Thursday, March 15, 2012

Adding Texture to Precious Metal Clay

Precious metal clay, PMC, is a versatile medium to use for crafting.  In an earlier blog post, I gave a basic overview of metal clay along with some guidelines on getting started with it.  Now I am sharing a favorite attribute of this material - its ability to accept texture.

  Texture is defined as: "the characteristic visual and tactile quality of the surface of a work of art resulting from the way in which the materials are used."
Textured items are very appealing to me.  I love their depth, feel, and visual interest.  In a pmc beginner course, I was introduced to texture tiles.  These are flat rubber stamps.  The instructor helped me create a necklace by pressing these tiles into the metal clay; leaving an imprint.  I was hooked.  I wanted to make more jewelry and I wanted it to be original.

A purchased texture tile
 My enthusiasm led me to create my own texture tiles.  Four things are needed to do this:
  • an object with small, raised or imprinted details - items found around the house are good to start with
  • distilled water in a spray bottle
  • two ounces of polymer clay
  • toaster oven *
*Home ovens are not recommended.  Polymer clay releases low levels of non-toxic fumes while heating.  These fumes can leave a residue in the oven which would be re-released when baking food.  Check into getting a toaster oven that will be designated solely for polymer clay crafts.  I found a nice one for $15 at Goodwill.

Create a texture plate:
  1. Assemble the materials.  Pinch off 1/4 of the polymer clay.  Condition the clay until it is soft and pliable. 
  2. Roll the polymer clay out like dough, leaving it at least 1/8 of an inch in thickness.
  3. Spritz the surface of the clay with distilled water - this prevents your textured object from sticking to it.
  4. Press the texture into the clay and gently remove.
  5. Happy with the results? If not, squish the clay and repeat steps 2 through 4.
  6. Place the texture tile on a plain index card and bake in the preheated toaster oven at 275 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes.  When the time is up, turn off the oven and leave the clay inside until the oven is completely cool.  This strengthens the clay. 
A few of my homemade tiles

To inhibit the texture tile from sticking during use on metal clay, lightly apply a substance such as Cool Slip, olive oil, or Burt's Bees Natural Hand Salve to the surface before making an imprint.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is Precious Metal Clay?

An image of a stunning necklace followed by the caption "created with precious metal clay", set me on a path of exploration.  Precious metal clay? What is that? As a girl that grew up loving Play-Doh, then Model Magic as an adult,  I had to learn more.

Precious metal clay is a substance developed by Mitsubishi Materials of Japan in 1990.  PMC is microscopic silver or gold particles combined with water in an organic binder to form a material with qualities similar to modeling clay.  As with other soft clays, metal clay can be sculpted using hands or simple tools, shaped, molded, and given texture.

After a precious metal clay creation has air-dried, it is fired in a kiln or with a hand-held torch.  This burns away the binder leaving only the pure metal.  Depending on the type of metal clay used, some shrinkage will occur. 

Sounds amazing, right? A couple of things before you run out and buy it:

 * It is not cheap.  A 16 gram package (this is just over half an ounce) of silver PMC is around $37 and can fluctuate with the silver market.  As expected, gold metal clay is significantly higher.  Copper and Bronze metal clays are lower cost alternatives.


* It dries out very quickly.  You'll want to know what to expect and plan your design before opening the package.

I highly recommend enrolling in a beginner course before purchasing any materials.  I found a local certified instructor with whom I spent a Saturday; happily learning the basics.  A one-time class cost me around $75.  This included instruction time and all materials.  I left the workshop with my own necklace and a head full of ideas...that I am still building on.

Visit this gallery for a slideshow of designs by PMC artisans.  Fascinated? Search for a local class.

If you are already familiar with pmc, Cool Tools is a great resource.  The site includes an online learning center with videos, guides, and projects for beginners and beyond.  Cool Tools also offers the most competitive pricing I have found when  purchasing precious metal clay.