Design Challenge


In January we put out a call to those interested in a design challenge.  We offered up identical boxes of vintage jewellery making supplies from CJS Sales in New York City.  Each designer received the same collection and could make whatever they wanted to.  The only parameters were:
-You can use the materials you were sent any way you want and with any media. 
-Must use 4 pieces of design kit in your finished piece. (1 piece = 1 bead, 1 component, or 1″ of chain)

Twenty packages of vintage jewellery components went out to artists in 4 different countries!

Our Judge: Donna Greenberg, a mixed media artist from New Jersey.  She enjoys mixing materials, colours, and textures in her jewelry and sculptures in unexpected ways. “Pairing smooth, dull surfaces with a coarse piece of glittering pyrite; delicate pearls perched in a volcanic explosion of highly textured polymer; low end man made materials paired with the luxury of silver or bronze are the kind of studies that gets my heart beating loudly. The thrill for me is in balancing these diverse elements into a cohesive statement.”

And the winner is…. Joy Funnell from the U.K. with her piece “Eastern Promise”.  From the vintage supplies, Joy used two antique Czech glass cabochons, and two brass jewelry parts from the 1950’s.  She also used sterling silver chain, silver metal clay, sterling silver wire, red glass beads and red thread.
Judge’s remarks: “Quite simply, this piece just stopped me in my tracks. I completely forgot to look for the individual elements used and just observed the tension and energy of the piece as a whole. Afterwards, upon ‘dissecting’ the design it revealed a fascinating balance of form, color and materials that seemed like they should be at odds with each other but unite beautifully. It has the quality of a fine classic piece of jewelry, with Deco undertones among other things yet feels contemporary all at once. It’s timeless to me.”

We had a two-way tie for 2nd place between Laura Moore and Karen Wright.

Laura Moore, Ginkgo pendant necklace.  Laura combined metal clay, 3 glass peacock arches, 2 glass golden octagon drop beads, 1 woven brass mesh strap.

Judge’s comments: “The rhythm, line and movement in this necklace were the first things that attracted me. It’s a very elegant piece that I imagine enhances the wearers neck area gracefully. The negative space is important here and just as interesting as the beautifully crafted hand worked areas, and the warm glow of the stones appear to float in their own individual space.”

2nd Place tie: Karen Wright, “Art Deco”. Karen used 15 antique glass cabochons and 3 vintage crystals in her piece along with meters and meters of wire, jump-rings and chain.

Judge’s comments: “An unusual interpretation of  a classic Art Deco design. Especially the unexpected use of wire wrapping techniques which gives this piece a lighter, more contemporary feel.  An interesting feature in this necklace is that is has 2 distinct focal points, each addressing a different part of the body.  Not always an easy thing to achieve.  The trio of  wrapped amber stones  on the top  flatters the  wearers upper neck  and face.  While the black  drop dangle leads the eye downwards towards the chest area and beyond.  The double strand spray of small black beads in between connects it all  while creating a classic deco sunburst design.”

Honourable Mentions:

Stephania Harden-Martin, Necklace and Earring set. Stephania used chain, 4 brass jewellery components and the brass wire flower from the design kit materials.

Judge’s Comments: “Mixing metals and chain styles works well for this piece and helps give it a quirky, easy going feeling.  The  wire mesh  flower is nicely anchored by the looped end petals, or are they rays or tentacles, creating a bit of a guessing game as to whether the  focal is actually meant to represent flora or fauna, or both.  The earrings are a perfect accompaniment to the necklace and would look well on their own as well.”

Mona Arnott, Necklace and Earring Set. From the design challenge vintage supplies, Mona used two brass wire flowers, a woven chain and created a pendant using 9 pieces of black glass components and a brass cup.
Judge’s Comments:Existing  individual small black elements have been carefully chosen and  cleverly arranged to create a simple but classic focal design.  The gloss black is set off nicely by the more satin gold mesh and the choice of the flat chain helps reinforce the focal’s raised look.  This piece can seem ancient in design at one moment, like a roman medallion  or something art moderne.”


And what would our judge make if she had the same vintage components? These pieces were made by Donna Greenberg, using the same pieces of vintage supplies as our designers from the challenge had. Thank you to all who took part.  It was nice to be a part of a group project like this and to see how each artist interpreted the same materials in their own style!


