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Enjoying using and experimenting with metal clay


#1

was: Reducing costs using PMC

As I mentioned before, I did NOT use “Reducing costs using PMC” as
my original subject line. I’m not quite sure why that point of my
original post was put forward as my main point. I just took a class
in how to use metal clay and I would like to explore metal clay as a
tool. I have many reasons (besides just learning how to use it to
some degree) – finance is only one reason.

So, don’t get the idea that economics is my sole reason for trying
to master this medium. It isn’t.

Debbie


#2

I appreciate your critique, but I think you are reading stuff into
my work.

  1. I’m not looking to be a show, or competition or anything like
    that. I’m just looking for a way to try to sell my jewelry to people
    who might buy them. I wish I had access to a studio and a live
    mentor (never had either except during a class and in the case of
    the “mentor” it was only the instructor inasmuch as (s)he was
    willing to help me – which was always minimal) but as I don’t have
    access to either right now (and can’t afford anything right now –
    though my niece insists, despite what I’ve been told, that when
    Iturn 60 in June, I can take any class at FIT – an hour train ride
    from me-- for a token cost (not the cost of a token – I can walk
    from Penn station) – I was told that’s only for NY State
    residents).

  2. Keep in mind, those pieces a) are not finished (except for the
    brain andthe rose earrings) and b) are experiments – the pieces I
    created were thefirst I created in metal clay (and I would have
    created more had I had enoght money to buy more silver clay). (BTW,
    I love braids – I have in the past – as in the 70s – created
    braids with twisted wax wires)

Most of the pieces I created in the past were with lost wax though I
did a piece or two but cutting with a hacksaw (jewelry hacksaw) into
either silver or copper sheet. I don’t really have the wherewithal
to do that anymore. I did get someone to create a few pieces (with
molds) for me a few years back, but he stopped working this way (and
I had to charge a lot for the pieces based on what I had to pay him
whereas the pieces I have up, whether done in metal clay or brass or
gold tone acrylic, I can charge a lot less and still make money on
it. This is my main goal. I did recently create some pieces from
soft wax sheets but the caster I used wouldn’t give me the molds
until I ordered 10 pieces and I couldn’t afford that. I got three of
each and I assume my caster still has the mold.

I think most of the people on this list must have places where they
a) can sell their stuff (the class I took was at a coop but they
told me they weren’t taking any new members (I would do it in a
second if I could – all it requires in some time sitting in the
store, not an issue for me, and 15% of the merchandise sold – I
already mark things up 15% because I sell themat holiday boutiques
at synagogues and the like and they mostly require 10-15% to go to
the synagogue) or b) they have a day job (I don’t really havemuch in
that regard and haven’t had what I call a “paycheck job” since 2001.
I’m just trying to make stuff that reflects my designs and that
people will buy.

  1. That pic I put up was more to show my friends and I can’t really
    afford a professional photog.

So what I’m looking for in a critique is whether people think the
ideas arereasonably nice. I hope that makes sense.

Debbie


#3

Debbie, you asked for a critique and you were given an excellent
one, but all you did was what you have done consistently in the
past, and that is to reject it and enter into a long irrelevant
discussion, I feel it would be a complete waste of my time to offer
any critique. In fact, I have nothing further to say to you as all
it would do would be to open the door to further fruitless
discussions. Alma


#4

Debbie, if you ask for a critique of your work, you really can’t and
mustn’t put conditions on how and what any critiques you might
obtain may or may not say. A critique is a critique - of all aspects
of your designs, photos, quality of the work and any and everything
you have put out there for review.

Listen to all the comments you might receive and learn from them. We
all started somewhere, we all made (and still make!) mistakes and we
all have to hear things we might not terribly like about our work.
But treat everything as a learning experience and your work will
grow.

Lack of funds is a common denominator for many of us, I’m sure, but
we get on with doing what we can with what we have available and we
try not to make our lack of resources an issue or an excuse. Often a
lack of something can make us more resourceful and inventive by
forcing us to come up with something amazing using what we have on
hand. Someone once said that it’s a rare artist who could afford to
buy his own work on the open market. I’m sure that’s very true of
most of us.

