Dress Up Your Glass: 5 Tips for Making Metal Clay and Fused Glass Jewelry from Arlene Mornick

Ready for another great example of the versatility of metal clay in jewelry making? It can be used with fused glass to create stunning jewelry. Here are five tips from Art Clay World Master Instructor Arlene Mornick for using metal clay with glass in your jewelry designs.

  The Jacket metal clay and fused glass pendant by Arlene Mornick
The Jacket by Arlene Mornick

Dress Up Your Glass
By Arlene Mornick

I have always loved the uncomplicated beauty of glass, especially fused glass after it has been transformed by heat and light into works of art. It was this passion that fueled my initial entry into the arts as a fused glass artist. For many years I created plates, bowls, coasters, wall hangings and, of course, small cabochons using all those leftover scraps of glass. I always wondered what to do with those small "gemstones"; neither premade bails nor wire wrap worked for me.

But when I read about the low-fire generation of silver metal clay, I saw an opportunity to make a unique type of jewelry. I took an introductory class in silver metal clay techniques and realized there was huge potential for combining glass and silver. After several years of further education, I am now a Master Instructor for Art Clay World. One of the classes that I've designed is "Dress Up Your Glass," which explores various ways of setting glass in silver. Here are some tips I give to my students.

The Shoulder Strap metal clay and fused glass pendant by Arlene Mornick  
The Shoulder Strap by Arlene Mornick

1. Opaque glass in yellow, red, orange, or white may, at the point where the silver touches the glass, develop a brown haze as chemicals in the glass react to the silver. This reaction is called fuming. A layer of clear glass on top of the colored glass will eliminate this problem.

2. Remember that fired silver metal clay has a white appearance that can only be removed by polishing, so if your glass is "see through," do not back it with silver, because you will only see the white of the silver that you can't polish when you look through the glass.

3. The shrinkage of the clay will secure your glass cabochons in place. Therefore, when laying, sculpting, or molding your clay around the glass, do so gently but securely. The silver must secure the glass, and the construction and design must account for shrinkage. At a firing temperature of 1250° F or lower, glass will stay intact, so if there is any give needed, the silver may crack at the tightest point. Fortunately this is fixable: simply fill the crack with more silver clay and fire again.

  The Skirt metal clay and fused glass pendant by Arlene Mornick
The Skirt by Arlene Mornick

4. Metal heats and cools much faster than glass. Therefore, when firing glass and metal together, remember that the more surface area glass has when cooling, the better and faster it will cool. Use a moderate ramp to the recommended firing temperature. I ramp my kiln 750° F per hour to a temperature of 1250° F and soak the piece for 35 minutes.

– For glass pieces 1 inch or less in diameter, there is no need to anneal. Simply let the kiln shut down and cool to room temperature before opening. No peeking! If the kiln is opened too soon, the still-warm glass will crack as the metal quickly cools.

– For glass pieces larger than 1 inch in diameter, slow down the cooling by using an annealing schedule based on the coefficient of expansion (COE) of your glass. After the annealing process, allow the kiln to cool to room temperature before opening.

5. After firing metal clay and glass together, start the polishing process by cleaning the silver with a steel brush. Then place your piece in a tumbler with water just covering stainless steel shot. Tumbling will not hurt the glass and is a great way to shine and finish your piece.

Be creative and have fun! —Arlene

Speaking of fun, aren't the names of Arlene's pieces fun? Each "Dress Up Your Glass" pendant is designed and named after a dress or piece of clothing–a skirt, a one-shoulder strap dress, etc. I love that idea!

And for even more fun, take advantage of great deals in our big sale and get all the jewelry-making tutorials and resources your heart desires! The sale is almost over, so hurry!

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