Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Very Vitsky Christmas

I don't *do* Christmas. I have some leftover angst from childhood, I'm Jewish and there's not a lot of family left around my side of the world anymore. I celebrated Christmas when I was young. The Menorah was placed on a table right next to the tree, the tree was decorated to the nines and the Menorah was lit. It was especially beautiful when Chanukah overlapped Christmas and the light of the candles danced in the metallic gleam of the ornaments.

A few days ago I got a package that was marked "Do Not Open Until Xmas" from my cousins in the east. I'm thinking of moving to Richmond, Virginia in a couple of years and we had been talking about my coming out this December but life and personal schedules intervened. I was so surprised to see a box from them and couldn't begin to guess what was inside. I followed directions and waited until this morning to open it up. And when I did - just look what my eyes beheld! 11 individually wrapped prezzies!

I'm pretending that 8 of them are my Hanukah presents, two are stocking stuffers and one is the major Christmas bonanza.

I received, in no special order, a lint roller (a very necessary item with Diego and Ella's fur on every surface and piece of clothing), a much needed bottle of hand cream called "embrace happiness", and an adorable Nutcraker pen. There was a box of Godiva chocolates (which I will scarf down for breakfast in a few minutes), some pretty little bird and branch paper hankies, a handmade bookmark, a cake of goat milk soap (are they trying to tell me something?) and a note pad for things to do.

I got the obligatory pair of adorable socks (which I already put on since my toes are fahreezing), business card sized monthly calendars (think I'll frame those) and there was even a miniature partridge in a pear tree drawing tablet. Well, there's not an actual pear tree, but the partridge is front and center. I can't express how delighted I am.
Ella is enjoying the rustle and crunch of my booty too!
My cousins Patricia and Sally are so sweet. They're actually my Father's cousins. His Uncle was only 6 years older than he was, so his cousins are more in my age bracket than they were in his. We met on FB two years or so ago and I went to visit them last Thanksgiving.

I was invited to go to my L.A. cousin Joan's house for dinner tonight, but my Grinchy self declined. I wonder if there's still room at the inn... I'll have breakfast, go to my usual Christmas morning movie (The King's Speech I think) and give her a call to see. Thanks to all my cousins, near and far for including me in your seasonal celebrations. And to Pat and Sal - Thanks for all my magical treasures!

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday celebration, no matter the holiday, no matter the circumstances. Enjoy the season!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dreams of Time Gone By

I've been feeling envy this morning. The envy of youth. The envy of freedom. The envy of discovery. The envy of passion.

But it's not the green eyed sort of envy. The kind that binds your heart and drains your soul. Not even the green grass kind. It's more the wistful, wishful sort. Perhaps a kind of Samantha Stevens blend of envy and the desire for magical powers. The kind where you can twitch your nose and travel back to an earlier stage in your life and do things differently. Albeit with your current assortment of wisdom and intuition of course.
Linger - Lynette Andreasen

I'm wishing I were at university. Learning every technique under the stars from fabulous instructors with amazing tools and machinery and being introduced to unusual materials and creating the stuff that (my) dreams are made of.  I long to go back to a time when it was all about the learning, the making... and the selling (and teaching) came second, third or fourth.

Home - Lynette Andreasen

Of course, in my actual school years I was singing, didn't think I could draw my way out of a paper bag (hence no physical art in my life) and didn't even finish my first year of Jr. College (didn't want to do the basics - math, english etc). So if I *did* manage to transform into my 19 year old self it would have to be with my current knowledge base and interests.  I actually think of myself as an overgrown adolescent just coming into her own, so maybe it wouldn't be that far of a trip after all.

I'm sure you know by now that I've been surfing the web. I always want to take a trip in the wayback machine after an excursion into cyber space.

Thesis Spoons - Lynette Andreasen

Last year I had a creative crush on Lynette Andreasen. I wish I could remember how I found her. Perhaps on Flickr. She was in graduate school at Arizona State University and starting to work on her thesis. I began reading her blog, stalking her Etsy shop, commenting on her Flickr photos and befriended her on FaceBook. I adore her aesthetic. And I lusted after all the new toys (tools) she was experimenting with to create her lovely work. I even bought some of her thesis spoons after the show so I could have my own little piece(s) of her mystical creativity. 

