The original inspiration for this project came from my need to create a unique setting for a wine cork after taking a design class in San Francisco The layers of syringe create bezel like frames with an organic feel reminiscent of a bird’s nest. Each bezel frame is unique and can be filled with a variety of mixed media (polymer clay, resin, paper, etc.) after firing. In this project polymer clay bullseye canes are sculpted and carved with added embellishments for a carved button feel.
Author: Michelle Loon
Edited by Joy Funnell, Margaret Schindel and Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
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.
This inexpensive battery-operated engraving tool is a lightweight and compact addition to the metal clay artist’s tool kit. It is handy for engraving both bone-dry and fired metal clay as well as other materials such as ceramics, wood and glass. This pen-shaped tool is comfortable to hold and easy to manipulate. It comes with both 1.4 mm and 4 mm ball-tipped diamond burs plus a hex wrench for switching between them. It operates on two AAA batteries (not included). I’ve found the battery life to be good.
I tried out the tool on bone-dry silver clay and found that it carved very quickly and easily—in fact, faster than I had expected. It’s easy to carve away more than you had planned, so I’d suggest practicing briefly on some scrap clay or even heavy cardboard before you use it on a piece you plan to fire. With only a little practice I was able to carve designs in my greenware much more quickly and easily than I could have done by hand. The engraver is operated with a thumb-controlled button that activates with just a light touch. That sensitivity prevents thumb strain so the tool isn’t tiring to use, but it also meant that I had to be careful not to turn on the tool accidentally.
The Micro Engraver is available for about $14.95 by Beadsmith and can be found at many retailers including Amazon and PMC Connection.
Baroque Art Gilders Paste
I was first introduced to Baroque Art Gilders Paste by Paula Radke, who showed me how to use it to enhance finished glass clay cabochons. Since then I’ve noticed it popping up all over the place. The paste is a combination of waxes, resins and highly concentrated pigments. You can use it to add color to many different substrates including fired metal clay. It should be sealed with a clear coat (the manufacturer recommends Krylonâ UV-Resistant Clear spray (gloss or matte) to protect it from rubbing off.
Gilders Paste is available in a wide range of primary, secondary and metallic colors that can be mixed to create an even broader palette. The metallic colors are my favorites. The paste comes in a tin with a tightly fitted lid to keep it from drying out. However, if that does happen it can be reconstituted by mixing in a few drops of paint thinner, mineral spirits or turpentine. Once applied, the paste takes 12 to 24 hours to cure completely, although it dries to the touch within minutes. This is a fun product to experiment with and since a little goes a very long way you can do quite a lot of experimenting: A 1.5-oz. tin will cover about 30 square feet!
About the Author: Pat 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: http://patevansdesigns.com/
Micro-mosaic is an ancient art form of miniature glass mosaics that were popular during the Victorian era and reportedly no longer are made. Micro-mosaic pieces can be intricately patterned, with microscopically small glass components and carefully grouted, ground and polished surfaces, or simpler and more economical, such as Venetian micro-mosaics in which the pieces are larger and the surface is neither ground nor grouted. . This project uses the Venetian style of micro-mosaic and my own processes.
I use several types of glass rods: flat noodle-shaped rods called smalti filati, multicolored patterned and shaped rods similar to millefiori (tessera), millefiori, and some small lampworking rods. I buy my smalti filati or glass rods that make up the background colors from Miami Mosaics. They carry the filati in quite a number of colors and you can buy sampler mixes. (See the Resources section at the end of this article.) According to some sources, the patterned or complex tessera rods are not being made any longer, so my main source for tessera is damaged micro-mosaic pieces. Micro-mosaic jewelry often is available on eBay, and it’s worth checking out as a potential source not only of damaged pieces to take apart, but also of design inspiration. I also have developed relationships with some antique shops whose buyers will purchase damaged micro-mosaic jewelry for me when they find it and then contact me. You might want to try to develop your own similar source(s) of damaged micro-mosaic pieces. Also, just in case the information I’ve found about micro-mosaic work no longer being done is true, please don’t destroy undamaged micro-mosaics to re-use the glass pieces for your own designs! These are valuable examples of a potentially lost art form that should be preserved for future generations.
Experience Level – Advanced Edited by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Joy Funnell and Margaret Schindel.
“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.
Are 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.Continue reading…
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…
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…
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.)
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…
Alabama Gulf Coast eco-artist Kathleen Nowak Tucci was featured on the cover of the controversial oil-spill issue of Italian Vogue magazine in August 2010. It was the first time an eco-artist’s work had been featured on the cover of a mainstream fashion magazine.
Kathleen has been creating art for 25 years and recently has begun working with recycled bicycle inner tubes. This work with recycled rubber has brought her to the attention of a number of prestigious magazines, such as Vogue Italia (cover!), Marie Claire, Elle Decor, Ornament, and Interior Design, and high-end boutiques and galleries across America. “My work was also recently included in the Smithsonian Craft Show 2011,” she said. “There were 1300 entries and only 120 juried artists.”
Kathleen has always been creative. “I have no choice but to be creative,” she explained. “Even as a child, I always had some art project going. On both sides of my family there were very creative women.” Continue reading…
Glass clay is fairly new on the clay scene. Like metal clay, it can be molded and/or sculpted and, after drying and being fired in a kiln, it undergoes a seemingly magical transformation. But instead of textured, sculpted or molded solid metal, glass clay transforms into textured, sculpted or molded solid glass! Easy to use and inexpensive, it comes in powdered form in a wide range of colors (opaque only). You can use your glass clay cabochons as you would use any fused glass cabs, such as in the hinged bracelet project or the mixed media bracelet.
Author and photos except those noted: Paula Radke
Editors: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and Ann Davis
Photos 1-3: Ann Davis