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…

Man Up! by Lora Hart

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Steven Tyler at the Dark Shadows Los Angeles Premiere, Chinese Theater, Hollywood, CA 05- 07-12 © Sbukley | Dreamstime.com

Jewelry has been an important element of male style since the first caveman threaded a seashell onto a length of sinew and tied it around his neck. Perceived as a status symbol, a show of wealth, an emblem of strength and power, or simply a decorative adornment, jewelry often defines a man’s character without a word being spoken.

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HENRY VIII IN FULL REGALIA. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File: Henry_VIII_(5)_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.jpg
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FOULAH TRIBAL JEWELRY & DRESS. Photo: public domain. http://www.allaboutgemstones. com/jewelry_history_primitive_ethnic_tribal.html

From the elaborately bejeweled majesty of Henry VIII to the subdued sophistication of Don Draper’s elegant watches to the menacing headdresses, ankle cuffs and breastplates of an African chieftain to Dave Navarro’s and Steven Tyler’s heavy metal jewelry, men embrace the gold, silver and gemmy goodness of ritualistic adornment just as fervently as their female counterparts.

Continue reading…

Treasures Found Online: New Directions: Powder Metallurgy (Metal Clay) in a Sheet Metal World

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Julia Rai Cityscape Bracelet 4.5cm x 20cm Fine silver clay, photos

An online exhibition showcasing some of the most exemplary work currently being done in metal clay. The exhibition, which was conceived by Susan Silvy and co-curated with Christine Norton, is being hosted on Crafthaus (www.crafthaus.ning.com), a subscription based, juried, online artisan community that is home to many professional artists in all mediums.

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Cindy Miller Tadpole Spoon 6” x 1” Fine silver clay, 24k keum-boo

“One of the biggest obstacles I have had to deal with as a metal clay artist is the widespread misconceptions regarding metal clay,” Silvy explains. Part of the problem is that it was introduced only in the mid-1990s, and in the context of the established media that have been used throughout art jewelry, it is a comparative newborn. “It has been fascinating to watch this material capture the creative imaginations of artists, to see the years of experimentation, and to realize that metal clay is now beginning to reach its stride.” She and Norton wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase some of the best and most inspiring metal clay work to a large audience of other high-level, professional artists.

The concept of the exhibition elicited such a positive response that it is being presented in two parts. The first part ran from April 14 through May 14, 2011. The second part will debut on July 17 and run through August 17 2011. The exhibition includes work from 60 respected metal clay artists that were selected by a jury from among hundreds of entries based on their demonstrated mastery of the medium. The jurors for this show were: Ann Robinson Davis, Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and Gwynne Rukenbrod.

A full-color print catalog of the exhibition was designed by Hallmark artist Sam Cangelosi, all profits went to CERF, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund. “Early on, Jackie Truty and Katie Baum from Art Clay World generously volunteered to support the exhibition by producing a print version at the Metal Clay World Conference. Their support is what really got our adrenaline going, and led Susan and me to come up with a plan to bring a more expanded exhibition into catalog form to support CERF ,” Says Norton.

The exhibition is open to the public and you do not need to be a member of Crafthaus to view it. To view the exhibition, visit www.crafthaus.ning.com/group/powdermetallurgypart1.

Getting Started in Metal Clay

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At my last count there were over 22 different kinds of metal clay!


Safety Tips:
Always dry your clay completely before firing. If your clay is damp the moisture will try to escape quickly during firing and the piece will break or it could explode while torch firing.

Most metal clay pieces under 15 grams will take a day to dry. You can speed up the drying by using a mug warmer—remember to turn the piece every once in a while. Or you can use a food dehydrator that has been dedicated to non-food use. With these methods it will still take a few hours to dry out.

Do not torch fire metal clay that has been formed over a core, such as a ceramic bead, wood or cork clay.

Always follow the clay manufacturer’s directions for firing. The insert that comes with the clay will explain firing temperatures and timings.

Always fire metal clay, with a torch or with a kiln, in a well-ventilated area and have a fire extinguisher handy.

Technique Tips:
Keep that clay moist and you’ll be a happy artist! Clay can be stored in a small airtight container and if you are leaving the clay in-between projects, put a small piece of damp sponge in the container. It is also handy to have a small spray bottle handy to re-moisten clay if it starts to dry out.

Keep all the bits and shavings clean. All dried bits of clay can be re-hydrated into a paste, but keep the bits free of sandpaper grit and other work-space debris.

Before you open your package of clay, have your work-space ready. If you are rolling out the clay, have a non-stick work surface ready. (This can be a sheet of glass or plastic.) Lightly coat your hands and tools with olive oil. And lastly—know what you are going to do! Don’t wait for inspiration while your clay is drying out.

Torch Firing Demo:

Material Lists: (Click on images to enlarge.)

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Respect–A rant about the tiered classification of artists by artists.

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– Respect- Aretha Franklin. Song written by Otis Redding Album: I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You [1967]

 

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me” Aretha Franklin

~Sigh…respect. Or in this case the lack of respect. Why do artists sometimes feel superior over another artist simply because of the media or the type of art of another artist? I’ve had THREE separate conversations this week with other artists where this topic has come up.

