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Many of you have seen and admired the butterflies I have been making.  A customer wondered if I could make a dragonfly and certainly they are beautiful insects that capture our imagination.  I have made three so far.  The photo above is the largest of the three.  I am very pleased with the result.  This is a super busy time for me what with my son being home for the summer and art fair season being in full swing.  I have made so many pieces that have sold before I had a moment to photograph them!  I took a few shots this morning.  Below is another butterfly with a sleek body and head.



I just got back from the Moss Avenue Sale.  Actually I already unpacked the car and had a lovely dinner at a buffet with my family!  It was so lovely to be out in the perfect weather under the shade of lovely old trees.  It was fun to see old friends and meet lots of new people too.

I updated my gallery and upcoming events pages.  Lakeview Museum Store is currently relinquishing all local artist holdings in preparation of its big move to the Riverfront location.  I will renew this relationship when they reopen in the fall.

I will be at the Moss Avenue Sale on Saturday from 8am to 3pm.  I have been exploring some new techniques recently and am working furiously to finish up a number of pieces in time for this event.  I have been etching hand drawn patterns on copper.  Also, I have made a number of bimetal pieces with steel and bronze.  I am very excited to work on new processes and hope to show you pictures very soon!

I have spent some time this week making samples of various patinas on copper.  Above you see three samples of the same patina which goes by the Japanese name of Su-tanpan.  This is a traditional and ancient way to color the surface of copper and its alloys and is often used as a base for other coloration.  In the picture, you will notice there is quite a variation of color.  The left hand square has been lacquered so that I could see the difference it made to the color.  Below are some samples of two different patinas layered over the above.  The greenish one goes by the Japanese name of Enka, the blue one by the name Ryusan-do.  I found the recipes for all three patina solutions in a lovely book entitled Japanese Patinas by Eitoku Sugimori. I am including two versions of the Enka patina sample because they came out very differently.  You can see that the square with less green also has a very intensely red area that did not seem to take the green color at all.

The next step for me is to destructively test areas on these squares to see what does and does not remove the colors, what they look like with lacquer or wax over them and how they change over time.  I am also planning to prepare another set of squares using a second base patina and at least one more layered patina.  I will be making a post soon about other experiments I have been doing involving etching designs on copper.  All of this is going to come together in some pieces with etched designs that have some layered patinas!  Needless to say, I am quite excited about trying new techniques.

I recently had some photos taken by a professional photographer, Kevin May, who lives here in Peoria.  I was overawed at his setup and enjoyed a chance to see how he went about everything. Hopefully I can use some of what I learned to take better photos for this blog.

This ring is fine silver with a purple CZ set in a tube.  I learned quite a bit from creating the tube setting from metal clay.  The stone sits ever so slightly off from level post firing.  I do not believe the angle of the stone is all that noticeable but I am after all a perfectionist.  I have no good ideas about how to prevent another stone from shifting during firing.  The setting involves two metal clay tubes of different diameter.  After both tubes were perfected I sanded the bottom edges into a slight curve so that they would sit nicely onto the curved ring band.  The inner tube acts as a seat for the stone and the outer stone captures the stone.  I sanded the top edge of the outer tube to bevel it so that after firing I could press it down a bit to create a neat look.

The ring size shrank quite a bit so I sanded out the edges of the box to make them flush with the inner band, which is a design change and which gained the ring over a whole size.  I was shooting for size 7 so I had cut the sides as a size 9 and then after drying and sanding smooth they were about a size 9.25 so I was very happy with this but post firing they fitted my sizing mandrel as a size 5.  Metal clay shrinks in strange ways sometimes when you build boxes.  After sanding flush the ring is a 6.  The shape of the ring would make it difficult to beat on a mandrel to make it any larger but in theory the ring could be stretched but I do not plan to try.  I am thinking about using ring plugs more often since I have had several rings shrink well past the size I had planned.

This photo is also taken by Kevin May.  I have created a series of 4 pieces with a seasonal theme.  This piece is winter and depicts a naked tree in a stark winter nighttime landscape.  I applied patina to the night sky and some of the solution may have crept under the stones which makes them look cloudy.  I am not sure how to remove the residue without damaging the patina.  So this piece is not ready for sale until I work out how the stones can look sparkly and the background can look dark at the same time.

