Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Don't Give up Easily!

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

My last PMC Sterling Silver test didn't go so well. I experimented with embedding various materials in the sterling and ended up with melted pieces and a new metal alloy that was close to brass! Undeterred, I continued testing and testing. . . and testing. After calling in for help and emailing Hadar Jacobson, I decided to try the low-fire schedule she developed for her clays.

Before Firing
After Firing
It worked! I successfully fired the corrugated copper sheet with sterling silver metal clay. It wasn't too pretty, but it worked. The sterling silver clay's 12% shrinkage made the clay pull away from the copper in areas.

With the new firing approach and shrinkage considerations in mind, I moved on to more questions.

My Additional Tests 

I wondered what happens when various wires and tubes are embedded in PMC Sterling. All of the materials below work provided that you 1) fire the clay using Hadar's low firing schedule (see below), 2) create ways for the sterling silver clay to capture the embedded material, and 3) account for the clay's shrinkage.

 1.   Copper wire embedded in PMC Sterling clay.


2.   Steel wire embedded in PMC Sterling clay. 

3.   Copper tubing embedded in PMC Sterling clay.


4.  Gold-filled wire embedded in PMC Sterling clay. What a way to add gold to your creation!   

Hadar's Low-Fire Schedule

Pre-firing (firing on a stove top is not recommended.)

Phase I
Ramp at 1800 ˚ F/1000˚ C to:
  1000˚F/538˚C (brick kiln)
  1100˚F/593˚C (muffle kiln) (I set my kiln at Full ramp)
Hold for 2 hours
Cool down to room temperature (optional). 

Phase II
Place piece into carbon inside stainless steel container with lid on it. (per Mitsubishi's instructions)
Ramp at 1800 ˚ F/1000˚ C to:
  1250˚ F/676˚ C (brick kiln)
  1325˚ F/718˚ C (muffle kiln)  (I set my kiln at Full ramp)
Hold for 2 hours

Friday, July 27, 2012

Artist’s Journal: Stackable Pinky Rings Made with Re-hydrated Clay

by Yvonne Yao

With my first East coast wholesale show coming up, I have had rings on the brain day and night. For a while now I have wanted to add ring designs to my collection, so I decided to do some sketching and test out the first design, along with a new tip on re-hydrating clay. 
A week before starting work on the rings, I decided to get to work on re-hydrating some of my leftover clay that had turned rock hard. Being a person who only dabbles in PMC every now and then, I have accrued many pea-sized nuggets of hardened clay over time.  Previously, I tried filing each nugget down patiently and slowly re-hydrating the dust back into moist clay. This was a tedious job that took more time than I had to offer. Instead, I had recently read that a sandwich bag could just as easily do the hard work for me. I put the hardened clay into a sandwich bag, added a few drops of water, zipped the bag up and let it sit for several days until the clay was just soft enough to work with. Then I took the clay out, placed it on a piece of plastic wrap, spritzed it with water, and folded the clay on itself (all the time breaking up the tiny bits of hard lumps) until it was the proper consistency. Worked like a charm!

I was ready to start on my rings and my goal was to make stackable rings of varying size and curvature. I started by rolling the clay four cards thick to cut out the individual ring bands. I covered the ring mandrel with a one-inch strip of plastic wrap and draped each band of clay gently around it, making sure to size up two ring sizes to allow for shrinkage during firing. 


I then rolled out more clay at four cards thick in order to cut out various size and curvatures of triangles that I wet-mounted to the ring bands. Once the triangles were attached to the bands, I used a palette knife to apply thick slip to the sides of the triangles (almost like frosting a cupcake) in order to build a 3-dimensional form that I could sculpt. I let each ring dry before repeating the steps until I had six rings completed and ready for sanding. 

Using 400 grit sandpaper, I hand sanded each piece to the exact curvature and form that I desired so that they stacked to form a single curved ridge. I then made sure to round off the inner edges of the ring bands for comfort of wear and patched and smoothed uneven surfaces.  The rings were fired at 1600 degrees for 30 minutes, and tumbled with an electric tumbler for 15 minutes. 

Here are the results in a couple of possible configurations. . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Call For Entries - Holly Gage 2013 Calendar

Holly is on the lookout for pieces to grace the pages of her next calendar. . .

Accepting Calendar Submissions for 
The Art and Design of Metal Clay Jewelry 2013
Deadline: Aug. 15, 2012
Release date: Late - October 2012

We are seeking images to feature in our next annual calendar, The Art and Design of Metal Clay Jewelry and More 2013. In addition to including jewelry as in the past, this year ALL Metal Clay forms will be included - necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, brooches, vessels, objects and other items will be considered. Unique and diverse design styles and techniques are desired. Metal Clay should be the predominant material and all types and brands of Metal Clay will be considered, but other media - resin, gems, metals, enamel, and more may be incorporated into the design. High digital images will be accepted by mail or e-mail:

Christine Norton
c/o Calendar Submission 2013
13754 Knight Court, Gainesville, VA  20155

Artwork submitted must represent work that is unique and original in design. New unpublished/unseen work is preferred. Group shots or individual pictures will be accepted. Limit 3 entries, no more than 2 shots per entry. Please don't send actual pieces. Professional photo quality is a MUST. Please consider the fact that viewers will only see your photo, not your original work, so clear, uncluttered photos with an accurate representation will be priority for the selection process. Images should be 300 dpi, in tiff, jpg or psd format with no compression. The image size should be no smaller than 5". However ONLY large format photos 8 1/2 x 11" can be considered for the prominent cover position.

