Friday, 28 November 2008

BronzClay refired

An update to my previous post about the BronzClay which came out brittle after firing in my class.

I refired all the pieces, together with three sample pieces of my own. One was put in wet (yes, it works absolutely fine!), two of the same size and shape was put in dry.

The intention was to remove one of the two whilst red-hot to compare the strength against the one that was allowed to cool off in the charcoal. Unfortunately I wasn't thinking at all when I put the pieces in - my kiln finished the firing at about 4am, whilst I was still tucked up fast asleep. Duh.

Anyway, my test pieces came out beatifully and strong. I usually try to break the sample pieces after firing, using pliers, and they survived the test.

I didn't want to test any of the students pieces (just in case - I can't really send back broken student pieces, can I?) so I will have to wait for feedback from them. From the look and sound of the pieces I would be as bold as to say that it actually looks like re-firing did the trick. The pieces look just as they should, and they have the lovely clear singing bronze sound. I'll let you know as soon as I have some feedback.

But judging from this, I would definitely recommend you let your pieces cool off in the charcoal. Don't even think about removing them whilst the charcoal is still red-hot.

Want to see what they looked like before, and what they look like now? I know the "before" image isn't very good, but you can still see the very "dead", dark, and dull surface of the bronze. It was a huge difference after re-firing.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Celie Fago on Etsy

Ooooohh - fantastic news! Look at what I came just across - Celie's jewellery, finally for sale online... This is just a small collection, but I'm guessing it will be added to.

Celie is definitely one of my favourite metal clay artists, and I'm already the very proud owner of a couple of her pieces. She is the most generous teacher, kind and warm soul, and as you can all see, the most fantastic jewellery designer and maker. Her pieces really talk to me, unfortunately they all say "Take me home!".

Now I don't have to wait until I next meet her at a show or in a class, I can just go online - oh dear, this could be bad news....

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Your creativity needs a boost?

This clever kit reminds me of Robert Dancik's presentation at the Art Clay World EU Conference 2008.

It is all about helping to kick-start your creativity. Don't we all have those days where we just sit and stare at our material (whether it is metal clay, silver sheet, glass, wire, paint, pen and paper) and nothing happens. We start something but it just doesn't 'happen', so we give up. Instead we look through the window, stroke the dog, hoping for a flash of inspiration, but still nothing happens. Sounds familiar?

Monday, 17 November 2008

BronzClay firing problems

I discovered something very interesting yesterday which I think is pretty important for anyone working with bronze clay.

I had some problems with the second firing I did in the class. They all came out looking very dull, with a deep matte dark or black patina. One of the pieces broke when only a little pressure was applied.

This is the fourth batch I've fired in the new kiln, so I don't think the kiln or wrong temperature setting is the problem. Everything else was the same apart from that I added some new charcoal to the pan - I've always used charcoal straight from the packet (no pre-firing) so I don't think that is the issue either.

Having looked around at what other people have said, I think the problem is that I tried to remove the pieces from the pan whilst they were too hot. There has been some reports that this can cause them to go brittle.

I'm still not sure if this is the cause, so I'll refire the remaining pieces to see if it makes any difference.

I'll also put in a few sample scraps, so I can take one out whilst really hot and compare the strength against another which I'll let cool off slowly.

I'm really upset as these were students pieces, so am keeping my fingers crossed that the re-firing will do the trick. I guess this is what happens when you work with new materials - but being a teacher it is extremely upsetting when you mess up a students work.

I'll let you know what happens, and will post some pictures later this week.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

And, here are some of the beauties! Here is the first batch, straight out of the kiln.
Doesn't it look great with all those different colours?

My inner magpie emerged whilst taking these pictures, and I really desperately wanted to keep everything. It looked just like I used to imagine treasures as a child (I loved pirate stories...). But I promise, all the students DID leave with their pieces.

And here are some of the finished pieces, laid out in all their glory.

Sorry, I'm really struggling with the layout here - I can't get the pictures in the right position, and when I move them around I accidentally delete them. I'll have to post individual posts I think. So sorry!

BronzClay class photos

Here are the pieces being stacked up in the firing pan, supported by the charcoal.

Some more, waiting to be loaded.

BRONZClay class

Wow. I've had a really fun weekend. I just held my first BronzClay class, and it was great!

