Monday, June 08, 2009

Bronze Clay Charm Bracelet at Bead and Button

I spent a total of 5 1/2 days playing with bronze clay at Bead and Button (there was a little silver clay thrown in there one day). I took two separate classes with Celie Fago, one of my favorite metal clay artists. The first class was a bronze and silver charm bracelet, an involved three day class.

Here's the class example bracelet, with twenty carved flat and round links and 18 different silver and bronze charms.

On the first day, we learned Celie's approach to conditioning bronze clay, cut out links and started carving. We assembled the bracelets and started working on bronze charms on the second day. For the final day, we switched to silver clay for a few accent charms and learned about assembly and finishing.

Here's my bracelet after the first firing. Some of the links opened up, so I added more clay and Celie managed to squeeze the bracelet into another firing later in the week.

After the second firing, there are still a couple of less than satisfactory links.

My bronze charms came out of the kiln looking sickly, like tan plastic. Two of the jump ring attachments quickly snapped, another clue that there was a problem. I was able to easily snap one of those in half, indicating that the clay had not fused properly. These need to be refired at home. Probably the problem was that they were strung on wire (there were a LOT of charms in a class of 25) and not separated sufficiently in the carbon. The feather was made from a polymer clay texture plate carving I did in class. For the bird, I made a two part mold of a simple glass bird bead I made before class, then I carved out more details.

The silver charms were easy to deal with after the bronze trials. I had fun making simple sculptural charms.

Guess you probably noticed I approached the charms with the theme of BIRD. I've got a feather, egg, birdhouse, nest with eggs, and several types of birds.

My biggest take home lessons from this class were:
1) I LOVE carving, both sculptural and surface design.
2) I prefer Celie's method of conditioning the clay and minimizing dust.
3) Bronze is lovely but still a bit of a mystery.