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Metal clay – A love/hate relationship

January 8, 2015 , In: Clay, General, Inspiration, Metal Clay
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This year, one of my resolutions is to make something with metal clay. I’ve been trying to do it ever since it arrived in the country. I remember paying £10 (a huge amount as a poor student) for something like 10 grams of silver clay. Yes, it was a long time ago! It was PMC and all the instructions were in Japanese. I spent a long time creating a beautiful pendant, but couldn’t properly understand the picture instructions and it exploded right in front of me pretty much as soon as I put the torch on it. I should have just given up then… it’s never got much better!

I am determined that this year, I will master it and produce something wonderful, perfectly formed, fully sintered, an unexploded masterpiece… or at least something that doesn’t crumble to dust! 

I’ve tried most brands of clay so far, all equally unsuccessful, so for this round, I am trying Goldie bronze. I bought a test kit last year with 5 colours/types of bronze and 1 of copper. It’s different to others that I’ve tried as it’s not premixed. The majority of packs I’ve had before went off after I’d opened them, so I like the idea of mixing small amounts to test with.

The bronze comes in powder form and is mixed with water. I am using the hard version of Goldie Bronze.

I added a small amount of water and the mix started to turn crumbly. I guessed that I didn’t need much more water, so used a spritzer to add small amounts.

The clay started to form in to a solid lump.

It’s a bit like making scones! Once it’s bound together, the clay has to be conditioned by folding and rolling away from the seam for a few turns. You can feel it firm up as you work. It’s then left to rest for half an hour (maybe more like bread than scones!) I like that this clay doesn’t stick to your fingers as others do. It did stick to my non stick mat though???

Never one to start small, I took one of my many drawings of things I’d like to make in metal clay, a hollow lentil bead.

I rolled the clay 3 cards thick, and cut circles. They were formed into a half lentil shape over a painting palette 

Then I cut 2 more circles and lightly drew the design for the front of the bead.

This circle was formed over the palette and the design cut out with a scalpel.

They were then left to dry. I had some clay left, so rather than let it dry out, I made a hare pendant with cubic zirconia for eyes. No idea if this will work, but it’s worth a try! 

The hard bronze was really easy to use, similar to working with ceramic clay. It held it’s shape well and took lots of fine detail.

The lentil halves still weren’t dry, so I mixed up some of the Roman Bronze and made another. This clay is completely different. It’s fluffy in comparison to the hard version. It didn’t hold it’s shape very well and the grain was much larger, so it wouldn’t take much detail. What I did get on there was difficult to do. I think this would be better suited to simpler designs, where the rough texture of the design is the main focus. This hare got CZ eyes too… in for a penny!

Finally, the halves dried out, so I made up some clay paste and stuck them together. After drying again, they were sanded and cleaned up. And here they are ready for firing. You can just about make out the carved design inside… I’m hoping that with a patina and polish the design will be a bit more prominent!

Although I had tried the bronze before, I took the advice to do a test firing (thanks Lesley!) and I’m glad I did. The test strips didn’t fully sinter, so I don’t have finished pics to show you. Glad I didn’t put the proper pieces in, hopefully they’ll be done for my next post!

I hope this time’s the charm… Keep your fingers crossed for me! 

Caroline Dewison

Caroline Dewison is a lifelong addict of anything creative. She settled on ceramic beadmaking 3 years ago and can be found most days at the bottom of her garden playing with mud in her studio. She draws her inspiration from the natural world and wishes there were more hours in the day to explore all the ideas in her sketchbook. You can see more of her work on her blog - blueberribeads.co.uk.
  1. Reply

    Your designs are beautiful Caroline. Kudos to you for sticking with it even if you weren't successful at first.

  2. Reply

    I feel your pain! I too have a love hate relationship with metal clays and currently have a stash that is probably dried out. I haven't tried this particular clay so am looking forward to seeing your results.

    Thanks for sharing!

    -Michelle

  3. Reply

    I am SO GLAD you didn't attempt to fire the actual pieces first. Whew! Dodged that bullet. I can hardly wait to see the final product though!

  4. Reply

    I can not believe the work involved and I can tell you are looking forward to firing the real ones they will be amazingly stunning!

  5. Reply

    Love where you are going with this. How clever to use the other side of the paint palette for the gentle curve! I will have to try that with pc. I would dearly love to be someone that works in this medium but the few classes I have taken didn't turn out well at all. Fussy stuff, that clay. But I love where you are going and I am so excited to see how it turns out for you! Enjoy the day. Erin

  6. Reply

    I'm following!! Hoping to try my hand at PMC this year. Pretty sure it will be with something much simpler. Best of luck to you!

  7. Reply

    Wonderful, bold designs. How generous of you to share your process and your successes and failures. How wonderful that your team member saved you from un-success.

    You have approached this medium with caution and maturity. Thank you for sharing that.

  8. Reply

    ooh, I can't wait to see these fired!

  9. Reply

    Ohhh, me too..I can't wait to see how these turned out! The pendants are so gorgeous, even un-fired! The hares are wonderful! They are so different from anything I've seen before..you did a fab job!

  10. Reply

    Love the designs, The bunnies are similar to the wonderful bunny brooch you sent me. I'm holding my breath to see the lentil. I hope it turns out, because it will be stunning!

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