Metal Clay 101: Metal Clay “Snakes” – What Are They Good For? By Delia Marsellos-Traister

There are so many creative possibilities with metal clay. One opportunity is to roll coils, or as many of us lovingly call “snakes”. Coils may be used for bails, decorative accents, or as a primary part of a piece.

Right off the bat, let me tell you, that rolled coils, are stronger than syringe coils. There is more metal content by volume in lump clay then there is in syringe clay. This extra strength comes with a trade-off, though. Coils take a while to dry when compared with a rolled-out, flat, piece of clay due to the extra volume. Give coils a good hour to dry in air. If after ten minutes of air-drying, your coil seems stable enough to put in a dehydrator or on top of a warmer, then go ahead and do that. Take care that you don’t move your coil too soon. Otherwise, you risk flattening one side or picking up texture from the tray.

OKAY!  Let’s go!

IMG_3089In the picture are tools to have on hand: work surface; Teflon; some straws of different diameters; a Plexiglas sheet or “snake-roller”; a scalpel blade/straight blade; a brush. Pieces to put dry coils on are also a good thing to have.

IMG_3070To make a bail, I rolled some PMC3 into a cylinder-like shape.





IMG_3072IMG_3073I laid the Plexiglas sheet on top and moved my hand from left to right to begin thinning out and lengthening the cylinder.



IMG_3074IMG_3081Once it was the length and thickness I wanted, I wrapped it around a straw. Make sure you’ve put a bit of balm on your straw. As clay dries, it begins to shrink a tiny bit (about 1%) and without balm, it may be a challenge to get it off later. I also flatten the one end to help it stay on the stray a little better.

IMG_3082Of note: the longer you play with the clay, the dryer it may become, causing some surface cracks. When the clay is dry, you can fill in those cracks, unless you like them for texture. I use syringe to do this for very small cracks and lump clay for very large cracks.

If you have giant cracks or splits, it’s best if you start over.



Once the coil is dry, dry, dry . . . attach to your creation in any way you like. I use syringe along a line where the coil will go.



IMG_2702 IMG_2701Coils as decorations and as bails:





In the next set of pictures, you’ll see that I used a coil as a base for a piece, in which I wanted to highlight a color change lab grown sapphire. The curvature of the coil is called Maori pattern. It is symbolic of the unfurling palm frond and represents new beginnings.IMG_2698IMG_2696
You can see that there are many possibilities for the use of coils. I’d love to see what you do! Go have fun!



pmccDelia Marsellos-Traister: Delia has been creating and teaching with the metal clay medium since 2007. Once discovered, there was no turning back.  Delia is a Level 3 Certified Artisan with PMCC, A Certification Instructor and A Rio Grande Certified Artisan. She teachers in her store space at Crafted Port LA, and for Otis College of Art and Design. You can visit her website for more details about her, her teaching and your work with this medium.

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