Brooch Study - Laura Wood

Then this morning I was looking at photos on Crafthaus and fell in love with Laura Wood. Laura is at East Carolina University. Since this is just the very beginning of my love affaire, I don't know too much about her. I do know that she's doing wonderful things with handmade paper including setting it into bezels as brooches and making the most intriguing 3-D wall hangings. I plan on getting lost in her Tumblr later this evening.

Love Hunger - Laura Wood

And then I plan on taking some of my own advice. Practicing the art of 'Mindful Observation'. Figuring out WHY. Trying to decipher exactly *what* it is that I find so exciting about the work of these two young women. Can I learn something from their process? Is it possible to scan the depths of my own experience to school my current methodology?  I'm thinking so. And it won't take a trip into the Twilight Zone to enroll.

Sharing The Heirloom (individual brooches) - Laura Wood

(Margaret - this one's for you)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back on the Horse?

Well, the end of the year is at hand and that means the end of the RAD (Ring A Day) project on  Flickr. I made it through 3 months of rings before I bailed, but there are some folks who have soldiered (or soldered) through every single day making one ring of one kind or another. Some "real" metalsmithed rings and some conceptual creations.
Marthe Le Van - Security envelope and red ink

RAD developed a life of it's own as Lark Books took notice and is working on a book to be published in the fall of 2011 - and I'm so proud to say that a few of my rings will be included. Not sure which, but the anticipation is thrilling! Next some very dedicated makers brought the challenge to the attention of the SNAG conference coordinators who decided to present an exhibition at the Seattle conference in May 2011. Then Punch Gallery jumped on the band wagon and will present (and sell) the rings at a group show following the conference. I'm equally thrilled that I'll have some rings in those two events too.

Lora Hart - Plastic Spoon, Cubic Zirconia

I've been kind of sad that the challenge is ending. It was a wonderful experience and inspiration while I was taking part, and it's been an inspiration to see all the fabulous rings that are still being fabricated by all the talented, continuing artists.

Tomi Durgin - Fabricated Sterling Silver

But wait.. Thomasin Durgin also know as "MetalRiot" (who has made some of the most thought provoking and wonderful entries) decided that the fun doesn't have to stop in 2011! The new incarnation will be a ring a week. That's only 52 rings instead of 365. A much more manageable endeavor. And I'm thinking about jumping in again. And you can too!! Anyone with a way to make any kind of ring and a Flickr account can join the RAW group. You have another two weeks to start sketching. Jump in at any time and post when you're able. C'mon! Join me!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Hi All,

I think you know that I'm a Senior Instructor for PMC Connection. Well, there are some exciting changes going on and I wanted to give you all a head's up. Here's a press release that went out on December 9 to various publications.

PMC Connection Announces
New Leadership for Education Program

December 9, 2010
Mesquite, Texas

PMC Connection Education Directors Mary Ann and Ken Devos made the move from administration to full-time teaching in 2010. With vacancies in the Director roles, PMCC took the opportunity to overhaul its education program and diversify the leadership of its teachers.

PMC Connection is pleased to announce four new Directors of its Education program:
Director of Certification Curriculum and Teacher Development - Linda Kline
Artistic Advisor - Lora Hart
Director of Education Marketing - Peggy Houchin
Technical Advisor - Mary Ellin D'Agostino

By bringing more voices to the leadership of its educational offerings, PMCC hopes to create an environment where educators and artisans are continuously exchanging ideas and sharing best practices about metal clay, art, and teaching.

Jennifer Roberts, PMCC President explained, "The best teachers are always learning themselves. The metal clay world is experiencing exciting innovation at a rapid rate, at the same time new tools for running a business and reaching out to students appear every day. Our Senior Instructors will lead the conversations about this new territory and they have much to offer our educators and metal clay world.

