Monday, June 22, 2015

06.22.15 Playing with clay

Jewelry by Lorena Angulo (photo credit:
If I had a lot more time and money - I would spend many more weekends at Creative Side Jewelry Academy learning something new from their amazing instructors.  Since I can't spend every weekend there, I try really hard to soak up as much as I can when I do have the opportunity to take a class.

Finished heart pendant
That was the case the weekend of June 7-8, when I spent two days with Lorena Angulo, an amazing jewelry artist from San Antonio, learning about the wonders of precious metal clay (PMC).  Like so many jewelers I have gotten to know over the years (and even more in the few months I've been writing this blog), Lorena's path to jewelry was not a straight line. 

Lorena started her career as an advertising professional. She fed her lifelong interest in Mexican folk art first, by collecting pieces for her personal collection, then with her retail store Pueblo Folk Art in San Antonio.  After curating and selling the works of other artists, Lorena joined the Southwest School of Art, and has become a master of metal clay, and an amazing instructor.

Materials on the bench - ready to go
As with previous courses, I arrived at CSJA to find everything I would need at my bench.  In addition to a package (25g) of silver PMC, there were some very simple tools for rolling, forming and carving the clay.

Lorena explained her process for working with the clay - including sketching designs, making patterns or templates for cutting the clay, and ways to give the finished pieces texture and depth.

Next she instructed us to begin sketching ideas for our pieces, telling us to think about the size of our pieces for two reasons: first - PMC shrinks (because the binder that holds the clay together burns away when the pieces are fired) and while you can do a lot with 25g, it is a limited amount of clay.

Finally - she encouraged us to be willing to make mistakes - because that is how you learn.

Sketches and template outlines
I decided to start with two sketches - pair of teardrop earrings with a wave motif, and an Erlenmeyer flask pendant - for my daughter the chemist.  After sketching the designs, I then drew templates on an index card (heavier and easier to cut with the X-Acto knife) to use for cutting my clay.

Next step - rolling out my clay, and cutting out my first two pieces. Lorena explained to us the importance of uniform thickness (achieved by using a stack of three playing cards taped together) so that the piece would not been too thin and crack.  Although the medium does become solid metal after it is fired, it behaves like traditional clay until then - so it is important to be careful not to break it.
Finished clay pieces drying before being fired

After each layer of clay is cut or shaped, it needs to be able to dry completely before cutting, carving or adding the next layer.  To add a layer, water is applied to the dry piece, and wet clay is placed on and positioned.  This process is repeated until the piece is finished.

Texture can also be added by pressing tiny chips of dry clay onto a dry piece - creating a sparkly, almost druzy-like finish to a piece.

I built up my pieces using layers of clay for the earrings and flask pendant, and with texture on my heart pendant.  Then, with help from Lorena, I added a bail, leaves and flowers to my heart pendant.  I had a little bit of clay left, so I made one more pair of earring charms - combining layering and texturing techniques.
The finished pieces are then placed in a kiln, and fired for over 2 hours at 1640° F.  When removed from the kiln, the clay binder has burned away - and the result is pieces of solid silver jewelry.

Photo credit: Lorena Angulo
She made us say "tequila!"

Once again - I've spent a wonderful weekend at Creative Side - and come away with new friends, new knowledge, new jewelry and a new story to share.

Until next time. 

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