Syringe clay is a fun and whimsical way to add delicacy and design interest to your work. Unfortunately, most of the metal clay artists I know seem to be adverse to working with syringe clay because it can be difficult to control. It’s true for me too! However, using the water brush method described below, most imperfections in application can be easily corrected so don’t limit your possibilities. Syringe away!!
At the end of the article, Roxan has included several images of her syringe work for inspiration! With thanks to Mitsubishi Trading Materials and PMC Connection for sponsoring this special series of projects.
Project Materials and Supplies
‐Fine Silver syringe clay (cut tip to appx. 14 guage)
‐4mm fireable gemstone (2 pcs)
‐Fine Silver paste
Tools, Supplies and Equipment:
‐Thin Teflon sheet appx. 4” x 4”
‐small paintbrush (#2)
-heavy card stock
-firing equipment as per clay directions, i.e. kiln.
‐one pair of sterling silver ear wires
Click here for Roxan’s template. IMG_20160509_0001
- Use the template provided or create your own design. If making earrings, create a reverse template for the matching earring. Make the template bold with a marker so it can be easily seen through the Teflon sheet and mark the two templates as side #1 and side #2.
- Tape side #1 template down to your work surface and then tape the thin Teflon sheet over the top. It is not necessary, but I prefer to use an elevated turntable so I can easily work around the syringe as needed.
- Begin by holding the syringe in your dominant hand and using the other hand to hold and guide the syringe hand. (see photo)
- First Strand-Start with the largest “S” curve. Touch the tip of the syringe down in the center of the inside of the scroll and work out. Apply even pressure to the plunger and keep the tip approximately ¼” above the work surface. Guide the syringe over the template until you’ve reached the end of the final scroll and gently touch down to disconnect the strand.
- Don’t worry if the syringe strand doesn’t match the template exactly. This is the step that revolutionized syringe work for me. Wet your paintbrush with a little water and brush it around the base of the entire strand to keep it moist. Don’t flood it but you want it to be a little wet. Then use the same wet brush to gently nudge the bottom of the syringe strand into place. It should move easily over the Teflon sheet. If it doesn’t, add just a tiny bit more water until you can manipulate the strand without dissolving it. You can also use the brush at this point to soften and round the ends of your strands.
- Second strand‐ This strand is the one that overlaps the first. At the point of intersection, use your damp brush to gently depress the first strand so that there will not be large bump where they cross.
- Apply the second strand same as the first until the end. When nearing the end, take pressure off of the plunger and gently pull the strand to a tapered end. Use your damp brush to moisten the strand and then softly brush the tapered end into the first strand to merge the two.
- Third strand ‐ Repeat the strand two process for the third and last strand except that there will not be an overlap point. However, make sure that the two scroll ends from strand one and three touch for strength of design. You will reinforce this joint in a later step.
- Once all the strands are complete, gently remove the tape and slide your piece to a place to dry. ( Side note: If you have great patience, the best way to dry syringe is naturally, second is a dehydrator and last is a hot plate. The hot plate will create a concave depression on the back of your piece. This may or may not be desirable depending on your personal taste)
- Adding the gemstone – Slide the dried design back onto a stiff, mobile work surface (Like a Tuffie or heavy card stock). This will keep the fragile syringe strands from flexing and cracking. With great care, use two small pieces of tape to keep the dried syringe in place so it doesn’t move when applying the syringe for the bezel.
- Apply two loops of syringe clay to the between the scrolls to create the bezel. Again, use your wet paintbrush to smooth out the circle and round out the center of the opening.
- Pick up your gemstone with your tweezers. Start with the gemstone face down, grab with the tweezers and then flip over while holding firmly. Place the stone face up in the center of the syringed bezel. Gently press down with the tips of the tweezer until the girdle of the stone is below the surface of the syringe then check to make sure the table of the stone is level. Adjust as needed and dry.
- Once completely dry, carefully remove the tape and gently flip the piece over. Use paste to reinforce where the bezel meets the strands and anywhere the strands touch or overlap. Dry upside down.
- Use a damp paintbrush to carefully clean up the edges on the back . Dry and repeat on the front. If additional clean-‐up is needed, use extreme care and hold the piece by the stone and use a toothpick file to clean and smooth the edges and top and sides of the bail.
- Clean your stone with a soft clean brush and alcohol
- Repeat process for side #2 and fire. Open syringe pieces are best fired at the maximum firing schedule for maximum strength.
- Finish pieces as desired. This design was brushed with a soft brass brush to a satin sheen.
- Attach the ear wires and you are ready to wear your new earrings out on the town.
- Several design variations are shown. Make this design personal by adding different colored stones, pearls or adding more strands of syringe clay!