Monday, October 10, 2011

More Vocabulary of Chains

Linda Kaye-Moses' The Vocabulary of Chains (in the latest issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine, vol. 2, issue 4) and Joy Funnell's Summertime Bling chain necklace project (MCAM's last issue, vol. 2, issue 3) will have you thinking about chains and metal clay in a new light.

Coincidentally, I just completed a course about chain-making with Leslie Hartwell at Metalwerx, in Waltham, MA. Inspired by Linda's and Joy's articles and Leslie's class, I thought I'd share some more ideas for expanding your own chain vocabulary.

Often, we spend so much time and effort working on a piece that when it is ready to be paired with a chain, we grab the most convenient commercially-made one and we're done.

Integrating the chain and pendant requires a little pre-planning. Think about the chain, too, when you are designing your piece. What kind of chain will complement the pendant? Will the finished piece look unified?  How will the chain connect with the pendant? Also, think about other things, such as proportion—should the chain be large and chunky? Or thin and delicate?

If fabricating a custom chain is not your thing, there are ways to modify commercially-made chain that might be a solution for you.

Consider altering chain by methods like hammering, cutting apart, or applying patina.

Upper left: Altering commercial chain by cutting apart and interspersing with beads, plus adding patina
Upper right and bottom photos: custom made chains
For example; if you have a chain with large, open links—you can rest the edge of a link on your bench block and hammer it. The link can be turned and hammered all the way around, or just partially hammered. A pattern can be created by hammering alternate links or every link. How about hammering just a centerpiece where the pendant will hang?

Chains can be cut apart and the segments re-joined with interspersed beads—or like Linda's project—custom-made metal clay components. Graduated size chains can be linked into one, unified look. You can connect multiple strands of chain to single strand sections. How about mixing metals?

Adding a patina to the chain might be just that little extra something to bring the entire piece together with a customized feel.

If you enjoy making more complex work, there are many additional ways to design chains to complement a pendant. You can be daring and fabricate a chain, or a section of chain, from metal clay. Or, you can make your own chain by soldering wire. Several books are available for soldered chain technical information and design inspiration. Here are three that I really like:

The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight. This book has a wealth of information—so it's a worthwhile addition to your books anyway—but in this case it offers many tips on chain construction, chain styles, clasps and bails.
Creative Silver Chains by Chantal Lise Saunders. Nice step by step instructions on some interesting designs, plus a very good introductory section with information on materials, techniques and design inspiration.
Making Silver Chains by Glen F. Waszek is another well-organized book with great step by step instructions and a lot of good lessons for working with silver.

~ Evelyn

Monday, October 3, 2011

Now You See It, Now You Don’t…Transforming Your Workspace

The latest Reader Challenge is to show us your workspace. 
We all love to see where other artists work! 

MCAM reader, Yvonne Kuennen shares her experience with organizing her space and clearing the clutter… 
When you work with metal clay, you tend to fall in love with it because it takes up so little space. It’s extremely portable, and a very small toolbox will hold most of your tools. Many of the basic tools are common things you might find in your kitchen or around the house: miniature rolling pin, cookies cutters, picks, emery boards, brushes, etc. In no time at all the tools multiply; and, before you know it, take over a portion of your house! The other people who share that living space are forced to give it up. It really is unfair—to everyone concerned. 

It is a challenge to organize so many tiny tools. You can’t have too many tools or too many beads (everyone knows that)! The question is, what do you let go of? 
In my study of Feng Shui I ran across a book entitled Clearing the Clutter. Then I attended a workshop on the same topic. The basic premise for Feng Shui is in the clearing of spaces. The best tip I learned was to create three boxes (or bins) with these labels: donate/repurpose, pitch and keep. The trick for me was getting the boxes to the thrift store or the trash before I got a chance to pull things back out. I kept telling myself, “less is more.” It is so true. 

Sort it all out and systematically categorize the things you are sorting through. If anything appears to be taking up too much space, find a bin for it. Be ruthless…is it being used? Selling or donating unused items is the easiest route in making them go away. The cash or credit you receive is such a plus that the pain of letting go is minimized.
Space planning is also no small feat. It requires a good deal of thoughtful planning and engineering. It also requires a high degree of organization. Without organization, you don’t know what get rid of. In my own case, the dining room table became a parking lot for all stages of design and production. 

I struggled for months (years to be truthful) to figure out a better order for all these things. I had several different beading rooms, but each one became a cluttered nightmare with no visible tabletop to work on.
VOILA! My husband Michael, the wood artist, built a wall-to-wall bookcase from “stick.” It is five sections from floor to ceiling, made of alder-stained cherry with cupboards beneath each section. Each cupboard now houses the myriad of tools and various pieces of equipment for my trade.

One cupboard has kits for seven students (my maximum for teaching workshops), the next has a tower of drawers to house all the molds I’ve made, a variety of texture tips, cutters and the like. The third holds all my firing equipment in a work bucket. The fourth has all my scrap glass and tools for making the dichroic cabochons. The fifth stands empty—yet to be filled, but that is a good thing since I am not finished. I still have beads to organize (get rid of)? The best organizing tool that I have found for beads are 5.5 x 9 x 1 inch trays with separator black felt bottoms. Some even have tops that snap shut. These trays stack neatly, and once labeled, make it easy to find a particular bead.
Bringing peace into your house by organizing your workspace can be done without a degree in Feng Shui. It is highly recommended to understand the principles of this ancient art of placement and worth any time you can spend studying it. The timing is important because the process is difficult on an emotional level. Several weeks in between “pitches” made it easier for me, and each one was less painful than the first. The art of organizing your workspace is a process, and you have to remember to “trust the process.” What a difference it has made to have a clean dining room table! 

With my new organized workspace, I find myself being much more productive .

My head is clear and I find more room to design and plan new projects. In demonstrating my respect for other people’s space, my relationships have improved. I have started cooking again due to the newly cleared dining room table. The kitchen is no longer permanent parking space for the crème brulee torch, torch stand and tumbler!
~ Yvonne Kuennen
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