Tag Archives: metal clay jewellery

So what exactly is metal clay?

You may have seen that we have metal clay classes at the London Jewellery School but what exactly is metal clay and how can you use it? Metal clay artist and tutor Anna Campbell updates you on the latest developments

Metal clay has been around since the 1990s but many people have never heard of it so I thought I would give a general overview and a rundown of the latest products available on the market. This year there have been a lot of exciting advances and new brands/products entering the market so the metal clay market is growing.

Just to note, I am focussing here on the brands that are easy to purchase in the UK without import costs. There are other brands available but at the time of writing these are not as easily accessible as those featured here.

 

What is metal clay?

All metal clays have the same basic structure – metal particles, a binder to bind the metal particles together and some water to form the clay. This can be moulded, shaped and textured before drying and firing – either with a jewellers torch or in a kiln to form metal.

All metal clays can be hallmarked by the assay office.

 

Silver clay

The two main manufacturers of silver clay are Aida (Art Clay Silver Clay) and Mitsubishi (PMC3). We use Art Clay Silver Clay in our classes at the London Jewellery School but if you have used one you can use the other in exactly the same way. Fine silver clay is also known as 999 meaning that for every 1000 particles, 999 are silver and 1 is copper.

Silver clay is available in different forms which lend themselves to different ways of designing. These are clay, syringe, paste and paper.

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Silver clay and syringe by Jeanette Landenwitch

 

Syringe

The syringe allows you to do finer silver work e.g. filigree. It is also useful for filling in any cracks or gaps in your work. Both Art Clay and PMC have syringe clay available.

 

Paste

Paste is a watered down version of clay that acts like a glue, perfect for sticking two pieces of clay together. Artists like Terry Kovalcik also use paste for painting amazing designs on their pieces.

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Pendant, painting with paste by Terry Kovalcik

 

Paper

Silver clay paper is a flat, dry sheet of clay that can be cut, woven and folded. I have recently written a blog post on origami with silver.

 

PMC flex

PMC flex is a type of fine silver clay that is flexible and has a longer drying time. Perfect if you find you need a little more time to create your pieces, it can be torch or kiln fired.

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Art Clay Silver 950 – sterling silver clay

 

Sterling silver clay

Sterling silver is also known as 925. This means that there are 925 particles of silver to 75 particles of copper. Sterling silver is widely recognised in the UK and is stronger that fine silver so is perfect for making rings, bangles or other pieces that need more strength. You can also roll it out a little thinner as it maintains its strength and is a little stronger in the greenware stage (when dry but before firing) although still take care when you’re filing! It carves and engraves well. However, it does have to be kiln fired, torch firing is not sufficient.

Previous incarnations of the sterling silver clay needed a two firing system using carbon but this year both Art Clay (Art Clay 950 Sterling silver clay) and PMC (PMC sterling onefire) have released one fire clays. For more information you can have a look at a previous blog post I wrote about trying out Art Clay 950.

For those that are selling their metal clay pieces sterling silver clay is an attractive option as customers know what it is and are confident buying hallmarked sterling silver however the need for a kiln can put people off.

 

Gold

At the time of writing 3g of Art Clay gold is £259.95! Youch! It may not surprise you to know that I have not tried using it! However, there are other ways of adding gold to metal clay. I have had success with accent gold for silver which is 24 carat gold that you can paint onto fired on unfired silver clay. It is still costly, £92.95 for 1 gram, but a little does go a long way as you are only painting a layer onto the surface of the clay.

You can also use keum boo, a gold foil that is adhered to fired silver clay. You can learn how to do this on our one day intermediate metal clay class.

 

Base metal clays

Base metal means non-precious metals e.g. bronze, copper, iron and steel.

 

Copper

Copper clay is available from a number of manufacturers, for a full list see here. Art Clay Copper (at the time of writing) is the simplest of the clays to fire as it can be torch or kiln fired. Copper clay is an affordable option although not everyone likes to wear copper jewellery. However, it could be a good option for making larger pieces like bracelets.

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Bronze clay neckpiece by Anna Mazon (made from Goldie Bronze)

 

 

Bronze

I have enjoyed experimenting recently with bronze clay. I have been using Goldie Bronze. It is also very affordable and comes in many different colours. It arrives in powder form and is easy to make up into clay with ordinary tap water (I have a two minute video on how to do that here). This allows you to mix up the amount you need when you need it. Hard is great for making bangles and rings whereas soft is easier to carve and texture so a mix of both has, in my opinion, given me the best of both worlds. Firing Goldie Bronze does also have to be done in a two part schedule in the kiln in activated coconut carbon and, if you do it right, it works! In the UK you can purchase Goldie Bronze from Metal Clay Ltd. Metal Clay have also recently started stocking the Aussie Metal Clay brand and I’m looking forward to having a play with it. There are other brands of bronze clay on the UK market including Metal Adventures and Prometheus.