Janet


#5

You have to honestly define what your goals are and be very specific
about them. While you say you want critiques of your work, it is
apparent that you are really looking for a way to generate income
from it. They are two different things.

It seems to me that you need to spend some time doing market
research. There’s a lot of on the internet about how to
sell handmade items: how to determine your market, price your work,
and get your work seen. Learning how to sell what you make will get
you closer to your goal than asking people who are not in your
market whether or not they like your designs. Market research will
also help you determine what type of designs your potential
customers will buy as well as whether or not your market is viable
for the income you are seeking. There’s no magic bullet or we’d all
be rich, so do the homework and get a good idea of what is realistic
for you.


#6

I’m thinking of a situation where person A asks person B what B
thinks of the outfit A is wearing. All A was looking for was “does
this make me look fat?” but thought (in her own mind, not always
realizing what others might think she meant) that was clear, but B,
being a fashion designer, launched into a long discussion about the
colors, the pattern, the kind of fabric used, the sort of silhouette.
A is overwhelmed (and, for the life of her, doesn’t really understand
what in heck B is talking about, BTW). All she wanted to know is
whether the dress made her look fat.

When I saw the way my question was answered, I realized I needed to
be clearer about what I was looking for. I’m not entering some
contest. I’m just looking to hear if it’s nice. Now if someone would
say to me “I have been working in metal clay for a long time and I
noticed you did XYZ when you created your piece, it might work
better if you did ABC instead.” that would be helpful.

To be honest, the critique as it stood, for the most part, was to me
as it would probably be to others on this list if I started posting
in Hebrew (though I assume some people on this list might understand
me)

To me, someone launching into a long diatribe about how awful
working with clay is is just as inappopriate (and nasty) to me as you
seem to think my trying to explain what I’m looking for. It’s as
though I asked where to findthe to furky and someone sent me to the
ham hocks.

Debbie


#7

NO! it doesn’t make you look fat.

If all you want us to say is it is OK, then it is OK. Which is a
middle of the road response. You do not want anything negative, and
yet each time we try to give you a critique we give it, and you want
something other than a critique. It seems all you want us to do is
tell you how great it is, and it will make you money. Now I know how
my husband feels when I ask him “How do I look?” and his response is,
“OK” You don’t want to hear that, but on his end he is trying not to
start an argument.

Do not read further if you want smoke up your skirts type of answer.
As for your designs, this is just my opinion of them, I would glance
quickly at them and probably keep walking. They are just OK. In fact
one design looks like something my daughter once made in play doh.
Now this is just my opinion. You are starting out and have a lot of
experimenting to do.

If you expect to sell those designs to further making more, maybe
get some plastic clay, and experiment with it. It is reusable, and if
you are good to it when it is not being used, can last for many many
years. Yep another suggestion on how to work. If you are pissed now,
stop reading.

I use to do quite a bit of writing short stories. Once I had an
editor tell me I needed to cut a few paragraphs and rework another
part. But I liked them. I didn’t want to change it. It was my work. I
had sold many stories before this one. I was angry. I let it sit for
a week, then to prove him wrong, I re-wrote it. I did as he said. It
became my best selling story. Haven’t done much with it since Word
Star went bye bye.

What many of us have done is try to give you a critique. You take it
personally that we don’t know what you want, or we are being mean.
We are not being mean, just realistic. I don’t care one way or the
other that it is metal clay. Have fun with it. Just don’t expect
everyone to like what you do. I have people walk past my stuff, and I
have others that love it.

We are all different. I take it when I show a piece to my husband
that he likes it if he doesn’t answer me with a grunt followed by a
loud fart.

Aggie


#8

Hi Debbie,

I'm thinking of a situation where person A asks person B what B
thinks of the outfit A is wearing. All A was looking for was "does
this make me look fat?" but thought (in her own mind, not always
realizing what others might think she meant) that was clear, but
B, being a fashion designer, launched into a long discussion about
the colors, the pattern, the kind of fabric used, the sort of
silhouette. 
A is overwhelmed (and, for the life of her, doesn't really
understand what in heck B is talking about, BTW). All she wanted to
know is whether the dress made her look fat. 

