Monday, December 6, 2010

Bronz Clay Adventure and Why I had to jump.....................

Here is a Bronz Clay giant donut by me, paired with an Artisan Clay "Stone Age" bead. 

So I have been wanting to try bronz clay for a year now, but didn't think I should jump into another branch of the jewelry world right now.  It is hard for me to stay focused.  Everytime I just get my feet wet in one jewelry area, I leap into another.  I am still not sure if this is creative genius or adult ADD, either way, its what I do.  Well- I took a leap and bought some bronz clay and supplies.  There were two things that drove me to the conclusion that this was a good idea.  The fist being cost.  I LOVE designing in PMC.  I love using art beads in my jewelry designs.  However, the cost of silver continues to rise, and my customers cannot all afford my jewelry.  I understand there will always be people who can't, but it is very important to me that most people can afford my pieces.  I have all kinds of price ranges, but always try to keep costs as low as possible. It is always hard for me to raise prices when supplies go up, or when things involved more time.  If you are a fellow artist, you know we are probably all severely underpaid.  If you take into account all the time we spend designing, creating our show displays, the time it takes to prepared for and set up for shows, the time we spend there selling as well as the time it took to make our art.  The time we put into web design, and makeing our business cards, and shipping, and promoting....our hours DO NOT add up to what we bring in.............Thankfully we love what we do.  I am I don't mind at all, if that means some lucky lady can wear a piece of my jewelry that she otherwise couldn't afford.  It makes me happy.

Sorry- I am getting sidetracked...(must be that adult ADD!)
So- the other reason I HAD to finally get some bronz clay was because I really wanted to use more mixed metals.  I love the look of brass chain and copper components.  I love the rustic feel they have and the natural color that accentuates the gemtones I use.  So- if I make beads and components in bronz clay, then I must get some new chains and wires and copper sheet. 

This also led me to other things, like etching copper sheet with salt water and a battery and rivets- I will write about them in another blog. 

So- Bronz Clay is very different from PMC.  It is fired different, and it feels very different too.  I could only find one book on it here, and its a very basic book.  So I think there will be a lot of experimenting in my future.  All in all, I love it and think I could be very happy working in it.  It will not replace my silver, but I plan have another line of jewelry in the mixed metals as well as my silver stuff. 
I like that it feels less sticky than PMC, however, it is harder to get it to stick together too.  You have to mix your own paste and syringe since they don't sell that yet.  I had a lot of air bubbles show on the surface of my pieces after firing.  I did read to make sure the air bubbles were out, but wow, its hard.  Thankfully it looks planned with my organic components I made.  I think I will have to stay with my rough, organic components until I master this a little more.  Also- any crack or weak spot will crack in the kiln much more due to the shrinkage (I used the fast fire bronz clay, and that shrinks about 20%)

None of this is what I found the most challenging.  It was the finishing that blew my mind.  My book said you have to wash the surface after firing, so I brass brushed it and then I didn't like the color.  I was looking for a browner bronz, and that made it real brassy.  I think I should have just soaped it up with my hands and then shined up the high spots.  Anyway- I though I would use liver of sulphur to darken it again, but it didn't give me a dark dark color.  (I found out that jax will blacken it if thats what you want)  Liver of Sulphur did brown it a bit, and perhaps with time that would have done it, but it was not quite what I wanted.  Then- polishing the high spots was tough.  The entire piece had a texture to it, which I like, but it made it hard to really almost have to sand it away, with a fine grit paper.  Even that is hard, and I couldn't do it by hand, I had to use 1200 on a stick for the pressure.  I at no point tumbled it or burnished it.  I think it would give it a shiny gold like appearance, which isn't what I was going for.  I ended up using a dark brown acrylic paint to antique the surface.  I painted the entire surface with it, and then wiped it off with a wet cloth and left it dry for days.  This isn't really the method I plan to use, but this was my practice I tried it.  I do like how it looks though.
Here is another note- while I had the bronz peices soaking in L.O.S. I also added a copper piece that I wanted to darken.  The pieces of bronz that touched the copper are forever black where they met.  I am sure there is some way to fix that, but I don't know how yet.  So FYI- don't mix metals in the L.O.S. soak.

My last tip, is make sure you finish it in the dry- prefire stage as well as you can because it is a harder metal to file and finish after firing.  I could have sanded more and saved myself some work at the end.  When you are working in that pre-fired / dry stage, the piece is flexible, and can become mis-formed, so handle with care. 

All in all, its very cool and I will work in it again.  I hope to even launch a line of components to sell, using molds for some of my favorite pieces I make. 
If anyone has tips or links to more information on bronz clay- please leave a comment.  I think this is a fun new medium we can all share our trials and learn more about it.
Bumpy Bronz Donut by me.......


  1. You said -- Everytime I just get my feet wet in one jewelry area, I leap into another.

    That is exactly what I do.

    Plus, I rarely have the time to devote to trying new things. Sigh.

    I love both necklaces! Are you keeping them or selling them?

  2. @ Pretty things....yes- I keep jumping, though its been good and I think I am at the point where my jewelry is using all the different methods in my pieces. However, at times I really feel like it would be much more simple to pick a direction and master it. But I intend to master them all:) LOL!
    Yes they are for sale. The top one- large bronze donut with artisan clay bead is $70 and the one with turquoise is $65. Let me know if you are interested. The large donut does have black on the back and a little on the top of the donut where it met with copper in the LOS. I can't get it off. I don't think it distracts from the design at all, but I wanted to metion it.