Metal Clay 101: Metal Clay “Snakes” – What Are They Good For? By Delia Marsellos-Traister

There are so many creative possibilities with metal clay. One opportunity is to roll coils, or as many of us lovingly call “snakes”. Coils may be used for bails, decorative accents, or as a primary part of a piece.

Right off the bat, let me tell you, that rolled coils, are stronger than syringe coils. There is more metal content by volume in lump clay then there is in syringe clay. This extra strength comes with a trade-off, though. Coils take a while to dry when compared with a rolled-out, flat, piece of clay due to the extra volume. Give coils a good hour to dry in air. If after ten minutes of air-drying, your coil seems stable enough to put in a dehydrator or on top of a warmer, then go ahead and do that. Take care that you don’t move your coil too soon. Otherwise, you risk flattening one side or picking up texture from the tray.

OKAY!  Let’s go!

IMG_3089 Continue reading…

Making Modern Electrum, an Experiment by Lynn Cobb

PMC Gold spinning element

Since gold clay is so expensive, might there be a way to combine it with silver clay and still have a finished metal that appeared gold in color, but would be less pure than PMC Gold clay and therefore, a little less expensive?

The ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of such an alloy, which occurred both naturally and man made. They called it “electrum” and used it for coins, jewelry and plating. My reading led me to discover that an alloy of more than about one third silver would result in a metal that appeared silver, that is, no gold color at all. Ancient alloys seemed to be no less than about 20% silver. Therefore, my plan was to combine a variety of gold and silver PMC mixes so that the alloys were in that sweet spot of 20-30% silver, to see what shades of gold would result. Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101- Paste: “The Thick And The Thin Of It” By Lora Hart

CompletedRepairIt happens to everyone. – both novices and masters. You’re working on a special piece of metal clay, and snap! Something breaks. Or you’re putting together a bead and can’t match the pattern at the seam. Or you simply want to join this element to that one. The most common response to any of these (and a million other) scenarios is to reach for that little pot of slip. Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101: Rolling Textures by Kris Kramer

index1 When I rolled my first textures in metal clay, I was excited by the results and truly amazed at the level of detail the clay picked up. Then I moved on to a stage where I noticed tiny cracks in the clay, which left me rolling a texture more than once to get the results I wanted. Time went by and I began to notice double imprints or shadows in the designs, then various depths to my textures that I also didn’t like. I was evolving into a metal clay texture aficionado. Continue reading…

Hot Topic: Copy-Cats

copycat
Image credit: www.mostlychelsea.com
cop·y·cat
ˈkäpēˌkat/
noun: copy-cat
-(especially in children’s use) a person who copies another’s behavior, dress, or ideas
-denoting an action, typically a crime, carried out in imitation of another.

Colour your work!

20160419_122106 - Copy (2)Add some colour! Thank you to our article sponsor: PMC Connection.

Alcohol Inks:
20160419_122502 - Copy (2)What I tried: I cleaned up several metal clay pieces with nail-polish remover (acetone).  I painted the pieces with alcohol inks.  I tried mixing colours and diluting the colours, but in the end I liked the colours straight out of the bottles best.  As you can see in the photos the colour fades when it dries. (After image has been buffed and polished. But on the edges you can see the pure colour. I took some of the colour off the middle of the leaf to show the silver.)
20160419_122856 - Copy (3)What I learned: The rougher the surface the better the colour adhesion.  Metal pieces will need to be coated with a spray on sealer.  I did not try the ink on base metals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160419_123312 - Copy (2)Gilders Paste:
What I tried: I painted guilders paste on to several metal pieces.  My paste was quite dry, so I diluted it with a bit of paint thinner. Some people like to rub the paste onto the metal with a soft cloth. I had better luck painting it on thick. The next day (almost 24 hours later) I gently rubbed off the extra with a light sanding (1000 grit paper).
20160419_135030(3) - CopyWhat I learned: I think I would have better luck with the colour staying on if  my pieces had deeper crevices and carving recesses. Like the alcohol ink I found the colour adhered better to a rough surface rather that a highly polished one.

