Tag Archives: Precious Metal Clay

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.

london-jewellery-school-blog-silver-clay-and-syringe-by-jeanette-landenwitch

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.

sterling-silver-clay

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.

london-jewellery-school-blog-anna-campbell-bronze-clay-piece-by-anna-mazon

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

In the jewellery workshop: Metal clay metal types

As subscribers to our blog or newsletter you will no doubt be aware of the existence of silver clay. However, do you know about the other metal clays that are available? Metal clay tutor and artist Anna Campbell gives you the rundown of the main metal clays on the market.

Silver and gold metal clays have been obtainable since the 1990s but other metal clays are now on the scene, giving you the opportunity to give different looks to your metal clay work. Here is some information about what is available.

precious metal clay

Pieces made by Anna Campbell from PMC silver clay

Silver

Silver clay is a putty like substance made up of silver particles, a binder and some water. It can be rolled, textured and worked in a similar way to ceramic clays. Once it is dried it can be fired with a butane torch or in a kiln. The resulting piece is 999 fine silver and of hallmark quality.

The two main manufacturers of silver clay are Aida (Art Clay) and Mitsubishi (PMC). I have used both clay types and tend to buy whichever is cheaper at the time! I don’t have a particular preference.

Silver clay is available in different forms – lump clay, syringe, paste and paper.

PMC sterling silver package

Sterling silver

Sterling silver is also known as 925. This means that there are 925 particles of silver to 75 particles of copper. British metal clay artist Lisa Cain and colleagues at the Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery experimented with mixing PMC silver clay and copper clay to make sterling silver clay and did so successfully, having pieces tested at the assay office and hallmarked 925. They subsequently also successfully did this with art clay. Videos demonstrating how to make your own sterling silver clay can be found here for PMC and here for Art Clay.

However, since this experimentation, sterling silver clay has been manufactured by PMC and is available to buy.

Sterling silver is stronger that fine silver so is perfect for making rings or other pieces that need more strength. You can also roll it out a little thinner because 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. And the kiln firing is in two parts, the second being in activated carbon.

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.

 

copper precious metal clay

Art Clay Copper

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 most simple 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.

 

precious metal clay bronze

Goldie bronze clay

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. This allows you to mix up the amount you need when you need it. I have been mixing Goldie Bronze hard and Goldie Bronze soft in equal parts to make my clay. 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 Pajed.

Other bronze clays are available and I am looking forward to having a play with Bronz clay which I believe carves very well.

 

precious metal clay class

Silver clay and keum boo class sample

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, £82.95 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.

 Stainless steel

American metal clay artist Hadar Jacobson has her own range of metal clays featuring bronze and copper. She has created steel clay in quick fire and pearl grey. These clays also need to be kiln fired. See her website for more information (and some amazing inspiration pieces).

 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.

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

Like to try to make something in copper clay? Try our silver and copper clay class

 

New Project: make your own spring rose necklace

We’ve added a lovely new silver clay project for you try at home to our projects page.

The spring rose necklace by Jessica Rose uses a number of metal clay techniques to create a pretty piece with an attractive clasp.

There are step-by-step instructions and photographs of each stage.

Enjoy making the necklance. Please send us pictures of your versions.

And look out for more projectson the website soon.

LJS tutors are metal clay stars

One for your Christmas lists, perhaps.

The Metal Clay Techniques Book by Sue Heaser is an encyclopedia of metal clay techniques from the basics through to ring making, bangles and bracelets, lockets and hinges, combined metal clays and mokume gane, sculpting, linking, and chain making.

And among its illustrations of great metal clay work are photographs of a number pieces by two London Jewellery School tutors Mary Ann Neilson and Julia Rai.

The book features techniques for embellishing metal clay jewellery from transfer techniques and polymer clay through to traditional enamelling, adding gold embellishments and combining metal clay with gemstones, glass and ceramics. It also looks at soldering for metal clay, forging the metal after firing and recycling your precious clay.