Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Facebook isn't a total waste of time for an artist...

There's an awful lot of finger waggling these days about all the time we waste on the computer and how disconnected we are from other human beings. I should know, historically I'd be wagging away with the best of them, but these last few weeks has certainly showed me... it's okay, I'm pretty used to being wrong.

At the begining of this year I decided I was really going to make an effort to participate in more online communities and oppurtunites. With the way the art shows and festivals have been going the last couple of years, it became apparent that "times they are a changin'." I started doing shows only five years ago, so I don't remember the glory days of the 90s, actually, all I remember about the 90s was wearing way too much flannel and combat boots. Apparently, these were the times to be an artist. I hear tales of the fabled $10,000 weekend, people packed into tents, and, this is the best one, artists making money.

Don't get me wrong, I've been extremely blessed, and haven't suffered in my sales the way 2D artists have (they often pay out just to display their work,) but I do get awful excited when I clear the red. I've also talked to the 30 year veterans that have spent the last 15 years trying to figure out a way to get off the road, and I have to wonder "So what is the answer? How can we find an outlet, when all these tried and true options are drying up?" It's a freakishly easy answer... umm... the internet.

The world of online exhibitions, and call for artists saturate the internet. You take your work from a level of individual exposure, which is great and absolutely necessary, to global exposure. I've even been handed ah-ha moments by friends on Facebook. What? Facebook is productive? It's really not a waste of time, if you know how to use it.  First I have to preface by saying this isn't a segment on "look what I can do!" I share this in hopes you'll see "look what you can do!" Here's a short list of what the last four months have yeilded:

This piece was selected for online exhibition as well as print exhibition for a catalogue that's being released at the Metal Clay World Conference this summer. It's call went through Crafthaus, a great online community and resource for artists. They have an on-going, updated list of opportunities. There is an annual membership fee, but every guild I've ever known does as well. I'd never heard of Crafthaus until it was posted by another metal clay artist on their Facebook thread. 

Art Jewelry Magazine runs a Facebook design competion that cycles out every month or so. It was really the first time I'd submitted anything for a competition, and I was kinda horrified with the prospect of "competeing" with my artwork. My pretentiousness screamed "Nuh-uh, art is not a competition!" Okay, yeah it's not, but principals don't pay the bills. Besides, I've scooped dog poop for a living, so I can do this too. It led me to submit my work to their subscriber gallery on their web page, which eased me into the idea of publishing my work. Feeling rather emboldened by now, I then submitted pictures for their magazine gallery. Well, suffice it to say, they asked me to send them one piece and the other? They asked me to write a project article for it. Err, really??... That decision took a split second to make. So if any of you are interested in how I made that threaded component in the above piece, Art Jewelry Magazine has your answer... or it will... eventually... in like 6 to 12 months...

Okay, here's an example of inspiration traveling thousands of miles to land right on my computer screen. Jack Dolan, artist and owner of Book of Kells in Wood, remarked that one of my copper components was reminiscent of a Celtic torque. It was like being zinged in the head with a 1,000 volts, giving life to an entirely new series I can barely keep from jumping up and down about. I've never met Jack in person, I only know him through Facebook, the man lives in Louisburgh, Co.Mayo, Ireland, I don't think I would have run into him at the grocers. Seeing his artwork and interacting with him on Facebook is changing my work,  it's an unlikely mentorship he probably doesn't even realize he's fostering.

Tonya Davidson of Whole Lotta Whimsy just started a "Sunday Social Circle" for jewelry artist that's already turning out to be a great forum for questions and a perfect avenue for making new connections. Tonya is so warm and welcoming that it's hard not to join in! How many times have you had a technique question and spent an entire afternoon trying to Google your answer?  Being able to participate in an international community can open so many creative doors, many kudos to her for giving us that opportunity.

Metal Clay Today is a free digital magazine, chalked full of great information, not only on the art of metal clay, but also the business of being a metal clay artist. They also host design challenges, which is always a great way to stretch our creative legs. The first piece in this post was actually inspired by a previous design theme! They're currently running the "Jewelry For Him" challenge, stop by check out some fantastic work and while you're there vote for your favorite.

There are a ton of other examples, the main point is, if you look, it's there. If you participate, then you're there. While cruising around Facebook can be a total waste of time, it can also be a fantastic forum for our creative community.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to size a bezel setting for COPPRclay.

A really important thing to keep in mind when making a bezel setting out of COPPRclay: shrinkage is 20%, but don't be fooled, that doesn't mean make your setting 20% bigger.  So how do we determine the correct percentage? First get a tape measure and measure the perimeter then go to Metal Clay Shrinkage Calculator enter that figure into the final clay size field, select your clay (for this example COPPRclay) and it'll spit out your greenware measurement. Okay, now divide that number with the original measurement then move the decimal point over two spaces to the right and voila, you've got your percentage, which should be right around 125%.  If you were to simply add 20% to, lets say, an 8mm measurement you'd actually come up with 9.6mm, because 20% of 8 is 1.6. So you need need to increase by 25% to reach the correct size of 10mm.

I know blah, blah, blah, give me the meat already. I first came across this technique in a Hadar Jacobson book, but done with silver clay: Okay, take your cabochon to the photocopy shop (yes those still do exist) and run off a copy that's set to 125% of the original size. Or if your printer is actually calibrated to print off the exact size of a scan, you can scan then increase the size in an editing program by 25%, just make sure to print off the original size on the same sheet to ensure it matches up with the actual cab. You should see the weird looks I get at the aforementioned copy shop, leering over a Xerox machine, clutching a bag of rocks, carefully laying out all my stones.... making photo copies... of rocks.... I've officially become "that" lady...

Now take your handy, dandy photocopy and cut out your cab, make sure you've got the correct side facing down, i.e. if you set the flat part of the cab on the machine's glass surface, you've copied the bottom, sooo place the copy image side down to the inside face of the base for your setting. That may not matter too much with symmetrical shapes, but it's good to remember just in case you set an unconventional stone. Also if you are planning to add a bezel wire to the inside of the setting you will need to change the  sizing to accommodate, perhaps even photocopying with wire in place, or you can do it mathematically (riiight...)

You don't have to understand the math, I certainly don't, just take my remedial algebra (I think I used algebra?) at it's word, or number.  As an aside, I've got to take a moment to vindicate my high school math teachers: Mr. Dale and Mr. Walker, you were both right, I do indeed need math to make art.

Anyhoo, so far so good, although the next time around I'll maybe try using a thinner bezel. This whole project was inspired by Lora Hart's Cornerstone Challenge on Flikr, great way to get inspired to maybe push a little further. And in this case, think more than I generally care to!