CJS Sales:
Donna Greenberg:



Syringe clay is a fun and whimsical way to add delicacy and design interest to your work. Unfortunately, most of the metal clay artists I know seem to be adverse to working with syringe clay because it can be difficult to control. It’s true for me too! However, using the water brush method described below, most imperfections in application can be easily corrected so don’t limit your possibilities. Syringe away!!

At the end of the article, Roxan has included several images of her syringe work for inspiration! With thanks to Mitsubishi Trading Materials and PMC Connection for sponsoring this special series of projects.

Artist Profile – Kim Nogueira by Julia Rai

I have been fascinated by automata since childhood visits to the Science Museum in London. I remember turning the handle on the Archimedes screw exhibit and seeing the little man turn his own handle in time with me. As the water came up through this cause and effect, I was totally fascinated by how that worked. When I first saw Kim Nogueira’s metal clay automata I was blown away by the ingenuity of the technical aspects but also by the stories and themes behind the pieces.

Kim was born and raised in the small New England town of Northampton, MA and now lives in St John, in the US Virgin Islands. “For the past 25 years, this little island has been my home, where I raised my wonderful son,” she explained. “Two thirds of the island is protected by the National Park, and the hiking and snorkeling is fabulous here. It is a very tiny island however, measuring about nine miles by 12 miles. Elevation reaches from sea level to 1200 feet, which if you ever run or walk our annual famous 8 Tuff Mile Race, which runs through the center of the island from one end to the other, you will get to experience most of that elevation change. I have only done this once, and that was enough!”

Continue reading…

A *really* Big Beautiful Metal Clay Bowl

Rachael Osborne has created with the help of Lisa Cain’s expertise, quite possibly the largest item to date in metal clay!  The bowl pictured measures 290mm x 140mm (approximately 11.5″ x 5.5″).

Their epic journey began with Rachel winning the prestigious Goldsmiths Precious Metal Bullion Award in 2016. This enabled her to recreate her pewter bowls in sterling silver. As Rachael and her tutors at college pondered over the construction of such a bowl, they considered several traditional silversmithing options. Casting, Etching, Raising and so on. However, each technique presented specific obstacles. Continue reading…

Artist Project Series: Kim Nogueira

This special series of projects by master metal clay artists is proudly sponsored by Cool Tools. (Please note: click on images to enlarge.)

The beauty and enchantment that I am surrounded by here on this extraordinary planet keeps me feeling like I never grew up. I share this child-like feeling of awe and wonder with others by adding the surprise of movement to my jewelry. I hope you give it a try too!

For this advanced project, I will be making a hollow form box pendant with a side lever that creates a seesaw movement of two figures inside. In mechanical terms, this is a fulcrum; in jewelry terms, it’s magic!  The pendant has a back panel that can be removed by a screw. Read through the instructions several times to get an idea of the steps involved and the design possibilities, considerations and challenges to watch for as you construct the piece.

When making things with moving parts, you will often have to try several variations, sizes, placements, angles, etc–things rarely work out the first time, and this should be considered normal. I like to use metal clay for this reason–it’s pretty easy to add more metal, remove it, fix mistakes, change things around, experiment, etc.  I will show you how I made my fulcrum, but if you decide to give this a try, you will want to adapt the process to your materials, tools, skill level and measurement tolerence (mine is a mm or less), perhaps using rivets instead of a screw, for example.

Supplies, Tools, and Materials:

For paper model:
Manilla folder or heavy paper, templates, tape, craft knife, t-pin or needle tool, pliers,  measuring tools, wire cutters, wire (anything from 20 gauge to 16 gauge), test washers (I used 6mm 18 ga. copper discs drilled out with a #38 drill bit)

For pendant:
EZ960® Sterling Silver Clay
templates and/or molds
metal clay forming, shaping and firing tools
dremel/flexshaft and assorted tools–drill bits, burrs, finishing wheels
metalsmithing tools–files, saw, sandpaper, mallet, pliers, blocks  of wood
10 gauge sterling wire (and #38 drill bit for washers and lever to match)
stainless steel #0-80 x 1/8 screws
M1.4 tap drill, assorted drill bits including #56 (tap drill bit) and #52 (clearance drill bit), and vice grips
washers (I used 10mm 18 gauge copper discs drilled out with #38 drill bit)
soldering equipment
eye magnification if necessary
patina/LOS tools, depending on your preference
keum-boo tools and materials, optional
Loctite Purple 222 low strength thread locker

Manilla folder model:

To start, I made a rough manilla folder model. I will make templates for the individual box parts later in a separate step. Making this model will give me an idea of the variety of steps and measurements and parts that go into the finished construction.  I made several mistakes in the construction of my model, minimizing the chances of it happening in the final piece.

