I posted on Metal Clay Gallery about a year ago that it was like the wild west right now, with everyone experimenting with different clays and firing times and methods.
I wouldn’t have imagined that things would have gotten wild west-ier, but they have!
In addition to the first base metal clay, BronzClay from Metal Adventures, we know have CopprClay from the same, Copper Clay from Art Clay, Hadar’s Powders (sold in powdered form) from Hadar Jacobson, and now Prometheus Clay from Turkey. Oh, and did I mention another company sells silver powder for mixing up your own silver metal clay?
For a while, I was swept up in the excitement and tried many different brands. By the time Prometheus clay came out, I wasn’t even tempted to try it. (nothing against them personally, it does seem to work well for people.)
With the base matal clays, the firing is a little tricky, and it takes some time to figure out how to have consistent success with them.
For me, I’m happy to limit myself to just a few brands and types of clay, learn how to use them, and use my precious jewelry making time to be creative, not to do endless experiments with every possible brand and type of clay.
To achieve mastery of a media, one needs to focus and place limits. I believe limits actually encourage creativity, not hamper it.
So for me, I’m keeping it simple and limiting myself to only some of the many choices of metal clays. I recently took a class on the new Art Clay Copper. I wanted to try it since it’s a quick fire clay that can be torch fired or fired in a kiln in only 30 minutes. I think it definitely opens up possibilities for teaching copper clay in weekend workshops, which would be nearly impossible with the brands with the longer firing schedules.
The short firing schedule isn’t going to work well for enameling though, so if you’re working with copper so that you can enamel it, you’ll need to stick with Pam East’s firing schedule, which she thoroughly tested for CopprClay. (I wonder if it works with Art Clay Copper too? I’ll ask her.)
There are so many variables when working with the base metal clays, that I think individual artists should choose a brand and stick with it. I have no opinion on which brand – just pick whichever one you like, master that firing schedule, take notes on it, and stick with it.
I just fired some awesome stuff in BronzClay, and against my previous experience, I put too much in the firing container, and most of it came out un-sintered, just dust. I knew better, but I was impatient.
Here’s a question – why work in base metal clays at all? What’s your motivation?
I like making stuff in bronze because it’s really hard and allows me to make keychains and inexpensive jewelry for kids. And it’s what statues are made of. I like that. It’s fancy, it’s different from silver, there are some nice patina options and I just like it.
I’m less excited, personally, about the copper. For me, I find the required firing schedule a (for enameling) bit too much of a pain. I think I’d rather etch conventional copper and enamel that.
Lastly, it’s okay not to try everything. It’s okay to limit yourself creatively, in fact, it’s a great idea. Too many options can lead to doing nothing. Many creativity experts, including my buddy, Professor Marvin Bartel, advocate limiting options in order to increase creativity. I don’t know Prof. Bartel, of Gosehn College, but he’s teaching me to draw through his website for art educators.
I’m letting go of copper clay and focusing on bronze and silver clays. Faced with limited time, I’m choosing to limit my choice of materials in order to keep it simple and encourage creativity.
What’s your take? Which base metal clay(s) do you use? or do you not use them at all? Tell us all in the comments!
Update: Be sure to check out all the awesome comments!