Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Silver clay - part 1

One of the things I love to do is use my stamps to make jewelry.  When I started working with silver clay, one of the first things I did was grab stamps to make impressions into the clay.  It's a very simple way to add a texture or design.  Using liver of sulfur you can make the impressions darker, or you can leave the clay alone for a more subtle look.

What's silver clay, you ask?  (okay, I know some of you know, but a whole bunch of my readers will not, so bear with me)  This will be a very quick explanation of what it is and how to work with it.  Do not attempt without getting more complete information.  There are countless good books (see my links at the end of this post) and even videos.

Silver clay is, well, clay that turns into almost 100% silver.  Yeah, that's pretty obvious, huh?  It's very tightly sealed to keep the moisture in, and when you open the package you have to work relatively quickly.  You can roll it out like polymer clay, cut it, stamp on it, etc... with paste and syringe-type clay you can make three-dimensional objects or add gemstones or CZs (you need to check that they'll work with silver clay, though) or stack pieces on top of each other.  If you're going to use the piece as a pendant or other dangly bit, or if you're going to have dangly bits off of the piece, now is the time to put the holes in.

Once you're done with the piece, you need to dry it.  Either wait 24 hours, or you can put it in the oven or a dehydrator.  After all of the moisture is out of the piece (it is very important to have no moisture in the piece), you file it to take any sharpness off or to refine the shape a bit.  After that, it's firing time!  The best way is to use a kiln, but I've used a torch for all of my pieces.  I don't have a kiln and until recently didn't know anyone who did.

I love using the torch, because you can see the process:  the piece gets hot and the "binder" (the clay that holds the silver together) burns off.  There's actual fire!  The piece then turns a peachy color and shrinks somewhat.  After a few minutes of the peachy color, it's done.  You can let it cool naturally, but the impatient ones among us (which is probably all of us who work with silver clay) take tweezers and drop the piece in water.  That cools it instantly.

After you can touch it without screaming "Owie!", you'll see that the piece is white.  That's leftover "schmutz" from the firing process.  The typical way to clean it off is to use a wire brush.  If you put a hole in it, my recommendation is to use a pen or a burnisher (which has a point) in the hole to hold the piece down.  Else if you're not careful the wire brush will dig into your cuticles for another "Owie!" moment or 20.

When that is done, you can dip it in liver of sulfur if you want, burnish it, polish it, etc...  Based on the project I've done different things.  For my wedding jewelry and embellishments (which I'll show in a day or two), I did none of those things.  I wanted to have bright silver.  For other pieces, I liked the darker look of liver of sulfur and polishing.  It all depends on my mood (which we know can fluctuate at any moment!).

You can store any unused clay, but I end up using everything I have all at once.  I end up with some interesting pieces that way.

Wow.  That ended up a lot longer than I thought it would be.  There's just so much to this product!  It is a lot of fun, even though there are quite a number of steps, and you can make some very pretty pieces.

After all that, do you want to see some of what I've done?  Of course you do.  You wouldn't have waded through all of that otherwise!  I'll show a few today and more in the next few days (without so much chatter, hopefully).

This first piece was made with a corset rubber stamp.  The impression wasn't terribly deep, but I think it still turned out pretty well.  I gave it to my friend Sherri.

I trimmed the part that hangs down in the back - I thought that looked kinda odd in the silver.

These earrings make me wish my ears weren't so sensitive.  With white gold hooks I can wear them for short periods of time, which I guess I can live with.  I used a small square texture stamp and cut out the shape with a square cutter.  Even though I could see what I was doing through the cutter, I was pleased that the pieces matched!  I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, so I take my successes where I can.  :)

The scan of the stamp isn't that good, but you can get an idea of what it looks like.

Okay - that's enough for today.  Check back tomorrow for more!

Here are the book links I promised you.  There are so many out there, so I'm only going to list some that I can vouch for and the kit my mother and stepfather bought me that got me started:

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