Convergent Series

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

Silver Metal Clay “leftovers” — Components

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/09/12

The first metal clay I ever heard about was Art Clay Silver (from Aida Chemical Industries) but the first one I ever got my hands on to try was PMC (from Mitsubishi Industries). Over the years, I’ve made pieces from both brands and, in fact, just about every product available in both lines.

There are things I like more and less about each one, though I’m not planning to go into details of the (mostly relatively minor) differences right now. For the moment at least, I will say simply that, when I’m starting a new project, I pick whichever clay seems most appropriate to me at the moment.

But when you work with metal clay, and you’re rolling and trimming, taking a little bit off here and adding some more there, you generally want to have some extra clay on hand. And what is one to do with that when the project at hand is complete?! You can just mist and knead it to be sure it’s still in a workable state, seal it away appropriately, and use it in your next project. But, there are other possibilities to consider! The ones I’ll discuss in this post are useful in many situations, but they are my absolute favorites when I think it may be a while before I will find time to work with my clay again.

If I have just a little bit of that clay left over, often I will take a moment to form what’s left into some little element that I can use in another piece later on (e.g., bail elements, toggle bars, washer- or loop-shapes, some little decoration which could be anything from a few tiny flower petals or a butterfly body to even just a few small balls, etc.). Or I may use it to add a new embellishment to a piece that’s sitting there in the dried (“greenware”) state, waiting for some final element in its design before I consider it complete.

Magic Carpet (striped frame side)Other times I may mix in some glycerin, which prevents it from ever really drying out. That means it will remain flexible in its near-dry “greenware” state, which allows me to weave, twist, and knot it in that state. (Information on how to do this is contained in Hadar Jacobson’s first book, The Handbook of Metal Clay: Textures and Forms. This does seem to work better with PMC+ or PMC3 than any of the others from PMC or from Art Clay.) I’ll then shape it into a long rope or roll it into a little textured sheet—sort of like making my own metal clay “paper” except that mine is now textured! Once the rope or sheet has “dried” I can work with those pieces without smushing their texture or leaving fingerprints everywhere!

Will all of the above approaches, you can see that I let these new elements dry, and then set them aside for later use. I like that approach for several reasons: it is very convenient later on to have this little stash of pieces from which I can just pick one up and use it to complete a piece, and silver metal clay keeps just fine in this “greenware” state (unlike lump clay, which needs to be kept both moist and protected from mold, neither of which are problems with “dry” clay). I do try to keep track of which elements were made from which clay, of course, so that I know what are their firing temperature limitations or shrinkage rates. I’ll talk a bit more about those in my next post.

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