Artist Project Series: Penannular Brooch by Julia Rai

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Cool Tools is proud to present the next artist project in our series.  This time UK artist Julia Rai presents her artistic talents using EZ960™ Sterling Silver Clay.

Julia Rai has been a contributor to Creative Fire (Metal Clay Artist Magazine) since 2009.  We are thrilled to feature her latest project.

“Penannular style brooches have been used to fasten clothing since the late Iron Age. This style of brooch has a loop of metal with terminals or flattened ends and a moveable pin. The pin is pushed through the fabric and the end of the ring goes under the sharp end of the pin. The ring is then turned locking the pin in place. There are a wide variety of designs for the terminals of historical penannular brooches and this is where the fun comes in on this modern take on an ancient design.

I have used a natural theme for the hoop, texturing it to resemble bark. The terminals use pod, fungi and lichen forms and this is echoed on the curve of the pin.”

Tools and Materials

  • 25g EZ960™ Sterling Silver Clay
  • Thick paste – any silver clay type will do or make some using scraps of EZ960
  • Syringe – any silver clay type will do
  • Liver of sulphur
  • Extruder with tube making attachment
  • Snake roller
  • Craft knife
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Pointed small clay shaper
  • Tweezers
  • Oil
  • Paintbrush
  • Sanding pads
  • Polishing pads/papers/cloths
  • Vermiculite and stainless steel container
  • Half round pliers

Step 1

Using an extruder with a tube making attachment allows you to easily form a tube for the hoop. This makes the brooch lighter and saves on the amount of material used to make the hoop. Choose a round die which is 3-4mm larger than the central rod on the disc that makes the hole. My die is 5mm in diameter and the rod is 1.5mm in diameter.

Step 2

Oil the inside of the extruder barrel, the die and the hole making disc. Put a large lump of clay into the barrel, assemble the tube maker and screw on the end. Turn the handle and extrude a long tube. Cut it off the extruder with a sharp knife. Form this into a hoop the size you want it and trim off the ends. My hoop has two downward facing terminals but you could also have the gap wider and have the terminals facing each other. Allow this to dry.

Step 3

Trim the ends of the hoop so they are angled facing forward. This will allow the embellishments to face forward when they are added. Using a pointed craft knife, thin out the walls of the terminals from the inside being careful not to go too thin and break the ends.

Step 4

Texture the hoop using thick paste. Drag a cocktail stick in random lines through the paste to form bark like patterns. Do this in small sections on one side so the paste does not dry out before you have made the lines. Allow one side to dry, then turn it over and texture the other side the same way. Make sure the hoop is covered on all sides.

Step 5

To make the pin use a snake roller or a CD case and start with a sausage of clay on a non-oiled surface. Roll a tapered snake thinner than the hoop at the thickest end. It needs to be long enough to be bent over the hoop with the potential to almost touch without restricting movement around the hoop. The sharper end should protrude beyond the gap in the hoop, how long that is depends on your design.

Step 6

Cut the thickest end at an angle and then bend the length so it forms a hook shape with the cut angle facing forward. Embellishment will be added to the flat end to match the terminals. Allow this to dry.

Step 7

When the pin is dry, texture the top and sides of the bend down to the angled end using thick paste and a cocktail stick. Take the texture a little way down the back of the pin but not so far that it will interfere with the action of sliding the pin smoothly through fabric. Do not texture the inside as this will make it difficult for the pin to slide around the hoop smoothly.

Step 8

Take a small ball of clay and form it into a cone shape. Form a pod by pushing a small, pointed clay shaper into the end of the cone and creating an asymmetric aperture with the opening facing forward. Make sure the end of this fits into the hole in the terminal. Form another pod roughly the same size. Allow these to dry and then stick them into the ends of the terminals with thick paste.

Step 9

Make a number of small pod forms using the same method as before. These should be different sizes and shapes to make the overall form interesting. Allow these to dry and then add them to the terminals around the larger pod forms and extending up the hoop a little way. Tweezers help to place these small, fiddly forms. The aim is to cover the transition between the hoop and the main pods so they look like growing forms.

Step 10

Form a number of small balls and poke a dent into each ball with a cocktail stick while they are still wet. Allow these to dry and then stick them into any gaps between pods. Add some paste and cocktail stick texture to the outside of the pods if you like or leave them smooth. Make sure the back gets some embellishment too. When you are happy with the overall design, put it to one side to dry.

Step 11

Use some smaller pod forms and some balls to decorate the front facing part of the pin end and slightly up the bend. Add texture if desired. Use a sanding pad to smooth the pin and sharpen the point. Allow the pin and the hoop to dry thoroughly.

Step 12

Nestle the pieces on a bed of vermiculite or fibre blanket in a stainless steel container. Fire at 1650˚F/900˚C for four hours to ensure the pieces are at maximum strength to bend the pin after firing.

Step 13

Use a brass or steel brush to get into all the nooks and crannies of the pods and texture on the hoop and the pin. Tumble polish to a high shine.

Step 14

Mix up a solution of liver of sulphur with boiling water and dip the hoop and the pin until they are black. Rinse in cold water and then use polishing papers and cloths to shine the high spots of the texture, pods and balls.

Step 15

Assemble the pin on the hoop. Using half round pliers, gently bend the decorated end of the pin so it almost touches the stem but allows free movement around the hoop.

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.