What Condition My Commission Is In

Commissions. Some people live for them. Some people don’t seek them out but like to get them. Some folks are fine with doing just a few here and there. And some people have no desire whatsoever to do them. I seem to be leaning toward this last option.

There is nothing wrong with commissions. They are income. They can be challenging, and can often spark new design ideas. In a certain way they can be rather satisfying. They can also be stressful, boring, difficult and a pain in the butt!

I’ve learned to decline commission requests from people I don’t already know fairly well. Friends and family know me, my work, my lifestyle. They know I love the creative process as much as the finished product. They appreciate my designs and allow me free reign in creating their pieces. They may ask for a color (purple, brown) or style (organic, bling), but not specific designs. And I’m more invested in doing the work for them because they are my friend or family.

I’ve tried doing commission work when the designs were dictated and I just can’t do them. I don’t like my creative self being reigned in – it’s frustrating for me. I end up procrastinating, not liking anything I make for the customer, and resenting them for putting constraints on me and myself for accepting the commission in the first place.

As an aside, jewelry repair is in the same category for me as commissions. I’ll do them for family and friends, but that’s all. If a customers asks about repair work, I offer the name of a local jewelry store that does excellent work. The customer is usually fine with this deflection because while I have declined the job, I have offered a solution.

Would that it were so easy with commission work. I’m very hesitant about referring customers to fellow artists for commissions. I’ve had some not-terribly-pleasant customers, and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone I knew. In fact, I had one this past summer, which is when I decided to stop taking commissions.

She wanted some simple charms, but the designs she wanted bordered on copyright infringement. I explained this to her and offered some other designs. She didn’t like them. She wanted me to come up with more designs. She didn’t like those either. She was stuck on her original ones, which I would not do. She also didn’t like that the additional design time was impacting the final price. She was getting very demanding, calling me several times a week.

I wanted out.

During this time I had lunch with a friend and fellow jewelry artist. While chatting, I shared my commission conundrum. We puzzled over what I could do, and then she had a brainstorm that offered the perfect solution.

A local university has a nationally recognized art school. The metals program in the school has a ‘job board’ for students looking to supplement their income and learning experience. Members of the community can submit commission requests, thus allowing students to get ‘real life’ experience and income for their efforts. Because they are students, prices are well below what a professional jeweler would charge for the same work.

That was my solution! I was so relieved to hear about this I paid for my friend’s lunch as a thank you. That evening, I emailed my customer to explain that I had far too much on my plate to give her project the focus it deserved. I recommended the metals program job board as an alternative, thus declining the job while offering a solution.

How about you? Do you do commission work? How do you handle a “commission gone bad” – or have you been lucky enough to have avoided one? I’d love to hear how other folks feel about commissions and how they handle them. Maybe in the future I’ll reconsider. But for now, I’ve decommissioned myself.

Katie Hanrahan

About Katie Hanrahan

Making jewelry is my passion. Metal clay is part of that passion and a favorite tool in my toolbox. Each day in my studio I try to challenge myself in some way, to push myself to sharpen my skills, think outside the box, learn new techniques or experiment with new materials in order to grow as an artist. I am part of an artists collective called The Screw Factory Artists and you can see some of my work on our website www.screwfactoryartists.com.

2013 Regional Conferences are Open for Registration!

I’m experiencing metal clay conference withdrawl.  To be honest it started when I pulled out of the conference center this past June.  I had such a great time meeting awesome artists and immersing in a wonderful experience!  Since it was the last major PMC conference and Art Clay also said they weren’t holding anymore I was wondering when I was going to get my big-group-of-like-minded-metal-clay-enthusiests fix again?

FORTUNATELY … some regional conferences have stepped into the gap and are being planned for 2013! The following is a summary of what I’ve found out so far (details subject to change):


Metal Clay by the Bay 2013 logoFirst up is San Diego Metal Clay by the Bay August 9-12, 2013 at the Westin in the Gaslamp Quarter. Registration is open at http://www.metalclaybythebay.com/.  Facebook Page MCBTB


  • This conference is mainly class based – you sign up for class packages of two classes that run Friday-Saturday / Sunday-Monday (limit 20 per class).  I did double-check you can’t split up class packages unless you want to pay double.
  • Friday night there’s a Tips & Tricks session
  • Saturday is the Artist Show & Sell
  • Sunday is the Gala
  • Conference fee is $550 until December 30, 2012, $650 until May 31, 2013, then $750 until August 8, 2013
  • Lodging is separate at $144 a night/room. Continental breakfast is included.
  • Limited to 200 participants
Metal Clay Mojo 2013 logoFor those on the east coast the Metal Clay Mojo Retreat will be September 5-8, 2013 at the Guest House in Connecticut. You can find the registration form online at www.metalclaymojo.com.  Facebook Page MCM


  • This conference is more presentation/panel/demonstration based with several hour-long sessions with at least 4 sessions in each time slot.
  • Show & Sell on Thursday
  • Open Studio Friday & Saturday evenings
  • Pre- and post- conference classes are TBD
  • Conference fee (double occupancy) is $600 until November 1, 2012, $625 until May 31, 2013 and $675 after that
  • Lodging (3 nights) & all meals are included in the above price
  • Commuter rate is $420 until November 1, 2012, $445 until May 31, 2013 and $495 after that (includes meals, no lodging)
  • You can hold your spot with a refundable $150 deposit until June 1, 2013
  • Limited to 80 participants
So does anyone know of conference being planned for 2013 in Europe?  Hint hint…
(updated 10/23 to add the Facebook page links)
Kim Paige

About Kim Paige

As a mother of two young girls, a wife and the family breadwinner, I dream and plan for the days when I can spend more time with art and my business. Until then, I squeeze in as much time as I can in my little basement studio with support from my husband. I’m a techno-phile and information-junkie so when I can’t create, I love to stay up-to-date on the latest Metal Clay news. You can find my website at http://www.RedTree-Studio.com.

Iguana Poop to Moon Rocks

I wanted to get this off my chest since I have been thinking about it, and I want to bring up a point that most of us don’t like to talk about. What’s that you may be asking. It’s the dreaded Iguana Poop. Now that I have your attention, you might be asking why I have decided to talk about such a disgusting subject on a metal clay blog. Well, I have made lot’s of iguana poop. You know the stuff that gets tossed in our “junk box” or trash can. To me it usually looks like poop.

Sometimes we can salvage this stuff, and sometimes it needs to be a reminder that as metal clay experimenters we sometimes come up with failures. The hard part of all of this is the way we look at it. I get very frustrated when something that I have worked long and hard on comes out like poop. I tell myself to just “get back up on the horse” and do it again, but sometimes the self talk just doesn’t do it. That’s when I walk away. I lick my wounds, do something different, and try to forget about it. You know how it is. You probably do something much like that.

Here’s the story behind this group of poops:Several years ago I was teaching a lovely group of 5 students at a local art center that had a small kiln. I tested the kiln, or so I thought, and decided to use it to fire a simple bunch of student work and some of my own. The pyrometer indicated the proper temperature, but when it was time to remove the work, I saw that everything had melted into silver lumps. I almost fainted, literally, and became speechless until I could gain composure. This taught me a very expensive, but valuable lesson: “know thy kiln”.

Luckily my students were compassionate people, and I came back the next day, gave everyone 20 grams of silver clay, and fired the work again in my kiln that I brought in. As I said it was a very expensive lesson, but one that will only happen once to me.

I have since sent the poops to the refiner that I use, but made one into a free form pendant. When I showed people the lumps, most said, “Oh, they are quite interesting! I decided to make one of the iguana poops into “Moon Rocks”. That’s what they resemble with a little Accent Gold and a pretty bail. So all was not lost, and metal clay is so forgiving that you can make “Moon Rocks” out of “Iguana Poop” with a little imagination.

Bernadette Denoux

About Bernadette Denoux

I have always loved wearing old silver jewelry, and in my jewelry box still have many of my favorite pieces from my earlier years growing up in Coconut Grove, Florida. Little did I know that later in life I would be making and teaching jewelry techniques to adults now that I am a retired teacher. You can see some of my work along with classes on my website www.BernadetteDenoux.com

Calculating the Enlargement of a Metal Clay Design

Second of a Four Part Series: Designing for Metal Clay

Last time I discussed how to calculate the shrinkage of clay.

Now, we want to take that information and use it to figure out how to design a layout for a piece and create templates. We need to know how much to enlarge the design so the piece will shrink to the desired size after firing.

When I do this, I don’t need to measure anything. I just need to know the shrinkage rate of the clay I’m working with.