One artist is a graphic designer by day and a singer/songwriter by night. She is often asked if she compromises her singing for her 9-5 day job. And her answer is no. Why can’t she do both?

Another friend is at an art show. I would classify her as a jewellery designer. But within the jewellery making community there are tiers of respect given and received based on the type of metal you work in, the type of tools you use…and so on. She was upset over a conversation she’d had with another jewellery designer.  The other jewellery designer felt that my friend’s work is “artsy” and not “real jewellery design” and therefore should not be in the same category of the same show as their work.

index22Are we going round and round the same old conversation of “Artist Vs. Crafts person” or “Designer Vs. Artist”? ~Yawn. I remember these conversations from “back in the day” when I was a potter. I have just realized…I was called a “potter” even though I hardly ever made any actual pots! I wasn’t ever upset about this title—I worked in clay. Those who made tea-pots were potters, those who made thrown clay sinks…potters. Those who hand-built slabs of clay—potters. But I remember when this need to define came up in my circle. I think it was the late ‘90’s at the “One of a Kind Show”. Some potters had their shorts in a bunch that the show had “allowed” those who paint on bisque ceramics into the show. Egad…they poured liquid clay into molds—purchased molds. And then painted glazes on them. How would the public know that “OUR” pottery was “real” pottery? Painted bisque-ware was a lower class pottery.math_vs_design Continue reading…

Thinking of Selling Your Work Online?

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At some point, every jewellery artist wonders where they should sell their work. Several of my artist friends sell their work in big shows, with big travel and booth costs. But their work is at that level. Collectors all over the world love and buy their jewellery. I’m not at that level! I dream of that level.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’m making a big step to put my work online! After years of promoting the work of other artists through Metal Clay Artist Magazine…I somehow stopped making my own jewellery. Editing and publishing an independent magazine that was available on newsstands world wide was a big job. We had a great team and did an excellent job. But I put my “all” into the magazine, all the time. My studio gathered dust, then it gathered junk. I reclaimed it this past summer. I started to make some jewellery! Continue reading…

Open Shelf Firing Base Metal Clays by Martha Biggar

 

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I recall so clearly when I first heard about metal clay, back in the late 1990s, in the Rio Grande catalog. I thought I might like to work with it, and took my first class in 2000 (a two-week stint at Arrowmont in Tennessee, with Linda Kaye-Moses). I also recall, equally clearly, hearing about and then using Metal Adventures’ (Original) BRONZclay, when it came on the market in 2008. Such an interesting and different take on metal clay!

And look at us now: we have several versions of silver clay, plus a multitude of base metal clays, with more coming. What Bill Struve started experimenting with in 2006 has grown into an international community of inventors and users, with clays coming from many parts of the world. While I am personally far from a scientist, I do have an inquisitive nature that wants to know many things about the materials we use.

Most of us are aware of some differences in the base metal clays, like color and shrinkage rate. I’ve taught many classes that help others get the feel of different clays, but never went beyond the basics where firing is concerned.   This is the subject of my latest set of experiments, and this article deals specifically with open-shelf firing of base-metal clays; torch firing is the subject for my next major experiment and another article. Continue reading…

Now You See It, Now You Don’t… Transforming Your Workspace by Yvonne Kuennen

    

When you work with metal clay, you tend to fall in love with this medium because it takes up so little space. It is extremely portable and a very small toolbox will hold most of your tools. Many of the basic tools are common things you might find in your kitchen or around the house. Miniature rolling pin, cookies cutters, picks, emery boards, brushes, etc. are some examples of basic tools. In no time at all, the tools multiply, and, before you know it, take over a portion of your house. The other people who share that living space are forced to give it up. It really is unfair – to everyone concerned. (Pictured is Yvonne’s Kitchen/Studio.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is a challenge to organize so many tiny tools. You can’t have too many tools or too many beads (everyone knows that). The question is, how do you know what to let go of? You can’t know what to let go of until you assess what you have. In my study of feng shui, I ran across a book entitled, “Clearing the Clutter,” and then I attended a workshop on the same topic. It turns out the basic premise or use for feng shui is in the clearing of spaces. The best tip I learned for weeding “stuff” out of your life was one about creating three boxes or bins with the labels: donate/re-purpose, pitch and keep. The trick for me was getting the boxes to the thrift store or the trash before I got a chance to pull things back out. Keep telling yourself, “less is more.” It is so true. Continue reading…

Why I hate New Year’s Resolutions…

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I hate New Year’s Resolutions simply because there seems to be this mass need to redefine, redesign and analyze our errors in order to improve our lives. What if things are pretty good and we just want to carry on?

I feel that the driving force behind New Year’s resolutions is that you look for what is bad about yourself or your life, or maybe your art or studio. I get that. I worked really hard on totally cleaning out my studio last summer. My studio was not working for me, it was cluttered and full of stale ideas. But I had to forge ahead on it on my own terms, at my own time. New Year’s resolutions feels like a forced march to me. Continue reading…