Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bronze Metal Clay: Frustration, Design and Success!

I'm going to be honest - working with the bronze metal clay was frustrating! Right out of the packaging, you have to work and "wedge it" to get it to a consistency where you can make something from it. If you've worked with poly clay or with pmc, and/or ceramic clay, you'll be more familiar with this than I am.

Remember I told you I wasn't good at clay.

I tried to work it in my hands like in the videos available on YouTube. It was an absolute mess! I needed more moisture and adding distilled water and lavendar oil created mud in my hands. It was frustrating. But I stuck with it and eventually worked out a solution for me.

I put it between plastic wrap. Yup, that's it. I could feel it and keep the muddy mess in check. I did the final "wedging" in my palm. Once that trauma was over, I rolled it out and cut out some very basic shapes. I didn't want the first try to be anything too complicated.

So here are some of the basic shapes I rolled out and stamped. I mentioned my favorite tool yesterday when working with the bronze metal clay. In the picture above, the clay is at the "leather hard" stage and I'm learning how important this stage really is. The pieces above are pretty rough, unclean edges, backs - they need to be smoothed out. More about that later. Right now, I want to talk about the designs.

A couple of years ago, I went to a flea market where a vendor was selling vintage metal stamps used in newspaper ads. Many of them were very large and had "sale!" on them. I managed to find a couple small graphics without any type and bought them.

I knew they would be perfect to use with the metal clay. So away I went, stamping out a couple of pendant sized pieces. Not too many since this was a test run. The little nails holding the metal stamp to the wood block create small circles I didn't really pay attention to until after the pieces were fired. More about those later too.

Below is a leather hard (pre-fired) piece on the right and on the left is the fired pendant right from the kiln without any finishing or polishing. Bronze clay is supposed to shrink approximately 20%, so this gives you a good idea of what that looks like.

Here is the entire run right out of the kiln....

All of the pieces are pretty small and not over 5mm thick. I ran the basic recommended firing schedule and buried the pieces in the charcoal. I've got three glass kilns and I just put the stainless container on kiln posts. I wasn't really fazed by the firing schedule - it felt like glass fusing with the ramp and hold and slow cool down.

So everything came out intact. I expected failure after reading how so many other people would get broken pieces. Beginner's luck? Or is it because the pieces are very small?

I'm glad nothing fell apart and the metal sintered together fully. Will I continue working with the bronze metal clay?


If you're thinking about working with bronze metal clay, here are tips that worked for me:

1. Knead the clay in plastic wrap

2. Use up the entire lump of metal clay, don't store it.

3. Cut up an old shower curtain to use as the surface for rolling and working with the clay. You can write on it, oil it, whatever and you've recycled and re-used!

Stay tuned tomorrow - the bronze clay adventure isn't over yet! :-)


Just A Tish said...

These are fantastic!

TesoriTrovati said...

Wow! Super amazing results. I would love to do things with the metal clays but I am not set up for fire or kilns or the like. Maybe someday....I love the stamps you found. I discovered a whole rack of printers stamps at an antique store last weekend but I didn't buy any because I didn't know what I would do with them. But you have found the perfect use. Thanks for all your tips! Can't wait to see where you end up with this! Enjoy the day! Erin

Katie said...

Those are cute! They look much better than my first attempt with PMC...My husband took the class with me and put me to shame - he molded the clay into a shark tooth while I fumbled along at making something kinda pendant like and really ugly. I don't know if it's something that I would like to do again, but I can say that I've tried it...

Cindy Gimbrone said...

Thanks, Tish!

Cindy Gimbrone said...

Thank you, Erin!

Oh I wish I'd been with you last week when you were at the antiques store! I'd love to have more vintage stamps. They're so kitschy!

Thanks for commenting!

SummersStudio said...

Looking fab, Cindy! I have so many questions. So I'll definitely be back to see what you are up to. I've got a little studio time planned next week to work with the bronze clay and possibly copper.

rosebud101 said...

You really did a nice job, Cindy! Wow!

Cindy Gimbrone said...

Hi SummersStudio,

I don't think I wrote this tip but I'd suggest start small and flat. I know it's not exploiting everything the material can do but it's a good way to get a feel for the material and not have all your work go up in ashes!

Have fun playing! Share your results with us on your blog - come back and leave a comment and let me know how you did!


Cindy Gimbrone said...

Thanks, Mallory! It was more fun than I thought considering how I'm not good with clay! LOL!

belvedere beads said...

cannot wait to see these mixed with your lovely glass.

Lisa Crone said...

Hi there! I am in awe of your work. I just love that you share so much about the process and what you were thinking at the time. I agree with Belvedere Beads, I can't wait to see how you mix these with your gorgeous glasswork. Have a great Sunday!!