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.
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.
This bracelet was inspired by the work of renowned Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. I’ll show you how to create this lovely bracelet from Goldie Bronze™ clay using small, individually-shaped elements in layers to build the very sculptural design. The stones in this bracelet are set after firing, giving you a much greater choice of what you can use.
Project and Photos by: Waldo Ilowiecki
Editing by: Margaret Schindel, Joy Funnell and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
California based mixed media maker Catherine Witherell is a self-confessed experimenter who has been creating all her life. “I call myself a ‘Maker’ because I enjoy making things,” she explained with a smile. “I try to stay open about what I make. I don’t stay in one media exclusively. I like to do what I want, when I want. I feel like I’ve done a lot of experimenting and exploring along the way. I get inspiration from many directions. I’m good with my hands.”
Catherine’s parents were Hungarian immigrants who escaped the communist takeover of Hungary in 1956. “My first language was Hungarian and although I’m not fluent, I can think in that language and if I hear it being spoken, I always go over to whoever is speaking it, introduce myself and have a conversation. I was raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada until I was 13 years old. In 1970 our family moved to the United States and I attended junior high and high school in California.”
Her earliest memories of being creative began with her father. “He was a drafting engineer who brought my sister and I some vellum and we drew on it with markers, cut things out and decorated our bedroom windows with the pictures. From a very young age I remember coloring with my sister and filling many coloring books together. One Christmas we got a Spirograph set which we fought over! And we loved Play Doh!” she laughs. “Hungarians are artistic people – my father’s sister was a fabric pattern designer.”
I asked Catherine to tell me a bit about her family life now. “My partner is my best friend and the answer to an artists’ dreams!” she began. “We’ve been married for 29 years and he’s very supportive. At this very moment, our youngest flew the nest and went off to live at his new college to study Computer Science,” she said. “I have mixed feelings of course because he’s been very dear to me the last couple of years and is also a night owl like I am. Often, late past midnight he would come into my studio where we would have deep and also silly conversations that warmed my heart. He tells his friends stories about me and sometimes I find that they add me as a friend on Facebook. It is one of my highest honors.”
She went on, “I have a daughter who just graduated with a double major in Japanese Language and International Political Economics and is now working as an illustrator in the Pacific Northwest. She’s very talented at drawing on a digital pen tablet and also in ink. Her work blows my mind. My home environment has been loving, we are constantly playfully sparring and we practice ‘the snappy comeback’. We’re all comedians and are very close. My husband and I try to support our kids’ aspirations and of course we miss them now that they are young adults on their own.”
I asked Catherine to tell me a bit about how she came to be such a prolific maker in so many media. “I studied history and wanted to become a historian when I was in college,” she explained. “I discovered that I was an artist at 20 after taking a weekend course on choosing a life direction where the result was doing anything that involved color, although I didn’t do much until I was 30. After getting married and having two children and turning 40, I decided I had to do something that thrilled me or I would over control my kids and not have a satisfying creative life for myself. It was then I began my practice of doing some art, almost anything, for a few minutes to whatever I could get away with, every single day. At first I had a little 5×7 notebook that I filled with notes and pictures that I cut out of catalogs and magazines. Continue reading…
Mokume-gane (a Japanese word meaning wood-grained metal) is a difficult mixed-metals technique that originated in 17th-century Japan. Different colors of metals and/or alloys are stacked and diffusion-bonded into a single billet that is carved and forged alternately to expose the different metal layers, creating unique and detailed patterns resembling wood grain. Creating true mokume-gane is an arduous and time-consuming process that requires a great deal of technical skill and experience.
Polymer clay artists use simple techniques to produce patterns that loosely mimic the look of true mokume gane, but they are not practical to use for combining multiple types of metal clay. Artist, teacher and author Hadar Jacobson shows MCAM readers her own method for simulating mokume-gane with silver and copper metal clays.
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.
“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 original inspiration for this project came from my need to create a unique setting for a wine cork after taking a design class in San Francisco The layers of syringe create bezel like frames with an organic feel reminiscent of a bird’s nest. Each bezel frame is unique and can be filled with a variety of mixed media (polymer clay, resin, paper, etc.) after firing. In this project polymer clay bullseye canes are sculpted and carved with added embellishments for a carved button feel.
