Our second featured artist for the Artist Project Series with Creative Fire is Janet Harriman. Janet has been working with metal clay for almost 14 years, and has been making jewelry and winning awards for over 40 years. She teaches workshops on metal clay, metalworking and enameling. For the Artist Project Series, Janet has created this unique Vessel Pendant out of FS999 Fine Silver Clay.
In the article found below, Janet takes you through her process step by step. Her process is particularly interesting because of a failure she experiences during firing, which leads her to an inventive fix.
To view Janet’s process and to learn more about her, please click here.
We are delighted to support and introduce “The Artist Project Series” by Creative Fire with FS999 Fine Silver Clay. After so many beautiful and creative pieces during this series with EZ960® Sterling Silver Clay, we are so excited to see what comes next with FS999! This series will feature 12 artists over the next year or so. Each artist will let us observe into their studio while they create a piece of art using FS999 Fine Silver Clay.
The first featured artist is Gordon Uyehara from Honolulu, Hawaii. Gordon has created a beautiful and intricate Dino Bracelet, while showing his process step by step.
To view this process beginning from Gordon’s sketches, please click here.
After conducting some further testing of Nano Gems in the Cool Tools Studio, we found that Nano Gems are highly responsive to light. To keep Nano Gems true to color, it is very important to fire with an azure, or a hole for light to pass through, behind the gem. Without an azure, Nano Gems can change color, get muddy or lose luster.
Nano Gems can also change properties when they are fired above certain temperatures, and the maximum temperate that a Nano Gem can be fired to varies from gem to gem. We have found that all of the Nano Gems we currently carry are safe to fire up to 1675°F / 913°C on an open shelf in clay, with the exception of the Dark Orange and Orange, which can be safely be fired up to 1650°F / 899°C on an open shelf in clay.
Initially, we fired the Nano Gems on an open shelf – not in clay. The Nano Gems could be fired up to 1725°F / 940°C safely without change, with the exception of the Dark Orange and Orange which could be fired safely up to 1700°F / 927°C on an open shelf.
The first Nano Gems testing we performed in clay was in FS999 Fine Silver clay on an open shelf, fired at FS999’s recommended firing schedule of 1650°F / 899°C for two hours. The top row of Nano Gems all have azures behind them. They stayed true to color and brilliance. The only exception was with the Amethyst Green, which reflected some champagne tones with the light green ones. The bottom row of Nano Gems do not have any azures, as the gems were placed directly into the clay. All changed greatly in color, clarity and luster. The exceptions were with Orange and the Kryptonite, which just lost some of their luster. You can clearly see the difference the azure makes for the stones appearance. Nano Gems with azures behind them are on the top row.
The next test we did was similar to the previous, however, we fired the Nano Gems in EZ960 Sterling Silver clay. The sample was fired open shelf at EZ960’s recommended firing schedule of 1675°F / 899°C for two hours. Again, the top row of Nano Gems with the azures behind them stayed true to color and brilliance. The exceptions were with the Dark Orange and Orange, which began to lose their luster and became slightly dull, and the Amethyst Green took on some champagne tones as it did in the FS999. The bottom row of Nano Gems, without the azures, respond very similarly to the ones fired in the FS999. Some did get darker and duller do to the higher firing temperature. At this point it is very evident that the Nano Gems are dependent on an azure to stay true to color and luster. We tested the Dark Orange and Orange in EZ960 and fired open shelf at 1650°F / 899°C and fired for 4 hours. They stayed true to color and brilliance. Both the Dark Orange and Orange cannot be fired above 1650°F / 899°C in clay.
The third test was the Nano Gems with azures in EZ960 fired in Magic Carbon. It was fired at EZ960’s recommended firing schedule when firing in carbon, which is 1590°F / 865°C for two hours. All fired beautifully, without any change in any of the stones. The test was repeated with FS999 in Magic Carbon fired at 1650°F / 899°C. Once again, they all fired perfectly. As of this writing, we have not tested firing silver clays and Nano Gems in coconut or coal carbon.
The next question… How do the Nanos respond to base metal clays? We did a test strip of Nano Gems with azures fired in Hadar’s One-fire High-fire White Satin fired in coconut carbon fired to 1000°F / 538°C and held for two hours, then continued to fire to 1705°F / 929°C for two hours. All the stones did change due to the higher temperature, with the exception of the Amethyst Green which stayed true to color and luster. Some just darkened and dulled slightly, others changed dramatically. We also did a test strip in Hadar’s One-fire Medium-fire Bronze and fired 1100°F / 599°C and held for two hours, then continued to fire to 1560°F / 849°C for two hours. All of the Nano Gems fired beautifully, with exception of the Dark Orange and Orange. The Dark Orange and Orange do not fire well in coconut carbon; in both samples they turned black as shown below.
