While Cool Tools Antique Molds are great for making satisfying charms and pendants by firing exactly what you pull from the molds, they also offer opportunity to create unique pieces by manipulating the clay once it has been removed from the mold. I made both pieces by beginning with the Wild Child Antique Mold with EZ960® Sterling Silver Clay. In both pieces I thought it would be nice to remove the background, and cut away the silver clay in the background with my Ultra Clay Pick while the clay was still soft.
For the piece pictured on the right, I also pressed clay into the Sunshine and Lace Antique Mold and decided I wanted to work with mostly the ends. I gently placed the Wild Child piece on top of the Sunshine and Lace piece and scribed a line to follow and cut away the middle so the pieces from The Sunshine and Lace Piece will line up perfectly with the edges of the Wild Child piece. Once I cut away the excess from the Sunshine and Lace piece, I gently dampened the edges that met with a small amount of distilled water on a brush before adding just a touch of EZ960 Sterling Silver Paste from a syringe to the edge and pressing them together. I used the brush to run over the seam to smooth it out before allowing the piece to dry and refining the edges of the piece as a whole by sanding it while it was in its greenware stage. I fired the clay piece before soldering a pin back to the back so it may be worn as a brooch.
I created the piece on the left in a similar way, only I was only working with only the Wild Child Antique Mold. I pressed clay into just the flower portion of the mold (located in her hair) and made small flowers that I attached to the main piece with paste. Once I was happy with my design, I allowed the piece to dry before cleaning it up, firing it, and soldering on a pin back as I did in the first piece.
I hope this inspires you to put your own spin on an Antique Mold, the possibilities are endless with so many to choose from!
Cool Tools Antique Molds are made from 100% silicone mold material that does not stick to metal clay, or any other type of clay, so no release is needed. Molds are reusable and can be placed on a heat source to dry clay. Safe to 500°F. Use molds to create a pendant, earrings or a focal point on a cuff.
Check out this beautifully hand crafted necklace by Cool Tools’ resident artist, Karen Trexler! What I personally love about this piece is how you can see her fingerprints, creating a soft texture for the petals. Karen explains her process for creating this piece out of EZ960 Sterling Silver Clay below:
I started this necklace with EZ960 rolled to 2 cards thick. Immediately after rolling the clay, while it was still still fresh and soft, I cut half round sections to pinch into petals. The clay was a dream to work with, making tight bends for the rose petals without ripping. I attached the petals together to form the flowers simply by pressing them together before attaching all the flowers together with EZ960 Sterling Silver Paste from the syringe (EZS-010-S). I used a brush with distilled water to clean up and smooth out the paste connections. Finally, I pressed silver embeddable eyelets (FND-909) into the end flowers so that the piece could be worn as a necklace before drying and firing the clay. I concluded this piece by using the embedded eyelets to attach the rose pendant to the chain (CHN-260).
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.
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.
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.
Our seventh artist for the Artist Project Series with Creative Fire using EZ960® Sterling Silver Metal Clay is Kim Nogueira, an automaton maker and art jeweller from the Virgin Islands. Her jewelry is full of old fashioned cranks and levers, adding individuality to every piece. Follow along and learn her process step by step for making this beautiful, advanced piece, as well as more about Kim Nogueira here.
Our fifth artist for the Artist Project Series with Creative Fire using EZ960® Sterling Silver Metal Clay is Iwona Tamborska, a Polish artist and member of the Goldsmithing Artists Association. Her project is quite advanced, but all artists will still learn something new. Iwona’s process includes drawing out a detailed plan, applying Gilders Paste, setting CZs and creating hollow forms. Follow along and learn this process step by step, as well as more about Iwona Tamborska here.
1675F for 2 hours
1700F for 1 Hour
1725F for 15 minutes
However, we have added to this schedule:
1675F for 3 or 4 hours – recommended for bending post-firing.
We have found through experience, trial and error, and then testing with a pyrometer, that most kilns are firing properly and at the stated temperatures. There are some kilns, however, that can or do fire somewhat lower than what the digital display states. This can be due to several reasons (age and use of the kiln being one of them). Regardless, and because of lower firing temperatures, some artists have experienced, when bending post-firing, cracking and even breakage of their Sterling Silver pieces after firing at the recommended firing times and temperatures. By testing with a pyrometer, we have found that these problems are due to an under-firing kiln. That being the case, for those artists who wish to bend the metal post-firing, we recommend firing for 3 or 4 hours at the 1675F temperature. This longer firing time, as simple as it is, has proven to be an excellent insurance policy to ensure the clay is completely sintered, and then, can withstand the additional rigors of bending post-firing- this is especially true for underperforming kilns or for those that may have experienced cracking or breakage when bending.
Having said that, the next question was, logically, “what about co-firing cubic zirconia and lab created gemstones at this temperature (1675F) for the longer hold time of 4 hours?” Can they take the heat for an additional 2 hours? Well, we tested every color and type of cz and lab created gemstone in our inventory, and the answer is…. if the gemstone can tolerate 2 hours at 1675F (open shelf, no carbon), it can tolerate 4 hours at 1675F (open shelf, no carbon). One exception being the golden topaz – it turned slightly darker, but it did not burn, nor did it change in the quality of the hue.
We have updated our Gemstone Firing Guide to reflect this new data. Also see below photos of the gemstones, before and after their 1675F firing on an open shelf for 4 hours.
All of this is good news for those who wish to co-fire gemstones with EZ960 using the technique that Lis-el Crowley pioneered and uses to her advantage – forming and firing the clay flat, and then bending the metal around a mandrel post-firing to create adjustable rings and cuff bracelets.