The Picasso Vase

I made a Picasso vase.  Or rather, the other people in the studio started calling the vase The Picasso Vase before I ever thought of it.  Probably because of the shape which would have been impossible to achieve without the tar paper technique (which I also used to make the menorah.)
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You can from the picture above see how difficult it would have been to support the vase in its wet state without the tar paper to support it.  It was three wet slabs with beveled edges, scored and pinched together.

 

    Paper covered vase on left (upside down).  Bone dry vase before bisque firing on the right.

If the vase was to be an homage to Picasso, I needed to decorate it with Picasso-style images.  I decided on a cat, a mouse, and a fish.   Here are some preliminary sketches I made for the mouse.  I started with realistic drawings and got more abstract as I went.

 

I had no problem deciding on the cat portion and the fish came to me all at once.

 

Here are the designs for the mouse and fish,  drawn on the bisque-fired vase with an underglaze pencil.

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The cat in progress.  I used underglaze chalks and liquid underglazes for color.

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        Right out of the kiln.

 

 

The finished vase.

 

I Finished The Coin Pendant!

I started the story of my attempts to make a coin pendant  with a post a couple of weeks ago.   I am happy to say that I have finally made a respectable pendant which I intend to give to a friend whose story is much more interesting my story:  Friend got married and started a family soon after high school.  She got divorced and worked at several kinds of jobs before remarrying.  When she was down sized from a job, her current husband reminded her that she had always wanted to go to college and thought that if they looked hard enough, they could find some scholarship money.   She did, they did, they did and she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania.   And emerged with a Ph.D in Anthropology in 2015.   Since her dissertation was in the field of Irish Studies,  I came up with the idea of setting an older (pre-Euro) Republic of Ireland coin into a pendant  for a graduation present, and I begged some coins from her obliging husband who is a little fanatical about Irish culture himself.   I am only 2 1/2 years late.  But after I got my brilliant idea, I had to learn how to execute it.  I could not find any new instructions (not that they would have helped.)  I finally got inspiration from two YouTube videos by Online Jewelry Academy on how to make a gallery prong setting.  You can watch the videos here and here.   And I got the basic instructions on how to make the bail from a Soham Harrison video you can watch here.

 

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I milled some 14 gauge square sterling silver wire, measured and cut it and soldered it and formed it into a circle.  I wanted it to be the exact diameter as the coin so you didn’t see it from the front, and for there to be a frame on the back of the coin that did not obscure any coin markings.  I decided to have three prongs hold the coin in place and to make the prongs from 14 gauge half-round wire.  The picture above shows a notch I filed for one of the prongs.

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Checking the fit of the wire.

 

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Here is the assembly laid on the soft brick before soldering.  The ring is already soldered. The prong bottoms are pushed into the brick to steady them.  I had a few soldering failures until I made some changes that I think helped.  First, I laid out everything and then made holes for the prongs so I could get them right into the notches and up against the circle.  Secondly, I put a pallion of solder between the prong and the circle right in the notch.  Third, I bent the prongs inward slightly to be sure they were really hugging the circle. I also soldered the ring, quenched and pickled and then tackled the prongs with a softer solder.  I didn’t try to solder all four elements at once like I had done before.  It worked! I had total soldering success! 

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Here’s the assembly before I cut the bottom of the prongs flush with the bottom of the circle. 

 

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The cleaned assembly with the prongs trimmed.  They still have to be filed and sanded so they look good and don’t catch on clothing.  

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The coin sits on the circle and the prongs are folded over, trimmed, filed and sanded.  But the inside of the prongs have to be filed to allow the coin to sit perfectly flat on the circle.  So I had to mark the thickness of the coin on the inside of the prongs and then file-very carefully-so the coin fits in without a gap. It’s fiddly work; if you file too much you’ll weaken the prongs.  Too little and the coin will sit askew.   But it’s not really difficult.  

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Still need to file a bit more.

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A perfect fit!  I start to bend the prongs over gradually.

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The bail has a prong soldered on the inside front which feeds through a hole in the back.  I altered the bail a bit so it wouldn’t open.

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01.10 Back

 

And here’s the finished pendant!  Still learning, but I like the way it came out.  Finally!

