Sunday, May 25, 2008

What I did this weekend...

...after returning from four days in Vegas at a tradeshow, I decided I wasn't exhausted enough and headed out to my very first ever Metal Clay class at Brea Beadworks on Saturday.

For anyone who's not familiar with this medium, Metal Clay is a product that consists of particles of fine (99.9% pure) silver held together with organic binder and water to form a claylike substance which can be molded to desired shapes and then fired to produce a fine silver end product such as a pendant. It comes in two brands: Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Art Clay Silver. The difference is basically the same as the difference between Pepsi and Coke.

I've been jonesing to take a class for a long time, but couldn't fine one near enough to my area to sign up for and I also found the product a bit intimidating. After all, it's pure silver which means it's $$$$ expensive which means (I thought) mistakes are correspondingly $$$$.

Turns out not to be the case - it's a very forgiving medium and any booboos can essentially be reconditioned back into workable clay and re-done. long as you haven't already fired the piece. Once it's fired, you're pretty much stuck with the result although sanding and polishing can fix a lot of minor surface imperfections.

I was also put off by the idea of requiring a kiln to finish a piece. They're expensive, bulky and I certainly don't have room for one in my house where I could be sure the kid wouldn't get to it. Fortunately, an alternative exists in the form of a small butane torch. MUCH more economical and user-friendly. Even I, who am a total fire wimp, could handle it. The butane refills for it are even available in the grocery store in the cigarette case.

So, long story short, if you've been wanting to play with this medium, I highly recommend signing up for a class. It's much easier and more fun that I ever imagined and the possibilities are pretty much limitless. Oh, and if you're anywhere in So Cal, take Cindy Pankopf's class at Brea Beadworks! She's a senior certified art clay silver instructor and did a terrific job!

Here's what I learned in her class yesterday:

Going clockwise from upper left:

1. Pendant with 3 bottom holes for attaching dangles. Done with a scratch finish and then patina'd in a liver of sulfer solution. In real life (instead of this crappy scan) it's actually different shades of rose, copper and blue and then I used a burnishing tool on the raised areas of the design to remove the patina and expose the silver again.

2. Oval pendant with stamped design. I did this one with a mirror finish - super bright and shiny. It could probably be better, but I got impatient with the sanding process.

3. Rectangular pendant with rolled bail and stamped design. This was actually a "rescue" piece. The original stamped design on this was too light and didn't really show up so I added the smaller, deeper impressions on top of it and it actually worked out okay. I did a mirror finish on this as well and then added a patina with liver of sulfur. I rubbed more of the patina off on this so it just has some touches of dark blue and burgundy here and there.

4. Two small diamond shapes for use as earrings. I did a scratch finish on these and then used a burnishing tool to shine up the raised areas. This leaves the background kind of a satin finish and the raised areas are very shiny and almost "sparkle" in contrast.

Not bad for my first attempt. Can't wait to make some more stuff!

Hope everyone else is having a good Memorial Day weekend!



Anonymous said...

very nice work!!Yay, and on your first attempt. I am a beader, and am extremly ready to begin metal work, using cabachons of semiprecious. I love your work. I am really frustrated and tired because I cannot for the life of me find a class. Do You know of anything closer than Brea? I have RA and that drive would pretty much kick my arse. Again, great work on the silver clay kudos.
Namaste, Dana

Anonymous said...

BTW: my email is

Kaos Siberians said...

Very cool work! Next time, call me and if I'm not showing, I'll go with! Sometimes I do things that don't involve dog hair!!!