Protected: Firing Glass & White Bronze Clay by Carrie Story

Firing glass with bronze might sound impossible, but it is actually very easy to do. You still need to use carbon to assist the bronze with sintering. So, how do you protect the glass from getting carbon in it?

In this tutorial, I will explain how to build a steel mesh box to place over your glass during firing. This technique allows for limitless design options. And, white bronze is the perfect non-precious metal to use with your glass. It fires in exactly the correct range for adhering the glass to the surface of it.

We will be using Five Star Metal Clay and a two-phase firing schedule.

 

 

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English Pendant Ocarina by Carrie Michael

orcana

The ocarina is an instrument that still remains beautiful today but connects us to the very roots of art and music. With this project, I will share how I make a whistle from metal clay, and then tune it to create a musical instrument.

Project: Carrie Michael
Photos and illustrations: Carrie Michael
Editing: Joy Funnell and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

Bronze Swing Earrings by Cindy Silas

MCAM 4.3_Page_56_Image_0001Combining metal clay and polymer clay in a piece of jewelry is a great way to add color and contrast. To connect the two mediums, it helps to build some sort of connection into the metal clay that will allow the polymer to wrap around it or otherwise grab a foothold. In this pair of earrings metal clay ovals are connected with small blocks of metal clay and once the polymer clay is added the connection is hidden. I’ve used bronze clay but you can use any type of metal clay.

Collagraphic Texture Sheets by Cindy Miller

MCAM 2.3_Page_77_Image_0003Let’s face it: we all love buying new tools, but they sure can put a dent in our wallets. Luckily, you probably already have the makings of unique collagraphic texture sheets as close as your kitchen or studio junk drawer. A collagraphic texture sheet is a collage that has been sealed with a polymer sealer so you can use it with metal clay. These texture sheets are simple to create, and ideas for different textures are limited only by your imagination.

(This pendant was textured with a cheesecloth texture sheet. To create a dramatic effect, only part of the clay was textured.)

 

Step-by-Step Project: Sterling Wedding Band by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

Commissions–to take them or not is a question many artists have to figure out for themselves.  About ten years ago the parents of a friend of mine were celebrating a big anniversary and they wanted new wedding bands.  They came to me to make them. I was flattered and scared. The rings turned out well and they have been worn everyday for the past decade.  My friends’ father is a woodworker, gardener, golfer and has worked hard while wearing a fine silver ring…so you can guess that it has been pretty beaten up.  It was flattened and reshaped at one point which work-hardened a few spots.  Over time these spots weakened.  He asked if I could solder the opening.  I figured it would be much better to remake the ring in a stronger sterling silver metal clay.  So here I am with a ring I made over a decade ago–and I need to remake it– “Exactly the same. The fit and shape are perfect.” (Pictured is the old ring and the old texture plate.)

1The first thing I had to do was find the texture sheet I used over a decade ago….in another studio!  My studio moved from a shop I had downtown to my garage–then was cleaned out last summer.  Oy!  I remember finding the old texture sheets and tossing them.  But did I toss them in a “maybe I’ll teach metal clay again someday bin” or in the garbage?  It took me a few hours to find them…but I had them.  Whew!  “Exactly the same” rang in my head!  So here we go…I documented remaking this simple ring band so that you can follow along.

Project: Miniature Jugs In Silver Metal Clay by Sue Heaser

1.2 extract images_Page_28_Image_0001aI always have loved jugs and I have a much-loved collection of milk jugs in all shapes and sizes. It was natural that I should want to make miniature jugs in pure silver! The project instructions will make a jug about ½” (13mm) high,which is equivalent to 6” (15cm) tall in the standard dollhouse scale of 1:12. These little jugs also look wonderful hanging on a charm bracelet.

The secret to sculpting small miniatures in metal clay is to make the rough shape of the object in fresh clay, dry it, and then refine the shape with sanding, repairing imperfections with paste as necessary.

