Silver Clay Earrings

silver clay earrings

I made these earrings at a silver clay mould-making workshop I took recently. My silver clay guru Jenn Jevons taught the course, in which we learned to use moulding compound to take impressions of various textures, buttons, objects, etc. that could then be used to create something out of metal clay. These earrings are basically a copy of a brass button Jenn brought to the workshop.

If you’re interested in learning more about creating jewelry with metal clay, I’ve written about how I make customized charm pendants with silver clay here.

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Warm thanks to two bloggers who generously sent many new readers my way this past week:

And look, my Booby Trapped Coat made it to the home page of BurdaStyle, so it’s been a really great week on the sewing and blogging front. I hope your first week of 2016 has been just as lovely.

BurdaStyle featured member projects, week of Jan 6 2016

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

Fused Glass Ring

I got to spend a good chunk of last weekend happily playing around in a glass & metal studio. Squeeeeee! I ended up making this ring:

Glass Fused Ring with Silver bezel

I made this! 😀

It’s made of fused glass with a sterling silver bezel and ring band. And it’s a BIG honkin’ ring. I can’t help myself!

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I took a workshop at Nanopod, which is a funky little metal and glass studio on Harbord Street in Toronto. (Nanopod also offers taxidermy workshops in which participants learn how to stuff mice and birds and set them up in their own happily-ever-after little dollhouse-like dioramas. I took a pass on that one.)

Nanopod studio

Nanopod studio

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Some fused glass goodies in the foreground, and sheets of glass, frit, and glass paint in the background.

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Some glass fused goodies

Tosca Teran is the owner and resident metal and glass artist. She taught us how to cut glass and let us play around with sheets and rods of glass as well as “frit” (ground up bits of glass in various degrees of coarseness) and glass paint. It was super-fun learning about a new creative medium and experimenting with it. By the end of the Saturday session, our experiments were ready to go in the kiln for fusing:

glassfusing_before

My glass experiments, clockwise from top left: clear glass square with coral and pink frit, a corny experiment with a dolphin decal, a ginko leaf made using a stencil and some sparkly green frit, a “let’s see what happens when I stack some very thin rods on top of each other”, an oak leaf, another ginko leaf, an experiment with cut glass rods stacked on a clear base, and a bullseye motif that I hope will become a ring.

I joked with long-suffering husband when I got home that it’s possible I was bleeding to death without realizing it because I was probably covered with microscopic cuts, and I was sure invisible nano-particles of blood were exiting my body at a likely fatal rate. (Did I ever mention I’m a hypochondriac?) Anyway, presence of micro-cuts confirmed quite clearly later as I squeezed a lime for salad dressing. YIKES!

On Sunday (yes, I did survive the night; thanks for your concern), here’s what we found after Tosca had fused the pieces in the kiln for us:

glassfusing_after

I think my favourite is that pathetic shriveled orange thing up in the top right…so much for the thin glass rods experiment! None of them turned out particularly gorgeous but it was interesting to see what happens after fusing.

Glass bullseye: before and after fusing

Glass bullseye: before and after fusing

glassring_inprogress

The band ring has been formed (I never was good at perfect circles) and the bezel for the glass is in progress.

Tosca demonstrating how to solder the bezel. She didn’t want to be in the photo which is too bad because she’s got a ton of interesting tattoos.

Ta-DA!

Ta-DA!

There are a couple of tiny skull and crossbones on the back of the ring. IRL there is no pink on the ring; that's the reflection of the flowers in my garden where I was shooting these pics.

There are a couple of tiny skull and crossbones on the back of the ring which you can’t quite see cuz they’re out of focus. IRL there is no pink on the ring; that’s the reflection of the flowers in my garden where I was shooting these pics.

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jill_Ring

And here’s the lovely Jill, who was also taking the workshop, with her ring creation

I really enjoyed playing around with glass (despite almost DYING in a freak lime juice accident), and would love to go back to try some more glass fusing now that I have some idea of the results to expect. Tosca is REALLY talented at it…I couldn’t believe the jellyfish pieces she did that look so realistic they’re like paintings, only she made them with GLASS. Which blows my mind. You can see one of them here in the Nanopod Etsy shop.  Also, do not dare miss out on looking at these SHOES. Shoes! SHOES! made with glass and reindeer hide featured on Nanopod’s homepage.

Silver Clay Pendants: How I Make Them

This was my little fundraising project a couple of months ago when I was raising money for El Hogar, the organization I worked with when I brought my students to Honduras for a volunteering trip in February. They’re made of silver clay, and my wonderful friends stepped up to support the cause.

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My ‘customers’, or rather Facebook friends who put up with my fundraising statuses for a couple of months, could choose the shape (heart, circle, flower), size (large or small), font, and initial(s). One friend gave me an order for 10 different pendants, getting a lot of her family’s birthday shopping done for the year in one fell swoop. We were both glad she could accomplish this knowing all the proceeds would be supporting a great charity.

Silver clay pendant

If you’re not familiar with how metal clay works, it’s basically MAGIC. Silver clay can be manipulated pretty much like any other clay (you can roll it, shape it, texture it, carve it, etc.), then you let it dry out and fire it with a torch or in a kiln, and voilà — like medieval alchemy you suddenly have a silver piece. (Alright, it’s definitely more complex than that but you get the idea.)

Silver clay initial pendants

Here’s a brief explanation of how I make these pendants. I have left out a lot of detail that would be important if you’re trying to learn this on your own…if you want the long version, complete with explanation of tools and more detail on the procedures, feel free to get in touch, or check out some of the tutorials available online. I learned how to do this from Jenn at Metal Clay Atelier, who gives metal clay workshops in Oakville and Toronto; check out her website, too.

