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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fate, Firing Metal Clay, and Having Faith in Your Teammates


Backstory: At the end of last season, Gabe went to southern California twice for tournaments. As I recall, they won both tournaments (I was unable to accompany him). In one of the tournaments, there were some very strange games… or outcomes, anyway. There was a game in which Gabe's team was down 0-4. Yikes! But Gabe was the only goalie on the team so there wasn't even the option of "pulling the goalie". His team came back with four unanswered goals, however, and that tie was enough to get them into the championship game.

In the championship game, they found themselves once again down 0-4. And again they came back with four unanswered goals. But since it was a championship game, they couldn't end in a tie. They did OT, I believe, and then proceeded to a shoot-out (interesting side note: the name of the tournament was something "shoot-out"). Anyway, then ended up winning.

Jump forward then to several months later when Gabe is on a different team. He and the other goalie seem to be fairly evenly matched in skill. But for some reason the coach has taken to pulling Gabe from a game when two or three goals go in on him. Toward the end of the season, Gabe was being played very little, in fact. His team made it to the play-offs and lost in the first round… with Gabe watching from the bench.

Jump forward again to Gabe's current team. A recent game of theirs went like this: Gabe was in net and within the first few minutes of the game, two quick goals were already scored on him. I thought to myself: "Well, this is it… he's having a bad day or this other team is too good for him or something, but he's gonna get pulled and the other goalie will be sent in." Much to my surprise, Gabe did not get pulled.

Gabe's team continued to battle with this other team, and although two more goals went in on Gabe before it was all said and done, his own team also managed to score four goals. Their fifth goal went in during the last minutes of play and Gabe's team was able to hold onto that lead until the final buzzer.

The thing that impressed me the most about that day was that Gabe's coach had faith in Gabe. That says so much. It was what I wanted to tell Gabe's previous coach… "Just have faith in your goalie… let him finish the game… he can pull the team back, he's done it before." But I don't get "into" coaches' business. Never have, and hopefully never will.

I'm guessing, however, that the unspoken message of players' coaches can affect how they play. Gabe's current coach had faith in him. And Gabe didn't let the coach or the team down. He stayed in the net and continued to fight the battle with composure (well, not really, but that would have been nice) and skill.

BTW, I'm not saying you should never pull a goalie. There are definitely times when it works great: the goalie's having a bad day, the goalie needs time out to get unflustered, the team needs a momentum change, etc. But consistently treating someone as though you expect them to fail... that's what I'm talking about.

And the icing on the cake? I asked Gabe if his coach went into the locker room after the game and said to the team, "Yes, we won, but not because we played great. You guys still need to …". I've seen that before, from many coaches. I'm not saying it's never warranted, but someone who always does that is kind of disrespecting his team.

Gabe said, no, the coach had come into the locker room and said something along the lines of, "Great job boys! It was really nice to see you come from behind and win the game. That says a lot about your skill and your emotional fortitude."

"They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." -- Carl W. Buechner


How can I entertain my beady readers if I haven't been doing anything interesting? This week is/was:
Monday: work, then hockey in Oakland
Tuesday: work, then hockey in Santa Rosa
Wednesday: work, then hockey in San Jose
Thursday: work, then hockey in San Jose
Friday: work, then hockey in San Jose
Saturday: three hockey games in San Jose
Sunday: two hockey games in San Jose


I suppose maybe I could try running the kiln tonight. Yes, I'll try that. What do I have to put in there?
-- Two large curved earring charms in bronze
-- Two differently shaped lentil beads in bronze
-- A copper tube bead (that I thought was bronze… I was at Hadar's… I was nervous)
-- A copper flat bead with a hole in the center (I figured I'd hammer it into a bead cap after baking, but Hadar said the metal wouldn't be strong enough for that and hammering after baking should be reserved for minor shape fixes, not major overhauls)
-- One already fired earring charm that had a crack, filled and ready for refiring
-- Two round flat pieces that were going to be the top and bottom of a hollow bead, but I never got around to making the part that holds them together… wonder if I could do it and get it dried in time

I also have those six silver bead caps waiting for my first silver firing (I'm always nervous about "firsts"). I got my order from Cool Tools (which included a firing dish and some Alumina Hydrate), so I'm good to go, I guess.

