Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First Show of 2015 (and first blog of the year too)

Well I've been away for a long time but in my defense, I've been busy creating new designs and exploring the possibility of wholesaling.  If you haven't seen my new pieces, you need to stop into Jansjems.

But I digress.  I've been to Upstate NY and it was definitely worth the trip.

Last weekend I participated in the 44th Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council June Art Festival in Glens Falls, NY.  Having been encouraged to get out of Western Mass. and head for NY state I chose this show to give it a try.  And now I see how the big shows do it.

LARAC is a well oiled machine, an organization with a gift shop right on the park where the show took place.  Their advertising includes a 23 page magazine insert into the local papers and available for each vendor and  all 10-20,000 customers.  It includes a show map, info on all the vendors and their booth location, and lots of paid advertising.

I drove the 2 1/2 hours by myself and was fortunate to be placed between 2 men who have been doing this show for years.  Ralph helped me get my tent up on Friday and John was a wealth of information about this show and others.

Saturday was packed and even tho the show doesn't open until 10 am, I had customers and made sales starting at 9am.  These are the people who come to buy.  As one vendor put it, "The husbands are home mowing the lawn so the wives come to shop."  While the steampunk jewelry still brings people into the tent, most of my sales were bronze and silver pieces that day.  The weather was great and the food vendors were across the road from my group of booths, so traffic and sales were steady all day.

Sunday, unfortunately, was typical of many shows I did last year.  It's the day that the strollers attend bringing dogs and children and elderly relatives.  Sales didn't even start until after lunch so I was a bit worried.  But I did end up selling about half the amount of Saturday, mostly steampunk designs, so worthwhile in the end.

Glens Falls is a larger city than I anticipated and there are lots of cute little shops and gift stores there that I'm disappointed I didn't have time to explore.  The list of restaurants seems endless and there is lots to do in the area so it's a great place to vacation.

All in all, it was a mostly positive experience.  Had it not been for the person who stole one of my silver rings, it would have been completely positive.  Turns out that a couple of other jewelers had rings stolen as well so someone was working the show.  I was later told that this bad element has been in attendance for the last couple of years.  Keep that in mind if you do any shows in that area.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Where's Jansjems? Spring Recap

I was reminded today, when I sent someone over to this blog, that I haven't posted in MONTHS.  Shame on me.  I've been busy with a number of things that have made it difficult to sit down at the computer for any length of time.  So I'm going to cheat and recap the last couple of months in one blog post.

As Events Coordinator of the Artisans of WMASS I was busy in April getting ready for our big Artisan Demonstration Day at the Yankee Candle Healthworks Bldg.  April was devoted to advertising and promoting our big day.  The event took place on May 3rd and we were blown away by the positive reactions of the people who came to visit us.  We had 33 artisans all demonstrating their craft with 9 of them hosting make and take stations.

  People really loved the ability to create their own little work of art.  Unlike most of the other craft events I participate in, here customers were anxious to talk to artists and ask them questions.  And artisans love to talk about their work.  So it was perfect.  And I have to give some credit to Yankee Candle whose staff were a great help with set up and break down and even delivered our lunches.

So... we're planning a traditional craft show at the same location for October 5.  This is still a secret as no one outside AWM knows yet.  So you heard it here first.

In May my friend Linda and I jetted off to Tennessee to visit Memphis and Nashville.  Linda is a big country fan and has dreamed her whole life of visiting Elvis Presley's home in Memphis.

She was truly in her glory and smiled the whole time we were there.  Elvis' mansion was quite nice and not the gaudily decorated place I expected.  It's really a nice home that's decorated in the 50s style. And I learned a great deal about the history of soul, blues and rockabilly at the Rock and Soul Museum and at Sun Studios.

I really like Nashville a lot. Beautiful, clean city. We went down to Honky Tonk Row 3 times while we were there and listened to a big variety of country styles.  A few young musicians still finding their voice and a couple of incredible bands that have been playing together for years.

We saw Carrie Underwood at the Grand Ole Opry.

 And I also had a reunion with a friend from college whom I haven't seen in years.

So now it's June and I'm getting ready for my first real craft show.  I'll be in Connecticut on June 7 & 8 for Celebrate West Hartford.  It's a large show with lots of food and activities for the family as well as over 100 artisans.

Check out my website for a list of all the places you'll be able to find Jansjems.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jansjems on Display at Springfield Museums

Today I met Bruce Rosenbaum, the guest curator who is bringing Steampunk to the Springfield Museums.  I delivered 4 pieces of my Steampunk jewelry this morning and he was there to greet participants.  Having never been part of such a show I watched as they handled my humble jewelry with gloves.  I signed loan contracts and filled out forms and was told that my jewelry would be displayed behind glass.

