Book Reviews by Pat Evans (Soldering, Leather and Architecture in Metal)

MCAM 5.4_Page_24_Image_0001SOLDERING BEYOND THE  BASICS By Joe Silvera, Kalmbach Books, 2014.

I always tell my metal clay students that adding basic soldering to their repertoire can add versatility to their work. Until I took a class on production soldering with Joe Silvera, however, I didn’t realize just how many possibilities there were for more advanced soldering techniques to enhance my metal clay practice. Not everyone has such a skilled teacher available. Luckily, anyone with basic soldering experience and access to a torch can use Silvera’s new book to ramp up their skills.

Section one is full of information about tools, including types of torches and how to set them up and adjust them. It gives in-depth descriptions of materials such as flux and solder as well as some basic stone-setting directions. The author understands the limitations of home studios and his section on setting up a studio is down-to-earth and practical, with an emphasis on safety. Throughout the book Silvera suggests nontoxic products whenever possible. All the projects can be completed with the reader’s choice of a butane torch or a small tank torch system.

The second section has 16 projects. Silvera guides the artist through each project with clear, specific directions that sound as if he was standing in the same room. Ample photographs complement the directions. Projects specify the type of torch or torch tip to use, what size flame and even which type of polishing abrasive to use for finishing work. They begin with simpler concepts such as soldering jump rings or working with mixed metals and adjusting for different melting points. They progress to more difficult projects including prongs and making a bezel from gold gallery wire. It’s well worth studying even projects that you might not plan to practice, as the details can be helpful in metal clay projects as well. Ways of shaping prongs, tips for forming angles on bezels and ideas for interesting tube bails are all concepts that transfer directly to metal clay projects.

The book ends with a section reviewing basic jewelry making techniques. I especially appreciated the overview of polishing with power tools and the pros and cons of different abrasives. The section on sizing rings with its chart of ring blank lengths by band thickness/metal gauge is worth photocopying and posting on the wall by your work area.

If you are ready to take the next step in your soldering skills you can’t do better than to study Soldering Beyond the Basics.

MCAM 5.4_Page_24_Image_0002BEAUTIFUL LEATHER JEWELRY By Melissa Cable, Kalmbach Books, 2014.

Leather jewelry is hot right now and combining metal clay accents with leather is an excel- lent way to serve up a contemporary look. Melissa Cable’s new book is a great introduction for jewelers who want to explore this material.

Artists who have never worked with leather will find all the basics they need in the twenty-page Basics section. Cable explains the different types of leather and how to source them, specialty tools and how to maintain them, and finishing products. Since leatherwork requires a completely different set of tools than metal clay, I especially appreciated the chart separating out “bare minimum essentials” from “basics to grow with.”

The projects section of the book begins with a tutorial on basic cuff techniques that teaches concepts that will be used throughout the following projects. Thirty- one projects build on the basics and add even more techniques. The projects include ways to make leather beads that made me immediately think of using metal clay for the cores or bead caps. There are also a wide variety of cuff bracelets and a scattering of necklaces. Each is lovely as written, but I couldn’t help imagining adding metal clay to most of the designs. The instructions are simple but well illustrated and include enough detail for a beginner to follow.

The author says in her introduction, “Each lock has many keys….Enjoy the reckless pursuit of finding your own.” With the guidance provided by this book artists who want to explore leather either on its own or in combination with metal will have the tools to unlock many possibilities.

MCAM 5.4_Page_25_Image_0001ARCHITECTURAL JEWELRY IN METAL CLAY By Hadar Jacobson, self-published, 2014.

Before Hadar Jacobson became famous for her line of base metal clays she was known for her distinctive architectural jewelry rings that resemble little cities, pendants that portray rooms in perspective and scenes of landscapes seen through miniature windows. In her latest book Jacobson reveals the secrets behind these architectural wonders.

The book begins with a practical approach to drawing in perspective without measuring or using special tools. Next the author takes the design process a step further by demonstrating how to use scale models and photographs to make patterns and further develop perspective. This section will be especially valued by anyone who hesitates to tackle any projects requiring drawing skills. The simple process results in complex designs that can readily be translated into metal clay.

A variety of techniques for creating architecturally inspired pendants, rings and sculptures are presented through 35 step-by-step projects. The projects include low reliefs, hollow forms and combinations of the two. All of the projects are made using Hadar’s Clay although most could be adapted to other clays.

One of the fascinating aspects of the projects is how complicated-looking shapes are achieved by using simple objects such as a disposable lighter, an index card or a beach stone as supports. Each technique is demonstrated with clear directions and plenty of photographs, and although the projects are all centered on architectural designs and landscapes the techniques can be interpreted in myriad ways. Scattered throughout the book are pictures showing variations on each theme as interpreted by Hadar’s Clay accredited teachers.

In the introduction Jacobson says that this book “leans heavily” on her previous five books, her blog and the directions which come with her clays. Beginners will certainly want to use this book either in combination with other sources or under the tutelage of an experienced metal clay teacher. Basic and intermediate techniques, from proper rolling procedure to how to ball wire, are mentioned without any directions for accomplishing them. Intermediate and more experienced artists, however, will appreciate not having to skip over chapters of material with which they are already familiar.

Anyone who is interested in creating their own little worlds or in working with layers and hollow forms will certainly want a copy Architectural Jewelry in Metal Clay. It is available on Hadar Jacobson’s website,

MCAM 5.4_Page_27_Image_0001Pat Evans keeps her hoard of jewelry making tools in San Jose, CA. She is a Senior Art Clay instructor and holds PMCC Level III and Rio Rewards PMC certifications. Pat has been teaching about crafts and creativity to both children and adults for more than 20 years, and she loves to encourage students in finding and playing with their inner artists (generally along with a nice selection of tools).

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