I have added a kiln to my studio and bronze  clay to my list of materials.  LOVE this work, and so far I'm very pleased with the results.  The only down-side is the firing time -- either 5 hours or 9 hours PLUS cool down time of at least an hour!  SHEESH!  But I am cultivating patience, and organizing my work day around the chosen firing schedule. 
Of course, before a bronze clay piece goes into the kiln, it needs to be refined as much as possible while still in its leather-hard state  -- sanded, holes drilled, cracks filled, etc.  Bronze comes out of the kiln incredibly hard, so refining before firing saves a lot of work!


Waiting for my kiln

I have long wanted to "do" metal clay, but it never seemed practical as I had no easy access to a kiln.  Now I am getting my own - tomorrow is "der tag" and I'll be looking for the UPS man.  My Shop Elf has been busy setting up a super spot for the kiln, with ceramic tile no less.   

My Muse is in the Metal (and My Other Stuff)  
Using One’s Materials As the Source of Inspiration

Today, the group Aspiring Metalsmiths is blogging about finding one's muse. 

When I'm at work in my home studio, inspiration is not hard to come by.  My workbench is angled towards a wall of floor to  ceiling high windows, with  a northern exposure and really Ab(solutely)-(Fab(ulous)  light!  My jewelry books, catalogs and tutes are in a dedicated bookcase to my left.  My forging bench is over my left shoulder just behind me.  A 24/7/365 ceiling fan overhead keeps the air around me  in constant motion.   My trusty flex-shaft is attached to the right side of my workbench and my materials' stash is shelved to my right as well.   From my workbench, I look out on a glen of young and not so young hardwoods and a two acre pond.  I often find it hard to believe that I'm in the middle of suburbia.  Although it’s very cool to watch the seasons unfold beyond the deck, I can’t really say that nature is the inspiration for my work. 

On the other hand, sitting down with my materials' stash is likely to generate productive questions directly related to my designs.  How can I use this?  Will these two elements, or this group of elements, “work” together?  Which metal or metals are right for which chainmaille weave or forging project?  Which colors or shapes for any embellishments?  What findings?  Which clasp?  What visual “flavor” will this combination produce?  What matches or contrasts will these materials allow me to achieve?  Which blends for harmony?  What juxtapositions for surprise? 

But, let’s back up a step or two.  My materials didn’t just appear out of thin air like something from a Star Trek replicator.  At one point or another, I bought all the stuff in my stash.  All my materials are reflections of me – what I enjoy working with, and what I liked the look of.  Or, maybe some of my materials are left-overs from projects past or never weres. 

So, what did come first – the having or the inspiration?  Neither?  Both?  When I swoon over all the brass thingies at the local, un “big-box” hardware store, or see a potential clasp in a small, stainless steel shackle, or just have to buy some of those pretties from Ornamentea (even though I use very few beads or embellishments), what IS going on?  Is my Muse already sitting on my shoulder? 

Looking back at the title of this Post, I evidently thought I knew the answer to this question when I started writing.  But clearly the question is much more complicated than I thought.  I guess that’s the nature of art – always more questions and very, very few answers.

See what other Aspiring Metalsmiths have to say about their sources of inspiration by visiting the blogs below:

[An addendum and further food for thought:  My friend Lisa Barth, wire-worker and metal clay artist extraordinaire, just published a book Designing From The Stone: Design Techniques for Bezel Setting in Metal Clay Using the Stone as Inspiration (ISBN-10: 1463576471) http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Stone-Techniques-Setting-Inspiration/dp/1463576471/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316669975&sr=1-1
I think her approach to design has applications beyond metal clay.  Check it out.]


Nagging Annoyance -- Drastic Measures

My favorite pliers are the Lindstroms with the padded handles and black plastic "springs."  I love how they feel in my hands  as they give me great control.  BUTTTTTTT, the plastic springs were always either falling out or seemed to be on the verge of falling out.  This drove me absolutely crazy.  I found myself being tentative as I grasped any pair I had set down, fearing the spring would go flying.  I seemed to spend an inordinate ammount of time looking for and/or reattaching these springs.  So, I decided to use super glue to permanently attach the  springs to the pliers, and d- - - the consequences.  WOW! I can't believe how my chain-work has speeded up.  No worries -- no wasted time or motions.  Of course, I may have a problem down the road when the springs break in the middle, but I'll cross that bridge, etc.


We'll remember Irene

If my hand-forged + chainmaille  windchime had been out on the deck today, it would be blown to pieces by Hurricane Irene.  Although, as I write this, the sustained winds are only clocking in at around 20 mph, some gusts ARE being measured at 50 mph.  Fortunately, for the Raleigh area anyway, Irene dealt only a glancing blow to the North Carolina coast.   On the coast itself, however, some fishing piers,  including the one at Emerald Isle, fell  (ouch!) victim to the storm and are now in wrecked heaps in the shallows and on the beach.  

Here in Cary we're getting off pretty lightly, though I imagine that the out-of-town vendors who were already on the road yesterday when the LazyDaze show was cancelled (for first time in 35 years)  don't think so!   No way to reschedule, off course.  Bummer!