20160419_130423 (2)Heat Patina:
20160419_130503 - Copy (2)What I tried: I heated copper rings with a butane torch, just long enough to see the colour change on the surface.
What I learned: The prettier the heat patina, the easier it is to rub off.  I still like the colour and will hope that the spray on sealer will keep some of the colour.  When I was making raku pottery I was told often that the colour would not stay it will oxidize and change over time… I’m sure this is true here.  But many of my pottery pieces still look good 20 years later–so I’m hoping for a similar result with heat treated metal that is sealed. And just a word about this torch.This torch would be a great one for a student.  It is so easy to start and to shut off.

20160419_123530 - Copy (2)Liquid Patinas: Copper Sulfate (base metals), liver of sulfur (silver).
20160419_123825 - Copy (2)What I tried:
Base Metal Copper Sulfate:
I painted the liquid copper sulpate patina directly onto the copper rings.  I liked how easy it was to turn the copper rings a dark black.

Liver of Sulfur:“LOS”, is a staple to a metal clay artists’ repertoire of techniques.  I use dry LOS pieces from a container I bought 10 years ago.  I dilute it in a cup of boiling water.  I let it cool and either dip my silver piece in or paint it on certain areas.
What I learned:
The copper liquid colourant has a distinct cat pee odor.  My poor cat was kicked out of my studio until I discovered the source of the smell. About half of the black patina rubbed off when I vigorously polished the rings.  I will try this product again and see if repeating the process would give me a more solid black colour.  The design potential is encouraging.

Liver of Sulfur: LOS has a distinct rotten egg odor that some artists cannot stand.  For those I’d recommend using the liquid LOS that comes prepared rather than dropping a chunk into boiling water. Fine silver holds its polish and patina well  and so I’ve never used any sort of sealer.

Where to find products I used:

Alcohol Ink: https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/alcohol-inks.html
Guilder’s Paste: https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/gilders-paste.html
Heat Patina: https://pmcconnection.com/firing/torch-kits/butane-torch.html
Copper Patina: https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/patinas/antique-patina-1-oz.html
Liver of Sulphur:https://pmcconnection.com/embellishment-finishes/patinas/liver-of-sulfur-gel-squeeze-bottle-xlgel-1-oz.html
Metal Sealer: https://pmcconnection.com/pym-protectant-pump-6-oz.html

540704_577388125607677_846842341_nJeannette Froese LeBlanc is a jewellery artist and the editor of www.cre8tivefire.com. She is definitely “A glass 1/2 full kind of person”! She has learned to enjoy the journey and not solely focus on the destination, which is something her kids taught her.  Look down, look around, enjoy where you are.

 

Metal Clay 101: Moisture Retention and Storage By Kris Kramer

Since the finest creations are made with the freshest of clay, keeping your clay fresh is critical for a good result. Moisture keeps binder in the clay at its peak performance, allowing you to best texture and join clay in your beautiful creations.

Everyone develops his or her particular way to store clay for the short- or long-term. Here are some tools and processes to know about while you develop yours. Many of these tools can be purchased or homemade.

While Working — Parked Clay
Never, never leave your clay out exposed to air while you are working on a creation. Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101: Where to Begin: Choosing Your First Metal Clay By Dona Miller

101 montana-agate-pendant-Dona-Miller-DesignsWorking in a new medium can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. As anew metal clay artist, your first question may very well be “Where should I start?” There are many varieties of metal clays to choose from and where you start your journey can have an enormous impact on where it leads.

Looking metal prices, one would think that base metal clays would be the best way to get started in metal clay. However, the firing of base metals is complex and often takes trial and error to get it right. In addition, base metal clays must be fired in carbon in a kiln.

So which metal clay should you choose to start? I start my students with PMC3.

101 Donna 1PMC3 is a fine silver clay (.999 silver). True, fine silver PMC3 is more expensive than base metal clays. But the ease of working with and firing fine silver clay makes it a much better choice for beginners. From start to finish, PMC3 is the least complicated of all of the metal clays, which means that students can focus on the basics of construction, firing, and finishing without having to worry about complications created by the clay itself. Once you have those basic skills under your belt, there is an entire universe of textures and colors available to the metal clay artist.

