Saturday, February 18, 2012

Metal Clay Artists are Setting Trends!

In the worlds of fashion and art, it is sometimes impossible to tell who inspired whom, or who is copying whom! The fashion industry has very little copyright protection. This forces fashion designers to constantly innovate and make their pieces unique and hard to replicate, or to build their brands so that even if knock-offs are available for less, their target markets will stay loyal.

Although I'm a blue jeans and hoodie kind of girl, I find it really interesting to watch the trends . For example, feather jewelry and hair adornments are not new, yet feather accessories have definitely had a recent upswing in popularity. Why? Most likely celebrities like Steven Tyler had something to do with it.
Personally, I find his rings to be way more interesting than his feathers, but I digress. 

So how does this relate to metal clay artists? Well, TierraCast®, an American manufacturer of pewter jewelry components, recently released a new line of buttons featuring leaf and shell patterns. 

If I didn't know better, I would have thought these were handmade from metal clay. Leaves were one of the first textures I wanted to impress into my metal clay. I'm not alone - pretty much every beginner's metal clay book features a leaf project! Handmade metal clay components featuring organic shapes and patterns are widely available and very popular on sites such as Etsy. This represents real income for real people, so while a part of me is sad to see "mainstream" industry capitalize on their efforts, another part of me must say:

Congratulations metal clay artists! While you might not agree that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you must admit that metal clay is having a direct impact on jewelry trends. It is a milestone worth noting!

~ Cindy Morris, gogoshebogo design

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Metal Clay Design Competition

Start your year by challenging yourself and enter this wonderful competition organized by Metal Clay Artist Magazine and sponsored by USA-based PMC Connection.
The theme for the competition is "Metal Clay Plus...." You can use any type of metal clay and another non-metal material to create your piece. This can be a great opportunity to start experimenting and playing with materials that you may have not use before.

Design requirements:
Metal clay needs to be feature prominently in the design. You can use one or more non-metal materials like resin, glass, polymer clay, enamel, cement, paperclay, fabric, found objects, etc.

©2011 Lorena Angulo
FastFire Bronzclay, Creative paperclay cabochon
with colored pencils.

Judging Criteria:
Pieces will be judged based on their workmanship, originality, presentation, creativity and effective use of materials.
Artist may enter up to 3 pieces.

Any independent artist who neither is employed by a metal clay manufacturer nor is a staff member at either PMC Connection or Metal Clay Artist Magazine may enter his or her work into the contest.

All designs entered in this competition must be original. Winning pieces from other competitions are not eligible to be entered. Each entry must be accompanied by a description of the design, inspiration, construction technique and materials used.

Images must be .jpg labeled
 using the following format:
Artist Name_Name of piece(optional)_brief description_country.jpg
(example, Jessica Wong_Morning Mist_PMC Pearl Bracelet_Japan.jpg).

Image dimensions:  minimum 4" x 6"
resolution: minimum 300 dpi

Send photos to

with the subject line "MCAM Design Competition"

1st Price $300 gift certificate from PMC Connection
2nd Price $200 gift certificate from PMC Connection
3rd Price $100 gift certificate from PMC Connection

Winning pieces will be feature in a PMC Connection ad and an article in MCAM.

Entry Deadline:
Pieces must be submitted by 11:59 Eastern Time on February 29th, 2012.

Winners will be determined by a panel of jurors

Availability of winning entries:
Winning entries will be showcased in Metal Clay Artist Magazine and must be available to be photographed professionally (if necessary).

You still have time to make something and share your creativity with us !


Firing pans for base metal clays: how to choose!

Hi bloglandia! I'm Cindy, and I'm a (base) metal clay addict. I have my firing system pretty well worked out these days. It wasn't always like this, though. I remember being very unsure about how to fire bronze and copper. I did a lot of homework, but it much of the information available seemed contradictory. Book learning could only take me so far - I had to test the methods myself!

Since base metal clays need to be fired in activated carbon, you need a container to hold the carbon in. But what kind is best? Many of you probably thought you'd never have to worry about this, since you work in silver. However, now that sterling silver clay is becoming popular, you very well might need a firing vessel!

I can't claim to be an expert, but I can share what I've learned from direct experience using all the popular firing vessels - ceramic, fiberboard, fiber blanket and stainless steel. Here are what I believe are the pros and cons of each. If you've had different experiences, please leave a comment below so we can all learn together!

Ceramic firing vessels
Pros - durable, available in variety of sizes, won't "contaminate" the kiln (more on this later), can be used with a lid or without, transmits heat well.
Cons - susceptible to thermal shock, relatively expensive.

Fiberboard firing vessels
Pros -  won't "contaminate" the kiln (more on this later), can be used with a lid or without, transmits heat well. Thermal shock isn't a concern.
Cons - not as durable, deteriorates after a few firings. Last I checked, was only available in a pretty small size.

Fiber blanket firing vessels
(For this method, you pin a piece of fiber blanket together with steel t-pins to form a firing box.)
Pros - relatively inexpensive, transmits heat well.
Cons - difficult to find materials, requires construction, flimsy, can be difficult to get in/out of kiln, can't withstand the recommended firing schedules for all brands of clay (I had one disintegrate entirely after a single BRONZclay firing - but the pieces sintered just fine at least!)

Stainless steel firing vessels
Pros - durable, cheap, can be used on a camp stove or gas burner to burn out the clay binder.
Cons - relatively poor conductor of heat, might leave kiln dirty.

Here is where the issue of kiln "contamination" comes in. Some stainless steel containers (in my experience, all of the square steel firing boxes - which are actually restaurant food pans, if you want to source them cheaper! - and most stainless steel mixing bowls) will turn black during firing. Black flakes and dust fall off the pan/bowl into the kiln.
My kiln is right next to my Shop-Vac in the basement, so this isn't much of a concern for me. Five seconds of vacuuming and the dust is gone. I put contamination in quotes because the dust is just that - dust. It is easy to clean up and is not ruining your kiln. However it is possible to avoid the dirty part. It seems that there are different grades of steel and some of these don't flake off during firing. Every steel bowl that I have purchased from thrift stores has not flaked, yet every one that I've purchased new has. Go figure.

For the past few months I've used the faster-firing schedule Hadar Jacobson shared on her blog. It really does work with all brands of clay (or at least all the brands I've tried!). This firing schedule is two-phase, with the first phase completed on a gas stove. For this reason, I now only use stainless steel firing boxes and bowls. For awhile I used the lid from my fiberboard box as a lid on the steel bowl, but then I discovered that a aluminum foil pie plate with a few holes punched in it worked just as well (for the gas-stove step only - don't use aluminum in your kiln!). The photo above is my Pocket Rocket stove with a bowl full of metal clay creations hiding under that lid - and my supervisor Indigo in the background.

So there you have it - many options for firing your metal clay creations in carbon! My advice is to keep is simple and use a stainless steel bowl. More money for clay that way! Enjoy your weekend all! ~ Cindy Morris, gogoshebogo design
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