6 Project Downloads to Inspire Your Next Metal Clay Jewelry Design
Metal clay seems like an oxymoron. It’s metal – in the form of tiny particles – but it’s also clay, a pliable substance we can mold and sculpt. By virtue of added organic binders and water, the clay can be manipulated in versatile ways and eventually fired, burning away everything but pure metal.
ABOVE: Find inspiration for your next metal clay project in nature, cultural traditions, or something else!
Metal Clay Jewelry Designs
Metal clay jewelry artists amaze me with their diverse ways of expressing themselves through their medium, and I love scrolling through endless images of their artistry online. One of the most detailed sources of inspiration I have found is the store of project downloads available on Interweave. These projects come directly from the artists who created them. They happily share their knowledge, tips, and even mistakes with us through the pages of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
Looking back through the magazines reveals a plethora of creative metal clay ideas, each with a multitude of techniques that we can learn from and maybe even incorporate into our own work. Here are six unique projects that just might be the jumping off point for your next studio session.
Metal Clay Inspired by Nature
Nature is undoubtedly one of the greatest muses for artists, and so it is for good reason that metal clay artisans often draw on its beauty for their designs. Two projects in particular called out to me. Though both involve realistic-looking leaves, they’re made with two completely different approaches. The ability to create an effect in multiple ways is just one exciting feature of metal clay.
Noël Yovovich’s Hidden Catch Bracelet, featured in the May/June 2018 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, is made up of gracefully overlapping leaves, delicate veins confirming the genuine feel. Reading through the project, I realized why those leaves look so real – Noël presses actual wisteria leaves into the clay to imprint their detail. I have always heard artists praise metal clay’s ability to take a texture, and this project shouts that fact from the treetops.
Made from EZ 960 Sterling Clay (affiliate link), this bracelet also incorporates faceted stones for sparkly pops of morning dew. Depending on the types of stones, you can either fire them embedded into the clay or wait to add them until after firing. Once fired, the springy nature of EZ 960 accommodates shaping the bracelet around a mandrel – or, as Noël prefers, her Louisville Slugger.
Highlighting a completely different way to make foliage, Hadar Jacobson shares her Metal Clay Leaves in the April 2010 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Inspired by Charles Lewton-Brain’s book Foldforming (affiliate link), Hadar creates her leaves with a unique twist – instead of metal sheet, she starts with a layer of metal clay.
Using a leaf-shaped cutter on a mottled copper and bronze clay, she then gently folds and pinches the resulting leaf, opening it to reveal a fold-formed crease. Her additional organic textural details bring the leaves to life, ready to be used with chain and silver wire in a necklace or a pair of earrings. For another project by Hadar, check out her Mixed Metal Clay Earrings.
Metal Clay Inspired by Movement
Artist Arlene Mornick loves jewelry that incorporates movement, whether that means dangling freely or integrating hinges and levers. These next two projects showcase her ability to bring motion to metal clay.
Arlene’s Metal Clay Double Spinner Ring in the April 2015 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist cleverly combines two rings, one spinning around the other for a satisfying way to occupy one’s fingers. She uses Art Clay Silver and Art Clay Copper for her two-toned ring, although you could opt for a single color if desired. Her detailed instructions take you through her process of achieving a precise fit, as well as using a syringe to create a decorative border that prevents the outer ring from slipping off.
In this same issue, Arlene shares a similarly-themed ring, the Moving Metal Clay Ring. For more on ring-making with metal clay, don’t miss Jackie Truty’s online workshop, Advanced Metal Clay Series: Resin Jewelry Using Art Clay.
In addition to spinning rings, Arlene is a master of making hinges with metal clay, an amazing feat in my book! For her Metal Clay Hinged Locket, shared in the January/February 2016 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, she creates a mechanism called a butt hinge to open and close the tiny secret-keeping vessel. The hinge has three “knuckles” made from an extruder, which are fused, in alternating fashion, to the front and back parts of the locket. When the locket is opened, the knuckles rotate around a center pin.
Spiffy mechanics aren’t the only laudable feature of this project. The locket also has a pleasing design that takes advantage of doming, texture, and patina. The result is a meaningful and beautiful piece of jewelry.
Want more projects from Arlene? Take your pick from these and more!
Copper and Silver Clay Linked Bracelet
Mixed Metal Clay Earrings
Linked Metal Clay Bracelet with Stones
Mixed Metal Shadowbox Pendant
Earrings with a Twist
Metal Clay Inspired by Cultural Traditions
Cultural and historical influences have always been at work in our artwork in a reciprocating cycle of leading and following. These next two projects caught my attention for their tribute to the past combined with a modern interpretation using metal clay.
Lynn Cobb’s love of bold designs and interest in the diversity of human dwellings led her to create the Metal Clay Yurt Ring featured in the May/June 2012 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Inspired by the Tuvan people in Mongolia and China, this tiny sculpture recreates a traditional nomadic dwelling that could be disassembled and brought to new locations.
Having lived in Kyrgyzstan for four years, I was immediately taken back to the beautiful sight of yurts in mountain pastures. I have several handcrafted yurt designs from my time in Central Asia, but Lynn’s is the first time I’ve seen one created in metal clay!
Another culturally-inspired project is Patrik Kusek’s Mosaic Metal Clay Pin, featured in the December 2016 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. He took a cue from traditional mosaics in which tiles are meticulously applied to surfaces to create landscapes or objects. Particularly inspired by 19th-century Venetian artists who used glass tiles, and aware that modern artists also use polymer clay, he decided to put his own twist on mosaics by using metal clay.
Using partial circle forms as a base embellished with tiny rectangles, drilled holes, and miniature straw-cut circles, Patrik creates an eye-catching arrangement. Gold-painted accents, texture, and patina put the finishing touches on this ancient-made-modern piece.
If you’re intrigued by Patrik’s processes, be sure to take a look at his video downloads, Introduction to Base Metal Clay and Micromosaics and Intermediate Metal Clay Micromosaics, and his other project downloads, Metal Clay Micromosaic and Resin Pin and Metal Clay Pin/Pendant Finding.
Start Your Next Metal Clay Project!
This sampling of projects is just a small taste of Interweave’s metal clay resources. I hope something from the Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist speaks to you and inspires your next metal clay design.
Go be creative!
Producer, Bead & Jewelry Group