Using manilla folder paper, shape templates, a craft knife, a t-pin, tape, and a homemade wire staple squeezed with pliers,  I made several basic versions of my front panel with window and lever with heart/bird. I placed the fulcrum (the wire staple at this point) for the lever in several spots to see where I wanted my figures to land in the window (Figures A, A1). In the top version (Figure A2), you can see that both the heart and bird and part of the lever are visible in the window, so I went with the lower version, which showed only one figure in the window at a time–this was a difference of only about 1 mm or so.

Make 3 sides of the box out of one long strip of manilla folder, bending and taping them on. Make the side with the lever separately, cutting a notch in it to accomodate the lever, and taping it on (Figure B and B1).  Cut away the strip up to that lever notch (Figure B2). Straighten the staple a bit or use tubing (that’s what I did) and make your “fulcrum assembly sandwich”.  A washer will go on first over the fulcrum (that’s your staple or tubing), next will go the lever, and over that, another washer (Figure B3).  This will give you a sense of what will need to fit into the box and what you will have to consider as you work out the dimensions of your box in EZ sterling metal clay, with it’s shrinkage rate of about 10%.

Make the back panel by tracing around the box (Figure C) and add a tab next to the lever, the same length as the lever notch. Fold this up (Figure C1). This method of construction has two purposes: it will be what braces the back panel, since there is only one screw to hold it on, and it will be how the lever is able to be placed inside with the washer assembly and closed back up.

Manilla folder templates:

 Take a look at your model as you decide on the template width of your box walls (Figure D). Consider the fulcrum “sandwich”, along with its little figures, that will be fitting pretty closely into that box, with space allowing for movement –but without “play” or “looseness” in that movement. Consider your box construction: “beveled” textured edges take almost 1mm away from that final wall width. Consider what you will use for washers: metal clay which will shrink, or sheet metal, which won’t. Add up these approximate thicknesses (using metal clay card thickness charts), and add at least 2mm or so extra to that width to account for wonkiness and sanding. I think my template walls started at 7mm wide, with 3.5mm of that as extra. This may change when you can take an actual measurement of your “fulcrum assembly sandwich” of washers and greenware lever.  I prefer to have to trim/sand before firing, or file/sand after firing rather than come up short. You can also try adding extra washers or thicker washers later on, rather than sanding, or use thinner washers if you don’t end up having enough space.

Decide on a lever width. I had to make mine at least 5mm wide, to accomodate my 10 ga wire shaft after shrinkage.  Yours will vary depending on your box size, the size of your window, the size of your figures, etc. There is no one way to do it. If you use templates to make your bail, work that out now.

Make the back panel template larger than necessary–you will saw it to size after firing and drilling out for the screw, since you will be drilling “blindly”.

Making the metal clay box:

Rather than texture, I chose a quote that I had reverse etched in copper several years ago, that would work well with the figures that I wanted to go up and down in my window. I started with 3 cards thick clay and rolled down to 2 cards thick over the etched copper, also keeping the plain walls 2 cards thick. I left the sides plain, assuming there would be some filing and sanding necessary there after firing. The lever was maybe 3 cards thick.  I waited for the clay to dry and then cut out the box template shapes, sanded the edges, and used slip to make the box and bail. All scrap strips are saved until the project is finished–they are good to have for repairing, adding, etc. I gently sanded the open side of the box flat. I will fire the bail and box separately in case of warpage, attaching them after firing.

