Book Reviews: by Pat Evans

Metal Clay Artists’ Library By Pat Evans – USA

51PN-UgK6nL._SX392_BO1,204,203,200_Lisa Barth, Designing from the Stone: Design Techniques for Bezel Setting in Metal Clay Using the Stone as Inspiration (Author, 2011)

It’s hard not to gush about Lisa Barth’s book on designing bezel settings for stone cabochons. In a straightforward, conversational tone, Barth takes her readers from a survey of basic design tenets to how to apply those tenets while designing settings around the characteristics of an individual stone. Her teaching is so clear and thorough that one of my students who had never before set a bail in her short metal clay career was able to produce a stunning pendant and pair of earrings just by following the instructions in this book. Although I’ve been using bezel settings for years, I feel that Designing from the Stone has helped me take a big leap forward in thinking about my work.

Barth’s premise is that each stone needs to be approached based on its special characteristics, so only three step-by-step projects are included in the book and they serve mostly as a means of teaching techniques. My favorite project explained in detail how to use sterling gallery wire with metal clay. The gallery wire gives a completely different look than bezel wire and Barth’s explanations make its application simple. The bulk of the book is devoted to teaching the reader how to analyze a stone and develop a complementary setting design along with the technical knowledge to turn designs into reality. Barth truly shines with her thorough explanations of each step of the process and directions for dealing with any mishaps that may come up along the way. Her use of investment placeholders eliminates much of the agony of sizing bezels accurately to allow for the shrinkage of the metal clay. She also gives ideas on how to deal with misshapen bezels that may occur if this technique is not used. Barth’s use of syringe and clay cutouts over textured clay encourages readers to develop their own unique designs. The many inspiring photos of finished pieces scattered throughout the book serve as a jumping off point for the reader’s own design ideas. The “Unusual Settings” section contains lovely examples as well as several “mini projects” that demonstrate different setting options.

The only aspect of the book with which I disagree is Barth’s use of only the manufacturers’ firing charts as guidelines for firing schedules. Since most of her techniques involve setting stones after the setting has been fired, there is no reason not to use hotter, longer firing schedules to ensure that the clay has been fully sintered. I’d like to have seen at least some mention of this option for the benefit of beginners.

Lisa Barth is a gifted designer, a sound teacher and a delightful writer. That trifecta of qualities makes Designing from the Stone a must-have volume for any metal clay artist interested in improving his or her bezel-setting abilities. Available on Amazon.

61zstO2LIQL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Patrik Kusek, Woodland Chic: Metal Clay as Nature Intended (Author, 2011)

Patrik Kusek is a Senior Instructor for the Rio Rewards PMC® Certification Program and his first book proves his mastery of both teaching and metal clay. The idea of designing from nature is so ubiquitous as to be almost a cliché. However, Kusek moves beyond the clichéd to teach a variety of techniques that can be applied to any design aesthetic while presenting a plethora of intriguing projects that celebrate the reason so many artists base their designs on nature. Then he goes beyond the projects to challenge readers to take their newly-learned skills and apply them in novel ways.

The projects in the book teach a wide range of techniques for making hinges, using metal clay syringe, dry construction, making and adapting textures and carving. It also showcases a variety of materials: copper, bronze and silver clays, Aura 22™ and resin. The directions are clear and copiously illustrated. By completing all the projects in Woodland Chic, readers will build a strong repertoire of metal clay skills. Perusing the gallery of designs from a variety of artists provides further inspiration.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is what Kusek didn’t include. Each chapter is accompanied by a “challenge project.” The directions for the projects aren’t included in the book; instead, readers are challenged to figure them out for themselves. (He also provides links to the directions on his web site.) Challenging students to analyze the work before seeing the directions is a wonderful teaching technique that will inspire readers to come up with their own variations and ideas. Links to bonus videos and templates on the author’s website also are provided, elaborating on and enhancing the information given in the book.

Woodland Chic could be viewed as just a book of projects, but it is much more: a textbook of metal clay techniques for all levels and a guide to adapting techniques to your own purposes. Metal clay artists of all levels will gain something from this book. Available on Amazon.

941577_4891675494684_2071299978_nPat Evans (a.k.a. The Tool Diva) 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.) You can find Pat online through her website:

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