Jewelry Making: Bringing Nature Into the Studio with Metal Clay and Other Materials
Metal clay, nature inspired Rose of Sharon Pod Pendant by Tammy Honaman
I was prepping for an upcoming class and couldn’t help but notice how many of my designs are inspired by what I find when out and about. When we talk about bringing the outside in, I have to say, I really do just that! Even just this weekend I picked up a few pinecones in my sister’s yard. They had the best texture that will likely translate well into metal clay.
I think metal clay is usually my first thought when I think about gathering materials from outside and trying to find ways to work them into the professional side of my life. To follow are a few examples.
Rose of Sharon Pods
The design shown above was made by painting metal clay paste/slip over a dried Rose of Sharon pod.
I painted seven layers of metal clay over each face of each piece of the pod. Meditative? Maybe. Satisfying results and worth the tedious nature of the painting? Absolutely!
This past fall (the best time for harvesting seed pods, I’ve found) we were driving through our neighborhood shopping center. I asked my son to remind me to stop and gather some pods when we were all finished. Well. We both forgot. So, when we were out and about the next day with my husband at the wheel, both Ryan and I yelled “Stop!” as we remembered! My husband was a bit confused but of course, he stopped. Ryan and I hopped out of the car without explanation then went about our business gathering up the pods. By the time we got back into the car, my husband knew exactly what we had been up to. You can’t live with me for 30 years and not get what was going down!
These pods will be shared in class as well as transformed by me, some day…
You may have heard me mention that I’m from New Jersey. Well, there are many layers to even just that fact; one thing that runs strong and will never fade is my love for the Jersey Shore. I love the beach. I love the ocean. And I’m always grateful for the “find-of-the-day.” I love to carry that find further into my life and always hold onto treasures. One day I transformed a sand dollar into a mold I could use forever.
I filled the mold with metal clay then went about finishing the molded clay so I could use it as a charm, adding a loop so it could be hung from chain.
The finished sand dollars were then used in the earrings shown above along with lots of Swarovski crystals.
You can do the same thing with a shell.
One of the classes I love to teach is metal clay fundamentals. In this course I teach the basics of each type of clay and how to work with them. When we get around to using the slip, I share all the ways I love to work with this wonderful product including how to paint any organic material. Cereal, cookies (we’ve even used animal crackers!), and then gifts from nature — like pods and leaves. I always travel with organic materials as it’s rare we have time to hunt for any, but if the season is right, students come back from lunch with leaves and other great finds from nature.
It’s challenging to paint a fresh leaf. But with patience, it can be done. For this process, we always paint more than seven layers and I would recommend the leaf not be used structurally as it’s a bit thin.
If you’re looking for a course on metal clay, look no further! Darlene Armstrong has new metal clay courses right here at Interweave. Jump start your skills with her Getting Started Precious Metal Clay Series: Torch Firing PMC Introduction course.
Putting it All Together
As you can see from many of the pieces shown, many need to be placed into a finished piece of jewelry. How would you finish them, you ask? Well. There are lots of ways to finish any component. You can keep going with metal clay if that’s what you started with. Add a ring or a loop and you have a piece ready to hang from a cord or chain. If you want to take things into a different direction, there is nothing that says you can’t — so please do!
Consider something from Wire+Metal eBook. There are 30 easy metalsmithing designs in this compilation. You can use any of these to transform your metal clay components and beyond.
For a quick and easy necklace, tie a piece of leather cording through a metal clay domed pendant then hang from a chain. Like in this design, Saucy, by Denise Peck.
Make matching (or similar) embellished disks, leaving a hole at the top. Once fired and polished, add your earwires for a sweet pair of earrings to wear or gift, like these earrings, Shadow, by Jane Dickerson.
Create a tabbed setting from metal clay, texturing it to suit the piece you’ll be placing into the setting. Once fired and polished, set your piece of pottery, glass, or stone then connect the pendant to chain using jumprings. Like this beautiful necklace, Shattered, by Denise Peck. Denise used sheet metal but you could easily use metal clay to create a similar design.
You’ll find lots of inspiration in this book and in nature. Get outside, bring some inside into your studio, then just have fun!
We’d love to see the nature-inspired pieces you create. Share your Outspiration designs and jewelry using the hashtag #outspiration and tag @interweavejewelry and @interweavebeading on Instagram!
Kick start or kick up your metal clay designs with these resources in our shop!