 

Other base metals

Other metal clays available include brass clays and iron clays.

 

Final thoughts

The original fine silver clay is still the most reliable to fire. However, it is among the more expensive of the metal clays to work with so doing some experimenting with other metal clays could prove worthwhile, particularly if you have a design for a larger piece in mind. I really wanted to make a chunky bracelet in metal clay and am currently doing so in Goldie Bronze. The cost of the same amount of clay in silver would have been prohibitive.

You do need to fire the majority of metal clays in a kiln (with the exception of art clay copper) but you may be able to find a kiln firing service in your area if you don’t have one yourself.

The final thing to note is that you do need separate tools for working with the different metals. Contamination from one type of clay to another can result in the piece not firing correctly and all your work is wasted. My main set of tools is for silver clay (as I started working in it I have more tools for silver!). I have a box of tools, texture sheets, clay roller etc that have just been used for bronze clay. Make sure you mark your tools clearly. In practice it hasn’t meant buying too many duplicate tools and I think the opportunity to try other metals has made the added investment worthwhile.

For a more in depth run down of the different brands of clay on the market see this excellent article from Metal Clay Academy

If you’ve been inspired to try a silver clay class why not join us for a day? The following classes are in silver clay:

Beginners metal clay class

Intermediate metal clay class – in this class you get the chance to add gold to your silver clay in one of the projects.

Would you like to try working with paper clay? Enrol on our silver paper clay class.

 

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs

 

Previewing Art Clay 950

A couple of weeks ago LJS received a parcel from Metal Clay Ltd with a preview packet of the not yet available to buy Art Clay 950. Metal clay tutor Anna Campbell was very excited to have a go with it!

 

Art Clay 950 is a new formula of clay that is also being called sterling silver clay. I have written more here about what Art Clay 950 is in a previous blog post so do have a look back at this before reading the results of my testing.

With the preview packet we received I wanted to test out the following features of the clay and compare them to original Art Clay

  • Strength – both in the dry form and once fired
  • Ability to carve the clay in the dry form stage
  • Shrinkage (particularly important for rings)
  • Setting a fireable stone
  • Enamelling

I was able to make three projects with the clay:

 

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Ring shank with holes

I wouldn’t even try this in original Art Clay! I wanted to test the shrinkage and strength when I hammer it around once fired. It was 5 cards thick before firing.

 

Results

This shows why it is important to do a test of your kiln before you start firing a new clay. My ring shank broke very easily suggesting that my kiln is underfiring (is firing at a lower temperature than it says it is). It should have been strong enough to hammer around into a ring band.

When trying out a new clay for the first time I suggest you make one or two test strips of the clay that are 5 cards thick and about 6cm long. Fire them to the manufacturer’s guidelines and test them carefully when they come out of the kiln. Can you bend them without breaking? If they break it suggests that there may be a problem with your kiln firing and you might need to adjust your temperatures or length of firing. If that is the case I suggest contacted the clay manufacturer for advice.

 

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Ring

With the ring I wanted to test the shrinkage, ability to set a fireable stone and carving.

I made the ring and dried it. I made a paste with 950 and tap water and was easily able to stick the dried set stone to the dried ring. Carving was a dream! I really love that having tried to carve original Art Clay and found it was easy to break it!

 

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Finished stone set ring

Results

The piece fired well with very little warping. The stone did change colour but this does sometimes happen with cubic zirconia stones in the blue colours. I was advised to re-fire the piece in carbon as this sometimes changes the stone back to the original colour but did not in this case.

I am really pleased with this ring. I will be using this clay for all my rings in the future because it is so much stronger than the fine silver of the original Art Clay.

 

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Enamelled pendant

I used a Quick Art template and the Quick Art stylus from Metal Clay to make this pendant.

I rolled the stencilled section out at 3 cards thick. It was easy to cut out the stencil using the stylus which has a really fine tip. My previous needle tool made that quite difficult because the needle was thick so it was difficult to get a neat line.

I dried and filed the stencilled section. I then added it to a 2 card thick layer of wet clay. Once dried I cleaned the edges with baby wipes to ensure no join was visible.

 

Results

The piece had bowed slightly after firing, nothing that I was not expecting.

