Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hand Drawn Templates for Precious Metal Clay

If you are new to precious metal clay, read my earlier post here for an overview.

Transferring hand drawn images to precious metal clay is a fun way to enhance creations.  The process is quite similar to making texture templates but allows more personalization of the artists' work.

The materials needed to make a hand drawn template are:
  • two ounces of polymer clay
  • wooden stylus
  • clay shaper tool, firm with tapered end
  • toaster oven *
* It is best to designate a small toaster oven exclusively for use with polymer clay projects. Do not use a traditional home oven.  Polymer clay emits low-level fumes while heating.  Though non-toxic, the fumes would be re-released when baking food.

The Process
  1. Take 1/4 of the polymer clay and condition until flexible.  A good tutorial for conditioning clay can be found here.
  2. Roll the clay out on a non-stick surface.  1/8 inch thickness is good to begin with.
  3. Carefully draw your image onto the soft clay with a wooden stylus.   Press lightly.  As you add more, retrace the existing lines keeping the image depth even throughout.  The shaper tool aids in "erasing" and smoothing edges.  My drawings average between 1 and 1.5 inches in height.  This is large enough to add details.  The final product on precious metal clay will be slightly smaller after firing the piece.
  4. If you are not happy with the results, fold the clay into a ball and start over from step 1.
  5. When finished, place the drawn template onto a plain index card and bake in the preheated toaster oven at 275 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes. 
  6. Turn off the oven and allow the clay to remain inside while the device cools completely.

The drawn template is now ready to use.  Practice on a softened piece of polymer clay.  Spritz with distilled water before testing so that the clay will not stick.  

Lightly apply a product such as Cool Slip or olive oil to precious metal clay prior to using the template.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jewelry Design Inspiration

The inspiration behind the jewelry I create emerges in several ways.  A topic may spark an extensive drawing session.  This leaves me with ideas to make immediately, or alternatively, can give me more to build on.  Other concepts come about by playing with materials.  This is my favorite way to create.  Trying new and unexpected ideas with materials is fun.  I gain knowledge by doing this and improve my skills, even if the attempts are not successful.

Let me dissect the design process behind this pair of earrings I recently finished.  The inspiration came from one of my tools. 

I love the style of these dividers.  I bought the tool new, but it feels like an item that could have been used 60 years ago.  They appear sturdy and industrial.  I like the angles of the legs.  As a fan of texture, I appreciate the bumpiness of the buttons and handle.  Everything about them is very functional.

Considerable amounts of thought and sketching brought about this creation.

I created two buttons from precious metal clay and added texture to the sides.  Next, I balled the end of sterling silver wire to represent the knob from the dividers.  

The vintage copper bead corresponds to the thickness along side the divider's button.  I liked the appearance of the copper under rather than over the button in my design.

The flared triangle earring shape symbolizes the legs of the divider.  It is cut from sterling silver sheet.

I wanted to cover the piece with texture.  Hammering steel letters from a stamping set onto the silver would give the desired effect.  Did I want straight lines or an X shape? Practicing on a small piece of copper first (much more affordable than sterling silver) allowed me to see which pattern I preferred.  

Two holes were drilled into the triangle for attaching the balled wire and an earwire.  I hammered one end of each wire to flatten and appear more durable.  Rounding the hammered ends slightly with a file provides a finished look.  The wires were given loops and added to the triangle.  I squeezed them and gave a slight flare; functional because it prevents the wires from slipping off and it looks nice.  The earwire was formed by shaping around a pen.

The entire piece was given a patina.  I love the results on metal.  Tiny details and imperfections stand out to give the jewelry more character.

Where do you find inspiration? Share your ideas and methods!