"I love teaching and being able to share my passion with other metal clay enthusiasts," said new PMCC Artistic Advisor, Lora Hart. Hart's new PMCC blog CornerStone will launch in January 2011. "With interviews, monthly challenges and a variety of thought provoking posts, my goal is to explore the world of art/studio jewelry and create a friendly gathering place for both our Senior Instructor team members and all fans of PMC Connection," explained Hart.

By splitting the leadership among the four directors, PMCC plans to delve more deeply into each area and to provide even greater resources for metal clay artisans and educators. At the same time, PMCC will continue to benefit from the expertise of Mary Ann and Ken Devos, who were pioneers of metal clay and have evolved into
experts in the field. Roberts explained, "We are thrilled that Mary Ann and Ken will remain a vital part of the PMC Connection team."

The new directors are assuming their responsibilities gradually and all will be in place by January 2011.

PMC Connection is a leading supplier of metal clays - providing supplies, education, and inspiration to artisans worldwide.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Being PRO Active!

I'm so very pleased with my very first PMC PRO outcome. Hallelujah!

One of the rings broke in the greenware state and I fixed it by gently spreading the break open and applying some very thick home made slip into the crevice. I pressed the two sides back together and left the excess in place. Didn't smooth after it was dry, didn't sand it away, didn't do any more reinforcement. I wanted to see if such a quick repair would hold. Then before firing I quickly sanded all rings with green; 400 grit; 3M polishing paper, poured 1/2 inch of mystery carbon into my Hadar Jacobson home made fiber blanket box, set the rings in lightly,  put another 1/2 inch of carbon topped with another piece of fiber blanket (to act as a lid), set the kiln to a fast ramp to 1420 for 1 hour and went to watch reruns of Miami Ink. When the buzzer went off that indicated the firing was done - I picked up a kitty or three and snuggled until I went to bed. Taking PRO out of the kiln while still hot would create oxidation and I wanted to avoid that.

Got up this morning all excited and everything, went to the kiln and pulled my hand back in surprise. Still Hot!! Who'd a thunk? Well - I just couldn't stand to be patient one minute longer and used a tweezers to pluck the hot rings out of the carbon. While rooting around I realized that the carbon had totally burned to ash. Was it because I added a piece of fiber blanket on top? Fiber blanket is so heat retaining (which is what it's designed for) that the extra piece on top was overkill? Food for thought and more experimentation.

The oxidation was very easily removed with red 3M Radial Disks and I was glad to see that the color of PRO is lovely. I actually like it better than fine silver PMC. There were some surface sanding and maker's marks (fingernails must be trimmed on a regular basis) that I removed with a piece of the same green, 3M polishing paper loaded into a split mandrel/flex shaft. One of the rings did get flung across the room and has not come to light - but when the studio gremlins are done admiring it, I'm sure it will be returned.

When I re measured the ring sizes I came up with a size 4, 5.25, 6, 6.5 and 8. A pretty all around shrinkage of 4 sizes. The thinest area of the coil shrunk from 1.56 mm to .72 mm. And it's incredibly strong! Even my quick and dirty repair is as strong as Popeye.

My next experiment will be to make identical rings from PRO and PMC3. I've heard lots of complaints about the added expense of PRO, but I think that since it is stronger and you can make items thinner than we're used to - the cost per piece will be very comparable in the end. A ring made of PMC3 must be 5 cards or thicker to be strong and durable. A ring made of PRO seems to do just fine when only 3 cards thick. I may even try two cards just to see what happens.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Becoming a Pro with PRO?

Well, I hardly think that my tiny experiment this morning will qualify me as any kind of an expert. Far from it. But I had a fun play with my 15 g pack of PRO clay courtesy of PMC Connection.

I have a show coming up next weekend so I decided to make some little rolled rings. I divided the pack into 10 slices and began to roll each slice into a snake, which I then wrapped around my Multi Mandrels. Needless to say I realized by the second one that 10 equal slices will not make 10 equal rings on 5 different sized forms. DOH!

After stealing a bit of clay from one of the slices I finally made 5 rings in sizes 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. And since I wrapped a strip of teflex around each form first - they're really 6.5, 7.5, 8.5 and so on. I also set a 1.5 mm white sapphire in the end of each snake. When they're dry I'm going to do a bit of carving and then pop them in the kiln. I'll be interested to find out what size the rings shrink down to. More pictures as they develop.

