Getting Started in Metal Clay

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At my last count there were over 22 different kinds of metal clay!


Safety Tips:
Always dry your clay completely before firing. If your clay is damp the moisture will try to escape quickly during firing and the piece will break or it could explode while torch firing.

Most metal clay pieces under 15 grams will take a day to dry. You can speed up the drying by using a mug warmer—remember to turn the piece every once in a while. Or you can use a food dehydrator that has been dedicated to non-food use. With these methods it will still take a few hours to dry out.

Do not torch fire metal clay that has been formed over a core, such as a ceramic bead, wood or cork clay.

Always follow the clay manufacturer’s directions for firing. The insert that comes with the clay will explain firing temperatures and timings.

Always fire metal clay, with a torch or with a kiln, in a well-ventilated area and have a fire extinguisher handy.

Technique Tips:
Keep that clay moist and you’ll be a happy artist! Clay can be stored in a small airtight container and if you are leaving the clay in-between projects, put a small piece of damp sponge in the container. It is also handy to have a small spray bottle handy to re-moisten clay if it starts to dry out.

Keep all the bits and shavings clean. All dried bits of clay can be re-hydrated into a paste, but keep the bits free of sandpaper grit and other work-space debris.

Before you open your package of clay, have your work-space ready. If you are rolling out the clay, have a non-stick work surface ready. (This can be a sheet of glass or plastic.) Lightly coat your hands and tools with olive oil. And lastly—know what you are going to do! Don’t wait for inspiration while your clay is drying out.

Torch Firing Demo:

Material Lists: (Click on images to enlarge.)

Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_1Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_2

Respect–A rant about the tiered classification of artists by artists.

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– Respect- Aretha Franklin. Song written by Otis Redding Album: I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You [1967]

 

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me” Aretha Franklin

~Sigh…respect. Or in this case the lack of respect. Why do artists sometimes feel superior over another artist simply because of the media or the type of art of another artist? I’ve had THREE separate conversations this week with other artists where this topic has come up.

One artist is a graphic designer by day and a singer/songwriter by night. She is often asked if she compromises her singing for her 9-5 day job. And her answer is no. Why can’t she do both?

Another friend is at an art show. I would classify her as a jewellery designer. But within the jewellery making community there are tiers of respect given and received based on the type of metal you work in, the type of tools you use…and so on. She was upset over a conversation she’d had with another jewellery designer.  The other jewellery designer felt that my friend’s work is “artsy” and not “real jewellery design” and therefore should not be in the same category of the same show as their work.

index22Are we going round and round the same old conversation of “Artist Vs. Crafts person” or “Designer Vs. Artist”? ~Yawn. I remember these conversations from “back in the day” when I was a potter. I have just realized…I was called a “potter” even though I hardly ever made any actual pots! I wasn’t ever upset about this title—I worked in clay. Those who made tea-pots were potters, those who made thrown clay sinks…potters. Those who hand-built slabs of clay—potters. But I remember when this need to define came up in my circle. I think it was the late ‘90’s at the “One of a Kind Show”. Some potters had their shorts in a bunch that the show had “allowed” those who paint on bisque ceramics into the show. Egad…they poured liquid clay into molds—purchased molds. And then painted glazes on them. How would the public know that “OUR” pottery was “real” pottery? Painted bisque-ware was a lower class pottery.math_vs_design Continue reading…

Thinking of Selling Your Work Online?

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At some point, every jewellery artist wonders where they should sell their work. Several of my artist friends sell their work in big shows, with big travel and booth costs. But their work is at that level. Collectors all over the world love and buy their jewellery. I’m not at that level! I dream of that level.

Right now, I’m thinking that I’m making a big step to put my work online! After years of promoting the work of other artists through Metal Clay Artist Magazine…I somehow stopped making my own jewellery. Editing and publishing an independent magazine that was available on newsstands world wide was a big job. We had a great team and did an excellent job. But I put my “all” into the magazine, all the time. My studio gathered dust, then it gathered junk. I reclaimed it this past summer. I started to make some jewellery! Continue reading…

Open Shelf Firing Base Metal Clays by Martha Biggar

 

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I recall so clearly when I first heard about metal clay, back in the late 1990s, in the Rio Grande catalog. I thought I might like to work with it, and took my first class in 2000 (a two-week stint at Arrowmont in Tennessee, with Linda Kaye-Moses). I also recall, equally clearly, hearing about and then using Metal Adventures’ (Original) BRONZclay, when it came on the market in 2008. Such an interesting and different take on metal clay!

And look at us now: we have several versions of silver clay, plus a multitude of base metal clays, with more coming. What Bill Struve started experimenting with in 2006 has grown into an international community of inventors and users, with clays coming from many parts of the world. While I am personally far from a scientist, I do have an inquisitive nature that wants to know many things about the materials we use.

