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…

Metal Clay Textures Are Everywhere You Look! By Margaret Schindel

TexturesOne of the key reasons for choosing metal clay as a jewelry making material is that it allows you to create or reproduce virtually any texture in metal quickly and easily.

What Can You Use to Add Texture to Metal Clay?

Although it sounds clichéd, you really are limited only by your imagination. There is a dizzying selection of commercial plastic, polymer or silicone texture mats and sheets, rubber stamps, texture rollers, molds, etc. that you can purchase to impress patterns in fresh clay. There also are many different ways to make your own one-of-a-kind texturing materials and tools. You can use water etching, carving, drilling, filing and metal clay appliqué on dried clay. After firing you can use traditional metal working techniques such as hammering to alter the topography of the metal’s surface. Continue reading…

Tips: Keeping Metal Clays Moist.

Whenever I teach a metal clay class I always see students carefully re-wrapping their metal clay and putting it back into the packaging. I hate to see fresh metal clay dry out so I show my students several ways to store metal clay. Here are a few of my favourites for keeping metal clay either lump or syringe types ready to use and in their optimal condition.

111831Long Term Storage
Clay: There are several ideas for long term storage. Some people like to use pressed powder containers with a wet sponge on top. Others have purchased different storage containers from metal clay sellers. I find the lotion sample containers from the make up counter to be cheap and plentiful. I like to have containers dedicated for one type of clay. Simply write the type of clay on the lid. A small piece of wet sponge can be added for really long term storage.
Syringes: I have a few containers that hold water and seal off the syringe. I like this one by Linda Stiles Smith which is sold by Rio Grande. Continue reading…

Photography: The Live Model By Marcia B.

 

_MG_8662_Retouched-3c_RGB[Editor’s Note: When we started to put models on the cover our readers noticed!  The first issue with a live model featured a beautiful cover photograph of Kathleen Nowak Tucci’s piece Unidinia on a live model. This eye-catching shot generated so much positive buzz in the forums and on Facebook, we decided to go in-depth for our readers and ask a photographer for her point of view on jewellery photography.]

Shooting fashion and beauty is a creative endeavor that entails exploration in order to attain a meaningful photographic expression.

When producing a shoot as a photographer/stylist, I start off with a concept. Along with the input of my creative team, I let the photo-shoot process take on a life of its own to see what can be accomplished. First—I scout a model that suits the look I am aiming for. 1_Photography_Marcia 34221In terms of styling—with the established concept in mind, I proceed in getting the right clothing and accessories to accomplish the planned look. I then consult with my make-up artist for complimentary beauty looks to match the concept. It’s an enjoyable process that allows freedom to transform ideas into even greater ideas. Last, I seek a location that coincides with the theme of the shoot. Finding the right location with the right amenities for make-up, hair and wardrobe prep can be tedious at times. It is very exciting when all components come together on set and the creative process comes alive. When shooting, I keep my concept in mind and continue to evolve as ideas arise on set. Continue reading…

Bill Struve’s New Invention: 3-D MetalCreator

Bill at Metal Clay Mojo 2015Every once in a while, if we are lucky, we meet someone who is truly a giving person. Someone who doesn’t expect something in return. Most of us know people who will look for the “what’s in it for me” before they give, such as: a tax receipt, their name listed on a donor page or carved onto a corner stone. But then there are those who quietly give. In the artistic community, artists are often preyed upon to “give” and “donate”. But in this case a scientist and an artist are giving to artists! Bill and Lacey Ann Struve are well known in the metal clay community. They have invented and produced several base metal clays under their company Metal Adventures and now they have a new invention to share with the artistic community. Continue reading…

Zen What? By Linda Stiles Smith

smith_zentangle1Ever have the thought that because you can’t draw you aren’t an artist? Well, according to the newest craze spreading across the country, if you can hold a pen and make a line, you can draw beautiful pictures. Does this make you an artist? Maybe not, but just about everyone who has tried it creates at least ONE original drawing, often worthy of framing!

Last fall I was introduced to a drawing technique called Zentangle®. A friend found it online, I ordered the kit, three of us watched the video, tried it out and we were hooked! We each have different backgrounds, but we were each able to create a set of diverse and interesting drawings.

The premise behind the process is that you combine some Zen time, soft music and quiet environment with a directed type of mark making, and you create small, 3.5”x3.5” (8.8cm) drawings full of dynamic patterns and shapes. By engaging your right brain in this way anyone can draw some pretty spectacular designs. Zentangle® provides a way to shift your focus and perspective onto the process of what you are doing and away from the results. Continue reading…

FingerTIPS–The nuts & bolts of making fingerprint jewelry in metal clay–By Sarah Parker Heermann

sarahparkerheermannUSA_earringsThe real trick to making fingerprint jewelry in metal clay is getting a clean, detailed print impressed into the clay. In my experience, all metal clays types can take fingerprints beautifully. But there are a few different ways – both direct and indirect – to harvest the fingerprint and impress it into the clay, and each has advantages and drawbacks and produces a slightly different result.

The three most common approaches are:
1) Pressing the finger directly into metal clay.
2) Taking an impression of the fingerprint into a molding compound, and pressing the molded print into metal clay.
3) Taking an ink fingerprint on paper and then using the image to create a photopolymer plate (PPP) or to etch a copper texture plate.

In this article, I’ll describe the major pros, cons, and unique considerations for each approach. Continue reading…

Studio Insights by Michael David Sturlin –The Importance of Purpose

 

Many things we do in life have purpose. But, this in itself doesn’t imply that we always see all of them as particularly purposeful at the moment of doing them. In fact, we might often wonder, “Why do I have to do this?”

Purpose2Some of the things we do are just necessary activities of our everyday human existence. Those tend to be the unavoidable things that are part and parcel of daily life; household chores, school and family activities, work related tasks. There are a myriad of things that simply have to be done. They may not always be our favorite things. But, since they have to be accomplished anyway, realizing their necessity as we do them makes them a bit more purposeful and easier to tend to. Continue reading…