Roll out panels to cut for the rods that you will use to attach the figures to the lever, making sure that they are thinner than the washer. Make your figures, which shouldn’t be much thicker than the lever–remember that the only extra room in there will be the thickness of the washers.  Attach rods to the figures with slip and dry (Figure E)


Decide where you want the fulcrum for your lever to go, based on your model. You may have to try several spots. I put a ruler in the window and used that to center my fulcrum, inserting a piece of bent 16 ga wire into the front panel and and through my lever to test it (Figure F). I will fill in that hole on the front panel before firing and a piece of 10 gauge wire will eventually be soldered to the inside of the box there to function as the permanent fulcrum for the lever. Cut out space for the lever to go up and down in the side wall of the box, similar to what your model looks like (Figure F1). I left enough wall height for the first washer plus a little extra for shrinkage, and a hair more for just in case–it will be filed later if necessary. I used an emery board to gently sand the greenware notch flat.

Decide where  you want your figures attached on the lever.  I added a washer and the lever to the 16 gauge wire fulcrum, and held the assembly in my fingers, along with the figures on the rods, as I looked through the window to see where the figures landed when I moved the lever (Figure F2). You may need to cut more wall area out to get the figures to reveal themselves the way you want. At this point, I decided that the bird I originally chose was too big for the space in the window, so I made a smaller bird. I had to remove the figures from the lever and reattach them several times on the rods, to get them where I wanted them in the window. Since the change to a smaller bird left so much extra space in the window, I decided to place a beautiful cherub in the middle of it, which would be fired separately and attached in a second firing along with the bail.

To make the bracing tab on the back panel of  your piece, see Figure G.  Trace the open space on the side wall for the lever onto the back panel and attach a 3-cards-thick tab there with slip. Let dry, then trim the notch to fit tightly and evenly when the back panel is fit to the front (Figure G1).  Your back panel should have overlap on the other 3 sides, 4 is best if you can do that. Place your “fulcrum sandwich” of washer/lever/washer into the box, with the lever extending out through the notch in the side wall. Trim and/or add clay where necessary in this notch area so that you are happy with the movement of the lever (Figure G2). I like mine secure, not loose, but not tight. I was holding the back panel, with a quote on it, upside down when I attached the back panel’s tab the first time and consequently added the tab to the wrong side–it was easy enough to remove and readhere the correct way.

Decorate your box with added detailing if you want (see Figure H). I framed the window using template trimmings and used leaves from a mold that I made of an antique button.  Don’t put anything in the way of interfering with the placement of the back screw. It will lie (perhaps uncomfortably) against the skin if you are making a necklace, so you might want to think about adding detailing on the back that is a hair higher than the screwhead. I used more leaves. Fill in the hole on the front of the box if you drilled it out to fit the 16 gauge wire like I did, but leave a mark on the inside of the box so that you know where to solder the 10 gauge wire fulcrum for the lever.

Fire your pieces. I put a loose brace inside the box, made from my scrap pile, and fit the back plate with its tab securely to the box, so that they were fired together. After firing, I always have some shaping to do; if anyone has a better way of positioning work during firing to avoid this, please let me know.

If you have warpage, reshape your box, back panel, and lever using wood blocks, nylon-headed pliers and mallets or your preferred method ( Figures I and I1). Gently sand the back edges of your open box flat, and make sure that the back panel with tab fits securely against it with the lever and washers inside, allowing for proper movement. File or sand where needed, gently, slowly and carefully. I wanted my lever to move easily when I pushed it, but to stay in place otherwise. Perhaps you will want something different, depending on your subject matter.

Do a second firing if necessary to add a bail, other detailing or other refinements.  I refilled the hole in the front because I forgot to do it in the greenware stage, and added the cherub and the bail. Repeat earlier steps if necessary after the second firing as well.

Soldering the fulcrum:

 Note: At this point, I should point out that I will be tapping out for an 080 screw on the 10 gauge wire about to be soldered as the fulcrum for my lever. If you are not comfortable working within this tolerance, try 8 gauge wire or perhaps experiment with rivets. Google “how to make a seesaw” to see the many ways that you can creatively approach this problem.

I cut and filed a segment of 10 ga. sterling wire to match the height of the interior side walls of the box, so that the back plate fit right against it. I drilled out the center hole in my lever to hold this 10 gauge wire, neither loosely nor tightly, but securely, when it is moved. This was a progressive drilling up to a final #38 drill bit for me. At this point, I also decided on a final washer size/thickness based on how everything was fitting in my box when I held all of the pieces together with the back plate on. I decided to go larger in size, but the same thickness (10mm, 18 gauge, cut from a circle die and sanded flat). I drilled these out to the #38 size drill bit.  I made sure I liked how everything fit together and moved. Next, I spent at least 5 minutes checking to make sure I had the right spot for soldering the fulcrum, marking the spot with a Sharpie.

