Friday, July 25, 2008

Bronze Clay Excitement

The PMC Guild Conference was abuzz with excitement about BronzClay, now available from Rio Grande. Bill Struve, the creator, who was in my class with Louise Duhamel & Robert Dancik at Bead & Button, was the object of much adoration. Rio Grande gave all attendees free sample packs -- 30g. The commercial offerings come in 100g and 200g packs, at a substantially lower cost than silver clay.

The first seminar I attended was Bill Struve's. The technical testing for bronze clay looks to be quite intensive, as you might expect, requiring 273 iterations to get to its current incarnation. The main issue is to fire the bronze clay, 80% copper & 20% tin, without oxygen. This is accomplished by embedding the clay pieces in a surround of activated carbon to scavenge any oxygen before it reaches the clay. The charcoal is held in a covered stainless steel container, slowly ramped to 1550 and held there for 3 hours. Voila! Gorgeous golden bronze.

Even more exciting is the issue of patina. Depending on whether coal-based or coconut-based carbon is used, the patina differs. Some of the pieces I saw in person had gorgeous red and blue areas.

For some excellent examples of bronze clay work, check the following:
Celie Fago
Hadar Jacobson
Gail Lannum

I ordered supplies yesterday morning and Rio shipped yesterday evening, so I might get to play soon!