BTW, did I already give you the link for the Cool Tools Learning Center? There's some great info there… and videos too.

So, as I recall (but I will check before I actually do this), I used PMC3. There seems to be a variety of options for firing schedule:
-- Min: 1110F/30 min and Max: 1650F/2 hrs
-- 1290 for 10 min 1200 for 20 min 1110 for 30 min
-- 1650 for 2 hrs 1290 for 10 min 1200 for 20 min 1110 for 30 min
-- 1290 for 10 min 1200 for 20 min 1110 for 45 min
Why are there choices for firing schedules? I don't mean choices from site to site, but choices at individual sites? How do I know what the differences are of firing higher for less time versus lower heat for more time?

Okay, after a little more reading, I think firing at 1650 for 2 hours sounds like what I'd like to try for. I wonder, though, if I need to ramp up slowly… lemme go read s'more.

I gave up and asked on LE.

And the answer is: if I haven't added inclusions (gems, cz, etc), I can go full ramp.

If I remember to, I'll take photos of the "green" (dried but not fired) clay and the finished products.


So on our way to Santa Rosa last night, Gabe and I were continuing to listen to The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I think I may have done a terrible job of paraphrasing in regards to "the brick wall". I think it's more like, "The brick wall is there for you to see how badly you want what's on the other side of it." Meh… don't know if that's any better than my entry the other day, but I think I get it and it's not totally out of line with "going with the flow of the universe".

Now, here's one huge reason I have no desire to believe in fate/destiny… Is life still fun if you know the outcome? Or even just knowing there IS a preordained outcome?

How fun would sports be if we knew that although WE might not know who the winner is going to be, the winner is already decided well before play begins? I wouldn't want to play… what would be the point of trying? If your team was destined to win, it doesn't matter if you try hard or don't try hard. If your team was destined to lose, it doesn't matter if you try hard or don't try hard.

I think I really prefer the idea of nothing being preordained.

And then there are those who say: Fate exists, but it's not set in stone.

What?!?!?! What the heck does that mean? Something is either fated to happen or it's not… you can't have fate AND randomness.

We will continue this discussion later.


Thank you, gaffergirls for your nice comment. Yes, indeed… if you have that much silver clay, you've outdone me for the "hoarding and not using" trophy. Heh… can't wait to see what you all make!


BTW, I think the great cheese was Hanford Jack Jalapeno Cheese.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bronze Clay, Silver Clay, and Spicy Cheddar


Yep, I finally (after two years) opened my package of art clay silver. Er… actually, I think it was PMC.

I went to another class at Hadar’s studio Friday night. I’m trying to get over some hang-ups I have… like how I don’t like to be watched by people when I do work… or how I need to be alone if I’m experimenting. That doesn’t really work out well if I’m in a class, trying to learn something.

So I explained to Hadar that I wanted to try making some bead caps. She showed me some neat techniques and tricks.

I also learned that some of my questions had their answers in Hadar’s books, but I’d so far mostly only looked at the pictures.

We talked about that little bit of green in my one finished charm from the bronze/copper bracelet. Turns out that’s just patina.

Then I tried to make some tube and spacer beads. I was pretty bad at that… but it was after 9pm and I was getting tired.

I’ll probably take photos later. Going to take Bear to the estuary then I’ll clean up and set up my photo studio. I have quite a few things to take pictures of (and list!).

(wrote that last night… it's Monday now).


Got my photos done. Won't know until later if they're any decent… had to walk Bear and leave for work.

Actually, I woke up at 5am this morning and toyed with the idea of staying up so I could accomplish some things. Instead, I went back to sleep until 6:30. But as I walked Bear this morning, I was thinking… if I go to bed at 10pm every night and get up at 6am, I'd be getting eight hours of sleep (something I think will be good for me) and I'd have a bit of time in the mornings to DO something.

As it is now, I stay up too late, get up too late, and am tired all day. Ugh!


In the past few months, I've tried a variety of cheeses with peppers or jalapenos in them and none have really had any "kick"… until now. Today, I have a hunk of cheese with me for lunch that is really spicy. I'll try to remember to get the name on the label and share it in case any readers are like me and like spicy cheese.


Have a few pieces done (and drying) that I want to remember to photograph for you. As usual, I really made nothing that I had planned. I was going to make a few caps, but instead I turned them into lentil beads. When I get pictures I'll talk about the process.

I didn't do any mixing (of copper and brass) this time, but I did start to finish (sand and polish) Monica's two pieces. I am in love with the larger one… I hope she gives it to me. My tiny copper and bronze piece turned out quite nice (my standards are low). I'll get a picture of it later.


Aside from Mon's practice tonight, it's game 6 for the Sharks.

Chris, I think you're right… "the list of things to do just expands to fill the time". Kind of like no matter how much you make you manage to spend it. I see that if I want to change the outer, I have to change the inner. I'll work on simplifying my life so I don't have so many tasks to attend to.

Mike, I'm not really sure I've "laughed" at you for years and years about fate and destiny. I'm not saying there is something to fate and destiny. Sorry I wasn't clear (that's the problem with musing in type). I was thinking that if you go by the idea (which I tend to) that anything that is a struggle is probably not your true path, that would seem to be more in line with a belief system of destiny rather than randomness.

But now that I've said it, I think I can say that there's not necessarily a correlation. I think "going with the flow of the universe" may not be at all the same thing as destiny.

I will, however, continue to think about this.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Time Constraints, Court Papers, Fate vs. Free Will

If you came here to see if I'd updated any info on my adventures in metal clay, I apologize. I probably won't be able to do that until tomorrow. Just a little bit of random rambling today...

Yay! I get to go to Hadar's tonight. I haven't had any time to play with … well, anything for awhile now.

For those who don't know, I have a full time day job and am taking my children to hockey practices four out of the five weekday evenings. Weekends vary, but there are usually at LEAST three hockey events.

So my only times to do anything that isn't work or driving are Friday evenings and sporadically on the weekends.

If I list out just a FEW of the things I need/want to do:
Make jewelry
Experiment with metal clay
Experiment with soldering
Walk the dog
Prepare/Plan jewelry-making curriculum
Do laundry
Unpack boxes from the move
Clean the apartment
Grocery shop and prepare food
Paint/Mixed media projects
Photo my latest works
List my latest works
Edit my jewelry book
Write the children's book I sketched out
Make some tutorials
Finish the article on wire

… there's more but that's enough for now… anyway, I am trying to squeeze all THESE things into those very few free hours I have each week. See my dilemma? Maybe now some of you can understand my desire/need for early retirement from my day job so I can start my second "career".

In the meantime, I am making myself another mantra bracelet this weekend (my last one was for a different affirmation and it worked amazingly well). My affirmation this time will be: "Time is elastic to my needs". Since I know my mantra bracelets work, I feel relaxed in the knowledge that I will soon be finding time for everything I need to do.


For those who know the saga of my children's desire to change the custody arrangements somewhat, I received the final papers in the mail this week. So lookie there, before Gabe actually turned 17, he is legally allowed to have a smidge of say-so in his own life. FYI, in Alameda county (don't know what other counties do), children are NOT allowed full say-so of where they want to be until they are… yes, 18 years old. So here are two wonderful (by which I mean: straight-A, non-problematic, athletic, responsible, mature, articulate, and compassionate) teenagers that are being treated like people with no autonomy what-so-ever. They are good kids and they deserve to play on their hockey teams whenever they want, go to their friends' houses whenever they want (which is VERY seldom anyway), and visit each of their parents' households whenever and for how long they want. In my opinion, anyway.

But, whatever we have to deal with in life is something we learn from.


Not sure (yet) if I believe in the whole "fate" thing… where, you are faced with things because it is your destiny to be faced with them and you can't avoid or change that. I still feel the world is a lot more random than that (but I have an open mind). I do, however, believe in the tenet of not trying too hard to swim upstream. If something is a real struggle, maybe it isn't the "right" path for you at that time.

This doesn't mean, though, that I believe you can attain anything you want without ever having to work for it.

Oh man, thinking can be so full of dichotomies!

Segue: Gabe and I are reading (listening to in the car) Randy Pausch's book "The Last Lecture". Early on in the book, Mr. Pausch mentions "the brick wall". The wall that is in front of some people at some times. The wall that separates those who will see the brick wall keeping them from their goal and resign themselves to not attaining the goal versus those who see the brick wall and battle it because that's how badly they want the goal that's on the other side.

