Saturday, May 30, 2009

THE CONTINUED EXPLOITS OF A METAL CLAY NEWB

But before we begin...

P.S. Forgot to mention a jewelry contest (followed by more!). No time for me to give you all the details... just follow this link and good luck!


THE CONTINUED EXPLOITS OF A METAL CLAY NEWB

Went to Hadar’s last night. Showed her my “rock” progress. She put the rocks in her hand and let out an “oh” (and not the good kind of “oh”). Eek! What did I do wrong?

“I thought these were fired already,” she said.

I stammered, then mumbled, then admitted I hadn’t had time during the past week to do a firing. As a matter of fact, I’d only sliced the final rock while at my desk in my office yesterday, mere hours before heading to class.

Yeah, well, someone has to be the slowest student in the class, right?

Anyway, Hadar showed me how to make the outside of the rocks as smooth as possible (or at least as smooth as *I* can make them). I did that, then went on to have some more attempts at my current favorite thing which is copper inlay on bronze. I guess I should be over there sanding those down now rather than here typing, but the longer I put it off the more time I have to not feel like I screwed it up again. My last ones were paper-thin by the time I decided my sanding wasn’t yielding any results. Did I ever post pictures of that? I think I’m behind on pictures.

So this morning (after getting only six hours of sleep… what’s up with that?), I decided to do phase one of the kiln (for my rocks only) and take Bear to the dog park. Since I wasn’t happy with my previous firing experiments, I’m going back to 1000 for 20 mins and 1480 for 2½ hours.

When I began to make holes in the rocks, I pointed out to Hadar that I’d never be able to get any charcoal into those teeny holes. We then discussed various ways of firing the rocks to make up for that. Firing them without anything else was the first step, then Hadar added that I should do phase two twice.

In the end, I decided I didn’t feel like experimenting right now so I just made the holes big enough for me to put charcoal in them. Hollow forms fire better when partially filled.

Took me a few mins to figure out the fastest way of getting the charcoal into the holes. First I tried picking up a pinch and laying it on top of the hole… but I don’t think anything was going in at that point. Next I tried sliding the rock around in the pan of charcoal (like a seed bead spinner). I think the rocks still remained empty. Then I got my tweezers and began picking up one piece of charcoal at a time and placing it into the hole. Successful but dreadfully slow. Finally I found something that works well enough for me: I placed the bead at an angle in the pan of charcoal and used the tip of my tweezers to push bits of charcoal into the hole. I had all six rocks done in five minutes. Yay!

Got the rocks planted into the charcoal pan and placed the pan in the center of the kiln’s octagon (or is it a hexagon? I’m too lazy to go look at the moment) on two kiln stilts, no lid, phase one on.

I would like to pick up a FLAT piece of stainless steel for placing on top of the charcoal pan for phase two of the firing. That indented lid (see below) takes up way too much important room in the pan.


I’m also checking out my local Smart & Finals to find a stainless steel pan in a better size for my kiln (large).

BTW, I noticed that the top of the charcoal pan seems awful close to the top of the kiln. Since the heating element is along the top portion of the interior of the kiln, it makes sense that I want the items in the pan to be about that level too, but I am a little concerned that the kiln lid is actually touching the top of the pan once I close the lid. If that’s the case, I might not be getting enough oxygen to my pieces during phase one. I’ll try to have a better look at this later today.

I need to order some more drill bits. This means I have to remember my Rio Grande log-in and password. D’oh!

Hours later…

Okay, got back from the dog park and shopping. Kiln is cooled down. But what’s this? I open the lid and see no ash! Waaa! That can’t be good. When I add the lid for phase two, I see maybe why… the kiln lid isn’t closed all the way.

Sigh…

Okay, so I try to shorten my kiln stilts… by smashing one with a hammer… holy cow! They’re indestructible. Okay, next idea? I take my stainless steel tea strainer and yay… each half is shorter than the kiln stilts. But oops… the pan won’t balance on the curved tops of the tea strainer halves. Back with the hammer… I flatten the tops and yes! I have my new set-up… or at least until I see the results and then have to change it again. Ha ha ha!



My main concern now is… if something isn’t right at the end, will I know WHERE the next change should take place? I mean, I’m thinking now maybe I should have redone phase one. ARGH!

In case you can’t tell, btw, my blogs are usually written along the course of the day the blog is posted.

So, phase two finished and has cooled. I just donned my dust mask and poured the charcoal (is it charcoal or carbon? I feel like I’m calling it the wrong thing… hm…) into my sieve. OMG, the colors! Sigh… Since I’m not making bronze pieces for the colorful patinas you CAN achieve during the firing, I’m not sure how to feel about this. The plan was to polish these up. I’ll feel a bit sad losing the beautiful iridescent blues and oranges. But then again, I don’t think they’ll last for a long time anyway, so I wouldn’t want to give the impression (since my job is selling jewelry) that this is what the beads would look like forever.

But… does anything really last forever?

Oh dang… what a moronic dilemma.

Anyway, I’m going to switch gears here for just a minute (I may set up the photo studio later to shoot some jewelry and I’ll snap a pic or two of the bronze rocks (pre-finishing).

See the white spots in this photo (this is copper in bronze before firing… and for the record these are STILL too thin… ha! Next time I go REALLY fat with my base)?



That’s binder. That means I didn’t roll out my clay enough before shaping it. I don’t know yet how it will affect the piece during firing. I’ll let you know.

Okay, just started firing phase one of batch number two (the inlay pieces).

Y’know, I was so excited about the colors of the bronze rocks that I forgot to check for… imperfections. Just looked. No blisters or cracks and only minimal pitting.


DEPRESSING OR REALISTIC?

One thing I like about Hadar’s Friday night classes is that we talk about things, often that have to do with the business… of being an artist (or of trying to sell art… yeah, I have issues with semantics and stuff).

Anyway, Hadar is very much a realist, I think.

Since I’m not nosey, I have no clue what other jewelry makers get in the way of profit for their pieces or what price they get for teaching or books they write, etc. But I get the feeling that even the cream of the crop aren’t “rolling” in dough.

Where does this leave me? Two things. One, I say first and foremost I make jewelry because I really enjoy making jewelry. Whew! And two, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I retire. But retire I must because I need something different in my life soon.

Can I put my faith in the universe? Might as well… seems as good as any of the other advice I get.


FRIDGE NOISE, NOT TAOS HUM


My fridge is REALLY loud. The buzz is atrocious. I need to deal with it somehow.

Other than that, however, I was really happy last night. I got home late. And I wasn’t tired or sleepy, so I stayed up and did some stuff and it was just so cool to be able to stay up if I wanted without worrying that I’ll be tired the next day because I have to get up at a certain time. Weekends like this are good!

Of course, then I go and get up at six in the morning. Ha ha ha! I’ll probably fall asleep early tonight. But that’s okay. Tomorrow morning (but not too early), I’m heading to San Jose to have brunch with Alex and maybe catch one of Monica’s scrimmages.

This is a link to making cool reptile like skin effects in polymer clay.

Okay, I’m going to go set up the photo studio. I’ll post this now and I’ll be back tomorrow with (hopefully) new jewelry listings and photos of the bronze rocks.

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