Using a minimum of solder (I used medium), I soldered the 10 gauge wire on securely (Figure J). Extra solder can interfere with the placement of the washer. Clean the area up if necessary, place a washer on the tubing, then the lever, then another washer, testing the placement of your lever and back panel to make sure that you like how the figures appear. Gently file the 10 gauge fulcrum if necessary (Figure J1).

Marking the backplate, and tapping out for the screw:

Use a thin sharpie to mark your center point on the 10 gauge fulcrum. Using a straight-edge ruler, mark this same point on the  north and south, east and west sides of the box’s rim (Figure K). Make sure you are comfortable with the accuracy of these marks. Carefully and accurately transfer the marks down the outsides of the box (Figure K1), put the back plate on, and transfer the marks to the back plate, making a cross with those marks horizontally and vertically (Figure K2). That center point of the cross should be the spot for your screw. I burred out a divot there, drilled a tiny hole with a  #75 drill bit, and stuck a needle-point tool into the hole with the back plate on perfectly, to test this location for accuracy (Figure K2). It landed on the 10 gauge wire fulcrum a little too high off the center mark. Do I remove the sharpie marks and remeasure? Or just go with it? I went with it, to see what sort of troubleshooting would be involved with a backplate that needed adjustment.  So next, I tapped out a screw hole for a # 0-80 screw on the 10 gauge wire fulcrum. If you’ve never done this before, you will want to practice on some scrap metal, several times, to get very comfortable with the process, and perhaps do an internet search for “how to use a tap and die set for jewelry”. Do your own tests on what drill bits work best for your taps and choice of metal as well, using the charts as a guide.  I burred a divot point for my drill bit in the center of the 10 gauge fulcrum, then slowly, carefully and gently, backtracking often, I proceeded to use these successive drill bits to widen my hole as perfectly straight down as possible: #60, #58, and finally #56, going past the depth of my screw shaft, which was 1/8 of an inch (Figure K3).  I have had drill bits break off during tapping, so I use successive drill bits and take it slowly.

Next, holding my oiled M1.4 tap in a pair of vice grips, I insert the tap into the hole, turning clockwise for 1/4 of a turn (or 15 minutes using the clock analogy), then backtrack, removing the “swarf” (metal shavings) with my finger nail from the little channels in the tap (Figure K4). Repeat, over and over, until you have gone deep enough into the fulcrum to fit your screw. This takes time, but you run the risk of breaking the tap off in the fulcrum if you rush (done that before). Test your screw gently. Never force it; if it seems tight, go back in with the tap, to remove extra metal that may have accumulated in there (Figure K5).

Next, I enlarge the hole in the backplate. I use successive drill bits here too, it’s just cleaner for me. There is already a tiny hole drilled, so I follow up with #60, #58, and #56, and finally #52, which is the “clearance” drill bit for my #0-80 screw.

Put the backplate on and thread the screw. Fine tune any excess around the backplate with a piercing saw, file and sandpaper. If you were really off in your measurements, (and I knew that I would be), mark the areas with a sharpie, add clay strips from your saved scrap pile to the backplate with lavender oil slip and refire.  If you can’t even get the screw on because of how off your mark was, you may have to file part of the tab first. I had issues in several spots, including in the tab area. Use a saw, file and sandpaper, and your preferred dremel tools to refine the areas after firing, so that the backplate meets the box tightly and smoothly when screwed on (Figure K6).

Finish all parts to your liking–I keum-boo-ed the heart and used a LOS patina and pumice. Add your washers and lever to the box and fit the backplate on. Take your tiny steel screw, use a q-tip to clean off the threads, removing any oil/lubricant leftover from your tap drill, and apply a minute amount of Loctite Purple low strength thread locker to the threads on the screw. Practice this on scrap metal first if you are not familiar with this. This will help keep the screw from unthreading, but you will still be able to remove it later if a repair is necessary. Now you can enjoy surprising friends and family with your mechanical treasure!