I totally get that… but something in my (current) core beliefs also says: If it's meant to be, it's not going to be that much of a struggle.

Hm… that doesn't seem quite right either. Blah!

Did you know that in a thesaurus, one of the antonyms of "destiny" is "free will"?

(I couldn't draw the arrows, but you can imagine them, going in a downward motion)

And as a reminder for tomorrow's blog posting (yes, a reminder to myself), I want to talk about our recent trip to Arizona, Bear, and having faith in others... oh, along with the usual jewelry info.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Adventures in Bronze Clay, as well as Pet Oxygen Masks and Tapping

I know some of you come to my blog for info on my experiences with bronze clay (as in, we can learn from Laura’s mistakes… ha ha ha!), so I’ll try to remember to put these updates at the top so you don’t have to scroll around looking for it. Mom, you’ll probably do the opposite… skip the stuff about jewelry to read about the kid updates.


At my last visit at Hadar’s I learned a little bit about “finishing”. Once I came home, I realized how little there is (or how hard it is to find) on the internet regarding this subject. Well, for non-precious metal clay, anyway. Maybe stuff like this is supposed to be simple or intuitive or something. Shrug.

Hadar showed me a few different techniques and I didn’t take notes this time so I’ve probably forgotten some of what I was told.

Also, there are choices to factor in. And some of these choices also depend on your piece. For example, if you have a flat piece (or are doing the flat back of a piece), you want to sand it down to smoothness then polish it. But I also had to do some grinding because (for example) a piece that is made of copper and bronze will most likely have the copper at a slightly higher level than the bronze when it comes out of the firing because copper shrinks less than bronze.

Remember these pieces at the bottom? They are copper inlay on bronze.

At Hadar’s, I took one of these pieces, did some grinding off of the copper so that the top of the “charm” was one level (argh! What did I use to grind? ! I think it was some kind of … I know, don’t laugh… grinding stone attachment for the dremel).

Caveat: Please remember that I have never used a dremel before (except in Joe Silvera’s class where it was all set up for us and it was just polishing). I am not yet familiar with the names of the pieces or their purposes. I’ll explain it as best as I can as I go… and learn.

After “grinding” (which is not always necessary… just if you need to make two levels into one), you can dremel sand with a drum (blah! Don’t know what it’s called). It looked something like #5 in this photo.

After that coarse sanding, you want to go to sanding with finer and finer grit paper. Here’s where I first used a “slotted mandrel” with a dremel. I forgot to take a photo of mine… sorry… next time.

You take a long strip of your 120 grit sandpaper, slip one end into the slotted mandrel, wind the rest around tightly and then tape it down with scotch tape.

Things I learned in THIS process:
1) It’s better to purchase more than one slotted mandrel (D’oh!) so that you don’t have to remove each strip of sandpaper from it to go on to the next finer grade.
2) It’s better NOT to use the really thin, barely holds scotch tape because this stuff breaks way too easily.
3) I guess I need to learn if you have to wind the sandpaper a certain direction to be in correlation to which way the dremel bit spins (still haven’t figured that one out yet).
4) Wear goggles (or at least glasses). Things really do fly off into any direction.
5) Hold onto your piece with a death grip, because your piece can also fly off into any direction.

Anyway, there’s also a fiber wheel bit (looks like #6 in the dremel bits photo).

And I’m not sure I know when exactly to use it. I think it’s if you want to buff/shine the top layer of a textured bronze piece. Shrug. See, this is the part that confuses me. I forgot the order and/or the exact outcome of each dremel bit.

I mean, besides the grinding drums (which come in all shapes and sizes), there are sanding drums, slotted mandrel for sand paper, fiber wheels, steel brush wheels (I’m thinking these are for getting into smaller places), polishing wheels (that you add polishing compound to), and oh well a whole heck of things. I definitely need more time in the “how to finish” area of learning.

I tried a patina that I thought would darken the recesses of my bronze, but instead it turned them green-blue. I’m sure that’s fine at times… it just wasn’t what I wanted at that time.

Anyway, more things that I learned is when Hadar said do most of the finishing work BEFORE firing, I think I really know what she means now.

