A scarf for an Indian winter
A vintage gem

Silver clay - the makings of a new obsession

2011 is the year of jewellery. I've decided to year some new skills and as I love silver and beads, a series of jewellery workshops seems like the plan. 

Don't worry there are still pointy stick - tools to make holes and fine drills - plus blow torches. And that was just in my first day long workshop. 

 I started out with Beginners' Metal Clay, a full day workshop from London Jewellery School, where I learnt techniques to mould and fire this amazing material.

Precious metal clay was invented by .a scientist at Mitsubishi and is a remarkable substance. Microscopic particles of silver or other metals are suspended in a medium that can be worked like modelling clay. When the clay piece are fired the medium burns away leaving solid silver objects, some 10-15% smaller than the modelled piece.

Pieces can be fired in a kiln, with a blow torch or over the flame on a gas hob.

  Silver 006

Thanks to the support and enthusiasm of teacher Emma my fellow learners and I each produced a ring, earings and a pendant (some of which can be seen above).

We learnt about texturing, cutting and shaping,  setting a stone, smoothing and polishing amongst the techniques. Plus why playing cards and olive oil should be standard items in the creative process. Here from left are pieces pre-firing, fired and polished.

image from www.flickr.com

And perhaps most importantly the use of ordinary model clay like Fimo to work out and test designs. I think some of the problems I had with my ring were due to me not modelling in clay enough due to the excitement of the day - but there was also the challenge of using a syringe filed with PMC to create decoration and the fact I snapped it in two as it was about to go in the kiln. Of course that meant I learnt a repair technique as well.

And it didn't turn out too bad.

Silver 008

But the ring is definitely outshone by my textured earing and pendant set of which I am very proud. This involved small cookie cutters, pressing in textures in the rolling process, joining layers and drilling.

  Silver 007

Next month is an introduction to silver jewellery - so working with the metal from the start. Can't wait. Meanwhile I'm already working on to put knitted textures into PMC and how to combine knitting, crotchet and tatting (I'm relearning the latter two) with jewellery techniques. The Fimo is ordered so I'll start working on roughs for designs at the first opportunity.