Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Merry-go-round

It's time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's question that myself and 7 other women will answer is - in line with it being Halloween - "What is the scariest part of your art/craft?"
That's easy for me! The scariest part is the firing of my metal clay in the kiln.

The process of my creations is that I take metal clay and form it into the shape I want by sculpting, cutting, texturing etc. I then let it dry and refine it and add parts and sand it etc etc. By this stage, I've spent quite a lot of time on it and have figured out how it will hang... how it will move.... etc etc.

Then I need to fire it in the kiln for 2 hours at 1650 degrees Farenheit. During the firing, the binder that makes it clay-like burns away and the metal sinters together to form the fine silver or bronze. As the binder burns, the piece shrinks - from 18% to 30 % depending on which clay I am using. I normally use the 30% shrinkage clay, as it's nicer to sculpt.

As it shrinks, it can also collapse if not supported correctly, it can also patina if the patina gods are shining down on the kiln that day, it can also warp, the joints can come apart as it moves in the shrinking........

With the silver, I have done enough so that I now can predict pretty successfully what will happen and how I need to support things etc. But when I started out, this wasn't always the case and I had a couple of collapses...

With new products however - like the bronze clay and copper clay that I am experimenting with - things are much less predictable. As they are both new - especially the copper, I don't think we have done enough testing yet to be sure of the best firing schedule to produce reproducible results, so it is always a gamble.

This post is most timely, as I have just spent this week working with the bronze and copper and my fears were realized!!! I spent alot of time and energy and the firings weren't totally successful. Some pieces in the kiln came out fine, while others didn't sinter.

But one piece of bronze I did came out with the most beautiful of patinas.... And the other pieces that worked look great and I have enough of the copper and bronze and silver to make the bracelet I had planned.

There are additional issues with the bronze and copper as they have to be fired without oxygen - so buried in charcoal. The formulations are still being refined and until such time as things are consistent with each firing - the firing will be scary and I will open the cooled kiln with trepidation.....

But - with my background of experimenting as a scientist - I do have to say that I enjoy it. Scary - but a good challenge too!

Happy Halloween - hope the scary things in your life can be seen as just a challenge!

Here are the links to read the other artists' blogs and find out about their fears:

And remember - we all enjoy getting comments!


Marian said...

Must be frustrating when you put a lot of work in a piece and then in the firing, it goes wrong. I've had that happening with some ceramic pieces...time and money firing and glazing and then in the last time it goes into the ove, it breaks... horrible.

THose pieces with the leaf and the neckjlace with the different metals... are just gorgeous!!!! beautiful! congrats!

Easterya said...

How enlightning! Now I link you as a scientist with you an an artist! Never realised that PMC was such a precise science! Your bronze leaf earrings are GORGEOUS!

'fancypicnic' said...

Gosh, Ruth - such precision involved!
I couldn't bear the wait - to see it come out of the kiln - did it fare well, did it collapse....I'm an 'immediate result' sort of person, that's for sure!
Your work is beautiful, and I love the patina on the new pieces. Lovely to have seen you on the FP at Etsy.

Sara's Texture Crafts said...

I love to experiment too, it's the best bit... not sure I would have the patience to try out your kiln though! Still that bronze and copper looks like it's going to be wonderful once you have figured out the finer details.

I'm crossing my fingers for your next experiments... and envy you the fun!

Half an Acre said...

hmmm - technical query here! why do I fire my pmc for 10 mins at 900degrees and you do yours for 2hours much hotter? are you using the same pmc as me?

Lily Pang said...

Wow, it is really scary to me to see something in 1650F. I don't know if I will faint.

But it's fun to read how you make things. It makes us more appreciate of your jewelries.

Great post!

BTW, my daughter loves the singing bird!

meherio68 said...

Sounds like an gripping challenge indeed. Also definitely worth it for whoever will get these lovely, lovely earrings...

Ruth said...

Thanks for the comments. It's been so interesting to read others posts too and hear about their challenges and get to know each other better. Glad we did it!

Marissa said...

I love your metal clay jewelry. I am a PMC/ACS instructor in the Boston area. Your sculpting is gorgeous and very detailed. I can understand/ respect the amount of time you put into each piece. I love the new bracelet with the PMC, Bronzclay, and copper clay. Where did you get the copper clay from, Hadar?

Keep up the amazing work.

Ruth said...

Thanks for your comment Marissa. Yes, I got the copper clay from Hadar! Off to check you blog.