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Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's My Birthday

Today’s my birthday.

I know I haven’t posted much lately but this is going to be a vapid enough entry that it won’t count as anything yet anyway. Soon, though.

Two days in the year I like to whatever I feel like doing and being extremely lazy (if I so desire) and not feeling guilty about anything like not working, staying in my jammies all day, eating what I want, etc. My birthday and Christmas.

I did sleep in a bit, but I go dressed as soon as I got out of bed.

I’m actually enjoying cleaning my workshop. I do so very slowly, taking many distraction breaks (Facebook, playing with the cat, getting a snack, etc). So I did that for awhile then went to my dad’s for a visit and lunch.

From there I went to watch my daughter play in a tournament. The game went back and forth and at the final buzzer it was a tie so they went into a shootout. Monica’s team won. Nice birthday present.  (Mon is the yellow goalie)

Back home, more SLOW organizing and cleaning then I’ll make a salad and veg out in front of the tv.

I received hundreds of well wishes on Facebook and that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Yes, I know FB notifies users of their “friends’” birthdays, but these people made the effort to post on my wall and for that I am grateful and honored.

On a down note, the sealant testing isn’t going so well. I’ll probably do an update soon.

And... a new guy has shown up.  Of all the fosters and ferals we've taken in, I think this is the scruffiest, saddest looking cat I've ever seen.  Skin and bones and just NOT good looking (healthy-wise, I mean).

He's been here pretty non-stop for about five days now so I'm guessing he's making himself at home.  Runs away as soon as he sees a person, but otherwise gets along with the other cats (thank goodness).

The dude empties the cat food bowl pretty routinely.

Hope everyone else had a great day and talk to you soon!

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Metal Clay Sealants Testing Finally Begins

I realized too many of my projects were being put on hold because of my indecision about sealants so I decided to put everything on the back burner and get on with the testing.

Here are the five test pieces. Created as equally as I could. Each piece has an unpolished steel backing (more on that in a minute), and three panels in front that are from left to right: bronze, steel, and copper.

I added a patina to the copper because I often patina my copper metal clay pieces and I need to know how the sealants work/react in real world applications.

I’m also testing out a theory that one of the spray sealants I was using was creating little dots on my copper.

The reason I didn’t give the backs of my charms a high polish (like the fronts) is because sanding and polishing metal clay burnishes the metal and makes all the metal molecules lay flat (I’m probably not saying this correctly) thus creating more of a water-tight barrier.

I’ve done plenty of experiments and water will totally soak into a non-polished piece of fired metal clay, while a burnished surface will repel water.

I recently coated some non sanded pieces because I wanted to see if I could “lock in” the cool kiln patinas I get. The problem is, 99% of these pieces have to remain unpolished and I’m just not sure how that whole absorbent thing works with sealants… do they also sink right into the interior of the fired piece? If so, that defeats the purpose of the sealant. I'm watching those recently coated pieces to see if there are any changes over time.

Now back to this experiment…

While I’m saying what type of sealants I’ve used on each charm, I’m not giving exact brand name for two reasons. One, I think half the fun of learning is doing your own experimentation. And two, I don’t want my results to encourage or dissuade anyone from any particular product. Your own experimentation is the best for you because you may apply a coating completely differently than I do.

For the liquids, I dipped the entire charm into the solvent. If I end up liking this sealant, I will try brushing on as sometimes dipping is less than optimal.

For the aerosols, I coated according to the directions on the cans

What I’ll be looking for is:
  • What the sealant looks like on the piece (does it make the piece shiny, tacky, dull, etc?)
  • How well does the sealant resist water (I work with a lot of non-stainless steel)
  • How durable is the sealant (will it last a long time?)
I will wait 24 hours for the coatings to cure, then I will attach the charms to a sterling silver chain and wear the bracelet non-stop except for during the stress tests.

Come back for the results of that.

For now I’ll assess my first impressions.
  • Charm 1 (non-lacquer solvent-based liquid): too glossy
  • Charm 2 (lacquer spray): fine
  • Charm 3 (acrylic spray): fine
  • Charm 4 (lacquer spray): fine
  • Charm 5 (acrylic resin spray): a bit too matt… lost some of metal’s natural gloss

Let the testing begin!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Beginning of My Metal Clay Ring Testing

Got two firings in today.  I think I’ll save up for another kiln if I start teaching on a regular basis.

The first batch was leftover Friendly Bronze.  Here’s what came out of the kiln (only a quick radial brushing on the textured pieces).

The ring was a failed experiment that I’m salvaging because it should still suit my purposes.  Since I think rings take a lot of abuse, compared with other pieces of jewelry, I plan to make rings out of several different clays and test them out.