 

 

Project: Silver and Gold Pendulum by PATRIK KUSEK

Untitled-61I’ve always been interested in supernatural phenomena: ESP, clairvoyance, telekinesis, observations that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding. Today there seems to be an unlimited number of TV shows on everything from Bigfoot to psychic pets. Even The History Channel has gotten into the act with programs on UFOs and psychic phenomena. So when I got the idea to make a pendulum for a necklace, I thought a little investigative research might be in order.

MCAM 5.1_Page_07_Image_0004Pendulum divination has been around for hundreds of years. It has been used to find hidden treasure, diagnose illness, locate missing persons, uncover gemstones hidden in the ground, and even find Russian submarines. Many notable people took advantage of the power of the pendulum. Leonardo da Vinci, General Patton, even Albert Einstien was known to use the pendulum with great success. He believed its power lay in electromagnetism and energy that is unseen and not yet fully understood.

Regardless of how or why it works, you don’t need to be psychic to use it, and now you can make one for yourself!

Artist/Author: Patrik Kusek
Photos: Patrik Kusek
Editors: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Joy Funnell and Margaret Schindel.

 

Graceful Petals- Incorporate metal clay into traditional metal working with soldering by CANDACE STEPPES

MCAM 4.3_Page_45_Image_0001Providing elegance and sunshine to everyday, flowers can always brighten a mood. Create a flower of grace and splendor with carved leaves for that added touch of detail. I will then show you how to solder the foliage to a sterling silver cuff that will allow you to take the flower with you everywhere.

Project and Photos by CANDACE STEPPES
Editing by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and Joy Funnell
(All images and text copyright to the artist and permission must be given by the Artist or Creative Fire to reproduce.)

Project: Grand Inspiration by Helen Wyland-Malchow

MCAM 3.2_Page_47_Image_0001Most metal clay artists have a quite a few pieces that didn’t work out as planned. My metal clay leftovers live in a box on my workbench. I leave them there as a visual reminder, hoping that some grand inspiration will point me in the right direction. I also collect vintage cabs, brass stampings and beads dating from 1910 to 1970, and containers of them litter the shelves on my wall! As fate would have it, I knocked over the box of metal clay odds and ends onto a design board where I had been playing with some vintage cabs and stones. They landed in just the right spot and— voilà!—an inspiration was born. It was the perfect marriage of my collections of vintage stones, polymer clay and metal clay. I have found some of my most interesting stones at tag sales and thrift shops, set in unwanted bracelets, necklaces or pins. Release these stones from their old designs and mix them with your metal clay leftovers and polymer clay to give them an entirely new look! Your local craft store also carries lots of interesting things that can be set into a bezel.

Wishing you grand inspirations with your own leftovers!

Project Design and Photos:
Helen Wyland-Malchow
Editors:
Margaret Schindel and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

Editor’s note: This project can serve as a springboard for multiple variations. For example, use three stone or glass cabochons rather than filling two of the bezels with polymer clay cane slices, or join the metal components with metal clay oil paste instead of solder.

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.
Paintbrush
Baby wipes
Scalpel
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 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…

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.

There are a lot of U-tube videos on metal clay, but one of my favorite ones on torch firing is by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc https://youtu.be/OwwZ3RnkEHw.

Here are some additional tips to remember when torch firing your metal clay.

1. Always make sure you are in a well ventilated area and that your piece is not too large or complex. (These need to be fired in a kiln for a longer period of time.)

2. Allow your work to air dry overnight or place it on a coffee warmer or dehydrator until thoroughly dry. One of my favorite ways to test if the piece is dry is to place it onto a small mirror and wait 5-10 seconds, if there is condensation on the mirror when you remove the piece, it’s not quite dry yet.

3. Once the piece is thoroughly dry, place it on a soldering block or fire brick. My torch station consists of a ceramic tile under the brick/block, which is then set on either a fireproof surface or something that can be singed (like a piece of plywood).

If you are working on the kitchen counter and the piece rolls off the block you don’t want to scar the counter-top. I always have a fire extinguisher in easy reach.

