Learn Metal Clay from the Pros Who Know!

Sep 25, 2009

Clay it Forward

Sometimes we all need a light from another flame to get our own candle burning. That's the way it was for me with metal clay. Usually I'm a selt-taught type of gal, so when metal clay first came on the scene. I thought, what's the big deal? It's CLAY. Heck, I've been playing with clay since I was three! But of course there's way more to the medium of metal clay (and polymer, too) than the aromatic plastilene we took from containers at recess! Once I'd learned I needed tools and a special type of kiln, I knew I had to take a class to see how the pros worked with this alluring material.

Leslie metal clay Lily

This is a picture of the only metal clay piece I ever made, the product of a 3-hour Bead Fest class I took years back when metal clay was still a relatively new product. Kinda embarrassing. In an entire 3 hours this inch-long charm is all I brought home. But I had fun making it, squishing it, sanding the "leather hard" pre-fired clay, and seeing it become real silver.  But go ahead, you can chuckle at my elementary efforts. I still do!


Now, I am not saying the class was a loss, not at all!  I learned about the tools and the properties of metal clay in ways I would not have done on my own, and my little "Lame Lily" pendant––yes, I named it––is by no mean a reflection on my teachers, either. Martha and Ed Biggar were delightfully gracious and informative teachers who continue to teach at Bead Fest. They gave me my first chance to get my hands into metal clay. And, others in that class made way cooler stuff than I did, believe me. I admit I often get a bit paralyzed by beginning something, like writers block. Most of us do from time to time. Those times it helps to get out, open a book, take a class,so the experts can get us jump-started.


Beels metal clay boughsOf course, since then I have seen more and more examples of metal clay explorations by artists drawn to the material. The medium itself has been developed to be better and easier to work with. There are other metal clays beside silver, like the breathtakingly gorgeous bronze clay. I have read more about techniques and applications, such as how to use it in a more liquid form called "slip" and combine it with seed beads, shown in this March '06 Step by Step Beads project "Beautiful Boughs" by Jessica Beels. (Photo by Todd Murray.)  





I am also captivated by the patinas which can be coaxed from or applied to metal clay, like the verdigris in these earrings I bought from Kelly Russell. Don't they look like archeological finds? These earrings are so rich in their imagery and color, and so very different from the sleek lines I tried to get in my little polished lily charm. There are many artists who have contributed to the evolution of the art of metal clay, from Celie Fago, Lora Hart and Lisa Pavelka to Sherri Haab, Debra Weld and Hadar Jacobson.

Do I sound inspired? You bet. I now own a few precious ounces of silver metal clay, tools, an acrylic roller and even some texture plates. I know where I have access to a kiln. Have I made more little Lame Lilies on my own? Not yet. I still need some guidance, especially about something called shrinkage...

But for inspiration and how-to, I plan to dive into the easy-to-follow projects in our downloadable eBook from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist: 10 Metal Clay Jewelry Projects.  

What are your favorite resources for tips and techniques to shape your skills with metal clay? Who are the artists and teachers who inspire you? Share your comments below or on the Beading Daily forums!

metal clay quilt pendant MY BAD! Forgot your FREE PROJECT!

Make this metal clay quilt pendant designed by Hadar Jacobson!


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Beautiful Boughs

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Precious metal clay branch pendant.


10 Metal Clay Jewelry Projects: Best of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, Volume 3 (eBook)

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Pattern Compilations

Explore texture, surface design, and new techniques and styles in your metal clay jewelry with these 10 projects, complete with helpful tips, design options, and instructive photos.


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on Sep 25, 2009 1:50 PM
Leslie, I like your lame lily! It's much better than my first attempt at metal clay. Add a few tiny pearls on wire dropping down through the top opening . . . Sandra
Sa310 wrote
on Sep 26, 2009 2:04 PM
"Lame Lily" your design is not Leslie! It's inspiring; I could imagine more pieces forming a cluster, then joined together with small jump rings they could make a gorgeous pair of earrings or perhaps a larger pendant for a necklace. Look at it as one nice little piece of a bigger design! I really want to work with metal clay now. Thank you for sharing!
Bonne22 wrote
on Sep 27, 2009 5:50 AM
The "Lame Lily" is elegantly shaped and not at all bad for a first try. Mine still has rough edges that I can't seem to care about eliminating! My problem, however, is that I have been spoiled by Michelle. I want our free project on Fridays back...pl.ease?!!? Sandra D
Russtty wrote
on Sep 27, 2009 2:19 PM
FYI Forty years ago a product called sculpty, an Aluminium clay( dry out ,No Bake)was marketed.The present day PMC was marketed for the dental industry, and was only silver,the gold was only added about 6 years ago.The gold PMC was the start of "Craft Marketing",this is not to say marketed to Jewelry people but rather to the "Craft Market ".
mcgeejy wrote
on Sep 28, 2009 6:41 AM
Add my protestation to all the others - I think your "Lame Lily is lovely.
Luzetta wrote
on Nov 4, 2009 10:01 AM
I am looking for someone that can teach me how to work with Metal Clay in my area, I live in Detroit, Michigan. This clay have me captured by the many items that I can create with it. I have only been beading for a few months, but this metal clay is what I really want to get my hands around. If anyone can help me leave me a blog with the information.
FelineLover wrote
on Jan 16, 2010 10:31 AM

That is a gorgeous "first attempt" - you are too modest!

I am looking for classes in the Norfolk County area in Massachusetts.

Any out there?