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 – Anna Siivonen by Julia Rai

Swedish metal clay artist and designer Anna Siivonen has a very distinctive style which makes her work endlessly interesting if a little disturbing at times! She’s uncompromising in her subject matter and is equally comfortable producing cute or disquieting pieces. I’ve never met Anna but have admired her work for quite a while so I was really interested to find out more about her.

“I live in the suburbs of Stockholm in my grandmother’s old house,” she told me. “I live with my man, daughter, and cat. I work from home and spend most my days creating, dancing, doing yoga and hanging with my family. My childhood home is just a few kilometers from here and my mother still lives there.”

Anna has always been creative. “I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t creating in different mediums,” she began. “During the summers I spent weeks with my grandmother in the country side in Finland and she didn’t have any crafting materials so I came up with my own. Among other things I made monster sculptures with old newspapers that I wrinkled together and twisted thread around. I was an introvert kid with lots of imagination and time to kill. So I read and drew and crafted.”

She discovered metal clay quite some time ago.  “I first heard about silver clay in 2005 when I was searching the net for some information regarding ceramic clay. I got intrigued and signed up for the only metal clay class in Sweden that was available. I was blown away with the possibilities of the material but underwhelmed with the class since the teachers was nearly as new to the medium as me and didn’t seem to want to experiment and explore it as I did. The first thing I made was a G-clef that I later repurposed by melting it down to small balls that I made in to a raspberry.  I continued to explore, experiment and learn by myself and I ended up writing the first book about silver clay that was published in Sweden and Finland. Continue reading…

Artist Project Series: Anna Siivonen

This is the sixth project in the Artist Project Series.  Anna Siivonen from Sweden shows how she uses sterling silver metal clay and sterling silver wire. Anna is known for her small, whimsical sculpted metal clay jewellery and she brings that creativity to this project.

Materials and tools:
EZ960 10-20g Sterling Silver Metal Clay (available from Cool Tools)
20-25 cm 1,5 mm thick sterling silver wire
Kids modelling clay or any other cheap and easy to use clay to sketch in.
Baby wipes
Pliers to cut with and pliers to bend wire with
3M radial bristle disc (120 grit)
Steel block
Rubber mallet
Common metal clay tools
Activated carbon and firing box
steel shot and a tumbler (if you want to give it that extra shine)

Step 1: Read through this step by step description before starting. You could also practice the steps by making the parts in modelling clay. I do a lot of my sketching in modelling clay or in copper or bronze clays. For this project I made several versions in modeling clay so I knew how big to make the parts so that the finished piece would have the size I wanted. You can scale up or possible down the size of the finished design depending on what you want to use it for. If you make the smallest component, the seeds, just a little bit bigger than I describe in the project the finished pieces will be quite a lot bigger. You can also change the design of this project quite easily by making more or less petals, changing their placement and adding other design elements. Try out different layouts in modelling clay before you start with the silver clay. Do not worry about making it perfect in modelling clay. It is more difficult to work in than metal clay in my opinion. If you are going to make a bracelet with a thin wire like in this project the design element should be kept small. To make this bracelet I used less than 10g of silver clay and a 1,5 mm thick and 22 cm long sterling silver wire.

Step 2: Start by making three “seeds” with silver clay, one slightly bigger and two smaller ones. I made my biggest about 1 cm long and the two other ones about 8 mm. Dry the seeds. My flower is going to have five petals and will need 5 seeds, but I begin with making only three so that I do not have that much to reconstitute if I were to change my mind about the size and numbers of petals while making it. Continue reading…

Artist Profile – Iwona Tamborska by Julia Rai

As soon as I saw Polish artist Iwona Tamborska’s work, I knew I had to find out more about her. As a fan of fantasy, myth and fairy tales myself, her work really spoke to me. I asked Iwona what she considers her job title or profession to be. “That is a very good question as I noticed it is quite hard to explain,” she smiled. “I usually start with: ‘I am an artist and work with metal.’ If someone wants to know more, I continue: ‘My works are usually minimal scale sculptures and often have a use as jewelry’. I used to try to use the term ‘art jeweller’, but somehow people had the wrong idea of my work.” Continue reading…