Bruce graciously gave me a tour of his "Humachines" being installed in one of the rooms of the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum.  Seeing his pieces in person made me suddenly realize what an incredible show this was going to be and I felt so proud to be a small part of it.  My pieces will be included in the "Brassy Bridal Steampunk Wedding" exhibit in another room on the second floor. 

Bruce Rosenbaum's "Humachines" are incredible sculptural homages to famous people of the Victorian Era. This one is H.G. Wells as a time machine.

And they are all interactive which makes them not only wonderful pieces of art but fun as well.  George Eastman becomes a human camera and when you push a button a flash goes off and concept photos of a future Springfield appear on the camera screen.

The call for artists also asked for artists to re-imagine and reinvent objects from a list of Springfield's industrial history such as rifles and motorcycles.  I'm really anxious to see these pieces which will be displayed in the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History.  

I highly recommend taking some time to visit the Steampunk Exhibition this summer, even if you're not a fan of the genre.  Take your children.  It will be fun, educational and eye opening.

For more information about the entire show that will be running from March 22 to September 28, see the article in the Gazette's Preview Massachusetts

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

More Bonzclay

I've been working with Bronzclay now since Thanksgiving.  The last pieces are going into the kiln today.  And if none of them have to be refired, I'll be finished with bronze for awhile.

The clay is so nice to work with that I ambitiously made a couple of larger pieces before I realized that bigger, thicker pieces need a different firing schedule. I found some iris pods in the backyard last fall and thought they would make a nice focal piece for a necklace. But the piece I lovingly created turned out to be 13mm thick in the center.

While there is a lot of information about firing this clay out there on the Web,  I decided to contact the manufacturer himself for advice.  Bill Struve was very helpful and patient with all my questions as we exchanged a few emails.

We decided that the slow ramp process Mardel Rein has devised, which takes into consideration the type of kiln, the thickness of the clay, and the target temperature, would be appropriate to try.  So after an initial open air firing phase, ramping at 500° to 650° and holding for 45 minutes, I covered it with carbon and fired at 115° per hour to a target of 1490° and held for 3 hours.  Yes, the piece was in the kiln all day.

One of the pods broke at the seams but otherwise the piece was intact.  It was an easy fix.  The second firing used the same first phase.  But then buried in carbon it was a full ramp to 1510° with another 3 hour hold.  Bill Struve had told me that the slow ramp on already fired items wasn't necessary.

Cleaned up and polished, this was the result.

So what did I learn?
While bronze clay is so much less expensive to purchase than fine silver and I feel compelled to create larger pieces, firing time can cancel out the savings, even when you have solar panels.  So it's not something I will do often.

I'm thinking about digging out my husband's dehydrator.  Some of my smaller/thinner pieces tended to crack or break but they always seemed to be pieces with more than 1 layer and cracks began in the layered area.  It's possible that even pieces that sit around for awhile are not fully dry in the center of the thickest part.  Pieces that sat for a week fired without problems.  Those that were only a couple days old were the ones that cracked.

The shrinkage rate of Bronzclay makes it difficult to create my openwork/filigree designs.  Even when my coils are thicker, they don't seem to stay together.  So I may go back to Goldie Bronze for those designs despite its more grainy finish.

As I stated in an earlier post, bezels need to be attached to already fired pieces and the entire work fired.
 again.  Second firings can be at full ramp to target temperature.

Any pieces with nooks and crannies should be fired in a wire mesh cage.  Because of the shrinkage rate of Bronzclay, this is particularly important.  Small bits of coconut carbon can cause cracks in the design or become embedded in it.

My kiln is a Paragon Firefly and the bonding agent in this clay just would not burn out using the manufacturer instructions.  I had better results using a first phase firing on a kiln shelf then burying the pieces for the second phase.  I do this with both thin and thicker pieces.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year with a New Bronze

Happy New Year!!!

I've been away from my blog but not sitting idle. In my last post I talked about my firing issues with Bronzclay.  Since finding a firing schedule that works I've been hard at work testing the clay with my new designs.

I'd like to report that some things work and some don't.

These small pendants were quick and easy and fired nicely.  Only the pendant on the far left had to be fired a second time.  I found when layering or attaching elements water is not enough to keep them together in the kiln.  Most attachments need a loose mixture of clay and water covering the entire surface of the adhesion.  If there are any spaces the piece will begin to separate.

