By Sandra Elizabeth York
There seems to be a prevalent negative view of Precious Metal Clays, which I believe is undeserved. I have spoken to people who have been turned off by broken pieces, who believe that it is not real silver, and who believe that using Metal Clays is considered cheating. This is not the case.
Silver Metal Clay was originally developed by Mitsubishi, the car manufacturer, after they found that they were collecting a large amount of recycled silver, mostly from the film industry. They developed a way to break the silver down into a fine powder, to which they added water and a binding agent that would burn off in high heat. Like any new product, their original formula had issues. Since then, they have developed two other, more advanced lines of Silver Metal Clay.
There are some necessary handling considerations when you’re dealing with Metal Clay. It is very possible to get a bad result if you do not work the clay properly. It is important to keep in mind that you can’t approach Metal Clay in the same way that you approach Polymer, Porcelain or any other type of Clay. You may find people who advise you to torch fire your metal clay pieces. This seems to be a widespread practice, but, in my opinion, it can easily lead to fragile pieces as heat is not consistently applied. If the piece has any thickness, the center remains brittle. I always recommend using a kiln whenever possible, because kiln-fired pieces are more robust. A portion of my certification as a Metal Clay instructor involved torch-firing a ring, and that piece broke on me on two separate occasions (the second time was after my Instructor torch fired my ring). After the second time, I repaired it again and put it through the kiln. The same ring has since been dropped several times and survived.
As for those who believe it is cheating to use metal clays, I think it is important to embrace any new tools we have in the interest of simplifying the creation of our arts. We have, since farther back than the Egyptians, continued to innovate in both our production methods and the art itself, and I am of the opinion that metal clay is an extremely useful tool to those who take interest in it. Not only does it provide industry veterans with a new way to produce, it also offers hobbyists the opportunity to venture into a new medium, and that serves to benefit everyone.
In conclusion, Metal Clay is a wonderful medium that, with proper training, anyone can use to create with, and produce valuable keepsakes. It is a pliable product that is capable of producing some wonderful textures, to use in experimenting with new techniques, and is easily formed to produce 3-Dementional items.
Sandra Elizabeth York is a Certified Metal Clay Instructor and you will find her behind the Rusty’s Gems booth at most of the Lower Mainland Rock & Gem Shows. You are welcome to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org