31 Oct 2016

Adventures in Aussie Metal Clay

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. Colin Powell

I’ve posted several times previously on my exploits with the creation of metal clay jewellery. Metal clay is, as the name suggests, a clay-like medium composed of metal particles, an organic binder and water that can be worked and formed as a wet clay, further honed in a dry state (such as components assembled for composite pieces, like many of mine) and then is fired in a kiln at very high temperature to magically become a solid metal creation. There are now a significant number more clays than even when I started, from base metal clays like copper, bronze, iron, steel and brass to various precious variants of silver and now gold.

Antiqued copper contoured leaf earrings on feature earwires.
Antiqued copper contoured leaf earrings on feature earwires.

Not only are there many different metals (and many tones or colours of bronze and coppers etc) but there are many more brands on the market too – with new ones appearing regularly. If you’re feeling truly adventurous, there are even recipes to make up your own.

Each clay has its own properties and some are best suited to particular types of work. I’ve routinely used several brands for different styles of work. You need to work a little with the clay to find out its particular personality and to decide how it best fits into your designs – knowing which one is best for each piece. It’s also true to say that I’ve tried several that I couldn’t get on with, that either didn’t suit my work or were inconsistent for getting reliable results with, so were abandoned.

Fine silver daisy pendant with an inset cubic zirconium gemstone and matching earrings.
Fine silver daisy pendant with an inset cubic zirconium gemstone and matching earrings.

I recently noticed that one of my suppliers was stocking a new-to-the-UK clay range from Australia; Aussie Metal Clay. There offer a significant range of clays, but the ones being stocked here in the UK at present are a range of bronzes in their medium fire range.  The features of the clay looked very interesting and the examples of finished pieces I’d seen made with it were impressive.  So after a little research, I decided to try a couple of colours.  They make a standard clay and a super flex variant of each colour.  As I was hoping to cut some pieces with the Silhouette cutter (that has featured in previous articles as a tool in my jewellery making and design work), their recommendation was to use the super flex, which is what I’ve been working with.

As this clay range is new to the UK and people like myself are only just getting to know it, there is less information available than for other longer-established brands, so whilst I don’t normally talk specifics about materials and suppliers, I hope that posting some more details of this particular clay might help other artisans like myself whilst researching and considering it.

Working the Aussie Metal Clay:

The dry AMC super flex clay can be cut with scissors, scalpel and cutting machines.
The dry AMC super flex clay can be cut with scissors, scalpel and cutting machines.

I’ve very much enjoyed working with the clay, it has properties and features that suit my work really well and as I’ve had excellent support from the proprietor Roslyn Bailey and metal clay artist who works alongside her in developing the clay range, Kim Morris, I’m happy to endorse the product and put some information out there to help others.

The two clays I’ve worked with feel the same in use, so I won’t bother distinguishing them.  The clay is supplied as a dry powder that you mix yourself to a clay with water – this means that if you buy a 100g packet, once mixed, you get something like 130g of usable clay, justifying the slightly higher initial price than pre-mixed clay of the same initial weight.

The dry super flex clay was cut on the Silhouette for these two pieces and the tube bail was rolled (very gently) from dry, cut clay.
The dry super flex clay was cut on the Silhouette for these two pieces and the tube bail was rolled (very gently) from dry, cut clay.

The super flex variant also comes with a little sachet of a gel-type substance that you mix into the dry powder before the water.  It mixes together very easily and you quickly have a workable clay.  My own practice is to mix the clay, then knead it with a palette knife on a glazed tile to mix it thoroughly and then let it rest for a little while and fully absorb the moisture before using.

It rolls out nicely and takes texture very well, it doesn’t stick to your fingers or tools.  It has a lovely smooth silky texture which feels very fine and is a pleasure to work with.  It retains its workable moisture level better than any other base metal clay than I can think I’ve used before and I don’t often need to add any more water to it.

