Working with Bronze Clay

Just back from a beautiful show in North Georgia and had good sales and lots of wonderful feedback on the collection.  I may have mentioned that one of my favorite metal clays is the FastFire Bronze Clay.  It’s texture is incredibly satisfying and it holds any kind of design I use and carve beautifully and rich with details.  While the traditional Bronze Clay still works well when I design, I find that the FastFire is just a better product.  One thing that you should be aware of with any of the metal clay is to keep it moist as you work with it.  If the clay dries too quickly you’ll lose the ability to design consistently or mold and sculpt as you want.  I use a combination of water and Cool Slip from my favorite website (www.cooltools.us) to keep clay moist.  After molding and sculpting these two bracelets and after they dried I noticed a few splits and cracks . . . these happen because either the piece is too thin or where the curve hits the design the clay is too thin and will split.  Here’s how I salvaged this problem:

First, you need to have a solid stone (not plastic, glass, or ceramic) mortar and pestle . . .

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Once pieces are dry, sanding is a very important step in smoothing edges and refining the piece BEFORE it become metal, where it becomes harder to get rid of mistakes, defects are sloppy work.  Here, in my beaker, I’ve collected bronze clay fine particles from the previous pieces I sanded.  You don’t need to much to make a paste.  Paste is one way of “healing” the cracks.  I also use a product called “Paste Maker” again, you can find this at the major metal clay sites.  Just a few drops and with my palette tool I mixed and pressed until I had a thick paste consistency that was very smooth:

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After you are happy with the paste consistency, just take a brush and begin to apply in smooth strokes the paste over the cracks.  I hold my pieces up against a light to see if I’ve gotten all the cracks.  I also use my magnifier glasses–can’t do details work without them!  In this picture you can see where I applied the paste–I usually end up putting on several layers and then let dry.  Once it is dry, carefully sand down the texture to achieve a nice smooth back.

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Another method I use is to actually use flattened clay and then wet it around the edges and back and apply to the cracks.  I use this method if I want my piece to remain very thick (which is important in cuffs) or if the cracks are just really big.  Just use your fingers to flatten the extra clay and smooth it down around the edges, watching for complete coverage of the cracks.  It doesn’t have to be pretty because you’ll refine it with sanding after you’ve make the repairs.

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I’ve smoothed out the rough repairs with careful sanding and handling . . . while you might see some slight color variations that will go away after the firing.  Just make sure you smooth the back side professionally as this is what will rest against a client’s skin.

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Well, that it’s for this post . . .I’ll post my latest experiment with Bronze Clay next time and how it really came to life with the experiment!  Another one of a kind piece from the studios of Reflections!

 

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