Beginner Project: Feather Earrings by Janet Alexander


finished

Are you ready for your first metal clay project? These earrings are a great place to get started in silver metal clay.

Level: Beginner
Project by: Janet Alexander
Edited by: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and Jennifer Roberts
Material List PDF link: Feather Earrings Material List

STEP 1: Plan your earrings

The smooth base layer should be slightly larger than the textured front layer with enough area at the top to have a 1.5mm hole drilled into it without going through the front layer.

STEP 2: Prepare your work area.

Dip your finger tip into a small container of olive oil and then spread over your fingers, the roller, and inside a plastic report cover.

STEP 3: Working with the new pack of clay.

Open the clay only after you have all your supplies out and ready. Remove the clay from its plastic wrap, scraping off any stuck clay and adding it to the lump clay. The plastic it comes in doesn’t keep the clay air-tight so wrap the clay tightly inside new plastic wrap.

STEP 4: Make two smooth base layers.

Open the report cover and place playing cards stacked 2-high in 2 stacks three inches apart inside report cover. Place clay between the two stacks of cards and close the report cover.

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Using the clay roller, flatten the clay between the cards making sure not to roll off the cards, kind of like rolling out pie dough. Open report cover and remove the cards.

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Place the shape template on top of the rolled clay. As you can see I have marked my template so that the back and top sections are made from two different sixes. The top section is smaller than the back section. Holding the needle tool perpendicular to the clay’s surface, cut out 1 shape using the pin cutter. (No need to press hard, the pin cuts the clay while dragging it through the clay.)

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Remove the outside uncut clay and place into plastic wrap.

Remove the cut clay from the report cover and place it onto the steel scraper. Place the steel scraper onto the candle warmer. (Note: placing the clay onto the steel scraper instead of directly onto the candle warmer keeps it from warping while drying.) After 3 minutes, flip the clay over so that the underside may dry. Repeat this step to make the second piece. Set both pieces aside.

STEP 5: Make two top textured layers.

Lubricate the rubber texture stamp by dipping the toothbrush into olive oil and scrubbing it over the texture. (Note: this must be done each time before texturing clay.)

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Pre-flatten the lump clay by placing it inside the report cover and pressing it flat with your fingers before placing it onto the texture. Be careful not to flatten the clay less than 2 cards!

Place the cards, stacked 2-high in 2 stacks – three inches apart, on top of the texture mat.

Place the flattened clay between the stacked cards. Using the clay roller, roll over the cards pressing the clay into the texture making sure not to roll off the cards.

Remove the clay from the texture and place it on top of the report cover.

Cut the shape out by placing the template over the clay and cutting the shape out as before.

Remove the outside uncut clay and wrap tightly in the plastic wrap.

The cut edges will be rough. These are smoothed after drying. Place the cut out textured clay onto the steel scraper and place the scraper onto the candle warmer. (Note: placing the clay onto the steel scraper instead of directly onto the candle warmer keeps it from warping while drying.) After 3 minutes flip the clay over so that the underside may dry. Repeat this step for the second piece.

STEP 6: Sand and refine all pieces.

File the edges smooth on all pieces using the fine nail file. Smooth the front and back surfaces on both back pieces using the fine nail file.

(Note: if you see light areas in the sanded side, this means that there is a small dimple there. If it isn’t too deep, sand until it is gone. Later this small dimple shows up as a dent.)

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Using a craft knife cut some indentations into the sides of each textured piece, adding character to each piece.

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STEP 7: Attach the top and back pieces together for both earrings.

Apply a light coating of water to the smooth base piece using a small craft brush. Any time dry clay is attached to another piece of dry clay, always add water to one piece and paste to the other. (Note: the sponge in the water container helps clean clay off the brush.)

Apply PMC3 paste to the back of the front piece using a small craft brush. Press both pieces together and hold for 30 seconds until they do not try to move apart when released. Make sure not to trap air between the layers. When fired, the air can expand creating a hole.

Using a wet brush clean any excess paste from the join of the two layers. Place on candle warmer and dry thoroughly.

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STEP 8: Make hole for earring wire.

Drill one 2mm hole in the top of each earring base. Hold the drill bit between your thumb and index finger, twisting it until it drills into and through the clay. Make sure the hole is approximately 2mm away from the edge of the clay.

STEP 9: Fire the dry metal clay. This is the stage when the bone dry clay is heated up to a point where it sinters.  You can use a kiln (instructions below) or you can use a small butane torch to fire each earring. (Video demonstration here)

Place kiln shelf on top of small kiln feet. This allows air to heat the shelf evenly.

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Place dry earrings on the center of the kiln shelf. Heat the PMC3 metal clay per the manufacturer’s instructions.Allow the kiln to cool before removing. After the oven is 200˚F you can open the kiln and remove the pieces with tongs and cool them in a bowl of water.

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STEP 10: Finish the silver after firing.

The clay has a white coloration after firing. This is the fibers of the metal standing on end and not reflecting light.

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Brush the pieces with a brass brush under running water to shine. The water acts as a lubricant keeping the brass brush from imparting brass onto the silver.

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STEP 11: (Optional) Apply black patina to designs.

Add warm water to a small bowl. Place a small pea size grain of liver of sulfur into the water and allow it to dissolve.

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Place both earrings into the warm mixture until they turn black. Remove them from the liver of sulfur using copper tongs.

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Rinse in water and dry. Editor’s Note: the mixture of water and liver of sulfur is only active for 24 hours. When it becomes inactive, the yellow fades to white/clear. At this time it can be disposed of in the yard. Never put your fingers into the active solution. Always use copper tongs to remove items from the solution and then rinse in clean water.

STEP 12: Sand out scratches and polish.

Lightly sand with 600 grit sandpaper bringing out the highlights of the piece but keeping the texture black.

STEP 13: Attach earring wires.

Attach earrings to the earring wire. And now…show off your earrings! We’d love to see photos! You can post photos on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MetalClayArtist

Project designed by Janet Alexander.

“I am inspired by nature and try to capture a unique part of nature into my pieces, be that texture, color, or a feeling. Nature gives me energy and calmness.”

Please visit Janet’s website: www.janetalexander.net.

Thank you to Janet Alexander and PMC Connection for this project.

Check out the other beginner projects on the PMC Connection website.

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