In this article, I will show you how to make a metal clay hinged bracelet with wire bezel-set glass clay cabochons that you can buy or make yourself using Paula’s project. In a previous post I showed you how to make a polymer clay version.
Note: Project assumes some previous soldering experience. If you are new to soldering, you may want to pick up a copy of Joe Silvera’s book, Soldering Made Simple: Easy techniques for the kitchen-table jeweler (Kalmbach Books, 2010) before trying this project.
Author and How-To Photos: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
Edited by: Margaret Schindel and Joy Funnell
Beauty Photo: Lisa Barth
Illustrations: Roxan Waluk
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.
Eye Candy/Samples of Ann Davis’ work to inspire you for this project:
Project and Photos by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc. Step-by-step instructions by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and Margaret Schindel
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!
Project Level: Beginner/Intermediate Author: Christi Friesen Editors: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and Joy Funnell.
Learning to solder successfully almost every time (nobody’s perfect) is really a matter of learning to control the heat and position of the flame. I’m not an expert by any means. I solder earring posts, jump rings that connect a pendant or clasp to a chain, and jump rings to the work piece itself. I use solder to close bezels and to solder the bezel to a backing plate. I also solder decorative metal clay elements to bezel settings. My work is relatively small in scale, but when I want to solder a larger project, I know a couple of techniques that can help get the job done. And most of all I know my limits. There are just some things that can’t be done with the torch and the skill set I have. (Image: Fabulous finished piece by Lora Hart. “Purple Chalcedony Necklace”)
Sheet or wire solder looks like any other metal sheet or wire. Be sure to mark it when you take it out of the package. (or just use paste solder like I do)
Solder balls up
Gravity sometimes allows the solder ball to fall out of position
Flux boils (which can also cause solder to move out of position)
Solder flows towards heat
Solder will not jump a gap
Solder can fill a small gap
Solder will sink into porous metal clay (and potentially lose the connection)
Solder will not flow on a ‘dirty’ surface (clean metal/solder with fine sandpaper or a wire brush)
THE JOYS OF SOLDERITE BOARD
Solderite is soft enough that you can push T pins in to support work, push elements into the board to support them, and actually dig shallow grooves to ‘bury’ elements that will allow the work piece to lay flat – a hidden bail or brooch findings for instance.
WHAT’S A ‘HEAT SINK’?
A heat ‘sink’ (also called a heat ‘shield’) is a heavier piece of metal used to draw the heat towards it as opposed to a smaller piece that might be in danger of melting. The third hand tweezer acts as a heat sink to protect a thin and delicate earring post when soldering it to the decorative earring piece.
You might use the ‘sink’ as a ‘shield’ when soldering the last jump ring on a chain. Position the shield/tweezers below the last jump ring and it will prevent the previously joined rings from melting.
In order for any solder join to be successful, the two pieces/sides/elements must fit tightly together. This means that you might need to file or otherwise alter the shapes of the elements. Always remember to join flat to flat or convex to concave (this is a helpful tip when joining metal clay parts too).
When closing a jump ring, the wire may be round, but the cut ends should be perfectly flat to fit together properly.
When joining a round jump ring to a flat back of a pendant, file a flat area on the jump ring to create a tight fit.
When joining two jump rings to form a figure 8, file flats on each and solder those areas together.
There may also be times when you want to use a drill or bur to form a divot to hold a spherical shape.
ABOUT JUMP RINGS
Jump rings must be completely closed, with the ends of the wire flush and fitting tightly together in order for the solder to flow from one side of the wire to the other. Even an opening the thickness of a human hair will prevent the join.
Using two sets of flat nosed pliers on either side of the opening, twist and wiggle the jump ring together until you think it’s closed. Now hold the jump ring up to the light to make sure there isn’t even a sliver of light shining through the join.
Now that you’ve closed the jump ring so well it might be difficult to see where the seam is by the time you position it on the soldering board. I like to use black Sharpie to mark each side of the join before closing the ring, so I know where to place the solder and where to aim the flame. The marker will burn away by the time the solder flows.
One of the most important aspects of soldering to get comfortable with is knowing how to set up the objects you want to solder so that their position works for you.
Gravity will encourage a ball of solder to drop away from the join when possible, so I try to position ‘things’ as close to the soldering block as I can.
If you’re making a chain, and want to solder a number of jump rings closed, just lay them flat on the soldering block with the seams facing you and place the solder inside the ring, behind the seam. This way you’re getting two of the fun facts to work on your behalf. There’s nowhere for the solder to drop, and the heat of the flame is pulling solder through the seam in the jump ring to make a very secure join.
CHAIN MAKING TIP: Only solder half the jump rings closed. Then join two closed rings with one open ring (and solder it) to make segments of 3. Join those segments with more open jump rings and solder to complete the chain.
When working with a piece that already has one or more elements soldered to the back side (like a hidden bail or brooch findings) excavate a small cavity in the Solderite board to hold those elements so the piece can lay flat.
If you’re putting a jump ring through the hole in a work-piece to act as a bail, the work-piece is probably going to be more secure laying flat on the soldering board, which means that the jump ring will be in a vertical position. Use tweezers to position the seam of the jump ring as close to the soldering board as possible. This way if the solder balls up and falls, it may fall near the seam and still be in the correct position. Alternately, dig a thin groove just big enough to hold the jump ring upright, positioning the join at the surface of the board.
