Artist Project Series- Kathy Van Kleeck

Strata Ring by Kathy Van Kleeck is presented by Cool Tools and is part of a special series of projects designed by metal clay master jewellery makers.  Kathy’s unique style and openness about her process is as refreshing as her jewellery.

(Note: click on images to enlarge)

The inspiration for this ring was born out of my curiosity about how thin I could work with the new EZ960® Sterling Silver Clay and still maintain structural integrity.  Favorite themes in my work are repetition of form and layering of elements.  The image of stratified layers came to mind and creating this effect in rings seemed like a good place to start.

I started off making what I call “washer” rings, thin and flat, but with my signature “wonky and weathered” edges.

Wearing a loose stack of the new “strata” rings worked just fine, but as a project to share seemed a bit lackluster.  The idea of joining the rings via rivets, one small to stabilize the stack and one large to secure the group, seemed like it would be visually compelling, not to mention good fun.

Tools and materials needed:
– 25grams of EZ960® Sterling Silver Clay; use some clay to make a small amount of slip
– basic metal clay tools: craft knife, needle tool, spacer cards, roller, sanding paper or salon board
– hole punch tool
– disc template
– ring sizers
– brass brush
– hammers: ball peen (small and large if you have it) and planishing or riveting, leather mallet
– needle files
– jewelers saw
– sterling silver tubing
– tube cutting gizmo (optional, but handy)
– center punch or small dapping tool
– steel bench block
– ring mandrel
– liver of sulfur

Before diving in, decide on a size for your finished ring.  There’s a couple of things to consider, shrinkage of the clay and the thickness of the inner core rivet.  The inside of the core rivet will be the finished size.

1. For this ring, I’m aiming to have a finished size 6 ring and am starting off at a size 13 (sounds crazy, right?), internal diameter is 13/16” or 21mm on my template.
I weigh out 4 different size balls of EZ960 as I want each layer to be a bit different.  I have four pieces, starting at 5 grams, going up to 5.8 grams.
2. Before rolling out the clay, I like to let each piece dry a bit, yielding more irregular, less perfect, edges.

3. Roll out the rings at 3 cards thick.
4. Use the template to make sure you’ve got about a 1/8” or 3mm edge for the ring shank and enough depth at the top for the small stabilizing rivet.

5. Using your knife, cut out the center of the ring.  Gently clean up the inside edge and set aside.  Make three more rings with the same shank dimensions, but varying tops.  This will give the finished ring the stratified look we’re aiming for.
6. Allow the rings to stiffen up just a bit.  After the rings are more stable, align the shanks and stack the rings in a visually interesting order.

7. Lay down the stack on your work surface and decide where you’d like to place the small stabilizing rivet.  Remember to place the small rivet above where the core rivet will be and not compromise the edges.  I chose top right.  Push your needle tool through all the layers to mark where to cut the rivet holes.
Separate the rings and punch out the hole for the rivet.
(Image) My little hole punch tool is a sterling tube crimp bead stuck on the end of a bamboo skewer.

I punch out holes while the clay is still somewhat damp, allowing me to smear the edges for a more organic look.

When the rings are fully dry, clean up any rough edges and then fire according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The rings may have wafted up a bit during firing.  If so, stack them together and gently flatten with a leather mallet on a steel bench block – don’t want to wipe out any of those nice “crunchy” details!

8. Use a brass brush or fine sand paper to lightly polish the surface of the rings.  I chose to patina and lightly polish the rings at this stage, but it can wait until the piece is completed.

9. Aligning the rivet holes, assemble the rings into a nice stratified order.  Slide the sterling tube into the holes, using a bead reamer to refine or widen the openings if needed.  Make sure the tube fits snugly in the holes.

10. Extend the edges just past the openings and mark the length with a fine Sharpie.  Use a jeweler’s saw and tube cutting gizmo to cut the sterling tube.

Clean up the sawn edges of the tube with the bead reamer and file or salon board.

11. To set the rivet, use a center punch or small dapping tool to roll around each inside edge, flipping the stack, gently stretching one side, then the other.  Go back and forth several times.  Once the tube has been flanged out and stays in place, with a small rivet or ball peen hammer, start widening the opening a bit more.  Back and forth and gentle hammering is key.  When the edges are nicely flanged, begin flattening the edges with your hammer.  Again, flipping the stack back and forth, gently flanging out the rivet until it’s flat and even on both sides.

12. With the rings secured, measure the depth of the stack to determine how wide to make the core.  Remember to account for shrinkage and that the core has to fit inside the ring stack.  My ring stack is about 3/8” deep, so I’m going to make my core ¼” wide.

13. There’s a variety of ways to make the core. I highly recommend using some form of ring sizer. I’m lucky enough to have the old ceramic ring sizers which are super easy to use.  Cool Tools sells ring sizer pellets and molds which are equally handy.  You can also go back to your plastic template to estimate the size.

Remember that the core needs to fit snugly inside the ring stack.

14. I use a size 8 form to make my core. Make a size guide with a strip of paper.  Roll out and texture a 2 card thin strip of EZ960; the width should be what is needed for the core and long enough to get a slight overlap when wrapped around the ring form.

15. For forming, wrap the textured strip around a larger (forming) ring core with a paper overlay, overlapping the ends, textured side in.  Make a diagonal cut through the strip, then score and slip to join the two edges together.

Set aside to dry, then refine the seam and edges if needed.  Before firing, be sure to look for any small cracks and repair with thick slip or clay as needed.

16. Place the inner ring on the desired finished size (sz 6) ring core and fire.

After firing, use a brass brush or fine sand paper to lightly polish the fired core.


17. Slide the core into the ring stack.  You may need to do a bit of refining with files or a salon board to fit the core snuggly into the stack.

The core should extend about 1mm on each side of the stack.

To secure the core, use the largest ball peen hammer or a larger dapping tool and very gently begin to flange out the core.  Go back and forth between the two sides, carefully hammering out the edge of the core, keeping the core centered in the ring stack.  Keep working back and forth until the edge is flat on both sides.

18. If needed, file the edges of the core to be a bit more flush with the ring stack.

19. Patina with liver of sulfur and finish by polishing with fine sand paper.

For a more complex design, consider making additional layers with resin.

Caveats and side notes on creating the Strata ring:
One of my questions about working with the new EZ960 was whether it would lend itself to forging and using as the core rivet in my design.  Turns out, it has similar forging limits to other versions of metal clay.
My first ring design had a much wider core with a more irregular “wafting” edge.  This core was also a bit thicker.  As I gently hammered to flange out the core, it began to split and crack.  The core had shifted as well and wasn’t evenly set on both sides.

Always being one to look at errors as opportunities, I kept working on the core.  I got the edges flat and then filed down all the snaggy bits.

I also seriously underestimated the starting size for the ring and ended up with a size 4 ½ instead of the size 6.  But that’s what test pieces are all about!

I love the look of this piece as it very much fits my urban primitive aesthetic, but decided as a teaching project I would make another, more traditional looking ring.

For the second attempt, I corrected the sizing and also made the core thinner. Everything seemed to be working as planned.  But as I was flanging out the inner core, a couple of cracks began to show.  I filed down the edges and continued to hammer only to realize one of the outer rings had cracked.  It must have happened before firing without my noticing as I’m sure the core setting process wouldn’t have caused the crack.