I had a really productive and extremely creative group of students - wait until you see what they did. 3 of the students hadn't worked with metal clay at all before the class. I must admit, when I discovered this I was slightly concerned, but they proved my worries completely wrong, and did so well.
BronzClay is slightly different from silver clay, whilst still very similar. It is still pure metal, in clay form. So you work with soft clay, it then dries to a plaster like material. Then you fire it and it becomes pure metal.
You work with the same tools as for silver clay, and shape it in the same way, so you can use moulds, textures, rubber stamps and so on. But, you need to be more careful with joins and cracks. If not done properly, or in the case of cracks, removed before firing, there is a big chance they'll break and open up during the firing.
And, it oxidises (slowly) when exposed to air and water, which will inhibit sintering (where the metal particles fuse together and become solid). So you don't really want to do lots of pasted leaves with BronzClay. As it oxidises when in contact with oxygen, we also need to fire it in special way - buried in charcoal, and only in a kiln.

We worked with the BronzClay all of Saturday, making large pieces which we then fired overnight. On Sunday we made a few more pieces in the morning, which were then fired using the quick-fire schedule (full ramp, 2 hours hold at about 800C).

Some pieces were tumbled, and other were left as they come out of the kiln - with a lovely patina.

Here are a few of pieces whilst drying.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Oooh - gorgeous

Just came across these as I was aimlessly wasting time in front of the computer...

They are absolutely adorable. Really quirky, I've not seen glass beads like these before. They're made by Gail Crosman Moore. Go and have a look at her site, there are some lovely pieces there.
She works with felt and glass, adorable creations which makes me want to touch them.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

New website for the Art Clay Guild

Oh, it looks like the new Art Clay UK Guild committee has been busy. Have a look at the redesigned

The new committee was elected in at the UK conference in September. It is the first time the guild is being run by elected members. Hopefully it will be just what the guild need - new energy, more help, and kickstart to get it all going again.

On the site there are a few photos from the Art Clay World EU Conference. I had so much fun organising this event - it was absolutely manic, but brilliant.
Here is a picture from Gordon's master class. It filled up in lass than 2 days when we opened the registration!

I was extremely proud to be able to bring in artists like Gordon Uyehara from Hawaii, Robert Dancik from the USA, and Toshihide Ueeda from Japan, all showing their magic. And the lovely Katie Baum from Art Clay Society came all the way from the US, and shared some exciting tricks for Liver of Sulphur and photo polymer plates. And that is before I even start mentioning all the lovely UK artists who helped out, ran classes, held demonstrations, and so on.

This was the largest metal clay event so far to take place in Europe, with visitors from Sweden, Japan, Italy, Germany, Hungary, and the Netherlands - how fab is that?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

New addition to the studio!

My new baby has arrived! A big blue monster of a baby!

I've been wanting to get a larger kiln for a while. I've loved my Paragon SC2, but I sometimes felt I needed more space - especially when I was started planning my BronzClay classes.

So, I had a kiln designed especially for me! It is called the Paragon Xpress E 12A MultiMedia Kiln. I'm the first person in the UK to have this, but I feel certain that a lot of you would like it too, so I have made sure that Robin will carry it on
Electric Kilns. I'm certain there'll soon be lots of other proud owners out there.

It is absolutely perfect for what I need:

It is big - you can fit in a LARGE stainless steel pan so can fire a lot of BRONZClay in one go. Or several shelves with metal clay. Or glass.

It gets hot - 1230C!! So you can fire ceramics in it. Large pieces! And of course, metal clay, silver and gold, fuse glass, anneal glass beads, and all the other things I usually play with.

It is made from firebricks - so gives an even heat, and it keeps the even heat for longer. Which is great when I work with glass.

Of course, it does everything else that my SC2 so lovingly did (for so long...) and it has a similar digital controller which is easy to program. And it is safe. I wasn't sure about exposed elements to start with, but it has a safety switch on the door which turns them off if the door opens.

I'm very excited, can you tell?

Now I'm off to fire it up for the first time. Have a batch of bronze clay things which I need to get done before my class this weekend.

Oh, and my SC2 is travelling to Sweden to live my dear sister who has finally discovered glass fusing. She's gonna have so much fun!

Monday, 10 November 2008


I stupidly decided to move my blog from one host to another, and in doing so, seem to have lost some of my posts. Not sure how this happened, as a lot are still here?

Anyway, I can't say I've been the most regular poster anyway, so you probably won't notice anyway. :-)