Thursday, October 27, 2005

Silver clay

I recently learned to work with fine silver clay (PMC). I'm able to roll it out on different textures, squirt through a syringe, and press into molds I've made of everyday objects like buttons. Traditional metalworking seems so time-consuming and limited in comparison! PMC dries quickly, so I'm learning how to keep the excess clay wrapped in plastic while I'm working. After I finish a piece, I let it dry on an electric mug warmer. Then I sand the rough edges with an emery board and fire in a digital kiln at 1260ºF for 10 minutes. The photo shows what the pieces look like when they're finished firing. You can see the aqua CZ ring at front-left and the wizard ring to its right. Only certain stones can withstand the heat of the kiln, and because CZs are lab-created under high heat and pressure, they are good candidates for firing in place. Other stones can be set after firing, but the settings are less integrated with the design. Rings are tricky because the clay shrinks a little when firing, so I have to do a little math in order to make a specific ring size. The newly-fired pieces are white because the binder has burned away, which leaves the surface of the silver like that of a sponge. I take a steel brush and smooth out the top layer, which results in a matte finish. Finally I oxidize (blacken) the silver to bring out detail, and burnish the high spots to leave them bright and polished.

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