Sunday, June 27, 2010

The PMC Guild Annual - has it really been a whole year?

The selections have been made for this year's PMC Guild Annual (#4). The jurors have viewed the entries and chosen some great pieces. Some people are thrilled - others aren't so happy. By now, everyone knows the results and those selected have seen a proof of the book. One of the jurors, Lora Hart, reached out to the participants with a blog post to congratulate and console - and she offered some great suggestions to entrants for next time - and read the post following that one too...

Last year, I was a juror for the Annual - an experience I really enjoyed - and like Lora, I felt that I wanted to speak to those whose work was rejected. The blog post I wrote last year, which encouraged people not to let rejection shut them down, was reprinted in Metal Clay Artist Magazine earlier this year. If you have faced rejection, maybe it will be of some help.

As for this year's Annual, I was just a participant in the process... and by the skin of my teeth. I was pleased that the one image I submitted was chosen. Originally, I had great plans to submit a couple of new things I was working on... but when it came down to the deadline, one piece wasn't finished and I couldn't get a photo I liked of the other... so I ended up sending that one image (shot months ago) overnight - for $25.00! Yes, I could have sent it any time before that for about $1.50. Did I learn something? Like maybe to send the one you're sure of - then send the others if you finish them?... (I sure hope so!)

Congratulations to everyone whose work was chosen. And to everyone else, don't fret, get busy - because next year will be here before you know it...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Listening to the Universe...

Today I walked into our local bead shop and was greeted by the owner's incredulous sounding voice saying "Cathy???" and wasn't quite sure how to react. Denise Newman, the owner of the Isle of Beads, (say that out loud and you'll hear "I love beads") went on to explain that the customer she was helping had inquired about metal clay classes. Denise told her that if she wanted to take a class from someone in the area she should look me up. She had just told this to the customer and mentioned that I hadn't been in the store for several months... when I walked in the door (cue the Outer Limits music). We were all a bit stunned. I talked with the customer for a few minutes and provided some information about classes. After she left, we remarked again at the odds of this occurrence. Then Denise made a comment to the effect that this wasn't just the "Universe" gently suggesting that this person take metal clay classes - it was practically a full-out smack on the forehead... I had to agree... even more so because my plan was to be there earlier in the day, but other events delayed me. The other cool thing is that I went to the bead shop looking for a certain bead which is no longer available (because the source disappeared) in hopes that Denise could find it for me... and oddly enough, a rep who might be able to get it is coming tomorrow - so I can bring back a sample bead to see what he can do.

I'm pretty open minded. I'm sure not going to argue with such so-called coincidences... as a matter of fact, my whole day really went like that. Maybe I was tuned in. Things just clicked - from an early morning meeting, to a visit to our podiatrist, to finding the only halfway decent gluten-free beer on sale at Whole Foods!

This afternoon, I visited a gallery that carries my work. When I walked in there I was greeted with "I owe you some money," and left with a check and a request for some pendant and earring sets.

After that, a good visit with a friend, followed by a trip to Trader Joe's where (after filling my cart with goodies), I found this red wine we'd liked, but couldn't remember where it we'd gotten it. Funny thing is, I looked last time I was at TJ's with no luck...

With a day like this, you can bet that when the cashier at Trader Joe's asked me to fill out the raffle ticket for bringing my own bags, I jumped at the chance... after all, you can't win if you don't play... and who knows?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Heikki Seppä

Last week, I learned of the death of a talented metalsmith and innovator. Finnish-born artist Heikki Seppä, died May 18th at age 83. His work first came to my attention in 1978 when I was in college studying metal crafts. That was the year his book Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths was published, introducing new ideas and a new vocabulary to metalsmithing. In one of my classes, we were working with raised forms and practiced making various synclastic and anticlastic curved forms in metal. We were moving metal in ways we hadn't even considered before. Seppä developed these forms to create his shell structures–lightweight hollow forms that were curved, graceful, and just plain amazing. The sinusoidal stake is his invention, too. It's a wobbly looking tapered metal stake designed to facilitate the shaping of these unique forms. 

Seppä is also credited with pioneering work in metal surface reticulation, something he brought to the United States after training with a former Fabergé artist. The technique was developed in the late 1800's in Czarist Russia and used by Fabergé and other court jewelers to create textured objects.

Reticulation, an unpredictable organic-looking torch-created texture, is usually done with a silver alloy (also possible with a gold alloy). The technique is based on the fact that a pure metal and an alloy have different melting points and rates of expansion/contraction. A layer of pure metal is raised to the surface of the sheet of metal by depletion gilding (a repetitive process of heating and pickling to remove the copper oxide from the surface layer). The resulting sheet is then heated with the torch to a point at which the interior alloy begins to melt but the surface "skin" is only softened. As the piece cools and the alloy contracts, the surface becomes covered with ridges. Reticulation silver sheet can be purchased from jewelry suppliers like Rio Grande. It is not sterling. Its higher copper content lowers the melting point of the alloy, creating less risk of melting the surface layer and a more dramatic effect.

Another contribution credited to Seppä is his work with roll-printing. This is transferring a texture onto a metal surface using a rolling mill (not unlike what metal clay artists do to transfer a texture to the metal clay without the rolling mill).

A great book for both the anitclastic raising and reticulation techniques is Metals Technic, from Brynmorgen Press. Heikki Seppä contributed the chapter on Reticulation, and artist Michael Good, who studied with Seppä in 1979, contributed the Anticlastic Raising chapter. Good has developed and expanded the techniques in this form of metalsmithing and his work is simply stunning.

It's been ages since I've tried either of these techniques, but in the past few years I have thought often about trying my hand at the raising techniques again. I can make some time to do that, right?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Time flies when you have a deadline...

Where did the last three-plus weeks go? It's amazing how time flies when you're trying to be creative (and productive) under a deadline...  although sometimes, it both flies and drags. The creative process never ceases to amaze me. This is especially true when I'm under one of those deadlines and feel like I'm not completely satisfied with the expression of an idea (or not happy with the progress of a project), and then something clicks–it just comes together. When the process drags, it's usually because I've forgotten that trying too hard to be creative can get in the way of letting the process follow its natural course. Deadlines can make this a real challenge. I definitely got caught up in that for a while this time and didn't do a good job of telling myself to "relax and let it happen." You'd think I'd know better.

But you might ask, "how can you relax when you have a deadline?" This surely seems a contradiction. I think it goes back to the old saying, "slow and steady wins the race." I can't really explain how or why it happens, but I know from experience that it does. If I keep heading toward my goal with an open mind, a project always seems to come together. Sometimes it's sort of an "ah-ha" moment, other times, it falls into place more gradually. And it isn't always exactly what I envisioned, as a matter of fact, it's usually better. But the trick is, I can't slack off and just wait for this to happen–I have to keep moving forward.

Now, this is not foolproof... there are plenty of times when I'm under a deadline that it still gets all "crunchy" toward the end. But in hindsight, those are the times that I tried to control the process too much. Sometimes that "ah-ha" moment comes when I've exhausted myself trying to make something work (the way I think it should) and I'm done in... so I back off, and voilà! When a project drags, I need to remind myself that I don't have to get to that point of exhaustion (or frustration) before the process will flow. Creativity happens, but you have to remember to give it the opportunity. Relax, work with confidence, and trust that it will come together.

It's so easy to get caught up in deadlines and forget to follow our instincts, (or listen to our own advice). I really need to find a good way to remind myself to trust the creative process when I'm in the midst of it all. Maybe I need a sign in my studio that reads "it'll happen–just get out of the way!"

To learn more about trusting the process, read my February post about an excellent book on this subject.