Undeterred, I once again chose to look at my error as an opportunity.  I pulled out my super thick PMC3 lavender slip paste and filled in the crack in the ring and also the small cracks along the edge of the core.  I fired the repairs at a lower temp of 1200F for 1 hour so as not to damage the sterling silver tube rivet.  I had to do two rounds of “spackling” and firing to fill the gap, but I’m quite pleased with the results.

So when a project doesn’t quite go the way I originally planned, I don’t despair amid the lemons.  I see those lemons as pure potential to make something more interesting … like lemon chiffon pie or lemon mousse or lemon custard!

About the Artist:

Above all else, I am a maker … my life’s passion, my raison d’être.  Supporting and defining that passion is my craving for simplicity, simplicity and finely crafted wares created with equally fine ingredients.  From my home and its décor, my clothing and shoes, to the food I eat and the dishes and glassware on which it is served, in all things, lovingly wrought simplicity.

So, it’s really no surprise that my jewelry and design philosophy is an extension of that craving.  While pondering all of this, and being the visually oriented person that I am, I began to think of my design philosophy as a house constructed by a trio of inspirations.  There is a solid foundation of “God is in the details,” thank you, Mies van der Rohe, with walls informed by Occam’s Razor (I paraphrase) “the simplest answer is usually the best answer”, all under an exquisitely imperfect wabi-sabi roof.

A beautiful structure that translates into jewelry and accessories that are free of superfluous details, grounded in a rugged simplicity, comfortable, effortless.

I started making jewelry in 1994 and through the years I’ve assimilated a diverse range of influences and interests into a distinctive jewelry style that I call Urban Primitive. I’m primarily self-taught via lots of how-to books and seem to have a gift for design and composition.  For close to 20 years, my primary medium has been fine silver PMC.  I began working with the original PMC in 1998 and it was love at first touch.  My favorite thing about metal clay is how I can form each component by hand, pinching and nudging shapes, smearing and rolling edges.  My fingerprints are visible in each piece, quite literally, the hand of the maker.  In the last few years I’ve added bronze and steel metal clays to the work.  Now I’m thrilled to add EZ960.  It promises to be an exceptional addition to my maker’s tool box. 

Kathy Van Kleeck, designer / maker

INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION IN FRANCE: Metal Clay

At an invitational gallery show in France, Metal Clay jewellery by seventeen international artists is featured until June 11th. The show is the dream project for artist Angela Baduel-Crispin.  PÔLE BIJOU GALERIE in Baccarat, France will display the works for the next four months. Are you unable to travel to France to see the show?  We have a virtual tour of the show. The artists’ pieces and information is organized by country.

This exhibition is the first of its kind. It focuses on giving visibility to both this relatively new material and to artists of international renown who have pushed metal clay to it’s highest potential! Seventeen international artists (all women) each with her own their different styles and techniques. 70% of the work in the show is jewelry and the other 30% or so is composed of objects in metal clay. We were very thankful that number of artists were invited and submitted their work for the show. Selection was strongly based on originality of the work and technical proficiency.

The show started on January 16th and runs until the 11th of June. The official opening was on February 9th.

AUSTRALIA
Kim Booklass –  www.facebook.com/KimBooklassWearableArt

Tribal Warrior Woman symbolizes Every woman, at once simple and complex, guarded and protective, secure and vulnerable, functional and decorative. She stands strong, fights fiercely for her own, opens herself with love, enfolds all into her armour for both defense and nurture. Her chains are not only the ties that bind but also the connections between women around the world. Made from the very earth of Australia, Warrior Woman is accompanied by Wolf, a symbol of her visionary creator, loyal yet fierce protector/companion giving both strength and worldly knowledge.

Like every woman, Warrior Woman gives pieces of herself to nurture and enhance others, remaining whole in and of herself. Appearing to be nothing more than a statue, her armour is symbolic and trans-formative, revealing interconnected pieces of exquisite jewellery. Functional and decorative pieces include her arm guards becoming earrings; her shield, a stick pin; the bow and arrow across her back, a bracelet.

Warrior Woman was sculpted completely by hand from Aussie Metal Clay. Unlike traditional metalwork in which precise measurements remain true, metal clays shrink varying amounts during both drying and firing stages. Using five colours in two different firing temperature ranges, Kim combined beauty and functionality, seamlessly fitting the jewellery pieces, while accounting for the differences in shrinkage, malleability, and strength of the two High Fire colours of the armour and three Medium Fire colours of the body, the like types fired together. During her creation, Kim also perfected a unique metal clay glue enabling finer, more delicate pieces to be invisibly affixed.

Kim, a lifelong Australian, has been a renowned designer of dog jewellery and accessories for many years. She pioneered personalized pet sculptures using traditional metal casting techniques. A new world unfolded when introduced to metal clay. “Knowing No Boundaries” Kim’s motto, encourages her to be an innovator in metal clay. Warrior Woman’s inspiration appeared as both form and symbolism in a dream, with a personal message about life’s battles. Kim relates, “Sculpting Warrior Woman pushed me to areas I had not ventured before. She helped make me into the sculptor I am today, and for that I am forever thankful to her.”

CANADA
Suzanne McNenly –  http://suemcnenly.com

From studying economics to 20 years in the investment industry to full-time artist… “If something is holding you back from taking such a major step, start small. Work at night…weekends….whenever. Never think you can’t become what you wish to be. Find a way”.

“My love of small, detailed pieces was fueled as a child upon my first visit to that marvel of miniature engineering, the Queen’s Dollhouse at Windsor Castle. Tiny masterpieces have always tugged at my heartstrings. My homemade Barbie house was to die for, but I’m thankful my experiments with homemade braces never took off!

What began 14 years ago at an evening sculpture class at Alberta College of Art and Design quickly turned into a desire to become a full time maker. My introduction to silver metal clay a few years later allowed me to make smaller, more detailed pieces that may have been impossible using traditional fabrication techniques.

Although I have, for the most part returned to those traditional methods, I view my metal clay skills as a very valuable tool in my box.”

Vignettes are the art forms that make up most of my work. They immortalize cherished and wacky moments of my childhood……the wonky hair-do on picture day…wearing flippers around the house…learning to tie shoe- laces in the great century before velcro.

Sheep : « Let these sweet, charming ewe fly into your heart with their precious silver wings and whimsical expressions. Tiny treasures are hand sculpted from sterling silver, with round felted wool bodies. They are lovely alone, or gathered in a herd“

FRANCE
Angela Baduel Crispinhttp://www.angelacrispin.com/index.php/fr/

Angela Crispin was born in Sao Paulo to a Brazilian mother and an American father and grew up alternately between Brazil and Hawaii. In 1987 she flew to Paris to complete her studies in political science and chose to remain in France after graduation. She then decided to give her professional life a new direction devoting herself exclusively to her vocation: jewelry making and design.