These Poinsettia style earrings were designed and cut with the Silhouette cutter from dry clay 2 cards thick, then tiny rolled balls separately appliqued. The dragonflies in the background had wings cut with a craft cutter.
These Poinsettia style earrings were designed and cut with the Silhouette cutter from dry clay 2 cards thick, then tiny rolled balls separately appliqued. The dragonflies in the background had wings cut with a craft cutter.

Occasionally if you’ve been fiddling a lot and maybe re-worked it several times, it starts to feel dry, but I just pop it into my storage box (I keep it in a little dish inside a larger airtight container that has a moistened pad inside, away from the clay) and paint a little smear of water over it and leave it to sink in, then re-knead it before use.

I can roll tiny smooth round balls with it and it makes a nice rolled snake too – which in the super flex variant, I haven’t needed to moisten before I curl and shape, other than for the tightest of coils.  I’ve been able to roll thin sheets with it that can then be cut with either the Silhouette cutter, scissors, scalpel and I’ve even used craft punches and decorative scissors.  It can even be rolled (if eased very gradually and with care) in its dry form.  Kim Morris gave me a super tip that really works; if the clay has been in its dry form for a while, the flex properties diminish a little, but putting it in the fridge overnight restores its flex.

Reconstituting dry clay:

I also found that it reconstitutes really well.  My own method is to pile up any scrap and failed elements and loosely break or chop them into smaller pieces and spray them with water, leaving it covered, to soak in for a while.  I then roughly mix it and cover with thick plastic film and roll it out and gather it up again repeatedly, at which time it probably still has dry lumps in, which will show as paler patches.  These get gradually smashed up as you roll, probably requiring the addition of more water – a little at a time. A couple of rolling sessions later you will have a workable clay.  If it was really dry clay, I tend to leave it overnight to fully absorb the moisture into the organic binders and then re-knead with a palette knife before use.

Many re-constituting techniques talk of grinding the clay back to powder in a coffee grinder or the like, then sieving it to get out impurities, but I’ve never had a problem with any clay using my technique; it saves on wastage, doesn’t fill the air with dust and as I don’t use much oil or lubricants with it, feel that the clay remains pretty pure – although I don’t use sanding dust as I think this will have particles from the sanding medium, but I do use anything I’ve carved or trimmed and drilling swarf.  I have workable new clay with minimal fuss.

Kiln firing specifics – overcoming firing issues:

Whilst I had good success straight away with several Aussie Metal Clay pieces, some have been less than spectacular.  I had several assorted issues and it was obvious that some pieces simply weren’t sintering fully.   Base metal clays are fired in 2 stages; firstly to burn off the organic binder particles (the water should already be fully evaporated, clay should be fired totally dry) and secondly to fuse the remaining metal particles together as a metal piece.

Sintering is the process whereby the loose metal particles just start to melt on their surface, allowing adjacent particles to bond together, forming a cohesive metal structure, but short of actually melting.  This is why metal clay shrinks during firing, firstly you remove the binder and then fuse the metal particles into a closer solid texture.

The inadequate sintering I experienced manifested itself variously as warping and slumping in thinner pieces, resulting in distortion and some cracking.  The thicker pieces simply crumbled on the surface when I started cleaning them up after firing.  Any remaining binder will prevent the metal particles from fusing to each other and if burn off is irregular across the piece, warping and cracking will occur.  Some of the thinner pieces (mainly a Silhouette-cut bezel – partly the fault of the design too) simply snapped off – no doubt still too brittle where not sintered fully.

I contacted AMC and Roslyn Bailey was very patient with me, working through a series of potential solutions and it became evident that it was the burn-out stage of the firing that was the culprit and she made some suggestions to try.  If the organic binder isn’t fully removed, it will remain in the final piece, preventing the metal particles from bonding to each other properly, so this stage is vital to get right.  I was able to put into action her suggestions – and thankfully, it worked beautifully, addressing the issues I had.  Everything came out fully sintered and with negligible distortion – and that was more down to the design of that piece than the firing schedule.