I can do an enlargement calculation one time for each clay type and always use it for sizing my templates for that particular clay type.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Kudryashka

Here how I do it: (When calculating enlarging, I always use the number 10 to make it easy). Let’s say we are going to work with sterling clay, which we calculated the shrinkage for in my last post. It is 15%. If 100% (100) is the size we are starting with, and we shrink it by 15% (15), then 100-15=85. 85% is the size you are left with when something shrinks by 15%.

So, if our target size is our easy-to-use number, 10, we divide it by the percentage that we have after shrinkage; 10÷85=.1176. We need to enlarge our art by 118%.

I like to add an additional 2 to 3% to that number to accommodate the additional shrinkage of the clay from drying and the bit that I lose through sanding and refining. So when I work with sterling clay I enlarge my designs 121%. The pieces, when fired, shrink to a size that I expect. This makes all the difference when I’m designing something critical, like a bracelet that I want to be a certain size. It is also useful when working with creating settings for stones.

Another time I use these calculations is when making a series in different clay types. I made a group of earrings in silver, copper and bronze and I wanted them to all be the same size.

A quick guide to calculations:

Shrinkage rate

• Divide the fired size by the unfired size. Subtract this number from 100.

Enlargement rate

•Subtract the shrinkage rate from 100. Divide the number 10 by this number.

Next time we’ll discuss using the enlargement rate to make templates of a design.


About Evelyn

I'm a metal clay artist who is learning something new every day. My goal in my work is to make things that are well crafted and distinctively from my own hands, like the work of a good tailor. My jewelry can be found at http://www.evelynpelati.com.

How I used a Kitchen Disaster to make Silver Jewelry

You all know Textures Tuesday, right?

No? Well it’s an inspiration page on facebook where photos of textures are posted on Tuesday. We challenge each other with themes and brillant pictures, moderated by our lovely host Catherine Witherell. It was this page that inspired me to create a new pendant and write this post.

And it starts in the kitchen. I love to cook. It’s one of my ways to wind down after a hard day’s work. One of my favourites to make is white roux* for vegetables. That was what I was making on a Tuesday late afternoon.

Unfortunately I got distracted and forgot the roux while it was on the stove. When I came back, it was burned. Not heavily, like very smelly, but enough to create a thick layer on the bottom of the pan. Without much ado I threw away the roux in my sink and started to clean the pan.

Then inspiration struck. The theme of this week on Textures Tuesdays was bubbles. I looked into the pan and I saw… bubbles! Of course I ran away to fetch my camera. I started to make a series of pictures, planning to post them for this week’s TT theme.

Burned roux

The roux still in the pan. It’s wet and soft.

When I was making the pictures, there was that nagging voice that said: “How could I capture this texture, ‘cause it would be gorgeous to use on Metal Clay?” When you work with Metal Clay it’s inevitable that you see the world as a supplier for textures. So a plan formed in my head. Instead of cleaning the pan, I put it upside down to let it dry till the next morning.

At that point the roux had dried substantially and I was able to scrape small parts of the bottom to let them further dry on a plate. Two days later it was hard enough to press the two-component rubber against it to form a negative of the Roux.

Roux mold, La Leipsig

Dried roux with two-component mold material.

Exited I rolled out a slab of silverclay. Carefully I pushed the mold against the clay. I decided on making a picture like framing to honour the Texture Tuesdays page. The clay was dried on a glass to create a nicely curved pendant. When it was dry I opened up some holes to create some lightness and baked the pendant.

Silver Clay pendant, La Leipsig

Unfired silverclay pendant with roux texture.

Take away from this story: “Keep your eyes open to unexpected gifts of serendipity”. You never know when inspiration strikes. :-)
I invite you to leave your story about getting an unexpected idea in the comments to share with the other readers.

Silver pendant, La Roux

La Roux: The finished pendant. Fine silver. La Leipsig Jewels.

*Roux (pronounced “roo”) is one of the basic thickening agents in the culinary arts. Used primarily for thickening sauces and soups, roux is made from equal parts fat and flour, and the “equal parts” are measured by weight, not volume.

Helga van Leipsig

About Helga van Leipsig

Lives and works in The Netherlands. She creates one of a kind and limited edition jewelry that she sells through her website and a few galleries. Exploring the possibilities of metal clay is her passion, one that leads to innovative techniques like using ceramic decals on fine silver. She loves to share her knowledge by teaching metal clay workshops in the south of the Netherlands and presenting at conferences.

