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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BronzClay Results, Jewelry Photos, and Crimp Covers

Exciting day.

Remember when you were a kid? Which day of the year was it never a problem to get up early? Christmas (assuming you celebrated Christmas). The anticipation sprang you right out of bed without one hint of morning sleepiness.

That's the same feeling I had back when I was torching. Oh heavens, the excitement of seeing your beads from the kiln for the first time. Wow!

And now, we have that back… tada!!! Metal Clays!


Maybe I should call it "experiment #1a" since our FIRST real experiment with BronzClay was at Kathy's class last month. But this is our first solo experiment and the first time for us firing the clay.

Background Info: First, here's a refresher of what we made in class with Kathy. Mon made a necklace pendant with a square base and bird cut-outs adhered with slip.

Mon has since given the necklace to me and with her permission I want to shine up the birds to their natural bronze color.

Now, I finally got a picture of what I created in that class. I'll show you, then I'll explain something.

To decorate my circles, I used a technique referred to as "tear-away". Here's a link to the description of "tear away" technique and kudos to Elaine Luther for giving props at the end of the article.

Anyway, it turns out that, although you can get really intricate designs onto your clay via the tear-away method, the impressions are fairly shallow (aka: subtle). I can see how this effect would have been better with a different design and I will definitely use it in the future. But for my charms, it was just a little too faint to be effective. Here's a close-up. You can see my intentions… but go back to the photo of the whole bracelet and you'll see it's just lost.

For what it's worth, though, the bracelet makes wonderful "jewelry music" when worn. Ha ha ha! I love that in a bracelet.

Onto the making: Since we didn't want to make anything until our kiln set-up was ready, Mon and I did have a few excruciatingly long weeks before we got to do our first solo experiments.

From my understanding, BronzClay is sensitive to the air (can dry out quickly) so when we're not working with it, we keep it tightly sealed in saran wrap. It took Monica about an hour to "prepare" the cards. She used the same method as our teacher, Kathy, which may be the regular method of all PC and MC artists… but since we've never done anything before we have no clue what's "normal" and/or "standard". Anyway, she took the two cards with a number "one" on them (we were using an UNO deck, so there wasn't an ace) and set them aside. Then she took the cards with a number "two" on them and put another card behind it and taped them together. So now, the card showing a number two is two-cards thick. And so on up to seven cards thick. Lot's of preparation but we can now use them for a long time to come and we'll always know the thickness of our projects (as measured in cards, anyway).

This can be important, btw, when it comes to firing times.

Anyway, Mon wanted to make a bracelet like we'd seen made in class. She also wanted to embellish it with two koi fish which she made then added with slip.

We seemed to have some issues with our slip so we'll work on that more next time.

I made two large square pendants and six small charms. I knew the clay shrinks in the firing but I guess I didn't really realize just how much… I need to make my charms bigger next time. Heh

Drying: So we made our pieces, then placed them on the "drying rack". The drying rack is a griddle…

... that will not be used for food. Get them at places like Walgreen's, Long's, K-Mart, Target, etc. (we boycott Walmart, but if you shop there, I'm sure they have 'em too).

We had the temp in a 200-250 range. (I bumped it up to 250 when I saw how thick Mon's pieces were… then I lowered it again for mine so they wouldn't curl so much.)

We placed the pieces on baking parchment and wax paper and directly onto the griddle.

I had intended to buy a mug warmer and now I'm glad I couldn't find one… it would never have been large enough.

The pieces didn't seem TOTALLY dried out by the time I would have had to start the kiln so we decided to wait one more day rather than risk putting any moist pieces into the kiln.

I also wanted to be home for our first firing (yeah, I'm overly cautious that way) and we were going out that night, so after the pieces were dried, I placed them into the Baine Marie pan with the charcoal, put the lid on and left it like that until Monday.

Most of the "finishing" or "cleaning" work is done after drying. You can smooth the edges and make your jumpring hole (I couldn't find any cocktail straws so I bought a small package of eyelet rivets at Target…)

Firing: Got home at 4:30 and had the kiln turned on by 4:45. BTW, "kiln posts" was one item I didn't have (or didn't have on me at the moment… I'm sure they're somewhere, but the move has some of my items a little discombobulated). I asked on LE for a suitable substitute and was offered the advice of terra cotta pots or anything stainless steel.

I couldn't find any terra cotta pots at the two places I went so I headed to the kitchen dept of a large drug store and purchased two tea strainer balls…

I detached the chain, opened them up, and placed them open-side down on the kiln floor, placing the charcoal-filled pan on top of them.

