Whole Lotta Whimsy
 
Ms Heaser is currently a Senior Instructor for Art Clay residing in the UK and was a founding member of several guilds in the UK.  This book is full of techniques including mixed media (resin, polymer clay and more).  The author has laid out the book with projects according to technique, which makes it easy to read and follow.   I found this to be a highlight of the book along with the breadth of techniques she covers.

The beginning of the book covers basics better than most I’ve seen.  It will go on my recommended list for beginners for this reason.  The pictures are more detailed and the descriptions are thorough.  She covers a broad base of techniques and offers lots of snippets of extra information throughout the book.

Although I found that I disagreed with a large part of the technical information (firing, sizing, etc) I found the book to be a good addition to my bookshelf.  I think it’s a good place to start for beginners. Those looking for what you can do with metal clay and how to get started will be delighted.  It’s also a great book for the intermediate-level metal clay artisan.

It’s also based on the premise "amazingly simple no-kiln techniques for making beautiful jewelry" and that may be the reason for the discrepancy in the technical instructions.  So based on this fact, I think the technical information (ring sizing, sterling incorporated components, etc) is geared more for those with a torch or stove-top element.    As most experienced metal clay users will note, a kiln firing is always best.  Fire at the hottest for the longest to get the best strength and density with no matter what clay you are using!  Add this book to your collection or make it the first book you own!

Do you like to paint, include color in your work or both?  These enamels are a blast to work with.  They are finely ground enamels in the 480 mesh range, thus a very fine powder.  Mix them with oils (Clove Oil and Squeegie Oil) on a piece of parchment or freezer paper and create a palette of colors with which to paint.  This is very similar to oil painting.

Next you’ll need small pieces of glass if you want to make cabochons (see our new Fuseworks glass packs).   You can score and cut these glass pieces with our glass tools and supplies.  You can either paint on the surface or do a reverse painting technique, which starts with the details.  Either way there may be one or more firings needed to cure the enamel paint to the surface before adding another layer.  

Once the painting is finished, you can add more glass and fuse them together to illuminate the painting and make the glass more substantial.  Or leave it as a thin piece of glass!  Then set these amazing pieces in your metal clay creations!  Talk about custom and it lets you be more creative.

Look for a video tutorial coming next week on our site on our Tutorials page.  I’ll also have more information on it on my blog so please check there after the 10th.  This technique can also be used directly on enamels.  So if you know how to enamel but don’t want to mess with glass fusing, this is also a technique for you.  Don’t miss it!  To get started you can also pick up Bronwen Heilman’s great book Vitreous Painting Techniques.

Watch our video tutorials


Last newsletter issue we talked about Part II of the Stages of the Design Process.  Part II covered:
Inspiration
Clearly Defined Concept
Brainstorming and Research
Samples and Test Pieces
Fabricating
The Elements of Design
In the July Newsletter we covered Design Tools and Process.  We followed that up in November’s newsletter with the Stages of the Design Process.  Now let’s talk about the Elements of Design in this third installment.  The elements are: point, shape, form, texture, color, the five senses, emotion, function, materials and processes.  These elements are components of a design that can be identified or isolate.  They help to tell the story.  They communicate the purpose, idea, or meaning of the piece.  The elements and its cumulative design allow the observer/wearer to connect to the piece in their own way.  It brings their personal truth to it.  It synthesizes their past, their thoughts, and their future.  It speaks to them!

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your design:  Do you think about what your design is telling the observer/wearer?  What elements engage them and why?  Was that your intention?  What elements do you need to edit, revise or adapt? 

Now consider the shape and also how the inner shape of the piece imparts information.  Consider the texture as it shouldn’t be arbitrary.  It imparts great amounts of information.  Will it wear well?  Will the finish change due to wear, encouraging you to consider protection?  Consider how the color works with the texture.  Is the intensity and amount of color suitable?  Does your piece engage the five senses?  Is there one sense it engages more than the other and why?  Consider whether your material is natural or symbolic.  Is that imparting more knowledge about the piece that you desire?  Consider the number of items on the piece.  Is it 2, 3, 4, etc.  For example, a triad or three often represents controversy or opposition.  Is this the message you are sending? Is the process unique to you or will it be compared to another master as his or her work?  Does this process lend to the design or distract from it?