Sold a tanzanite CZ and always have to give a color change run down

I do sell some larger CZ’s on eBay and Etsy and from time to time they are being purchased by metal clay artists.

Made me think of throwing the information up here quickly for those of you who have avoided using some of them because of this issue.

I discovered this a couple years ago quite by accident.  I was taking a class from Hadar in mixed metals and had a supply of my aqua CZs which had turned amber (beautiful by the way) and thought they would look so sexy in copper/bronze mixed metal pieces.  Hadar thought so too.  So I set them into a pair of earrings.

Well, after firing in carbon they returned to aqua!  Not attractive in bronze/copper but a big “whew” for silver.

So I went home and fired all the different CZs that had changed colors again in carbon.  I discovered this:  CZs that change color in open air firing will return to their original color if refired in carbon. 

Aqua full ramp 1000F 5 min   amber back to aqua  
Emerald full ramp 1000F 5 min  sienna back to emerald
Tanzanite full ramp 1600  40 min  dark garnet back to tanz
  the coolest thing about the tanzanite is that they change slowly     
and if you time it correctly you can get a really cool smoky tanz grey color.  Something very different.  Looks awesome with silver.  My best estimate for that one is full ramp 1200F 15 min.
    All of these need to come to room temp in the carbon or they change back to their “alter”

I haven’t had other colors change on me except years ago when I did my RIO Cert class an opaque black CZ turned into transparent salmon pink.  Very weird and haven’t been able to do anything with that one.

Now, if I want to gypsy set stones I know will change in fine silver open air firing, I simply refire the piece in carbon after it’s finished and do the regular polishing, los or whatever else I choose.
FYI if you plan to enamel, it will change again.  I’m going to try refiring an enamelled piece, under a mesh tent, in carbon (at the lower temperature) to see if the enamel will become angry or if it will accommodate the stone.
  Of course they shouldn’t change in sterling because of the carbon. 

In any case, if you do like the color change it won’t happen in carbon.  Sorry.  You have to open air fire it.  Now, I can definitely see trying to change the aqua ones to amber, set in copper, with enamel firing. Time for more experimentation.      

I’ll let you know what happens.

About Donna Lewis

I'm still fascinated by the process that metal clay goes through from its initial form to finished work. A variety of techniques: both unique to metal clay, and standard in traditional goldsmithing; are combined to create some of the most individual signatures in art jewelry today. Absolutely thrilled to see what comes next!

Book Review – Metal Clay and Color

I’m always on the lookout for new books on jewelry design, especially metal clay.  There are lots of books that are good for beginners but few, in my opinion, that can engage an experienced metal clay artist.  One of my most recent acquisitions is Metal Clay and Color: Inventive Techniques from 20 Jewelry Designers compiled by Mary Wohlgemuth from Kalmbach Books.   This book is filled with well known designers…. Janet Alexander, Lorena Angulo, Lorrene Baum-Davis, Maggie Bergman, Pat Bolgar, Susan Breen Silvy, Barbara Briggs, Sandra Butchko, Catherine Davies Paetz, Pam East, Joy Funnell, Vickie Hallmark, Hadar Jacobson, Patircia Kimle, Irina Miech, Kim Otterbein, Cindy Pankopf, Cindy Silas, Jewelyn Vanoni, and Michela Verani….with a forward by Celie Fago.  That list of artists alone should be the reason to get this book.

Barbara Briggs – Prairie Blossom Bracelet
(Image courtesy of Kalmbach Books)

Most metal clay books devote a major portion of the pages to teaching the basic techniques…which is good for a beginner but a waste of time for those of us who have been working in clay for a while.  Metal Clay and Color starts the projects on page 10 and they don’t end until page 108.  Techniques include metal clay combined with keum-boo, dye oxides, polymer clay, resin, ceramics, Gilder’s paste, alcohol inks, mokume gane, enamel, beading, colored sand, cement, gemstones and glass….and I probably left out a few.  I found myself pouring over the pages.

Cathy Davies Paetz – Brilliant Fibula
(Image courtesy of Kalmbach Books)

Each project starts with a section on the the source of the color and the tools/supplies you need to create the project.  The artists also give their special tips, tricks, and templates for their projects.  Plus you get an inside look at how these artists do what they do.  Have you even wondered how Barbara Briggs makes her beads, or Cathy Davies Paetz does her enameling, or the techniques Pat Bolger uses for her polymer…you get to see the process in this book.  It is filled with pictures to walk you through the techniques.

