Tag Archives: PMC

Silver rock beads in progress

It’s really late. Actually it’s really early Monday morning and I have to get up in a few hours to spend the day off island. So here’s what I worked on today. (That would actually be yesterday, Sunday)

I gathered my silicone molds of beach rocks:

I rolled out silver PMC and pressed it into the rock half molds to make matching bead halves:

Once the clay dried enough to pop out of the mold without losing its shape, I finished drying the pieces on my cup warmers.

I made the edges smooth and flat and  fit the two bead halves together, dried them again, and drilled holes for stringing.

They will need to be fully dry before I fire them in the kiln. Then they will come out as pure silver hollow beads that are shaped like the beach rocks I love to collect.

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Back to work with metal clay and a shout out to J.Fred

It sure seems like a long time. Maybe it was before Christmas that I last worked with silver PMC.  I don’t even remember the last time I worked with bronze or copper clay.

I got ready by straightening out my tools, putting away other projects, and getting my metal clay bench in tidy shape as I figured out what I might do next. I actually had some specific earrings in mind; a pair I had made years ago and wanted to retry. The original pair were hollow, flat on the back and domed in front with an off center dip in the dome shape. I could not find the original mold I made with a plastic watercolor palette, so I tried again to get the shape.

These were not quite what I wanted, but I was not getting any closer with successive tries, so I worked with what I had.  I wanted to use 40 gauge copper foil to recreate the dome and dip shape. By having a little mold of copper, I can lay the metal clay on it and transfer it directly to my cup warmer. Using a metal form to drape and shape the metal clay is a handy little trick I learned last winter from my metal clay mentor J.Fred Woell.*  The copper foil or wire heats up quickly, so the clay dries quickly and it doesn’t stick to the metal.

Getting the foil shaped properly didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but I’ll keep at it. It may be that for this particular design I just have to wait for the dome shape to air-dry on the plastic water color palette. I have a few other tricks to try before I give up on this idea.

I also made some cone shapes out of the foil to use for shaping and quickly drying cones from PMC. I would like to use them more with multi strand sections of necklaces. I made some a while ago but they were too wide. I used this handy dandy tool I picked up at a conference to get a thin cone shape. Without the foil cones I could shape the clay directly on the plastic form, then wait and wait for it to dry, or dry it a little more quickly with a hair dryer. With three little copper cones, I can make 6 cone beads in the time it would take for one to dry enough to remove from the plastic form.

The results were more predictable this time.

*To my friend and teacher, J.Fred Woell, congratulations on your well-earned recognition from the Society of North American Goldsmiths. When you introduced me to precious metal clay in 1998 it changed my life!

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New sea glass pieces in necklace

Mixing Keith O’Connor‘s raku beads with my own silver beads, I finally figured out what I wanted to do for my first necklace using some pieces of English sea glass that I spent the last few days drilling.

The whole time I was drilling I imagined combining these greens with freshwater pearls. I strung and restrung a series of combinations, but nothing seemed right. Surprisingly, a necklace of all sea glass seemed too “blah” this afternoon. I ended up going back to my asymmetric comfort zone, and included some of the ceramic beads I’ve had on hand.

I just love this sea glass and can’t wait to drill more and come up with more designs. I know I’ll find a way to use the pearls with it; today just wasn’t the day.

 

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Today’s mix

The necklace I worked on today is a combination of  handmade lampworked beads, (bought from *artists on Etsy) local beach rocks, my own fine silver PMC beads and some local bits of sea glass.

Lampworked beads by Sue Kennedy and Leese Mahoney.

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Thousands of beads and a show in 4 days

 

If you are going to be in Ellsworth, Maine this weekend, stop by at the Ramada Inn (old Holiday Inn) and check out the talented company I’ll be keeping at the Beads Baubles and Fleece Downeast show!

This is going to be a great opportunity to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while, and to see what they’ve been creating lately. It is also a chance to de-stash my own studio a bit as I offer some beads I haven’t used in a while.

Once upon a time, before PMC was invented, I made a lot of my own polymer clay beads. I created colorful canes to slice fire and drill so I would have plenty of 8 to 10mm  beads to use in multi-strand, multi-colored necklaces.

 

I like all kinds of beads, but I love making my own beads to use in combination with others. For many years these Fimo beads fit the bill. I could make canes and slice them into beads all day long. I made many many necklaces with them. Then, in 1998, Fred Woell introduced me to a product from Mitsubishi Materials known as Precious Metal Clay. I learned to make beads from silver that started out as a moldable metal clay. Once the “clay” was fired, and the binder burned away, I had beads of pure silver. Eventually I said goodbye to the polymer clay, and stored my many handmade beads high on a shelf in my studio.