She trained in Paris at BJO Formation and further trained in jewelry making and enamel at the LEI Nicolas Flamel in Paris. Thereafter, she followed several courses and certifications by Metal Clay specialists in the United States. Angela Crispin is constantly interested in new materials and new techniques.
Her work is in perpetual change and renewal, combining traditional and innovative techniques in the use of different metals that she occasionally combines with a wide range of materials such as resin, leather, Faux BoneTM, or with objects of everyday life and other natural elements. She is an internationally recognized metal clay specialist. Her work as maker/designer and Artisan of the Arts (« Artisan d’Art ») is recognized by the competent bodies in France, namely the Chamber of Trade (Chambre de Métiers) and the Ateliers d’Art de France, as well as in the USA by the PMC Guild, PMC and Art Clay World Connection, and in Europe by Art Clay Europe.

She draws inspiration from her philosophy of life, based on multicultural influences, which leads to constantly observing her surroundings to develop an inner knowledge of self and further build relationships with the world. She captures both physical and symbolic elements, from natural or man, which she then makes her own, combining them in order to reconstruct a personal and worldly representation through the original contact with the material in a contemporary interpretation.

The creative process sparks from an inner vision. Then, guided by instinct, the piece emerges, evolves and takes shape in her mind, until her hands take over to give it life in the appropriate material for the imagined object. Sometimes, on the other hand, it is a found object or a trivial subject that inspires her to imagine it out of context and beyond its original purpose and destination.

Armelle Burbaudhttps://www.facebook.com/Armelle-Bronze-Metal-clay- 655457871163459/?pnref=lhc

“I discovered metal clay in 2012 and immediately developed a passion for it. It is an amazing material, flexible, sprinkled with ribs and extraordinarily malleable. It is ideal to fulfill any whim of your imagination for modeling, sculpture and volumes. I like bronze for its color and also because it demands special techniques to design and bake it. I do not use much silver in my work, mainly because of its high price. My interest in technical matters quickly led me to create three dimensional objects such as boxes. L’Envol is the second one I made. I received an award for it from Metal Clay Artist Magazine in 2014. It is the creation I am most proud of, probably because, at the time, I made it in materially difficult conditions.

I have often used clay, making series of little balls or settings made with an extruder, which helps to create thin and regular wires just like in l’Envol. Then, I started to sculpt and carve clay with gouges or a scalpel. Sculpture has been like a revelation for me and has constituted a new step in my work. I made L’Eveil following a model I had imagined.
I conclude by saying that I like to model and sculpt birds whose wings make it possible to create beautiful movements. After the peacock, I am currently working on other series like songbirds or fantastic birds. ”

NETHERLANDS
Noortje Meijerink
–  www.noortjemeijerink.nl

Noortje Meijerink mix porcelain and Metal Clay (silver/bronze/copper) to obtain graceful objects . She’s living and working in Netherlands.

”Birds in all their freedom, gracefully gliding through the sky or proudly strutting on the ground. To capture those motions is my challenge.”

“As a ceramist I fell in love with porcelain. I prefer the craftsmanship of the throwing wheel and the precision of the sgraffito technique. Thrown porcelain pots are covered with a black engobe in which geometrical shapes or birds are scratched. After graduating in silver clay in the United States in 2003, some of the birds on my pots receive a silver wing. The combining of these two forms of “clay” is a technical challenge that’s more than worth the effort. The result is a graceful combination of matte black, bright white porcelain and lustrously shining silver. Currently my birds are becoming more and more figurative. The hand-formed porcelain bodies and heads are getting tails, necks and legs made of bronze clay or copper clay. The rich yellow hue of the bronze or the warm red of copper lends themselves perfectly to complete my proud porcelain birds.”

“Oh, to be a bird; fragile yet firm…”

Helga Van Leipsig –  www.laleipsigjewels.com

Helga Van Leipsig graduate a Bachelor “Art – Jewellery Design” on Maastricht Fine Art Academy. Then she work around 10 years as grafical designer for several company’s, before create her own business (grafical and jewellery work) in 2004. She live and work in Netherlands.
She present “Earth Collection”.

“Because of my traditional metalworking skills, I come to metal clay with the question, “What can I accomplish with metal clay that I can’t achieve with conventional techniques?”
All metal clays include moisture and some form of binder in their fresh or raw state. Because these are removed in the firing process, it follows that all forms of metal clay shrink during the sintering process. This makes it possible to incorporate elements such as other metal alloys or stones that can withstand the firing temperatures.

I have taken advantage of the fact that metal clay shrinks during the sintering to create my Earth collection. By pushing silver squares in the wet clay I mimic the furrows and ridges of a ploughed field. The back of the jewellery pieces show the shrinkage pattern after firing.
A ploughed field is soil turned around. It ensures the circulation of nutrients and aeration. Earth needs oxygen and water for the seeds to grow. The furrows and ridges that are created while ploughing form striking perspectives. We often only touch the surface. To go deeper we have to work actively to enhance our knowledge and handling skills. Repetition is key.

In the re-creation of small areas of my rural environment I discovered my language that evolves into powerful, meaningful jewellery. It are combinations of strong textures and stylized shapes. The textures are created by actively working with the clay, so fields, spaces and areas are brought into existence.
Then, they erode again, in the ever evolving landscapes.”

UNITED KINDOM
Joy Funnell –  www.joyfunnell.co.uk

Joy Funnell originally trained as a Graphic Designer and worked as a self employed graphic designer from 1981 until 1985. She began jewellery making as a hobby in 1985 working with silver wire, silver sheet and enamel. In 2006 she qualified as a Senior Art Clay Instructor and since started is own jewellery business. In 2009, she was made a Craftsman of The Guild of Enamellers and was the first person to be awarded this status by submitting all six pieces made using silver clay and enamel.

“I love colours and I love textures. These two things inspire most of my work. To see a rainbow will always bring a smile to my face. I try to be – Joy by name and Joyful by nature.
I work mostly in silver clay and I absolutely love it !
To add colour to my work I often set stones and enamel pieces. Enamelling allows me to add colour and depth to my work, and for eye catching sparkle I use small stones which are fired in place. These are laboratory grown stones and czs which are able to withstand the high temperatures of firing the silver. Some of my pieces are also set with beautiful natural stones after the firing process.

Enamelling is an art which is centuries old. Powdered glass is fused onto precious metals at high temperatures in the kiln to create a durable coloured finish. I use transparent enamels in my jewellery so the silver can shine through the rich colours. I have developed my own technique – Enamelled Accents – where jewel like colours are captured by fine silver wires on the surface of a piece to give a freestanding cloisonné effect.

By using silver clay and then enamelling it I make original jewellery which is unlike commercial high street jewellery. Mostly I create one-of-a-kind work – unique pieces for unique people. By exhibiting my work I can reach a wider discerning audience and I always hope my work will bring a smile to the faces of viewers.”

Tracey Spurgin –  www.craftworx.co.uk

Tracey trained in fashion design and textiles, working in the industry for a short time. She was always explor- ing new creative skills and techniques. She then moved onto teaching various arts and crafts in adult learning through colleges when life’s journey brought her to discover metal clay. She knew instantly this would be her devoted joy and passion!

As director, principal artist and tutor of Craftworx Studio Jewellery School in the UK, Tracey carefully and effi- ciently manages her time to promote her own studio, courses and workshops. She writes articles for jewellery magazines and works as a demonstrator for a major craft exhibition company.