To continue your metaphor, you walked into what amounts to a coffee
house in the fabric district and asked your question. And you’re
surprised when you got more than a 'does this make me look fat’
sort of answer? You thought my answer was overwhelming? Good lord.
That was about as soft-shoed as it gets.

What does ‘critique’ mean to you? I’m serious about that question,
because you’ve walked into a place filled with people for whom the
word ‘critique’ has some very specific meanings, none of which
include grunting and saying “no, of course not dear”. That’d be a
waste of everybody’s time. There’s an old saying: “don’t ask a
question if you don’t want to hear the answer”.

Most artists spend a lot of time alone in our own heads. What a
critique means, outside of school, is a chance to get someone else’s
read on a piece, to get outside input. What the artist thinks about
the piece is utterly irrelevant, because 99% of the time they won’t
be there to speak for it. So they’d better ask around and see what
people who don’t live in their head see in the piece, because
that’s what people will react to. It’s a way to get a read on what
the piece says on its own. But only if the artist listens.

When I run school crits, I let everybody but the artist talk.
Whatever the artist has to say had better be in the piece. The whole
point of a crit is to give the artist input from outside their
skulls. That only happens if they listen. And you’re never sure
who’s going to encounter your piece, ready or not.

When I saw the way my question was answered, I realized I needed
to be clearer about what I was looking for. I'm not entering some
contest. 

Yes, you are. Selling is a contest. If you want to make money, you
have to win by making the customer want your piece enough to give
you money for it. Think about it as a race. You have 24 hours in a
day, so does your customer. You have X number of hours to make
jewelry, and she has Y number of hours to make money. The contest is
to make pieces good enough that she gives you little green tokens
worth more of her time than you spent yours making it. Every sale is
that contest, over and over again.

To be honest, the critique as it stood, for the most part, was to
me as it would probably be to others on this list if I started
posting in Hebrew (though I assume some people on this list might
understand me) 

I hope not. I spent a chunk of my evening to try to help you. I’d
hate to think I wasted my time.

In all of this fussing, you still haven’t answered the basic
question: why use PMC? What is it doing for you that other materials
couldn’t?

Regards,
Brian


#9

Debbie - You are still setting conditions on your request for a
critique.

Stop it.

It won’t work anyway, and only annoys people.

Go and practice, practice, practice your work, learn more, and
practice again, and either come back again in a while with an open
and receptive mind, or remain on facebook or somewhere else where you
might find the comments you are looking for.

I’m sorry to sound harsh, but really you are wasting our time by all
this carping. You have obtained good, honest critiques, when what
you really wanted apparently was an uncritical pat on the back.

I will not be responding to your posts again.

Janet


#10
In all of this fussing, you still haven't answered the basic
question: why use PMC? What is it doing for you that other
materials couldn't? 

Links to all my stores at:

Talk to me about custom designed merchandise!!!

I have actually answered this question several times and several
ways, but I’ll try again.

First off, back in “the old days” (the 70s) I worked mostly in wax.
I was living in NY and I was able to hang out on 47th street and
visit all the shops and spend long hours at this. I could drop a wax
mold over at my caster amd pick it up later than week. I was young
and I had boundless energy and looked like a teenager, so a lot of
the men would help me (for example, I befriended – or should I say
he befriended meee – a stone setter – I could do cabachons in
bezels but not faceted stones into claw settings (when I asked my
instructor about this his answer was it was too complicated and I
should find someone to do it for me – my instructor, BTW, went on
to be a semi-successful mystery writer and seems to still be
teaching at FIT…))

I was never terribly successful for a number of reasons – not the
least of which is that so few people saw my designs. Those who saw
them for the most part liked them and many ordered pieces (I had a
few customers – mostly co-workers of mine or my Mom’s) but it was
just not enough.

At one point I tried to find a way to sell just my designs (which I
startedrendering, back in the late 80s using power point on Mac –
though now I do that on Corel on my lap top PC). I’ve aways been
able to draw much nicer designs than I’m capable of executing. For a
while, I was trying to work with someone who is an excellent smith
(too bad he’s a miserable human being and not at all a designer –
together, we could have made a good business, but he prefers to
cheat people to make money) but that was a no-go.