Kim Nogueira tells wearable stories in metal–the tiny figures in her jewelry are brought to life by old fashioned mechanical cranks and levers. Her optivisor is the only essential tool in her toolbox, and when not wearing this as she improvises in her far-flung Caribbean studio, you can find her walking on the beach, feeding fruit peels to hermit crabs, or paddling the azure waters around her island on her stand up paddleboard trying to frantically keep up with her husband.

instagram life and art:

Cool Tools is the proud sponsor of the “Artist Project Series”. To find more projects click the tab “Learn” on our home page and use the drop down menu to find “Artist Project Project Series”. All of the artists in this master level series are there!  Have fun! If you make a project or are inspired by the series please drop us a note. Cre8tivefire (@)

Artist Profile: Kris Kramer interviewed by Julia Rai

I love texture and anyone who knows me knows my work typically features lots of it so when I first saw Kris Kramer’s work, I was instantly taken by the fabulous textures she uses. And the haunting faces of the animals in her work are so full of feeling. Kris is the owner and artisan at Kris Kramer Designs.

Kris lives in Whitefish, in northwest Montana, which is about 30 miles from the Canadian border. “I live with a little dog, Rose, in a wooded area in a small tourist town that offers recreation all year round. My daughter lives about 120 miles away, and we visit each other often.”

I asked her where she was brought up. “I was raised in Illinois and Wisconsin,” she told me. “I lived in New York in early school years and worked in northern Minnesota in summers during high school.”

Her first experience with metal clay was interesting. “I was working a stressful, 50+ hours, managerial job,” she began. “I wish I could remember the first metal clay piece I saw but can’t. I purchased some on a lark. I experimented with a small bit like I was in biology class dissecting a pithed frog. I fired it then turned it black with patina. It was a blob with pokes, prods, lines, stuff stabbed into it. I was hooked and it became my therapy on Sundays. Eventually, I quit the day job, as the expression goes, and . . . .”

I asked her when she first began creating. “In second grade an assignment was to make a panoramic scene inside a shoebox. I was at a loss. My mother not only helped, she did the entire thing herself. Needless to say it stuck out among the other kids’ projects. I was so impressed though by what she could do that I must have then and there jumped on the creative bandwagon. Thereafter I would pencil-and-paper draw miniature scenes every chance I got. All of these were tiny; so that, when I discovered a new tiny world in metal clay, I felt as if I were coming home.”

Kris creates her pieces in her home studio. “I have a studio in half my garage. My commute to work becomes then a walk across my drive. I am organized and running out of room. Each day on average I spend at least four hours in the studio plus three hours on related admin tasks at my desk in the house.”

With so many hours spent on her business, I asked Kris how she relaxes. “I put on TV a romantic comedy or some music with a good beat along with an apron and cook up or bake something new in the kitchen. Or I sit in a special wicker chair with striped silky cushions and a cup of tea and read something inspirational. Outloud.”

I asked Kris about her creative process. “Early in the morning when I’m fresh from dreamtime, mental images appear in my mind. When I actually take action on one of them, I draw a pencil sketch, which helps me see just how such a thing might be constructed. I find that I can plan in detail but the plan usually changes along the way, and I am more than okay with that. I wing it a lot, too.”

She has a particular piece that means a lot to her. “I made a huge, and I mean huge, pendant once. It weighs probably 100 grams—well, maybe not that much. I made everything from scratch—texture, shape, and more. It is a huge seedpod. It is birthing a new race of humans, a race that cares deeply for Earth Mother Gaia, appreciates diversity among humans, and is kind, sensitive and light-hearted. If you look closely you can see some nascent sprouts (faces) among the emerging seeds.”

Nature is obviously very important to Kris so I asked her about her influences. “My main influence is the level at which I can exist where I live,” she began. “I can walk into the woods and hear a dozen songbirds, feel the deer, bear or mountain lion watch me walk by, see more grasses than I could identify in a botany class in five years, marvel at the hues of only one color in the wildflowers, watch cottonwood fluff float by, catch a photo of an iridescent fly on a leaf …. need I go on?  Someone else might walk up that same path and talk my ear off about something that matters little to me at the time, unless it has to do with nature, love, wisdom, or personal sovereignty.”

