Commissions–to take them or not is a question many artists have to figure out for themselves. About ten years ago the parents of a friend of mine were celebrating a big anniversary and they wanted new wedding bands. They came to me to make them. I was flattered and scared. The rings turned out well and they have been worn everyday for the past decade. My friends’ father is a woodworker, gardener, golfer and has worked hard while wearing a fine silver ring…so you can guess that it has been pretty beaten up. It was flattened and reshaped at one point which work-hardened a few spots. Over time these spots weakened. He asked if I could solder the opening. I figured it would be much better to remake the ring in a stronger sterling silver metal clay. So here I am with a ring I made over a decade ago–and I need to remake it– “Exactly the same. The fit and shape are perfect.” (Pictured is the old ring and the old texture plate.)
The first thing I had to do was find the texture sheet I used over a decade ago….in another studio! My studio moved from a shop I had downtown to my garage–then was cleaned out last summer. Oy! I remember finding the old texture sheets and tossing them. But did I toss them in a “maybe I’ll teach metal clay again someday bin” or in the garbage? It took me a few hours to find them…but I had them. Whew! “Exactly the same” rang in my head! So here we go…I documented remaking this simple ring band so that you can follow along.
I always have loved jugs and I have a much-loved collection of milk jugs in all shapes and sizes. It was natural that I should want to make miniature jugs in pure silver! The project instructions will make a jug about ½” (13mm) high,which is equivalent to 6” (15cm) tall in the standard dollhouse scale of 1:12. These little jugs also look wonderful hanging on a charm bracelet.
The secret to sculpting small miniatures in metal clay is to make the rough shape of the object in fresh clay, dry it, and then refine the shape with sanding, repairing imperfections with paste as necessary.
I’ve always been interested in supernatural phenomena: ESP, clairvoyance, telekinesis, observations that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding. Today there seems to be an unlimited number of TV shows on everything from Bigfoot to psychic pets. Even The History Channel has gotten into the act with programs on UFOs and psychic phenomena. So when I got the idea to make a pendulum for a necklace, I thought a little investigative research might be in order.
Pendulum divination has been around for hundreds of years. It has been used to find hidden treasure, diagnose illness, locate missing persons, uncover gemstones hidden in the ground, and even find Russian submarines. Many notable people took advantage of the power of the pendulum. Leonardo da Vinci, General Patton, even Albert Einstien was known to use the pendulum with great success. He believed its power lay in electromagnetism and energy that is unseen and not yet fully understood.
Regardless of how or why it works, you don’t need to be psychic to use it, and now you can make one for yourself!
Artist/Author: Patrik Kusek
Photos: Patrik Kusek
Editors: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Joy Funnell and Margaret Schindel.
Providing elegance and sunshine to everyday, flowers can always brighten a mood. Create a flower of grace and splendor with carved leaves for that added touch of detail. I will then show you how to solder the foliage to a sterling silver cuff that will allow you to take the flower with you everywhere.
Project and Photos by CANDACE STEPPES
Editing by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and Joy Funnell
(All images and text copyright to the artist and permission must be given by the Artist or Creative Fire to reproduce.)
Mostmetalclayartistshavea quite a few pieces that didn’t work out as planned.Mymetalclayleftoverslive ina box on my workbench. I leave themthereasa visual reminder, hopingthatsomegrandinspiration willpointmeintherightdirection. I also collect vintage cabs, brass stampingsandbeadsdatingfrom1910 to1970,andcontainersofthemlitter theshelvesonmy wall! Asfatewouldhaveit,I knocked over the box of metal clay odds and ends onto a design board where I had been playing with some vintage cabs and stones.Theylandedinjusttheright spotand— voilà!—aninspirationwas born.Itwastheperfectmarriage ofmy collections of vintage stones, polymer clay and metal clay. I have found some of my most interesting stones at tag sales andthriftshops,setinunwanted bracelets, necklaces or pins.Release thesestonesfromtheirolddesigns andmixthemwithyourmetalclay leftoversandpolymerclaytogive themanentirelynewlook!Your localcraftstorealsocarrieslotsof interestingthingsthatcanbesetinto a bezel.
Project Design and Photos:
Margaret Schindel and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
Editor’s note: This project can serve as a springboard for multiple variations. For example, use three stone or glass cabochons rather than filling two of the bezels with polymer clay cane slices, or join the metal components with metal clay oil paste instead of solder.
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
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.
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
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.
Glass clay is fairly new on the clay scene. Like metal clay, it can be molded and/or sculpted and, after drying and being fired in a kiln, it undergoes a seemingly magical transformation. But instead of textured, sculpted or molded solid metal, glass clay transforms into textured, sculpted or molded solid glass! Easy to use and inexpensive, it comes in powdered form in a wide range of colors (opaque only). You can use your glass clay cabochons as you would use any fused glass cabs, such as in the hinged bracelet project or the mixed media bracelet.
