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Tag Archives: metal clay

Bronze and CZ Ring Fun!

Bronze and CZ Ring Fun!

I have had so much fun doing these rings! I’ve been obsessed with Dragon Age: Inquisition lately.

Besides doing what I LOVE doing, I also work part time retail, and drive for deliveries. And sometimes do transcription work. And study HTML, CSS, and Java. Those are so awesome!

So, the point is, Dragon Age has been an awesome get away from reality. Every choice I make is acted on, and all the characters just want me to succeed. And if they don’t feel that way, they have a health bar, and I can kill them. It’s awesome.

The more I play, the more Cassandra grows on me. She’s just awesome! Of course, I needed to make a ring.  I decided to get a little fancy with it, and go for a two part ring that stacks, and looks awesome one part at a time. Here’s my original sketch:

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I had to change a few little things as I went, because I knew the look, but I forgot to think about the way the stones would actually fit. Whoops. Turns out, it wasn’t a huge deal.

I started with the bottom ring, the one with the sunburst, sort of like the Inquisition eye. The bottom ring was really supposed to be more of her shield. It’s a little chunkier than the top ring, and it’s definitely got more of an armor feel to it.

I forgot to take pictures of making the little sunburst, but basically I rolled out a few snakes, let them dry to leather-hard, then wet down the ring, and put the snakes where they needed to go. Since I dried them flat, I wet down the whole thing with my water pen, and pressed lightly until the snakes formed to the ring. I added snakes to the edges, and sanded down until they were flat on top instead of rounded.

Second ring! I made the top ring, and then cut out the hollow where the bottom stone fits in. I got really into it at this point, and forgot to take more pictures. Sorry! Basically, I added the stone, added snakes to match the trim on the bottom ring, and made little divots for the design.

All fired! I’m always blown away by the kiln colors. They did no disappoint! Look at those amazing rainbows! I’m sad, because every time I try to preserve the colors, they dull. But I guess they’re more beautiful because they won’t last.

All polished up and ready to go! I was so nervous that they wouldn’t fit nicely after they went through the kiln. There’s always shrinkage. But they all shrunk the same amount, and everything looks awesome!

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Maker Crush Monday!

Maker Crush Monday!

I’ve decided to do something a little different for 2016. I’m trying to be a bit more consistent about posting, and I thought, “What if I write about some of my favorite makers?”

There are so many incredible makers out there, in so many different mediums, and I would love to share some of them with you!

My first Maker Crush was easy for me to pick. Wanaree Tanner is one of the most accomplished metal clay artists in the world, having won the 2013 Saul Bell Award in the metal clay category for this piece.

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She’s done a few tutorials for Metal Clay Magazine, and I watch them incessantly. I also love to watch her videos behind the scenes creating her gorgeous pieces. Click here to watch her creating “The Gate” based on a gate she saw at the Garden of the Gods in Thailand.

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Everything she creates has such incredible levels of detail. Every piece seems to have a secret. Or two. I just love it! She is such an inspiration to me.

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Check out her blog for many more beautiful works of art!

The (Finally) Finished Arkenstone! (Pic Heavy)

The (Finally) Finished Arkenstone! (Pic Heavy)

This stone has quite a history for me. It’s not exactly a rare find or anything. It’s just a simple 10mm 5 ct mystic topaz. Mystic topaz are treated to give them their rainbow look. Anyway! I found this one at a stall in the Philippines while visiting my mom. Most of the stalls just had pearls, but this one had a lovely array of faceted stones, and I couldn’t resist. I brought home quite a few, including this one.

The Arkenstone, my 5 ct mystic topaz.

The Arkenstone, my 5 ct mystic topaz.

I grew up loving Tolkien, and still do, so as soon as I saw it, I thought it would be a great Arkenstone. I bought it knowing exactly what I wanted it to be, but no idea how to do it. I’ve been trying to come up with a design for the past 3 years, and have finally come up with something I liked!

The templates are ready and cut out using the Cricut Explore.

The templates are ready and cut out using the Cricut Explore.

So many times I tried to come up with a setting and couldn’t think of a thing. So many scrapped drawings. But it’s finally done! I made the templates in Illustrator, and cut them out with the Cricut Explore. I used a medium grade cardstock so that it would be a bit sturdier and not warp as much when it’s on the metal clay.

I prefer Goldie Bronze Clay Hard, but I’ve been trying out the 50/50 mix of hard and soft to see if that captures better detail. Since I do most of my carving when the clay is dry, I think I’ll stick to just hard. The dry clay tends to be more flexible when it’s got soft in it, so I always feel like I’m about to snap the piece.

Here's the underside of the setting, before I decided it was way too plain.

Here’s the underside of the setting, before I decided it was way too plain.

The prongs are all on, and the knot work is carved and secured.

The prongs are all on, and the knot work is carved and secured.

Remember how I said the back was too plain? I fixed it with more knots.

Remember how I said the back was too plain? I fixed it with more knots.

Working on the bail now.

Working on the bail. I kept thinking I was going to snap it while carving.

It's all ready to go in the kiln now!

It’s all ready to go in the kiln now!

The patina, fresh out of the kiln! I always take pictures because the colors never last.

The patina, fresh out of the kiln! I always take pictures because the colors never last.

The seat is cut, and the stone is set. After 3 years, it has a home.

The seat is cut, and the stone is set. After 3 years, it has a home.

The back, all polished and bright!

The back, all polished and bright!

And one last finished shot! Now to design the clasp for the chain.

And one last finished shot! Now to design the clasp for the chain.