A few years ago, one of my nieces asked me to design a piece for her
and her two best friends. I drew it out, but had some issues finding
someone to create it. When I finally found someone to execute the
design (in brass), it came out nice, so I asked her to create a few
of my designs. I’ve had the mout and people like them, but when I
tell them how much they cost, they put the pieces down and walk
away.

Now, perhaps, if I had a “set up” where I could learn to create
things in metal I could get it done the way you all suggest. But for
now, I just took a class in the metal clay and I’m trying to get my
money’s worth, so to speak. I also have a bit of arthritis and it’s
easier to work with clay than with metal.

To be honest, even if I didn’t have a plethora of good reasons, it
doesn’t really matter – I asked a question about working with clay
not “how do you think I could best do this?”. The answers I got from
people who really wanted to help not push an agenda were very
helpful.

Debbie


#11
As for your designs, this is just my opinion of them, I would
glance quickly at them and probably keep walking. They are just OK.
In fact one design looks like something my daughter once made in
play doh. 

What you said is probably the most helpful thing I’ve seen so far on
this. What I need to know is are you talking about all the designs I
have up on that site or just the silver clay designs? I’m talking
about the design, notwhat it’s made of. I’m trying to figure out how
best to take the ideas I have in my head (or on “paper”) and create
them. I don’t quite understand why I’m having so much difficulty
getting that across.

As for the “does this make me look fat” – I’m not married, never
have been. Rarely (if ever) ask men how they think I look since it
rarely has anything to do with the clothes I’m wearing or how I look
in women’s world. I aska friend or a niece and she (underline the
she) will give me the sort of answer I need. That’s what I want to
know.

So, if you can filter out the material used, I really am curious to
know what people think of my designs. And, when I say “I’m not a
smith” what I mean is I wish I were, I wish I could look at one of
my designs on paper or the screen and say “hmmmm, the best way to
take this from paper to metal is XYZ” But I don’t have that ability.
That is why my “work relationship” if you can call it that (since we
never actually made anything that was for sale) lasted as long as it
did despite red flags aplenty because I could see that he could take
my designs and make them into beautiful pieces. And, afterall,
that’s all I really want (well, that, and the joy of knowing that
someone else might be wearing something I created).

After that critique, I would also like to hear, particularly from
the metalclay users, if there is something that I can do to make my
pieces more attractive, I would welcome that too. (Mind you, just
because you tell me youropinion doesn’t mean a) I’ll agree with it
and b) I’ll be running out immediately to follow your advice.)

Debbie


#12
Lack of funds is a common denominator for many of us, I'm sure,
but we get on with doing what we can with what we have available
and we try not to make our lack of resources an issue or an excuse.
Often a lack of something can make us more resourceful and
inventive by forcing us to come up with something amazing using
what we have on hand. Someone once said that it's a rare artist who
could afford to buy his own work on the open market. I'm sure
that's very true of most of us. 

If this is the case, why am I being lambasted for the choices I am
making? I’m not making excuses, I’m trying to explain my choices
(which I shouldn’t have to do ad nauseum, IMHO). When you put
someone on the spot like I was you have to understand when a person
trying to explain, but I shouldn’t have to explain. All I should have
to do is ask a question and get an answer. (it would be one thing if
people said, “I’m surprised you find it more economical – I tried
your way and I find my way costs less.” but that wasn’t what I
got…)

Debbie


#13

Debbie

Links to all my stores at: 
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep81no

here is a sample image of your work from the link above

please step back and imagine for one moment that this piece is
someone’s else work.

Please also try to ignore the terrible photography.

Ready? Now please answer the following

  1. what DO you think of the design?

  2. Would you buy it?

  3. Do you like the fact that the bead’s hole is showing?

  4. Do you like its shape? Is the texture pleasant looking?

  5. What type of feelings it evokes in you?

  6. What story does it tell about the person who made it?, and what
    its says about it’s future wearer style?

Dan Lee


#14

Debbie said,

After that critique, I would also like to hear, particularly from
the metalclay users, if there is something that I can do to make my
pieces more attractive...