Pat Bolger – Polymer Petals
(Image courtesy of Kalmbach Books)

I think this has become my favorite book right now and as soon as my art shows are done for the year I am going to play with some of these projects.  My dilemma is choosing one.  Which one would you choose??

Gail Lannum

About Gail Lannum

My day job is research administration but my career...my obession...is making jewelry. I work primarily in bronze and am inspired by ethnic and tribal art. You can see my jewelry at gaillannum.etsy.com

A Few Of My Favorite Things

I am always amazed when I see the variety of items metal clay artists use to make their pieces.   The metal clay community seems to have a remarkable ability to adapt items used in other crafts to their specific needs.  I have a few items I use repeatedly and hope you’ll like them too.

First, plastic gridded templates.  These are available anywhere quilting supplies can be found.  They can be found in a shiny and matte finish.  I like the matte.  I use these in place of Teflon sheets.  With a little oil nothing sticks to them and the grid makes accurate cutting a breeze.  They don’t cut through as easily as Teflon and cost a lot less.  They come in large sheets and can be cut to the size of the project you’re working on.  They also are a nice weight plastic to cut and use as templates.

My second and third items are both used in finishing dry pieces.  Due to recent respiratory issues, I have become a lot more careful about breathing in particulates and now use “wet” sanding to reduce the amount of clay dust in the air.  These two items, Fantastix and sponge applicators, can both be found in the scrapbooking department of most hobby or craft shops.  Fantastix has a rough surface and, once wet, is wonderful to clean up rough surfaces and round out edges.  It acts like a low grit sandpaper.  It comes in a couple of different ends, round and pointed, that expand the areas accessible.  I use wet sponge applicators to put a final smooth finish on pieces where needed.  Both leave a nice finish on metal clay prior to firing.  The silver can be easily reclaimed from both by soaking in water and squeezing out the silver.


My last tool is a depression era noodle cutter.  I use this to cut uniform strips.  There are tools out there specifically made for this purpose, but as a collector of this green-handled, wooden kitchenware, I have a large selection and use this instead of buying a new one.  When I make ring bands, small box sides or beads this gives me uniform strips of clay with little effort.


I hope you try a few of these and like them.  I’d love to hear what you odd items you use to work on your metal clay pieces.



About Mikki

I am a metal clay artist, living in Londonderry, New Hampshire. I teach from my home studio, at Metalwerx in Waltham, Mass and various other venues throughout New England. My work can be found at the shops of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and local galleries. You can see my examples of work at www.everlastingtreasures.org

Fridge Art

I have always envied the jewelry artists who can sketch out their ideas for pieces they want to make: construction details, stones or other inclusions, color. I’ve never been able to do that. I’ve tried – many times – and get very frustrated as I’m unable to put on paper what I see in my head.

One of my grandmother’s oil paintings.

I was never an artist. My grandmother and mother were artists. Grandma painted with oils and acrylics, mom preferred watercolors. I’ve a sister who paints; a brother draws and sculpts. But I was always a crafter: knitting, embroidery, paper collages and other glue-centered projects. I could never draw.

I’ve tried – I do a pretty good stick figure. But my drawings always looked like the stuff your kids bring home from school and you stick on the fridge. It’s tough when you have to compare your pitiful scribbles to the beautiful work of your family members.

Watercolor painting done by my mother.

So you can imagine how hesitant I was when my niece, Lucy, invited me to play DrawSomething with her. DrawSomething is an app for your iPad or iPhone that involves one person drawing a thing and the other person guessing what the drawing is. You’re given a jumble of letters to help figure it out. Lucy convinced me to start playing “just for fun, Aunt Katie!” and not to worry about my drawings. So I downloaded the app and we started to play.

Embarrassing. Lucy draws really well. I apologized with every drawing, though I was enjoying the game. After a few weeks, another friend invited me to play. I found the more I played, the better I was getting with my stick figures. I started using more color. Then a few more friends invited me to play. Now my stick figures are less “stick” and more “figure.” I still apologize. It still looks like fridge art, but I can see improvement and I’m having fun practicing.