Artist Project Series: Iwona Tamborska

The 3 Fish

This is the 5th project in our ongoing series of tutorials sponsored by Cool Tools.  All projects use their new silver metal clay EZ960™ Sterling Silver. This project is quite advanced, however, artists of all levels will learn something new! Be inspired by the way Iwona uses a drawing for the plan and layout of her pieces, or by her use of colour as she adds stones and coloured paste to this project!  Those who want to learn about hollow forms can follow along and learn about using a burn out media.  This beautiful pendant is wearable sculpture! Continue reading…

Artist Project Series- Kathy Van Kleeck

Strata Ring by Kathy Van Kleeck is presented by Cool Tools and is part of a special series of projects designed by metal clay master jewellery makers.  Kathy’s unique style and openness about her process is as refreshing as her jewellery.

(Note: click on images to enlarge)

The inspiration for this ring was born out of my curiosity about how thin I could work with the new EZ960® Sterling Silver Clay and still maintain structural integrity.  Favorite themes in my work are repetition of form and layering of elements.  The image of stratified layers came to mind and creating this effect in rings seemed like a good place to start.

I started off making what I call “washer” rings, thin and flat, but with my signature “wonky and weathered” edges.

Wearing a loose stack of the new “strata” rings worked just fine, but as a project to share seemed a bit lackluster.  The idea of joining the rings via rivets, one small to stabilize the stack and one large to secure the group, seemed like it would be visually compelling, not to mention good fun. Continue reading…

Artist Profile – Marco Fleseri by Julia Rai

Chicago based jewellery maker Marco Fleseri has been working with metal clay since 2003. “I made some crude dangly shapes and textured them using the point of a toothpick,” he told me. “I knew it had potential, particularly for creating things that would be difficult or impossible to produce using previous/ traditional methods.”

I asked Marco about his earliest memory of being creative. “When I was five years old I made some blobs that I thought resembled fish, using a papier-mâché I had fashioned by soaking crumpled facial tissue with glue. I sculpted the shapes and let them dry. I was later dismayed when I put my ‘fish’ into a bowl of water and they dissolved.”

Marco’s studio is in a building with other artists and I’m always interested to find out how organised other people are. “My studio is usually somewhat organized, unless I have several projects happening simultaneously.” I can relate to that! Continue reading…

Artist Project Series: Marco Fleseri

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). Continue reading…

Artist Project Series: Cindy Miller

We are proud to present the 2nd project in a series brought to you by Cool Tools using their new metal clay, EZ960™ Sterling Silver Metal Clay.  Cindy Miller created a beautiful project that both new and experienced metal clay artists will enjoy.

Images of owls have been recorded in art and literature throughout history from the Greek and Romans to numerous Native American tribes. The owl represents wisdom and is associated with inner sight.  The owl is associated with the night it has played on the imagination of people throughout time. Here’s a link to learn more about Owl mythology. This is Cindy’s interpretation of an owl totem amulet necklace.

To learn more about our featured artist, please see Cindy’s artist profile by Julia Rai. Cindy was very candid and talked about her journey to becoming a full time jewellery designer. Continue reading…

Artist Project Series: Gordon K. Uyehara

unnamed“The Artist Project Series” will feature 12 artists over the next year or so.  Each artist will let us look over their shoulder while they make a piece of art using EZ 960™ sterling silver metal clay.  As the master artists show their methods for making a piece, I hope that you are inspired and learn a new way of looking at metal clay. With thanks to the artists participating and to our corporate sponsor, Cool Tools.

Our first artist is Gordon Uyehara from Honolulu Hawaii. Recently he was interviewed by UK artist Julia Rai. Read her interview here.

In Gordon’s project, he shows how to make a Pangolin ring. It is an awesome piece of jewellery modeled after a very interesting animal. His project is quite timely too as countries have started to come together to sign a trade ban on Pangolins. (NY Times article.) Learn more about this animal. (Telegraph UK article.) Continue reading…