Hey Debbie. I love using metal clay, and I love fabrication. I like
to use both together. So here is what I would tell you to make your
pieces maybe work a little better. OK. in metal clay " as with
pretty much any method or material used for making jewelry " you can
make designs that are more simple and geometric, or totally ornate
and representative. It seems like your designs are of the more
simple, geometric-shape type pieces. That’s absolutely fine, but one
of the best ways to show off those types of designs is to really
"finish" them. Get the lumps and bumps out. Smooth them out. Then
polish the living crap out of them. Because metal clay starts as
pretty much a lump, there can be a tendency to let parts of your
piece stay as lumps. Don’t let that happen. You can either use metal
clay as something that you can make amazing work from, or you can
get a little complacent and make lumps. I think that’s one of the
reasons it sometimes get a bad rap. Now, if you WANT a texture,
finish and polish the piece, then put the texture back in like your
meant it. Not have a texture because you couldn’t figure how to get
the cracks and scratches out. There’s enough jewelry out there that
has the “rustic” look. And quite often, it’s because the person
making it doesn’t know how to make it NOT look rustic. And you can
make a purposeful texture really look good if you put it in one
area, and then have a part next to it that’s really polished. And I
guess you can use things to stamp in texture, but I honestly never
do that. And make sure if you do that, it doesn’t look like you just
stamped something into a lump of clay. That isn’t very interesting.
Personally, my metal clay designs are very ornate and representative
"flowers, animals, etc. " not simple geometrics like yours. But I
add them to settings and other elements made through fabrication
that are very geometric. And I make sure BOTH elements are finished
well. Solder seams cleaned up, rough spots filed out, everything
well-polished. I think really finishing and polishing your work will
help great deal. Good luck!


#15

I’m looking for something that actually evaluates MY input, NOT the
input of the smith or my awful photography (I know my photography
skills s*** – hearing others tell me that doesn’t help since I know
that already). So far most of the crituqes I have gotten have either
been not helpful or evaluating something other than my work. I’m
sorry that I keep putting more explanations of what I’m looking for
(and I have used some of the info I’ve gotten) but I’m looking for
opinions of what I did. That I’m not really getting. Sorry you find
my explanations as “carping”. And I’m also sorry that my requests
haven’t been clear.

I am TRULY looking for that will help, but, except for
one suggestion that I get a certain book (forgot the name after I
ordered it and it hasn’t come yet), all other input is either stuff
I already know or something I don’t know how to resolve. So, perhaps
if I can get helpful critiques, which is, after all, all any of us
wants, critiques that actually tell me what I need to know, I would
stop re-explaining what I’m looking for. (I keep re-explaining
because I’m not getting what I need, NOT because it’s mostly negative
– positive critiques are less than helpful – just so you should
know, when I was in college many years ago (33ee) I had an instructor
who loved everything I did (one of two – it’s the sort of thing you
remember…) and I kept pressing him to tell me what it was that I
did that he liked. I really didn’t know what I did RIGHT.)

In any case, keep in mind that what you see on the list as my
"keeping" doing something probably was done BEFORE you (or whoever)
said “please stop doing so-and-so”. You know, if we were all in a
room together you might see things differently but because we’re on
a list that you and I are both answering things when we see them, it
seems different.

So, please, take a chill pill. You are totally missing the point.

Debbie


#16

Ok you want a critique but you do not want a critique as a formally
trainedartist I can tell you critiques are tough to bear. However,
they are essential to growth so stop looking for excuses to complain
about what is being said and read it and learn.

Your use of texture was a good idea. The biggest problem I see is
your technique. You need to stop investing in PMC and invest in
instruction.