This summer I was shown a beautiful piece by a good friend.  The artist was frustrated because the piece had been criticized as a failure by a team of evaluators.  The artist didn’t understand why.  At first glance it seemed to be a beautiful and technically well-done oval box.  What was the problem? No one seemed to want to share with the artist why it didn’t work. 

As I describe it, see if you can begin to realize the design issues.  It was Art Nouveau in style with a beautiful floral pattern around the oval box.  The feet on the bottom of the box were 4 square cubes.  The lid had a dichro cabochon, which was bezel set.   It was beautifully finished, antiqued and technically well constructed.  What was the problem?

Let’s examine 3 principals that should have been questioned in this design: Shape, Materials, Emotion and how that emotion ties into style or the theme.  The shape of the oval box should be repeated in the shape of the feet.  If you are doing a geometric piece where the pieces are meant to oppose one another then that’s fine, but for this piece it didn’t work.  The feet were not supposed to be a focal point, yet because they opposed the shape of the box they became a focal. 

The artist was dead-on spot with the oval shape as one of the key indicators of Art Nouveau style is its curvilinear, flowing forms. Next the style needs to be considered.  When picking a pattern, consider its history, and what that imparts as part of the information.  The Art Nouveau period was from 1883-1890’s.  Characteristically it has florals, elements of nature, a certain color palette, etc.  It evokes an emotion. 

A modern piece of dichroic glass doesn’t suit this style.  Instead this was a time in jewelry history where fine stone setting was being replaced by the use of enameling, opals and semi-precious stones.  An enameled lid would have been perfect.  Setting a semi-precious stone instead, in the color of one of the flowers would have been also suitable.  So the artist was on the right path with the design but the components selected didn’t convey the right information.   She had skillfully accomplished the piece, but design-wise it had issues.

I encourage you to copy this list of questions and ask yourself these questions as you make your piece.  There are many others you can add.  This will perhaps spark other questions to be asked or answered to add to the list.  It’s a good place to start! 

I also recommend a little art history to consider when you pick a pattern or copy an image to use as a tear-away texture or PPP.  Even the selection of type-font imparts information to the viewer.  These are all things to contemplate and not select arbitrarily.  Good design begins with these basic concepts.

Kilns: Thinking of upgrading or purchasing a new kiln?  Every year in January the kiln companies increase the prices of their kilns by $25.  Save yourself that extra bit by placing your order prior to January 9th at Whole Lotta Whimsy!

January is a big month for companies releasing new tools, supplies, and other products.  In order to make room for new things we’ll be bringing in to the warehouse we are putting on clearance many items.  Time to clean house!  This is a good news for those of you looking for exceptional deals!

Visit our clearance area at WholeLottaWhimsy.com


We’ve also got a new SALE page.  These are items that are overstocked.  We’d like to clear out a few and when those are gone, they go back to their regular price.  Take advantage of these prices.  We’ve still got some Art Clay in the sales area too!


We'd love to hear from you if you find this newsletter insightful or if you think it needs improvement.  Tell us what we could do to make it better.  Have an artist that you would like to have interviewed?  Let us know!  Have a request for a product to be shown in our video tutorials?  We are always wondering what products need to be demonstrated to be better understood.  That's what spurred the tutorials in the first place.  We are open to your suggestions and comments.  Send them to tonya@wholelottawhimsy.com.


Each newsletter I'll interview a metal clay personality.  Get to know this artisan and how they stay creative!  A dose of inspiration!

    

Date started working in metal clay: 1996
Certified: Can't remember when (oh boy!), Precious Metal Clay with Tim McCreight
Accomplished in what media in addition to metal clay
: Knitting/crocheting, piano (love to play Joplin's rags), drawing.