Once in a while I would get a request for a beaded necklace like the one above, but the beads mostly stayed out of sight and out of mind…until I applied to the Beads Baubles and Fleece show. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what someone else might do with my beads if they were for sale. I dug out the boxes of Fimo beads and I was shocked at the number I had put away. There must be thousands. (unfortunately, some of them were never drilled so I still have some work to do before selling them.)

These boxes represent hours and hours of work. I have no idea how to price them, but I will come up with a plan before Friday. Bruce suggested selling them by weight, using a scoop. It sounds like a pretty good idea.

I will also have some jewelry for sale at my booth, though I’m running out of time to finish more necklaces. I’ve never sold beads or components before, but it’s an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a few months since I like to buy beads and components from other artists on Etsy.  I enjoy making beads so much, I wonder what it would feel like to stop at that point and sell them, rather than work them into necklaces or earrings.

As I get ready to sell beads I’ve made, and an assortment of other beads I bought but haven’t used in a while I’m thinking:

What if I have the prices too high and I can’t sell them? What if I have the prices too low and I piss off other sellers at the show? What if I sell beads I really like and then wish I had kept them? What if I sell everything on the first day? What if I sell nothing in two days? What if my display looks cheesy, tacky, unprofessional?

What do you know? My insecurities about selling beads at a show are the same insecurities I have about selling jewelry at a show. Only this time I’ll have both beads and jewelry for sale. It’s time for me to remember that I’m not the only one who feels this way before a show. Maybe I could just lighten up and decide to have a good time no matter what. But first…I have a few holes to drill….

 

 

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Kiln back in action

At last! It’s not like I’ve been waiting for a repair, or anything like that. Summer is just so full of good things that there is hardly room to work or breath. But, I’ve managed to do both lately.

While firing a batch of silver clay pieces, I got out the bronze and copper clay for the first time since June. With the current high price of silver clay, I felt less constrained with the base metals. My goal this week, with all three kinds of clay, was to come up with some birds for a little show on Sunday at the home of my sister-in-law Karen and her husband Hugh. Birds play a big part in our lives and it’s going to be fun to see what several friends have made for “Island Birds,” at the Smallwood’s house on Sunday, August 8 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come and the various birds will be for sale. Jim Bright has bird carvings, Karen and Hugh have paintings, Rick Alley has paintings, Joy Sprague has photographs, Jeri Spurling has bird-inspired floor cloths, and I will have some birdy beads on necklaces and earrings. This could be the year I start my Christmas shopping early!

Silver pieces out of the kiln and headed for the tumbler:

Bronze and copper pieces ready for the kiln. It’s such a different firing process from silver. Everything above went easily into one load. Whereas the pieces below required two loads. My fingers are crossed that the first batch wasn’t too crowded, and will have sintered properly.

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Only out of necessity…

…did I travel to Bar Harbor for groceries, two days before the 4th of July. Holy instant crowded summer scene! The trip was tempered by a very manageable number of customers in the hardware store, and by scoring some 6 packs of annuals on sale at Sunflower Farm on route 3.

There are plenty of activities happening on the island tomorrow and Monday, so I’m not sure when I will get a chance to further explore the possibilities of the goodies I bought from Kate McKinnon’s excellent sale last week.

 

I know exactly what I want to do with some of those triangular Thai silver beads. The rectangular earwires will convert to earrings in minutes with some of my own silver dangles. As for the other bits and bots, who knows how they will come in handy, but they will.

Could I have made these pieces myself? Yes, of course. But sometimes it stirs up the creative energy to add someone else’s components to the mix. One of my all time favorite beach rock necklaces has three fine silver beads that were made by Kate. Though I make plenty of beads myself, Kate’s beads were just the shape and size I needed at the time to complete this particular necklace. (This is not the greatest photo, but you can spot the beads at about 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, and 8 o’clock.) I’m glad my friend Donna Isaacs ended up with this necklace, because I get to see it quite often. And I’m going to toot my own horn here (not comfortable for me to do) and say that the necklace looks FABULOUS on her!

I have a batch o’ things I plan to patina, next week, including these brass paddles.

 

Kate added little surprise goodie bags to the orders she sent out from this recent sale. Eventually I’ll use the seed beads, and there are plenty of other little treasures in there that I haven’t even taken out of the bag.

Below, a seed beed mix in a blue and gold colourway. These are for a project sometime in the fall. (After our son’s wedding on the island in September which is a whole ‘nother story of future doings.)

