Saturday, June 30, 2012

More PMC Sterling Silver Tests

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

In my first testing last fall with PMC Sterling Silver clay, I tested embedding copper wire into the clay by trapping the ends of the wire with clay. Now I want to take this idea a little further.

Test 1 
I embedded a copper square wire and two brass round wires sticking upward from the clay instead of sideways. I had two questions:
  • Will the metal clay hold the wire after firing without the ends being held in?  
  • Will the brass attach to the sterling clay? 

Test 2
I have a Microfold Brake tool that corrugates thin metal. I have often wanted to solder sterling silver wire into the creases but never got around to it. Then I thought, what if I could use the new sterling silver clay instead?! 

So, I conducted two tests.  

Test 2A
I applied PMC Sterling Silver clay to one side of the corrugated copper sheet. My questions were:
  • Will the sterling clay bind to the copper sheet?
  • What will happen when the clay shrinks?

Test 2B
I drilled holes through through the recesses in the copper and attached sterling silver clay to both sides of the corrugated sheet. Additionally, I bent the copper into a dome.

Clay pushed through holes
Clay added to the back
  My questions:
  •  Does the sterling silver clay attach better when it grips the metal like a rivet?
  • Will a thick layer of sterling silver clay applied to the back of the copper the make piece stronger?
  • Is is bendable after firing? 
Test 3

My next test was to see how well the sterling silver clay works with PMC+. The shrinkage rates for the clays are very close. So, I embedded PMC + into a slab of PMC Sterling Silver metal clay. 

My questions:

  • Will the two clays attach smoothly together?
  • Will the PMC+ sinter correctly when its fired in carbon?
  • How will the shrinkage affect the piece?


I fired all pieces in two stages. The first stage was completed on the kiln shelf for 30 minutes at 1000˚ F. The second firing stage was in activated coconut carbon inside a stainless steel container with a lid (per the manufacturer’s instructions) for 1 hour and 30 minutes at 1500
˚ F.. I chose to fire for 1 ½ hours because I was attaching clay to metal sheet.
The Results:

Test 1
The center copper wire melted into the sterling silver clay re-alloying the metal. The brass didn't attach at all and had some signs of melting. I wondered what went wrong. In previous tests this didn't happen.

I immediately tested my kiln making sure it is firing correctly and it is firing at the correct temperature. So, the extended time, 1 ½ hours, must be the problem.

 Test 2A

The silver clay disappeared into the copper sheet! Again the two metals alloyed together.

Test 2B

The two metals alloyed into one puddle. It looks like I have a hot spot in my kiln as these were all fired at the same time.

Test 3 
The PMC + and PMC Sterling bonded fine (the inside dots are PMC+). There is a little warpage from shrinking but otherwise it looks good. The PMC+ sintered completely.

In my next tests, I will change the firing schedule back to 30 minutes and see what happens. Until next time have fun claying around!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

And the Winner Is. . .

by Jennifer Roberts

Metal Clay Artist Magazine is out and the winners of the Metal Clay Plus competition have been revealed!

Looking at the pieces, I am struck by the role of movement in all four.
There is, of course, literal movement in Milica Popovic Bubanja' ring and Kimberly Nogueira's pendant. To create and integrate a complex mechanism into an aesthetically pleasing piece is a remarkable accomplishment. But the static pieces also move. Both Liz Potter Hall's pendant and Noortje Meijerink's sculpture give the sense of movement suspended - captured in a split second as gears turn or a bird stretches skyward.

While not planned, I think the thread of movement that ties these pieces together (at least for me) is so appropriate for metal clay at this moment. It's a quickly
evolving medium and the community is in flux. We're growing fast and the institutions that form the backbone of the community are being re-born. It's an exciting time to be a metal clay artisan.

Congratulations to the winners. . . .

Honorable Mention
Milica Popovic Bubanja
 Vintage Fabric Silver Clay Ring

Third Place
Liz Potter Hall


 Fine Silver Polymer InnerWorks Pendant

Second Place
Noortje Meijerink
Copper Clay Porcelain Bird Speedy

First Place
Kimberly Nogueira
(US Virgin Islands)
Metal Clay Automaton Pendant


Click images for larger view.

Thank you Metal Clay Artist Magazine for another great contest. 
We were honored to be a part of it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kids & Clay

By Linda Kline

Kids. . . Frankly, the little tykes make me nervous; probably because I’ve never had any of my own.  I’m just not sure how to interact with them.  I’m an aunt and a great-aunt and when I’m with them, I love spoiling them rotten.  But the beauty of being an auntie is that I get to send them back home to let their parents deal with the consequences of my spoiling. 

