Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Silver Clay -- Learning On The Job

Though I haven't posted here in a couple of week, I have to tell you that I've been extremely busy. Craft show applications have been arriving and a couple are due in February. As I want to have some fantastic pictures of fantastic pieces of jewelry, I've been hard at work making new silver clay designs.

If you look online at any of the handmade venues you will see lots of people making jewelry from silver clay. Mostly, however, these pieces are small and stamped or a bit larger set with fused or dichroic glass. Silver clay is very expensive so the more you can make from one pad of clay, the better.Going against what's practical and the cost effective, I've chosen to create a few pieces in a style similar to Art Deco. I like the geometric lines and simplicity of that style. I like to layer smooth shiny parts and textured oxidized pieces. This means more clay and a higher price. I also have been working for weeks on a hinged bracelet. Having only taken basic classes in silver clay, I'm really learning as I go. Layering means sanding & waiting for each piece to dry before "gluing" on the next one with a bit of silver paste. So I've actually lost count of the number of hours I've spent on this piece not to mention the amount of clay it has required.

I am well aware of why people make smaller, less elaborate pieces of jewelry with this relatively new product. I also found that while I like the look of faceted stones set into the silver, the flat-bottomed cabochons are a lot easier to set as they are shallower. The glass many people use instead of gemstones can be set into wet clay and fired in the kiln. The druzy pieces I've used need to be set afterward.

Not all of my ideas have been successful. While the bracelet and purple druzy pendant worked, I won't be selling a black druzy pendant with pearls that I also made. The bezel setting was problematic as the clay shrunk around it in the kiln. The final outcome looks messy and is not up to my standard. So I'll be wearing that one.

Getting great color when oxidizing has been pretty much hit or miss. I've tried various amounts of liver of sulfur, water, and ammonia getting different results each time. The consistency of the clay also seems to matter. Once fired, new, fresh clay turns a nice color and keeps it while clay that has been worked too much absorbs the chemicals and quickly turns black.

I have made great strides, however, in reconstituting dried clay. Sometimes the greenware breaks and is beyond repair. Sometimes bits and pieces dry out. There's also all the dust from sanding. I've gotten pretty good at turning it back into workable clay. Less waste. But this is the clay that doesn't bend or oxidize well so I have to remember to use it for flat pieces that will remain shiny.

The weeks since Christmas have been productive and educational. Now I just have to hope that people like my designs well enough to wear them.


  1. Hi Jan, Take a look at these PMC artist wares (for inspiration): http://www.etsy.com/shop/lulubugjewelry

  2. I've long been an admirer of Lizardsjewelry. She does incredible work combining silver with polymer clay. Lulubug is new to me and I love her owl in a tree. Thanks for the website.