4. Light the torch and hold it so the flame is nearly vertical with the tip of the cone, about 3/4″ away from the work. Within a minute, the piece will be enveloped in a soft flame as the binder burns away. Your first instinct is to pull the flame away from the piece. Don’t do that! The flame will soon go out by itself. Within another minute the piece will start to glow red. Continue heating until this becomes a bright and luminous color. At this point, glance at a clock.

5. Hold this color as uniformly as possible for at least 2-3 minutes (glancing away periodically to relieve your eyes). When the time is up, turn off the torch and allow the piece to cool at least until the red color is gone, at which point it can be quenched or left to air cool.

KILN FIRING — —

As I began to create more complex metal clay pieces and increased my production, I realized that my best option for firing was with a kiln. Utilizing a kiln allows me to fire larger pieces (in excess of 1”), as well as groups of smaller items, like earrings. This frees up my time up to get back to creating.

As with torch firing, I always ensure my pieces are completely dry. All types of metal clay can be fired in a kiln. As long as the kiln can ramp up to the required temperature (as high as 1650 degrees F (900 degrees C) for silver metal clay and can hold that temperature for anywhere from 10 minutes to 4 hours, it can be used for firing metal clay. Programmable kilns allow you to set the time and temperature for firing, which removes any guess work. It’s important to check the clay manufacturer’s time/temperature requirements to determine how high and how long clay must be fired.

The main issue with using a kiln, is that you want to make sure the temperature readings and hold times are accurate. If metal clay pieces are under-fired (fired at lower temperatures or for a shorter period of time than required), then they will not be fully sintered and will be subject to breakage. Alternatively, pieces fired too hot will melt. Kiln temperatures can drift slightly over the life of the kiln. So if you find that you are having firing issues, it is a good idea to test the actual temperatures in your kiln using a handheld pyrometer and compare that to the read out on the kiln’s display. This may result in the need to adjust the temperature (higher or lower temperature by as much as 25 degrees) or period of time (longer or shorter hold time).

I always place my work on a kiln shelf that has been elevated with kiln stilts. This allows the heat from the kiln to travel up, down, all around the pieces. I never place my pieces directly on the kiln floor.

Because metal clay may sometimes slump, flatten or warp as gravity acts on the metal during firing, it important to support the piece to help it retain its shape. If you are firing a complex piece (curved or shaped) that needs support, there are several ways to preserve the shape of your piece. The most common varieties of support are a fiber blanket or vermiculite. Vermiculite, which is a naturally occurring material, is my choice of support for my metal clay. It is easy to find – I buy mine at a local garden center and it works well. I just place it in a crucible and place my metal clay pieces on the vermiculite and fire. You can also place vermiculite directly on the kiln shelf. Fiber blanket can be used to support whole pieces. It can also be placed in negative spaces for support of hollow forms.

My final note on firing metal clay is on Safety:

You should always fire in a well-ventilated area or outside. If you’re torch firing, wear cotton; synthetic materials can melt and stick to the skin if burned. Tie back your hair, wear closed-toed shoes, and don’t wear loose-fitting clothes.

If you’re kiln-firing, follow the kiln manufacturer’s specifications on creating a safe firing station. My kiln is in my garage and placed on a concrete block kept well away from the wall of my garage. I always have a fire extinguisher close by when I’m firing either by torch or kiln.

About the author:  Katherine lives in Southwest Louisiana and is a PMC Connection Instructor. She is a member of Louisiana Craft Guild and her class offerings range from introductory classes to Certification. Katherine teaches in her home studio, as well as at the New Orleans School of Art and Craft in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Katherine is one of four founding members of the L’ esprit du Metal, Louisiana Chapter of the PMC Guild where she serves as Treasurer and Secretary. Her jewelry can be found in several galleries both in Lafayette & New Orleans, LA including Sans Souci Gallery, Lafayette Art Association Gallery, Hermann-Grima-Gallier Historic Houses Gallery in New Orleans, LA.