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--