Monday, April 30, 2012

Metal Clay Syringe Holder

Hi Metal Clay fans! I am Jennifer, a Metal Clay Head, and I will be bringing you reviews of metal clay tools and gadgets! 

I wanted to start with some of my favorite tools first. So I bring you Linda's Lid.

A fantastic tool for those of you who, like me, have to have several syringes available at all times. This particular tool was invented to keep your syringes moist and available by Linda Stiles Smith, a fantastic pioneer in the metal clay world.. I can't thank her enough.

I was turned on to this wonderful gadget by the woman who taught and certified me in ArtClay, Lisa Kwaske.

The cup holds up to 4 syringes at a time, so you can have all the available sizes handy. When not using all 4 holes, there are these little cork stoppers to prevent water evaporation. You fill the container with distilled water up to the bottom of the syringe tip, to keep your syringes from drying out.

The only con, that I can think of, is that if you do not use your syringes all the time, they can wick some water up into your syringes. This is easily remedied however, by pushing out said water into your slip jar until you start the flow of metal clay. 

Sold right on Etsy by Linda herself, this product is incredibly affordable at $15.95! You can also purchase this (and other fun tools) from Linda on her

Thank you and happy claying! More reviews coming soon.....

Stop by and see me on Etsy,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Inspiration, Imitation and Copying : Trends and the Evolution of a Personal Style.

This post will be part 1 of 2 parts

Part 1.....
Metal clay as a material has limitless possibilities for design and innovation, its only limitation seems to be its expense. I’ve seen so many gorgeous examples of work here on the internet that inspire me and that often leads to a flight of design ideas and new possibilities.  Why don’t those come to fruition?  I’m afraid to be accused of “copying”.  How can I use this wealth of inspiration I see here on the internet to develop a style that is truly my own.

I suspect I'm approaching the topic as an art historian might.

Early 20th century artists and craftspeople have shared skills and worked in smaller groups, guilds and geographical locations and, as such, they could train/imitate/copy and still keep one another accountable. Forgery was frowned upon and could get someone booted out of their "school", guild, or even lose their apprenticeship.

A totally ruined career unless you were:
a :) talented enough to get a bunch of others to defect with you or
b :) could afford to move to another country and set up shop.
Mass commercial enterprise and the "net" have totally changed the rules of the art and craft world.

Everything is fair game and people are trying to "copyright" age old processes and designs in order to make their mark.

A whole industry has evolved to share information and I contend that it leads to a kind of stagnancy when we come to developing our own creative processes and style. Pictures, published materials and experts running workshops set the trends. Seeing the beautiful work is inspiring and can give rise to new and innovative designs and material use. More often, I think, we flock like sheep to copy the latest trend.

I’m guilty!!!

I’ve wondered whether jumping on these trendy bandwagons might be really inhibiting my own evolution of a personal style.

Most alarming is the trend for big off shore manufacturers to "steal” and use imagery, usually that of a craftsperson who makes each item by hand, only then to reproduce inferior quality items to sell huge volumes of these items. That`s new. It makes us all throw up our hands and mutter, ”Why even bother?”  if someone’s just going to rip it off.

Is it wrong to copy or imitate?.... and how is it fair that someone can take “your” idea and execute it, promote it and sometimes become much more successful than you were?

These quotes about imitation are cliché but they underline the fact that this issue has been around for a long time:

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning.”
― George Bernard Shaw

“Parrots mimic their owners. Their owners consider that a sign of intelligence.”
― Marty Rubin

Our inspirations are the sum of our parts, our physical and genetic makeup, where we live and where we have traveled; how we view the world and its beauty, its underbelly and all the wonderful natural idiosyncrasies. Originality is the stock and trade of most artists.  Some artistic visions are truly revolutionary, many are original but few exist without studying or at least having been exposed to other artists’ work.  It’s a pretty difficult pill to swallow when you’ve worked really hard to evolve a particular design and technique, perfect it and then see that same design mass produced or replicated.  With the advent of internet selling the problem becomes exponential. So many artists scrambling to have their work rank high on the almighty Google search criterion.

Ideas and trends evolve via inspiration, imitation, and sometimes outright copying. I think in the fashion industry it is somewhat expected.  There are thousands of books, CD’s, tutorials, and
industry publications.  Being published and selling one’s methods is often a big or bigger money generator than selling one’s creations.  We should not be surprised when people copy our work when the environment that surrounds us has a business model that promotes and encourages this.  Trends are highlighted, hot selling items and people are “featured”, magazines encourage DIY and expect artists to publish their process.

Historically, artists considered imitation to be a sign of respect.  I suspect many of those who teach and publish books subscribe to this view of imitation.  I think learning is really important.  One of the people I most admire is my grandmother, known for her fabulous recipes and baking; her motto was, “I’ll tell you the basics, and how hot the oven has to be but the rest you have to figure out on your own”.
She was an inspiration. No tutorials, just her voice in my memory and her handwriting in the margins of cookbooks I inherited.  I’ll never make cakes that look or taste the same as hers did, but she inspired me to learn.

Here are a few web based perspectives on this issue:

I’m hoping this is enough info for us to have a bit of a discussion and entertain any comments on the subject then move to the next part in this series that will focus on where we can “find” inspiration and innovative creative processes.


Visit Kathy on etsy at MostlySilver and MostlyStoneware

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Sometimes my mind is overflowing with ideas while other times I struggle for inspiration when planning a new piece. Lately it has been the latter for me. I usually make pieces based on natural elements like leaves and flowers, but that has not appealed to as much lately.

I have been drawn to abstract designs, geometric patterns and ornate textures, especially from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I have always been fascinated with both Art Nouveau and Art Deco and I have hit a gold mine lately.

First, I purchased some antique buttons and then a customer gave me a whole tin of buttons she inherited from her grandmother and great grandmother so that I could make molds of them. As I began making the molds, the ideas started to flow. I am not an expert at buttons so I don't know the ages but I am pretty sure some of the styles date back to the 1800s. After getting these, I decided to start a new line based on these buttons and other designs and patterns of the time.

Some of the buttons I bought and received from my customer as well as the molds I made with them.

Rings I have made with some of the buttons I bought.
And I have hit the jackpot again. In January I began working as an administrative assistant at a small museum that is a historical home in our town. The home was built in the early 1800s and has much of the original furnishings and belongings of the family.

The house is closed in the winter and we are now cleaning and getting it ready for opening in May. I am privileged to be in close contact with these pieces. Some of the furniture is exquisite. The detail that went into the making of this house and its furnishings is amazing. There are even samplers on the walls embroidered by the girls who lived there.

So while I have been helping out with the cleaning, I have kept my camera in my pocket and have taken pictures of interesting textures and designs. Pretty much anything that caught my eye. The textures and designs are just too good not to share. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Detail on a picture frame in the administrative section of the house. I walk by this every day and I don't get tired of seeing it.

A wrought iron heating grate upstairs in the museum.

Detail on a mirror in one of the bedrooms.

Fabric on a three panel screen/room divider.

Detail of a beadspread.

I can't wait to see what else there is as we continue through the house.