I have a commission in silver precious metal clay that has been moved up to be a Christmas gift, and I’m trying to bring my skill set in air dry and polymer clay up to kiln-fired pieces.
I decided to model parts of the piece in Copper Art Clay before I broke into my pure (and expensive) silver Precious Metal Clay (PMC3).
I am so glad I made that decision!
Straight out of the package, my Copper Art Clay seems dry and for the past several weeks, I couldn’t make anything from it that wasn’t filled with cracks before I even set it down to dry. Yesterday I gave up on the first package, and put the bone dry pieces of scrapped bezels and the remaining (exterior oxidized) fresh into tiny air-tight pots, then added distilled water. Now I have 6 pots of copper Art Clay slip.
I broke open a new package of Copper Art Clay and was still disappointed. I couldn’t roll the unused portions into smooth, uncracked balls for storage, just as before, but I decided to persevere in the name of experimentation. I needed to know if my most heat sensitive stone, a golden topaz, would discolor in the kiln, and I also needed to know if it would catch and throw enough light without an open back in the setting. I finally decided this was good enough:
You can see already that the stone captures and throws quite a bit of light. The setting is cracked and rough, but I’m not testing for those qualities, so ugly is just fine.
Here is a snail I created by making a two-part silicone mold of a shell from my garden. This is from the first package of clay, and although I tried desperately to fill the cracks with slip and actually tried to file smooth the roughness, it still looks pretty miserable. I decided to keep it for experimentation purposes, though, to see if the embedded handmade copper hanging loop survived and how much texture would remain.
After seasoning the kiln before its first firing today, which took 5 hours, I was ready to fire these two pieces. Art Clay recommended that the pieces be placed into a hot kiln (i.e., not be in the kiln while it ramps up to the target temperature). I’m glad I didn’t follow that advice.
I reprogrammed the kiln for copper art clay (1776°F, which is higher than for PMC3, so if the stone survived the higher temp, all the better). The seasoning/set up instructions had me place the kiln shelf on the bottom of the kiln, without risers, so I had no way to remove the shelf until the kiln was cold. I was leery of trying to place these two small pieces into the kiln without them being on a platform, so I grabbed the two sheets that came with the kiln shelf, placed the pieces on that, and slid it all into the kiln using a kiln fork. Pretty proud of myself to have thought of it—NOT!
Those pieces burst into flame as soon as I shut the kiln door. I heard the flash and saw a bit of smoke escape around the closed door, and knew I had skroooooed up regally. It was only at that point that I remembered…those two pieces were included to cushion the kiln shelf while in transit, and you’re supposed to save them to use if you travel with the kiln. I’m never going to travel with my kiln, so why didn’t I trash those two sheets of…what? Some kind of fibre board definitely not intended to be fired!
Once the fire flash consumed the oxygen and went out, I was able to use some long jewelry tweezers to remove the charred boards and put the pieces directly on kiln shelf. I reprogrammed the kiln and this is what I ended up with, after a half hour soak in hot pickle:
The stone survived beautifully. The bezel setting looks as crappy as expected and has a few tiny cracks that weren’t there before, but the stone is secure with good color and light refraction. The snail has big cracks and black oxidation remains in the center of the spiral, but the handmade loop survived. So everything looks like I thought it might and should, until you turn them over, that is:
Let’s call this the crispy critter side, or maybe the fire sale side. Definitely no saving either of these pieces, or using them in other projects, but even though I totally botched the firing, I did get the answers I needed.
Time to wrap my nerves in steel and start the silver commission piece. I have until the end of November to back out of the December delivery, but I hope I won’t need to.
Now gimme that glass of wine!