This is one of my copper bronze pieces that has been ground (or is that “grinded”?) and sanded, but not yet buffed or polished.

This is the backside to one of the pieces.

Yikes! All those pits! That, I assume, comes mostly from not taking care of my piece as and after it was drying. After it’s dry, I need to wet my finger and rub it over the back, smoothing down the bumps. I can also take some extra clay on a rubber brush and smooth it into any pits I find.

I just really need to pay more attention to this because see how it REALLY shows once your piece is fired!?

This now is the only piece (from that copper/bronze bracelet to be) that is pretty much complete. It’s what I worked on at my last visit to Hadar’s studio.

I’m… um.. not exactly sure what the green stuff is, but I can probably get it out of there (now that I see it). But what’s more troubling are the pits. Ugh!

This is the back of that same piece (or a similar one)…

You can see where I’ve taken a few swipes with the sanding and where I’ve not touched it at all.

This, now, is a piece I made at my second visit to Hadar’s then did the firing and finishing here on my own.

This is a technique Hadar recently perfected and posted to her blog.

I don’t yet have my Baldwin’s patina so I can’t make that really stark contrast between the copper and the bronze but I’m still pretty happy with it so far. I think I’m being a little better with the smoothness. I don’t see quite as many pits in this one. Oh, I realize it’s FAR from anything really good, but I’m happy with my progress.

Here’s another picture of it (and you can see Monica’s fired and unpolished pieces in the background).

There seems to be an extra tiny hole in each of Mon’s pieces (we’ll show you those another day). Our guess, for now, is that there was an air bubble trapped between the two metals.

I had to kill some more time (and clay) during my last session so I thought I’d make two simple charms that could be used as earring components.

In this photo, one piece is shined up and the other is left as is from the kiln. Just for the photo, I mean... I will eventually polish the other.

Alright. That’s it for now. I have a couple pieces that are done now and I think I’ll attach them to some brass chain so I can begin wearing some of my creations, humble though they may be.


Man, I blew it! I wanted to take a photo of Gabe's bridge (that was the project) this morning before he took it to school and I forgot. Wwwwwwwwwwaaaa! Poor guy got home from practice last night at 10:30pm then stayed up until 5am finishing the bridge. He was SOOOO tired this morning.

And I was even sorrier (madder at myself) once I found out that each bridge had to be obliterated during the “contest”. They placed increasing weight on each group’s bridge until it collapsed. Gabe’s group help 47-something pounds before it went. They came in eighth, I think he said. The winning group was seniors (Gabe’s a junior) and two from that group are going to MIT next year. Heh. Not a bad bunch to lose to.


The other day I was looking at random photos of cats being rescued by firefighters. A read a few of the articles accompanying the photos and discovered a few things I'd previously been unaware of.

One, there are actual pet oxygen masks that work infinitely better on cats and dogs (and other small pets) than the baby or adult oxygen masks that are standard equipment at fire stations.

Two, these pet oxygen masks are not part of the standard equipment at all fire stations.

Three, a set of three different sizes of pet oxygen masks with accompanying instructional videos are not that expensive ($60-$95).

So I called my local fire station and asked if they were equipped with them. They said no, but that they had wanted to get some. I told them I would order a set and have it sent to them.

If a few people in each neighbor hood could do this or pool their funds and do this for their local fire fighters, so many more cats and dogs would have a chance of surviving a fire they might encounter.

If you're interested, here are two places that sell the kits:


Have you heard of this? It's hard for me to explain, but the video on the site does a really great job. Here is one blurb: "Tapping is a powerful acupressure technique that eliminates negativity." The people I've heard who've had success with tapping include those suffering from panic attacks, migraines, and stress.


The other day our computer went kafluey. In order to “fix” it, I ended up installing the latest version of IE. Blah! Now things look weird. I mean, even on my own website (SRAJD) I can’t see any pictures on the sponsor page. ARGH! Now I have to think about using a different software to create that page or it’s only a matter of time before I hear this complaint from others. Hmph!

And… I do a couple people’s websites, aside from my own, and I’m running into an issue that’s REALLY pissing me off (pardon). When I correct or update a page, I still see the old version. Yes, this is after I’ve cleaned my cache, etc. This makes it very hard to work on the page… know what I mean? Double argh!


