Convergent Series

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

Cane Designs and Mokume Gane Effects with Hadar Jacobson

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/04/06

On the second day of Hadar’s recent workshop in Pittsburgh, we focused on (a) making and using extruded “canes” and (b) creating a sort of “mokume gane” effect (although without using quite the same laminating steps of true mokume gane as practiced by metalsmiths for several centuries and recently adapted for use with polymer clay).

It dawned on me at home after the first day that I had not stopped to take any photos of my pieces at any point in the “clay” state. I didn’t take many the second day either, but I did think to stop and take the one shown at the top (right) of this post. (The little thumbnail-size shot looks much drearier than the piece looked in person! The photo was taken in our classroom with just a bit of daylight through the window on a gray late-March day: clicking on the shot here should open up a new page with a larger and slightly less-dark version.)

The second photo (left) shows the same piece after it has been fired and finished. The six circular “canes” are made of bronze and copper. The whole piece was wrapped in copper. It was then topped with a bail that was made with a bit of “leftover” clay that was a mix of both metals worked together so you can’t distinguish them, yielding a bail that just looks slightly lighter than the rest of the edge.

Although I do like the effects one can get with canes, for some reason it’s never been a technique that held a lot of interest for me as a maker. Thinking about how it’s done can be kind of fun but, even during the time when I was happily exploring polymer clay (before I got hooked by metal clay), I just never felt compelled to make many of them myself. The approach we used for this was interesting (and will be described in Hadar’s next book); I enjoyed making this piece; and I’m sure I’ll try a few more out of curiosity … but I’m still not sure how much of a future this technique will have in my repertoire. Some, yes, but how much remains to be seen.

I did find the next step, however, creating mock mokume gane, to be much more fun and intriguing! Why, I’m not sure. Probably because I want canes to be exact and, done as we did in this workshop, they just never will be. But mokume gane is, by its nature, somewhat unpredictable (not entirely so, but somewhat), so it’s easier for me to “let go” and just see what happens. Plus, I find a certain intrinsic satisfaction in the way it comes out two-sided automatically. Both sides exhibit the effect, even though they are not identical.

I had a small amount of prepared clay left after making the hexagonal donut shape, so I smushed it into a little triangle shape with my fingers and added a bronze wire bail. The wire we had was, I thought, a somewhat small size for the bulkiness of the pieces we were making, so I made it into a double-loop to give this bail a bit more heft.

Oh, and both of these last two pieces shown here were made out of a three-metal combination: copper, bronze, and now also “pearl gray” steel.

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