Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Falling in love with Copper & Bronze

Hello everyone!
Well, this morning I thought I'd post some thoughts about copper and bronze clay seeing as I've been working with them so much lately. 

I'll admit that it took me a while to become interested in these metal clays, simply because I really love silver and I didn't like the idea of firing clay for hours on end or having to mess around with a carbon box. Copper and bronze clays react with the oxygen in the air so as soon as they become hot and then cool down the metal develops what can only be described as a 'crusty' oxidised layer. This looks like a black coating on the fired metal and it needs to be removed by placing the fired piece in a pickle solution. I've never had much success with this in the past so I threw in the towel and stuck to working with silver clay.

That is until a new product came on the market called Prometheus copper and bronze clay. These clays are also marketed under the name of Creative copper and bronze clay. Prometheus clays are very straigthforward to work with, they can be fired in a kiln for 30 minutes or with a gas torch for between 8 and 10 minutes. You may think 10 minutes is a long time to hold a gas torch but it's well worth the effort and time spent to make your own fabulous metal clay jewellery. It's also a lot harder to melt these clays with a torch, the trick is keeping them hot enough so that they are fully fired. I've found that firing with a gas torch reduces the amount of oxidisation that appears on the piece as long as you plunge it straight into cold water as soon as it has been fired.

Prometheus/Creative Clay has also introduced its own pickle solution called 'Picklean'. This is a safety pickle that is made from food acids so is 100% safe to use, does not burn your skin and can be disposed of by flushing it down the toilet. Pickle achieves the best results when it is warm. Simply add 1 tablespoon of picklean granules to 200ml of hot water and place the piece into the solution. I find that certain items need longer to pickle than others. I also find that keeping the solution warm and keeping a lid over it speeds up the process of removing the oxidisation. The pickle will always remove the oxidised layer, it can sometimes take an hour or more to do this.
Above is an example of a pair of earrings I made using copper clay. The metal has a beautiful, warm pink colour. I really like to polish the copper as it seems to look so much nicer when it's shiny. The beauty of copper and bronze clay is that it is so much cheaper than silver. In the early days, I found myself making huge pieces of jewelley, just because I could! Now, however, I have tempered this and do prefer to make  small charms and more delicate pieces as they just look so effective.

I'm launching copper and bronze clay on Jewellery Maker TV on Thursday 17th May at 9am. I hope you join me and discover the wonderful world of copper and bronze clay!

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