Arte Es Vida

Art Clay Silver And Gold by arteesvida
December 3, 2006, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Book Reviews, Clay Jewelry

“Metal Clay?” I thought, while mentally wrinkling my nose. I mean, it sounds really cool, but who has the kind of bank to invest in an electric kiln and all these additional tools? But fate intervened in the form of a trip to a craft store, and the fantastic book I got in the mail, Art Clay Silver and Gold by Jackie Truty

This past Spring Break, I was in San Antonio, and saw, at a local Hobby Lobby, baskets full of metal clay as well as small propane-powered firing contraptions that mimic gas stovetop firing for under 50.00. Until recently you could fire small pieces with a propane torch, but larger pieces required a kiln that could fire up to 1000 degrees, or a gas stovetop. But now we are entering the realm of being affordable for those of us who don’t create for resale, or are just plain broke in the grand “starving artist” tradition.

Metal clay, introduced to the United States in 1997 by the Japanese company Aida Chemical Industries, is still in its infancy. When you realize that the material is less than ten years old, it makes the growth of the metal clay industry all that more amazing.

Metal Clay has come a long way, baby.

But what IS metal clay? Although it sounds more like alchemy than science, metal clay, currently available in pure silver and pure gold forms, really is metal. Mixed with organic binders that allow you to work with it as you would any other clay. When the piece is fired, the binders burn off, reducing the size of the final project by about 10%.

Besides coming in regular clay form, you can also buy it as a paste, in a syringe, or even as a thin paper (great for origami artists!)

Because the material behaves like clay, it can be pinched, rolled, molded, stamped, or even used on a potter’s wheel. It retains shapes pressed in to it, so projects using natural texturizers such as leaves and shells work wonderfully. Because it is more porous and lighter than regular metals, it is possible to create completely enclosed items (such as beads), which isn’t possible with regular metalsmithing.

Although geared more towards clay workers than artists who already work in silver and gold, the fact that it is so much quicker to work with than solid metal has been a huge selling point for metalsmithers.

The best thing about the book is many of the projects utilize the same techniques that clay workers (porcelain, polymer, air dry) have been utilizing for years. She has two projects that use natural leaves as a stamp. And many of her other projects include using templates, molds, rolling, pinching, tearing, and other skills that come naturally if you are comfortable with clay work, and don’t require a high level of “artistry”.

The author also spends plenty of pages on the details of working with this new material including:
· The types of product available, how they are different and what they are designed for.
· Tools, both traditional and non-traditional (a food dehydrator for drying the clay before firing…who’da thunk it?)
· Elements of design
· Which materials work best for setting
· Finishing and polishing.

All of the projects in the book are designed to be completed, start to finish, in a day. For those of you, like me, who are a bit commitment-phobic about long-term, complicated projects this is definitely the book for you.

All in all, this is a great resource for the reader comfortable with using a material that is new to them. A definite must-read if you are interested in art clay!

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