Author and photos except those noted: Paula Radke
Editors: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and Ann Davis
Photos 1-3: Ann Davis
I always think of Virginia based metal clay teacher and artist Martha Biggar as part of a team – Ed and Martha go together like ham and eggs – for the US readers – or tea and crumpets as we say in the UK! I’ve called her a ‘metal clay teacher and artist’ but Martha describes herself slightly differently. “I usually think of myself as an artist/educator/farmer, but maybe renaissance woman would be better…” she told me.
It’s not often that I meet someone who still lives within a stone’s throw of where they were brought up, but Martha is an exception. “I grew up on the family farm that touches the one we own today in Draper, VA,” she began. “My husband Ed, a glassblower, and I travel and teach both glass and jewelry. Although I sold my cow herd in 2013, we still have donkeys, horses, and a couple mules. We raise specialized vegetables for the farmers markets and chefs in our area, including figs, asparagus, and assorted varieties of cherry tomatoes.”
Not surprisingly, her first memories of being creative involve animals. “My earliest memories involve drawing horses as a very young child,” she said. I asked her how she discovered metal clay. “I taught middle school art in our county, and as is required in Virginia, I had to take classes every five years at least in my field. Since I didn’t want to write reports, I generally went to Arrowmont in Tennessee, where I took my first class in metal clay in 2000 from Linda Kaye-Moses. I had seen metal clay advertised by Rio Grande and wondered about it but was concerned about the cost of a kiln. So, I figured I would try it out and see if I liked it. If I didn’t, my family would have a vacation and I would have Christmas presents. But I did, and promptly went home and purchased a kiln. My first piece was a 1-inch square that Linda always taught to beginners, I still have it.” I guess it was a lean Christmas that year!
If you follow Ed and Martha on social media, you’ll know about their creative space, The Shedio. “We have The Shedio, made by the construction class at our high school. Not big enough at 10×16, it has plenty of outlets dedicated for kilns and a hood for Ed’s glass work space. It is very chaotic especially if we are in and out for traveling. But we both seem to manage.”
I asked Martha about her own creative process. “As a general rule I don’t sketch for myself,” she told me. “I sometimes make my own templates and draw them. Even though I draw well it’s not part of my process.” She went on, “Since Ed is so involved in glass, it was only natural that I should include glass in my work. I am not especially fond of dichroic glass, although I do like and teach fusing. Many of my pendants capture leftover bits of marble or goblet cane.”
I asked Martha if she has a style. “I think the most recognizable part of my ‘style’ is that I like clean finishing,” she said. “I use different grits of sanding pads to accomplish this and finish my semi-production pieces as nicely as the one of a kind items.” And what influences her work? “My two main influences are my faith and the natural world around us,” she began. “Many of my pieces reflect the many images of crosses. And, although some would say those two viewpoints are against each other, growing up as we did depending on weather and the land is something that is ingrained in me. Beautiful textures that come from plant or other natural forms are commonly mixed with cruciform shapes in much of my work.” Martha has a great example of these influences in her work. “This is one of my favorite pieces, a Jerusalem Cross made of Original PMC and PMC+ (which gives it the gentle curve). The back texture is from a skeletonized leaf.”
I know that both Ed and Martha teach so I asked her to tell me more about that. “We teach both privately and at venues such as Bead and Button and Glass Craft. I enjoy fusing classes, photopolymer plates, and beginner metal clay classes.” They also sell their work. “We sell locally at our Farmers Markets, as well as regionally such as the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center in Abingdon, VA, and through the galleries and Fairs of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, based in Asheville, NC,” she explained.
With teaching and selling as well as farming, Martha has a full and busy schedule. I asked her what she does to relax. “Read, play with the animals, be outside.” she said. Not too surprising given her background and environment, so I asked her to tell me something that we might find surprising about her. “One summer in college I saw a poster for classes at Harvard University. One of my instructors helped me and I received a grant and studied there for six weeks in the Masters of Landscape Architecture program. Loved it! And the Boston Pops too!”
I asked Martha what she was currently working on. “Here is this Celtic Cross made from Cyprus Clay. I saw a blacksmith friend make a larger version from three straight pieces of steel; I went back to our demonstration booth and replicated it in silver. I truly enjoy working with the Cyprus, its flexibility allows the clay to be bent and then reshaped in wet form.”
Martha is about to embark on an exciting new challenge. “I am on track to become a certifying teacher for the new Camp PMC, Mitsubishi’s new certification program,” she told me. “I told Ed the other day that this has been a dream for years. As far as making goes, I’d like to take three to six months and concentrate on creating a larger body of one of a kind pieces, probably in series, and not concentrate so much on the bread and butter pieces.” When I asked her where she sees herself going with her metal clay work, her answer was simple. “Onward and upward…” That’s good enough for me!
Finally, I asked Martha about her online presence. “We use a Facebook page as a ‘plog’, a photo blog. This shows our jewelry and glass of course but also glimpses into our everyday lives. One of these days I’ll get a real website back up and running…” To find out more about Ed and Martha, and what goes on in The Shedio, visit the Facebook page here – www.facebook.com/theshedio
About the author: Julia Rai is an award winning artist, teacher and writer well known in the international metal clay community. Her work has featured in a wide range of publications and she writes regularly for print magazines and online. She teaches in her home studio in Cornwall and travels to teach by invitation. You can find Julia at her school in St. Austell, UK www.csacj.co.uk
Cool Tools et Creative Fire ont le plaisir de présenter un autre projet de notre série d’œuvres de maîtres artistes. Ce tutoriel est un magnifique une bague paon par Armelle Burbaud.
