My present inspiration comes from the Art Nouveau period/movement. I find that this style is very suited for metal clays, in particular bronze, which I love and which was very frequently used during this period. I have made many combs and hair sticks inspired by Art Nouveau. Here is the step-by-step of my latest hair-pin.
(Translation from French by Angela Crispin)
Project Materials and Supplies
- Approximately 20g of metal clay. I used Météor ultra-fine golden bronze for this project.
- Craft knife
- Half-circle molds (or any other support)
- A drinking straw
- A paint brush
- Sanding sponges
- A ball point stylus or any round tip (for example, the tip of a ball point pen)
- Tweezers to move around the small details and embellishments
- A Tsukineko (a pen-like stamping tool with a rounded sponge end) to smooth out the surface
Step 1: Cutting out the different elements
-Roll out the clay to a thickness of 1mm.
-Cut out the top of the hair-pin (A).
-Use an extruder with a half-round disc adapter to make a half-round snake of approximately 7cm long.
Note: Personally, I didn’t have a choice of diameter among my discs, so I corrected this part with a craft knife then sand paper to make it thinner. You can also simply roll out a 7cm snake. The advantage of the half-round adapter on the extruder is that it’s easier to let the snake dry flat and straight as opposed to a round shape. (B)
I made this hair pin as a simple decorative ornament to be pinned into the hair. If you would like to have it actually hold your hair in a bun then you will have to make the pin part many centimeters longer.
– Roll out a small 1mm thick rectangular slab of approximately 2cm wide, wrap it around a drinking straw and close it by adding some water and pressing. If your straw has lines like mine, then use those to first make a mark in the middle of each side so as that the two openings you make are facing one another.
-Use a cookie cutter or a craft-knife to cut out a circle in the center of the first mark and cut a slot on the other side, as in the photo(C). These openings will be used to fit the bottom of part A to the top of part B and will be more cleanly cut later. This tube is a bit longer than necessary but it is long enough to make it fit to your design and allows enough room for sanding at both ends.
Allow to dry, checking regularly that the different parts do not warp. Don’t hesitate to place a heavy object on parts A and B (for example, a small cup with a very flat bottom) to avoid warping while drying.
Warning: at this stage part A is very fragile, but making it thicker would make the hair pin too heavy to be worn.
Step 2: Embellishments While the other pieces dry, prepare the decorative elements/embellishments.
– Make a number of different sized little balls: very small, medium, and large and let them dry. You will need a number of identical little balls for certain parts of the embellishments. To make identical sized balls make a thin coil using an extruder with the smallest sized hole and cut the coil at equal lengths. Roll these small sections in your hands to make balls. Allow to dry.
-Make 6 half domes using a mold (here they are 5mm in diameter). If you do not have doming molds, look around the house for every day objects that could be used to make domes. The advantage of doming molds is that they can be used to press the clay inside the mold to make perfectly regular and smooth shapes. I never use molds except for certain very geometric embellishments that are harder to obtain when completely made by hand.
Step 3 : Top of Hair Pin Embellishment (part A)
– Make a flat coil using the extruder (it can also be made by cutting a flat 4mm wide strip of 1.5mm thickness). Moisten the top of part A as well as the strip of clay then place it on the hair pin top (Part A). Cut the ends so as to follow the curve on the top of the hair pin top. Once this part is nice and dry, sand it with sand paper and/or sanding sponges. Clean up and correct the spots where the overlapping isn’t quite perfect by wetting the clay with some water in order to remove any excess with a craft knife.
– Make a small snake with the smallest hole on the extruder. This can also be done with a piece of Plexiglas-glass but I find the coils are more regular and more flexible when made with the extruder. Use a brush to moisten the coil slightly both on the top and bottom. Wet the support (without soaking it) to allow the coil to slide on the surface and be more easily placed in position. Use a brush to help it take the desired shape.allow to dry. Some of these small coils can also be decorated by using a small tip, such an embossing stylus once they start to dry (in other words, when the clay no longer sticks to the stylus).
– Decorate the back of part A in the same way. This will make the hair pin pretty on both front and back, but will also avoid warping in this part of the pin during firing.
– Place the little embellishment balls. The bigger balls will need to be filed a bit at the base in order to adhere better. Place some fresh clay on this base before pressing the ball on the support. The smaller balls should be moistened first, as well as the support. It’s also possible to add a tip of fresh clay to their base for added strength (this is especially useful with stiffer clays, but less necessary with silver clay). I use a pair of tweezers to place them with more precision.
Allow to dry. Avoid accelerating the drying stage, first making sure that the little balls and coils have adhered to the head pin top.
Step 4 : Sanding hair stick (Part B)
Start the finishing step: sand and make sure that no assembling clay is visible around the little balls. If any assembling clay is visible, then scrape off any irregularities with the tip of a craft-knife or wet the surface slightly in order to smooth out any rough spots. At this point I usually use the Tsukineko, which allows for very smooth surfaces.
If necessary, correct and sand this part, which should be quite thin (about 5mm wide and 4 mm thick). If it is too thick then it is possible to wet it and scrape off excess clay with a craft-knife. This prevents wasting clay. Then sand all of part B. The pointed tip should just be rounded to avoid being dangerous when in use.
Step 5 : Embellishments of the connector tube (Part C) Correct the shape of the cuts (slot and circle)by moistening the contour in order to easily remove any excess with the craft-knife. The point (B)and the top (part A) should be able to fit into the tube.
-Sand all the outer rims of the tube with sanding paper in order to achieve both the desired length of the tube and smooth the ends clean.
– Attach a half-sphere to each end on the tube by using some fresh clay.
Allow to dry and then attach the embellishments and do any necessary finishing.
Step 6 : Assembly of parts A,B and C
-Make sure that the opening on piece C is just large enough for the hair stick to be attached.
-Add some soft clay to the top of the hair stick. (It’s better to add more clay and remove the excess later). Insert the hair stick (Part B) into the joining tube (part C).
-Do the same thing with part A, inserting it into the slot on the joining tube
– To avoid distortion hold the whole piece together while drying by eventually supporting it in the correct position. Allow to dry.
Step 7 : Finishing the pin’s embellishments
This step allows both to finish the embellishments as well as to reinforce the entire piece. Place the little decorative balls, snakes and half-spheres in strategic spots, specifically where the different parts join together.
Allow hair pin to dry completely. Preferably over night before firing.
Step 8 : Binder Burn-out, firing and final finishing
-Fire following the manufacturer’s instructions. In this piece I first burnt out the binder, then fired at 825°C for 1 and 1/2 hours.
– Finish with sanding papers or a Dremel (rotary motor tool).
There you have it! Based on this same idea you can now follow your own inspiration and create your own designs. Have fun!