Clay has never been my forte in a lifetime of art and crafts.  I blame it on plasticine which was the only clay available when I was a child.  It was not fun to use because it was too hard to least with little fingers. Then there was the disastrous pottery class when I was in my teens. We shall not talk about that!  But I've come around to clay especially for jewelry making!

Recently I took a metal clay class with Georgina Brown-Branch at the Cambridge Center for the Arts. She is certified instructor who teaches in my area as well as in California where she overwinters.  She put us all at ease. We all had a fun filled day as she took us through the steps of metal clay jewelry making.

Except for the metal clay itself, much of what is needed is basic and relatively inexpensive. If you are already a polymer clay artist, then you will likely have many of the things needed.  We used low fire art silver clay which is a mix of fine silver (99.9% silver) and a binder.  This turns into pure fine silver after firing.

We rolled out our bits of clay between stacks of playing cards which determines the thickness of the piece.  There were 6 of us in the class so we did not have enough of the plastic tool sets available for this function.

I forgot to take the next steps which is pressing the clay onto a texture plate!  We also got to design our own pattern using scratch foam board.  The tool that is best for doing this is the round ball tip one.

 We then dried the clay pieces in a dehydrator and finished off the drying process on a griddle - most metal clay artists use cup warmers.

Once dried, we used emory boards to file off and smooth rough edges.

Then it was firing time.  We each torched our own pieces supervised by Georgina's husband, a metalsmith. He gave us a lot of tips on what to look for and made sure we didn't burn the place down!

Georgina demonstrated with her own pieces, shown below.  We first see a bit of smoke which shows the binder burning away.  The peachy glow shows that the sintering process is in progress - this is when all the fine silver particles come together. Firing has to be long enough for that to happen but not too long so the fine silver details start to become indistinct.

The good thing with fine silver work is there is no firescale to get rid off after firing.

After quenching in water, my pieces below were ready to be thoroughly brushed using a stainless steel brush. This removes the whitish material on top.  Then I used liver of sulfur to add the patina.

Making the bezel for the cubic zirconia gemstones was not easy. It was very difficult, at least for me, to see and manipulate the tiny extrusion of clay from a tiny syringe!  So I added some simple patterns on them with a toothpick.

The pieces below were not patinated - just burnished so the raised portions became extra shiny. I accidentally snapped off the top of the piece on the right (below). A little too vigorous with the stainless steel brush!  I plan to file off the jagged top and drill a new hole.

$45 for 20g of art silver metal clay seems expensive.  But it does go a long way.  I made 4 small to medium sized pendants with some clay left over.

My favorite piece happens to be the one where I created my own pattern.  I must say all the imperfections gave the pendant an organic and rustic look.

Check out your local instructor if you want to pursue this fascinating branch of jewelry making.  If one is not available, I highly recommend Patrik Kusek's amazing Metal Clay : Adding Stones and Dimensions class on Craftsy.  The class giveaway is over but you can read my review here. This instructor showed his way of  making bezels neatly without a syringe!

Also check out the work of Gordon Uyehara (see links below) - one of the finest metal clay artists I have come across. The meticulous and wonderfully whimsical work of Studio Rhino is a must see!

Final jewelry photos were taken in natural light with my iPhone 6S, +camera app and the Modahaus TS320 portable light studio (white or grey backgrounds). The iPhone's white balance capabilities managed well in the mixed light conditions (natural and artificial) at the class.

I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links above. 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.

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