Burn out – stage one firing on kiln pillow:

I made several test pieces of different thicknesses and also repaired one of the earlier pieces and re-fired that.  It was Ros’s suggestion to fire the pieces on kiln pillow (on top of the carbon) to improve airflow around the piece during burn-out and after discussion we also decided to try reducing the temperature of stage one but increase the hold time.  The kiln plug was removed to vent the kiln during the stage one burn-out.

In this initial test firing, I used brand new activated coconut carbon to eliminate any potential issues with pre-used carbon, in a stainless steel firing pan (I gave up on flake free foil containers some time ago, I’ve had more consistent results with all clays since) in a Paragon SC2 kiln.  The clay was AMC medium fire super flex in Desert Sun.   Stage one was ramped at Spd3 (1000°F / 555°C per hour) to 400°C and held for 50 minutes.

When the kiln had cooled enough to be safe to work with,  I covered the pieces with kiln paper where there was texture and the wren pendant with holes in (see photos in the Gallery below) I tented with a folded piece of no-flake foil, something I’ve been doing successfully for some time.  I then covered everything in more carbon and the pan lid and replaced the kiln plug.   After success with the kiln blanket below pieces, I’ll possibly use this in future above pieces too, in place of the paper or tent, as their only purpose is to keep carbon out of texture or holes that can cause cracks if it wedges in crevices as the piece shrinks during firing.

Stage 2 was ramped at Spd4 (1500°F / 833°C per hour) to 780°C and held for 3 hours.  The kiln was left to cool to about 200°C and then the pieces removed.   I’ve not been quenching the AMC pieces, I let them cool on a ceramic tile. The appearance of the pieces immediately out of the kiln and then after polishing and antiquing can be seen in the Gallery below.

This is a perfect example of a failure being a positive and valuable learning exercise – often it’s the failures that we learn the most from.  Without a negative initial outcome, I wouldn’t have sought out assistance, thereby learning an improved technique, which in turn will result in better work overall long-term.

Addendum on Antarctic Moonlight MF clay:

Aussie Metal Clay medium fire superflex clay in Antarctic Moonlight. The earrings have been paired with polished Sterling silver earwires and rivets and the flowers are copper.
Aussie Metal Clay medium fire superflex clay in Antarctic Moonlight. The earrings have been paired with polished Sterling silver earwires and rivets and the flowers are copper.

I’ve since done a similar firing with one of the other medium fire clays from Aussie Metal Clay; Antarctic Moonlight, which is reputed to need a slightly lower firing temperature due to the higher tin content with it being classed as a more silver coloured bronze.  I did the same basic firing as for the Desert Sun, as outlined above, but lowered the temperature in stage 2 by 20°C to 760°C, still holding for 3 hours and this sintered perfectly. 

It is also worth noting that as Antarctic Moonlight is a white bronze, with a higher tin content, it’s significantly more brittle and pieces need to be a bit thicker to be robust enough for wear.  The AMC recommended minimum thickness for Antarctic Moonlight is 5 cards thick (approx 1.25mm).  I cut some small test pieces using the Silhouette that ended up just under 0.7mm thick, totally forgetting about the thickness recommendation and whilst they fired nicely, I was able to just snap them in my fingers, even though they were solid metal right through the breaks that polished to a shine later. 

The thicker pieces in the batch came out really nicely and feel very robust indeed.  So bear this in mind, the Antarctic Moonlight won’t be suitable for bezels or prongs that might need moving later to set stones etc. and I doubt it would manipulate successfully if you wanted to straighten any warping or movement during firing.

Aussie Metal Clay kiln test gallery:

Photographs to illustrate the kiln schedule and technique described above, using Aussie Metal Clay’s medium fire super flex clay.  There are more details in the captions of the photographs.

Recent work gallery:

I’ve finished several new pieces recently, including a couple of new twig necklaces (well, a necklace and a pendant) featuring tiny hand sculpted naturalistic details.


