As a teacher, I feel I need to try every metal clay available so that I can give a knowledgeable opinion. Also, I love to explore and learn about new things! I recently had the opportunity to test the new Five Star Metal Clays made by Carrie Story at Clay Revolution. Continue reading…
“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, the best weekend ever” “I’ve been to lots of metal clay conferences but this one stood out for me for the warmth and enthusiasm of the delegates” “It was just magical, everyone was so welcoming and friendly” “When I left I felt like I’d walked back through the door from Narnia” “I learnt so much and made so many new friends, and was still buzzing when I got home”
These are just a few of the comments from the attendees of the inaugural ‘You can make it’ event, who left at the end of the weekend feeling inspired, happy and with lots of new friends!
You Can Make It 2017 took place in Wareham, Dorset, UK on the 24th – 26th March 2017. It was the brainchild of Petra Cameron Wennberg and was organised by her company Metal Clay Ltd. When Petra first approached me in 2016 to see if I might be interested in teaching at it I jumped at the chance. There hadn’t been any kind of large metal clay gathering in the UK for quite a few years and we were long overdue one. Petra was quite clear. She wanted to organise an event, but to be sure they could make the pricing viable they were asking if the tutors would be prepared to give their time for free – of course I said yes, and so did everyone else! We certainly weren’t going to miss out on it. Continue reading…
For eight years, Julia Rai and I have worked together to promote jewellery making. Julia writes the artist profiles for Creative Fire and someday I’ll get her to sit still long enough so that I can interview her! Meanwhile this prolific writer and artist has a newly published book to share. The book includes 17 project tutorials giving step by step instructions to make beautiful jewellery in a home environment.
“This is the first book I’ve written and it was really interesting to see the process from start to finish. I have to say, Crowood Press who published the book, were terrific to work with. They guided me as a newbie author every step of the way and were such nice people to work with. It’s so exciting to see it finally in print and I really hope people enjoy it.” Continue reading…
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 met with Carl and Elyse Schimel, co-owners of CJS Sales in New York 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
Photos from inside CJS Sales many rooms: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
I was recently asked by PMC Connection to test the new sterling metal clay by Mitsubishi. I was excited, but also a little intimidated when I thought about all of the beautiful pieces made by testers of PMC products over the years: Hattie Sanderson’s rings, Celie Fago’s rings and charms, Terry Kovalcik’s bracelets. I worked hard on my experimental test pieces, but I didn’t end up with anything that will grace the posters and ads for the new clay. I did learn some things that I’m sharing in the hopes that my mistakes benefit other metal clay artists.
SOLDERING BEYOND THE BASICS By Joe Silvera, Kalmbach Books, 2014.
I always tell my metal clay students that adding basic soldering to their repertoire can add versatility to their work. Until I took a class on production soldering with Joe Silvera, however, I didn’t realize just how many possibilities there were for more advanced soldering techniques to enhance my metal clay practice. Not everyone has such a skilled teacher available. Luckily, anyone with basic soldering experience and access to a torch can use Silvera’s new book to ramp up their skills.
Section one is full of information about tools, including types of torches and how to set them up and adjust them. It gives in-depth descriptions of materials such as flux and solder as well as some basic stone-setting directions. The author understands the limitations of home studios and his section on setting up a studio is down-to-earth and practical, with an emphasis on safety. Throughout the book Silvera suggests nontoxic products whenever possible. All the projects can be completed with the reader’s choice of a butane torch or a small tank torch system. Continue reading…
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
Jeannette 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.
Alcohol Ink: https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/alcohol-inks.html
Guilder’s Paste: https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/gilders-paste.html
Heat Patina: https://pmcconnection.com/firing/torch-kits/butane-torch.html
Copper Patina: https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/patinas/antique-patina-1-oz.html
Liver of Sulphur:https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/patinas/liver-of-sulfur-gel-squeeze-bottle-xlgel-1-oz.html
Metal Sealer: https://pmcconnection.com/pym-protectant-pump-6-oz.html
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a jewellery artist and the editor of www.cre8tivefire.com. 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.
HOW 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!
METAL 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.
SILVER 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.
Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore to pick up Kate McKinnon’s newest book. With its focus on a professional understanding of fine silver metal clay, a careful consideration of studio safety, and a thoughtful approach to jewelry construction, Sculptural Metal Clay Jewelry has something to offer nearly every student of metal clay. McKinnon has long been an advocate of building metal clay jewelry in ways that make the strongest jewelry possible. When I read her first, self-published book about metal clay, it changed the way I worked. In this book, the author continues to teach methods that are not always standard, but which should be in the repertoire of all serious metal clay artists.
The ten beautifully conceived and executed projects are merely a dessert to the main course of techniques, tips, and what McKinnon calls “elements”. These elements are the building blocks of the projects. Some, such as drawing a bead or making a toggle clasp, will be familiar to many jewelry artists. Other elements, such as those which suggest forging pieces after firing will interest even more advanced readers.
McKinnon has strong feelings about the best ways to work safely and professionally with metal clay, and she is always concerned with structural soundness. These themes run though the directions for all the elements and projects. McKinnon explains the reasons for her preferred methods which are based on her long study of metal clay and traditional metal work. In order to get the most from the book, it’s important to read through all the introductory information—don’t just skip to the projects. Fortunately, the writing is so personable that it is a joy to read.
As an added bonus, the book comes with a DVD of McKinnon demonstrating most of the book’s projects and basic information. The DVD is the next best thing to having a class with McKinnon in person, and it alone is practically worth the price of the book.
Kate’s book is available through the publisher: http://www.interweavestore.com/sculptural-metal-clay-jewelry
To catch up with Kate McKinnon these days please visit: www.ContemporaryGeometricBeadwork.com
Pat Evans (a.k.a. The Tool Diva) 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.) You can find Pat online through her website: http://patevansdesigns.com/