Spring Collection

My Etsy shop is currently updated to include my new Spring collection pieces.  Just in time for Mother’s Day!

Feel free to share with friends and family.  My next show is May 21-22, 2016 at the Canton Festival of the Arts, Canton, GA.  Come and see me!




Paste, and more Paste, please

Spring has sprung again and that means time for my yearly collection of blossoms and leaves.  Still waiting on my dogwoods to bloom, but have started on some leaves for earrings.  When working with metal clay paste, you have to be sure your organic materials are strong and the ideal size for jewelry.  My collection every year begins with this one simple rule–collect multiple branches and blossoms and then find the right ones to work with back in the studio.  Of course, I work in volume during Spring for the whole collection of my organic pieces for my shows, so I have to make sure I have plenty of paste.

While you can always go the easier route and impress your organics into the clay itself, I find that using the actual organic in the process brings a nicer depth to the piece.  It does require patience and diligence to paste the 20+ layers of metal clay paste but the end results are worth it.

Because of the cost of the silver clay, I have learned to reclaim all my shavings, bits of clay that have hardened and pieces that just didn’t work for me before I fired them.  I keep an ongoing collection of my dust and powder from sanding pieces before firing. That’s some valuable silver in all that dust.  Keep it in a dry, air tight container so that you don’t collect dust and junk flying around our air.  When you have enough (I usually use about 6 oz or more of collected material) then you are ready to begin making the paste.  I always buy the ready made paste for each season and then I keep all the jars to use for my reclaimed paste.  Here’s the process:

Gather together the following tools:

Mortar and Pestle (for grinding and mixing), pallet blade, water, PasteMaker by Sherri Haub, Glycerin, by Cool Tools, empty jars for storing paste, mixing bowl with airtight lid (I use the Glad ware bowls) and your reclaimed dust!IMG_1829 (2)IMG_1830 (2)

Your material will look like this when you start–lumps and broken clay pieces.IMG_1831IMG_1832

Keep grinding to reduce your material to powder or small particles.  Use a razor blade to help break down the small pieces into even finer pieces.


Once you’ve achieved a fine powder, put in mixing bowl and add several drops of the PasteMaker as well as the Glycerin.  You can certainly use water (distilled) as well, but I find the glycerin makes the paste very smooth.IMG_1836


Keep adding the glycerin, the PasteMaker and/or water to keep developing the powder into clay.  Use lots of motion with your mixing and keep cutting into the paste with your blade.



The mixture will eventually look like this–really work this with your blade–then you’ll see the paste getting better and better!  At this point, develop the paste to the consistency you want to work with–thinner or thicker–all based on the organic you are pasting to make this decision.



Once you’ve worked the paste to your chosen consistency–simply place the paste into your empty containers.  I don’t clean them at all–I just scrape out the leftovers to my powder mix and reclaim it all!

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As you can see from the pictures below, I had several types of organic to work with. And plenty of paste to go around. Have fun and feel free to experiment as you now have more material to work with that you already purchased!IMG_1816IMG_1818 (2)

Working with Organics

I’ve shared a little about how I do my leaves and flowers, but thought I would share my success in the studio from this morning.  One of my absolute favorite techniques is working with the metal clay and pasting it to a consistency that works for whatever organic I am using.  There are many things to consider . . so here’s what I did today:


First step is to find those treasures in nature.  I picked a couple of small branches from my apple tree (crab apple, I believe) and put them in water immediately.  You want your organic piece to be as fresh as possible.  If you are driving along, bring some paper towels and plastic bags for things you find.  You can wet the towel in the bag and keep the flower or plant going till you get home.  I often do this on my travels to and from shows.  I’ve picked up moss, cotton bloom, cotton leaves, acorns, pine cones and such.

leaves 1

Next, you want to pick the best of the bunch you are working with.  For this round, I was looking for the smaller baby leaves to use for earrings and rings.  Then I picked a couple of larger leaves for pendants.  As I’ve said before, spring is the best time to pick flowers and leaves.  They are new, strong and fresh.  You want leaves that are strong and I like keeping the stem to use as my holder as I paste the leaf.

leaves 0

I begin with a light coat of really watered down paste so I can see what the leave will do.  Some leaves are just not cooperative–those that have VERY high finish/glossy (like magnolias) or leaves with lots of fuzzy surfaces.  This leave always does well as it has a nice textures with lots of vein structure.  Work with the natural folds of the leaf as you continue the layers, because as the leaves dry, they will begin to curl–you can work with some curl, but if it curls too much you risk cracking the paste as it drys.

leaves 2

I ended up putting about 4-5 layers on these this morning.  I used my cup warmer and put my paper plate right on it to speed up the drying process so I could do more layers.  The quicker you begin the layers, while fresh, the better the results.  Paper plates are GREAT and are easily moveable in the studio space.

dogwood on warmer  IMG_0840  IMG_0845

Back to work on my dogwoods for last week.  I decided to put on a few more layers and dried them on the warmer.  Then I began my hand torch work.  I’ve actually did a video of this and will post it later this weekend so you can actually see the action.  It is important to keep things safe, so I put my firebrick on my tile which is then on a pottery turn wheel so I can move the whole thing easily while torching.  I use a small, hand butane torch.

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After firing, let it cool and then test it against glass to make sure the silver is solid.  You’ll hear that lovely “ding” sound and all is good!  I use a medium and small steel brush to gently brush away ashes, flecks and the white from the pasting–you’ll reveal the silver when you do this.  Some folks like to leave use this technique for a matte finish, which is fine.  But I like working with glossy finishes and for me, tumbling the silver gives it strength and you can be sure all the paste and ashes are gone.  I also love the dogwood flowers, because if you’ll look closely at the third picture above, you’ll see the honeycomb like texture of the burned out seed pods.  Cool!


They are now all getting a bath in some steel shot, burnishing fluid and water in a my heavy duty tumbler.  I am going to let this tumble for most of the day and then we’ll see what happens next!  Look for my video in my next post!