As advertised, the clay is yummy right out of the pack. The first thing that I noticed is that it is a much darker grey than PMC + or 3. No problem identifying an escapee from the labeled package. Making a bit of home made slip was a breeze. I did take a long time to roll the first coil to length, try it for size, roll it longer, try it again etc - so it did dry a bit and crack as I wrapped it around the mandrel and I had to smush and re roll. But only used a bit of water and didn't "let it rest" as I would have for the other formulas of silver clay. Can't wait to order a regular size package of PRO and make some pierced brooches. I think this clay will be a lot of fun to use.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekend Eye Candy - Thanksgiving 2010 Edition

The best prayer you can ever say - Thank You!

I'm grateful for friends near and far; bright sunshiny days; warm beds and a cool head; family - both with & without fur and laughter in the rain.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekend Eye Candy - Birthday Edition

It's my Birthday! So I thought I'd throw a party with some of my favorites. ;D

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pro or Con?

Last night there was an incredibly informative class/discussion about a new metal clay product put out by Mitsubishi Materials called PMC Pro. It's an alloy of fine silver and copper. 90% silver, 10% copper. Those are the same proportions used in Coin Silver.

Wikipedia has a really informative entry on the variety of silver standards that are used around the world. The 92.5 that we're used to calling Sterling and that we feel comfortable using as the "go to" white metal is just one alloy that is available to jewelry makers. There's been a real resurgence of interest in Shibuichi - 95% copper and 5% silver (although I know that isn't considered "white" by any stretch of the imagination). Reticulation silver is (generally) 82% silver and 18% copper. Mexican silver is 95% silver and 5% copper. There are all kinds of wonderful metals available to make beautiful jewelry with.

So why has there been such a hubbub online in the past few days about this new offering from Mitsubishi? It's an unknown? People don't like change? It's an election week and distrust in in the air? I don't know, but what I do know is that last night's class was a wonderful introduction to a new material presided over by one of the most respected people in the metals world (clay or milled) and "assisted" by three other incredibly talented and knowledgeable artists. None of whom are on the payroll of said manufacturing company by the way.

Rings by Celie Fago. See how narrow the shank is on the signet ring? And the laced ring is only 3 cards thick!

Tim McCreight, Jeanette Landenwitch, Barbara Becker Simon and Celie Fago generously shared all they've learned in their explorations with this new material. Making the learning curve shorter for the rest of us.

From Tim we learned that this new alloy was developed, as is, because Mitsubishi wanted to meet a number of standards that they felt would make Pro an attractive product. They were looking for tensile strength, stretchability, bending strength, surface hardness (resistance to dings and dents) reasonable firing schedules and methods, and beauty of color. They tried all sorts of alloys, including sterling, and this is the one that met the majority of their pre requisites.

Rings by Patrik Kusek

From Jeanette we learned that enameling is possible with this new alloy with the added bonus that you don't have to depletion gild it! From Barbara we heard that she has not quite figured out how to judge the shrinkage when making her gorgeous bangles. One came out too small (bonus for her daughter) and one came out too big. Which was actually a blessing, because in trying to fix it she learned that it is oh so easy to attach fresh Pro to fired Pro with some homemade slip. Good to know! Celie will be making all her hinges and catches with Pro from now on. It's so hard and strong that her beautiful curly box catch doesn't flex at all when snapping shut. Although the one previously made with PMC3 - does.

This one was made with PMC3, but I couldn't find the image of the new one online.

There was so much more. The information flowed for an hour and a half. And if I had any kind of a good memory, I'd most likely be sharing more of what I heard. But taking a class is so much better than waiting for information to trickle through the cyber pipelines, isn't it? That's why I paid my money the first day the class was announced. The class was sponsored by Rio Grande and PMC Connection (the only two importers of PMC) and since I'm a senior instructor my money was refunded and I got to listen in for free, but I would have been happy to pay for the wisdom.