How is it that over the last few years I’ve purchased about 10 texture punches and can’t find one single one in my apartment? Where the heck did I put them? Wow, this is really annoying.


Gaffer Girls!... for the nice comment on my earrings. BTW, one of the things I love most about your blog is how wonderfully colorful it is.

Renee, don’t worry. The powder probably won’t happen again. It was our own fault. This is what bronze clay looks like when it’s not sintered. I’m using a different (very different) firing schedule now and things are going along swimmingly (well, for firing anyway… ha ha ha!).


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Bronze Clay Earrings

Turns out I can’t show you the curly thing in its afterlife either (the one I was going to show you before it went into the kiln but I couldn’t ‘cause the photo turned out fuzzy…heh… maybe that was an omen)… anyway, it didn’t make it through the firing process.

This is/was it. It was one of those projects in Hadar’s book on silver clay. I’ll have to figure out what I did wrong… if it was something in the connecting of the pieces, if the pieces were too thin, if I let it warp too much in the drying, etc.

One good thing, though… the bail is really on there good and tight. You have NO idea how this pleases me. As someone who is glue phobic (I’m not really afraid of the glue… I just don’t believe it ever really holds anything), soldering is barely a step in the right direction. I’m sure proper soldering is pretty strong, but over the years I’ve dealt with a lot of “improper” (aka: mass produced imports) soldering jobs and it’s heartbreaking on many levels. You WANT to trust them… but then they let you down regardless of your faith in them. Sigh…

Oh, so yeah… this bail rocks! I was going to do what Hadar suggested in the book (cut a small sheet and roll it around a straw with the ends just meeting), but I panicked at the last second and continued winding the sheet until it had bypassed the seam it was supposed to meet up with. I then cut it so it was about a ¼ inch (or so) overlay. From there, I smoothed the overlapping piece down onto the first part. I let it dry on the straw (actually, I used a paint brush handle ‘cause my straws were too fat) then took it off, let it dry more on the drying rack… er, I mean the griddle, then I pasted it good and tight to the pendant… really slathered on a big helping of clay and worked it into a smoothness.

So, even though the whole pendant is kaput, I can use the pieces to experiment on for my finishing techniques (that I pretty much have nothing of yet… although I bought a dremel two years ago… haven’t used it yet… sound familiar?).

I had a total laugh this morning when I found what came out of my kiln. I finally started using a colander to make sure I found all my pieces and … tada! I found two pieces from a previous firing! Yay! Since they were from that grouping that disintegrated, when I couldn’t find them I assumed they had… disintegrated.

And look, there they are! That’s the good news. The bad news is that I had made them to go with three fabulous enamel findings from ArtBeads. So I was kind of crushed to see the project I’d had in mind wouldn’t be.

BTW, although I’m not an “orange” person, per se, I was immediately attracted to this vibrant component. I thought it would look really neat among some organic bronze pieces. The up side is that it seems like a very high-quality piece, and I can’t be sure but I’d swear there’s a coating of some sort… like a varnish… maybe to keep people from turning green from the copper beneath the enamel. The down side is that they’re $15 each. I don’t know that that’s such an outrageous price… I’ve spent more than that on jewelry components… but I think right now some of us are more frugal with our spending.

Speaking of ArtBeads, I want to show you this item. I strained my brain trying to justify getting one ‘cause it seemed way too cute to pass up. Ha ha ha!

Anyway, about the orange enamel findings… I didn’t want to wait until I figured out how to do bronze clay in order to use them, so I made these earrings with some of the pieces that I made at Hadar’s class (that were GOING to be a bracelet on their own until one of the six pieces got a tiny crack… remember?).

And… speaking of “remember”… remember this mess?

Here’s a close-up of stuff that isn’t completed bronze pieces and isn’t charcoal. It’s apparently what you end up with if your pieces don’t sinter. It’s just a pile of brown powder… and it was probably that fish that is in the center of the previous photo, but I put those pieces in a baggie to show Hadar and today I pulled out the baggie and the fish had powderized.

It’s late now and I’m tired. I’d like to thank everyone who’s commented on my blog, in here and in private. It encourages me to continue posting pictures and stuff… sometimes I think, “Who wants to see this stuff?!”

