Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'll be looking everyday/I know I'm gonna find a way/Nothings gonna stop me now/I'll find a way somehow/I'll be searching everywhere

I've worked a lot with polymer clay in the last few years and have made quite a lot of jewelry with it; colorful, mostly inexpensive pieces using stamped images and some painting and glossing.

I also did some sculpting, mostly sticking to a basic shaped base topped with individually formed foliage and flowers and enhanced with gold or platinum powder (I love these but they didn't seem to be as popular -- I did price them quite a bit higher as they were way more work).

Because I am apparently not necessarily cut out for the mercenary merchant lifestyle, I seem unable to make myself keep churning out the things that sell, over and over (which is why I don't have any of type I sold the most). Once I've made something, I'm bored with doing it again. This is a really stupid way to do business, I know. I'm learning, I'm learning.

I became aware of precious metal clay a while ago, but I put off getting any. It's a little bit of an investment to get all the materials necessary, plus the clay itself is rather expensive, relatively anyway. Finally, after all this time away from working with clay (or most anything else, really) I decided I was ready for this stuff and requested a kit for my birthday. Yesterday I finally delved into it. After looking at a lot of items online and thinking hard about what I wanted to do as my first project, I came up with a mended broken heart design. Do you know anyone over the age of 18 who hasn't had a broken heart? I love heart imagery and use it a lot, though I try to take the sappiness out when I do and give something a bit of a harder edge.

Delving into the clay was daunting. It took me quite a bit to get up the nerve to unwrap the stuff and start using it. By all accounts I knew it was tricky to work with and dries out quite easily. You have to have a plan and move with it quickly. I was so nervous and anxious working with the medium that at one point I realized I actually had a roaring in my ears. On further thought, I was kind of pleased with that development -- I certainly was 100% engaged in the process. I completed the heart and put it aside to dry and decided to start on a ring for myself. For both pieces I pre-made a version using polymer clay, just so I could get a clear idea of what I wass doing and have a model to work off of. The PMC however, is such a different texture than the polymer clay that it was difficult to judge the amount needed for a given project. I fumbled a lot making the ring and by the time I got it on the mandrel to dry I was afraid I had ruined it.

In the meantime, the heart was dry and ready for the torch. At this point I was still dubious that this clay would turn into silver -- not just silver but 99.9% pure silver, more pure than sterling). I fired up the butane torch and watched as the dusty white piece heated up and glowed pale orange for three minutes. As soon as it was cool (and I burnt my fingertips a couple times trying to pick it up checking -- you heat it to 1200 degrees fahrenheit) I started scraping with the metal brush and, oh my gosh!, it was pure shiny silver underneath. It really is like magic, alchemy.

By the time I got the heart all cleaned off and polished to where I wanted it, the ring was dry enough to fire. Unfortunately, my lack of mad PMC skills, ensured that it was too thin and stuck to the mandrel; it came off in pieces. Since it was too late to save the clay, I went ahead and fired the shards. I can always use them to attached to other pieces in the future. It would have been a cool ring, but one must learn somehow. So, here are the results. The heart is kind of messy, in a cool way (I hope), and the mending is a little Frankenstein (I'm thinking black wire for future versions -- like real stitches!). I have no idea what I'll do with the shards, but they're pretty.

So, I'm off and running with PMC. Custom orders welcome!

1 comment:

Allison said...

Totally awesome!
When you make little bird necklaces, I will be your first customer!