I'll leave you with some of the bullet points about PMC Pro and hope you'll give it a chance. It's not for everyone. It's much better for some techniques and perhaps overkill for others. It's more expensive due to the manufacturing process, but so are ready made sterling tube, bezel wire, sheet, earring wires - etc. It's a really interesting addition to the alchemy that is metal clay and I can't wait to try it!

  • Fire to 1400ºF in carbon for one hour. Fast ramp. No nonsense.
  • 1/2" spacing between pieces and the bottom or top of the carbon layer. A US nickel is about an inch, so half of Jefferson's face should be buried.
  • PMC Pro can be used along side PMC3 but the two should NOT be blended to make a different alloy. Fire for 30 minutes in an open firing to burn off the binders in the PMC3 and then for another 30 minutes in carbon.
  • Use only easy or medium solder on finished pieces. The melting points of hard solder and PMC Pro are too close for comfort.
  • Make your own slip by adding water to the Pro clay just as you always do with the other formulations. Tim added some lavender oil to make it nice and creamy.
  • If you let the fired pieces cool in the carbon/container they won't oxidize.
  • You can use the same tools you always use, but not the same sanding supplies.
  • Shrinkage is between 15% and 20%.
The PDF notes that were e-mailed to attendees of last night's class have also been uploaded to the PMC Guild website. Look for a great way to make your own firing container. Happy learning!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekend Eye Candy - Tutorial Edition

Surprisingly, there are a lot of great tutorials on Flickr. Some are videos, some require that you click from photo to photo and some will link to another site with all the information.

Do a search for Tutorial, How to, Tute... I'm going back right now to look into that torch fired enamel lesson in square #3. They all look great though. And these are only from my own contacts. I'm sure there are thousands more to discover.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Here it is. All done. Decided I liked the underneath of the Mother of Pearl button since I'm all about distressed textures, and I used stuff that was hanging out on my bench. Does that count? Baby steps. Thanks for the inspiration RadPack!

RAD Pack #1

Okay. This is it. I put all the little packages in a ziplock bag, stuck my fingers in and pulled out a random inspiration. Going to lunch to sketch now. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hold Me Back

The Flickr Ring A Day project was started on January 1, 2010 by Nina Dinoff. I got on board right away, but only lasted 3 months. Many of the current participants are members of the Etsy Metal team. One member, Katherine Riechert had the bright idea to send out little bundles of inspiration to other participating EM members. Victoria Takahasi (Experimetal) continued sending out surprise packages and now Sara Westermark has generously thought to include non EM team members too!

I don't know if it was all my Facebook grousing about my high levels of ennui and my low levels of motivation or if I just lucked out, but what to my wondering eyes did appear at my mail drop but a little white envelope filled with 15 teenier little brown packets of.... I don't know what! Along with the goodies was a list of rules. First and foremost, and most cruel of all - "If you open a package you have to use it or use it for inspiration and make a piece within 24 hours! No Peeking!"

What! Arrgghhhh... I'm already late getting ready for the first night at Otis and my hair is filthy and I have to take a shower and I have no time until the weekend and this is worse than Christmas. Even for a Jewish girl! I feel like Gollum. Wanting to fondle my pretties, pet them, admire them and hide them away to fondle another day. Sigh. *Is* anticipation a good thing? The jury is out. But Thanks Sara! Can't wait to hit the bench now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

I have just about the best job in the world I guess. Where else can I teach all I know, get to work with talented people and have too much fun in the bargain?! I taught a Level 1 certification class this weekend to 6 lovely women who all made beautiful jewelry. They were so motivated that I was actually able to work on a little some'in myself. I never complete a project in a class I'm teaching (or one I'm taking for that matter) and didn't really finish my little tea pot, but just being able to work on it to a recognizable state means that my students were more than capable of completing their tasks with minimal shoulder hovering by me.

Work by the lovely and talented Dawn Miller, my charming apprentice

Margaret Hamilton had never so much as touched metal clay before Saturday!