We worked on some other tests to get some conclusive evidence on cause and effect of firing Nano Gems. One test was to see if the size of the stone matters. We tested the London Blue Nano Gem in a 2mm, 3mm and 4mm round all with and without azures. All the Nano Gems with azures stayed true to color, and the ones without an azure did not. The upshot being that the size of the Nano Gem does not matter. We tested Cubic Zircons in 4mm round with and without azures to see if they responded to light the same way that Nano Gems do. They do not. There is only a very light change of color and luster when they are placed directly into clay.
All in all, the conclusive finding is to always fire Nano Gems in clay with an azure, or hole for light to pass through behind the gem. If the Nano gem is too small to effectively create an azure behind it, the next best option may be to use a small cubic zirconia instead, as their brilliance is not diminished when placed directly in clay – with or without an azure.
A big, hearty thank you to our visiting artist, Carol Douglas, for traveling across the pond (from the UK) to be with us this past weekend, November 11 and 12, 2017. Wings and Things was the focus of the class. Carol is a warm, generous and fun person with an extensive knowledge of metal clay as it pertains to jewelry and sculpture.
Additionally, we were thrilled to have Bill and Lacey-Ann Struve attend the class. The class used FS999™ Fine Silver Clay as the medium which is the latest wonderful product from Metal Adventures Inc.
To get our creative juices flowing, Carol led us all on a meditation, taking us on a journey intended to bring images into our minds of what we might want to create, whether it was a butterfly or moth or creature from our own imaginations. The class was not “project oriented,” but rather each of us were encouraged to create our own story and wing project with the inspirations that had come to us during the meditation.
She talked extensively about her creative process, how she makes wings for her creatures, and showed us lots of tips and tricks for working with metal clay. She helped us think in a 3D perspective regarding the visual aspect of creatures with wings.
From then on, we each worked independently with plenty of encouragement and help from Carol. Each student’s work showed their individuality and the spark that had come to them during the meditation. There were beginners as well as seasoned metal clay artists in the class and Carol was graciously attentive to each student based on their experience. Questions were welcomed, problems were solved, much fun and laughter ensued, and all of us worked diligently.
Roll out a slab of FS999™ Fine Silver clay 4 cards thick. Lightly cover the Antique Mold “Toxic,” a skull and crossbones image with the Cool Slip. Gently press the slab into the Antique Mold. You will just use the skull area of the mold, so the excess clay can be cut away and used for the next skull pressing. Before removing the skull from the mold, let the clay set dry slightly so it will keep its shape and not distort when removing from the mold. Once removed from the mold, take the extra clay off from around the skull area. Allow it to dry. You will need to make six skulls. Once they are dry refine by sanding the edges and sanding flat spots on the back.
Making Earring Wires:
This pair of earrings was created for a stretched ear. Use the Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder with a round template to get a long coil for the earring wires. Make a template on a piece of paper of the shape that you want the earring wire to take. Include the area in which the skulls and stones will be placed. The backside of these pieces will attach to the wire. Next, take the coil and form it to the shape created on the paper. Then repeat, so you have the same shape wire for both earrings. Let them dry. Once they are dry, taper one of the ends of both wires. This will be the end that feeds through the ear. Sand down a flat spot on the wire where the skulls and stones will attach.
Making the Settings for the Stones:
Get four 6mm Fine Silver Bezels Cups and four 6mm Jet Black Cubic Zirconia Round Cabochons with the Checkerboard pattern. Sand down the tops of the bezel cups to fit the stones. Once you have a good fit, set the stones in the cups using a bezel roller to rock over the walls of the cup to hold the stone. Then use a curved burnisher to smooth out the sides of the bezel once the stone is set. Rough up the back of the bezel cups so that you will get a good bond to the clay when firing.
Assembling the Elements:
Create a clay slip by adding water to a small amount of the FS999 fine silver clay. Lightly, brush on some water to the dried skulls and wire where you want them to join. Add slip to both parts where they will connect. Then connect with gentle pressure. Add the stones by adding slip to the back of the bezels and join to the slipped area of the wire. Repeat until all the skulls and gems are attached to the wire. Allow to dry. Once it is dry, do all final sanding and refining. Once refined fire following the firing directions for FS999 fine silver clay.
Surface Finishing Techniques:
Once the earrings are fired and have cooled, clean with a brass brush, soap and water. Once they are clean, tumble them. After tumbling, patina with Cool Tools Patina Gel to a dark black patina. Then buff back the patina to reveal the wonderful detail in the earrings.