These influences are clear in Kris’s work. “Each totem animal pendant I make comes alive. Each one’s personality emerges in the process. Each one’s eyes say something different, but there is a theme. And the theme is laced with sadness and anger, is in their expression that says, ‘Wake up, people.’ Some look off into the distance, perhaps the future. Roads in my work always lead to horizons; maybe the animals are looking there also.”

I asked Kris what other techniques she uses alongside metal clay in her work. “I incorporate other metals, such as bronze, into silver pieces. I want to get back into setting cabochons. I make my own chains or improve upon purchased ones. I rarely solder and wish I could rivet. Mostly though, I’m a silver metal clay purist.”

She went on. “A theme to my work involves landscapes, wildlife, tracks, and flora. Anything I can do to bring attention in a beneficial way to the natural world is what I do.”

Kris told me her feelings about teaching metal clay. “I used to teach classes for up to six people at art centers and community colleges. Teaching to me was like doing shows — schlepping everything around is a lot of work. Now I teach out of my studio, share freely on my website, and build and offer online courses. What will never get old is the part in the metal clay process when you see your silver piece finished for real; there is always a pause, a reflection in appreciation, and a moment of ‘wow!’”

Kris also sells her work. “I sell in about half a dozen shops in Montana. I sell in five locations within Glacier National Park, seasonally obviously. I sell online on Etsy. I sell out of an online retail jewelry site based in Brooklyn. Let me be clear that my work consists of boring production pieces that sell in numbers and creativity-inspired, experimental, one-of-a-kind pieces. You can guess then where each best sells, or if I sell one or more at all.”

I asked Kris what she’s currently working on. “I am not working on anything right now!” she laughed. “What I am doing instead is tumbling each piece on display in my studio (mostly Etsy items) then placing each in a zip-lock bag, adding one anti-tarnish square. You see, I used so much patina this winter, all my pieces tarnished.”

So what about the future? I asked Kris what she wants to achieve artistically or creatively in the years to come. “Sweet question. A vision is necessary, and I do not have one. I think my work could use some more character and artistic infusion. Having said that I need to add that I still believe metal clay has not been fully explored, so whatever I create I want it to be unique, original, outside the box, and new.”

She went on, “As far as where I’m going with my work, I’ll have to ask my hands. Will they hold up and are they willing to give me another five years or more? They are telling me to give up the production work. And to experiment and stretch myself more in silver and other metals. They are telling me to teach remotely way more. And to keep my Life Coaching office in town—I help artists and artisans reach their goals, too.”


To see more of Kris’s work or find out about her coaching business, she has multiple places online.

The Silver Pendant on Etsy
Instagram, , and
Kris Kramer Coach
I Love Silver for Online Courses

Julia Rai is an award winning artist, teacher and writer well known in the international metal clay community. Her work has featured in a wide range of publications and she writes regularly for print magazines and online. She teaches in her home studio in Cornwall and travels to teach by invitation.

PMC PRESENTS: Fleur de lis Necklace by Kris Kramer

My creations need to hold meaning for me, which is why this necklace has a hand-drawn, personalized version of a Fleur de lis. The Fleur de lis has had many meanings over time and in various contexts. To me the flames represent Love on the left, Power on the right, and Wisdom in the middle. The band holding them together signifies each one of us becomes a enlightened sovereign being when these three flame aspects – Love, Power and Wisdom – are in balanced.

You can make this necklace with whatever design you choose; that is, you do not have to use a Fleur de lis. And do select your own texture and doming shape(s).

It is helpful if you have a clear image in your mind and better yet a sketch. It matters not if your creation turns out like your sketch. For me, just looking at the sketch I begin to understand how I will need to construct the piece and if there are any obstacles to do so.





Firing Glass & White Bronze Clay by Carrie Story

Firing glass with bronze might sound impossible, but it is actually very easy to do. You still need to use carbon to assist the bronze with sintering. So, how do you protect the glass from getting carbon in it?

In this tutorial, I will explain how to build a steel mesh box to place over your glass during firing. This technique allows for limitless design options. And, white bronze is the perfect non-precious metal to use with your glass. It fires in exactly the correct range for adhering the glass to the surface of it.

We will be using Five Star Metal Clay and a two-phase firing schedule.