101 mountain-night-sky-custom-silver-ring-Dona-Miller-DesignsWith all metal clays, getting the basic texture and forming in place before the clay starts drying is key. Make sure your clay is sealed in an air-tight container when not being worked, and don’t hold the clay in your hands when you are not shaping it as your skin will pull moisture out of the clay.

Most important is to stay relaxed, have fun and experiment.

Still wondering about the other varieties of PMC clay? Here is a quick summary:
PMC3 – great for beginners; can be fired with a torch; low firing temperature allows for inclusion of findings, glass, and fire-able stones.
PMC3 paste – good for joining pieces; can be used for adding texture and painted designs; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling.
PMC3 syringe – good for making repairs and filling grooves; can be used for drawing, building up forms and setting stones; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling.
PMC Flex – designed to stay flexible when dry; good for bending, twisting and braiding; low firing schedule and can be fired with a torch.
PMC+ Sheet – flexible and does not stick to itself; great for origami, folding and weaving; can be laminated and used with paper punches.
PMC Sterling – great for added strength and shine, must be kiln-fired in carbon
PMC Gold – great for accents; low firing temperature; can be fired alongside silver PMC and can be torch fired.

dona-n-logan-5Dona Miller: “Art, especially jewelry, is very personal.  Through the constant inspiration of nature, animals and my dogs, I interpret the spirit around me into jewelry, using my love of stones and shaping metal.  My designs and metal work incorporate the use of cut and natural stones to reflect the peace, love and joy of nature.”

Jewelry in article by Dona Miller.

“Metal Clay 101” is an ongoing series brought to you by PMC Connection and their instructors.

Getting Started in Metal Clay

clay
At my last count there were over 22 different kinds of metal clay!


Safety Tips:
Always dry your clay completely before firing. If your clay is damp the moisture will try to escape quickly during firing and the piece will break or it could explode while torch firing.

Most metal clay pieces under 15 grams will take a day to dry. You can speed up the drying by using a mug warmer—remember to turn the piece every once in a while. Or you can use a food dehydrator that has been dedicated to non-food use. With these methods it will still take a few hours to dry out.

Do not torch fire metal clay that has been formed over a core, such as a ceramic bead, wood or cork clay.

Always follow the clay manufacturer’s directions for firing. The insert that comes with the clay will explain firing temperatures and timings.

Always fire metal clay, with a torch or with a kiln, in a well-ventilated area and have a fire extinguisher handy.

Technique Tips:
Keep that clay moist and you’ll be a happy artist! Clay can be stored in a small airtight container and if you are leaving the clay in-between projects, put a small piece of damp sponge in the container. It is also handy to have a small spray bottle handy to re-moisten clay if it starts to dry out.

Keep all the bits and shavings clean. All dried bits of clay can be re-hydrated into a paste, but keep the bits free of sandpaper grit and other work-space debris.

Before you open your package of clay, have your work-space ready. If you are rolling out the clay, have a non-stick work surface ready. (This can be a sheet of glass or plastic.) Lightly coat your hands and tools with olive oil. And lastly—know what you are going to do! Don’t wait for inspiration while your clay is drying out.

Torch Firing Demo:

Material Lists: (Click on images to enlarge.)

Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_1Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_2

Open Shelf Firing Base Metal Clays by Martha Biggar

 

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I recall so clearly when I first heard about metal clay, back in the late 1990s, in the Rio Grande catalog. I thought I might like to work with it, and took my first class in 2000 (a two-week stint at Arrowmont in Tennessee, with Linda Kaye-Moses). I also recall, equally clearly, hearing about and then using Metal Adventures’ (Original) BRONZclay, when it came on the market in 2008. Such an interesting and different take on metal clay!

And look at us now: we have several versions of silver clay, plus a multitude of base metal clays, with more coming. What Bill Struve started experimenting with in 2006 has grown into an international community of inventors and users, with clays coming from many parts of the world. While I am personally far from a scientist, I do have an inquisitive nature that wants to know many things about the materials we use.

Most of us are aware of some differences in the base metal clays, like color and shrinkage rate. I’ve taught many classes that help others get the feel of different clays, but never went beyond the basics where firing is concerned.   This is the subject of my latest set of experiments, and this article deals specifically with open-shelf firing of base-metal clays; torch firing is the subject for my next major experiment and another article. Continue reading…