I thought I had no talent whatsoever for drawing. Previous attempts had seemed to confirm this. Not sure why this is different, but it is. Not that I suddenly have an incredible ability to draw beautiful things – I don’t!  But I now have hope that I may be able to draw well enough to put my jewelry design ideas in my head onto paper. If I can get off the iPad…

Recently I received the Fall Catalog for my community art center and I signed up for a class: Drawing for the ‘Fraidy Cat. I figured it would be like DrawSomething, only with paper and structured practice. My niece is excited; she wants me to send her some of my new Fridge Art. Sure thing, Lucy!

‘Fraidy Cat Fridge Art

Katie Hanrahan

About Katie Hanrahan

Making jewelry is my passion. Metal clay is part of that passion and a favorite tool in my toolbox. Each day in my studio I try to challenge myself in some way, to push myself to sharpen my skills, think outside the box, learn new techniques or experiment with new materials in order to grow as an artist. I am part of an artists collective called The Screw Factory Artists and you can see some of my work on our website www.screwfactoryartists.com.

Mailing Box Make Over

At the PMC conference over the summer, some people came prepared with charms for a Charm Swap. As one of the unprepared, I made my charms after the conference and then was faced with the challenge of how to mail dimensional and delicate charms so they would not get crushed in transit. I wanted something smaller than a box, light weight, not bulky, and be sturdier than tissue wrap or a bubble mailer alone. Did I mention it also had to be pretty??

Poking around my stashes of craft supplies I found a dented but sturdy piece of foam core board, glue, a shape template, tissue paper in my favorite color of fuchsia, and voila! A nest that would protect and frame each charm for mailing and presentation!


Foam core board
Spray adhesive * i.e. 3M Super 77 adhesive
Shape template i.e. Cushion
Craft knife
Cutting mat
Tissue paper
Glue stick

*Please use proper ventilation and cover surrounding surfaces when using aerosols.*

1.  Measure the height of the charm to find out how many layers of foam board are needed to protect the charm. Use spray adhesive to bond the foam boards together. For large sheets, place a weight like a tool box on top of the boards while the glue is setting. For this frame 2 layers of foam board were used.

2.  Once the adhesive is dry, outline the frame on the foam board with a pencil. For a snug fit use the charm to find the closest size on the shape template that will contain the charm for the inner diameter of the frame. Choose a larger size frame for the outer diameter of the frame and mark it with a pencil.  For this frame I used a 1.5cm wide cushion and a 2.5 cm cushion for the outer edge.

3. Starting with the center, cut out the frame out with a craft knife on a cutting mat. If the craft knife can not cut all the way through the layers of foam board, hold the foam board off the mat slightly so the blade can pierce through the foam board completely.

4. Use scissors to cut a rectangle of tissue paper large enough to wrap around the edges of the frame and cover the foam board. For this frame, a 6.5cm x 7.5cm rectangle of tissue was used.

5.  Place the tissue paper colored side down on the work surface. With a glue stick, apply glue onto the back of the frame and set it in the center of the tissue paper.

6. Apply glue to the front side of the frame and start wrapping the tissue around the frame.

If it helps, sing the Hokey Pokey song to help you fold and secure the tissue paper.  I admit, it helped me to write all the steps down!

Fold the right flap in.

Fold the left flap in.

Spread glue on the bottom flap of tissue, fold it up into the center of the frame.

Repeat for the top flap and tuck in any corners that stick out.

7.  Look for any bits of foam board that peek through the tissue.

Glue small strips of tissue to cover any holes or gaps in the tissue.

8.  Ready to wrap & mail!

Play around with different shapes and ways to decorate these frames for your own unique mailing boxes. Don’t forget to post a pic in the comment section to share your creations!

About Michelle Loon

As metal clay artist and instructor based in Southern California, I love the challenge of reverse engineering imaginative, playful forms into pieces of sculpted wear. When not immersed in clay, I enjoy exploring acrobatic aerial arts. Website: www.laloondesigns.com

A Day to Play – Cutting My First Cabochon

Have you ever cut stone or made a cabochon? I got my first taste at a play date with Ann Davis and now I have a serious case of tool lust.

I met the incomparable Ann at my first Metal Clay conference this year. We started chatting on Facebook about the Silhouette cutting machine and when I mentioned I was visiting my sister in DC in August Ann invited me to play in her studio!

