Friday, April 1, 2011

Learn the Hard Way!

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

I don’t remember where, when or why I first heard the phrase “hard metals”. It’s certainly not a description that goldmsiths use to describe their chosen supplies. It refers to the difference between the kind of metal that traditional jewelry makers use - milled, drawn, forged, stiff and hard; and the kind we use - malleable, carveable and moldable, mushy even. They use hard metals and we use soft ones. I guess. I also don’t ever remember hearing our favorite material referred to as soft, although it is.

When metal clay was introduced, the goldsmiths stuck to their guns and used only hard metal. They poo poo’d this new form of alleged metal clay. Clay is just another word for mud, and mud does not a jewelry material make (thought they)! Likewise, novice users of the great grey goop wanted to prove that metal clay could be used to make objects that were just as beautiful as their traditional counterparts and developed ways to use only clay.

In the past few years, the lines have been blurring. Hard metal experts are more willing to try to add metal clay to their repertoire and metal clayers are starting to understand the value of using metal smithing tools and techniques in their work.

Because PMC Connection is dedicated to helping you to push your personal boundries and bring you the best classes anywhere, our wonderful teaching staff has decided to offer a wide variety of hard metal working workshops at the upcoming Arrowmont Retreat!

Silver Chains and Beyond with the Devos’ will teach you how to bend, twist and turn wire to make custom chain for your metal clay focals.
Linda Kline goes green when she reveals how pouring molten silver over pine needles can create a magnifient one off wearable sculpture.
I’m offering an evening class designed to help you brainstorm how to make custom tools to answer a specific need, something goldsmiths are always doing.
Janet Alexander, a professionally trained goldsmith and metal clay expert will show you how to refine your own scrap and turn it into a beautiful one of a kind pendant with cuttlebone casting.
Janet Alexander’s full day class using milled copper to make a box will give you a real fabrication education. You’ll learn how to solder, pierce with a jewelers saw, make rivets and much more. Then later that evening, Ruth Greening will share her finishing and polishing tips using the metalsmith’s favorite tool - a flexible shaft machine.
Friday night 
Janet reprises her Cuttlebone class and I help you learn to dap, forge, rivet, and saw as we make a simple steampunky pendant. I know the description says there won’t be a particular project completed, but there may be a fun surprise.

Bench photo via Ganoksin

I hope  quite a few of you will be there to soak up some knowledge and add a few of these wonderful metal methods to your box of skills. See you in May!


Marlynda Taylor said...

I loved taking a couple of metal smithing classes, and I regularly read metal smithing books of all kinds, even about techniques I know I won't be trying out. If you see how a certain of piece is done with "hard" metal, you can figure out how to re-create the look in metal clay. What a wealth of information is available out there to help us step outside our box. The more we share in classes, discussions, conversation, blogs and by reading, the better all of our work becomes. Getting together with other metal clay artists in a retreat setting fills us with so much more than classroom knowledge. I'm looking forward to sharing with and learning from the teachers and students who attend at Arrowmont this year.

sara said...

I recently took a 2-day metalsmithing course in Burnaby, BC and learned a lot about using the "hard metal" techniques. I am not afraid of torches now that I have used them to solder altho I do really prefer using metal clay (of all types) to the hard metals! It is all good information and it will, I believe, stretch my skills and abilities to another -- broader -- level. Learning is good for the soul!