I have many more photos to work with now and am quite excited to post them over the coming weeks.  If any of you are interested in Kevin’s photography here is his blog.  He is quite well rounded, having done a lot of work for Caterpillar and also landscapes and macro photography.

Here is my third entry for the Four a Month Flickr group.  This butterfly is less naturalistic, with a floral pattern.  The last butterfly piece is a pair or earrings.  The photo for those will be posted tomorrow.  Then I will begin posting photos of the 4 seasons pieces.  It does feel strange today to post photos of summertime creatures with snow on the ground here.  We have had a very mild winter and I am thankful for that.  Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

Here is my second entry for the Flickr Four a Month group.  The photo above shows my fine silver butterfly.  This butterfly, which could be a moth if you like, was inspired by the way butterfly wings reflect the light when you look at them at just the right angle.  I used a crushed silk textured wallpaper sample to create the wings.  I love the way the wings stand out from the body on this one.  It feels as if the creature is fanning his wings and is about to take off.

Near the end of the year in 2011 sterling silver metal clay was introduced.  I have been working with fine silver metal clay for some time now and love it.  I wondered how the sterling version would behave so I purchased some.  I have made just one piece with sterling PMC.  The photo above shows the new ring “Zen Gazing Disc Ring”.  The design was somewhat inspired by a ring I made a long time ago entitled “Portable Zen Rock Garden”.  The differences between the two rings are vast.  This new ring has a larger focal element.  Sterling is stronger when work hardened than fine silver so I was able to make this ring shank quite thin.  The original ring has a pleasing weighty feel however and there are certainly pros and cons to both fine silver and sterling.  The sterling clay behaved for me the way I hoped it would, a lot like fine silver clay does.  The only challenge I encountered making this ring regards shrinkage of the piece during firing.  The stated shrinkage is higher than that of PMC3 and others have reported that rings lost about 3 sizes.  I made this ring 3 sizes too large for my middle finger.  After firing it does not fit on my middle or ring finger and it measures almost 4 sizes smaller than the dry piece had prior to firing.  I will have to take this into account when I design future rings.


On another subject, I have joined a group on Flickr this year entitled Four a Month and it is moderated by the fantastic and creative Lora Hart.  I am posting my first four pieces starting today and continuing over the next few days.  The idea behind the group is that the four pieces we make and post each month will all have a theme or unifying element about them.  Lora has allowed for a great deal of freedom regarding what can qualify as a foursome.  For my first set I chose butterflies.  Below you will find a monarch inspired butterfly in fine silver with a necklace bail in the body of the butterfly.  I have made a couple of other butterflies like it in the last year and they have been extremely warmly received.  I do adore everything butterflies stand for, metamorphosis, grace, beauty, flight, rising above ones limitations to name a few.  One woman told me she believes butterflies are the embodiment of the spirits of our lost loved ones.  All four of the butterflies are made and finished at this point.  I am working with some new photography equipment and software and two of the four will require me to spend more time with this new equipment so that I can produce nice photos.  The next four pieces will be based on the four seasons theme and I have already made those as well.  After those I will be presenting a series of four pieces based on box structures.  I have made three of the four and the remaining piece, a ring with a stone set in it, remains as greenware tidbits on my bench.

Luthy Botanical Gardens is having an auction tomorrow.  A variety of artists have entered works in this event including me.  I delivered a dozen pieces today and spoke at some length with Ann Kizer who is organizing this event.  The auction is tomorrow (Saturday January 28th) and begins at 1pm.  There is an announced auction first and then later on there will be a silent auction.  She placed two of my pieces in the announced portion of the auction.  It looks to be a great auction with some stunning work in a wide variety of media.  You local folks should check it out!

I have spent the last two weeks doing a combination of “spring cleaning” and working through a stack of commissions.  I have needed to do the cleaning for a while.  It has been a hectic summer.  I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel with the commissions.  I have all of them out of the kiln and most are now done.  All that remains is a stone or two to set.  Then it is on to preparing for the holidays. Angie Stiles-Richardson and I spoke about me joining the CIAO folks at the first friday in November and I am jazzed.  The cornerstone building is a lovely location and last month when I visited there they had a fellow playing acoustic guitar.  It is like a wine and cheese party that happens to have art vendors!