A Modern Twist: Try Metal Clay Mokumé Gané with Jackie Truty
I love learning about traditions that have been passed down through generations. Mokumé gané is one such tradition. Once nearly forgotten, it now thrives in various forms – including metal clay.
ABOVE: Jackie Truty teaches you how to create metal clay mokumé gané from start to finish.
Requiring great skill with a fire forge, mokumé gané originated in Japan in the 17th century. In a complex process of heating, cutting, stacking, and folding layers of different metals, expert metalsmiths created prestigious katanas with intricate patterns. It’s easy to see why the term mokumé gané translates as “wood grain metal.”
Now, thanks to metal clay, these mesmerizing patterns can be created another way – by using silver and copper clays instead of metal sheet and a kiln instead of a forge. This modern twist on an ancient technique is referred to as “new mokumé gané.”
For metal clay expert Jackie Truty, new mokumé gané is one of her favorite techniques, and she shares it with us in her online workshop Metal Clay Mokumé Gané Jewelry Using Art Clay.
Learn New Metal Clay Mokumé Gané Step By Step
Jackie’s workshop is a joy to jump into, precisely because she is so passionate about her craft. She clearly loves every second of it. She starts off with some background: what metal clay is, how mokumé gané was traditionally made, and how to recreate this magic with Art Clay Silver and Art Clay Copper.
She demonstrates exactly how to stack and roll alternating layers of silver and copper clays until she has a total of 16 layers! Don’t worry – she walks you through every step of the process so you won’t get lost, including which slats to use to achieve the proper thicknesses at each stage.
She manipulates the layers by twisting the stack tightly at multiple points. Finally, she compresses the clay back into a solid log. If you’re following along at this point, you’ll end up with a reddish-brown log that doesn’t show any silver yet. I love Jackie’s reassurance: “Don’t panic – this is right on target!”
Watch this sneak peak of Jackie rolling the two metal clays together:
After drying the “log” thoroughly, Jackie moves onto filing the clay, revealing its unique, swirling pattern. I love watching the design appear as the file removes the top layer of clay, bit by bit. (Keep this “clay dust,” by the way, because you can add water later and turn it into more clay.)
That’s far from the end of the process. Before you’re done, you’ll learn how to back the piece with silver, fire it briefly to burn out the clay binders, and fire it fully a second time in coconut carbon to prevent fire scale. You’ll learn how to polish it to a brilliant shine with the JoolToolTM (affiliate link), although you may opt to do this by hand. Finally, you’ll see up close how applying Baldwin’s Patina (affiliate link) deepens the color of the copper, creating a beautiful contrast with the silver.
Metal Clay Trials and Triumphs
While working with Jackie to develop her series of four courses, I had the privilege of asking her all about her favorite techniques, her travel stories, and her certifications.
The first time Jackie saw metal clay, she was instantly hooked. That was back in 2000 at Glass Craft Expo. She now shares her passion for metal clay techniques as an Art Clay Master Instructor while also running Art Clay World USA.
She especially loves teaching new mokumé gané. “Each one is different,” Jackie said. “I can teach the same class 50 times and not one project will turn out like you expect; they’re all different.”
This uniqueness is inherent to metal clay in general, as each handmade piece is unlike any other. “If you cast metal, you’ll get multiples of the exact same thing, even wedding rings,” she said. “But anything you do with metal clay – even if you try to duplicate it – you can’t duplicate it exactly.”
Jackie has pursued her passion with great dedication, becoming a lapidary, a Graduate Gemologist, and an educational director for Art Clay USA. In 2002, she purchased the North American distribution rights for the company and opened Art Clay World USA in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
She even traveled to Japan to become certified in Art Clay for quilling and new mokumé gané techniques. The latter was so intense that she remembers her fellow classmates driven to tears. “The last project was called the feather project,” she recalled. “It looks like when you draw a toothpick through a latte — but using silver and copper.”
Art Clay was originally very strict with who they could certify in new mokumé gané. Of her class of 18, only a handful passed the five-day course, including Jackie. “It took me four times. It was probably the toughest thing we’ve done.”
Master Metal Clay Mokumé Gané and Other New Techniques with Jackie
Jackie has drawn on her experiences to inspire new designs. In fact, the idea for this workshop came to her after she had the opportunity to watch a traditional mokumé gané forging technique. After heating up a billet, two metalsmiths grabbed opposite ends of the glowing, layered metal, twisting it like a licorice stick. That observation led Jackie to develop the marbled pendant you’ll learn in her workshop.
I know you’ll find this workshop as fascinating as I do. You can purchase it individually, or subscribe to Interweave’s Online Workshops to access this course along with a growing library of others for $9.99 a month.
Go be creative!
— Tamara Kula
Producer, Bead & Jewelry Group