Artwork for inclusion will be selected based on:

- Design
- Innovation
- Craftsmanship
- High degree of excitement
- Unique use of metal clay and degree of challenge
Hint: The above is a great checklist for submissions
Artists retain copyright of their work and receive a free copy of the calendar if selected.
Each calendar page measures 8.5” x 11” and measures 11” x 17” when opened.

Please include the following information with your submission. Missing information may forfeit your position in the calendar: (Please consider over 300 photos arrive for review)

1. Name
2. Address
3. Website or e-mail (indicate if this information should be included on the calendar)
4. Title of piece
5. Materials used
6. Dimensions in millimeters
7. Brief Description of process and/or motivation to how it was conceived. An interesting, well written statement is encouraged, 50 words or less. (This information will be published so put your best foot forward.  Entries may be edited.)
8. File name
9. Has your file been retouched?
10. Is your file 300 dpi?

Please direct all inquiries to:

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Many Uses of Casting Investment

by Janet Alexander
Technical Advisor

Casting investment is a ceramic mixture used in the process of lost wax casting for jewelry making. It is formulated to keep its strength and integrity in high heat. It is a mixture of silicone, plaster, and other materials. It sets up in 9-10 minutes and is ready for the kiln in 30minutes.

In the metal clay community it is used as a place holder to keep the metal clay from shrinking too much in certain places.

One well known use is making small patties for fitting inside rings. These patties are inserted into metal clay ring and then fired with the ring. These inserts are made by mixing cool water with investment and then pouring the investment into a ring mold. The mixture should be thick like pancake batter. After the investment sets-up, the plugs are easily removed by flexing the rubber mold like you would an ice tray. I make several plugs of each ring size and then store each size in separate plastic bags. This way I have plenty ready for my classes. After firing, remove the plug from the fired ring (after the ring has cooled) by pressing the plug outward with a spoon or carving it into small pieces using a dull knife. Dump the used investment into the trash.*

Another use for investment is as a place-holder for a stone. If you are setting a stone into your metal clay piece after firing, then place a replica of the stone made from investment into the setting. You can easily make a mold of the stone by using modeling clay.

Roll the clay into a ball and flatten it so that it is wide and tall enough to hold the stone. Press your stone into the clay (face-down) until the bottom of the stone is even with the top of the modeling clay. Remove the stone and pour in your mixture of investment and water. After the investment sets, remove it from the mold. The modeling clay mold material is reusable, so wash the investment dust off and save it for another time. Before firing your metal clay, place the investment stone into your setting.

I also like to use the investment as a support while firing a domed metal clay item. I make a mold, out of modeling clay, of the dome I used to dome my metal clay. I pour the investment mixture into the mold, allow it to dry, and then use it as a support system in the kiln. This keeps my metal clay from losing its shape while firing. Since it is an open support, as the metal clay shrinks it shrinks over the domed shape. You can make different support structures for all your creative needs using this process! 

Investment dome on left with original dome on right.
As always, I hope you all enjoyed or learned some tips from this posting. Send me some suggestions for future posts and have fun claying around.

*Never pour investment down a drain. It settles in the pipes eventually clogging the pipes. Its best to pour any leftover mixture into a trash can and then wipe your mixing bowl clean with a paper towel. Always keep utensils used for mixing chemicals separate from food use!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Influence or Inspiration?

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Carved pillars at the Natural
History Museum entrance, London.
Inspiration for a series of beads?
I have a couple of jewelry maker friends who intentionally don't like to look at the work of other artists for fear their creative muse will subconsciously take on the attributes of the admired baubles. I, on the other hand, am a notorious surfer. I have pinboards, and favorites, and journals filled with tearsheets featuring the work of makers I admire. I lurk and stalk and search them out. I travel to galleries all around the world via sites like Klimt and blogs like 18K. I love to absorb as much creative input as I can possibly access.

But not to copy. Oh no! I keep my sub conscious in check while I do what I call Mindful Observation. I like to activate my inner inspector by looking at the details of any type of imagery that catches my eye, whether it was made by a jeweler, a ceramist, or a carpenter. For example, I've gotten ideas for clasps and suspension methods (how a focal piece might be hung) from looking at gates, door frames and lamps. And yes, I get general design ideas from looking at other peoples' jewelry.
Lisa Jane Grant. Not only is
this milled MokumeGane
necklace a great variation on
the lentil form, but the angled
jump rings are a wonderfully
functional design element.

You should try it. The next time you come across an image that totally captures your imagination, stop and look at all the individual components that make up the whole. Which ones are you particularly drawn to? Can you distill the essence of those details and incorporate them into your own practice? Try drawing variations of the theme.

Which side of the divide do you fall on? Do you love learning from others that went before? Or do you feel that reviewing the design ideas of other artists will corrupt your creativity?