Working With Metal Clay

Adding fine silver accents will not only add interest to a design, but will increase the value of your work substantially. If you haven't tried working with the new metal clays, the projects in this book are a good starting point.

Metal clay is made up of microscopic particles of real silver, suspended in a binder. The clay can be shaped, textured, cut and manipulated just like other clays. Once it dries, it needs to be fired so the binder can burn off, resulting in a piece of fine silver that is .999 pure. (Sterling silver is .925.) Silver metal clay will become white after firing. This is not a coating. What you see are actually tiny particles standing on end. Brushing and burnishing the metal clay will flatten them, causing the surface to reflect silver. Further polishing or buffing will cause the shine to become even brighter.

Metal clay, unlike polymer clay, can air-dry. So, when working with metal clay, the best advice I can give is to plan ahead. Gather all of the supplies you will need, including basic supplies and those listed in project instructions. Avoid touching the clay too much, as your hands will dry it out; for example, use plastic wrap on the surface when rolling the clay flat. If the clay becomes dry, spritz it with a little water. Keep olive oil handy for your fingers and tools. Always put extra pieces of metal clay back into the original airtight container as soon as you can to keep it fresh and moist.

Metal clay comes in a variety of sizes and forms. The projects in this book use lump form, which is similar to traditional clays. It comes in an.airtight pouch that will keep it moist and pliable. The pad or ball of clay in the package will seem like a small amount, until you begin working with it. You'll see that a little goes a long way.

I use PMC3, which is low-fire metal clay, meaning it can be fired with a small handheld butane torch (the same type used for crème brûlée). The advantage is that you can try the clay without purchasing an expensive kiln.

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