I like to add flowers and curly snakes to some of my pieces.  But sometimes the little particles of carbon that the bronze is immersed in get stuck in all the spaces my style provides.  Sometimes that just means digging these particles out  but occasionally they interfere with the shrinkage.  This bronze clay shrinks a lot, about 20%, so the carbon particles immersed in a design will cause it to crack.  To solve that problem I've purchased some stainless steel wire mesh to cover the delicate pieces and keep the carbon particles out.

This high rate of shrinkage also makes it impossible to embed a bezel setting for even a small stone.   Because the setting doesn't shrink it causes clay around it to crack.  Bezels need to be attached to fired clay and the whole piece fired a second time.

It's been a learning process but all in all I'm happy with the finished products that have survived the kiln.  My new inventory for 2014 has some new designs I hope people will like.  Bronzclay is a joy to work with and the finished product sands to a lovely shine that I protect with clear coat.

Here's a sneak peak at more of my new jewelry soon available at Jansjems--

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Adventures in Bronzclay

I've been working on a custom order for the past week.  The order is for a bronze pendant which came out beautifully and only took 1 day to create.  But I've spent the last 5 days trying to find the proper firing schedule for it.

I made a real rookie error with this order--I created the piece from a product I've never used before.  I've tried and successfully created jewelry from a couple of different bronze clay products.  These were powders that you have to add water to.  Their firing schedules are pretty easy and one is even comparatively short. But I didn't like the final color of one and the other shrank way too much.  But an instructor suggested I try Bronzclay.  It comes already in clay form.  As I was almost out of bronze clay, I ordered 200 grams.

My friend was right.  It's not grainy like one of the powdered products, stays moist longer, and reconstitutes easily.  So right out of the package, after working it a little, I created my custom order.

I also created a couple of test strips and fired them together according to instructions in the package.  The thinner (2mm) strip came out fully sintered but with pinholes.  I'm no expert but I think that means it was over-fired.  The thicker textured strip (3mm) snapped in half when I tried to bend it and the black bonding material was exposed.  What does it mean when the binder burns off on 1 piece but not the other?

I adjusted the schedule a bit and tried again to fire a pair of earrings.  This time the binder didn't burn out on either piece.

What did we do before we had Google and all the information people throw up on the Web?  In my search for sintering problems and firing schedules for Bronzclay I found that I was not alone with my problem. There were no less than 6 different firing schedules put up by metal clay experts that work for them.  Some used a single firing method buried in carbon, some used a 2 step process in carbon, some fired initially on an open shelf then used a 2 step buried-in-carbon schedule.  Others followed the open shelf with a 1 step schedule.  Some schedules were for specific style kilns.  All are very long schedules--easily 9 hours.

After 4 days of trials, the open shelf initial firing to burn out the binder did the trick but the follow up firing caused my next pair of earrings to become brittle and break.  But using a 2-step ramp up and dropping the final temperature some in the second firing seemed to do the trick, at least for the small flower pendant I made.

How you dry the clay may contribute to the problem. It shouldn't be put on a coffee warmer but instead needs to air dry. I found articles suggesting freezing the clay to dry it.

I'm not sure that makes any difference but before I put my custom pendant into the kiln I decided to try a few more pieces to see if I get the same result.  These were also left in the freezer for awhile before firing though I'm not sure why I did that.  They had air dried for a couple days already.

After the successful firing of a few more pieces....

I fired the custom piece.   Voila!!

This bronze product polishes up nicely too.

For those who might be interested, and to add yet another firing schedule to the internet, I achieved this success by placing pieces on an open shelf and a slow ramp of 250°F to 560° F , hold 30 min and cool down.  Then burying pieces in coconut carbon, full ramp to 800°F or 900° F, no hold and ramping at 250°
to 1468°F, hold for 2 hours and cool.  Yes, it's a full day in the kiln.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Malmo Festival--Largest Festival in Sweden

My husband and I just got back from a vacation in Denmark.  We were there primarily to watch our oldest daughter graduate with an MBA from the Copenhagen Business School.  If you have "friended" me on Facebook you'll see lots of pictures from Denmark and our little side trip to Iceland.

But while in Denmark, we took a short train ride to Malmo, Sweden.  It's just over the border from Denmark and we happened to be there for the last day of a week long festival that's billed as the largest in Sweden.  Supposedly over a million people attend during that week.
It's not a handcrafts festival.  Actually I only saw a few booths but they were resellers from other countries.  It's all about fun and food from what I can tell.

I didn't see any carnival type rides.  Just this opportunity for anyone to try the high trapeze.  She was harnessed and there was a net below.  But do you think you'd ever see this around here?

This guy balanced anything on his chin.  This was a full sized stove.

No, I didn't try any.  Not sure what they were selling as it was all written in Swedish.