Bio:

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Vermont (in Speech Therapy and Drama...oh yes, still the drama queen who loves to talk!). I've been making jewels since 1976 and I am primarily self-taught (with the note that I have availed myself of a number of workshops, priming the techniques pump). I was invited in 1996 to the PMC Master Class and began teaching the following year. My piece was a PMC Finalist in the 2005 Saul Bell Design Awards. I was Curator for the 2001 Precious Metal Clay exhibition, Millenial Metal and for Recollected/Re-Invented: The Narrative Found Object at the Bignell Gallery (Brookfield, CT).

I have shown in galleries and shows, including the Smithsonian Craft Show, ACC Craft Fairs and The Paradise City Arts Festivals and has been published in major periodicals and books, including: Art Jewelry Today and Art Jewelry Today II; Creative Metal Clay Jewelry; Fabulous Jewelry from Found Objects; PMC Decade; and Making Metal Beads, as well as in Craft Art International, Art Jewelry, Lapidary Journal, and American Style. I am currently writing a book on metal clay, (tentative titled: Jewelry Arts Workshop: Making Pure Silver Beads With Metal Clay) with a Spring 2009 publication date.

What is your inspiration now? Do you have a muse?

My mixed media constructs (Jewels and Nesting Cases) are an extension of my intention to build fully realized objects (jewels within Nesting Cases). The sources of inspiration for my work are varied: ancient artifacts; Fabergé constructions; the architectural fantasies of Brodsky and Utkin; the mediaeval reliquary; the complex and complicated structures that speak on many levels of human experience, especially humanity's delight in the body-embellished. I am invested in a continuing tradition of adornment extended to a surrounding environment, supporting and protecting the center. The 'enclosure', the vessel, the chest, the reliquary that contain carefully selected and assembled elements and that reflect intimate symbology, are both my inspiration and my art form.
Artists whose work excites me: DX Ross, Keith LoBue, Linda Darty, Kiff Slemmons, Mariko Kusomoto, Andy Cooperman, Friedrensreich Hundertwasser, Alexander Calder.

What is currently on your bench/workspace?

I'm working on an elaborate neckpiece that will illustrate a technique I will be teaching at Whole Lotta Whimsy in February. It combines enameling, metal clay techniques, printing plates, and some traditional jewelry making techniques.

What project/direction are you working on now?

I have been investigating and teaching color on metal clay and slowly incorporating enamels in my one-off pieces.

Making more more more jewels.

Designing Doming Tools for use with metal clay. (which will soon be available at WLW)

How much time do you average at the bench per week?

At least 35 hours per week.

What's the average time you spend on a piece?

It depends on the type of piece. For example a ring takes less time than earrings which take less time than a neckpiece, which takes less time than any of the above that will be enclosed in a unique display piece (Case). This last can take anywhere from a week to several months to complete.

Do you sell your work?  Where?

Yes, at several juried craft fairs: Paradise City Arts Festival Northampton (MA) and Philadelphia (PA) shows.

Where do you get your new ideas?

I have always answered this as follows: everything I've ever seen since coming on the planet, is still in my head and may surface at any given moment to inspire a piece; every college class I took included. That being said, I subscribe to the following periodicals: Art Jewelry, Jewelry Artist, Craft Arts International, American Style, American Craft, Metalsmith, Archeology. I am a book lover and buy any book that covers artists or art forms whose work reaches my heart...the latest, Imperishable Beauty, the catalogue for an exhibition of Art Nouveau jewelry at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Do you keep a sketchbook and how do you organize it?

I don't keep a journal sketchbook. My sketches are of whatever the current piece is on which I'm working.

The journal I keep are clippings from the above periodicals...pieces by artists, jewelers and others, whose work jazzes me.

Are there places or things you avoid that zap your creativity?

Supermarkets...to be avoided at all costs. We're lucky where we live that we have a small, family owned market with soft lighting and great produce, seafood and deli.

Do you have a ritual before you begin to create?

1. Good music turned on
2. Bench top cleared or stuff shoved aside
3. Clean page opened in sketchbook, pencil sharpened, erase at hand

What do you collect?

