Embellish Your Work Using Fine Silver Beads, Buttons and Charms

Sherry Viktora 2004

   
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Imagine being able to personalize and individualize the quilt or other handmade piece you have just created by adding original .999 pure silver beads, buttons or charms. In this article I will show you how to do just that, using Precious Metal Clay or Art Clay, a few basic tools and your imagination.

Metal Clay is a relatively new product, developed in Japan and comprised of an organic non-toxic material, microscopic bits of pure silver and water. It can be molded, rolled, impressed with designs, carved and extruded. Once it is formed and dried, it is fired or "sintered" to temperatures from 1110 degrees to 1650 degrees depending upon the type of clay and length of time fired. All of the organic base and water burns away, the silver pieces fuse together, and you then have a unique .999 silver creation.

Important Points:

  • Metal clay will shrink from 8-12% in all directions, as water and organic material burns away.
  • Clay dries quickly, so try to work fairly quickly and keep clay covered.
  • To prevent clay from sticking, use olive oil on hands, tools and stamps.
  • Clay must be thoroughly dry before firing to avoid unattractive bumps caused by trapped moisture.

Materials:

1 package Precious Metal Clay or Art Clay (available in 7-40 gram pkgs.)
Olive oil
Smooth plastic sheet
Teflon baking sheet or parchment paper
Clear plastic wrap (Saran Original is best)
Small roller or short piece of PVC pipe about 5/8" outer diameter
Deck of playing cards
Kemper Cutter shape and size of choice, sharp tissue blade or craft knife
Water
Coffee stirrer or needle tool
Nail file or salon board
Texturizing materials such as rubber stamps, rubber or plastic texture sheets, lace, Onion bags, letter stamps, carving tools, etc.
Brass brush
Small butane torch, butane and fire brick, Hot Pot or kiln (if available) to fire
Metal clay
Polishing cloth

Optional Items:

Oxidizing agent
Q-Tips or small inexpensive craft or paint brush
2 part Silicone Mold Material
Rock tumbler with stainless steel shot
Dawn dishwashing soap or burnishing compound
Dehydrator, hot plate or hair dryer to speed up drying process

Steps:

1. Lubricate palms of hands and texturizing material with small amount of olive oil and roll out a small piece of clay between 2 stacks of playing cards from 3 cards thick to 6 cards thick. If using texture sheet, roll clay onto well oiled texture sheet then move onto Teflon baking sheet or parchment paper, otherwise roll directly on parchment paper or Teflon sheet, and press rubber stamp onto clay. (figure A and B)

Figure A Figure B

2. Using a Kemper Cutter, tissue blade or craft knife, cut clay to size and shape and size desired, and using a coffee stirrer or needle hole make a hole or holes to attach silver piece. (figure C and D)

Figure C Figure D

3. Let the clay dry and sand edges smooth with a nail file. (figure E)

Figure E

4. Fire the silver piece(s) with a torch, hot pot or in a kiln (descriptions below). They will appear to have a white coating, but your pieces are now .999 pure silver. (figure F and G)

Figure F Figure G

5. Using a brass brush, scrub the silver charm until it begins to look silver and shiny. You can also use a rock tumbler with stainless steel shot, water, a few drops of liquid dish detergent, and tumble for 20 min. to 2 hours. (figure H)

Figure H

6. Oxidize if desired, by brushing solution onto piece, (follow safety instructions on bottle) then wash thoroughly with soap and water. Dry and take black off everything except the indented pattern using polishing cloth or tumbling in rock tumbler for 15-20 minutes. Wash and dry again, polish with jeweler's cloth, and attach to your quilt.

NOTE:

You can use many objects such as antique buttons and a 2 part silicone molding compound (the type that will remain pliable) to form your buttons or charms. Be aware of copyright issues when using someone else's forms. You can make your own design, form and fire your piece, then make a mold of that piece and then make multiple exact copies. These can be used as your "signature" when added to quilts, clothing, etc. Remember, because of the shrinkage factor, the copies made from the original mold will be 8-12% smaller than the mold. (figure M)

Firing With A Kiln:

If you have access to a kiln, follow temperature and time instructions available in the PMC Clay or Art Clay package.

