I make jewellery. No wait. I MAKE jewellery. These 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…
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.
PMC3 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.
With 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 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.
In 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.
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
Another of my animal friends, Sassy the dog from Alabama.
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…
Artists and makers tend to talk a lot about creativity. It is good to think about this. Contemplation of creativity allows us to understand what we do. To really develop our studio practice and move our creative expression forward, examining the nature of creativity is worthwhile. So, let’s start with a question. What is creativity? Creativity is the transformation of thought into action. It is awareness of the power of creative thought and application of creative energy through conscious activity. Creativity itself is a process. That is the way creativity becomes expression. Examining the nature of the creative process enhances our awareness of the true nature of creativity, and enables us to engage it and activate it more fully.
Creativity is a resource. This is my favorite thing about it. It’s available to everyone. There is no cover charge or entry fee. It is the same cost to all of us. Creativity is free!
This brings us to our second question; What is the source of creativity? Creativity is endless and eternal. It doesn’t have a beginning or an end. Creativity is like water; it’s liquid and flowing. It’s like an ocean, constant and enormous. Just like an ocean, it is always there. Continue reading…
Sculptural Metal Clay Jewelry by Kate McKinnon Interweave, 2010
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.
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/
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.
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…