“ My inspirations have come from many sources… my grandmothers “button box” which is where it all started, a curiosity for trying new things, a collection of random objects, travel from holidays where I enjoy taking pic- tures of interesting architecture, a love of the arts and crafts movement. These things together with the sur- rounding of where I live in the beautiful idyllic setting of the Yorkshire Wolds, where my studio is set on a farm – these all play a role to drive me forward.”

“So my passion is the share the wonders of working with this amazing material. I love to push the boundies of working with this material so the concept of attempting engineering in clay fascinated me, I adore creating hinged boxed and lockets in metal clay. These pieces were inspired by the architecture of a local Minster. The shape, the form and ornamentation where all details I observed on a trip around the Church.”

UNITED STATES
Barbara Becker Simonwww.bbsimon.com

Barbara Becker Simon studied Art in State University of New York at New Paltz, and then Metal and Silversmithing in University of Wisconsin at Madison, and completed her training through a variety of differents workshops (Arc and Gas Welding, Glassblowing, Lampworking, Custom Knifemaking…)
She present two necklace : Polygons and Linked.

Polygons was inspired by the shapes of the stone beads and their surface patterns. “I wanted to use metal clay beads that were compatible and had interesting contrast. The stainless steel cable adds another wonderful texture to the design and contributes to the comfort of wearing this piece. Most of the beads were constructed with dried, textured metal clay sheet in a variety of images and patterns. The sides of the angular beads were cut out and mitered before connecting them together which results in clean joints and allows the various textures on the boxes to flow visually flow into one another”

Linked was inspired by its own specific technical needs. Making hollow forms and interlocking them using metal clay is a thousand times easier in metal clay than using traditional metalworking techniques. “These hollow forms are complex to construct but result in an unusual form. The contrast between the hard-edged metal elements and the luxurious, organic quality of the pearls is very intriguing”

And the four bronze bangles, 4 Spirals/4 Triangles, Mountain Peaks, Little Details and Walk in the Woods were influenced by African motifs (Moroccan, ancient Benin civilization).” To made them, I roll out a thick piece of clay, cut out the inside circle, cut out the outside shape and let it dry. The sides and edges are sanded smooth and using carving V-shaped gouges, I incise the all-over patterns on the bracelet. It gets fired in a kiln and finished with a patina and soft shine. The surface and edges of these bangle bracelets will get more beautiful the more they are worn.”

Pam East –  www.pameast.net

Pam East is an internationally known artist, writer and teacher. Her work and instructional articles have appeared in many magazines. Her book “Enameling on Metal Clay” is considered the definitive resource for enameling on silver clay.

“My passion is combining metal clay and enamels, and igniting that passion in others. For me, the definition of the creative process is bringing rich, vibrant color to metal work and expressing different moods, feelings or visual impact through color. I began enameling on copper in 1997. In 2003 I was introduced to metal clay and was immediately captivated by the creative possibilities it represented. Metal clay is the perfect medium for enamels. With each new piece I create, I am always striving to take it farther, to push it to the next level, interlacing color and metal in new and unexpected ways. Over the years I’ve developed a wide variety of techniques to bring it all together. My latest work is a fusion of champlevé & cloisonné and Mokume Gane which is a mix of copper and silver producing woodgrain patterns.The addition of enamels to an already complex process has been as challenging as it is rewarding.. ”

Lora Hartwww.lorahart.com

She has been working with metal clay since the year 2000, and is a Senior Instructor and the Artistic Advisor for PMC Connection (PMCC). PMCC is one of the two importers of Precious Metal Clay brand metal clay in the United States.
Prior to 2000, Lora was a make-up artist working in Los Angeles, California.

“My little studio is an always changing cabinet of curiosity, populated by found objects, architectural photographs, and little containers filled with colorful gems, antique buttons and otherwise forgotten objects that help spark my creative imagination.
A long held fascination for historical decoration and architectural detail can be seen echoed in my designs. Softly glowing silver, bronze and gold gilt vessels and jewelry are warmed by velvety patinas and beautiful gemstones. Complex forms are assembled from individually hand formed elements before being finished with the delicate details that make each piece unique.

Vintage photographs may be set beneath high domed quartz to accentuate the fact that perception is often distorted when one doesn’t look at the whole picture. Tiny reliquaries and scent bottles remind us that hidden content is sometimes more intriguing than visible context.
A combination of lusciously malleable metal clay and traditional metalsmithing techniques come together to construct whatever contours my designs demand. Each piece is patinated and polished to accentuate its specific features.”

Kim Nogueirawww.kimnogueira.com

Kim Nogueira is an automaton maker and award-winning jeweler who learned the goldsmithing trade on the job as a production goldsmith and has taken intensive workshops with reknowned American enamelists and metalsmiths. She is based on the tiny island of St John, in the US Virgin Islands. She combines the mechanics and wearer intereaction of automata with the narrative power of text, found objects and three dimensional figures to create multi-dimensional stories in metal.

“Employing the traditional fabrication techniques of the goldsmith and enamelist in combination with the contemporary metalsmithing innovation of metal clay, I construct complex narratives in metal that speak to the curiosities, challenges and marvels of our time. By incorporating movement and wearer interaction with tiny automata that are activated by turning a crank, I hope to explore and keep alive the enigma that is childhood wonder as well as draw attention to the marvels of our everyday life and the preciousness of the extraordinary journey that we are all on together.

For about a decade I have collected early to mid-twentieth century vending machine toys and gumball charms, Stanhope peep charms, antique mechanical toys and lilliputian Victorian curiousities. These inspire me, and I also work directly with these diminutive oddments, making molds of them for use in my work, deconstructing them to make the mechanical figures and details in my wearable automata using the innovative material metal clay. I manipulate these to form my own narrative, integrating universal themes in tandem with the questions of my own heart.

For me, creation is intangible and magical, with a mystical element.The possibilities are infinite and manifested often, though not always, in material form. I focus on the mystical, unseen and enchanting aspects of creation in my work.”

Donna Penoyerwww.donnapenoyer.com

Donna Penoyer graduate as Certified Artisan on PMC certification program, and take part in several Art workshops on other techniques (metalsmithing, keum-boo, enameling, mixed media, etc.). Before that she study creative writing (poetry) and English literature.

“Metaphor gives us poetic, psychological, mythological, and metaphysical ways of looking at the world. I am interested in exploring metaphors and narratives that help me understand how one small story can be connected to an entire history of a planet, and that give me intuitive ways to navigate through time. Navigation and tools for staying afloat are themes in many of my pieces. The boat has become one metaphor for balance while moving forward, groundedness during surrender to the current, and the subtle work and constant adjustment required to produce a seemingly effortless glide. Dichotomies like these fascinate me, as they are charged with a practical but also emotional tension—like the strings that give a violin its beautiful sound, or the anchors that keep a tent from succumbing to the wind.

My whistle sculptures often elicit the response, “How useful these must be on a dark night when you are walking alone.” I don’t think they would be much literal protection, though I am always open to metaphorical possibilities. I have purposefully omitted the “pea” that would make my whistles sound shrill and discordant. They are more about pleasure and surprise than alarm and danger. Blowing and hearing a joyful whistle are interactive acts that keep me fully present, which is the best way I know to navigate through my life.”