Oh, tomorrow I MUST pick up a nail brush. The clay gets under my fingernails (which are really short to begin with) and I look like I’ve been playing in mud.

And on that note… TTYL!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More Bronze Clay and a Van Gogh for Inspiration


So, here are the things that came out of the kiln yesterday (aside from the ones I used in some earrings I made and wore to Gabe’s game… they won, btw… I’ll shoot those earrings tomorrow and show you).

See what I mean by “stripes”?

Now, those two big ones were part of the set that Hadar has so it will be fun to see the difference.

The square ones were GOING to be part of the earrings I made but see the crack on the top hole of the one on the left?

But hey, this is a major step up from my last batch… that disintegrated.

Today, I hit the bronze clay again. First, I had to vacuum the ash out of the carbon…

I think I need to buy a small, handheld vacuum. My regular vacuum is too powerful and probably took more than just ash.

Anyway, I need to figure out what I did wrong here…

I rolled it several times and the crack-look was still there; it never got any smoother.

One thing I need to do better is not let my pieces curl so much. I try to flip them often and early, but I guess sometimes I’m just not there at the right time.

Sorry… the curly picture didn’t come out, but the piece is in the kiln now anyway so I can show you tomorrow.

Here is another issue I need to figure out…

A crack that appears during the drying. This one MAY be because it’s a piece connected by slip to an already dry piece. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to let the first piece dry out before attaching the overlaying pieces.

I’m sure this is all stuff I can/will learn in subsequent visits to Hadar’s studio.

Okay, enough bronze clay for now.


Here is a painting I stumbled upon while looking for Maxfield Parrish that I thought would be totally awesome for inspiration (of what, I’m not sure… I have no real idea what I’m doing lately… direction-wise).

(I’m thinking this version of Van Gogh’s pic is a wee bit saturated.)


I forgot to show you! This is a bead Alex made and gave to Monica for her birthday. Monica recently made it into a necklace…

Okay, I’m getting tired (and the kiln still has almost three hours). I wonder how long it beeps when it’s done… I guess I’ll be getting up at midnight to find out.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hadar Jacobson's Class in Bronze Metal Clay


Yesterday was an eye-opener. I had wanted to work on some more bronze clay projects this weekend but I thought I was out of clay (I wasn’t, but didn’t know that at the time) so I called Hadar who lives in Berkeley, is one of the forerunners of metal clay artistry, and has her own line of metal clay.

I ended up, not only going to swing by the next morning, but since I happened to have the day off I was also going to take my first class by Hadar. I had wanted to when I first saw her work and realized she lives in Berkeley, but I thought her classes probably have a waiting list and I’ll be taking my kids to hockey the only weekend I finally manage to get in.

Instead, I arrive late Friday morning for my first informal yet powerfully educational three-hour session.

As usual, I am a total dweeb when I first meet others (I get nervous, what can I say). So Hadar greets me, and in what was supposed to be a question, I guess, she said, “So you’ve worked with silver clay before.” Yikes! No, I haven’t but I suddenly feel like I won’t get to play today if I admit I’ve never worked with silver clay and I’m a total newb to bronze clay. So out of my mouth pops: “No, but I bought a package of it two years ago and plan to open it someday.”

Holy mother of god did I really say that?! Yes, I did. Apparently I have no shame… or something like that. Cause, y’know… OWNING a package of silver clay is practically the same as having worked with it… Ha ha ha!

Then I mutter something else and we move onto the fact that at least I’ve dabbled in lampworking, metalsmithing, and soldering. Whew!

I’m reminded of how I got my current day job… how a co-worker convinced me to lie at the job interview and say that I knew all about computers. I didn’t. I hadn’t the first clue about computers. But he was sure that with his help and my smarts, if I got the job he’d be able to teach me what I needed to know and I’d pick it up before anyone could tell I had no previous experience.

Anyway, back to the studio… I know what I’m doing my second visit there (this Thursday)… I’m spending time drooling over Hadar’s creations which are IN THE WORKSHOP… on two of the four walls. It’s so bizarre seeing things in person that you’ve been bookmarking on the internet because you are saying to yourself: This… This is it… I am finally honing in on what it is I want to be doing. She’s doing it. Wow! Fantastic.