So when the Vero Beach Museum of Art asked me to take on some summer art camps, I freaked.  I had two groups -- one “young adults,” ages 14-16, and the other, ages 8-10. So how hard could this be?  I was the adult, they were the kids.  I was large and in-charge and I had two additional adults who had volunteered to help me.  No sweat!  Right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!  Those little squirts drove me to drink!!!  

If you plan to teach kids and it’s your first time, get ready to be put through the wringer…..challenged, tested, chewed up and spit out!  This is not for wussies!  

If you have a class plan that should fill three hours, double it.  Kids have no artistic intimidation or limitation.  No one has told them they “can’t” do something so they enthusiastically want to do it all.  They speed through their project and start looking for more to fill their time and stimulate their overactive little brains. It’s refreshing because it’s the kind of voracious creative appetite and artistic abandon we try so hard to awaken in adults. But you must be prepared for how it will dramatically alter your normal lesson plan.

Teens, on the other hand, generally act like they’re too cool for this stupid class and they appear bored, bored, bored.   Most of them are in the class because their moms thought it would be a good idea – and their mom’s are generally right.    Most of them are really great kids and appreciate that their brains and creative juices are getting a boost. Anticipate and work past that attitude and you’ll find creative kids who will astound you with answers to creative problems you rarely encounter in a room full of adults.

Words of wisdom

  • Over-anticipate.  Plan additional activities to fill down time when pieces are in the kiln or tumbler.  Have students make a braided leather bracelet or beaded necklace to complete their metal clay creation.
  • Don’t take attitude from teenagers personally. It has nothing to do with you. Engage them and - most of the time - the attitude will evaporate (eventually.)
  • Show samples but expect students to go off in their own direction.
  • Control costs.  Kids have no clue about the value of money.  Allocate clay for each student and be sure they understand what they have to work with. For older students, base metal clays are a good option. Be sure you stress hand-washing and other safety precautions to prevent accidental ingestion or skin irritation.

Cheers and creative blessings,


Friday, June 22, 2012

Finishing Your Work

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Buffing wheel and Zam
Finishing your work is just as important as creating it. It is actually the first thing people look at on a subconscious level. Next time you go into a store, watch someone looking at a piece of jewelry. I guarantee, they will pick it up and turn it over looking at the back side too. And, then if they like it they try it on.

It’s imperative to learn how to look at your work critically and finish it properly if you want to be a professional jewelry artist. Stop saying, “I like the organic look.” That’s a cop-out.

So, how do you learn to look at your work with a critical eye? Try taking a close-up photo of it. The camera never lies! That’s when the mistakes and unfinished areas really pop out. Next, start using eye magnification so you can see what the camera sees. Finally, when you think you are finished with it put it down, walk away, and then come back later and look at it with fresh eyes.

These are some of my personal finishing techniques.

  • If I want a high shine, I hand sand from coarse grit to finer grit using wet/dry sandpaper starting with 320, 400, and then 600 grit. I only sand in one direction (back and forth) with each grit of sandpaper until I only see lines created by that sandpaper. Then I move to the next finer grit. I rotate the piece and sand across the lines created by the last sandpaper until I no longer see those lines. After finishing with the 600 grit sandpaper, I then I use the Micro Mesh sanding pads. I have one set for unfired clay and one for metal.
  • While hand polishing I look at the reflection of light on the metal. Flexing it from side to side shows all scratches and dents. Having a light overhead is helpful too.
  • For a fine brushed finish, I still sand away all scratches, dents, and imperfections and then come back with a brushed finish using a satin finish buff. It really makes a difference in how it looks.
  • If I want that unique shine that can only happen by tumbling, I still hand finish removing scratches, dents, and imperfections and then place the object into the tumbler.
  • When sanding flat surfaces, I use a sanding stick. I make my own sanding stick by wrapping strips of sandpaper around a tongue depressor.  Then as the paper wears out, I unwrap one side, tear off the paper and sand more.
  • I use a cartridge sanding roll to sand the inside of rings making sure any seam lines are wiped out. These are available in coarse to fine grits and screw onto a cartridge roll mandrel.
  • To get into tight areas, I use a steel or brass end brush with a rotary tool.

I hope to see you all at the PMC Conference! As always, have fun claying around.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Curriculum Vitae

by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Curriculum Vitae: the Latin words for resumé. I spent all of Saturday and part of this morning updating mine. I'll be moving to Richmond, Virginia next year and wanted to get a head start on finding work. Metal Clay teaching work, that is.

In Los Angeles I teach at two jr. colleges and one art college. I'd like to find the same type of arrangement in Richmond. I like working at locations other than a home studio for a couple of reasons. The venue usually already has a supply of eager students to draw from and they carry insurance in case of mishaps. I've thought about finding a big enough space to do classes from a home base of some sort and I might try to rent a studio once I get settled. The bonus of that setup is not having to lug all my supplies and equipment (including the kiln) to the classroom.

