silver). True, fine silver PMC3 is more expensive than base metal clays. But the ease of working with and firing fine silver clay makes it a much better choice for beginners. From start to finish, PMC3 is the least complicated of all of the metal clays, which means that students can focus on the basics of construction, firing, and finishing without having to worry about complications created by the clay itself. Once you have those basic skills under your belt, there is an entire universe of textures and colors available to the metal clay artist.

101 mountain-night-sky-custom-silver-ring-Dona-Miller-DesignsWith all metal clays, getting the basic texture and forming in place before the clay starts drying is key. Make sure your clay is sealed in an air-tight container when not being worked, and don’t hold the clay in your hands when you are not shaping it as your skin will pull moisture out of the clay.

Most important is to stay relaxed, have fun and experiment.

Still wondering about the other varieties of PMC clay? Here is a quick summary:
PMC3 – great for beginners; can be fired with a torch; low firing temperature allows for inclusion of findings, glass, and fire-able stones.
PMC3 paste – good for joining pieces; can be used for adding texture and painted designs; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling.
PMC3 syringe – good for making repairs and filling grooves; can be used for drawing, building up forms and setting stones; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling.
PMC Flex – designed to stay flexible when dry; good for bending, twisting and braiding; low firing schedule and can be fired with a torch.
PMC+ Sheet – flexible and does not stick to itself; great for origami, folding and weaving; can be laminated and used with paper punches.
PMC Sterling – great for added strength and shine, must be kiln-fired in carbon
PMC Gold – great for accents; low firing temperature; can be fired alongside silver PMC and can be torch fired.

dona-n-logan-5Dona Miller: “Art, especially jewelry, is very personal.  Through the constant inspiration of nature, animals and my dogs, I interpret the spirit around me into jewelry, using my love of stones and shaping metal.  My designs and metal work incorporate the use of cut and natural stones to reflect the peace, love and joy of nature.”

Jewelry in article by Dona Miller.

“Metal Clay 101” is an ongoing series brought to you by PMC Connection and their instructors.

The Bird Who Won’t Go Away by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

 

P1230866In my opinion there are energies and forces all around.  To declare that we are separate from nature or that spirits don’t exist is to close yourself off from the wonderful vibrations of life all around.  A few years ago I learned about “spirit animals” from a jewellery artist.  I thought it was a fascinating idea.  I didn’t discount it, but I really didn’t understand it either.

Well that was until I started to have a bird follow me around for the past year.  My new friend is a great blue heron.  I started to see one every day last spring.  And in some form or another…I see a heron nearly every day.  When the first heron showed up, I was still mourning the loss of the magazine my husband and I published.  I missed the daily contact with editors, writers and contributing artists. After spending six years working on a business that was lost, not due to any errors I made, I was devastated.  The carpet was literally pulled out from under me.  I feared for our house, our finances and my family.  Our readers rallied and through contests and fundraisers they helped us recover most of our personal loss.  They saved our family. I started this site (Creative Fire) as a way to say thank you back to our community.  But I was lost.

heron logo stamp I used to be an artist.  With two little kids and the magazine, my studio was neglected.  Even without the magazine I found it really hard to get back into my studio and to get back to work.  Stresses and distractions crept into my life and making jewellery became less important.  To help me get out of this rut, a dear artist friend invited me to visit.  After making jewellery with her and enjoying some wonderful sunsets on her front deck–I declared out loud one evening that I would make jewellery.  I knew it was a long shot to make a living at art.  I had been there before.  But I was in love with the etching process she had taught me.  Ideas buzzed in my head.  I couldn’t wait to take some of my children’s drawings and to etch them into jewellery.  “Maybe that would be my new line.  Maybe I’d get back into my studio and work.”  Just then a huge heron flew inches from us making the most awful heron croaking sound.  Every day for months I saw a heron.  It didn’t matter what town or even what country I was in…I saw a heron.  Even in winter I’d see a a heron on bumper sticker or a photo online or in a magazine…every few days I’d see a heron.  Usually just when I ready to fall off the path to starting up my studio again.  It was almost a reminder to keep going.  Out of curiosity I looked up spirit birds and learned that herons show up when your life if out of balance. They remind us to follow our heart and to be determined.

Well I’m determined!  My new line is called “Sassy and Stella”.  (If you would like the back story on why I named my studio after two stray dogs from Alabama, click here.) I have a long way to go and a lot to learn about running a full-time jewellery studio business, but I’m excited at the possibilities!

Are you curious about your spirit bird?  Here is a simple chart.

Photo Credit: Heron on a beach in Florida, USA by Sandy Bowman.
Heron drawing: Sea Martini

sassyAnother of my animal friends, Sassy the dog from Alabama.

P.S. Thank you Kathleen!

 

SPEAKING IN TONGUES by Jennifer Roberts with Scott Benton and Mark Roberts

 

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NO MATTER WHAT YOUR BUSINESS, at some point you will likely have to engage a professional to help you with something. Traditionally, this has meant accountants and lawyers for most. In the past ten years, we’ve added design and technical professionals who help us create websites, manage social media, and conduct e-commerce. Continue reading…

Backs, Bails and Beyond – Give your work the finish it deserves by JOY FUNNELL

MCAM 4.1_Page_22_Image_0002MCAM 4.1_Page_22_Image_0001Backs, Bails and Beyond Give your work the finish it deserves.

Have you ever noticed how often one of the first things people do when they pick up a piece of jewellery is to turn it over and look at the back? Why do they do that?

What are they looking for? I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you that if they find something lovely, their eyes light up and they are immediately engaged with the piece. If you put as much effort into the reverse of the piece as you do into the front then you are certain to get some lovely reactions. Continue reading…