Convergent Series

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

Trying Art Clay Copper (Post #1 of ?)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/03/07

Over the last year or so, I’ve tried several of the copper clays that have become available.

To date, Hadar’s Copper Clay has had my favorite handling characteristics. Most of the others come as a moist clay product, but Hadar’s is a powder that you mix with water to form the clay. It takes several minutes to mix up, but it’s easy to do. You mix just the amount you need and, once you get the knack of estimating quantities, you don’t have to worry about storing the remains of a partially-used package.

The thing I absolutely love about Hadar’s copper clay is how it handles: it has a wonderful, soft, smooth, silky feel. It’s easy to texture, roll, drape, fold, and otherwise manipulate. It works fine at a range of thicknesses.

I have had some problems with firing it, however, which is my main reason for exploring other possibilities. Like most copper-based clays, Hadar’s has to be fired in activated carbon (to produce an oxygen-reduced atmosphere that prevents the surface turning black from copper oxides known as firescale). While firing all metal clays involves a fine balancing act with time and temperature, so they sinter properly into “solid” metal without melting, it’s much trickier when (a) the stuff is buried in some sort of carbon and (b) the carbon needs to be contained in some sort of firing vessel. Why? Because both of those affect the temperature that reaches the pieces you are firing. And, to complicate things further, the various types of carbon and of firing vessel affect that in different ways.

This week, at last, I found some time to try the copper product from Art Clay (i.e., Aida Chemical Industries Co. Ltd.), so I’ll document my learning process here. I wish I’d posted more detailed notes on my earlier trials. This time, I plan to do a series of posts — I’m not sure how many it may take, thus the “?” in the title of this post — but I’ll just keep going until I’ve covered a range of items.

I’ll start with opening the package and preparing to work: I’d heard people comment that it took a lot of effort, kneading and rehydrating, to get this clay to a workable state. They were not kidding! I hadn’t understood why so many people had remarked that they’d had to add a lot more water than they expected. I’d thought, “Adding water to rehydrate clay is a common activity, what’s the big deal?” Well, let me tell you, it takes so much more, it’s easy to just lose track of how much you’ve added! I’m pretty sure that one package took a good six times more spritzes than I’d ever expect to add to other “fresh” clays. And another packet took more still; I think it was close to ten times as much, but that’s the one where I lost count.

But I’m getting ahead of myself by mentioning that second packet. Though I had several, my plan had been to just experiment with one; I’ll explain that later. I will say that, comparing the mixing of Hadar’s powder to the conditioning of this form, I don’t think I saved any time or effort there.

I did have a good laugh, trying to condition the clay. I thought of my friend, Barbara, who kept telling me I had to try this product because I was going to love it. Love, love, love it! And there I was, struggling to get it ready to work with, and it hit me: Barbara has worked for years with polymer clay. Of course she thinks nothing of all the effort it takes to condition this clay! I told her that, and she got a good laugh too!

For now, I’ll just include that snapshot of the pieces I made from my first pack of Art Clay copper, as they dry. The top three are fully reversible. The four smaller pieces, along the bottom, each do have a clear front and back.

I’ll try to post more of this tale each day or two until it’s done. I hope you’ll stay tuned!

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3 Responses to “Trying Art Clay Copper (Post #1 of ?)”

  1. Alice Walkowski said

    Will be watching

  2. sharon elaine said

    To make easily reversing earrings use 18 or 20 gauge wire and make a short eye pin (this will be your post). Attach earring to “eye”, use commercial clutch and it will reverse when in the ear without removal. Add decoration behind the loop by gluing beads or soldering. I can send pictures, doesn’t get any easier! I did this with my own earrings.

    • C Scheftic said

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      I make many styles of earrings, including some similar to what you describe. Whenever possible, I prefer to make pieces (earrings and otherwise) that are reversible, and that is one great approach.

      I make a few more complex designs, however, ones with lots of things happening (spinning layers with moving dangles, for example), where I haven’t figured out reliable mechanics for easily reversing them (as earrings), at least not without adding some other complication (e.g., making them heavier than I think is advisable, or using a number of swappable components that are too easily lost, etc.). But I’ll sure keep trying: I find experimenting with variations to be a big part of the fun! Do you agree? Or do you prefer to find a style that works and go for quantity with those?

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