Sunday, July 11, 2010

Copper Clay

We offered a class on working with copper clay at the shop yesterday; we offer Art Clay Silver classes all the time - an introductory one, and lots of advanced one, but this is our first foray into Copper Clay.

Same instructor (Angela Foreman), who is a fantastic, patient teacher.

Copper Clay has a few basic, but strategic differences from Art Clay Silver, so I am glad I took the class. I had bought all the materials ahead of time, and toyed with the idea of just starting to play with it on my own, but I am definitely glad I didn't.

We started by learning how to make molds for the shape you want your piece to take; this was fascinating, and so easy!

You can make molds from so many things - sea shells (mine is from a real scallop shell), buttons (and you can find some new or antique buttons with terrific shapes and textures for the Art Clay process), beads, and so many other objects. And the molds work for any of the Art Clays - Silver, Copper, Bronze, Glass (glass clay is brand new!).

After we made our molds, we started working the clay, and then pressed it into the mold. One difference from Art Clay Silver - the Copper Clay is much quicker to dry out than the silver, so you have to really have your idea all ready to go, and work fast. The copper clay is not very amenable to rehydrating with water so you can continue to work with it once it starts to dry.

This scallop pendant used about 30 grams of clay - at a fraction of what 30 grams of Silver Clay would have cost! You can see how thick the pendant is - this is from using the mold. You don't have to use molds; you can use the rollers and roll out and cut your clay, and texturize it just as you can with Silver Clay - just gotta move fast!

After drying the pieces on the hot plate (which takes a long time when the pieces are this thick, you do a little sanding to remove the rough edges. In the greenware stage, the copper clay is MUCH softer than the Silver Clay, so the sanding goes very quickly (and you have to take care not to just sand off a chunk of your new project!

After sanding, the piece needs to fire in the kiln for 30 minutes, and at a much higher temp than the Art Clay Silver, so Copper Clay isn't really suitable for torch firing.

Once out of the kiln, you can brush them (which is what I did) to achieve this look, or oxidize with liver of sulfur, or tumble - or use the polishing cloths....there are a variety of finished looks you can shoot for.

We also learned how to layer Silver Clay items on top of the Copper ones - it was just a great class!

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