Hi friends! I will publish articles about the items I am currently working on at my desk.  I will discuss technical difficulties, any design obstacles, and my internal struggle.  I hope you enjoy the journey.

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I have a home studio, it is located in our living room, I share the space with my Fella and his computer desk, where he works.  My studio is split into two parts, ceramics and metalworking. I occupy the same space with all my tools and surface space. I sometimes have to shuffle things around to suit my needs at the time.  I have 2 small folding tables that I do most of my work at.  They are perfect for my current space, I can lower the legs so they are an even height with my potters wheel or raise them to a standard height.

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Currently on my desk I have an array of tools strewn about. Most of these tools I use working with metal. Whether it be hammering or filing silver to create bezels, prongs, earrings, and metal embellishments.   I have 5+ containers holding sorted ceramic parts for jewelry.

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One has bright orange spikes, another has parts for bracelets, another of my ceramic dishes has a smaller ceramic piece holding small sections of silver.

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The paper bowl has been a collector for my metal scraps for a few months now.  Its funny how objects are repurposed after a while, especially in my studio.  Similar to the black ceramic piece holding the silver wire [See Above]. The part has been designed to match parts out of metal.  I use a hydraulic die press with a plexiglass die.  This plexiglass die is ½ inch thick and I have cut a shape from the center.  When forming the metal, I layer the die, metal, rubber or polyurethane within the hydraulic press.  Apply pressure with the jack so the polyurethane pushes itself and the metal into the shape cut from the center of the die. Release the pressure, remove and separate the sandwiched layers.  The metal now has a pillowy effect, a soft shape protruding from the flat metal surrounding it.  It is beautiful.  I can then remove the excess material if desired, and the part can be used for its design.

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Getting back to this part in the bowl, holding the silver. It is made to compliment another form seen here http://www.mcphersonmetals.com/glowing-blue-pendant/ .  I am able to use the same die I used to make glowing blue, to make a new half.  I will use the metal and the ceramic halves to make a new pendant or brooch.

  • I could also leave the metal flat, and have the ceramic part more of the focus.
  • Do I want it to open?  If it is flat, I may have a technical solution already, needs testing.  I will have to make a new ceramic half.  
  • If I die form, I am not sure how it will open.  I will probably have to make a bezel for the ceramic piece to line up with the metal half.  Flat would be easier. But I love the bulbous form I am picturing in my head.
  • Should I even think about a patina or finishes at this moment?  YES!

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 I have many ceramic parts available to make Earrings, Necklaces, and brooches… Maybe a bracelet too.  I have a brooch that is made from cast silver seeds, silver tube, and silver wire. The seeds are able to move around and make a soft noise when they do. (Check out a short clip of this brooch at www.instagram.com/p/BL4IXcCBtK-/?taken-by=mcpherson_metals)

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I would like to create a similar piece with metal and ceramic, or ceramic and metal. It is a process. Many ideas.  One idea is using these small spikes to create this bracelet with them coming out from the wrist, moving and flopping around.  I would have 2 metal bangles, with 30+ matching small holes centered in the width.  I will add a wire, stringing the 2 bangles together and a ceramic spike between them. The wire may be silver, balled up on either end, or a rivet for stability.  This is a fun image for me to imagine, the pieces flopping around driven by your movement and gravity.  The downside of this design is the fragility of these porcelain parts. An innocent encounter with a solid object could break half the spikes in an instant.

  • Make them from something sustainable.
  • The bracelet may be bulky
  • Can uses less precarious shape of ceramic pieces
  • What materials should the bangles be made from?

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I use a small plumbers torch, it uses MAP fuel.  I was introduced to this torch while learning to torch fire enamels on copper.  I use it for more than Enamel.  I use this to anneal, soldier, and fuse metal. The downside is I cannot control the size of the flame or fuel pressure. It works for everything I need at the moment.  

I feel it is important to address tools and quality of tools. I work on folding tables, thrift store furniture, 90% my tools are used, and I have this small plumbers torch from Ace Hardware for $50.  I can say with absolute certainty that I would not be any more productive if all my tools were the newest, greatest, and the best.  I work with the equipment I have available, I make it work.  I went to a workshop where Helen Shirk presented. She made a wonderful point that has stuck with me. She said that after her son was born, she wanted to continue working with metal. She wanted it to be the safest possible environment for her to work around an infant/toddler/child. She got rid of her torch, pickle (acid used to clean metal), and enamels (inhalants).  She worked by forming metal by hand and with hammers, she used cold connections to attach parts together, and used surface treatments like Prismacolor.  

Find Helen Shirk at http://art.sdsu.edu/profiles/helen-shirk/

My point is that you work with what you have. You do not need a pottery wheel to make ceramics, or a torch to make jewelry. Although design and technical opportunities increase if you can use a specific tool. What I am saying is there is a balance, find what works for you (before you go out and buy a bunch of tools). For me, I would love to have a rolling mill. That isn’t going to happen for a while, I am currently saving up for other tools. If I had a rolling mill I could emboss metal, draw out wire, and create sheets.  I would be able to adjust sizes of the stock materials I already have.  One day, preferably when I stop renting and moving around.  So for now I work with what I have, and order the specific size stock that I need.

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I listen to audiobooks while I work. I do have a day job, and I am able to listen to books there as well. I use an app called overdrive, it links with your local libraries audiobooks, ebooks and video collection.  If you do not have a library card, get one.  I highly recommend libraries. I also recommend this app, I can seriously listen or read as many books as I want. I have two local libraries so I can access both collections, it is great. Did I mention it is a FREE service?!?!  It is great!

I am currently listening to Promote Yourself and Me 2.0 by Dan Schawbel. I have found it to be inspiring and slightly overwhelming.  He gives great advice on how to grow your brand, the brand of you and how to move up in the world.  I am using his advice to help me develop better skills to promote my artwork, and become a better advocate for my work.  I do not however care for the overwhelming sense of dread because I haven’t been doing all the things he is talking about.  Do this. Don’t forget that. You have to do this above all else. But don’t forget the big picture and remember all the little things. Ugh… You can hang in there if you are like me, and the message is important.  Dan Schawbel does a great job at explaining the importance of connections and how to build them.

 

Thank you for taking time today to read this. If you have any suggestions on the content please send me a message or comment below. I welcome advice and constructive criticism.

Have a beautiful day,

Samantha McPherson

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