Artspiration 2017

This year’s Artspiration Community Festival at  Fleisher Art Memorial was a blast.  I worked at the Color Wheels table helping kids and adults make seed bombs with clay and wildflower seeds and helped out at the Open Studio pottery table.  There were plenty of free activities for kids including face painting, mural painting, spin art pictures.  Philly Typewriters was there with two tables of portable machines  and the younger attendees were lining up to try them.  

Here are some pictures

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We enjoyed music and dancing throughout the day.

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The Color Wheels van wore a big party hat to celebrate its 5th birthday.

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A decorated seed bomb

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Texturing the clay for the seed bombs

Tesla Necklace with a Nod to Cynthia

I love big beads.  Big hollow beads.  Doesn’t matter whether they’re made of glass, metal or polymer.    Maybe because it’s a challenge to figure out how to make them and probably because people are always surprised at how light they are.   And I have made a boatload of hollow beads over the years.  

Which brings me to last week when I brought a strand of big polymer beads into the pottery studio and someone was interested in buying it which was a problem because it was only temporarily strung and I had not figured out an appropriate clasp.  But it got me thinking.  

I have always admired the perfectly integrated polymer covered barrel bead clasps on Ford and Forlano’s big bead necklaces.  I wanted to make an integrated clasp myself but I did not want to use barrel bead – I wanted to use a hidden magnetic clasp.  Which brought up two problems.  First, it would have to be a very strong magnet. Big hollow bead necklaces still have some heft after all. And you cannot bake a magnet without diminishing its magnetic properties.   People used to bake their magnet clasps all time time. But we have learned that  baking weakens the magnets.

So I had to find a strong magnet and a way to integrate it into polymer bead halves without baking.  I was surprised to learn that there was a paucity of information on using magnets and polymer clasps.  I mean there are some old tutorials that instruct you to bake the magnet into the clay but as we have discovered, that’s a no-no.  

Then I discovered Mag-Lok magnets and found this video  from Cynthia Tinapple.  I put my own twist on Cynthia’s technique and  made a necklace with the Tesla beads and a magnetic clasp.   How very appropriate. 

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I will share how I make hollow polymer beads and magnet clasps at the next meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.   Thank you Nikola Tesla and Cynthia Tinapple!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clayathon 2017

Another Clayathon has come and gone.  There was a record attendance of 80+ this year from all over the US and a delightful contingent of clayers from Canada.  Clay retreats really are a wonderful place to make friends and to rekindle old friendships.

Lindly Haunani, this year’s guest artist, shared her color expertise with six hours of presentations stretched over three days.  In  between Lindly’s demos, the attendees shared their knowledge of techniques ranging from Kumihimo, wire working and wet felting as well as basic to advanced polymer demos.  

There is a lot I am not mentioning but I am still recovering from the experience. When I got home, I went straight to bed and got up 14 hours later.

Here are some pictures.

 

 

Sculpting a Cat Figurine

Boris was not the inspiration for this figurine although I have been taking a figure drawing class and drawing Boris for practice. No, he does not pose for me. What cat would? But he is good for ten nanosecond poses and gesture drawing.  Sculpting a cat figurine sounded like a a fun idea.  I have sculpted two cats before, but  both were in polymer.  Now that I have access to a pottery studio, I decided to try my hand at making a terra cotta cat which is a horse of a totally different hue.

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Here are the preliminary stages of the figurine.   You have to be careful not to leave any air bubbles in the clay.  Small ones will probably dry closed but big ones can explode in the kiln.  And unless all the clay is thoroughly dry inside and out, there is a danger of explosion in the kiln.

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Here is where I started adding character.  You will note that the cat looks well fed.  In fact, I had to make his tummy hollow to insure that the clay would dry and that the figurine would not weigh a ton.  I made an air hole  underneath the figurine, wrapped it in plastic, and when the clay was hard enough, I put the puss on two sticks so air would reach the hole and dry inside.  I put the figurine aside and forgot about it for a few weeks as it dried out slowly-the best way to prevent cracking.  I did some painting with underglaze before putting the cat in the kiln.  When he came out in one piece, the hard part was over,

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I glazed the cat with matte clear glaze for the final firing.  the white, orange, blue and other colors you see are the underglaze.

And here is the finished cat!  His I.D tag, which is hard to see, says “Tiny.”

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The resident art critic seems to approve.