I’m just not quite sure what to think about the word “colourway.” It reminds me of the word “henway” and a lame joke.

Henway? What’s a henway?

Oh, about 5 pounds.

 

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Waiting for bunchberries

I am always looking at leaf textures and considering which ones to use with metal clay, but the leaf I use most often is that of the bunchberry dogwood. The back side has raised veins that recreate the lines of the front, when pressed into fresh soft clay. I guess you could say the bunchberry is my “go to” leaf.

I’ve been looking for bunchberry plants in shady areas on the side of the road. Where are they? I thought they would be out by now, but they are not in their usual spots. Maybe I am looking for them too early in the season. The only leaves to be found, where I usually find bunchberries, are the wild lily of the valley.

 (Pretty little flowers, but the smooth leaf texture = boring.)

In my road side search, today, I remembered to look for old goldenrod stems from last fall. Since making my silver pod bead from the mold of a triple stem gall, I wanted to find a single stem gall to make a mold for single pod beads.

Though they were well-camouflaged in all of the dead grass and sticks on the side of the road, I was able to spot a few.  I may still be waiting for the bunchberry plants to show up, but at least I didn’t have to wait until fall to find these.

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Matching up another glass bead

I bought this handmade glass bead at the first PMC conference I attended in 2006, at Purdue University. I wish I could remember who made it. It has bounced around my studio for 5 years, as I have thought about ways to use it in a necklace. When I started  making more asymmetrical necklaces and had a new supply of drilled beach rocks, I brought out the glass bead for another try.

I’m happy with the way the silver PMC beads, the cream colored beach stones, the patinated copper, and the discs of turquoise echo the colors in the glass bead.

Today’s post is a short one. I’m visiting my friend Susie in New York and we spent the day looking for a dress for me to wear to my son Robin’s wedding in September. (Hey, after watching the royal wedding we were in the mood!) I scored at the third store we tried. But now we are both tired. Tomorrow, some shopping for lamb sausage, fresh mozzarella, etc. on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. We may nip into Manhattan for a few hours at the Museum of Arts and Design. We’ll see….

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Opportunity

Less than 2 months ago I asked the question, “How much is too much?” when it comes to paying for fine silver metal clay. The price of silver was $33.70 an ounce. I could not imagine that price would ever sound like a bargain, but today the price of my favorite precious metal reached $40.41, making that February 22 price look a lot better than it did then.

Today this much PMC would cost me  $95.16. I have 2 packages on hand that cost me about $20 less, and I will not be rushing to open them or to order more. It’s hard to think that in another 2 months I may kick myself for missing out on the “bargain” price today. I would rather hope that the price will come back down sooner than later.

Most of the people I know who work with PMC, (myself included) are starting to freak out, wondering how much higher the price of silver will go. But whining or worrying is not going to get us anywhere. What’s the worst that can happen if we stop working with it for a while? If the demand goes down will the price go down?  Who knows?  In the meantime, we have  an opportunity to grow as artists. We can find ways to make jewelry from other materials, learning new techniques and expanding our base of experience.

Think of Alexander Calder and the jewelry he made from brass and copper.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) Untitled (spiral pendant), copper, 3½ x 2 1/8 in. (8.9 x 5.4 cm.). Executed circa 1957.

Not into forging wire? The world of base metal clay is expanding all the time. There are a variety of manufacturers of bronze and copper clay, and the price is very reasonable. For those of us who still like a silver colored metal, Hadar Jacobsen has developed a white bronze clay, and there is a wealth of information available on her blog.

My friends Angie and Marly, from Studio 28, have been working with Hadar’s white bronze clay lately, and they have a wonderful blog entry about it.  Their earrings below are a combination of white bronze and copper. (Looks like silver, eh?)

The white bronze is something I hope to try soon.

But first, I have ordered some patina solutions and an e-book from Shannon LeVart at Miss Ficklemedia. Her patinated beads and components fascinate me, and the process is one I’ve wanted to try for a while. I like the idea of creating my own colors on copper and brass to use in my necklaces and earrings. I will use silver, too, but I can stretch my silver supply a little farther when I combine it with other metals.

After I ordered the solutions and instructions from Shannon, I checked out some of her sources for copper beads. I also found some copper and brass pieces at the Beadin’ Path. So I ordered a few things on which to apply patina. I spent some studio time stamping, dapping and drilling holes in some of the flat pieces to leave my own marks on the metal.

See the plain willow leaf shapes in the center of the photo above?   This is how I made them “my” copper leaves:

The next step(s) will be to clean all the metal surfaces, making sure any grease is gone. I’m excited and nervous to try something new, especially applying the patinas that require heat.

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