Thank you, Amber, for always being there when I need help remembering how to program my kiln.

Since Mon's fish were thick (very thick), I went with an uber slow ramp up and a long holding time. Six cards seems to be the cut-off for the firing schedule options. If your pieces are less than six cards thick versus if they've more than.

My program was ramp up at 380 degrees per hour until I got to 1516 then hold for three hours.

Our firing ended at 11:30 and the previous seven hours were spent in utter torture since someone had sprayed on the fiber blanket part of the kiln that keeps the bead door from emitting the heat. Cat spray is retched. Cooking cat spray is hellish.

Thank goodness we awoke to no smell of cat spray. And some kind-hearted soul on LE took pity on me and is sending me a replacement piece of the white stuff so I can get rid of mine.

*shudder* Just THINKING about it makes me gag.

Results: So back to Christmas morning… I had no trouble getting out of bed this morning, despite the fact that I was up past midnight. The pan inside the kiln was warm to the touch, but not enough to require gloves. The stainless steel tea strainers did great… be forewarned if you haven't done this before… those things are now black.

Unfortunately, Mon's fish didn't make it… the one that wasn't attached to the bracelet with slip broke into three pieces, and the one that had been attached was fine but no longer attached. At first Mon thought the fish on the bracelet had "melted into" the bracelet because you could see his outline. Ha!

Monica reminded me of what Kathy said… that the first time you use your charcoal you may not get the rich patinas. By about the sixth firing, though, expect to see more range and saturation.

If you scroll back to Mon's birds, that was a sixth firing.

So, here is what came out. As you can see, we haven't done anything yet (I did, sandpaper my two squares, though, to bring out some bronze shine to the raised parts). Sorry the pic of Mon's bracelet parts is out of focus. These were obviously quickie morning shots… no fancy set-up yet.

BTW, found this cute photo I'd forgotten about while I was uploading the bronze photos. Aren't they sweet?!

So, I'll report more on our progress as we move forward with our experimenting.


So, I've got some new creations to list, but I'm (still!) having a devil of a time photographing them.

That necklace (sorry, I forgot to mention it was a necklace) I showed you last night was shot in a photo cube on plexiglass… LOTS of reflections to watch out for.

So then I printed out a gray background and laid a couple pieces on the coffee table in the light of the setting sun through my glass door. Timer on, no flash (I don't think).

The focus isn't as good as I wanted in that one, but I admit to having a very hard time photographing necklaces. The focus and color are a bit better in this next one but that's probably because the area photographed was smaller.

Same set-up for this.

And this (but I moved in a little closer). I never know if people wanna see bracelets at an angle or from straight down.


I *think* I mentioned the other day that I was given an ArtBeads calendar. And that it was perfectly appropriated (even though it's not March) because I actually didn't have a calendar yet for 2009.

I almost did. I was exploring the Beads of Courage website.

Did you know you can do something that donates money to Beads of Courage and doesn't cost you a penny? "Search online using GoodSearch and give to charities like Beads of Courage. Simply enter 'Beads of Courage' under "Who do you GoodSearch for? and monetary funds will support our foundation at no cost to you." Pretty neat!

Anyway, I had wanted to buy one of their calendars but they didn't have a checkout system right there and they didn't accept PayPal… and I know me… I'm really bad with remembering things like mailing checks to people. I am a bit embarrassed/ashamed of that, particularly in light of such a worthy cause, but I can't even remember the last time I did a check or money order… and then I'd have to print out postage. Yes, I'm sad… but sometimes things have to be easy-peasy for me.

So anyway, there was one thing I noticed in this ArtBeads calendar that had me puzzled. There are three months that feature photos of jewelry that clearly do not use crimp covers. I know, some of you are reading this and going, "OMG, is she for real?! Who cares if the jewelry has crimp covers or not?" Okay, fair enough. But obviously *I* care. I'm not saying it makes the piece any less worthy or pretty (although it may), but I guess my first thought was… this is a bead store… how could they not make sure the finishing touches were on the jewelry? Okay, just so's you know, I realize this is MY opinion and in no way reflects how anyone else feels about crimp covers.


BTW, I'm deleting some of the blog links I have (to other people's blogs… over there on the right… if you scroll down). I figure if they haven't posted in months, you probably don't need to be reminded of their blog every day. :-)

Since this was such a long post, I won't add anything else.

Oh wait, I lie! I wanted to add some photos of the cats from our visit this weekend. Bear missed his kitties.


  1. Laura your and Mon's bronze clay pieces are stunning!!!!

  2. Great bronze clay work! :)

    at Rings & Things