Most of us are aware of some differences in the base metal clays, like color and shrinkage rate. I’ve taught many classes that help others get the feel of different clays, but never went beyond the basics where firing is concerned.   This is the subject of my latest set of experiments, and this article deals specifically with open-shelf firing of base-metal clays; torch firing is the subject for my next major experiment and another article. Continue reading…

Now You See It, Now You Don’t… Transforming Your Workspace by Yvonne Kuennen

    

When you work with metal clay, you tend to fall in love with this medium because it takes up so little space. It is extremely portable and a very small toolbox will hold most of your tools. Many of the basic tools are common things you might find in your kitchen or around the house. Miniature rolling pin, cookies cutters, picks, emery boards, brushes, etc. are some examples of basic tools. In no time at all, the tools multiply, and, before you know it, take over a portion of your house. The other people who share that living space are forced to give it up. It really is unfair – to everyone concerned. (Pictured is Yvonne’s Kitchen/Studio.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is a challenge to organize so many tiny tools. You can’t have too many tools or too many beads (everyone knows that). The question is, how do you know what to let go of? You can’t know what to let go of until you assess what you have. In my study of feng shui, I ran across a book entitled, “Clearing the Clutter,” and then I attended a workshop on the same topic. It turns out the basic premise or use for feng shui is in the clearing of spaces. The best tip I learned for weeding “stuff” out of your life was one about creating three boxes or bins with the labels: donate/re-purpose, pitch and keep. The trick for me was getting the boxes to the thrift store or the trash before I got a chance to pull things back out. Keep telling yourself, “less is more.” It is so true. Continue reading…

Why I hate New Year’s Resolutions…

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I hate New Year’s Resolutions simply because there seems to be this mass need to redefine, redesign and analyze our errors in order to improve our lives. What if things are pretty good and we just want to carry on?

I feel that the driving force behind New Year’s resolutions is that you look for what is bad about yourself or your life, or maybe your art or studio. I get that. I worked really hard on totally cleaning out my studio last summer. My studio was not working for me, it was cluttered and full of stale ideas. But I had to forge ahead on it on my own terms, at my own time. New Year’s resolutions feels like a forced march to me. Continue reading…

Metal Clay Textures Are Everywhere You Look! By Margaret Schindel

TexturesOne of the key reasons for choosing metal clay as a jewelry making material is that it allows you to create or reproduce virtually any texture in metal quickly and easily.

What Can You Use to Add Texture to Metal Clay?

Although it sounds clichéd, you really are limited only by your imagination. There is a dizzying selection of commercial plastic, polymer or silicone texture mats and sheets, rubber stamps, texture rollers, molds, etc. that you can purchase to impress patterns in fresh clay. There also are many different ways to make your own one-of-a-kind texturing materials and tools. You can use water etching, carving, drilling, filing and metal clay appliqué on dried clay. After firing you can use traditional metal working techniques such as hammering to alter the topography of the metal’s surface. Continue reading…

STUDIO BUSINESS: Creative Sparks and Embers by Linda Stiles Smith

Creative Sparks – and Embers By Linda Stiles Smith

creative_sparks_cutie_mark_wip_by_aqwrao-d5ot53nWhat sparks your creativity? Do you need a bag of materials to play with? Do the sparks fly when you read the details of a challenge? Or can you launch into creative euphoria just at the mention of a word? Can you turn it on – and off – with little effort, or does it take a level of concentration that requires a block of time and a specific place? Does a visual cue sprout wings and become an artistic image in your mind? Continue reading…

Tips: Keeping Metal Clays Moist.

Whenever I teach a metal clay class I always see students carefully re-wrapping their metal clay and putting it back into the packaging. I hate to see fresh metal clay dry out so I show my students several ways to store metal clay. Here are a few of my favourites for keeping metal clay either lump or syringe types ready to use and in their optimal condition.

111831Long Term Storage
Clay: There are several ideas for long term storage. Some people like to use pressed powder containers with a wet sponge on top. Others have purchased different storage containers from metal clay sellers. I find the lotion sample containers from the make up counter to be cheap and plentiful. I like to have containers dedicated for one type of clay. Simply write the type of clay on the lid. A small piece of wet sponge can be added for really long term storage.
Syringes: I have a few containers that hold water and seal off the syringe. I like this one by Linda Stiles Smith which is sold by Rio Grande. Continue reading…

What’s in a name? My Struggle to Choose a Business Name.

name tagChoosing a name for my business has proven to be harder than it was to name my children!

I have had several businesses over my career as an artist. Each business name seemed to fit the business at the time, but now looking back some of the names seem lame. For example: I live in an old fashioned red schoolhouse—complete with a belfry. When we moved here I named my studio…. “The Schoolhouse Studio”. Yup. Wow eh? Okay it fit the location. When I started a magazine for Metal Clay artists it needed a name. I agonized over that name. Then I realized “Metal Clay Artist Magazine” fit…most of the time. Some newsstands insisted on putting the magazine in with Ceramics for the first few years and not in jewellery making section. Clearly there was room for improvement on the magazine name. When I had a brick and mortar bead store…the name was simple and clear. Guess what I named it…. wait for it… “The Bead Store”! Despite this clever name I still had people come in and ask what we sold. Ugh. Can’t win maybe? Continue reading…