Liz Sabolhttp://www.beadlizzy.com/BL/index.html

Liz Sabol studied Chemical Engineering and Art & Design in West Virginia University. She continued her education at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in Communication Arts & Illustration.
Though a relative newcomer to the jewelry world, she is a veteran in design and graphic arts. The eldest of seven children, Liz grew up on a dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania where she cultivated a lifelong love of nature, art and design. She nurtured that sensibility through the study of concert piano, chemical engineering, fine art, design, and technology. After a successful 25-year career in branding and corporate marketing, she found herself restless and sought new ways to express her artistic vision. In 2011, she experimented with intricate bead work, transitioned to the hypnotic experience of lampworking glass, and then began an exploration into metal in 2013. That journey led to a discovery and harmony she has achieved with a combination of technology and her signature organic forms. Inspired by fairy tales, fantasy and mysticism, each Champlevé piece is hand-painted and protected by resin, and hints at her love of oil painting. By combining metal with media and techniques not traditionally used in jewelry, Liz brings a different and unique perspective to metal.

PÔLE BIJOU STUDENTS

Pôle Bijou is also a training center in which you can learn several techniques (traditional metalsmithing, wax work, creativity … and also METAL CLAY). Metal Clay classes began 5 years before, and some of our students are now in their own journey … We are so please to show you some of their research

Elisabeth Le Dantec Munoz
Elisabeth was born in Lyon in 1970, she grew up in a family of Spanish immigrants and began studying foreign languages, and decided to continue her education in the university of Madrid. Back in France, she devoted fully (or focused) on raising her children.
Lisa had been interested in plastic arts for a long time when she started, by chance creating jewelry. Wishing to learn more techniques, she attended several courses in jewelry making. In this constant research for new techniques, she discovered metal clay, which was an epiphany to her, “pure creation”, “multiplication of possibilities”.
Those courses will take her to Brittany, Baccarat, through Paris. She will have the opportunity of being trained by major names in the sector of metal clay, Angela Baduel-Crispin, with whom she starts learning this new technique, and then she’ll attend the workshops of Hadar Jacobson and Holy Gage, in France.
In order to combine this particular technique with traditional jewelry techniques, she will attend a course at the Tanné School of jewelry. She obtained an official qualification from Art Clay, and continues to explore the techniques in metal clay, a product constantly evolving.
To her, the technique mastery of the material opens limitless possibilities for creation. It is also the satisfaction of creating something from beginning to end. From clay, sometimes a powder that you mix, knead, shape, carve, you get the object that you had imagined.

Evelyne Thiery www.evelynethiery.com

Evelyne Thiery lives and works in Épinal (Vosges).
A course of self taught, supplemented by various training courses as and when and according to his needs and research (natural paintings, plastered Earth Chaux, techniques of jewelry ) and of course formations around metallic clay. She likes to approach the jewerly in a shifted way, not only according to her appearance. Aesthetics, but also by basing its manufacture on the use of unusual materials, precious or not…

She will present two collections:

-Plic Ploc, representation of the impact of a drop of water striking the surface of the water and the propagation of the wave that follows….The oxidation of the texture underlines the variations that the liquid undergoes.

-Pearl of water, depiction of the morning dew in equilibrium on reliefs. The dew clumps to form the ultimate drop….

With thanks to Angela Baduel-Crispin and PÔLE BIJOU GALERIE for sharing information and images about the show.

“Can I make a living doing this?” by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

A few months ago we ran a survey for our readers and there was a reoccurring question about whether one could make a living being a jewellery artist.  Some people asked specific questions wanting me to talk to a certain artist and find out what they made in sales vs how much they spent on materials.  Other readers were not as specific but there was an overall hope that there was some magic path to follow to full-time employment at a jewellery artist.

The answer to the question is, Yes, you can make a living as a jewellery designer.  But be careful how you define living!  Many people have a vision that a full time jewellery artist designs jewellery and people buy it.  But the path is more complicated than that.

Being self-employed is tricky as you wear many hats.  Artists have to be able to handle marketing, business accounting, sales, shipping and receiving, customer service, inventory control, as well as design and manufacturing of your jewellery. When your desire is to create, stopping to look after marketing and accounting seems like it is taking you away from what you love.  But it is those exact things that are keeping you working in your studio!

A jewellery artist needs to be able to self-promote on social media and have a web-site to show off their portfolios of work. Networking events are opportunities to meet new collectors and to show off your work. I personally find this part hard.  I’ve worked for years promoting other artists, but always fall short when showing and talking about my own work.

But, all that said, many artists ALSO have jobs outside of their studio.  Many work freelance jobs, taking on teaching and some have full-time employment. Most artists need to be good at budgeting as self-employed artists do not have pensions, medical plans or sick leave.

Another thing about being a self-employed artist–there is no time off.  It is hard to balance home life and work life.  I try to take advantage of blocks of time and get a task done from my to-do list. I keep a notebook and write down items as they come up. (I know there are fancy apps you can use on your phone.) I’m hoping I’m more productive by knocking off something from my to-do list here and therefore creating time off to be with my family.  But shutting off the list and being present is something I’m working on!

In conclusion, yes, you can make a living as a jewellery artist just don’t lose sight of making a life while you make a living.

Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in rural Ontario.  She walks the fine line being making a life and making a living–trying to balance life as an artist and a mother.  Currently she is working on a new line of jewellery using metal clay and mixed media. To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/

Artist Profile – Marco Fleseri by Julia Rai

Chicago based jewellery maker Marco Fleseri has been working with metal clay since 2003. “I made some crude dangly shapes and textured them using the point of a toothpick,” he told me. “I knew it had potential, particularly for creating things that would be difficult or impossible to produce using previous/ traditional methods.”

I asked Marco about his earliest memory of being creative. “When I was five years old I made some blobs that I thought resembled fish, using a papier-mâché I had fashioned by soaking crumpled facial tissue with glue. I sculpted the shapes and let them dry. I was later dismayed when I put my ‘fish’ into a bowl of water and they dissolved.”

Marco’s studio is in a building with other artists and I’m always interested to find out how organised other people are. “My studio is usually somewhat organized, unless I have several projects happening simultaneously.” I can relate to that!

Marco told me a bit about his creative process. “Sometimes I sketch things if I’m not sure how to execute them, in order to solve design challenges. Or if I have an idea for something that I know I might not get to for a while. Otherwise, I get an idea and immediately launch into making it. Sometimes the finished piece varies wildly from where my imagination started.”

He uses a combination of techniques to create his designs. “As metal clay is more expensive than working with sheet, wire, etc. I often use traditional metal-working techniques in conjunction with metal clay in the same piece.”

I asked Marco what influences his work. “Geometry, shapes, and patterns found in nature, machinery, architecture, and ancient art and adornments. I look at all of these, and make new variants on the shapes and combinations that resonate with me.”

So what is his style? “I don’t have a singular style, but rather three: very biological/organic, geometric/mechanical, and ancient/ethnic. I find all three satisfying for different reasons, and they keep my work from all looking the same.

