I have been trying to combine metals with glass ever since I took my inspiring first glass beadmaking class from Kate Fowle Meleney nearly 20 years ago.. The advent of low-fire silver metal clays it has made it easy to add silver embellishments to glass, which not only is a beautiful touch but also is eminently practical given the rising cost of silver. Even a small amount of embellishment allows you to make something unique very quickly. You will need to buy or make a long-necked lampworked glass bead from soda-lime glass (aka “soft glass”), which has a COE (coefficient of expansion) between 90 and 104 and is manufactured under a number of brands including Effetre (formerly Moretti), Bullseye, Lauscha, Vetrofond and BellaDonna, among others. The secret to a successful outcome is working “wet” with the silver clay and using thick PMC3™ oil paste to adhere it to the glass.
Author: by Ann Davis – USA Photos: H. Caldwell Davis
Edited by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and Joy Funnell.
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.
Long 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…
I have had several businesses over my career as an artist. Each business name seemed to fit the business at the time, but now looking back some of the names seem lame. For example: I live in an old fashioned red schoolhouse—complete with a belfry. When we moved here I named my studio…. “The Schoolhouse Studio”. Yup. Wow eh? Okay it fit the location. When I started a magazine for Metal Clay artists it needed a name. I agonized over that name. Then I realized “Metal Clay Artist Magazine” fit…most of the time. Some newsstands insisted on putting the magazine in with Ceramics for the first few years and not in jewellery making section. Clearly there was room for improvement on the magazine name. When I had a brick and mortar bead store…the name was simple and clear. Guess what I named it…. wait for it… “The Bead Store”! Despite this clever name I still had people come in and ask what we sold. Ugh. Can’t win maybe? Continue reading…
“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”― Dolly Parton
I love that quote. I started to think of it this week when a friend who was visiting my studio remarked that I have “so much going on” and that I should just pick one art media. ~Maybe. That does seem logical. Even the head of the ceramics department at the University of Regina would agree with my friend as he said the same thing to me 24 years ago. Well his words were harsher, “You’ll never have a career in the arts if you don’t focus.” I did focus. I focused on ceramics. Loved it. (Ended up as a potter for 15 years.) But I also enjoyed the painting classes and photography classes I took along with my major. Looking around my studio it seems I never was able to focus on one thing, to fit into one media. I have a painting easel, canvases, a sewing dress form, a potter’s wheel and kiln, a sewing machine, a grinder, sheets of glass, beads by the pound and a jewellery bench….
While I was a “potter” by definition, I enjoyed slab work which led me to take courses in architectural ceramics–and make fireplace mantles. I also loved raku and for many years was a “production raku potter”. But slowly jewellery eeked into my life. First I started to make raku fired beads. Then I learned new ways to string them and new ways to finish necklaces and brooches. Soon my pottery booth at shows was split between hand-built raku sculptures and raku jewellery.
Enter Metal Clay. After working with 50lbs of ceramic clay at a time, teeny tiny amounts of metal clay was an interesting change. Making my own findings and jewellery in metal clay to compliment my raku beads became my new passion. As many of my readers know I started and ran a magazine devoted to metal clay jewellery. I was an artist in search of such a resource and with none available, I started the magazine. Metal clay still holds my attention 7 years later, and I have a large part of my studio set up for making jewellery. I also have a few sewing machines and shelves of fabric in my studio. I merged the two studio spaces this summer during my “60 Day Studio Challenge”. This is what my friend was passing a comment about…How could I work on two such different things? Didn’t I need to focus? Her questions made me wonder, “Am I less of an artist due to this perceived lack of focus?”. For me one media seamlessly flows into another.
The artists I would like to question are those who make the same things…for decades. I know several potters from when I was a ceramics major…who are still using the same glazes and making the same forms. How is it possible not to go crazy doing that? I don’t see having a single focus as being an asset for an artist.
There has been much discussion regarding the differences between brick and fiber kilns in light of the introduction of bronze and copper clays into the marketplace. This article explains the differences in these two insulating materials for kilns in relation to the firing requirements of the different metal clays. Continue reading…
- How to use metal clay tools, including slats, roller, templates, textures and butane torch.
- How to properly handle metal clay for ease of use and to economize the material.
- How to incorporate other jewelry making techniques with metal clay.
- How to enjoy metal clay!
This tutorial shows how to make the textured barrel beads as seen in the image of the mixed media necklace. Barrel beads use very little clay, yet have a lot of volume. And since they are not formed over any sort of burn-out material (i.e. wood or cork clay) they can be fired with a torch rather than a kiln.
When I finished making some barrel beads for this project I thought I needed a “beauty shot”; a photo that would inspire others to want to try making these beads. That was my “rabbit hole”! A month later…I strung this necklace. The other beads in the necklace include round bronze and silver beads, silver bead caps, vintage red plastic beads, rubber beads and rubber cord. It’s a real mix, but it is fun and that’s why we make jewellery!