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…
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.
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/
“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…
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…
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…