Marco has done some teaching and I asked him about it. “I’ve taught beginning metal clay workshops and would like to do more of that. It’s fun watching students see the potential for what’s in their hands, and the excitement of seeing their efforts realized as metal objects.”

I asked Marco if he has a favourite piece of work. “My Helios pendant, which for me in 2009 was a triumph of combining the techniques of fabrication, metal clay and stone-setting.”

Finally, I asked Marco where he sees his work going in the future. “I would like to do more stone-setting, as I have collected some beautiful specimens that I want to include in upcoming work. I’ll go wherever the voices tell me to go…” he said with a smile.

To see more of Marco’s work, visit him online here…
www.fleseri.com
www.instagram.com/marcofleseri
www.facebook.com/Marco-Fleseri-Jewelry-103354306353/

Julia Rai is a teacher, writer and artist working in a variety of media. She is the director of the Metal Clay Academy and runs the Cornwall School of Art, Craft and Jewellery. She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vying for attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.

Metal Clay 101- Embedding wire in PMC

Embedding wire in PMC

Whether you need to create a simple loop to hang an earring or you need to string together a complex network of components, embedding wire in PMC is an essential design technique. When working with PMC, always use fine silver wire and make sure the wire is clean by running it through some clean folded 320 grit sandpaper.  To insert eyelets, small loops, or prongs, slightly flatten the part of the wire you plan to insert in the clay and rough up the surface with a file to give more tooth for better grip. Insert the wire carefully into the wet clay, pull it back out dip it into the paste, and then reinsert.  Remember, if you are inserting a loop, be sure to embed the bottom 1/3 of the loop.

If you are laying wire through a piece (for example, making a clasp) make your piece in two layers. When the pieces are dry, sand a groove into both halves and then generously cover both with paste. Lay the flattened wire into the groove and sandwich the pieces together. This will eliminate the bump from the wire.

With a little practice, the addition of wire to metal clay designs can expand your creative horizons tremendously!

Ruth Greening
Having a lifelong love of art, Ruth has a diverse background that includes air-brush painting, Australian cake decorating, stone sculpture, lapidary arts, and fine wire wrap settings. Ruth is self-taught and enjoys learning from renowned teachers by attending classes taught in a wide variety of jewelry art disciplines.

Her introduction to PMC was a dream come true – to be able to work in silver with a true freedom in design. But the best reward is being able to share and enable others to create their own works of silver art through her role as a PMC Connection Senior Instructor.

 

Artist Project Series: Marco Fleseri

This project is the third in a series presented by Cool Tools.  A dozen artists will present projects that showcase their personal style and artistry using EZ960™ Sterling Silver Clay. Come and enjoy this unique opportunity to look over the shoulder of some of the world’s premier metal clay artists as they work.

Marco Fleseri presents a project that artists of all levels will enjoy. By combining fine silver with the metal clay he has taken away many issues with shrinkage and it makes the project more economical too!  Enjoy and feel free to share your results with the artist.

Cuff Bracelet Project by Marco Fleseri
This is a how-to guide for creating your own version of my cuff bracelet which I called “Nelumbo vertabralis.” Inspired by vertebrae and lotus flower petals (“nelumbo” is the genus name for the lotus family of plants), this bracelet has an architectural quality while still looking very intentionally organic / biological.

For this bracelet I used EZ960™ Sterling Silver Clay, which is a premixed formula that can be fired in one stage on an open shelf (no need for carbon).

Supplies: To make this project you’ll need around 25g of EZ960™ Sterling Silver Clay.

Use a “third hand” with self-locking tweezers to hold the bracelet during the drying phases.

(Please note: enlarge photos by clicking on them.)

 

Step 1: Bracelet Form You will also need an approximately 6-inch long piece of 6-gauge fine silver wire (this was the thickest fine silver wire I could find, from Rio Grande). If you need to fit a larger wrist, increase the length to 7 inches. The wire serves as a “base” for the bracelet, is significantly less expensive than using metal clay for the entire bracelet, and we don’t have to account for shrinkage of the final piece, only the added components.

Bend the wire into a cuff bracelet shape, leaving an opening between 1 and 1.5 inches. Smooth the cut ends of the wire using a file and/or sandpaper until you have rounded ends, as shown. Be sure you can get the bracelet onto your wrist without bending or squeezing it.

Once you have she shape complete and the ends finished, clean the metal with a cotton ball damp with rubbing alcohol. At this point you will only hold the bracelet by the ends. We don’t any dirt or oils to interfere with the silver clay from fusing to the wire base. The clay you will form around the rest of the wire will be very fragile when dry, and could easily chip or break off. We don’t want that.

Step 2: Paint Fine Silver Bracelet Form with Paste Next, we’ll need to make some paste. Take a small amount of clay, break it into tiny pieces, and place them into a small container that has a tight-fitting lid. Add a few drops of filtered water and mix thoroughly. Add water sparingly as needed, and continue mixing until you have a paste that has the consistency of toothpaste. If you add too much water, you can leave the lid off and let the excess evaporate before continuing. It is very important that the paste is thick, so that it doesn’t split or cause cracks during firing.

Once the paste is the correct thickness, you will use it to coat the wire. Leave the last inch on each end un-coated.

Place the bracelet into the tweezers like you see here, such that one end is in the grips and the other rests on top. After the first coat of paste has dried, add a second. After it dries the bracelet should look like this.

Step 3: Wrap Bracelet Form Next take about a half-inch (or 12 millimeter) diameter ball of clay, roll it into a snake and then roll it out flat to six cards thick, as shown.

Wet both sides of this strip with water so that it is very soft and pliable.

Apply paste to one side, and then begin to wrap it around the center of the bracelet, starting from the inside and carefully pressing it up the sides toward the top.

Keep brushing with water and paste as you go to ensure no cracking or splitting, and a good blending over the wire form. You’ll want to get this relatively smooth, but it need not be perfect.

The purpose of this step is to give our bracelet a tapered look. Place the bracelet back into the tweezers and let it dry completely.

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Create Decorative Elements Next, to make the elements that will be attached, we need to roll out some clay to six cards thick, and use a round cutter to create seven discs. The cutter I used was about 3/8 inch in diameter.

Using one side of the same cutter, cut away uniform portions of each disc so that you have seven crescent shapes and seven shapes that look like a marquise cut stone, or American football.

Cut each of the non-crescent shapes in half cross-wise — we will later make more of these (for a total of 24) and refine them to become the lotus petal elements. But for now, we want to work with the crescent shapes while they are still fresh.

At this stage if you wanted to add some additional detail to either the crescent shapes or the petals, now would be a good time. Work quickly however, as it is essential for the crescent shapes to be wet and flexible enough to form around the bracelet.

Step 5: Attach Decorative Elements Moisten each as you go, and starting at the top center of the bracelet, position the first crescent and attach it with paste. You’ll want to ensure it is soft enough to not split or crack as you press the corners of the crescent around the bracelet.

Do this same step with the remainder of the crescent shapes, spacing them a bit over a quarter-inch apart.

Pay attention to the angles as you are attaching them, so that they are uniformly spaced and angled, and also follow the curvature of the bracelet.

For wearing comfort, none of the applied shapes should extend too far onto the inside of the bracelet.

