- 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!
Since I rediscovered polymer clay this year, my mind has been spinning with ideas about how it could be used with metal clay. Add in glass clay to the mix, and my creative juices have been really flowing! Well-known glass artist Paula Radke made the glass cabs out of her glass clay.
I am the first to admit that I’m learning polymer clay and while my finished bracelet is not perfect…there are several ideas to take away and try in your own work:
a) Polymer clay is fun! I love that I can work with both fired and unfired clay.
b) Carving polymer clay is addictive! I took a class with Celie Fago and she showed us how to carve polymer clay and the importance of creating test pieces of polymer clay so that you can test that the clay cured after baking it.
c) Glass clay is divine! Oh the colours! Paula’s cabochons remind me of something I’d find at a European flea-market.
This ring combines several different design elements to create lots of visual interest. The earrings are a fun, simple and striking complement, and you can customize all these pieces just by varying the finish inside the domes.
Project and photos: Jane Font
Editors: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and Margaret Schindel
Readers of Creative Fire have been asking for more polymer clay techniques to use with the metal clay creations. You asked, we listened! In this installment of Clay Convergence we’ll look at a widely popular millefiori method that’s not only easy to make, but gives great results time after time. People with little or no polymer clay experience are often intimidated by the idea of working with polymer clay. They believe it’s difficult and time consuming to learn how to achieve complex looking effects. This is an often-held misconception that this project will hopefully dispel. While it’s true that some millefiori versions can be highly difficult, it doesn’t have to be the rule.
This method is one I learned from polymer clay artist Esther Anderson earlier in the last decade. This article doesn’t address how to create the metal clay bezels or frames that showcase this design. That’s up to you.
As you can see from the photo of the finished pendants a variety of metals, shapes, sizes and textures were used. You’ll have to bring your creativity to the bezel or frame you wish to create, but this step-by-step technique method will teach you how to create canes with a mod, tiled look.
Most directions for extruders call for using separate devices for both metal and polymer clays. Cross-material contamination is undesirable when using these tools. You’ll learn an easy tip on how to use only one extruder for both clays as well as how to keep the device clean between uses. Also included is an extra tutorial on how to create a coiled bail or fired and finished metal clay bezel settings and frames.
As for determining your color palette, this is your choice. I recommend working with three to four colors when creating your cane. Using more than four colors may create a mottled effect. Also, it’s a good idea to use at least one very light and one very dark value for maximum contrast and canes that pop! Using colors that have similar tones can result in muted results. This isn’t a no-no by any means, but it’s good to know what to expect when getting started. The best part is experimenting with color combinations as you create a myriad of mosaic tile canes for your metal clay projects. Uncured millefiori canes can last for many years when properly stored.
It’s time for something fun! And who better than Christi Friesen to lead this adventure? Here she shares how to combine metal clay and polymer clay in a beautiful mixed-media brooch. We love the lush colours. Imagine making a version for yourself in fall colours. We feel very inspired and we hope you do too!
Je suis très inspirée par l’Art nouveau en ce moment. Je trouve que ce style convient très bien aux
pâtes de métal et en particulier au bronze, métal que j’adore et qui a été beaucoup utilisé durant cette période. J’ai notamment fait plusieurs peignes et piques à cheveux inspirés par ce style. Voici le pas
à pas de la toute dernière pique que j’ai faite, pour laquelle j’ai utilisé un décor un peu différent lors
de la réalisation des photos de ce tutoriel.
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)
My project is based on a schoolhouse in rural Ontario. The schoolhouse was built in 1876 and captured my heart as a child. The school was decommissioned in the 1950’s and purchased at an auction by my mother who then gave it to her father. It sits on 1 acre of land that my relatives had donated for the school. My grandparents lived in a farmhouse nearby and my grandfather used to give me the keys and I’d ride my bike up to the school…and play inside. One summer I even conned neighboring kids to come to my school–I was the teacher, of course! When it came time for my husband and myself to buy or build a house…this was our model and we took as much of the old school to our house. My dream as a little girl was to live in the “little red schoolhouse”.
In the project I’ll show how I made my ring. Have fun and design your own dream house!
This project is proudly presented by Cool Tools. (And I thank them and Bill Struve for this wonderful silver metal clay. It was the perfect clay for my project. It was strong, but flexible when it was bone dry.) Continue reading…
Julia Rai has been a contributor to Creative Fire (Metal Clay Artist Magazine) since 2009. We are thrilled to feature her latest project.