If you’re connecting the work-piece to chain, try to protect the chain from the heat (and potential meltage) by laying it under the work-piece (which will act as a heat sink) and away from the heat.
You can also lay a sopping wet paper towel over items you don’t want to overheat as you solder. The towel will dry before the edges start to char, and that will give you a bit longer to work on your project.
Use props like coins, T-pins, nests of binding wire, sheets of metal (I use small squares of titanium which cannot be soldered) to position elements and tools into a more beneficial arrangement. I sometimes place my third hand on a box lid or book to raise it into a better position.
WORKING WITH THE FLAME
When connecting a small element to a larger element (a jump ring directly to a workpiece or an earring post to the earring element) direct the heat onto the larger piece only! The heat will eventually travel from the larger item to the smaller one. When the flux starts to burn off and you see the solder begin to melt, simply flick the flame onto the thinner element to complete the connection.
Often I’m connecting jump rings or a clasp to chain, which are all thin, fragile items and prone to rapid melting. In that case I tend to ‘sneak up’ on the solder join by positioning the flame on the corner of the board, or an inch or so in front of the join. The residual heat of the flame will heat the elements enough that the solder begins to flow and ball up. When that happens I aim the flame directly in front of the solder area to complete the join. Sometimes I make a motion that I call ‘hit and run’, whereby I aim the flame on the join and quickly flick it away, then back on the join, then away. In effect I’m heating and cooling and heating and cooling so that I manage to avoid overheating and melting the item.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE When using sheet or wire solder and flux
Liquid flux will start to boil, then go white and a little chalky, then turn glassy when the solder is about to flow. The solder will pull itself into a ball, then start to melt by forming a blob (don’t pull the flame away yet), and it will finally flow, looking like a silver stream.
If using paste flux – the liquid in the paste will start to heat, may steam and boil (potentially throwing the solder chips out of position), then get chalky and glassy like the liquid flux. The rest of the appearance is the same.
Paste solder has the flux built in, so no need to add more unless you’re unsoldering or you just want to protect the work-piece from oxidation (remember fine silver doesn’t oxidize). Paste solder will look a little ‘crispy’, will smoke as the flux evaporates, balls up, starts to melt into a blob, then flows completely.
When the solder flows onto a metal clay item, remove the flame almost immediately. One cannot ‘draw’ the solder to follow the heat when soldering to metal clay.
Because metal clay is more porous than milled metal, it is suggested that makers burnish the solder site well to close the surface pores in hopes that the solder will not sink into the body of the workpiece. I almost never do this and have never had a piece come apart.
HOW MUCH SOLDER
Use the right amount of solder for the job you want it to do.
Closing a jump ring requires a ball of solder only about the size of a poppy seed (think of a bagel)
Using more doesn’t make a better connection. It just makes a sloppy looking join that you’ll want to file and sand into a prettier profile
When soldering a jump ring to the top of a ‘medallion’, using a bit too much solder will allow the excess to fill gaps on either side of the join, creating a ‘fillet’ or corbel shaped support (think of molding in a house), strengthening the join.
Sometimes a piece will shift just as the solder flows, or you may decide you made a mistake adding an element, and would like to disconnect the connection you just made. In this case, position the lighter part in a third hand elevated above the soldering block (the bezel wire in the example we’ve been using). Apply flux to the solder join and heat the heavier piece until the solder re flows and the larger item falls off. Use a titanium pick to poke at the item if it’s not easily dislodged.
Note: the two pieces will separate, but the solder will remain until you sand/file it away.
Allow a fresh solder join sit still for a couple of seconds, don’t move the third hands or other props you may have used. It takes a little while for the solder to cool and ‘set’. I’ve lost a few connections by moving the third hand too soon and pulling the two pieces out of position too quickly.
SOLDERING A LARGE PROJECT WITH A SMALL TORCH
To solder larger items, one would think you would need a torch capable of putting out a larger flame. But the issue is really the amount of heat that is surrounding the item.
Use kiln bricks to build a 3-sided ‘lean-to’ shaped structure to house the soldering board and the item to be soldered. Think of the three-way mirror in a dressing room. Add a ‘roof’ if you have the materials. This will create a kiln-like atmospheres that will hold the heat in a contained area, instead of allowing it to fill the larger room you’re most likely working in.
If you own an Ultra-Lite or other small ‘trinket’ kiln, place the work-piece on it to heat, then use your torch to complete the soldering job. The small kiln will maintain the heat in the entire work-piece, so you’ll only have to concentrate on the solder join.
LORA HART was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and moved to historic Richmond, Virginia in 2012. Lora is the Artistic Advisor and one of twenty Senior Instructors for PMC Connection. A metal clay artist inspired by historic imagery, Lora’s work has been featured in books, magazines, and calendars and her jewels are sold in galleries and online. As a designer, educator, and creativity coach, her passion for the art and business of jewelry making has taken her across the United States to help other makers explore their own passions, develop their craft and expand their skills. www.lorahart.com @lorahart
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.” Continue reading…
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…