Author: Michelle Loon
Edited by Joy Funnell, Margaret Schindel and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
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.
This inexpensive battery-operated engraving tool is a lightweight and compact addition to the metal clay artist’s tool kit. It is handy for engraving both bone-dry and fired metal clay as well as other materials such as ceramics, wood and glass. This pen-shaped tool is comfortable to hold and easy to manipulate. It comes with both 1.4 mm and 4 mm ball-tipped diamond burs plus a hex wrench for switching between them. It operates on two AAA batteries (not included). I’ve found the battery life to be good.
I tried out the tool on bone-dry silver clay and found that it carved very quickly and easily—in fact, faster than I had expected. It’s easy to carve away more than you had planned, so I’d suggest practicing briefly on some scrap clay or even heavy cardboard before you use it on a piece you plan to fire. With only a little practice I was able to carve designs in my greenware much more quickly and easily than I could have done by hand. The engraver is operated with a thumb-controlled button that activates with just a light touch. That sensitivity prevents thumb strain so the tool isn’t tiring to use, but it also meant that I had to be careful not to turn on the tool accidentally.
The Micro Engraver is available for about $14.95 by Beadsmith and can be found at many retailers including Amazon and PMC Connection.
Baroque Art Gilders Paste
I was first introduced to Baroque Art Gilders Paste by Paula Radke, who showed me how to use it to enhance finished glass clay cabochons. Since then I’ve noticed it popping up all over the place. The paste is a combination of waxes, resins and highly concentrated pigments. You can use it to add color to many different substrates including fired metal clay. It should be sealed with a clear coat (the manufacturer recommends Krylonâ UV-Resistant Clear spray (gloss or matte) to protect it from rubbing off.
Gilders Paste is available in a wide range of primary, secondary and metallic colors that can be mixed to create an even broader palette. The metallic colors are my favorites. The paste comes in a tin with a tightly fitted lid to keep it from drying out. However, if that does happen it can be reconstituted by mixing in a few drops of paint thinner, mineral spirits or turpentine. Once applied, the paste takes 12 to 24 hours to cure completely, although it dries to the touch within minutes. This is a fun product to experiment with and since a little goes a very long way you can do quite a lot of experimenting: A 1.5-oz. tin will cover about 30 square feet!
About the Author: 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/
Micro-mosaic is an ancient art form of miniature glass mosaics that were popular during the Victorian era and reportedly no longer are made. Micro-mosaic pieces can be intricately patterned, with microscopically small glass components and carefully grouted, ground and polished surfaces, or simpler and more economical, such as Venetian micro-mosaics in which the pieces are larger and the surface is neither ground nor grouted. . This project uses the Venetian style of micro-mosaic and my own processes.
I use several types of glass rods: flat noodle-shaped rods called smalti filati, multicolored patterned and shaped rods similar to millefiori (tessera), millefiori, and some small lampworking rods. I buy my smalti filati or glass rods that make up the background colors from Miami Mosaics. They carry the filati in quite a number of colors and you can buy sampler mixes. (See the Resources section at the end of this article.) According to some sources, the patterned or complex tessera rods are not being made any longer, so my main source for tessera is damaged micro-mosaic pieces. Micro-mosaic jewelry often is available on eBay, and it’s worth checking out as a potential source not only of damaged pieces to take apart, but also of design inspiration. I also have developed relationships with some antique shops whose buyers will purchase damaged micro-mosaic jewelry for me when they find it and then contact me. You might want to try to develop your own similar source(s) of damaged micro-mosaic pieces. Also, just in case the information I’ve found about micro-mosaic work no longer being done is true, please don’t destroy undamaged micro-mosaics to re-use the glass pieces for your own designs! These are valuable examples of a potentially lost art form that should be preserved for future generations.
Experience Level – Advanced Edited by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Joy Funnell and Margaret Schindel.
“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.
Are 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.Continue reading…