All the things pointed out are valid to a point the bead hole
showing, the lack of a proper bezel the rough finishing the poor
photography all tend toshow me one thing. You are lazy. If I were
preparing a piece for critique I would at least take the time to get
a good photograph even camera phones can be used better than that
picture. the piece is rough you didn’t smooth out areas of trim or
bother to check the bead nor did you make a proper setting. Is the
bead even semi precious? putting non-genuine stones in fine silver
is kind of missing the point. You blamed someone else for the
silversmithing? there is no silversmithing evident. mashing a lump
of clay and baking it is not silversmithing. It is metal working for
sure, but smithing implies fabrication using hammers and other
tools. Even if someone else did the silver clay work you accepted it
as good and I find that a shame. In anycase in a live critique you
would have gotten told just about nothing. When someone put up a
piece of art that was horrible people were silent as we were told if
you cnanot say anything supportive don;t say anything at all. SO
usually the only thing we could say was I like your use of texture.


#17

Anyone who has the time and the interest might find a perusal of
Eric Berne’s Games People Play instructive. If you do not have the
time, or patience, to read the whole book, just look at the
description of “Why Don’t You - Yes, But.” The thesis of this
particular game, in Berne’s words, follows:

“Why Don’t You - Yes, But occupies a special place in game analysis,
because it was the original stimulus for the concept of games. It
was the first game to be dissected out of its social context, and
since it is the oldest subject of game analysis, it is one of the
best understood. It is also the game most commonly played at parties
and groups of all kinds. Why Don’t You - Yes, But can be played by
any number. The agent presents a problem. The others start to
present solutions, each beginning with “why don’t you.?” To each of
these the agent objects with a “Yes, but.” A good player can stand
off the others indefinitely until they all give up, whereupon the
agent wins.”

In any case, it is an interesting read, if you are interested in
that kind of thing.


#18

Do you have any advice as to how to file/sand the piece without
breaking it? That was my big issue on my first piece (the star with
the triangle and garnet bead). I actually started using the texture
thingies (don’t quite know what else to call them, lol) because I
couldn’t get the front of this piece (I added the triangle later) to
look uniform and nice. It looked awful (still does, IMHO, but not as
much with the triangle piece on it). I’d like to be able to make a
nice bezel with the clay, but when she was asked abouthow to make
one, our instructor sort of hemmed and hawed saying it would never
turn out right, so I figured there was no point in even asking. Do
youhave any advice?

I guess it’ll take a while until I am able to get closer in the clay
to what’s in my head :slight_smile: – thanks for the critique and the advice.

Debbie


#19

Again, this is a lot more helpful than other things. It is only
since the most recent comment I made before this that I realized
that the critiques were only on my designs that I just did. The page
you are being sent to only has these clay designs. I did those
designs in my class (as in first time Iused the clay). This was all
experimentation. All the things you said werevalid. The bead is
garnet, but that garnet (and other garnets and tourmaline, all of
which usually survive the firing process didn’t in one firing --the
firing that all the blackish beads were in.

Since this is my first forray into metal clay, this sort of critique
helps me understand a bit what I need to concentrate on in my next
steps.

BTW, the ring, which I haven’t heard any comments about, is
something I made 40 years ago from lost wax (the heart was a plastic
button). The stone was set by a wonderful man who did an amazing job
and only charged me $2.

I am, BTW, a bit annoyed that people are acting as though I don’t
want an honest critique. I DO want an honest critique. But I want it
focused on the I need.

Debbie


#20

Debbie,

Something you keep saying in recent emails is the desire to “get
what’s in your head out into your designs” - I know this feeling so
very well!!

I can say without a single doubt that the biggest help I got was
from a book, called “Drawing for Jewelers (Master Class in
Professional Design)” - and you don’t even need to have ever been a
paper and pen artist, especially if you take the time to read through
the book before working anything out.

It shows renderings done by other jewelers and tells one exactly how
those drawings are done, allowing you to practice getting the image
from your head onto paper. Once you’ve done that, you can begin to
figure out measurements and and tricky parts to your design so that
when you’re ready you can go into fabricating your piece without
nearly so much trouble as before and with a whole lot more confidence
than ever.

Start with a paper and pen and just doodle, finding common elements
to your ‘doodles’ might help you see where your creative brain and
hands meet. You can take those elements and apply them to your
designs. Try drawing out one specific design, a simple one, and then
make four or five variations on it, and so on, to see what speaks to
you.

Here’s a link to the book, with a variety of seller’s prices to
choose from, new or used:

Just my two cents.

Cheers!
Becky