I’m taken back to a time when I was 17 and living in England. It was my first trip to the Tate Gallery (and subsequently the British Museum) and for the first time in my life I was seeing paintings in real life that I’d only ever seen in books (this was 30 years ago… not only no internet, but computers were only on sci-fi movies).

(That last photo is the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum.)

BTW, I spent an hour today trying to think of the name “Maxfield Parrish”. I was determined. I’m not ready to accept memory defeat. I ended up not really remembering, but I had enough clues in my brain to search for the name. Took forever, though. Ugh!

And I don’t know WHERE I saw it precisely, but I do remember seeing a Maxfield Parrish when I was 17 (I spent time in Boston as well as London that year). It was ginormous and was in a room all by itself… a huge, echoey room.

Okay, back to bronze clay…

I have to say a big hooray and sigh of relief when I first started working with Hadar’s clay. The consistency was AMAZING, particularly in comparison with my last adventure with Rio’s packaged clay. The difference was smooth and easy to work with versus crumbling, cracking, sticky, messy and totally getting on my nerves.

So, onto the firing…

Questions I have about the firing schedule:
1) What is the “venting hole” that I am supposed to have open during the first phase of the firing?
2) Does it matter how fast things cool after phase one? Do I let them cool naturally or may I open the kiln door for speedier cooling and if so, how much… a crack… all the way?
3) How “cool” does everything have to be before starting phase two? Do they have to be stone cold?
4) After phase one and after things cool, do I leave the pieces undisturbed or do I remove the ash before moving on to phase two? (Answer)

Although I’ve read bits and pieces of Hadar’s blog previously, I’m taking the time to go through it properly now, from start to finish. I’m also reading her two books.

Wow, that was a lot of babbling and I didn’t even start firing yet. Well, I did, but I didn’t blog about it. So I did the first firing.

First, however, I vacuumed out the charcoal residue leftover from my previous firing:

Then I took my stainless steel container (with my 8 pieces in vertically and surrounded by coal-based carbon) and placed it on kiln posts at the back of the kiln (the “back” refers to the edge furthest from the bead door.

You can see that in my kiln, the heating element is near the top of the kiln so it’s even more important for me to have that container raised up.

In this last photo, you get a better idea how near to the top edge of the kiln my container is placed.

So I do phase one of my firing. Full ramp to 1000 degrees (takes 30 minutes) and then hold there for 20 minutes. Then I shut it off and let it cool. Except that I did crack the lid so I have to find out if that’s a no-no.

I let everything cool down until I could touch it (the container) with my hands. The charcoal was still emitting warmth but the interior of the kiln had cool to about 150 degrees. I need to find out if that was good enough of if everything needs to be stone cold before I start phase two of the firing schedule.

Anyway, I’m working on other things (in the apartment) as my kiln is in phase two of the firing process. This is full ramp to 1480, then hold for 2½ hours.

I’d actually be playing with… er, I mean creating more bronze designs at the moment if I’d have been able to find any distilled water yesterday. Heh. I’ll go to a larger grocery store later today if I have the time and they should have some.

I did make it to an art store where I found a clay shaping tool I got to use (and liked) at Hadar’s studio.

(The one on the left)

I still need to get:

A plastic folder with a clear cover…

A stainless steel sheet to fit over my container ‘cause the one that came with it is WAY too inverted to be useful

Some wet/dry sandpaper (not sure why 9x11”) in 150, 220, and 400

Not necessary to do clay, but eventually I’d like to find some of the same patina that Hadar used that really made the colors pop when she put it on a copper/bronze piece. I asked twice and the name started with a “B” and of course I’m too embarrassed to let on that I forgot… AGAIN… so I’ll have to try to sneak a peek at the brand when I’m there this Thursday.

Hadar mixed her powder up in a stainless steel bowl. I couldn’t find. Hadar mentions stainless steel or ceramic. I wonder if glass is okay.

I also need to go through my box of metalsmithing tools and see if I have a burnisher. I think I do.

Well, I’m going to sign off for now. I’ll come back tomorrow and show you how things turned out.

BTW, of the five charms I made in class for a bracelet project, Hadar kept three and I took two and we’re going to do the same firing schedule and compare pieces so we can see if the kilns are very different.