Metal Clay 101 – Firing Metal Clay – by Katherine Prejean

Depending on the type of metal clay you are using, from original fine silver to base metal clays, there are a number of options for firing. This may include anything from a kiln to a simple hand-held torch.

One of the processes of creating jewelry with silver metal clay that got me addicted was the ability to use a something as simple as a butane torch for firing. In as little time as two minutes, I could have a beautiful pair of earrings or a pendant ready to wear.

TORCH FIRING — —

When teaching a beginner class, I only demonstrate torch firing as a way to help the students understand how easy it is to set up your metal clay studio with minimal cost. Continue reading…

Metal Clay 101- Embedding wire in PMC

Embedding wire in PMC

Whether you need to create a simple loop to hang an earring or you need to string together a complex network of components, embedding wire in PMC is an essential design technique. When working with PMC, always use fine silver wire and make sure the wire is clean by running it through some clean folded 320 grit sandpaper.  To insert eyelets, small loops, or prongs, slightly flatten the part of the wire you plan to insert in the clay and rough up the surface with a file to give more tooth for better grip. Insert the wire carefully into the wet clay, pull it back out dip it into the paste, and then reinsert.  Remember, if you are inserting a loop, be sure to embed the bottom 1/3 of the loop.

If you are laying wire through a piece (for example, making a clasp) make your piece in two layers. When the pieces are dry, sand a groove into both halves and then generously cover both with paste. Lay the flattened wire into the groove and sandwich the pieces together. This will eliminate the bump from the wire.

With a little practice, the addition of wire to metal clay designs can expand your creative horizons tremendously!

Ruth Greening
Having a lifelong love of art, Ruth has a diverse background that includes air-brush painting, Australian cake decorating, stone sculpture, lapidary arts, and fine wire wrap settings. Ruth is self-taught and enjoys learning from renowned teachers by attending classes taught in a wide variety of jewelry art disciplines.

Her introduction to PMC was a dream come true – to be able to work in silver with a true freedom in design. But the best reward is being able to share and enable others to create their own works of silver art through her role as a PMC Connection Senior Instructor.

 

Metal Clay 101- Carving Metal Clay by Dona Miller

mountain-ring-wet-carvedWet, dry, push, pull. Whatever method you choose, with time and a little practice you can create beautifully carved metal clay.

Carving in wet clay can give you curved edges and a sculptural feel. (See opening photo.) The clay is wet and the tools used are generally soft and rounded.  Wet clay added to wet clay can be shaped by pushing the clay into place.  Large amounts of wet metal clay can be cut off and small amounts brushed off with a wet brush.  Often artists working “wet on wet” will simply brush each side of clay to be joined with a swish of water from a paint brush. Just about any tool can be used with wet metal clay and most people like to use traditional clay carving tools. In general carving wet clay involves a pulling technique, where the tool is being pulled toward you to remove clay. Another way to think about it is that the clay you are removing is moving toward you. Fortunately, clay carving tools are readily available and inexpensive.

catbones-broach-dry-carvingThe method that I prefer is carving dry clay, which creates crisp, clean lines even on textured surfaces. (See Cat Tail Brooch photo.)I use micro wood carving tools to do this. When using a wood carving tool, you will be using a pushing motion to remove clay. The clay you are removing will be coming off the tool in front of your tool. Keep in mind, you can achieve a slightly different result depending on whether you carve into leather hard or fully dry clay. Fully dry clay will create more resistance which can give you more control, especially when you are first starting.

I generally use a pencil to draw my carving lines if I am doing a detailed carving or I want very crisp, specific cuts in my clay. If I want a more organic look, I will only mark starts and stops for my lines. I will then do a very shallow carve to create a guide for the tool when I am carving deeper. This allows me to move the first cut along a line, easily seeing my marks in front of the tool. After the shallow groove is in, I let carving tool to track in the groove while making the deeper cuts.

The trick to nice clean carvings is to remove a little clay at a time. You can always remove more clay, but it is often difficult to cleanly add clay back where you have removed too much. Also, make sure your piece has good support under it where you are carving. If you are carving a domed piece, leave the piece on the form while carving.

As always, safety is key when you are carving. Clay carving tools can be sharp and pointy and can easily injure if you are not paying attention. If you are using wood carving tools, note that these are extremely sharp and placement of your hands so the tool is always moving away from your fingers is important.

Once you have control of your carving technique, you can carve shallow, intricate designs. You can also take a completely different approach and create negative spaces by carving all the way through a layer of clay to make an open space. The sky’s the limit. Enjoy!

donaDona’s love of jewelry began as a child, sitting on the floor for hours with her mom’s jewelry box. She began designing her own jewelry in high school and spent time studying the work of a jewelry designer and family friend. During her career in high tech, Dona traveled the world fascinated by the cultures and their use of color and texture.

After leaving the high-tech world, Dona returned to her love of jewelry design. Her work is influenced by the places she has lived and traveled, bringing the textures of nature into her designs. Her love of stones is featured in her one-of-a-kind pieces which showcase the stones she has collected.

Dona currently teaches classes in jewelry design and techniques. Her students continue to be an inspiration to her, fascinating her with the unique perspective each student has conceptually and artistically.
Dona is an award winning artist. Her work is featured in stores and galleries throughout the Northwest and in print.

Metal Clay 101-Syringe Extrusion by Teva Jane Chaffin

Chaffin RingsThe syringe is my go-to form of metal clay for many techniques and applications. Not only is it great for setting cubic zirconia (smaller than 3mm) but also for creating texture and pattern.

unnamedOne of my favorite uses is creating a filigree-type tree of life. I also use as a fill in for seams or gaps that may appear when creating dry construction pieces. Using steady pressure and a moist brush for smoothing will make a smooth join.

Holding syringe(1)Holding the syringe – Avoid a death grip!
It is important to hold the syringe in a way that is comfortable for you. My recommendation: grasp the syringe barrel using four fingers of your dominant hand and place your thumb on top of the plunger. The “wings” of the syringe will rest on top of your index finger. Use wrist movements to guide the direction of the syringe.

Cutting the tipTo trim or not to trim the tip:
The amount of the tip you cut off will determine the size of the line to be extruded. The more you cut, the large the line. It can be useful to have multiple length tips available for a variety of uses. Be sure tips are on a syringe and kept moist in a cup of distilled water or a syringe saver in between uses. Continue reading…

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…

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…

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.