A hard look at the data behind your slow Etsy sales 2017 by Genevieve Tucci

why are my etsy sales down

Breathe. I know it’s been hard. The bottom dropped out in 2016 and things haven’t gotten much better with the same slow Etsy sales in 2017. You’ve probably seen the same mantra over & over again in forums or on “expert blogs”:

“Better Keywords, Better Photos, More Listings”

That’s not the full story.

slow etsy sales 2017

A different angle on why my Etsy sales may be down & actual data to back it up?!
Continue reading…

Product Review: Five Star Metal Clays by Laura Moore

As a teacher, I feel I need to try every metal clay available so that I can give a knowledgeable opinion. Also, I love to explore and learn about new things! I recently had the opportunity to test the new Five Star Metal Clays made by Carrie Story at Clay Revolution.

This clay was created by Carrie Story, who says, “I have spent the last several years learning, experimenting and testing all sorts of clays. Developing Five Star Metal Clay was the result of finding each limitation and overcoming it. First, it needed to be pre-mixed. Eliminating that step for beginners was extremely important. Next, some color options to make it fun. Five Star Metal Clays come in Copper, Red Bronze, Bronze, Light Bronze, and White Bronze. This range of colors allows for beautiful mixed metal projects and a versatility of color options in non-precious metals. The clays are very smooth which picks up the finest of textures. Each is slightly flexible when dry which is the perfect density for the cutting machine projects. The dry state is also a great density for carving.

The clay comes in lump form in 20, 50, 100 and 200-gram packs. There are five colors; white bronze, light bronze, bronze, red bronze, and copper.  My first impression was that I love the packaging. It might seem trivial but the vacuum pack has a tear notch. So I don’t have to stop my momentum and pick up my scissors to cut the pack open.

The clay handles beautifully. It has a creamy feel and holds together well, making a nice rolled sheet. I had no problems with cracking during drying- sometimes I push the drying and use a bit of a high heat on the warming tray.

I make molds of botanic specimens and all the Five Star Metal Clays picked up the detail perfectly.

I did a little dry joining, making a paste by mixing a little bit if purified water with the clay. It mixed easily and after application, the join grabbed well. Post-fire I had a good solid attachment.

Sanding is a breeze!  I have been using Prometheus bronze clay. It is a very hard/ sturdy clay when dry; to sand the edges of a production run I use my Jooltool with a 220g wheel. With the Five Star Metal Clays, I can easily use 220g sandpaper or a sanding sponge. The same is true with the final damp edge finish if you use it. With Prometheus I have been using a damped cloth because it shreds any wet wipe I tried on it. I can now go back to wet wipes with the Five Star Metal Clays.

I experimented with combining two color clays; copper with the light bronze. The two clays joined nicely in the wet stage and held together during firing. It made a nice stand out detail on my piece.

Rehydration: I cut and dried some pieces I didn’t like so I ground them and doused them with some water. After rehydrating overnight, the clay was workable again and fired successfully.

The firing! Oh my goodness, the firing! Carrie has worked out the best firing schedule ever. Everything is in round numbers and thousand degree increments. Even I could memorize the simple two-step schedule. I keep a binder of all the clay instructions and always double check before I press start on my kiln. This is a life changer for me! All the clays use an open shelf 1000°F burn off for five minutes.  Then starting with the white bronze at 1300°F it goes up through the colors to 1700°F for copper. All the times are the same; of course, you can adjust for your particular project.

Polishing is fine with either the 3M brushes or a tumbler. All five colors polished to a bright shine. I used Rio’s Midas Oxidizer for bronze to bring out some of the detail. The white bronze did turn a little bit yellow/ gold hued with the patina.

I have enjoyed creating with this clay and it is going to become my go to clay for my bronze clay work.


Laura Moore is an artist from Newport Beach, CA. Laura comes from a family with a strong tradition in the arts and sciences. She is a Senior Art Clay Certified instructor, and Rio Grande certified in PMC, she also has a degree in chemistry, and an AS in Ornamental Horticulture. She has worked in wide variety of mediums such as textile arts, ceramics, and landscape design. Her latest expression is a line of jewelry featuring silver medallions made with impressions of plants and other elements from nature. Her medallions are handcrafted using Metal Clay.