6 Tips for Metal Clay Jewelry: How to Create Metal Clay Micromosaics with Patrik Kusek
Ask any metal clay jewelry artist why they love metal clay, and you’re bound to hear about its ability to take texture like a dream. Some might tell you how much they love the different forms of metal clay, such as syringe clay or paper metal clay, which you can cut, stack, and build like construction paper or collage. Patrik Kusek has combined the appeal of texture with thin sheets of metal clay into micromosaic metal clay jewelry in his two videos, Intro to Base Metal Clays & Micromosaics with Patrik Kusek and Intermediate Metal Clay Micromosaics.
Even after working with metal clay for many years, I learned some new techniques and was reminded of some metal clay jewelry best practices from Patrik’s introductory video, Intro to Base Metal Clays & Micromosaics. Here are six of them that I thought you’d find helpful, too.
Note: Different brands and types of metal clay have their own firing schedules and temperatures, which you can find on their packaging and online. Patrik uses BronzClay, Fast Fire Bronze Clay, CopprClay, and White CopprClay in Intro to Base Metal Clays & Micromosaics, but other than the firing processes, the techniques he covers are applicable to all metal clays.
- When conditioning clay, Patrik rolls the clay into a sheet, folds it in half and rolls it flat again, repeating until the clay is conditioned, comfortably workable, and all a consistent color. Patrik recommends pressing the clay along the fold and then pressing as you move toward the open end while folding the clay onto itself. This will help prevent air bubbles from forming between the folds, which can cause issues later.
- When cutting metal clay shapes with a template, use a pin tool or a dental pick, etc., instead of a craft knife or Xacto knife. Their blades can cut your template and your work surface, ultimately ruining both for future use.
- Because metal clay takes textures so easily, there are truly unlimited tools for texturing, beyond commercial texture plates and rubber stamp sheets (which are so fabulous). I bet you have many items around the house that would make a beautiful or unique texture on metal clay. In one example, Patrik stipples a sheet of rolled-out metal clay with the soft bristles of an eye makeup brush (below) and then rolls a ridged marker cap across the surface for a great effect. Things that literally could be considered trash could create your favorite designs and textures if you keep your designer eyes open!
- As you play scavenger hunt in your own home for things that will texture metal clay–as well as items like straws, plastic eggs, etc. that work so well as forms on which to dry metal clay bails or domed pieces–avoid using anything made of aluminum. Aluminum will contaminate the clay and can cause discoloration, improper sintering, and other firing failures. Rubber, plastic, and even wooden items are all good options for texturing metal clay. Remember to use a release agent in the crevasses of texture plates for easier removal and successful imprints.
- If the thickness of your clay needs to remain precise and even, rolling the clay to the right thickness and then pressing it into a texture plate is not the best way to go. Instead, place the texture sheet face up on your work surface, place the clay and your thickness gauges on it, and roll the clay on the texture as shown above. You won’t need to texture it later, which can distort the thickness and shape.
- Don’t forget that you can continue to texture, form, and finish your fired metal clay pieces–they’re metal now, after all, and behave like metal in most cases. If your pieces are properly sintered, you can hammer and drill them, enamel and patina them, file and sand them, even solder them. Fired metal clay pieces are more porous in general, so it’s best to start with a more gentle approach. You can polish and finish them using a flex shaft with radial brushes, silicone disks, pumice disks, and others.
For metal clay jewelry artists, Patrik’s micromosaic technique is a unique new way to use this fun, enchanting material. But if you’re brand new to metal clay jewelry making, that’s ok too–you can learn Patrik’s micromosaic technique as well as metal clay jewelry techniques in general in his video, Intro to Base Metal Clays & Micromosaics, with no prior metal clay experience required! Bonus: Intro to Base Metal Clays & Micromosaics comes with a downloadable kiln firing test sheet to help you keep track of fired metal clay results and which firing methods work best for you.
As you’d expect, Patrik begins Intro to Base Metal Clays & Micromosaics with a complete introduction to metal clay before progressing into beyond-basic techniques (are you familiar with the drop-card method of rolling clay?) and how to create his base metal clay micromosaics, making this video accessible for metal clay jewelry makers of all levels. If you’re more advanced in metal clay jewelry making and looking for a fun new technique to try, download Patrik’s other video, Intermediate Metal Clay Micromosaics.
Download Introduction to Base Metal Clays & Micromosaics now to begin or continue your metal clay jewelry journey right away. Can’t get enough of metal clay micromosaic techniques? Get more with Patrik’s other video, Intermediate Metal Clay Micromosaics.