Learn Metal Clay from the Pros Who Know!

Clay it Forward

Sometimes we all need a light from another flame to get our own candle burning. That's the way it was for me with metal clay. Usually I'm a selt-taught type of gal, so when metal clay first came on the scene. I thought, what's the big deal? It's CLAY. Heck, I've been playing with clay since I was three! But of course there's way more to the medium of metal clay (and polymer, too) than the aromatic plastilene we took from containers at recess! Once I'd learned I needed tools and a special type of kiln, I knew I had to take a class to see how the pros worked with this alluring material.

This is a picture of the only metal clay piece I ever made, the product of a 3-hour Bead Fest class I took years back when metal clay was still a relatively new product. Kinda embarrassing. In an entire 3 hours this inch-long charm is all I brought home. But I had fun making it, squishing it, sanding the "leather hard" pre-fired clay, and seeing it become real silver.  But go ahead, you can chuckle at my elementary efforts. I still do!


Now, I am not saying the class was a loss, not at all!  I learned about the tools and the properties of metal clay in ways I would not have done on my own, and my little "Lame Lily" pendant––yes, I named it––is by no mean a reflection on my teachers, either. Martha and Ed Biggar were delightfully gracious and informative teachers who continue to teach at Bead Fest. They gave me my first chance to get my hands into metal clay. And, others in that class made way cooler stuff than I did, believe me. I admit I often get a bit paralyzed by beginning something, like writers block. Most of us do from time to time. Those times it helps to get out, open a book, take a class,so the experts can get us jump-started.


Of course, since then I have seen more and more examples of metal clay explorations by artists drawn to the material. The medium itself has been developed to be better and easier to work with. There are other metal clays beside silver, like the breathtakingly gorgeous bronze clay. I have read more about techniques and applications, such as how to use it in a more liquid form called "slip" and combine it with seed beads, shown in this March '06 Step by Step Beads project "Beautiful Boughs" by Jessica Beels. (Photo by Todd Murray.)  





I am also captivated by the patinas which can be coaxed from or applied to metal clay, like the verdigris in these earrings I bought from Kelly Russell. Don't they look like archeological finds? These earrings are so rich in their imagery and color, and so very different from the sleek lines I tried to get in my little polished lily charm. There are many artists who have contributed to the evolution of the art of metal clay, from Celie Fago, Lora Hart and Lisa Pavelka to Sherri Haab, Debra Weld and Hadar Jacobson.

Do I sound inspired? You bet. I now own a few precious ounces of silver metal clay, tools, an acrylic roller and even some texture plates. I know where I have access to a kiln. Have I made more little Lame Lilies on my own? Not yet. I still need some guidance, especially about something called shrinkage…

But for inspiration and how-to, I plan to dive into the easy-to-follow projects in our downloadable eBook from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist: 10 Metal Clay Jewelry Projects.  

What are your favorite resources for tips and techniques to shape your skills with metal clay? Who are the artists and teachers who inspire you? Share your comments below or on the Beading Daily forums!

 MY BAD! Forgot your FREE PROJECT!

Make this metal clay quilt pendant designed by Hadar Jacobson!


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