I’ve always wanted to dabble in metal clay. I have also always wanted a kiln to fire it in. Recently, the kiln fairy dropped into my life and dangled a brand new Evenheat Kingpin88 kiln – never fired – for half price. I couldn’t afford NOT to take advantage of this opportunity. I had the kiln for about a month and a half before I ever fired it. I guess you could say I was a bit intimidated by the whole thing – different firing temps, schedules, and scary electrical stuff. Okay, it’s a standard household plug in so that shouldn’t have scared me but I can be faint of heart sometimes. So I read, and I read some more and I researched, and I researched some more. I watched videos and read articles and digested – until I found myself forced to take a weekend off from my regular Palafox Market schedule when Jay went out of town and I was left with three kids. There’s not enough valium in the world for me to take a four year old, a seven year old and an 11 year old to the market with me and the luxury of a babysitter is rare indeed for us – So I decided to make it my weekend to brave the new frontier of metal clay. No more excuses!
For my first experiment with the kiln, I decided to do something simple and something a little more complex. I used PMC Plus fine silver metal clay and cork clay to make a hollow form heart bead using a Sherry Haab tutorial. I also made some simple molded pieces – tiny sand dollars, a seashell and a starfish. I imagine them being incorporated into a metalworked setting for one of my cloisonné beach scene jewels one day. Here’s a picture of the pieces in the kiln. You’ll have to forgive the poor photo quality as I was taking pics with my cell phone through the process for the sake of convenience.
And then, the adventure began! Time to ramp it up (<–look at me, using the 'lingo'). First, I had to stop and read the manual so I could figure out how to program the firing schedule in. I was sure the whole time that I'd screw something up, but I didn't! Never let fear stop you, acknowledge it and move past it anyway (even if it takes you a month and a half!). After all the right settings were entered I pushed the enter button for the final time, holding my breath, and the display began to show the temperature rising. Oh joy! I was on my way. It was very exciting! Because I was so excited I took a picture of it ramping up to temp.
And then, the moment of truth! Did they sinter properly? Did they overheat? Perish the thought! My efforts were met with reasonable success. The picture below shows the pieces I fired. When they emerge they have a pickle white residue on the outside. That’s pickle as in what silver looks like after it emerges from the acid used to remove the black firescale that develops when it’s torched, referred to as ‘pickle’ – not a kosher dill. 😉 To make the piece shiny again you have to brush it with a brass or steel brush. In the picture I left one sand dollar unbrushed, and the left side of the heart unbrushed so you could see the difference.
While the seam on the right side of the heart did fine, I ended up with a small hairline on the left side that looks like a crack, though it didn’t go all the way through. The good news is that this is an easy repair. All I have to do is fill the seam with more clay and refire it. The booger is that the chocolate diamond I set in the center of the heart clouded up in the firing, so it’s not as sparkly as I would have liked. There’s no fix for that to my knowledge.
But the fun didn’t end there. I also had some Fastfyre Bronze Clay to play with, and some great lazer printed rolling mill designs to work with. I imprinted a large peacock feather and two smaller ones for earrings. Here’s a picture of them drying before firing.
And here they are post firing and after a good brushing with the brass brush. You can see that the bronze has a nice golden color.
To make the metal even shinier, you can use a burnishing tool – which I did. I also added a bit of a patina to reveal the details of the delicate peacock feather. I really liked the bronze this way.
Eager to see the piece as finished jewelry, I just added a pearl bail and put it on a gold fill chain. I loved it – and it sold off of the facebook post I made. That was a gratifying feeling – to have sold one of my first pieces so quickly! Thanks for your support Jennifer!
I used the little molded ammonites to make the cutest pair of earrings. I REALLY liked these. Something about the turquoise and the bronze together really pleases my eye.
As soon as I got my molding compound I made some sea urchin molds and promptly turned them into simple necklaces as well. I love the sputnik sea urchin (with the dark pearl). Such an interesting pattern. I really wanted to do more with the sputnik – and may yet, but for now it’s a simple necklace.
Suffice it to say that I had great fun with my kiln and finally having conquered my fear I predict that this could be easily addictive as cloisonné enameling has been for me. If you follow my blog you’ve seen how THAT obsession consumed me. The adventure with metal clay has just begun. I’m sure to share more of the journey with you over the months to come.
I also want to remind you that my Rainy Day Sales ends at midnight on Monday. When you make a purchase in my Etsy jewelry shop DeliasStones today through Monday, you can use coupon code RAINYDAY to take 15% off of your total purchase. If you prefer to make your own jewelry, you can take 50% off of any tutorial purchase in my Tutorialshop through Monday as well using the same coupon code. I hope you take advantage of the sale. Have a great week ahead!