Firing Without A Kiln:

The methods listed below are economical alternatives to firing with a kiln. They all have limitations which are noted in the instructions mentioned below, but can be utilized for the leaf pin project, as long as the size limitations are observed. There are very complete instructions available on-line for these methods, provided by Art Clay World and PMC Connection. (See resources for information.)

Small butane torch:

Metal clay pieces can be fired easily using a small butane torch. The piece should be very dry, since any moisture in the piece will quickly turn to steam and expand, possibly causing the clay to crack or fragment. Do not try to torch fire a piece that is larger than a silver dollar or weighs more than 25 gm. A fired piece can be added to and fired over and over again, so you can fire your leaves, then attach them and re-fire just as you would if using a kiln.

  1. Fill the butane torch according to the instructions.
  2. Place your completely dry metal clay piece on a soldering block or firing brick which is on a heat proof surface.
  3. Ignite the torch, directing the flame toward your piece at about a 45 degree angle, and about 2" away. Using a circular motion, gently apply heat to the piece, continuously moving flame to heat piece evenly. As the temperature increases, you will see a little smoke and flame as the non-toxic binder burns off.
  4. Continue heating piece, moving torch continuously until piece reaches a peachy orange color. When that color is reached, begin timing your "firing time", keeping the orange color by moving your flame. It is important to use a timer to insure the full time period is reached.
  5. Be careful not to overheat the piece, as it can melt. Melting is imminent if the piece begins to get a shiny wet silver color. Immediately move the torch farther away until orange glow is just visible and continue firing until completed.
  6. Firing times vary according to weight of piece, but range from 1 to 4 minutes. If in doubt, it is better to fire longer, which will make your piece stronger.

Materials: butane torch, butane, firing brick or soldering block

Firing Art Clay Silver on a Gas Stove:

The same limitations and instructions for torch firing apply to this method. The instructions and stainless net was developed for Art Clay; however I believe it would work just as well for PMC (Precious Metal Clay) since their firing temperatures are very similar.
  1. Place stainless net over the cooking stove burner. Make sure the stainless net is placed at the center of the burner so it is balanced. Turn on the stove burner and identify the hottest area of the net by its red glow.
  2. Once the hottest area of the net is identified, turn off the burner and immediately place the piece on the hottest part of the net, using a pair of tweezers.
  3. Turn the burner back on and fire the piece for five minutes. The piece will flame for a few seconds as the binder in the clay burns off, and the piece will begin to turn red-hot.
  4.  After firing for 5 minutes, turn off burner and let cool for at least 20 min. Your piece may stick to the net if not cool enough. After cooling for 20 minutes, pick up the piece with tweezers and dip it into water to cool it completely.
NOTE:

I have taken the above instructions from Art Clay World's web-site and abbreviated them for this article. If you utilize this method, please read and understand their complete firing instructions.

Firing With The Hot Pot:

The hot pot was designed to be used only for firing PMC3 which is the low-fire Precious Metal Clay, carried by PMC Connection. If you purchase a Hot Pot, there are complete instructions inside. It is a small ceramic fiber 2-part pot which uses a gel-like non-toxic fuel. Put the fuel in a small flower pot in the bottom of the hot pot, place your piece on a screen in the bottom part, place the top part on and light the fuel. When the fuel has burned out (10-12 minutes) your piece is fired. You must use the low-fire clay, and follow size restrictions on Hot Pot instructions. You may fire more than one piece at a time as long as you do not exceed the total weight restriction (one package or 16 grams fired weight). Firing With The Hot Pot

Resources:

PMC Connection :
Toll Free: 866-PMC-CLAY

Art Clay World, USA:
Toll Free: 866-381-0100

Biography:

Sherry Viktora

Sherry Viktora, Senior Instructor for PMC Connection, began working with stained glass in 1987,while practicing full-time as a Critical Care Nurse. She started teaching stained glass classes prior to becoming certified in, and teaching PMC workshops in Wis. and northern Illinois. Her enthusiasm for teaching and working with PMC, along with glass, allowed her to decide to leave nursing to pursue teaching and creating original artwork. She specializes in creating nature-inspired art from PMC, glass and copper. Her artwork is currently displayed in 3 Wisconsin and No. Illinois galleries, and can be seen at limited art shows in her area.

Sherry can be contacted by e-mail: sherrylvrn@charter.net, or at her home-based studio, Out On A Limb, in Rockton, IL.
815-624-7325.

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