Creative Fire: How long have you worked in metal clay? Do you have a favorite? Do you have any favorite tools for metal clay?
Anna : I started working with metal clay in 2008, so it’s been almost 7 years – time flies. Since then I tried really a lot of different metal clays, from different brands and the more I try, the more I am tempted to say, that it really doesn’t matter what you use. The only thing that matters is your talent and perseverance. Mazoń
I mostly use Art Clay Silver (it was the first clay I’ve ever used) and Goldie Bronze, but whenever I have an opportunity, I use all different clays too. Right now I am experimenting a lot with PMC Sterling. The next clay I’ll be testing is FYI silver clay. The market of metal clays is really dynamic right now, with a lot of new clays being developed, so I am simply having fun. The only thing that I am really unforgiving about is the strength of the fired clay. If a product doesn’t deliver here, I just don’t use it again. I sell my jewellery and its quality is the most important thing for me.
As for the tools – no matter which clay I am using at a moment they are always the same – scalpel blade, round file and something smooth and pointy, like a steel burnisher or a toothpick. That would be all. My students are usually surprised that I don’t use any fancy tools. It’s just not my way of working.
Have you run into any trouble or obstacles working in metal clay? Have you worked with metals other than metal clay?
I consider myself to be quite lucky with metal clays. I don’t have any issues with firings or anything before the firing. The only problems I had were actually related to malfunctioning kilns. Once during a class in someone’s studio I had a kiln which displayed totally different temperatures that really were inside, another time I taught in a classroom with an electricity circuit not suited for the kilns, so the circuit kept fusing. Things happen, but there is always a way to deal with them.
Recently I started working with metal in a traditional form of sheet, wire etc. I’ve always thought that it’s really important to keep your mind open, and remember that it’s not about being some kind of a metal clay purist. The whole point is to make beautiful jewellery using techniques that are the best for what I want to achieve. So if my piece calls for some soldering, additional strength in some strategic points, or it’s just easier to make an element out of sheet or wire, I will do that. I will always love metal clay with all my heart, but it doesn’t mean I can’t combine it with other things. I love experimenting and learning new things.
Could you tell us more about your Saul Bell Award piece? What are your Inspirations? What special techniques did you use in making this piece?
This necklace is called “Midsummer night” and it was inspired by a celebration of the shortest night of the year in Slavic culture – Kupala Night. It’s a festival of fire, water, joy, fertility and love. People gather around bonfires to dance and maidens make flower wreaths which are later thrown into rivers or lakes to tell the future or to be caught be a beloved man. It is said to be dangerous to swim on that night though because during this magical night you might encounter rusalkas – female water spirits. If they see handsome men, they will try to mesmerize them with with songs and dancing and then lead them away to the river bottom to their death. You can see three of these water spirits in my necklace. They have glowing ghostly eyes and they are peeking out of the lake, surrounded by water plants and fireflies.
Over the past year I have made several pieces inspired by Slavic floklore – I like this mixture of joy, love, danger and death that you can find in it. It’s also very exciting to explore this way my own cultural roots.
The necklace is made of fine silver clay, 18K green gold clay, sterling silver, labradorites and silk. The techniques I used to make this piece were actually quite simple – just a lot of filing and building everything by hand, both in wet and dry clay. I used only my favourite tools – scalpel, a round file, a few regular brushes – nothing fancy. All the stone settings were soldered after firing, and actually it was the only part where I had some problems. It turned out that the necklace was too big for my small torch and I couldn’t heat it up to a temperature high enough for solder to flow. But one of my jewellery making friends was so kind to let me use her big torch, so I could finish the necklace.
Anna sketches all of her designs before starting to work in metal clay.
Here you can see the piece over her sketch… this is a great way to check on your design as you work.
Were you influenced by any other artists past or present?
Actually yes. This necklace was strongly inspired by two things. One was a song by a neo-folk Polish band called Żywiołak (Zywiolak). The song’s title is “Kupala night”, so basically Slavic midsummer. It tells a story about wily – another variation of creatures from Slavic folklore very similar to rusalki, luring young men to join them in a wild dance, which might eventually lead to their death. It’s a very popular motif in Slavic folklore – dancing to death, making love to death or even being tickled to death. So always pleasure mixed with danger. You can find the song here.
The second thing was a particular picture by early 20th century Russian illustrator and stage designer – Ivan Bilibin. He was strongly inspired by Slavic folklore. That illustration which I especially like actually shows rusalka – one of these water spirits you can see in my necklace. I love her eyes – huge, empty and glowing with other wordly light. I wanted to get a similar effect in my necklace by using green gold clay.
You can find this illustration here.
In the past your work has been influenced a great deal by your interpretation of nature. Will you do more work in this theme?
This definitely isn’t the last piece inspired by Slavic folklore I made. Recently I feel drawn to a little bit “darker” motifs, and I am really curious where this will lead me with my creations.
Thank you Anna for taking the time to share with our readers. We really love your work (and it shows!) Anna’s pendant was on the cover of Metal Clay Artist Magazine Winter 2012. And we referenced her “Ice Dragon” project on the cover of our Spring 2013 issue.