How to Make a Silver Clay Initial Pendant

Step 1: roll out the clay to desired thickness. With my hands lubricated with olive or coconut oil, I roll the clay into a ball then roll it on non-stick surface using an oiled rolling tool. I use Art Clay Silver but there are other brands of metal clay available as well.

Here's the ball of clay rolled out flat. The plastic slats at each side allow you to roll the clay out to a specific thickness.

Here’s the ball of clay rolled out flat. The plastic gauge slats at each side allow for rolling out the clay out to a specific thickness.

Step 2: Cut out the desired shape. You could use a knife or clay cutting tools to do this freehand but it’s easier and more precise to use a shape cutter like the one below.

Here I've used a flower shape cutter from XXXX. The edge of the cutter should be oiled with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking.

Here I’ve used a flower shape cutter by Kemper Klay Kutters. (I like K’s as much as anyone but that’s a bit annoying.) The edge of the cutter should be oiled with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking.

Klay Kutters

I have a variety of shape cutters in different sizes.

Step 3: Add a hole for the jump ring and stamp the initial.

I use a toothpick to create a hole for the jump ring

I use a toothpick to create a hole for the jump ring

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I have a selection of letter stamps that I use for the initials. The stamp must be well oiled.

Studio G alphabet stamp set

These are great, inexpensive stamp sets that come in different fonts to use on metal clay. I have found some at Michael’s as well as from suppliers on Etsy.

Step 4: Allow the piece to dry — it must be completely dry or it can crack during the firing proces

Silver clay pieces drying on a mug warmer

You can let the piece dry by leaving it overnight, or set it on a mug warmer as I have done here for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the piece. I leave them on the non-stick sheet they were rolled out on so I don’t mar the wet clay by trying to lift and move it.

Step 5: Sand and refine the dried pieces. I use various nail files and sanding pads to make sure there are no rough edges, scratches, or irregularities. This is the stage where it’s important to make the piece as perfect as possible, because it’s much harder to file out scratches after it’s been fired and turned to solid metal. The dry clay is fragile at this stage, so care must be taken not to break it.

Metal clay sanding tools

Filing & sanding tools. I do all the sanding in this little plastic tray, so that I can collect the silver clay particles and reuse them — too precious to waste!

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I have a little manual drill bit to make sure the hole for the jump ring is uniform. It’s important to do this on a spongy surface (polishing pad) so as not to break the dry clay piece.

Step 6: fire the clay pieces. They can be fired in a kiln, but small pieces like these can also be fired with a butane hand torch. These pieces generally take about 2 minutes of steady, even heating, constantly moving the flame around so the piece doesn’t overheat and melt. I don’t have a picture of the firing process for you — sorry! I’m pretty sure it’s a big safety hazard to be wielding a blow torch and taking a picture at the same time. 🙂

Metal clay pieces on the firing block

The pieces on the firing block. The one on the left has been fired and the other two haven’t. You can see how the clay shrinks a bit during the firing process if you compare the size of the fired and unfired heart.

Step 7: Marvel at the magical alchemy! When the piece is cool, I use a brass brush and water to remove the white coating that formed during the firing and discover that the piece has turned to fine silver! This is *always* cool. I will never get tired of this moment.

Brushing away the white coating to reveal silver!

Brushing away the white coating to reveal silver!

Step 8: Polish the finished piece. I usually tumble the pieces to work-harden them, then I use emery papers and polishing papers to bring the piece to a shine. This is a boring part so I don’t have pictures. 🙂 I also apply a little silver-blackener (Jax) to the initials to darken them and give contrast.

silverpendants3

Ta-da! Some cute, customized silver clay necklaces.

It’s a time-consuming process but a lot of fun, and I managed to raise a good chunk of money to donate to a great cause. Win-win-win all around, I’d say!

Silver clay initial pendants

Casting class: my giant heart shaped ring

I love it! I had been searching for a ring just like this on Etsy but to no avail…so I made it myself!

Ta-da! My lovely new heart ring.

Ta-da! My lovely new heart ring.

This was my final project for the jewelry casting class I’ve been taking at Jewel Envy here in Toronto. I posted previously about carving the wax model and the casting process. Here’s what happened in the last two classes.

Below are the ring pieces after dissolving the plaster mold in water. It’s nerve-wracking fishing the casting out of the murky water because you are just praying that the casting process worked ok, otherwise it would be back to square one and hours of carving another wax model. You can see that both the ring band and the heart piece were done in the same mold. They’re attached by “sprues”, which are tubes that allow the molten silver to flow into the mold.

The ring pieces right after casting.

The ring pieces right after casting.

Both the ring band and the heart were cast in the same mould

Both the ring band and the heart were cast in the same mold.

Next, the casting gets tossed into warm “pickle” (an acidic bath) to clean it off, and then I sawed off the sprues:

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The casting after pickling

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The sprues are sawed off

Next it’s hours of grinding away the bumps and polishing the surface, starting with a metal file or grinder and then using emery paper, starting with the coarsest grit and repeating with ever-finer grits.

Grinding away the sprue edges.

Grinding away the sprue edges.

Next I soldered the ring band to the heart piece.

Soldering the ring band to the heart piece

Soldering the ring band to the heart piece

Soldering causes some kind of chemical reaction that turns the silver various colours.

Soldering causes some kind of chemical reaction that turns the silver various colours.

So then it’s more hours of sanding the surface to remove all the dirt and discolouration with emery paper, until finally it’s ready for a buffing with grey stone polishing compound and lastly rouge polishing compound.

Polishing with a greystone buff.

Polishing with a greystone buff.

The finished ring.

The finished ring.

I just love my one-of-a-kind ring!