“Penannular style brooches have been used to fasten clothing since the late Iron Age. This style of brooch has a loop of metal with terminals or flattened ends and a moveable pin. The pin is pushed through the fabric and the end of the ring goes under the sharp end of the pin. The ring is then turned locking the pin in place. There are a wide variety of designs for the terminals of historical penannular brooches and this is where the fun comes in on this modern take on an ancient design.
I have used a natural theme for the hoop, texturing it to resemble bark. The terminals use pod, fungi and lichen forms and this is echoed on the curve of the pin.”
Tools and Materials
- 25g EZ960™ Sterling Silver Clay
- Thick paste – any silver clay type will do or make some using scraps of EZ960
- Syringe – any silver clay type will do
- Liver of sulphur
- Extruder with tube making attachment
- Snake roller
- Craft knife
- Cocktail sticks
- Pointed small clay shaper
- Sanding pads
- Polishing pads/papers/cloths
- Vermiculite and stainless steel container
- Half round pliers
Using an extruder with a tube making attachment allows you to easily form a tube for the hoop. This makes the brooch lighter and saves on the amount of material used to make the hoop. Choose a round die which is 3-4mm larger than the central rod on the disc that makes the hole. My die is 5mm in diameter and the rod is 1.5mm in diameter.
Oil the inside of the extruder barrel, the die and the hole making disc. Put a large lump of clay into the barrel, assemble the tube maker and screw on the end. Turn the handle and extrude a long tube. Cut it off the extruder with a sharp knife. Form this into a hoop the size you want it and trim off the ends. My hoop has two downward facing terminals but you could also have the gap wider and have the terminals facing each other. Allow this to dry.
Trim the ends of the hoop so they are angled facing forward. This will allow the embellishments to face forward when they are added. Using a pointed craft knife, thin out the walls of the terminals from the inside being careful not to go too thin and break the ends.
Texture the hoop using thick paste. Drag a cocktail stick in random lines through the paste to form bark like patterns. Do this in small sections on one side so the paste does not dry out before you have made the lines. Allow one side to dry, then turn it over and texture the other side the same way. Make sure the hoop is covered on all sides.
To make the pin use a snake roller or a CD case and start with a sausage of clay on a non-oiled surface. Roll a tapered snake thinner than the hoop at the thickest end. It needs to be long enough to be bent over the hoop with the potential to almost touch without restricting movement around the hoop. The sharper end should protrude beyond the gap in the hoop, how long that is depends on your design.
Cut the thickest end at an angle and then bend the length so it forms a hook shape with the cut angle facing forward. Embellishment will be added to the flat end to match the terminals. Allow this to dry.
When the pin is dry, texture the top and sides of the bend down to the angled end using thick paste and a cocktail stick. Take the texture a little way down the back of the pin but not so far that it will interfere with the action of sliding the pin smoothly through fabric. Do not texture the inside as this will make it difficult for the pin to slide around the hoop smoothly.
Take a small ball of clay and form it into a cone shape. Form a pod by pushing a small, pointed clay shaper into the end of the cone and creating an asymmetric aperture with the opening facing forward. Make sure the end of this fits into the hole in the terminal. Form another pod roughly the same size. Allow these to dry and then stick them into the ends of the terminals with thick paste.
Make a number of small pod forms using the same method as before. These should be different sizes and shapes to make the overall form interesting. Allow these to dry and then add them to the terminals around the larger pod forms and extending up the hoop a little way. Tweezers help to place these small, fiddly forms. The aim is to cover the transition between the hoop and the main pods so they look like growing forms.
Form a number of small balls and poke a dent into each ball with a cocktail stick while they are still wet. Allow these to dry and then stick them into any gaps between pods. Add some paste and cocktail stick texture to the outside of the pods if you like or leave them smooth. Make sure the back gets some embellishment too. When you are happy with the overall design, put it to one side to dry.
Use some smaller pod forms and some balls to decorate the front facing part of the pin end and slightly up the bend. Add texture if desired. Use a sanding pad to smooth the pin and sharpen the point. Allow the pin and the hoop to dry thoroughly.
Nestle the pieces on a bed of vermiculite or fibre blanket in a stainless steel container. Fire at 1650˚F/900˚C for four hours to ensure the pieces are at maximum strength to bend the pin after firing.
Mix up a solution of liver of sulphur with boiling water and dip the hoop and the pin until they are black. Rinse in cold water and then use polishing papers and cloths to shine the high spots of the texture, pods and balls.
Julia Rai is an award winning artist, teacher and writer well known in the international metal clay community. Her work has featured in a wide range of publications and she writes regularly for print magazines and online. She teaches in her home studio in Cornwall and travels to teach by invitation.
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. Continue reading…
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…