Old rulers, blue and white enamelware, yarn, Le Creuset cookware, ethnic jewelry, interesting clothing (Visual Professional, Suzen, Blue Fish, etc.), Keen shoes, handmade pottery (Hayne Bayless, Ellen Grenadier, Michael Cohen, Sam Taylor, Dan Bellow, Barbara Knutson, Connie Talbot, Kristie Knox, Tom Hoadley, Marc Shapiro among others), gemstones, found objects, interesting papers, iridescent beetles, tools, old crocks, Oaxacan dancing masks, andonandonandonandon......

How do you rejuvenate your creativity?

I sit down at my bench with stones and STUFF and sketchbook and pencil and start to work.

I am in my studio so many hours a week that rejuvenation comes when I go to a garage/barn/tag sale or work in the garden or read a book or knit or play tug of war with the dog or take a walk with Evan or talk to our kids. It doesn't take much to juice up the creativity bones.

Rejuvenation comes from going away from the bench and giving my deep brain quiet time to solve the art problems of the day, without interference from my noisy brain.

What would your perfect creative day be like?

At my bench, with a chef to cook all my meals, (someone to remind me to eat them and to go to bed at appropriate times), making my work without interruptions. And, having all the right 'stuff' right there on the bench: materials, tools, etc.
News Flash: Linda is teaching at Whole Lotta Whimsy February 7, 8 and 9th.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take these two classes from this master artist!  Check out the classes at http://www.wholelottawhimsy.com /wo/p/context/edu/Classes.  Space is limited and we encourage you to sign up prior to Jan 6th!

Over the past couple months I’ve written about setting goals on my blog, www.tonyadavidson.com.  There are countless books dedicated to the pursuit of goals.  They cover what they are, how to get them, how to focus, how to achieve, how to determine them, etc.  

Goal Setting is the first necessary step to marketing.  How can you write your Position Statement, Mission Statement or Artist Statement without knowing what your goals are?  So you’ve got all your goals written on paper (right?), committed to them, now it’s time to write your statements.

So what about these pesky statements? Why in the world do we need to write them? Instead of winging everything and hoping for the best, or taking things as they come, if you identify your goals, your ideas, your direction, and plan out your business, you are more likely to achieve those goals.  This has been proven time and time again.  Recently this was the subject of an article in the newspaper about losing weight.  Write down your goal + write down what you eat = success.   

You are in business right?  Or at the very least trying to make a business of your work?  If you this is just a hobby, then you probably wouldn’t be reading a marketing column anyway. By writing it down you are committed to success.  It might make your 2009 better than you could have ever imagined!

The Position Statement is key to your marketing arsenal.  You’ve identified your goals now (or you will get right on that ~wink~).  The Position Statement identifies your direction.  It is part of every marketing message.  It changes, as your position in the market changes and your competition changes.  So it will need to be reviewed and revised regularly.  It’s a great way to start off every new business year.  It is a statement of how you want to the market to perceive you.  It gives you the opportunity to articulate a concise statement to define to your customer your work, your product, and your business.  

It addresses why customers should believe in you, and what your value is to them in comparison to your competition.   Whatever your position statement is, the important thing is it has to be consistent with all your marketing endeavors.  Your customer’s perception of you in the marketplace is the reality.  If you have the best product but they don’t believe it, then that’s the reality.  Marketing is perception.  It’s a mind game.  You can help to change that perception if it’s not the reality that coincides with your goal.

First we’re going to do two exercises to brainstorm.  The first is called a SWOT exercise.  Take out a piece of paper and divide into 4 columns.  This is easily accomplished by folding the paper in half and then half again.  In each column write: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Now take some time to brainstorm about all your qualities for these columns.  Now take an artist in your medium that you most admire and complete the same exercise on a separate piece of paper.  

Second exercise, ask yourself the questions to the following and then record your answers:
  • Who is your target market?
  • What is their need?
  • What are their frustrations?
  • What are their attitudes?
  • What are their values?
  • What is your unique benefit?  Is that benefit sustainable?
  • Why do you solve their need?
Now, we’ll put it all those key terms and ideas together in a Position Statement.  Here are two templates:
(Your name, company or product)
Is the one (metal clay artist, metalsmith, category of product, etc)
that provides (the target customer)
with (name your key benefit not multiple benefits)
because (reason they should believe you can deliver the benefit).