My Solution to Symmetry

Typically my sketches are more “guidelines” than actual blueprints, but lately I’ve had to be much more accurate with my drawings. When I’m working in metal clay, I make my own templates out of paper and tape. (I laminate the paper with tape so that the clay doesn’t get my template too soggy.) Usually I’ll make things symmetrical and get the dimensions perfect in Illustrator. It makes it easy to size up and account for shrinkage depending on what kind of clay I’ll be using.

Right now, my printer is completely broken, which means no printed templates, unless I take a 15 minute drive out to Kinkos. That’s 30 minutes I could be spending sketching! So, I’m doing my templates the old fashioned way. Lots of measuring, multiplying, and then sketching one perfect half.

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Then I x-acto out that half, fold it over on the midline, and trace it on the other side! Then cut again, and I have the outside template. From there, I just keep folding and cutting as I build it up in clay, until I have a finished metal piece, and a pile of paper scraps.

Sculpting with Goldie Bronze Metal Clay

Sculpting with Goldie Bronze Metal Clay

Last year, I tried out Hadar’s Brilliant Bronze clay (read about it here), and even though I was happy with it, I’m always checking out different materials. So I picked up a couple jars of Goldie Bronze clay. Goldie Bronze has a Soft recipe and a Hard one, so I was interested to see the differences between them, and the difference from Hadar’s.

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Goldie Bronze straight out of the jar

Both start as a powder, and need to be spritzed and mixed with water.

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Mixed and ready to use!

My little patty of clay is ready to go! I almost didn’t need to use my Slik (Cool Tools’ non-stick balm) to keep it from sticking to my hands. It’s very buttery. I did need to use it on my plastic surface though. The clay didn’t want to stick to my skin, but it didn’t want to let go of the plastic.

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I penciled in the design, and carved them out with my needle tool.

It’s been amazing to work with! I found I prefer the Hard recipe. It’s much easier to carve when dry, and holds its form very nicely. I can move shapes from the plastic to my polymer clay drying forms without having to worry as much about distortion.

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Bone dry, and ready to fire. I tweaked the design a little once I saw the size.

Firing was 2 part, just like any base metal clay. First segment was at 662°F for 40 minutes on a layer of carbon (not buried) in a stainless steel container (no lid). Although the instructions say that 30 min is good, I’ve had better luck extending the firing times on both segments. The second segment was 1508°F for an 1 hr buried in carbon with the stainless steel lid on (40 min in instructions, but again, I’ve had better luck holding longer). Don’t try to pick up or move the piece between firings! It’s super delicate and will crumble if handled the wrong way. And there’s no telling what the wrong way is until it’s too late.

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GORGEOUS kiln patina! Too bad I couldn’t preserve it.

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Polished up and the purple tourmaline cab is set.

The bezel was a little stiff when I was setting the purple tourmaline, so perhaps I should have made it out of Soft Goldie Bronze instead of Hard. Not sure if there’s a difference once they’re fired, but that’s a test for another day.

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Carving, carving, carving

Carving, carving, carving

As you can probably tell, I work mostly in 3D. The closest I get to 2D in my jewelry is surface embellishment in my polymer clay, and even that is built in a 3D way through caning.

I do like to doodle though!

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Since I want to start experimenting more with metal clay textures instead of my sculpting comfort zone, I decided to create my own texture plates based on my doodles.
I have an ImagePak stampmaker, but since my designs have so many tiny areas, the skinny ridges and dots came off while cleaning the stamp. That left me with one option: carve it myself.

My carving skills are very basic. I’ve carved lines on a rubber block, but ended up investing in the stamp maker for any real drawing. I took a piece of polymer clay and baked it, then pulled out my needle tool, Speedball and Dockyard carvers, and Sharpie, and went to town.

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About 2 hrs in! (I was making up the doodle as I went along.)

Luckily, my fiancee had the day off work, so I just sat next to him on the couch watching him play Arkham Asylum (which is pretty awesome, even if I’m not a Batman fan. I’m more of a Marvel girl than DC) and carving away.

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6 hrs in! I only stopped because a friend invited us to a cookout.

I (reluctantly) stopped for dinner and had a great time with our friends, but by 10, I was itching to get back to my doodle.

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Here we are at 2 am! Finally finished!

Finished! And then I realized that since this was what I wanted the texture to look like, I needed to make an inverse of it. So, another layer of polymer and baking using this as a mold, and voila!

Now that I’ve made the tool, I can get to work on the pieces!

Hadar’s Clay Brilliant Bronze

Last summer, I branched out from polymer clay into the world of metal clay, and discovered Hadar Jacobson’s powdered metal clays. GREAT! Because I tend to work small, I don’t use an entire packet of PMC3 in one sitting. This means that next time I want to work with it, I have to reconstitute it.

With Hadar’s Clay, you can mix however much you think you’re going to need, and the rest can stay in powdered form! Genius. I ordered her new Brilliant Bronze because it has a gorgeous golden color without the price of gold. Here’s one of Hadar’s photos showing the Brilliant Bronze next to gold.

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So, I experimented! I made a pair of earrings that I call my little geodes to see how well they shine up, and if the clay holds a fine texture well. The outside was sanded smooth before firing, and the inside is textured with a bit of rock I found on my Philippines adventure.

After firing, they had a crunchy dull colored coat on them, but it comes off very easily in the finishing process. I used varying grades of sandpaper on my split mandrel, and finished it off with my micro mesh sanding pads.

They fully sintered, and are very strong. Trust me, I’ve been dropping them all day. I’m a klutz. Unfortunately, I buried them a little to deep in the carbon during firing, and the back blistered a little. But now I know!

My other test piece was a simple ring. I wanted to see if an overlap seam with no blending would hold up during both firing, and hammering. It did!

I rolled it on a texture sheet so the design is very shallow to see if it would be distorted in any way, or sand off during the finishing. The texture prevails! And the joint holds!

All in all, I’m thrilled with the Brilliant Bronze clay.