 

Enamelling

Original Art Clay is excellent for enamelling because it is fine silver and therefore does not require depletion guilding to counteract the effect of the copper. I was interested to see how different this would be to enamel.

I went about enamelling this piece in the same way as I would enamel fine silver (by this I mean I did no depletion guilding).

I cleaned the metal with pumice and dried it carefully. I used the wet packing technique to fill the cells that I had created with opaque enamels. I had already tested my chosen enamel colours on scrap silver to ensure the colours would work well.

I did two firings of the enamelling for about 1 minute 30 seconds each time. On the second firing I added more blue and red enamel as the cells didn’t look quite full.

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Coming out of the kiln the piece looked like this. There were some brown spots and some enamel on the silver (next to the top left blue cell)

I used a medium diagrit (a diamond impregnated mesh that is used like sandpaper to remove excess enamel from metal surfaces) and was easily able to clean the marks off the silver.  I then used a fine diagrit, wet and dry papers and 3M polishing papers to finish the piece.

I’m really pleased with the result. It was much better than I expected as I had expected to see more of an effect because I didn’t depletion guild.

 

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Finished Enamelled Pendant using Art Clay 950 by Anna Campbell

Conclusions

I am very impressed with this clay. I certainly plan to use it for my own pieces because of the strength, ability to hallmark as 925 sterling silver (which is popular with customers) and the price.

At LJS we have been discussing whether to create a class in Art Clay 950. I certainly think that an intermediate class would be popular and different from our current classes but the long kiln firing makes it difficult to fit this into our usual one day class format. We will certainly let you know if/when we launch an Art Clay 950 class and would love to hear from you about what you would like to learn to make with it. Please let us know in the comments below.

Art Clay 950 is available to buy now from Metal Clay Ltd and currently you also receive 10% extra free!

I’d like to thank Metal Clay for the opportunity to test out this clay before general release.

 

Come along for a demonstration

I will be demonstrating Art Clay 950 and showing all the samples of pieces I have made at the free Studio Warming at London Jewellery School in our new studios on 29th September 2016 from 6.30pm. There will also be demos of water casting and stacking rings.

RSVP by 20th September to info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk

 

Studio address: London Jewellery School, Rear Ground Floor Studios, NEW HOUSE, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8JY.

I’d love to see you there and chat to you about this new clay!

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs

 

Introducing Art Clay 950

We are very excited to announce that Art Clay are releasing a new sterling silver clay Art Clay 950 on 1st September! Metal clay tutor, Anna Campbell, gives you the low down.

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What is it?

This is a new product from Art Clay, one of the two main suppliers of silver clay in the world.  Silver clay is made up of fine silver particles, an organic binder and water. Art Clay 950 is 95% silver and 5% copper. The original Art Clay (the one we use in class) is a purer silver, 99% silver and 1% copper.

 

What are the benefits?

 

1. Strength

You might be thinking, well the original Art Clay is a purer silver so isn’t that better? The answer, of course, is it depends on what you want! Art Clay 950 is 60% stronger than original Art Clay because of the copper content. This means it is more suitable for making rings, bracelets etc and other items that might suffer more wear and tear.

 

2. Hallmarking

In the UK silver up to 958 purity is hallmarked as sterling silver (925). Silver purity over 958 is considered Britannia silver (958), and over 990 is hallmarked as fine silver (999).

Sterling silver is recognised by UK consumers more than Britannia and fine silver and so for those of you hallmarking and selling your work this is a big plus.

 

3. Pre-mixed

Many of the clays on the market need to be mixed and kneaded before you can start work but this is pre-mixed, smooth and ready to use out of the packet (just like the original Art Clay).

 

4. Cost

At the time of writing, Art Clay 950 is slightly cheaper than original Art Clay.

 

Other considerations

 

1. Firing

The one downside for the hobby silver clay jeweller is that this clay does need to be kiln fired. This is the same with any of the sterling silver clays I have seen on the market. However, on the plus side this does not need to be done in carbon and if you have a programmable kiln this is easy to set up.

 

2. The firing schedule

  1. Once your piece is completely dry put it on a kiln shelf, in a cool kiln
  2. Heat up to 500C and hold for 30 minutes (this first step burns off the binder)
  3. Heat up to 850C and hold for 60 minutes (this final firing sinters the metal particles)

 

The kiln can heat up at full speed, and doesn’t need to cool off between the two stages. Avoid moving the piece after the first firing step as it will be fragile before sintering.

 

3. Using the clay

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try it out and will report back on the blog when I do. However, I have heard from those who have used it that it has a longer drying time. This could be an advantage as we often want a little more time before our clay starts to dry out! For those who are interested in more information have a look at this clear and interesting blog post on 950 by Henriëtte van Battum

 

4. Where can I buy it?

Metal Clay Ltd currently have a pre-order available on their website of 25g and 50g packs, including 10% extra free. The clay is due to be shipped on 1st September 2016. We hope also to sell it in our pop up shop after the launch (which is open 7 days a week).

 

Art Clay 950 class at LJS

I am looking at creating an Art Clay 950 class that uses the clay to its advantages e.g. in making a ring. The class would not be for beginners but for intermediate and advanced metal clay makers. The challenges are the longer drying time and longer firing time meaning that it might be difficult to fit the class into our normal one day schedule. If you are interested in attending a class in Art Clay 950 please let us know via the comments below.

 

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs

London Jewellery School to debut live on Create and Craft TV

We are getting very excited at the school because Jessica Rose will be featuring in a new show for Create and Craft TV to air on 10 March.

The show, London Jewellery School, will see Jessica demonstrating metal clay techniques and introducing this magical material to the Create and Craft TV audience.

Viewers will be able to buy a metal clay starter kit developed for the show by London Jewellery School and its equipment partner JewelTool from Shesto and containing all the tools and materials needed to make the professional jewellery seen on the show. They will also be able to purchase the online course Make Silver Metal Clay Charms which contains projects like those Jessica will be demonstrating and features metal clay guru Julia Rai.

metal clay jewellery lesson

The collaboration with Create and Craft is the next step in the school’s efforts to spread the fun and creativity of jewellery making beyond the class room and into people’s homes. It is also part of the channel’s aim to widen the range of jewellery techniques it covers in its shows, and it is hoped this will be the first of a series with Create and Craft TV, London Jewellery School and JewelTool working together.

“We hope the shows with Create and Craft and our partnerships will be the next stage in bringing excellent quality learning resources and tools to the jewellery making community and home jewellery businesses,” said Jessica. “It is an exciting time and we hope to reach as many jewellers as possible with our message that everyone can make jewellery, followed up with training, tools and kits to make that a reality.”

London Jewellery School featuring Jessica Rose demonstrating metal clay will be on Create and Craft TV on Thursday 10th March 10am and 6pm on channels Sky 674 & 675; Freeview 26; Virgin 748; Freesat 811 & 813. Don’t forget to tune in – Jessica will be demonstating different projects in each show.

Win metal clay by sharing pictures of your work

The PMC Studio is offering the chance for three people to win metal clay goodies this summer.

metal clay competition

If you work in metal clay all you have to do is post a picture of your favourite piece you’ve made (or pieces there’s no limit) to the PMC Studio Facebook page by 15 September 2015. All entries are in with the chance of winning goodies bags of metal clay and tool worth £250, £150 or £75.

As we’ve said on this blog before, competitions are a great way of getting your work noticed and there is always the chance you’ll win.

For example, Diploma in Creative Jewellery graduate Sally Costen has just won the student designer category of the F.Hinds High Street by Design competition.

And the chance of a prize and having new people see your work is not the only benefits. Our marketing co-ordinator Bronagh Miskelly is also a knitting pattern writer and designer and is a finalist in a design competition for the second time this year (she won the first one). She says: “I find competitions give me an incentive to flesh out or finish ideas that have been floating around and make me assess what I’m doing in new ways. There is no harm in entering and seeing how other people react to your work.”

 

Jewellery Business Week: Fingerprint jewellery case study

jewellery business week

London Jewellery School talks to Maria Bateson of MariaMadeIt about selling her jewellery online.

What sort of jewellery do you make?

I make hand and fingerprint keepsake jewellery, which includes paw prints, drawings etc.  the range includes pendants, cufflinks, rings, earrings, bracelets, key rings and charms to be attached to other items, for example photo frames.

How do you fit your jewellery business round other commitments?

I have two children and another on the way, so time is precious but silver clay really lends itself to small snippets of time and I do the polishing whilst watching TV.  Everything is done when the children are at school/nursery or are asleep.  I have a cupboard workspace that means I can leave works in progress on the table and shut the door to prevent little fingers touching things.

Why did you decide to focus on working with metal clay, as opposed to other sorts of jewellery?

I did the mini prints course at London Jewellery School and was immediately hooked, the orders came in by themselves and suddenly I was very busy, so it chose me really.

Where do you sell your pieces?

I sell mainly through my Facebook page  and last year I set up a website www.mariamadeit.co.uk which does the invoicing for me, which saves a lot of time so I can spend more time making.  I also attend a few local craft/Christmas fairs as I enjoy talking to people about what I do and to get feedback on my pieces.

Did you try other ways of selling when you started out?

Not really, I looked at Etsy type websites but was put off by the commission, I have been busy from the start so didn’t really feel the need to try anything else.

How do you choose where to sell and how do you target your customers?

I choose craft fairs carefully, I prefer the smaller ones organised by local schools as they are careful to have a small number of stalls of each discipline, many customers there will have children and I like to support schools.  I also prefer indoor stalls as you never know what the weather will do.

Maybe I should be thinking more about targeting customers but I don’t really do that as I haven’t felt the need.

Have you any advice for other people wanting to make and sell jewellery?

Just do it.  Ensure your pieces are high quality and that your customer service is top notch, word of mouth is very important and was key for me in building my business.

Always wear one of your pieces, you never know when you might end up talking to someone who is interested in your work.

Get 20% all jewellery business classes booked between 22 and 28 February 2015 – offer includes all business day classes and tasters, Business Bootcamp, and the 6-day Jewellery Business Intensive. For details of included classes click here

Call 020 3176 0546 to book – this offer is not available online

 

Debbie Carlton talks polymer clay

Debbie Carlton is an amazing evangelist for both polymer and metal clay which she uses in her own jewellery, teaches and writes about. We find out how why she loves these materials so much.

You work with precious metal clay and polymer clay – what attracted you to these materials?

I ‘discovered’ both polymer and metal clay whilst I was doing a two year diploma in figurative sculpture at Heatherleys College in London.

What attracted me to the materials, particularly polymer clay, was the fantastic array of colours , the fact that I could work at home on my kitchen table without out the need for large and expensive tools and of course the price. The metal clay is more expensive but also really easy to model with and use a wide variety of texture plates which can be bought or made with…. polymer clay.

debbie carlton polymer clay

One of the interesting aspects of polymer clay is that there is a great deal of variety in the end results you can achieve – for example the bright colours that most people start with, through monochromes, to finishes reflecting other materials. Can you give us some examples of the effects you like or teach.

Where to start.

You can see an overwhelming variety of styles and techniques on www.polymerclaydaily.com, www.pinterest.com/lpcg or www.flickr.com/search/?q=polymer+clay.

I’ve tried lots but at the moment I’m into faux effects. Many books have been written on this topic showing how to create faux opals, pearls, turquoise, agate, lapis etc. My favs are faux ivory, bone and slate (see pics) it’s easy to make the base materials but creating jewellery or other pieces keeps me occupied for days and days.

debbie carlton faux ivory

Mokume gane is another one of my favourite techniques. This is based on a 17th century Japanese technique using layered metals to create decorative sword fittings – who would have guessed. We use layers of different colours of polymer with gold or silver leaf (see pics) and again the variations on the theme are limitless.

polymer clay jewellery debbie carlton

Do you think there are limits to what can be achieved with metal and polymer clay or do they give jewellers the opportunity to keep pushing boundaries?

Absolutely not! Because both materials are relatively new, polymer from the 1940’s and metal clay from the 1990’s , artists have been inventing and creating work from scratch and building on shared ideas especially now social media means worldwide communication. Over the last 10 years or so, the boundaries have moved dramatically from relatively simple craft ideas; to work that has recently been shown in a prestigious museum in Wisconsin USA. Even ‘traditional’ jewellers and silversmiths are beginning to realise the potential of these materials.

polymer clay faux effect jewellery debbie carlton

Who inspires you at the moment?
So many amazing artists working with both polymer and metal clay; Celie Fago, Liz Hall, Patrick Kusak and Kelly Russell use the two materials together to create beautiful work. Barbara Becker Simon, Wendy Malinow and Robert Dancik- all very different but all inspiring artists. I wrote a recent article called Polymer and Metal Clay Heaven in Craft and Design magazine which shows some lovely pictures of their work.

If you had unlimited budget/resources what would you make?
I would make large dramatic pieces of jewellery, maybe bangles and cuffs, using silver and perhaps gold metal clay also using polymer to inlay colour. I’d also make large table decorations ie candle holders, bowls or perhaps chandeliers!! The world is my lobster (or do I mean oyster).

And finally the important LJS question – what is your favourite biscuit or other jewellery making snack?

That’s a difficult one cos you have such yummy biscuits in the school.

debbie carlton jewellery

Debbie teaches polymer clay classes at London Jewellery School including her signature polymer clay cuff workshop.

All images from Debbie Carlton.