The “Oh!” Cone Ring By Angela Crispin

Crispin_Oh!RingHand Crispin_Oh!RingOpen The “Oh!” cone ring by Angela Crispin appeared in our very first issue of Metal Clay Artist magazine.  We were delighted to see Angela’s ring go on to win a Saul Bell Design Award.
It is only fitting to re-launch our project pages under the sponsorship of Mitsubishi Materials Trading Corporation with this elegant project.

Project and Images by Angela Crispin.
Editing by Margaret Schindel and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

Lava Ring by Angela Baduel-Crispin

This unisex ring has a slightly rough, masculine look and can be a great gift for a man. It has a firing temperature adapted to allow Art Clay™ copper to sinter while being fired together with fine silver, in a way that is safe for both metals. 

The advantage of using a commercial fine silver ring liner is that it guarantees strength and avoids direct skin contact with the copper when the ring is worn. Using a manufactured ring liner instead of making your own fine silver flared ring shank also saves you time.

A fired silver clay ring shank can be used, if you prefer, but it should be sturdy and fired for 2 hours at 900°C regardless of the brand of clay used.
It is important to fire only unequal amounts of copper and silver (i.e. unequal mass), because firing copper and silver of equal mass together tends to make them alloy (see “Caution” at the end of this article).

Co-firing silver and copper clays: In general, it is possible to fire copper and low fire silver clays together successfully as long as they are not in equal amounts (so they don’t alloy) and as long as the temperature is adjusted to suit both clays. For silver ring shanks, however, co-firing silver and copper clays is not recommended. The short (30 minute) firing time required for the copper clay, which helps to reduce oxide build-up, can compromise the strength of the silver clay band (which should be fired for a full 2 hours at 1650°F), while firing the copper clay for longer than 30 minutes produces a thicker layer of copper oxides on the surface, reducing the thickness and strength of the copper metal after the oxides are removed.

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.