Monday, March 24, 2008

More Art Clay Silver, and a Little Venting

Before I get into the meat of this post, may I just vent for a moment about how irritating the blogger login process is?

First of all, I carefully copy and paste my e-mail address in, because if I type it in, blogger ALWAYS rejects it as invalid.

Then I carefully type in my password, and without fail, blogger tells me it is invalid, and makes me type it again. I mean, every time, every single time. They do the same thing to Bailey. What is the deal?

But this is my favorite: Then I get the error page, that tells me this:
"Your browser's cookie functionality is disabled. Please enable JavaScript and cookies in order to use Blogger."
Which of course is complete horseshit, because my cookies ARE enabled, and then I have to go to my favorites and click back to my blog page, and now I am logged in. Blogger login sucks.

OK, I'm done.

I've taken a lot of classes since the last time I posted, so here is the scoop:

I told you I was going to take a few more Art Clay Silver classes, and I have.
A couple of weeks ago, I took Enameling on Art Clay Silver. Our class projects were a pendant and a pair of earrings. In this picture, the organic binder in my pendant burns off in the kiln.

This picture shows everyone's projects firing in the kiln. This stage takes 8 to 10 minutes. Once the pieces have fired, we will sand them, and then apply the enamel. Did you know that enamel is glass? I didn't, until this class, that is!

Yep, the enamel is actually fine particles of glass that we fuse to the metal.

This is my pendant, after it fired. I had just finished brushing it with this wire brush, so all the silver molecules are now "standing at attention." Prior to brushing, it looked like a piece of pottery.

Here are both projects, right before I started applying the enamel.

They are sitting on the different sanding cloths used to smooth them.

There are 2 different ways to apply the enamel. (That's why we had 2 class projects!) One way is called sifting, and that is how we enameled the earrings. Fine, dry particles of glass frit are placed in a very small sifter, and sprinkled over the pieces, just like sifting powdered sugar over a cookie.

The other enameling method is called Wet-Pack, and I forgot to take a picture of it. In this technique, the fine glass frit is mixed with a small amount of distilled water to make a slurry, which is then applied with a very small paint brush to your piece. This technique gives you more control over where your color ends up. Whichever technique you use, the piece is fired in the kiln again, to fuse the enamel to the silver.

I used the Wet-Pack technique on my pendant, so in this picture of my finished projects, you can see that the color is applied just in the swirl design on the pendant. Where I sifted enamel onto the earrings, I got a more widespread color effect.

These techniques can be combined, but that's too advanced for me!
This past Saturday I took an Advanced Art Clay Silver Class, where the project was a pendant with a bezel-set cabochon.

Initial prep of the clay is the same as with other Art Clay Silver Projects, but preparing the bezel is tedious, and must be done first (so your clay doesn't dry out). The bezel is formed from 28-gauge fine silver, and must be measured to fit the cabochon fairly precisely. Silver oil paste is used to "glue" the bezel's seam together temporarily.

Once the bezel is done, the clay is prepared, and the bezel is pressed into the clay. The pendant is dried prior to firing - the clay can be allowed to dry overnight, or drying can be sped up by using a mug warmer.

Once the piece is dry, it goes into the kiln. Here is a shot of the organic binder in my pendant burning off - that is my favorite part!

After firing, the stone is placed into the pendant, and then the fun begins (not really). The next step is bezel rolling, and this was my least favorite part. The bezel must be carefully fit to the stone in order to hold the stone in place, and this step requires 2 tools and a lot of hand and finger/thumb strength. I do NOT have a lot of strength in my hands, and this step was very difficult and painful for me.

Starting at the bottom of the bezel, a bezel-roller is pressed all around the stone to snug the stone in place. This is repeated at the top of the bezel. Then, a curved metal burnisher is used to roll the top of the bezel over the stone to really hold it in place and give it a nice finished look. This was absolutely a nightmare for my hands and thumbs.

We then painted diluted liver of sulfate on the Art Clay Silver, to give an oxidized look to the pendant. We painted, rather than dipping the pendant in the liver of sulfate, because you don't want to get the liver of sulfate on the bezel or on your stone. Following the liver of sulfate, the piece is polished.

This picture shows my pendant after the liver of sulfate but before polishing.

This is my finished pendant, after polishing.

And that's it for Art Clay Silver today!

I started this post over 3 hours ago. I had the (usual) technical problems logging in, and the (usual) issues with picture uploading - I don't know why the pics can't just load where you want them to, instead of loading at the top of the page, and having to be dragged. Good grief. And one backspace too many, and you delete a photo, and have to upload it again, which I only had to do FIVE times today. Then, Blogger crashed in the middle of my post, and was down for 20 minutes. All this whining is to get to this: poor, long-suffering, patient Bailey has been sitting beside me for an hour and a half, begging to go outside. He alternately gets up and growls, noses my left hand, and then sits back down in the exact same position, then starts all over again in 2 or 3 minutes. And I kept thinking I would be finished ANY minute, so I made him wait. Bad Mom! I don't feel too guilty, though, because I finally gave in about 10 minutes ago, and, as I suspected, all he wanted was to go bark at the workers next door again. He can be very manipulative!


Karma by Morgan said...

your art clay pieces are looking fabulous!!! I am hoping to get certified this spring (level 1 - woohoo) I love making pendants, rings, and toggles. I have some pieces on my etsy site you might like to check out just to take a lil lookie.

i enjoy your blog and love that you take classes. good luck!

Sweet Freedom said...

Thank you so much! I love classes, but am still not sure if I love Art Clay. I have a silver paste class in a couple of weeks - we'll be doing a leaf.
I'll have to check out your shop!
Thanks for stopping by!

brandi said...

I am working with art clay silver and have a question.....I notice that the silver is weak and if pressure is applied the piece will break fairly easy. Is anyone having these problems? or am I just under firing the pieces?

thank you so much.

Sweet Freedom said...

Hi brandi!
There was a girl in my intro class whose piece kept breaking - she had chosen a palmetto tree, and it kept breaking where the trunk met the bushy part of the tree, and the teacher felt the clay was just too thin there when she rolled it out. She finally gave up and chose a new piece, and had no futher trouble.

When I took silver paste, my geranium leaf broke, and the teacher felt it was again due to the silver paste being a little too thin. I had done 2 leaves that class, and had gone way over my silver paste allotment on my gingko leaf, so I didn't have enough to devote to my geranium leaf, so we skimped on it, so this really seems to be the logical assumption. If you a firing at 1600 degrees for at least 8 minutes, or for at least 2 minutes in a torch, you are firing adequately, and I would be more prone to blame the thickness of your clay prior to firing, because this is what determines the final thickness of your silver.

Just my best guess, though. Good luck!

Nadine said...


The logging error happens with my partner as well, we ignore it and try logging in again and that usually works. But yeah, it's total crap because everything is in working condition.

I'd love to take a course in Silver Clay but it's really expensive in South Africa and the teachers are not so great. I taught myself and that works but I know I miss out on special techniques.

Anywho, your work is looking great. I'm busy designing a ring :-). I love leaf in silver, the result is amazing.

Brandi - the strength of the piece does depend on the thickness, it has to be a min of 2cm. Hope that helps.

Sweet Freedom said...

Hi Nadine - thanks for your comments - I'm sorry your classes are too expensive there! At our shop, the classes are $65 USD, and that includes all materials. And the teacher rocks!

I'm wondering though, surely you must mean 2 mm for the thickness - not 2 cm? I've never had anything but that geranium leaf break, and none of my are over 2-3 mm thick!