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Textures in Metal Clay

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I recently took a class in Metal Clay with Pam East.  The only experience I had in this medium was a week-long class at Wildacres in North Carolina with Janet Harriman in 2013.  Metal clay is a clay-like medium that consists of very small particles of metal (silver, gold, bronze or copper) that is mixed with a binder and water.  It can be shaped just like clay, molded by hand, carved, stamped and put into molds.  After it dries, it is fired and the binder burns away leaving the pure sintered metal.  
We started out with some simple pieces using bronze and copper, and later moved to fine silver.  I discovered that Metal Clay is the BEST for textures. You can get deep, dramatic patterns using something called Photo Polymer Plates.  Here is the how-to video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI_o4VqptI4.  




I also discovered it's a friendly medium for 24k gold keum boo (a technique for applying 24K gold to silver). Because fired silver metal clay is more porous than regular silver, th…

The Filigree Cuff Bracelet

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I can't tell you how great it was to finally take a filigree class taught by Gia Gogishvilli, the master of filigree (and Repousee/Chasing and all metalwork)!  We had one week to learn how to twist the metal, flatten it, anneal, make solder, file the solder, make the filigree pieces, make the frames for the filigree, learn the proper gauges, make and solder hinges, etc.  It was a lot to learn.  Most of us needed a bit more time once the week was finished, so Gia set up a couple of extra time periods to meet again, which was extremely helpful to all of us.

So as complete beginners, we began with building our sterling silver frames.  One for the left, one for the right and one for the middle.  The size of these frames depend on the size of our wrists or whose wrist we we're making this cuff bracelet for.  We made cardboard templates to be sure of the sizing.

Then we added the design inside the frame.  This wire must be fully annealed before shaping.

Once the frames were built a…

Filigree Earrings

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While still fresh from my filigree class, I wanted to make something a little more simple.  Filigree earrings!  I messed around with a few designs on paper for a bit and finally came up with something suitable...and simple enough.

I began with square wire, 16 gauge, to make the frames, formed and soldered together with regular silver solder.  Until the class with Gia, I had not realized the utmost importance of getting these curves correctly done.  They have to be perfect.  No dents, no sign of having been misshapen and reshaped...just smooth and curvy.


I then twisted 2 lines of 22 gauge fine silver into filigree wire by attaching one end of the wires to my doorknob and the other in my Foredom, basically stretching across the length of my studio.  Holding the wire straight and tight, I turned on the drill and it twisted until it broke, at which time I annealed and twisted again.  (It may seem a little scary to do this at first, but you'll get used to it.)  Once satisfied with the …

Simple Repousse Heart (Great for Beginners)

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This piece is VERY easy and does not take long to complete.  One or two days is all you need.  The design is simple and there is not much detail to worry about, so I think it's a perfect beginners piece just to get you started on the mechanics of doing chasing and repousse.  I wanted to begin getting back to using my chasing hammer and tools with something that wouldn't cause my shoulder pain to return.




This is the basic design I came up with.  It's a large heart with a smaller heart above and 5 leaves extending out from the top.  I actually drew the design on the other side of what you see below, laid it on the hot pitch (after covering with chapstick for easy removal) and begin repousse work.  Once I felt I'd done as much as I could, I removed the piece from the pitch pot by heating with the heat gun, pulling off with tweezers and quickly wiping off the leftover pitch.  Then I turned it over to define the forms on a steel block by edging around all the shapes.  The…

Chasing & Repousse with Valentin Yotkov

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In October, Valentin Yotkov came to Spruill Arts Center for a one-week chasing and repousse workshop.  Just about all of us in the class had taken one of his classes previously, so were able to work on the second project, which is considered a more intermediate level.  


For anyone just beginning to do chasing/repousse, or anyone interested in the process, I'll give a brief synopsis of our week below.
We began by transferring the design via tracing paper onto our piece of copper and then beginning the lining process, working from the outside and moving inwards.  


 Now we move to the inside and line the entire piece, making sure we are pounding hard enough that the design will appear on the opposite side of the piece when turned over.



Once the piece was completely lined, we flipped it over and began to repousse...



...until we had completely finished with the entire design.  One goal was to vary the depths of the design in the proper places.  Another was to use the correct tool for the pa…

Hammering out the Details

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Glad to be back with Gia for a few weeks!  I've been getting rusty in the chasing and repousse department!   We're all working on a design Gia has drawn up for us.  This is what mine looked like after the first go-round of puffing it up, i.e., repousse.   (Definition of repousse:  Raised in relief by hammering on the reverse side.)  


Gia gave the class a demonstration on how to chase the scalloped edges using my piece.  (Definition of chasing:  To groove, indent.)  Chasing is always done on the front of the piece.

On the left is his demonstration, on the right is what I have to do next.  I find it extremely helpful to have his work right there in front of me as I work and try to replicate what he has done.  

I've discovered a technique for getting the copper off the pitch with very little pitch stuck to the back side.  We already know to cover the side of the copper that will be on the pitch with chapstick.  When you begin heating the copper with your heat gun to remove it fr…

A Week in the Mountains

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I almost missed going to Wildacres this year.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I came to my senses about two weeks prior to classes starting, called the registrar to see if there were any openings in any of the classes and got in at the last minute.  Phew!  

This year at Wildacres, my teacher, Janet Harriman, started our class off with a little Tai Chi called "The Waterfall."  She wanted us to spend our week working hard, but remembering to breathe.  Good advice.  That's Janet in the middle, pouring out our first pieces from their overnight firing.



This was my first attempt at learning Bronze Clay, PMC3 and enameling on metal clay.  We started with the bronze, learning how to work with it, roll it out, keep it from drying out, making slip, attaching wire, etc.  We also worked with fast fire bronze, which has a different color and texture.   Here are Cyndi's amazing pieces (on the last night of Wildacres, we have Show and Tell, where we all put our pieces o…