Updating my CV was actually a great exercise. Seeing all of my jewelry-related achievements in print, on one piece of paper was very affirming. One might even say ego boosting! Reading over the previous version, compiled in 2009, reminded me of many activities I'd forgotten about. Adding new information pushed me to consider what I've accomplished in the past two years. I wonder if I've forgotten anything...

Writing an artistic resume would be a great process to go through even if you're not looking for employment. If you're not a teacher, haven't been published, or don't have any other public accolades to include - think of all the times you've taken a class, made a submission, participated in a challenge or completed a particular project. Use the traditional resume format to create a synopsis of your successes, detail every time you put yourself on the line, list all the skills you've mastered, celebrate all of your creative accomplishments. Print a work history for your eyes only. And take pride in your achievements.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

And Then There Were Four

by Jennifer Roberts

We are thrilled to have the privilege of announcing the finalists of the Metal Clay Artist Magazine design contest. The theme was Metal Clay Plus and the entries were truly inspiring. Selection of the winning pieces was not an easy task, but judges Celie Fago, Lora Hart, and Joy Funnell awarded top honors to four artists.

So, without further ado, here are the finalists listed in no particular order:

Liz Potter Hall
 Fine Silver Polymer InnerWorks Pendant

Milica Popovic Bubanja
 Vintage Fabric Silver Clay Ring

Kimberly Nogueira
(US Virgin Islands)
Metal Clay Automaton Pendant


Click images for larger view.

Noortje Meijerink
Copper Clay Porcelain Bird Speedy

Congratulations to all of our finalists
and thank you to everyone who entered.
We hope you found the experience as rewarding as we did.

Find out how they placed in the next issue of
Metal Clay Artist Magazine

Friday, June 8, 2012

Making Your Own Sanding Discs

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

homemade sanding disc
This tip is for those of you who like to use a sanding disc with your rotary tool. I don’t know about you, but sanding discs just don’t last long and can become very costly. Here is a way to make your own.

You will need:
  • Plastic milk jug or a 1 liter plastic jug
  • Small punch or awl
  • Rubber cement or spray adhesive 
  • Sandpaper (you choose the grit) 
  • Scissors 
  • Flex shaft mandrel shank 
  • Small screw driver 
  • Circle template 
  • Fine tipped marker
1.    Cut a flat section of plastic out of the milk jug.
2.    Trace the cut plastic shape onto the back of your sandpaper.
3.    Cut out the sandpaper shape.
4.    Apply rubber cement or spray adhesive to the back of the sandpaper and to the plastic piece.

Step 4
5.    Allow  both to dry.
6.    Attach the sandpaper to the plastic by pressing them both together.
7.    Trace circles onto the plastic try to get them close as possible.

Step 7
8.    Cut circles out with scissors. They don't have to be perfect circles.

Step 8
 9.    Punch a small hole into the center of each circle.

Step 9
 10.  Attach the sanding disc to the mandrel by pressing the mandrel’s screw through the disc’s center hole.

Step 10
A sanding disc quickly sands flat edges, and is bendable allowing you to sand tight areas. 

Until next time, have fun claying around.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Say Cheese!

by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Weekend Eye Candy - Shooting Multiples Edition by lorahart
 1. Earrings #8, Stamen Series, 2005, 2. RAW 52/52 - My big Finale!, 3. Oval Brooch Series I, 4. Oval Brooch Series III, 5. Tea series - bracelet, 6. Landscape Sample Rings (Under Glass), 7. Hako Ring Series, 8. Bubble Lace Series Rings (and a smidge of a brooch), 9. looking for input  Created with fd's Flickr Toys

Arguably the best thing a maker can do to boost their career, sales, or marketing, is to learn to photograph their work so well that even a static image is a show stopper. Or else hire a professional to do it.

Not all pro photogs are prohibitively expensive, and it's not really that difficult to learn how to take the very best pictures you can with the camera set up you currently own. Unless you're 'shooting' with your copier. Then I'm not sure what to tell you.

College students have to learn somewhere. Why not contact a local JC to see if you can interview someone who is interested in working on their portfolio? The type of photographer you're looking for is someone who specializes in 'tabletop'.

Another idea would be to look at the work of other makers and note their photographers. Look them up online and see if they list their pricing structure. It might not be as high as you imagine. My fabulous images are taken by a woman who has a day job (in tv) and is working towards building her post retirement career. She only charges $30.00 per shot!

There are many, many helpful tutorials online that show self-taught artists how to successfully photograph their own work with little financial layout. You can use sunlight, a transparent trash can for a light box and a flashlight or craft light (Ott) as a 'pin' or highlight.

If you only do one thing to elevate your business this year, making sure you have great images of your work should be #1 on the list.