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.