25 Mar 2015

Paper becomes metal

A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or no the sun be shining outside.   A.A. Milne

My husband had a couple of days holiday to use up before the end of the holiday year, so we sneaked a couple of days off and hoped to get some time outside in the spring sunshine.  We did manage that and jolly lovely it was too, but for an assortment of reasons – apathy largely – I didn’t get any worthwhile photos to share with you.  I had it in mind to post some cute little spring lambs, but the areas we visited were only just starting to lamb and the ones I did spot weren’t in a place where we could stop for photos.  So they will have to wait until another day.

Tulip bud, all bulbous and soon to burst into colour.
Tulip bud, all bulbous and soon to burst into colour.

As you can see above, the little Tête-á-tête daffodils in my garden are now in full bloom and are an absolute delight – so cheering to see out of the window.  I love any daffodils, but am especially fond of these compact little ones, perfect little miniature specimens.

I also have tulips starting to emerge too.  Whilst I love the blooms, I also enjoy the buds before they open – they’re often spherical and bulbous and amongst the leaves make lovely abstract shapes, especially if you can catch a few raindrops sitting on the leaves.

Because I have a tiny garden, when my bulbs are done, I pull them up and dry them ready to re-plant in autumn and then put my summer bedding in the same pots.  Consequently, my bulbs end up totally mixed up from one year to the next, so I’m never quite sure what any one individual bloom will be like, or any pot arrangement, adding a tiny frisson of excitement as they open.  Maybe I’m just easily excited.

 My work this week:

I’ve posted previously about the wild roses that I’ve made in paper, designing and cutting the components using the Silhouette Studio software and my Portrait cutter.  Whilst assembling one to stick onto a gift, I wondered if I could use the same basic structure with copper clay to make the same sort of flowers in metal.

I know that a lot of metal clay workers use the Silhouettes to actually cut thinly rolled clay for complex features like bezels and that was certainly one of the reasons I wanted the machine for myself.  But to date, I’m still having fun using the software and machine to make my own textures and design elements and I haven’t even tried cutting clay with it directly yet.

One of the original paper wild roses, alongside its metal counterpart.
One of the original paper wild roses, alongside its metal counterpart.

I wanted the roses to be fairly substantial in size, which would necessitate a decent thickness of sheet clay to work with, almost certainly beyond the cutting capacity of the Silhouette and I also wanted to shape the petals as I worked too – best done with wet clay.

A lot of the charm of actual wild roses is the curl and random shapes of the petals themselves and in this instance, I didn’t feel they should be too uniform in shape.  So instead, I used the cutter to create a template which I could cut around manually, allowing me to form each petal the same basic shape and size, but individually contoured, to give them the same natural variation you’d experience in real flowers.

Wild rose pendant in antiqued copper.
Wild rose pendant in antiqued copper.

The metal clay as a medium also allows a slightly different approach to details too – so the centre of the flower is more anatomically realistic, where the paper version is more of an impression of a real flower.  I did actually make the flower in pretty much the same way as the paper versions, in that I made each petal and allowed them to dry, then refined and assembled them onto a small circular base, adding the centre details last.

The large pendant has a simple loop on the back to hang from the chain, I didn’t want to bail, in this instance, to detract from the details of the flower.

Wild rose pendant made in copper metal clay.
Wild rose pendant made in copper metal clay.

Having made the large pendant, which is around 42mm (1.65″) in diameter, I wondered if I could work a smaller rose, to use on earrings etc.  I approached this slightly differently due to the size, creating my own cutter for the basic shape of the petals.  Other than that and simplifying the centre a little, the process was much the same.

With this pendant, I’ve applied the smaller wild rose to a basic textured circle frame, accompanied by a few rose leaves adjacent.  I have some other variants in progress to make into earrings, but at this point, my kiln was full anyway, so I have a second batch of pieces to fire shortly.

Circle pendant made in copper clay with a wild rose centre piece with accompanying leaves.
Circle pendant made in copper clay with a wild rose centre piece with accompanying leaves.


The wild rose circle pendant prior to firing.
The wild rose circle pendant prior to firing.