Once you have all seven of the crescent shapes attached, let the bracelet dry completely in the tweezers.

Now, back to the lotus petals. You’ll need to roll out some more clay to six cards thick, and cut out more circles, and then recut those circles to make more of the marquise or American football shapes which will then be cut in half.

Once you have a total of 24 petal pieces that you can arrange into groups of three, go ahead and let them dry. Then, with a rolled-up piece of 600-grit sandpaper, sand a gentle curve into what will become the bottoms of each petal. They should look like this when arranged in groups of three, which is how they will be applied to the bracelet.

Once you have all 24 petals cut out, dried, and sanded, you can apply them in groups of three using paste, in between the crescent shapes and also one set outside each end of the crescent shapes.

Do these in batches and let them dry so that you don’t risk any falling off, or tilting and drying in a less-than-desirable position.

Again, pay attention to the angles as you are attaching them, so that they are uniformly spaced and angled, and also follow the curvature of the bracelet.

After all of the lotus elements are completely dry, roll out one more piece of clay to six cards thick, and cut 2 more crescent shapes, slightly smaller than your originals. And also cut four half-inch-long by 1/16-inch wide strips.

Attach the two new smaller crescents outside of the lotus petals at either end, and then space the remaining strips (2 per side) outside of that, spacing them evenly.

Place the bracelet back into the tweezers to dry thoroughly.

Step 6: Touch Ups After everything is completely dry, check the entire piece carefully for any gaps or bubbles where the paste has dried. With a tiny detail brush, touch up any areas as needed around the attached elements.

Step 7: Firing Once this final round of paste has completely dried, you are ready to fire.

Lay the bracelet on its side, atop a bed of vermiculite, in a porcelain crucible or dish, so that the weight of itself doesn’t alter the finished shape. You can fire at 1675ºF for 2 hours, but for this piece I chose 1700ºF for one hour.

Step 8: Apply Patina After firing, apply patina (here I used Black Max), then gently brush the entire piece with a brass brush before tumbling (if you want a shinier surface).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with other shapes, patterns, or textures. The easy techniques used in this project can be applied to many other design possibilities.

 

About the artist:

Marco Fleseri has been making jewelry for nearly three decades. Inspired by geometry, ancient artifacts, biology, and at times the other-worldly, his creations range in style from geometric and mechanical to organic and biological, incorporating gemstones, natural crystals, fossils, or recycled glass with silver, copper, bronze, and gold. Marco produces one-of-a-kind jewelry as well as some limited edition reproductions of his pieces, using time-honored traditional metal-working techniques (fabrication, casting, etc.) as well as newer innovative methods such as metal clay, polymer, and foldforming.

Visit Marco: http://www.fleseri.com/

Top 5 Questions You Never Ask Artists, Makers, & Designers by Genevieve Tucci

Are you guilty of asking one of these questions at a craft show, on Etsy or to a creative acquaintance? You may think nothing of it but trust me, it made an impression.

Where do you buy your supplies?

It can take years to find a good supplier or that tiny company with the good stuff. Unless you are close friends with the artist/maker, they are not going to let you in on the secret and it hurts our soul a little each time you ask.

How much did it cost to make?

While you think you are being sneaky, we know you are trying to figure out how much we are making off each piece. Would you tell a complete stranger your yearly salary? I think not.

There is a very large consumer base that believes if you pay for more than the cost of materials, then you are getting screwed over. If you want cheap, go to Walmart. If you want original & handmade then pay the asking price. It is probably priced too low already.

How long did this take you to make?

This is potentially an innocent question but more often than not, it’s used to gauge how much the item is really worth.

Less time ≠ less expensive. It may have only taken 30 minutes to make that ring but it took years of practice and probably weeks of research to figure out a new technique making that ring stand out from others.

Can you copy this for cheaper?

No, no, no, no, no.

Not only is it ethically wrong to copy another person’s design but it is hurtful that you even asked when we have worked hard to develop our own style. Anyone who agrees to copy another person’s work is a fraud and should be burned at the stake. (Can you sense my hatred for copy cats?) A true designer will send you on your way back to the original designer and then try to burn a hole in the back of your head with their eyes.

I LOVE your painting/wreath/photography!!! You know if you sold it for half the price, I could afford it and you would sell a lot more. (Technically not a question but I am still including it.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I am going let you in on a little secret. Everyone can not afford everything. I know. Crazy. But really, this should never ever come out of your mouth much less typed out and sent through text or email.

Makers, artisans, photographers, designers, etc. What question drives you crazy? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Genevieve Tucci Raised in Baton Rouge as part of an entrepreneurial and artistic family, my passion for creating began at a very early age in my mother’s art studio where I would sit every evening watching her paint, sculpt and design. I was extremely fortunate to attend Baton Rouge Magnet High School which offered stagecraft as an elective. Mrs. Ory, a saint in her own right, gave me confidence and the foundation to safely use powerful saws and tools while my mother gave me the confidence to learn any skill. After graduating LSU with a degree in Arts Administration, I strived for daily creative outlets in order the escape the 9-to-5 and this was also the time my husband and I bought our first home. It meant all the home projects I had been looking forward to could finally happen! It also meant my husband could get me power tools for Christmas, and I would be okay with it.

Visit Genevieve online at her blog or Etsy shop:
http://allprojectsgreatandsmall.com
https://www.etsy.com/shop/GenevieveDesignsBR

Design Challenge for 2017

It’s a new year and people seem more excited this year to start anew.  I am too, and I’ve come up with a design challenge for jewelry artists working in any media!

A few years ago I went to CJS Sales in New York City.  I interviewed the owners and learned about the “design quarry” of beads, findings and interesting things that jewelry makers and mixed media artists can find there. (Article link.) I came home with 60 pounds of goodies!!  Seriously!  Luckily I had traveled to NYC by train and not plane!

I have divided up part of my stash into 20 equal collections.  Now I’m looking for 20 artists who would like to participate in a design challenge.  Everyone will get the same amounts of vintage beads, chain, and crystals in their design kit. You can use them any way you want and with any media.

Basic Challenge Parameters:
-Due date: March 31, 2017.
-Must send images of finished piece to cre8tivefire (@) gmail.com.
-Must use 4 pieces of design kit in your finished piece. (1 piece = 1 bead, 1 component, or 1″ of chain)
-Artists can submit up to 3 pieces–either separately or as part of a set.

Oh and is there a prize?
Yes there is!  I have 2 original vintage pendants from the 1960’s found at CJS Sales. A little piece of art history!
**Plus we will put together an interesting series of articles showing off the designed pieces, comments by the artists and a gallery.  I think this would be really fun and it gives us a chance to work with unconventional materials and to stretch our design ideas!

Anyone game to join a design challenge? ***NOTE all kits have been claimed*** Stay tuned for the results!

Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in rural Ontario Canada.  She has been seen in New York City, hauling obscene amounts of beads and copious piles of fabric back to her hotel. Her studio is packed to the rafters with finds too good to use and is only now starting to share.  To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/

Happy New Year!

Thank you readers for another year together creating new jewellery and sharing new ideas.  Creative Fire is as always–for metal clay artists, by metal clay artists. It is our community of artists who generously contribute articles and share their photos and techniques. I am forever grateful and proud of our unique international community.  We all are striving to learn and better our work as artists.

