Sunday, June 26, 2011

Alien Artists

Well friends--we've been very busy here at Metal Clay Artist Magazine (our second birthday is coming up in July and we put a lot into our special issue!) so we've fallen a bit behind on making a weekly contribution to our blog.  Fortunately, our last two posts had enough "meat" in them for us to chew on for a long time! Evelyn's how-to project was a wonderful surprise to find our blog--and she's received rave reviews!  I hope she'll do up another tutorials for our blog soon!  An Vickie's article about metal clay sintering--was thoughtfully composed and answered so many questions metal clay artists have wondered about.

My ring from Lorrene's class.
I started this blog post in March--with the great intention of posting it--but each issue of the magazine seems to take more of my time--as I learn more about design and layout, and we enter new markets...I have less "down time".  But I did manage to slip in a few classes this spring!  (One with Lorrene Baum-Davis,  and another with Celie Fago--both of which would make for great blog posts!)  And I was in Washington in April for the Smithsonian Craft Show--another outing I should report on!  AND if that were not enough--I have two or three blog posts that have been sent to me to post.  OY!

So I'll start from where I left off in March and promise to try and keep our blog more up to date!

As most of us know--we often give others the gifts we'd like to receive.  And I think that holds true with things we write about.  The following is a blog post I started to write in March--which seems to have turned into a "note to self".

Finding your own artistic voice is often a journey that takes a true artist a lifetime, since we evolve and grow and learn new things.  Many metal clay artists have jumped on board learning about the new clays, joining groups or have found like minded individuals in a guild.  Even with all of these opportunities, some artists struggle with finding their unique style and more importantly to feel that what they are working on has a purpose.  Other artists are over-whelmed with the amount of ideas and things they want to try and all of the medias and ways to express themselves--and so they bounce from one thing to the next, all the while amassing (a.k.a. hording) huge amounts of materials and tools along the way.  Added to this is the need to keep costs down in our studios, seeing ideas to fruition and throw in the twisted fact that some of us seem to need to be given permission to enjoy and explore our art on a regular basis.

Adopt An Alien, Creatures by Lindsey Banker

[Then there are others who stride along--showing off new works almost daily--and while I'm sure that some of these people are just aliens among us--as it is just not possible to be so prolific within a 24 hour day---or is it?]

Now while we all love new things, and our community has seen it's share of new things in the past few years, are we having too many new clays, tools, techniques come our way?  I had an interesting conversation last week with the owner of one of the bigger metal clay distributors.  This person expressed the opinion that with so many new clays that some people are jumping "off the band wagon" and sticking with one or two clays.  This is of course a logical step as people find their niche and focus on their own artwork.  But for many of us--learning about the properties and experimenting with the new metal clays and techniques is not only a part of our studio practice--learning and sharing what we have tried is exhilarating.  A tiny chance for us to participate in jewellery making history.

Speaking of jewellery making history, as most artists in the metal clay community now know, Lisa Cain and her staff at the Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery have worked out a way for us to make sterling silver metal clay. (See our current issue for her recipe Vol. 2 #2.) This innovation will undoubtedly change the course of work for many metal clay artists in the UK and Europe and those in other places looking to be able to add the universally recognized stamp of "approval" .925 to their creations.  It will be very interesting to see how artists embrace and add to the recipe and techniques developed by Lisa and her team.

And of course we are all aware of the rising price of silver and we are looking for ways to stretch our studio dollars.  This is pushing artists be more creative with their materials.  I am seeing more artists incorporating glass, polymer clay, resin, faux bone...and more into their metal clay creations.  A blog post by Celie Fago really turned a lot of heads. She talked about ways to incorporate or even substitute polymer clay into her metal clay designs as a way to stretch her studio budget. See May's post by Margaret Schindel (Our Senior Editor) for more photos and details. Photos from Celie's Blog:

"For many years I've made this toggle clasp out of carved solid snakes of PMC." 

"I remade it out of polymer then embellished it with little bits of PMC."       

Just yesterday an artist friend of mine--(and someone who should have gone to her class) was asking me "what I learned" in Celie's class.  Immediately I blurted out that I learned ways to economize my materials.  Celie didn't make this part of her lesson--but it's something I observed.  When she cut out a shape--if it was a series--she wouldn't make one at a time--she rolled out enough clay to make several pieces and therefore waste less material and kept her clay at the optimum freshness since it wasn't rolled out and rolled out and re-hydrated.  Seeing some of her beads and pieces filled or backed with polymer gave me so many ideas on how to keep on developing my ideas and minimizing the use of silver clay. Also check out Kelly Russell's work as she is also known for mixing her media and has posted some of her beauties on our blog.

Besides the amount of materials we have to choose from, keeping costs down in our studios, the next biggest struggle in studio life is actually getting down to business in our studios.  Ok...that should be "MY" studio. Oh yes, the truth is out--I'm behind on the blog and in working at my own bench on my own little ideas.  I wonder why I feel I need to have permission to freely create?  I see others online talking about this, so I'm relieved to know that I'm not alone.  But I'm sure many who struggle to balance family life and a studio business also find it hard to  justify  the time away from family or from pushing their business further along.  I know it is for me.  I have two young children, who I adore.  I also have the magazine--and all the stresses that go along with investing house and home to produce something that I feel is valuable and has a purpose.  Maybe I should be content with the magazine as my creative outlet--and not beat myself up for not "making stuff".  Or--is the bigger question--"why do I feel so darn creative, when I have to do the bookkeeping?"

Hmmm--something to ponder once I finish checking on what people have posted on Facebook today.  I'm curious to see what new pieces of art those "alien artists" who have more than 24 hours a day have made today!

~Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

P.S. If you'd like to see what we've been up to--our new issue is due out very soon!  Great articles, and great work again team!!  And it's our second birthday in July!!!  Check out what's in our new issue...
Cover Artist: Jen Kahn


  1. Great post Jeanette! The magazine IS a creative outlet, one that feeds our community, inspiring, teaching, and promoting in a way we couldn't do all on our own. Thanks for spending your creative time nurturing everyone else's creative time!!

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