Torch-Fired Metal Clay Jewelry Making and the Demo That Nearly Killed Me

Metal clay jewelry making has been my favorite jewelry technique since I first did it almost 15 years ago. Torch-fired and kiln-fired; silver, copper and bronze; paper, syringe, powdered, and traditional metal clay . . . I’ve tried it all and loved every bit of it. But at BeadFest in August, I did an hour-long demo on the show floor about torch-firing metal clay, and it nearly killed me.

Not really, of course, but it sure felt like it at the time. Public speaking terrifies me. It turns me into a red gasping mess, which is why I don’t teach jewelry-making classes to large groups. So the idea of showing lots of people torch-fired metal clay jewelry making, over and over for a whole hour, had me in a tizzy.

My co-workers, including my sparkle sister Kristal Wick, were extremely supportive. But I just knew I’d die before the hour was up!

But guess what? I survived! And along the way, I learned that I’ve learned a lot about metal clay jewelry making these past 15 years.

You can use a torch for metal clay jewelry making!

Check out that protective eye wear!

My Metal Clay Jewelry Making Journey

After discovering PMC at a trade show where it was being introduced, my first class on metal clay jewelry making was in Tucson with Donna Lewis, a longtime metal clay artist and instructor. That’s where I really got my hands dirty, literally and figuratively, with metal clay.

from Sculptural Metal Clay by Kate McKinnon

from Sculptural Metal Clay by Kate McKinnon

When I became the editor of our original site, Jewelry Making Daily, I learned from Kate McKinnon’s five-star-rated book (with DVD!), Sculptural Metal Clay, that metal clay jewelry making should be approached like other clay work, with traditional clay-building techniques. Making slabs, connecting with slip over textured surfaces, using small amounts of water, etc. are all clay techniques that we probably learned in art class that will help our metal clay work now. Kate’s other book on metal clay jewelry making, Jewelry Architect, inspired me and taught me some of the less traditional ways to use metal clay.

metal clay jewelry making

I made these sweet birdhouse charms in a metal clay jewelry making class with Sulie Girardi at BeadFest.

More recently, I’ve had some great classes on metal clay jewelry making at BeadFest, with Ed and Martha Biggar and Sulie Girardi. Of course, there have been hours and weeks and months of playing with metal clay in my own studio. I’ve even taught some friends the joys of metal clay, one on one. Many years ago, I joined a local metal clay guild in Tennessee, and another one later in Louisiana. In both guilds, I played with and learned from so many talented, experienced metal clay artists.

And Then There Was Torch Firing Metal Clay

But I was still limited in the amount of metal clay jewelry making I could do without a kiln. Until . . . I was thrilled to discover Tammy Honaman’s video tutorial on torch firing metal clay charms. I don’t have a kiln, so my metal clay work has always been less frequent than I’d like–until I discovered torch firing.

torch firing metal clay jewelry making

Once I learned I could fire some types of metal clay with my torch (I use Art Clay Silver), a simple hand-held micro torch even, look out! I was a wild woman. I love being able to make charms, earrings, pendants, and all kinds of metal clay jewelry making components. Plus the immediate gratification of turning metal clay from something that resembles gum into beautiful silver jewelry is a great highlight. Since learning I could torch fire it, I’ve been able to enjoy metal clay jewelry making way more often–so much so, I even volunteered to do a demo about it at Bead Fest. (See what I did there? Full circle.)

So why was I so nervous to demo metal clay jewelry making? My biggest fear was that someone would ask me a question that I couldn’t answer. But I realized that in some of the jewelry-making classes I’ve taken on various techniques, I’ve sometimes heard students ask questions the instructor couldn’t answer. It wasn’t the end of the world! It didn’t mean they weren’t skilled artists and expert instructors. They simply said they didn’t know but we could find out. And guess what? Dozens of people came by to watch the demo, but no one asked me a question I couldn’t answer. Yay! And whew.

torch fired metal clay jewelry making

This guy seemed interested in my demo, and maybe not just because he’s our boss! 😉

Before my teachers, book authors, and video instructors were experts, they were students. They learned from books, courses, videos, and trial and error. They learned the same way I did, and the same way some of you have. It’s the same way I hope many of you will begin to learn metal clay jewelry making, if you haven’t yet, because it’s incredibly fun and rewarding!

Learn and enjoy metal clay jewelry making from intro to advanced with these expert resources!