It is my habit with all metal clay work to keep a very detailed record of all pieces.  I keep a kiln log of the firing itself, with photos and measurements recorded in a separate log.  That way I know what brand of clay was used for a particular piece and when and how it was fired etc.  As I always like to see other artists pieces in progress, I’ll post a couple of pre-firing photos too.

Wild rose pendant in its finished state immediately before firing.
Wild rose pendant in its finished state immediately before firing.
15 Jan 2015

I really am going to try harder

I love this particular walk, where there's  a patch of sweet chestnut trees.
I love this particular walk, where there’s a patch of sweet chestnut trees.  I enjoy taking this kind of photo too – a wide angle macro from a low position, showing the scene behind and therefore context – I call them macro landscapes.

It can’t have escaped your notice that my blogging has been sporadic of late, despite the fact that I usually love doing it.

I don’t think my tardiness is entirely my own fault – I think I must lay some of the blame at the door of Blogger, my previous home.  I don’t want to rubbish it too much as it has served me well over several years, but I’ve found it increasingly difficult and problematic to post.

I’ve abandoned several recent posts because I either just couldn’t get a photo to appear on the page, or because it repeatedly appeared in the wrong place on the page.  It got old pretty fast, so ended up totally sucking the joy out of the process.  Hence I never posted some earlier photos from my holiday in September, so I’ll pepper some through my ramblings here.  Just because I now can!

We had some fabulous glorious weather in the Lakes in September.  We rarely see the Langdales this clearly.
We had some fabulous glorious weather in the Lakes in September. We rarely see the Langdales this clearly.

I’ve had reason recently to install a WordPress blog into some hosting for a client and having not tinkered with it for many years, suddenly found it significantly easier to use – possibly because it was loaded directly into the web host server and the same location as the image files etc.

Because I have the same hosting for my own site and found a plugin to import my entire Blogger content, I’ve decided to move it here onto my own site.  I’ve had to iron out a few wrinkles and edit a lot of links, but it’s now in a reasonably complete state.

Once within posts, any links to other recent blogs, are still likely to take you back to the Blogger version of the site, but I’ll gradually try to correct these as I find them, so apologies if it appears a little disjointed at the moment.

I love this tree lined walk, especially in autumn and even better when the sunlight filters through.
I love this tree lined walk, especially in autumn and even better when the sunlight filters through.

If you want to find an earlier post and have some idea of the title, I’ve added a site page called Index of Posts that lists all of the posts I’ve made, linked to their new copies here on the site – it’s also listed at the top of each page and in the side widget.


Blea Tarn in the English Lake District
Blea Tarn in the English Lake District on a gorgeous clear, still autumn day.

So, what else have I been up to:

I don’t think that I have that much new to show you, the run up to Christmas involved making a lot of the good sellers for seasonal sales and re-stocking the shop – not much pure design or tinkering time unfortunately.  I’m itching to get on with some new pieces, my sketchbook is overflowing and my head bursting with ideas.

Leaf-set pendant featuring my own faux jade polymer clay cabochon.
Leaf-set pendant featuring my own faux jade polymer clay cabochon.

I did manage to fire and finish a new cabochon pendant, which thankfully went out as a Christmas present.  This features a cabochon I made myself in translucent polymer clay as a faux green jade stone – with lots of sanding, polishing and layers of varnish to give it a deep gloss.

The cab has been leaf-set to a thick copper base, each leaf being individually cut and textured and carefully added to the base, interspersed with tiny copper balls.

The back has an appliqued design featuring several gently curling tendrils accompanied by lots of tiny hand cut leaves and more of the tiny copper balls I find myself rather obsessed with making.

Back of the cabochon pendant, decorated with slender sinuous tendrils and tiny leaves.
Back of the cabochon pendant, decorated with slender sinuous tendrils and tiny leaves.
Side view of the pendant showing the leaf prongs and back decoration.
Side view of the pendant showing the leaf prongs and back decoration.

I do have two new techniques I’ve been tinkering with – when time allows – and which will work well together.  Low temperature enamelling and my family gave me a Silhouette cutting machine for my recent birthday.  I’ve been interested in using enamels for adding colour to copper and although I have a kiln, the high temperatures required do give me the willies.  I have the option to kiln fire, torch fire, or work with low temperature powders.