Or
For (end user, or target market)
Who wants/needs (reason to buy)
The (name of your product) is a (product category)
That provides (key benefit).

Or

The modern position statement also can be a one-liner tag line.  

Here are some successful companies position statements:
  • Nike: To experience the emotion of competition, winning and crushing competition.
  • 3M: To solve unsolved problems innovatively.
  • Wal-Mart: To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.
  • Coca Cola: It’s the real thing
  • UPS: What can brown do for you?
  • Starbucks: European-style coffee house

  • Volvo: safety

  • Subway: healthy sandwiches

  • Cialis: the weekend drug

  • Cold Stone Creamery: customized ice cream

  • Ikea: Knock-down furniture

  • Silk: soy milk

  • Red Bull: Energy drink

  • Under Armour: athletic underwear
The statement, if you listen closely, pretty correctly identifies the company, it’s culture, how they are viewed by the market, and how they obviously view the market.  How will your Position Statement identify you and your product?  Share them with me via email at tonya@wholelottawhimsy.com .

Check out my blog at www.tonyadavidson.com for Marketing Mondays.  We’ll cover the Mission Statement and Artist Statement next.  By the end of January you should be all set to get started marketing for 2009!

             

Click on highlighted index categories to go see those website pages

Books

  • Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry (w/ DVD)
  • Inventive Metal Clay for Beaders
  • Magical Metal Clay Jewelry
  • Metal Clay in a Day

Enamels

  • Fusemaster Enamels

Enamels: Tools and Supplies

  • Underglaze Decorating Pencil Set
  • Grinding Stone

Firing and Torch Supplies

  • Chris's Soldering Tool
  • SpeedFire SuperMini
  • High-Temp Wire 17ga
  • Carbon Firing Media

Glass Fusing Tools & Supplies

  • Fuseworks Kit (Beginner’s Fusing Kit with Kiln)
  • Fuseworks Microwave Kiln
  • Hot Mitts for Fuseworks
  • Dichro Fuseworks Glass
  • Transparent Fuseworks Glass
  • Opaque Fuseworks Glass

Metal Clay: BronzClay

  • Treasure Sifter

Supplies A: Metal Clay Necessities

  • Unscented Badger Balm 0.15oz Stick
  • Gloves in a Bottle

Supplies B:Wire & Metal Clay Components

  • Wire Mesh

Supplies C: Surface Coloration Products

  • Shard Vintage Glass Glitter

Supplies D: Mixed Media Components

  • Plastalina Modeling Clay
  • Brass Bracelet Cuff
  • Deep Links for Resin Jewelry
  • Watch Innards

Tools C: Sculpt, Shape and Brush

  • Metal Clay Dryer
  • Clay Modeling 5 Tool Set
  • Linda's Lid Metal Clay Syringe Holder
  • Clay Lift Set
  • Sculpture Attaching Needle Tool

Tools D: Templates and Cutters

  • Screw Punch

Tools G: Ringmaking and Forming

  • Ring Mandrel with Marking 1 to 15

Tools H: Sanding, Filing, and Drilling

  • Silver Spiral Drill with Spring
  • Gold Spiral Drill with Spring
  • Student Hand File Set
  • Grobet Large Hand Files
  • Zig-Zag Saw
  • White Sanding Block

Tools I: Burninshing and Polishing

  • Screw Mandrel
  • Brass Brush

Tools J: Hammering, Sawing and Forming

  • Goldsmithing Jeweler's Hammer
  • Nylon Hammer with Wooden Handle

Tools K: Wire Work and Shears

  • Lindstrom Chain Nose
  • Lindstrom Flat Nose
  • Lindstrom Round Nose
  • Lindstrom Flush Side-Cutter
  • Heavy-Duty Wire Shear
  • Wire Wrap Mandrels

Tools N: Guides, Gauges and Scales

  • 0-36 Standard Wire Gauge
  • Steel Square 2"

Tools O: Organize and Magnify

  • Table Magnifier Lamp
  • Bench Apron