Bague « Paon »
J’aime beaucoup sculpter des oiseaux, à la fois parce que je les trouve émouvants et parce qu’ils sont un joli prétexte à créer du mouvement. Et comme j’adore passer des heures à fignoler la gravure et creuser la pâte avec un scalpel pour voir apparaître le frémissement de leurs plumes – et que j’adore les bagues … voici un pas à pas qui m’a permis de lier ces deux passions : une bague paon !
[Cool Tools and Creative Fire are pleased to present another project in our ongoing “Artist Project Series”. This time master artist Ann Davis took up our challenge to design a unique tutorial using FS999. Thank you Ann for your creative and fun project!]
The mystery and mystique of columns seems to infuse all parts of human history. Sumerians had them, Minoans had them, just about everyone did. There are even some Stone Age columns, admittedly more lithic, rectangular, or kind of ax shaped at Gobekli Tepe. So they kind of started out stone and then were wood or whole trees turned upside down and planted in holes. Premium stone eventually replaced wood ones, fluted columns are said to simulate tree bark. The representations of columns on early Minoan seal rings, have people dancing around them, makes you think of Maypoles:) The Greeks and Romans took it to the next level, erecting victory columns, highly decorated with statues of heroes on the top. Columns are said to represent the bridge between heaven and earth, important buildings, shrines, and the Egyptian Djed pillar, stability and the spinal column. To me the column represents knowledge, written records, ancient alphabets.
There are so many archeological sites with columns, standing, fallen, broken. I really like the broken ones, they speak to me of past civilizations. Something epic enough happened to break a column. Makes you wonder. I love a good mystery!
I have 4 fluted and twisted columns holding glass shelves in my living room. There are two columns on an antique linen cabinet complete with brass finals, along with 2 brass Nikes in my dining room. I also chose a Doric column to replace the old wrought Iron trellis on my front porch, it supports a Trumpet Vine that spirals up to the roof, the August humming bird’s delight! Did I do all that on purpose…no not really it just happened, apparently I love a good column. Continue reading…
Cool Tools and Creative Fire are pleased to present a new tutorial by Master Artist Trish Jeffers-Zeh. This in-depth project is both an artistic and creative soul journey.
“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.” ― George Washington Carver
My work and designs are highly influenced by my need to find peace in an often hectic and uncompromising world. Hence, I headed into the studio, followed my intuition and “The Tree of Tolerance” was born.
At first, I had a totally different design in mind. However, once I sat at my bench gazing outside, the stately Elm tree in my front yard drew my attention. After all, it would be her leaves, skeletonized and carefully collected by me for their lacey, intricate beauty of imperfection. They were to be central as my bail, texture, and theme for the ceramic pendant. When I am creating to release my worries, it becomes a meditation or prayer. It is at these times I let go and trust my intuition. The works that manifest while under this influence are most often admired by others and are prime examples of my yearning to grow past the techniques I have learned.
The elm is often associated with Mother and Earth Goddess, strength, communication, relationships and its essence energizes the mind and balances the heart. It attracts love, protects and aids in sharpening intuitive instincts. Elm is the arbitrator that listens without judgement. Most mature elms of European and American origin have died from Dutch elm disease, even though they had a long history for their tolerance to thrive wherever they were planted. Thankfully disease resistant cultivars have been developed that are as tolerant to various growing conditions as their forbearers were before the dreaded disease. The Tree of Tolerance represents the seed that I hope is cultivated in all of us so that we may lead with compassion. Continue reading…
Part 2: The Tree of Tolerance by Trish Jeffers-Zeh
NOTE: *Click on photos with the black frame for a detailed slideshow of steps*
All images enlarge when clicked on.
Step 10: Tree Details.
It’s Tree time again! Using only the syringe with the 14ga/olive green and 18ga/light green tips I began to add layer upon layer blending each one to create my tree relief. This took some time, which is no issue to me since I’m very process oriented. With each added layer I used both number 4 and 1 paint brushes as my sculpting tools. I kept adding to achieve the look I wanted the tree to have. This was one of my most favorite steps of the project as each layer the tree came more and more to life. In watching the video you’ll see little tips on how to maneuver the brush to sculpt. Before I add more branches I proceed to set the stone. In doing so this will give me a visual on how much more I want to build up the branches of my tree.
Step 11: Setting the Stones. Setting the stones first step for putting it into place had already been accomplished when I placed a concave dome in the doughnut center and drilled the hole. I wanted the stone recessed, however I still wanted to raise it up a smidge so I made a seat for it. First dampening the area I would be laying a syringe line around the cleaned up opening. Using the 14ga/olive green syringe tip I extruded my line around the perimeter of the hole and used the fine tip brush with water to clean it up and blend the fresh clay. Continue reading…