Enamel designs on stainless steel sliding lid pill boxes.
Enamel designs on stainless steel sliding lid pill boxes. I made these as stocking filler Christmas gifts.

I decided that due to the low cost and ease of use of the efcolor powders that I’d at least start with these to see if I like the results, as I had some ideas in mind to try.  If I do find I want to pursue it, I can then perhaps step up to something more robust.

Although having said that, I’ve found the results to be pretty substantial – I had one piece that I didn’t like and wanted to remove the colour, so that I could do something new with and I actually found it very hard to remove – so I’m hoping that they might withstand a decent amount of wear.

Sliding lid pill box tins with enamelled decoration.
Sliding lid pill box tins with enamelled decoration.

These ideas tie in nicely with the Silhouette cutting machine.  I had in mind several ideas where this would allow me to make things I couldn’t achieve any other way – one of which was making my own stencils and texture plates as well as the possibility of cutting thinly rolled clay too.

I’ve only had it just over a week and already have a hard drive full of files, lots of saved design elements and a desk covered in tiny bits of cutting shrapnel, that no matter how much care you take removing it, ends up everywhere.

It’s been a while since I did any vector drawing (and it was only ever small amounts), but it has been enormous fun getting to know it again.  I haven’t even started on importing designs to make cutting files, or scanning any of my own sketches, everything so far has been drawn from scratch in the supplied Silhouette Studio software – they describe it as having basic drawing tools, but I’m already finding it pretty powerful.  I love taking a simple shape and manipulating it into something entirely different – then merging shapes into complex geometrical designs, welding them with lettering etc.  You have to think differently of course, shapes overlapping don’t necessarily work and shapes stranded in open space don’t either, so you have to start and think in . . . guess what . . . silhouettes!

I've been creating vector drawings for stencils and making photo polymer texture plates.
I’ve been creating vector drawings for stencils and making photo polymer texture plates.

I’ve already decided after one post that this WordPress blog is going to work better for me, it addresses all of the things that frustrated me with recent changes to Blogger, so I hopefully will feel inclined to post more often.  I still have several tutorial ideas I wanted to post, so maybe now that will be possible.  I’m also thinking that little and often might be better. 😉

17 Nov 2012

Making the best of a bad job

I must apologise for my blogging tardiness of late – it’s been a combination of not actually having much to say, little enough time for getting everything done and finding the new Blogger interface to be tedious to say the least.  I have started posts on several occasions, but after 20 minutes of trying to post one photo, my boredom threshold is reached quickly.  After all, I could be making something instead which, as we all know, is way more fun.  If I can get it to work, I’ll salt a few photos of my recent work within the post, as to be honest, I don’t have much else to show you at the moment – I haven’t had enough quality time with my camera recently either.

A large circle link bracelet in antiqued copper.

My last post was about the flood we experienced in August and the significant volume of mud it had dumped in our cellar.  As an update, the mud has all now been removed, the cellar deep cleaned and sansitised and an industrial capacity fan and dehumidifier installed to dry out the room.

Being a cellar, the external walls are below ground level and the floor is large stone flags onto what amounts to bare earth, so as the water table has been so high since, it has been necessary to make significant efforts to dry everything – the flood water was over 30″ deep and well and truly soaked into the walls.  And the flood caused an assortment of structural movements that have left us with some of this below-ground wall area structurally compromised, so when it rains heavily, the walls seep water.  So until the structural repairs are done, the insurers have said to leave the drying equipment in place to ensure it remains as dry as possible.

A Sterling silver horseshoe pendant, highly polished and worn on silver snake chain.

