Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Bronze and Copper Clays!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/07/22

Those little (dime-size) charms are my very first pieces made with Bronze metal clay!

I spent most of Wednesday up at Alice Walkowski’s lovely “Ally’s Art” studio at the National Transit Building in arts-friendly Oil City, PA. We were joined by her delightful student, Virginia, who often takes advantage of Alice’s “studio time” offerings.

Alice had a number of things to accomplish that day, but I spent my time there working with Bronze and Copper clays for the very first time. I’d gotten the powdered form of each from Hadar Jacobson several months ago, but just had not found an extended-enough stretch of time when I could focus on experimenting with these new products. The time I spent up at Alice’s, with no other distractions of my own, turned out to be the perfect opportunity.

And, since Alice had recently written about her trials with a different brand of these clays (the pre-mixed versions, distributed by Rio Grande), it was fun to compare notes with her as we proceeded with our various tasks. In particular, I appreciated having her there to double-check my understanding of the firing schedules, since that’s really the biggest difference between these “base metal” clays (bronze, copper and, most recently, steel) and the “precious metal” ones (silver and gold).

The bronze clay was nice, and the results are shown above. Of the two I worked with, it was the harder one to mix up, retained a kind of grainy feel, and was more of a challenge to clean off my hands (especially from under fingernails). It was a bit stiff to work with, but still easy enough, and the first batch appeared to fire to solid bronze very easily.

The copper clay was incredibly easy to mix up, and the result was a clay that was smooth and flexible and felt absolutely wonderful to work with. It was also terribly tricky to fire adequately (took two tries to get it right).

The photo on the left shows copper pieces straight out of the kiln. Those on the right have had a bit of polishing; eventually they may get some more of that.

Both versions produced pieces that exhibited some cracking in the fired pieces that had not been visible in the clay in the pre-firing (“greenware”) state. This cracking was, however, much worse in the copper than in the bronze pieces (though at this point I’ve no clue how much, if any, of that difference may simply have to do with my having had to fire the copper pieces twice to get them to sinter).

This photo (sorry about the shadows; ignore those) is my attempt to show the cracking in the copper pieces. In theory, one should be able to repair those cracks and refire the whole thing. I’ll probably do that with these pieces eventually (but I may well leave that for a time right before I actually need to repair a copper clay piece, so that the process will be fresher in my mind when I actually need it.)

All-in-all, between the companions and the new clays, it was a fun day. I’m still thinking about my reaction to these clays, and what it was like to work with them. I will most likely write a few follow-up notes in the coming days and/or weeks.

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One Response to “Bronze and Copper Clays!”

  1. Alice Walkowski said

    Carol, it was nice to have you visit. I wished you lived closer so you could visit more often. Like the packaged clay, the bronze was stiffer. I did love the smooth texture of the copper but too bad it was such a bear to fire. You and I were both waiting for the kinks to be worked out, but I guess we didn’t wait long enough. Hopefully, between us, we’ll get this thing figured out.

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