Saturday, May 14, 2011

Expand your creative repertoire to conserve metal clay

The hottest topic of conversation among metal clay artists these days is the rising cost of precious metals and the financial and artistic challenges it creates. Our readers tell us that their biggest challenge lately has been finding ways to save on materials costs without inhibiting their creativity or diminishing their work.

This situation isn’t likely to change any time in the foreseeable future, and Jeannette, Carl and I have spent a lot of time thinking about the best ways to help metal clay artists meet this challenge.

The Clay Convergence column by Lisa Pavelka has been part Metal Clay Artist Magazine from the very beginning and focuses on mixed-media techniques with metal clay. In her column in the current issue called “Remains of the Day,” Lisa shares her favorite ways to use small amounts of leftover metal clay to make striking embellishments for polymer and other pieces (including metal clay pieces).

Our next issue of MCAM will include wonderful advice from Linda Stiles Smith about ways to reduce spending in the studio. She’ll address everything from ways to reclaim clay bits and metal dust from unexpected sources to ways to reduce studio energy costs.

We also are planning to publish more projects that show sophisticated and unusual ways of combining polymer clay and other media with metal clay. And one of our upcoming issues will be devoted specifically to polymer clay techniques that can be used in combination with metal clays.

Anyone who is concerned that using polymer clay in their work will diminish either its artistic or monetary value has only to look at the work of renowned polymer and metal clay artist Celie Fago. Celie was a polymer artist long before metal clay was invented. She has pioneered many innovative polymer techniques over the course of the past two or three decades, and is one of the first artists to combine polymer and metal clays in her work. Far from diminishing her metal clay work, her elegant and sophisticated polymer techniques only enhance it.

She recently wrote a blog post about how the skyrocketing cost of silver has made her re-think her use of both metal and polymer clays. She is experimenting with ways to adapt some of her silver and bronze designs to polymer and other less expensive materials, letting those materials do the “heavy lifting,” as she put it, and using silver metal clay for precious embellishments that take the work to the next level. A great example is her signature Ouroboros carved snake toggle clasp, which she has been making for years in silver and bronze metal clay. Recently she tried making some of these distinctive toggle clasps from carved polymer with silver clay embellishments. The look is different from the all-metal clasps, but no less beautiful or artistic. In fact in some ways they are even more interesting.

I’m looking forward to attending Celie’s upcoming class, PMC Pendant With New Polymer Inlay Techniques, on June 9-12 in preparation for an article that will be in our special polymer issue next Spring.

By the way, for those of you who are interested in learning some of Celie's amazing polymer techniques, you're in luck! Her classes usually fill up as soon as they are announced, but a couple of spots have opened up in the polymer inlay class that I will be attending, as well as in her Hinges for PMC: New and Advanced Techniques class on June 21-24 that I have taken previously (and that Jeannette is hoping to be able to go to if she can juggle her schedule sufficiently). If you're interested in taking advantage of one of the openings in either of these 4-day classes, I recommend contacting Celie ASAP at to try to reserve one of those open spots.

Do you have any interesting ways of reducing your costs by combining metal clay with other materials? Please share them by commenting below and/or by posting them on the MCAM Facebook page.

Thanks and happy claying!
~ Margaret

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