Artist Project Series: A River Runs Through It: Pendant by Deb Steele


Cools Tools and Creative Fire are thrilled to share this new project by Deb Steele.

The inspiration for this project emerged from a beach walk on the Oregon coast. The sun reflected on the creek in just the right way as it poured into the ocean tides. Small rocks and beach treasures surrounded the banks of the stream. This reminded me to pause and take notice of the gifts that come into our lives and keep us connected.

The piece is designed with 3 boxes that the artist can customize with the things that inspire them. The new improved FS999 is suitable for this project that benefits from the added flexibility the new clay provides. This project assumes a basic knowledge of stone setting and Keum Boo gold application.







Level: Intermediate

Materials and Tools:

New Improved FS999 by Metal Adventures, Cool Tools, 25 grms.
Optional: FS999 Syringe or Paste
Fine silver bezel cup and stone
Gosiba, Liver of Sulfur or Black Max for patina
Paper and Copy machine
Cool Tools MegaMold material
Hollow rubber tubing or wrapped electrical wires.
Plastic sheet protector
Metal Clay Tools, including:
Playing cards or slats, Snake roller, rubber tip Clay Shaper, Paintbrush, Craft scalpel, Mini palette knife, Bezel roller, files, sanding pads and pro-polishing pads.
Rubber texture tile, i.e.,Turbulence Fineline from Cool Tools
Optional: Keum Boo, 22k gold foil or Aura 22, hot plate or Ultra Lite, small scissors, tweezers and agate burnisher

[Note: click on images to enlarge.]

Step 1

Sketch your design anticipating a 13% shrinkage rate in your finished piece. For an organic look, design your boxes with curves and a few spaces between them that will be carved out.  Make two copies of your sketch for steps requiring cut-out templates. Cut out the base piece from one of the copies leaving the outline in tack as a template. Cut out the 3 boxes.

Step 2

Bail construction: Use hollow rubber tubing or wrapped electrical wire, available from hardware stores.

Hollow tubing easily collapses when removing the dried bail, and a wire can be inserted to form the desired curve.

Roll clay using the green slats (0.75mm).  The example is approximately 1.25” wide by 1” deep. Cut with a slight inward curve on both sides of the long end. Wrap lightly around the tubing with the seam at the bottom. Trim if necessary and use paste or syringe to seal.  Dry and slide off the tubing. Sand to refine.

Step 3

Using Cool Tools MegaMold, make a pad of molding material, flattening with a snake roller to approximately 6 cards thick and large enough for the cut-outs of the 3 boxes. After the silicone has set, use a sharpie to trace around the boxes and a craft scalpel or craft knife to cut just inside the lines.

Step 4

Roll clay using green slats (0.75mm) thick. Cut around each silicone box, leaving space all the way around for the side walls. Cut away a small “v” shape from each corner. Wet the corners and pinch together forming the side walls of each box. After drying, sand each box to refine.

Step 5

Use the template created to make the base piece. If desired chose a texture for the back. Since this piece has a water theme, the rubber texture tile, Turbulence Fineline from Cool Tools was chosen. When cutting out, make sure and place the template so the texture is on the back side of the piece. 

Step 6

After the base piece has dried, attach all 3 boxes by wetting the top of the base and the bottom of each box, brushing until a paste is formed. Drying a piece and then re-wetting prevents the texture from being distorted. Carve out the small areas where spaces were left between the boxes.

Step 7

Using another copy of the sketch, cut out the “river”, extending it approximately 1” to wrap around the bail.  Choosing a texture tile, like Turbulence Fineline simulates the motion of the water. While the “river” cut-out is still wet, use a rubber tip Clay Shaper to highlight and enhance the moving water. Dry this section and set aside.




Step 8

Cut the “river” in segments to fit each box and the bottom section.  Attach each section inside the boxes, again by wetting the bottom and back and creating a paste. Make a cut-out in the bottom section of the “river” to accommodate the bezel cup before attaching. Wet the back side of the top section that will wrap the bail. Wait a minute or two to soften and form it around the rubber tubing and let dry.

Step 9

Mark the base piece in pencil where the small balls and stones will be attached. Roll out clay to cut small stone shapes. Embellish each side of the “river” with dried stones and small dried balls. To secure the balls use a file to carve out a divot, fill with paste and push in the ball. Use a dry brush to wipe away any excess clay. Sand to detail and finish the base piece. Punch a hole in the bottom of the bezel cup so you can easily check the stone and remove it before attaching. Use a file to score the bottom of the cup. This creates a tooth for better adherence. Use paste to attach the bezel cup. Remember to have adequate space for the clay to shrink approximately 13% around the bezel cup. If your stone would benefit from backlight you can drill all the way through the center hole.

Step 10

Bail attachment: Mark the center of your base piece and the center of the bail as guides for the best alignment.

Wet the back of the “river” section dried around the tubing and attach to the bail with a thin amount of paste. There should be a tail piece that extends in the back for extra strength and decoration.

Check that the curve of the base piece and the bail fit closely together. File to make adjustments if necessary. If needed lift the base piece up (with a thin piece of cardboard) so the bail is centered from front to back. Use paste or syringe to attach the bail. Sand to refine.

Step 11

Fire at 1650° for 2 hours.  As the bail may protrude in the back, use vermiculite or a section of fiber blanket to support the piece and retain the shape of the bail.

Step 12

Optional: Embellish with Keum boo gold sheet or Aura 22.  If adding gold, do not burnish your piece after firing.  Cut gold foil and place on the stones. Use a hotplate or Ultra-lite and an agate burnish to attach the gold. More thorough instructions for Keum Boo are available, i.e., “Keum Boo on Silver” by Celie Fago.

Step 13

Use a brass brush and tumble if a high shine is desired. Patina with Gosiba, Liver of Sulfur or Black Max.
Let dry and remove excess patina, especially inside bezel cup.  A pro-polishing pad works well.

Step 14

Set the stone. Use a bezel roller and alternate between North, South, East and West positions, pushing in and rocking up to set the stone. Smooth with an agate burnisher. For more instruction visit the Learning Center at Cool Tools.

The finished size of this piece is approximately 1” x 2 1/8”.  An 8mm x 10mm labradorite stone was used.


Deb Steele: “I feel fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, near Portland, Oregon. This last year has taken us on adventures in the woods with our truffle hunting dog, Tilly. We also spend time in Cannon Beach on the beautiful Oregon Coast which becomes an inspirational for a lot of my jewelry. What brings the most joy is when a design tells a story that connects to our journey through life.

I have been passionately working with metal clay since my certification in 2006.  I have fond memories of the days of the PMC Guild Annuals (my first experience having work published) and the conventions where I was able to connect with the metal clay community.”   Visit my website: