Tag Archives: PMC flex

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

 

Mindfulness – Origami with silver!

As I’m sure you noticed, the mindfulness craze for 2015 was adult colouring books. For 2016 it has been origami. But did you know that you can do origami with silver? Tutor Anna Campbell gives you the lowdown.

For many of us jewellery making is a hobby; a way to relax and create away from our day to day lives. The need to concentrate on what we are doing allows us to be consciously aware and focussing in the moment rather than worrying about the future or thinking about the past. This is the elusive state of mindfulness.

I’m sure you can’t have missed articles and books on mindfulness over the last few years. Through research, mindfulness has been found to be beneficial to

  • Reduce rumination (going over and over things in your head)
  • Reduce stress
  • Boost your working memory (this is an element of your short term memory)
  • Improve your focus
  • Increase flexibility in your thinking and problem solving abilities

(For more information on this see the research from Davis and Hayes, 2012)

There are a number of ways to add periods of mindfulness to your day to day life. Activities like yoga, tai chi and meditation have been famously studied but concentrating on a hobby is also on the list.

london-jewellery-school-blog-mindfulness-orla-kiely-colouring-book  LJS-Blog-Mindfullness-secret-garden-colouring-book

Last year, adult colouring books became all the rage (my personal favourites were Secret Garden and the Orla Kiely colouring books). I think the mindfulness aspect was one part of it but there is also the simple pleasure of going back to childhood and the only things to be concerned about – choosing the right colour and colouring inside the lines!

In 2016 origami was introduced to the mindfulness trend. Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures.

Origami with silver looks impressive but is hard to achieve with traditional silversmithing techniques. However, it is something we can achieve with metal paper clay.

Both the main brands of silver clay, Art Clay and PMC, have their own version of paper silver clay. Both are a dry, flat sheet of metal clay that can be cut, folded and shaped before being kiln fired.

Here are some examples of silver origami that have been created in our one day Metal clay – paper clay class

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Paper Clay ‘Windmill’ earrings by Anna Campbell

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Paper Clay ‘Paper Aeroplan’ earrings by Anna Campbell

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Paper Clay ‘Origami’ Pendant by Anna Campbell

Why not join us for your own mindfulness day and leave with some silver jewellery?

During the paper clay class you learn three different techniques

  • Weaving with strips of clay
  • Quilling (rolling and shaping strips of paper)
  • Origami

Our next class with places available is Monday 27th March 2017. More dates can be found on our website.

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs

Flex – the latest innovation in metal clay could change your jewellery making

There has been an exciting innovation in metal clay – a silver clay that remains flexible when dry. Metal clay tutor Anna Campbell took a look.

Mitsubishi, the manufacturer of PMC (precious metal clay) has just released a new fine silver clay product called PMC flex. Like other types of silver clay:

  • PMC flex is 999 fine silver clay
  • It can be torch or kiln fired
  • Fired pieces can be hallmarked
  • Once fired it is the same as other fine silver clays – you can solder it, add gold etc.

So why is PMC flex different?
As the name suggests, this metal clay is more flexible. It is slower to dry so you have a much longer working time with it. It also remains flexible when dried.

 What are the benefits?

  • Great for any project where you need more working time before the clay starts to dry
  • Ideal for creating thin strips, coils and sculptural pieces
  • Air dried clay (i.e. not heated to dry it) remains flexible even after it’s dry
  • It’s great for making rings as you can shape the clay when it is dried without affecting the texture
  • You can roll PMC flex out at 1 card thick and use it like paper silver clay (e.g. cutting it with scissors, using paper punches etc). It is better than paper silver clay in that you can use water with it
  • You can roll it out very thinly and texture it
  • It’s great for designs where you plait or braid pieces together as the clay doesn’t crack so readily
  • It can be combined with other types of fine silver clay e.g. PMC3 and Art Clay new formula
  • Experiments using the silhouette digital cutting machine with it have been exciting

 

metal clay pmc flex jewellery making

PMC flex ring copyright Emma Gordon 2014. The whole piece, included the plaited ring shank, has been made from PMC flex

Anything to be wary of?

As with everything, it pays to be aware of any drawbacks.

  • The clay can be dried with a dehydrator, hot plate etc but some experiments with it have shown that this has to be done carefully if you want to maintain flexibility when dried. It can become brittle (like other silver clays when dried). However, if you air dry it (leave it out to dry) that problem hasn’t been found
  • It takes much longer to rehydrate the dried scraps of PMC flex than with other silver clays
pmc flex metal clay jewellery making

PMC flex earrings copyright Celie Fago 2014

Experimenting

PMC flex is only just available in the UK and I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on it yet! I will share the results on the blog when I do. In the meantime, some lucky people were able to try it out before its release and they have shared their findings.

LJS metal clay masterclass tutor Julia Rai has recorded two video experiments with the clay that she has shared on youtube. Have a look at them here.

Video 1 showing a comparison with PMC3 in working time, rolling out at 1 card thick, cutting with scissors and a punch, using the silhouette digital cutting machine

Video 2 ring experiments and more experiments with the silhouette cutting machine

Janet Alexander from PMC Connection has written a really useful blog post about what she found in her experiments.

Keep an eye on this page from Metal Clay Academy as more resources on using PMC flex will be added over time.

pmc flex metal clay jewellery making

PMC flex jewellery copyright Patrik Kusek

 Where can I buy it?

Here are some of the stockists that are selling PMC flex (I’m sure there will be others). Do your own search for the best price (remember some stockists don’t list VAT, check P&P costs etc)

Bluebell Design Studio

Cooksons Gold

PMC Studio

 Are you going to try PMC flex? We’d love to see how you use it so please share your images with us on our facebook page.

Find out more about the variety of metal clay classes available here.

 Anna Campbell is an experienced teacher and enjoys different types of jewellery making including beading and metal clay. She runs her own business, Light Boat Jewellery and has made jewellery for celebrities.