Trinkets and Some Bowls to Hold Them

It’s not like I don’t already have enough beads, but having access to a pottery studio, glazes and a bead tree has made new beads magically appear in my workshop.  The items you see below are pendants and a couple of bead comes.

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Here are some beads in their greenware state and decorated state  after bisque firing and prior to glaze firing.

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And if bead making was not enough, I been making  little trinket bowls to hold rings and other small treasures.

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I am having fun with different glazes and textures, and finishes.

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And I have also been having fun making components for the Into the Forest  collaborative polymer clay project.

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Into the Forest in Philadelphia

Last year, polymer artists Emily Squires Levine and Laura Tabakman  spent some late summer days in the  Colorado mountains and were so inspired by their walks through groves of aspen trees  that they decided to collaborate on an installation.

The result  is “Into The Forest” which opened for public viewing in Philadelphia on September 12.  Located  in the South Tower Art Gallery of the Park Towne Apartments in Philadelphia, the installation  is part of the “Constructing Organics” show which features work by three other Philadelphia artists.  InLiquid and AIMCO  co-sponsored the show.

I attended the opening and was excited to see polymer art recognized as fine art. Laura, who lives in Pittsburgh, was not able to attend the opening but Emily did an excellent job of  explaining how she and Laura were influenced by their hikes through the aspen forests and how they translated that experience into an intriguing installation.

Here are some pictures

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Painting by Jeffrey Keith

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Emily talks about “Into The Forest”

 

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Installation at twilight

 

The Philadelphia venue is only the beginning for “Into the Forest.”

I first learned at  the EuroSynergy conference this summer that  Emily and Laura, who have been joined by award winning polymer artist Julie Eakes plan to expand “Into The Forest”  into an  international collaborative project.  Laura  announced the project at the end of her Synergy presentation on “Getting Your Work Ready to Show.” She’d  already wowed the audience with her stories  about how she scouted exhibition  opportunities for her incredible polymer and mixed media installations.  After she revealed the plans for the international collaboration she invited everyone to volunteer via a Facebook group set up for the purpose.   I volunteered right there on my iPad and many people in the audience did the same.

You can volunteer too. Just go to the Facebook group page, here.   You can follow the project on Instagram (@intotheforest17).   Read more about the project on the Polymer Arts Blog.

Several  polymer events to support the program are in the works.  Emily will lead one at the September meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.  For information on this meeting, go to the PAPCG blog.

 

 

 

Boris Discovers the Workshop

I have to admit that I was very sad when I wrote last week’s post.    But Boris is is coming out of his shell and worming his way into my heart.  There is nothing like a kitten to beat the blues.

Plumpton used to hang out in my workshop and Boris seems interested in doing the same. It will be nice to have company s long as Boris behaves himself.  But what are the chances of that?

 

He was fascinated with the pieces of baked polymer that I am playing around with for a wall piece I am making for a fund raiser for the Fleisher Art  Memorial.  Just the thing for a kitten to bat around.

Playing with the colors, shapes and textures inspired me to try a new earring design.

So it looks like Boris might be inspiring me! That’s good. I could use some inspiration right about now.

Big, Bold Jewelry Designs at Synergy

I am finally home after nearly three weeks in Europe.  Past of the reason for the trip was to attend the EuroSynergy Conference in Bordeaux.   I rekindled many friendships, made some new friends, attended fabulous programs and mostly tried to keep my head from exploding with all the artistic influences, new products, wonderful people and the inspiring and informative program the conference offered.

One of the highlights for me, however, was meeting Jude Parker and seeing her big, bold, colorful jewelry.  Jude,  who  was attending Synergy with her mother Ann Parker is from Sanderstead, England just south of London where Ann has a business selling craft supplies called Monkey Ann. Visit the web site here.

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Jude’s work is large, colorful and light because  it is composed of hollow forms. It is big and bold and she carries  off the look  beautifully.    Here she is modeling some of her creations.

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This neck piece has a fabric-like feeling to it , but it is all cane work and  deceptively light because it is hollow.  I love the limited palate.  Jude made the findings because she will never find ready-made clasps for the scale of jewelry she creates.

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You can see Jude wearing the neck piece in the above picture.  Below are some close ups of her jewelry.

 I will write more about Synergy in the weeks to come.  Tomorrow I am head to Connecticut  for Clay ConneCTion 2016