Unfortunately, the repairs are taking some time to even get started.  Obviously the repair work is being funded by our insurers, but in their enthusiasm to ensure that it is all done properly and to check all the problems thoroughly, we’ve entertained a number of surveyors, engineers and technicians.  And unfortunately, they have been sufficiently thorough in their investigations to uncover a number of problems, unrelated to the flood, that we now have to fix.  They haven’t said it in so many words, but the implication is that they must be done, now we know about them, to ensure future buildings cover.  So whilst we’re fully insured and it will cover all of the actual flood damage, we’re now faced with a considerable repair bill and upheaval on top of mitigating the flood damage – for other matters that we would have been quite happy to remain blissfully ignorant of. 

Antiqued copper squiggle earrings with long drop Czech glass beads with a Picasso and lustre finish.

On the plus side, we did get a full settlement for all of our lost contents, so have been gradually replacing the items that we need to do so and using the opportunity to do things just that bit better for the future.  When we bought the house, the cellar was already home to some of the departing-occupants junk, stuff that they seemingly couldn’t be bothered to move with them.  So over time, we just added more of our junk to it, so that space was never anything more than a rather untidy storage space.  We’re determined that it won’t end up the same with our second chance down there.

A Sterling silver version of my square chain link earrings.  Mr Boo calls this design my ‘Space 1999 earrings’.  I can certainly see that they have a very retro feel to them, but looking at photos from Space 1999, I don’t think earrings were a big feature of their futuristic and rather utilitarian uniforms. 

In an effort to start thinking more positively about the area, Mr Boo declared that it would no longer be referred to as ‘the cellar’ the very word suggests a dark corner somewhat out of sight, but will in future be referenced simply as ‘downstairs’.  It’s such a large area that it would be a shame, when starting with a new blank canvas, not to put it to better use.   When it was first empty and clean, we stood there marvelling at what a large space it is and how much it would cost us, even if we had room to do so, to build an extension of a similar footprint.  We perpetually complain about not having enough space, so squandering one large room would clearly be silly.

I wanted to make some ‘party’ earrings for the festive season ahead.  These are Sterling silver with faceted crystal rondells.

So we’ve decided to use some of the content settlement funds to have the whole ‘downstairs’ properly wired – at present there are no wall sockets for power at all and only two inadequate light fittings at the bottom.  I’m sure that once the stairs themselves are lit and all of the walls painted white (there were once, in the dim and distant past) and additional lights it will look even larger and considerably more cheerful.  I’m going to have one corner area as an additional work space, where I will do metal clay, polymer clay and enamelling work.   

My greatest sadness about the flood was that amongst the contents lost was my grandfathers woodworking bench and a trunk of his tools – nice quality chisels and the like that no amount of money would truly replace.  We looked to see if they could be salvaged, if only for sentimental value, but they really were damaged beyond rescue and the insurers condemed them.  So I have decided that the best way to do those items justice and in a manner that my grandfather would approve of, is to buy myself some tools that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford or justify and to use it to the best of my ability to make things with.

I’ve made a few necklace and earrings sets which might prove good for gifts  – these feature a hammered copper ring hung with a selection of Czech glass Picasso beads.

He was a great and skilled maker of things with his hands so I think he’d think this a worthy solution.  So I ordered a kiln for my metal clay work and take delivery of it on Monday.  I’ll have to use it temporarily in my normal work area until the wiring is done, but I somewhat selfishly bit the bullet and ordered it before the repairs swallowed up the funds I’d allocated and the opportunity was lost to me.

Unfired clay pieces waiting for a session in the kiln.  Whilst they look somewhat metallic at this stage, it’s purely because I’ve smoothed the surface to get them as ready as possible before firing.  The bottom pendant piece with the recesses will hopefully contain some coloured enamel in the not-too-distant.
I’ve been a bit besotted with sculpting flowers on everything recently.   I have a lot of ideas for more sculpted pieces when I will have the means to fire larger pieces, including hollow forms using cork clay.

So in anticipation, I’ve been working on a few slightly larger pieces that I couldn’t fire with my torch and hope to get these fired in the next few days – once I’ve figured out how to drive it.  I have a head so full of ideas to make with metal clay – and enamel – and maybe even fused glass – that I could do with stopping time for a while whilst I tinker with them.  If only!  {{{{ sigh }}}}