As seven years of jewellery making draws to a close I’d also like to thank our sponsors for continuing to support our site.  PMC Connection, Mitsubishi Trading Materials Corporation, Rio Grande, Cool Tools, Metal Adventures and Metal Clay Academy.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and Happy New Year!

Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
Editor, Creative Fire www.cre8tivefire.com

Artist Project Series: Cindy Miller

We are proud to present the 2nd project in a series brought to you by Cool Tools using their new metal clay, EZ960™ Sterling Silver Metal Clay.  Cindy Miller created a beautiful project that both new and experienced metal clay artists will enjoy.

Images of owls have been recorded in art and literature throughout history from the Greek and Romans to numerous Native American tribes. The owl represents wisdom and is associated with inner sight.  The owl is associated with the night it has played on the imagination of people throughout time. Here’s a link to learn more about Owl mythology. This is Cindy’s interpretation of an owl totem amulet necklace.

To learn more about our featured artist, please see Cindy’s artist profile by Julia Rai. Cindy was very candid and talked about her journey to becoming a full time jewellery designer.

List of Tools and Materials for the project:
50 grams EZ960™ Sterling Silver Metal Clay
Coolslip Spray
Sculpey III polymer clay
Xacto-knife
Tissue Blade
Small Rubber Tipped Shaper Tool
3M Sanding Pads (fine and extra fine)
Wet-Dry sand paper (400 and 600 grit)
3/8 and 3/16 inch circle Kemper Kutters
Small angled sable paint brush
Liver of Sulfur
Optional: Silver Oil paste, 2-bezel cups and 2- 4mm gemstones
Electric programmable kiln

Creating the polymer clay form:

  1. Use conditioned clay to create a ball of clay about 1.5 inches in diameter.
  2. Shape the ball into a slightly flattened rounded heart shape
  3. Place both index fingers on the top of the shape and press to create two eye orbits. There should be a ridge of clay between the eye orbits.
  4. Refine to make the form symmetrical.
  5. Bake using the manufacturer’s instructions.

Wrapping the form:

  1. Roll out the EZ960 sterling clay to 3 cards thick. Use the entire 50 gram pack in order to get an area large enough to cover the form.  You will recover the unused clay for use later in the project.
  1. Lightly oil the owl form with olive oil or silicon spray. Gently drape the rolled out clay over the form making sure not to stretch the clay. Gently pat the clay down to adhere to the form. You may need to pinch pleats in the clay around the bottom to get it to form correctly.
  1. Using a tissue blade to trim the clay around the bottom of the form. You will want about 1/4 inch showing on the bottom of the form. This is important in releasing the clay later.
  1. Roll out a small bit of clay to attach as the beak. The shape should be a tapered tube.  Using a little slip attach the beak between the eye orbits making sure the edges are securely attached.
  1. Create two small holes for the nostrils at the top of the beak.
  1. Return the remaining clay to an air tight container.

Sculpting the pendant:

You will want to begin sculpting the owl pendant while the clay is still wet.  Mist the clay to keep it hydrated while you are working on the form.  Start sculpting around the eyes and work your way to the edge so you do not smudge your sculpt.

  1. Indicate where the eyes will be located by creating a small indention in both of the eye orbits.
  1. Using a rubber tipped shaper, create outward strokes starting in the middle of the eye moving towards the edge of the concave eye orbits. You should work fast and keep your clay hydrated by spritzing water on the surface as needed.   You are creating the “idea” of feathers not individual feathers so don’t worry if they are not perfect. The effect will come together in the end.
  1. Once you have the eye orbits complete you can continue to create strokes on the rest of the owl. Set a side to dry.

Assemble the pieces:

  1. When the owl is dry use a fine sponge sanding pad to gently sand the entire pendant. This will soften the sculpting marks.  If you find that you want more “feathers” just spritz your pendant with water and wait until the clay has re-soften to the point where you can move the clay with your tools. Allow to re-dry before moving forward.
  1. Gently remove the owl from the polymer form. If the inside is still damp then allow the inside to dry before moving forward.
  1. Sand the back flat by placing the owl on a sheet of 400 grit sandpaper. Use figure 8 motions to sand the pendant
  1. Roll out the remaining clay to 2 cards thick. Lay the owl head on top of the clay and cut out a shape for the back leaving enough room for shrinkage as the clay dries (about 1/8 inch).  Cut out a circle in the middle of the back.  Make sure your circle is small enough to leave room for attaching bails.  Allow to dry.
  1. Assemble the front and the back using ample amounts of slip. Allow to dry.  Cut off the excess clay from the back and then use a sanding pad to remove the remaining clay all the way to the seam.  Fill any gaps with slip and then dry and sand again until you have a seamless joint.
  1. Cut out two circles .25 wide and 3 cards thick. Cut out the centers leaving to rings for use to define the owl’s eyes. Once dry attach the rings to the center of the eye orbits with slip.
  1. Cut three more rings to attach as bails to the back side of the pendant. Cut the bottom of the rings off just below the inside circle. This will give you a flat spot to use when attaching the rings to the back of the pendant. Rings should be 3 cards thick. The third ring attachment located at the bottom of the pendant is optional.  I like to have the option of adding charms to the bottom.  Allow the rings to rings to dry then attach with slip.

Refine:

  1. Use a needle file to refine the beak. Gently file a groove on either side of the beak at the base and then sand.
  2. Sand the entire pendant with an extra fine sanding pad and brush the dust from the surface.

Firing and Finishing:

  1. Support the pendant using vermiculite so that the bails on the back of the pendant do not collapse.
  2. Fire using manufacturers instructions.
  3. After firing, clean the silver with brass brushes, 600 grit sand paper or tumbling if you have a tumbler. I use a magnetic tumbler for about 30 minutes and then tumble with steel shot in a rotary tumbler.
  4. At this point you have the option of re-firing the owl pendant to add bezel cups to the eyes for gemstones. Make sure you rough up the bottom of the bezel cups using a metal file. Use silver clay oil paste to attach the bezel cups.  Allow to dry completely then fire again for 45 min. at 1600 (full ramp). After firing you will need to re-polish the pendant in preparation for applying a patina.
  5. Use liver of sulfur to bring up the details in the sculpted areas. I allowed the liver of sulfur to go completely black before polishing but you can stop the process at any stage depending on the coloring you would like to achieve.
  6. Polish the beak and the edges of the eye orbit to a high shine. This will help to define the heart-shape face that is specific to the barn owl. Buff the pendant sides and inside the eye sockets with a heavier grit sand paper (400 grit) to create a contrasting satin finish.  This will give the pendant more dimension and highlight the major features of the owl’s face.

Final Touches:

I’ve opted to add silver charms to the bottom of this pendant as part of the finished design but this pendant works equally well simply hung from a silver chain.

Links:
www.cindymiller.com
www.lowemill.net
www.facebook.com/cindy.miller3

About the Artist:

Cindy Miller is a full-time studio artist living in Huntsville, Alabama. She is one of 200 artist that work at the Lowe Mill complex; the country’s largest privately owned artist community. She has a background in art and anthropology so many of her designs have a cultural component or theme.