Monday, August 01, 2016

Textures in Metal Clay

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:  

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, the gold practically melts onto the silver when heating on a small kiln.  Here's a how-to video on keum boo:

Another benefit is the ability to insert gemstones into the metal prior to firing.  Only specific stones can take the high temperatures required for metal clay, so it's important to make sure the gemstones you are using are safe.  Cool Tools has an excellent gemstone firing guide online.

Metal clay is a whole new medium for me and an exciting new tool in my toolbox of metalworking skills. There are some experienced metal clay artists doing amazing things...Gordon K. Uyehara, Celie Fago, and Ivy Soloman to name just a few.  Holly Gage won the 2015 Saul Bell Award in Metal Clay with this necklace:

The 2016 Saul Bell award went to Rodica Frunze with this piece: