Friday, 21 April 2017

Adventures with metal clay

I've had enormous fun experimenting with metal clay. Torch firing is easier now that I have a second torch - larger than the small one I use for soldering and it fires the pieces nicely in 10 minutes provided they are not too big. Most of my jewellery is made of smaller elements joined together so this technique suits me well. The clay is moulded and shaped then dried thoroughly before firing. At the dried stage copper clay has the look of terracotta and can be sanded and refined before firing it. Here is a picture of the clay at the dried stage before I did the sanding. I wanted an organic, bark like look to it. It feels like alchemy to watch the clay as the flames burn away the binder and it magically becomes solid copper.

 
After refining and then torch firing it was ready to include in a necklace. This is how the finished piece turned out. 
 
 
 
I also completed the necklace I started in my last blog post, an abundance of techniques went into it, including making some epoxy clay elements, which is also something I had not tried before. It's so lovely to learn new ways of doing things.
 

 
 

 
 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

All fired up!

It was ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’  that did it. Anyone who is a fan of the programme will know just how fascinating it is to watch someone transform a lump of clay into something beautiful, individual and permanent. The episode where the potters were making raku fired Saki bottles had me itching to try to make something that had the appearance of ceramic. But I don’t have ceramic clay and I don’t have a kiln. Never mind – where there’s a will there’s a way, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone completely and experiment with materials and techniques I’ve never tried before. First of all I decided to make some earrings using papier maché.  Here are the three pairs I made.

 



This kind of papier maché is a million miles away from the stuff we made in school. It involves many fine sanded layers which I have painted and then coated and glazed many times using artist grade materials, so that they withstand the rigours of everyday wear. I constantly fiddle with earrings when I wear them, so the quality of the finished piece is important to me. I especially enjoyed coming up with some different ways to finish the bases and made metal bits and bobs to introduce an additional texture. Handy to have learned some skills with the soldering torch so that I can make my own metal fittings.

Then I remembered the metal clay that has been waiting for me to sum up the courage to try. I decided to make a sea themed necklace with some handmade copper clay elements. Working with metal clay is daunting if like me you’ve never tried it, but once you conquer your nerves it’s a wonderful medium and sooo expressive. I modeled three small components and fired them with a torch. After cleaning and polishing I added some enamel to certain areas.

 
 

A steady hand is needed when putting enamel powder onto small sections, but I am pleased with the result and this is something to explore further in future pieces.Now I have the fun of putting all the bits together into a pretty marine inspired necklace.