Precious metal clay work is such a fantastic metal technique does not require a large investment in metal work tools. Small pieces can easily be created with just a hand held torch eliminating the need for a kiln. The end result is fine silver designs. Fine silver is nearly pure silver with none of the rapid tarnishing seen with sterling silver which has 7.5% copper.
Want to get started on metal clay work but can't easily get to an instructor? You should check out Jenny Vestal's Torch Fired Precious Metal Clay Class over on Craftsy. I received the class for review.
The class is designed for beginners in such a way that learners can follow along. If you wish to learn this way, please review the class notes and also each lesson before you begin. This will ensure you have everything on hand. You can learn at your own pace and ask the instructor any questions.
As these are torched fired pieces, the projects are small. Many examples are actually buttons but you could always puncture just one hole for pendants if buttons aren't your thing.
The class length is on the long side - at 5.7 hrs. She does go over the sanding, polishing steps at every step because there are different tips and tricks or certain approaches she wanted to discuss.
This is where the instructor introduces herself and explained how she first veered into metal clay. She also talks about the history of metal clay- both companies which make PMC and Art Clay are based in Japan. One good point to mention is that metal clay is made from recycled silver.
This instructor used PMC3 which is a low fire clay and thus suitable for torch firing. Others prefer low fire Art Clay. It's down to personal preference.
She also covers the safety issues. I agree with her one of the best spots to do torch firing is on the kitchen stove. Plus it is generally a flame proof area with a ventilation fan (nothing really toxic but there is a bit of smoke from the binder burning off). Use a firing brick on a large metal pan.
Another wonderful thing about metal clay work is the very simple tools you need - sometimes from the kitchen, like olive oil, to reduce the clay stickiness. A lot of great suggestions from the instructor on household possibilities. I prefer Burt's Bees Hand Salve instead of olive oil, a tip which I learned from a local metal clay class I took.
Many of the implements and techniques are from the polymer clay world or even something you can make yourself. This lesson covers all that as well as how to handle the clay, measure the thickness, cutting, sanding and drying the clay. She just made two small rectangular plain tags as a beginner project.
She uses an extra playing card as a base for the rolled clay piece - that avoids any handling and potential clay distortion when drying the clay design.
However, there is one small thing I will clarify in case some of you are puzzled over this part. This card base in itself is one card thickness. So the rolling of 4 cards thickness in the demo is in fact results in a thickness of just 3 cards. 3 o 4 card thicknesses is okay for firing. But if you want to add deep impressions, 3 cards thick is not going to be strong enough - this point is covered in Lesson 4.
This one is all about torching including the types of torches and how to fill them and fire pieces. I like how she demonstrated the use of the two most common types of torches used. Useful tips on timing the firing to correctly sinter the pieces. Really good demonstrations of what happens with over fired or under fired pieces.
One tip which the instructor did not mention is to fire pieces in the evening (or have thick curtains on the window). That's because you can reduce the room lighting in order to see the color changes critical in the sintering process. (They did darken the room while videotaping the firing process.)
This part covers the many ways to add textures. One of my favorites - using a real leaf to add the surface embellishment. The instructor shows how to make textured silver buttons in this lesson. She goes over how to cut out shapes, fire them and polish.
This lesson covers how multi layered pieces are created. Jenny again introduces new techniques and tools including how to make your own slip - a runny clay which is used as "glue".
This one is on how to make your own silicone molds and to make identically sized pieces especially if you are making a set of buttons or pairs of earrings. It also includes the instructions for making button shanks and bails.
The picture above shows the different stages (from left to right) - fired piece which has been patinated, lightly burnished fired piece, greenware (dried but unfired clay).
Texturing can also be done in the greenware stage. She demonstrates how you can carve designs using different tools on the dried but unfired clay pieces.
Design ideas certainly popped up when she showed how to make metal clay snakes which can be used to make custom toggle clasp and monograms. I loved her idea of making a 3 letter initials pendant! She discusses the pros and cons of using PMC vs very thick wire. Shawl pins are best made with proper wire - she explains why.
Being able to make your own fine silver metal rings in the size you want is useful if you want to make pendants or use them in shawl ring designs. This is a basic texture with hammers lesson.
I thought this lesson was very useful. Realistically speaking, mistakes do happen. So she covers how to repair mistakes like cracks, unwanted holes and dents and those tragic broken off pieces.
In the process she shows how versatile this material is. You can bond different stages of clay with others. For example : wet clay to fired clay, wet to greenware, etc. She also shared a great tip on how to strengthen the bond between different states of clay.
This was my favorite lesson where Jenny used real leaves as the template for her inspire by nature collection. A wonderful way to use up bits of metal clay saved from all the filings. Please note that the bronze leaf below was just an example. Bronze and copper firings can only be done with kilns - and those are not straightforward processes.
I particularly like how this instructor introduces some tools as she goes along rather than everything right at the beginning. She also uses some very clear diagrams to explain technical points.
This is a comprehensive beginner's class which easily achieves its objectives - demystifying metal clay work and inspiring all kinds of ideas with this technique. Recommended if you want to get started in this fascinating technique.
If you want a chance to win a free access to Jenny Vestal's Torch Fired Precious Metal Clay Class please make a comment below. Make sure you leave contact info below if you do not have an online shop or blog. The class is currently on sale too.
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This giveaway is international.
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It ends in a week's time at 6 pm EST Monday, October 31, 2016. I will pick the winner randomly and announce the results as soon as possible after. So be sure to leave a contact email if you don't have an online link or make sure you come back and check! Otherwise I will redraw in a week. Good luck!
I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation.
Before You Go:
- Patrik Kusik's Silver Metal Clay : Adding Stones and Dimension Craftsy Class Review
- Free Micro Torch Basics Class by Kate Richbourg
SEE MY OTHER PAST CRAFTSY REVIEWS ON PINTEREST
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