The big day came and my sister dropped me off at LaRuche Davis. Ann is an amazing person – so warm and fun to talk with.  Her studio is equally impressive.  I don’t have pictures but Ann wrote a lovely article in Metal Clay Artist Magazine Sept 2012 issue where you can see more pictures and read about how she went through a reorganization.

Ann asked what I wanted to play with. To say I could’ve been the donkey starving between choice bits of succulent hay is an understatement. She has *everything*! Ann describes jerself as a pyrolitic artist. Lampworking, electroforming, metal clay, lapidary – you name it she’s got it!

I finally chose to cut a cabochon. I picked out a shape and drew it on a slab of tigeriron. Ann first showed me how to cut on the Torus ring saw. Can I say tool lust? Yummmm. You can cut in any direction on the torus ring saw.
Torus Ring Saw

Once I had a piece roughed out she showed me her Cab King cabbing machine. It has multiple spinning disks with varying grades of grit. I refined the shape, then started angling in the sides for the dome. Cabbing can be messy but very therapeutic (at least to me!).Cabochon machine

It took a while but I finally got a semi-respectable cabochon! I learned I love cutting cabs, it suits my temperament as well as lifestyle (I can pick it up and put it down if I get interrupted which is quite a lot).  Spending the afternoon with Ann was also great because I have a hard time setting aside time in my own studio to just play and learn something new without feeling I have to produce something.

Tigeriron Cabochon

My first cabochon – made out of tigeriron

So get out there, set up a play date with someone, have fun and potentially learn something new!  Now I just have to find some space in my studio and save up for new toys…Kim Paige & Ann Davis

Kim Paige

About Kim Paige

As a mother of two young girls, a wife and the family breadwinner, I dream and plan for the days when I can spend more time with art and my business. Until then, I squeeze in as much time as I can in my little basement studio with support from my husband. I’m a techno-phile and information-junkie so when I can’t create, I love to stay up-to-date on the latest Metal Clay news. You can find my website at http://www.RedTree-Studio.com.

Artist Profile – Gail Lannum

Technically I have been making jewelry since I was about 8 years old.  It was the 60’s and I made strands of “love beads” for my older sister and my friends. I tried my hand at many different activities growing up…drawing, painting, sewing, embroidery and cross-stitch to name a few.  In the late 90’s I came back to making jewelry by stringing beads.  I didn’t know how to complete my pieces, but in my obsession I made 60 necklaces.  I finally dragged my husband up to the Bead and Button Show so I could take a class in making closures for my necklaces.  I continued stringing beads and in May 2005, one of my designs was on the cover of Bead Style magazine.

I continued to take classes in beading but longed to work in metal.  I was overwhelmed with the idea of working with sheet metal and all the tools it required.  When I found a class for metal clay at my local bead store it seemed like a great alternative.  I still remember how amazed I was when I burnished my first piece….it really was silver.  Imagine Tom Hanks in Castaway when he yells…”I have made fire”.  That’s how I was with this first piece of silver….”I have made silver!!!”  I had to take more metal clay classes.

I dabbled in silver metal clay until 2008 when I got my hands on bronze metal clay and the rest…. is history.  In bronze I feel like I’ve really found my voice …ancient, earthy, and tribal. I’ve since studied ancient languages and tribal art from Africa, Mesopotamia, and Meso-America and have had bronze pieces in 3 books: Mixed Metal Jewelry Workshop: Combining Sheet, Clay, Mesh, Wire & More, Bronze Metal Clay: Explore a New Material with 35 Projects and New Directions: Powder Metallurgy in a Sheet Metal World.  I’ve also been included in 2 on-line exhibitions and had a piece in the 2012 Art and Design of Metal Clay calendar.

From metal clay it was a short hop to working in sheet metal. I am just starting this journey and have worked with bronze, brass, and copper sheet so far.  My goal is to make my work a blend of sheet metal and metal clay.

I exhibit at art fairs and galleries in the Cleveland area and I have pieces on exhibit in Scotland.  I teach classes in metal clay, metal fabrication, metal etching, and creating texture plates for metal clay.  This past year I co-taught classes at the Bead and Button show.  You can read about all that I do at gaillannum.blogspot.com and see my work at gaillannum.etsy.com

Gail Lannum

About Gail Lannum

My day job is research administration but my career...my obession...is making jewelry. I work primarily in bronze and am inspired by ethnic and tribal art. You can see my jewelry at gaillannum.etsy.com