Every year, the Bead & Button Show is put on in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is only an hour away from Jefferson, Wisconsin, where Cool Tools is located. Classes are offered at the Bead & Button Show with a huge variety of techniques and skill levels. Rhonda and Dianne, employees of Cool Tools took some classes to keep up their knowledge in the jewelry artist world. Each teacher was wonderful to work with and an inspiration to learn from.
Classes included (from the first to last picture):
Backyard Birdhouse in Silver Clay with Lyle Rayfield
Aphrodite Pendant with Kaska & Katherine Firor
Kiln-Fired Enamel Earrings with Sherie Gage
Spinner Ring with Robyn Corelius
We both learned a great deal of technique and instruction at these classes and can’t wait to take more next year!
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.
Both of these beautiful rings were made with EZ960 Sterling Silver Clay by Master Elena Chistova, from Nizhniy Novgorod city in Russia. Her wonderful instructor is Alexander Kraft, who teaches metal clay and enameling at the METALCLAYSTUDIO.
The flower ring stuns with its beautiful coloring by using our Cool Tools Patina Gel. How awesome is that!?
If you are interested in the METALCLAYSTUDIO and their classes offered 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.
The “Antique Mold Charm Bracelet” is a great project for beginners. The simple techniques make a wonderful bracelet, which looks very complex due to all the wonderful elements made from our Antique Molds. We have a huge selection of Antique Molds, with over 800 offered. You can choose to use all of the mold, or just a fragment of it. One of the great things about a charm bracelet is that you get to pick and choose the elements that appeal to you. The individualized compilation of the charms tells a unique story.
After you have chosen the Antique Molds and clay(s), you are ready to begin the project. I chose to work with Hadar’s Clay One-fire High-fire Clays.Any clay(s) would work well for this project. It would look amazing in FS999 or EZ960 with our new Nano Gems embedded in the charms or set as charms on their own.
I began with Hadar’s Clay One-Fire Copper Clay. I hadn’t had experience with firing copper wire into base metal clays, so I made the seahorse and rose charm with the copper jumpring embedded into the clay as test samples. After I molded, dehydrated and finished the edges of the forms, I carved out a groove in the back where I wanted the jump ring to nestle. It is important that the jump ring rests below the surface of the backside. After a good fit is found for the jump ring, secure it into place with some paste and clay. Dry out the clay, do any final clean up and fire. I used the recommend firing schedule for Hadar’s Clay One-Fire Copper Clay. The jump rings fired into the clay well. I continued this process for the remainder twelve molds using the other six Hadar’s Clay One-Fire High-Fire Clays. I fired all of these clays together using Hadar’s recommend firing schedule for combined firing.
Once all the charms were fired, I attached them to the “Patterned Wire Chain Bracelet” created for a previous blog. The bracelet was patinated with Patina Gel, buffed with a brass brush and tumbled. After tumbling I did a final polishing with the Ultra Polishing Pads.
I did have some issues with the jump rings dislodging from the two copper pieces during tumbling. I did not have this issue with the other clays. I believe that I thinned out the clay a little too much, which I used to embed the jump ring. This left the clay vulnerable to breaking. To fix this issue, the jump rings were soldered on to the copper pieces with paste solder and a butane torch. I am planning to remake and fire the copper charms to test whether my first clay connections were faulty, or if copper wire does not like to fuse to copper clay. Also, I did tumble the Steel XT and the Pearl Grey. These are steel clays, and they did rust a bit from the water in the tumbler. I would not recommend tumbling these clays. They will look better from just using dry polishing methods. I hope that my “Antique Mold Charm Bracelet” inspires your own custom charm bracelet. Listed below are all of the materials, tools and antique molds I used for this project.
Bracelet from Patterned Wire Chain Bracelet or Necklace (Previous Blog)
Our tenth artist for the Artist Project Series with Creative Fire using EZ960® Sterling Silver Metal Clay is Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, the promotor, write and editor for Creative Fire. Jeannette is also a teacher who holds a Master’s degree in education as well as several Bachelor’s degree’s in history and arts.
Jeannette was inspired to create this ring by a red schoolhouse in rural Ontario. The school house was built in 1876 and captured her heart as a child.
Follow along and learn Jeannette’s process step by step for making this beautiful piece as well as more about Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and the history around this cherished school house here.
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.
Our ninth artist for the Artist Project Series with Creative Fire using EZ960® Sterling Silver Metal Clay is Julia Rai, an award winning artist, teacher and writer. She is well known in the international metal clay community.
Julia explains, “Penannular style brooches have been used to fasten clothing since the late Iron Age. This style of brooch has a loop of metal with terminals or flattened ends and a moveable pin. The pin is pushed through the fabric and the end of the ring goes under the sharp end of the pin. The ring is then turned locking the pin in place. There are a wide variety of designs for the terminals of historical penannular brooches and this is where the fun comes in on this modern take on an ancient design. I have used a natural theme for the hoop, texturing it to resemble bark. The terminals use pod, fungi and lichen forms and this is echoed on the curve of the pin.”
Follow along and learn Julia’s process step by step for making this beautiful piece as well as more about Julia Rai here.