I’m pretty confident with bronze and copper (and silver) already, but I’d like to test out White Satin and Steel since those are two of my favorite metals for rings.  My concern?  The fact that in order to achieve a white metal color without adding nickel to the mixture (thank you thank you thank you!!!), the steel and steel alloys (White Satin and the various Hadar Steels) are not stainless.  So I’d like to see if normal wear produces any rust and/or if coating the rings (lacquer) makes a difference.

My initial testing revealed no rusting to a ring that had no coating.  But I want to do more intense and measured testing now.

Oh, so back to this ring.  First off, this week I’m mostly using up old clays that have already been mixed and sometimes when I’m down to the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, I get a bit silly with what I’m making.  I don’t really care if it’s a masterpiece or even practical or functional.  It’s a great time to experiment.

I made that bronze ring way too thin (3 cards thick) and inevitably it cracked in the firing.  But rather than toss it or repair it, I decided that since it would have been too big for me to wear for testing anyway (I have no idea what I was thinking when I selected the size), I just curled the broken ends around and now I have a ring that is adjustable (and fancy… ha ha ha).   I’ll polish it tomorrow and then start wearing it.

The other clays I have mixed up (and have been for months) that I need to use are:
QF Bronze
QF Copper
Bronze XT
LS Steel XT
White Bronze
Friendly Copper
Dark Champagne Bronze
Champagne Bronze
Pearl Grey Steel XT

Gosh, maybe it would have been easier for me to list the clays I DON’T have mixed up.

Oh, and then there’s a bag of “mixed clay”… y’know, like the remains of extruded canes. 

One things I’ve learned (the hard way) is to not believe “I’ll remember what that clay was”.  As soon as I’m done working, I wrap it in saran wrap then put it in a Ziploc bag with a label stating what clay it is.  Same thing for finished but not yet fired pieces.  They go into a compartmentalized tray with labels stating what clay is in the pieces.

Everything in its place.

Wanna see why I hesitate to work in silver or gold?  My method of working with clay is using my hands as a palette.  If that were silver I'd have like $20 worth of it on my hands after each session.

Oh, here is Mom's gladiola.  At least, I think it's a gladiola (thanks Nohline... apparently it's an Amaryllis).  The deer knocked it over on their way to eating Mom's geranium so we had to relocate it to the vegetable garden yesterday.

Sharing the SRAJD Weekly Jewelry Making Challenges for April and May


Wanted to share with you a piece I made for one of the SRAJD weekly challenges.  The theme was Kyoto, Japan.

Here’s what I wrote about my entry:  There is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto called Kinkaku-ji, which I think translates to Temple of the Golden Pavilion.  During restoration of the historic pavilion, the building was gilded (painted with layers of gold leaf).  It is said the gold employed was to mitigate and purify any pollution or negative thoughts and feelings towards death. My piece represents the pagoda style tiered roofs of the pavilion with homage to the gilding.  I’ve added three pink accents to symbolize the cherry blossoms of the beautiful surrounding gardens.”

And here’s the piece.

The next weekly challenge in June was Deadvlei, Namibia.

Here’s what I made for that.

In this previous blog post, I showed you the links for the first month, which was GEOMETRIC.

Here are the links for the ELEMENTS (April) and GREEK GODS AND GODDESSES (May).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Free Hemp Cord Bracelet Tutorial, First Metal Clay Student, and eBay's Unintentional Insult


I was trying to update my sorely out of date eBay store the other day and took offense to one of their automatic “suggestions” as I created my listing.

I was revamping a pair of very simple, hammered sterling earrings.   

One of my lowest priced items at $22.  This, however, is what I saw as I edited my listing…

All this "make me an offer" crap is bad enough, but no, eBay, I *do not* think that similar items had a price between $5.00 and $13.99…. because I am not a sweatshop nor do I use plated silver.  So anyone doing what I do, wouldn’t charge $5 for these… sorry but I guess I’ll have to stick with “attracting fewer buyers”.

Whatever.  Ha ha ha!


A year (or two?) ago, some of my jewelry making friends let me pretend to teach them some stuff so I could see how freaked out I get at the idea of being a teacher.  The day was fun but much more socializing than learning.

Yesterday I had my first actual focused teaching session for metal clay.  As recommended by Hadar’s teaching structure, we started with the simple collage pendant (which I don’t really think is all that simple, so had a wee bit of trepidation).

Student informed me it WAS a good starting point and had we done something simpler, such as stamp-textured pendants without bails, she wouldn’t have felt half as accomplished and proud of her piece as she did.

Here it is (the pendant is only one inch so this is enlarged)


I posted a couple months ago about a little demo I did for a girl scout troop so they could get their creative arts badge (something like that… don’t remember the exact name).  Anyway, I went to all the trouble of writing up a pictorial tutorial for the bracelets we made and I hate for all my hard work to go to waste… ha ha ha… so I’m including it on my website.

And that gave me the idea to include my other free tutorials on there too.  I just need to find time to add them.  Soon, hopefully, and I’ll probably mention it here when I do so stay tuned or sign up for my newsletter.