Michelle Vandenbroeck made the most fabulous vessel complete with a stopper and moveable "barbells"

PattiDean Wohlford is a Senior Instructor with Art Clay Silver (teaching in the San Fernando Valley)

I adore the "champion" wreath on the half lentil and the dimensional leaves on the dichro project by Sherri Armstrong

Isn't the "S" Tracy Karbus added to her little vessel just darling ?

And here's my little work in progress

If you missed signing up for this L1, there's another scheduled for November 13/14. And save the date - the next L2 is tentatively gonna happen January 15/16 (location TBD). Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekend Eye Candy - Texture Edition

I'm running out of time today, so I thought I'd look in my Flickr "favorites" for some inspiration. I love texture. I love how many glorious images of unusual and spectacular surfaces can be found on Flickr. Does anyone besides me see some wonderful unintended jewelry here? I so want a brooch exactly like the first picture. Might have to get out the ol' grey goop (or bronze) and make myself a little artifact! Next week. I'm prepping for my Level 1 Certifiation class this weekend. Hope y'all have an inspired weekend too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book 'Em Dano!

I'm in love with books. Almost any kind. I grew up with an actual library of them in the den. A whole wall's worth. There were my Mother's psych/social work tomes, classic novels, musical scores (I adored the Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook, so sad that it's lost to a moldy storage locker now), Bibles, dictionaries... all with hard covers - some bound in leather.

(The den in my palatial childhood estate. Wasn't my Mommy a great decorator? There are more books to the right and in the cupboards below - along with my Father's accordion)

And it seems as if I inherited the book hoarding gene. I've still got all my gorgeous childhood picture books (in a trunk in the closet); one bookcase filled with art/jewelry/hand craft inspiration; one with novels, inspiration and old journals and still more books in bags that I have no room to display. This is one disease I have no interest in curing.

Books are a gift. Especially when they come to you unexpectedly! I've gone to my mail box four times in the past month to find beautiful books. Thanks Universe.

Okay, one of them I actually ordered. I decided (on a whim, late at night) to create a "Look Book". I was watching "The Rachel Zoe Project" and she had one with the new fashion collections. So I made myself a vanity print filled with my own jewelry designs on Shutterfly. And it turned out beautifully! I ordered 7 copies. What on earth will I do with all of those? Good grief. I actually like it so much that I might do one every season. I'm in for it now.

Tim McCreight was so excited to get the proofs for the next PMC Guild Annual that he generously thought to mail the jurors a set too! The loose pages are stunning. I can only imagine how beautiful the bound book will be. Thanks so much Tim!

Somehow I got on a list over at Lark. A while back I received 30 Minute Earrings. I'm delighted to say that I'll have a project in 30 Minute Rings, so I was really curious to see what it might look like. And if Earrings is any indication - I'm thrilled. It is, of course, beautifully shot and laid out. Would Lark do otherwise? But the projects people! The Projects! There are earrings made with mixed and found objects, simple and elegant wire wraps, soldering challenges (love the solder inlay project), sawing, metal clay, riveting, fold forming, cuttlebone casting... the techniques go on and on! Although you do need a basic understanding of the methods described, I think it would be a great idea for any beginning jewelry maker to start at the beginning of the book and work their way to the back to get a feel for what each discipline is like. It's a perfect jewelry making primer. And a well scripted "handout" that's as valuable as any beginning class. Challenge yourself, gift yourself with 30 minutes each day (or every weekend) to do nothing but play. To allow yourself the freedom and joy of pure creation, without the angst of coming up with a design. It's all laid out for you. Take advantage of the gift and see how many unique and exciting earrings you can create in a year!

THIS is a Dreidel?!

Then last week I was shocked to discover a copy of the latest Lark 500 book in my box. Now *that* is a gift! 500 Judaica, Innovative Contemporary Ritual Art is just fabulous! I don't care what your personal faith is, this book is photo illustrated with exquisite examples of ritual tableware; textiles; toys; sacred objects; furnishings and texts that will inspire and delight you. There's even a glossary in the back that briefly defines and describes the various terms used throughout the book - giving the casual reader an insight into the meaning of each precious object. It's my goal to own every single book in this series. 500 Judaica is my 11th volume. Thanks Lark, for pushing me past the decade mark.