Jun 23, 2011

10 Days and 10 Grams - Playing in Leaves with Silver Metal Clay

Summer Leaf Collection by York Avenue Studio
When the price of Silver shot up, it seemed like my chances to work with Silver Art Clay were shot, too.  I’d just begun building techniques and skills working with precious metal clay and enjoyed making jewelry with fine silver to the point that it was my focus for future designs.  The price hike certainly busted my big plans, but I have been fortunate enough to still have the chance to work with fine silver, just on a much smaller scale.
First thin layer on leaves

With only 10 grams of fresh clay, I decided to try a technique of painting leaves and for 10 days I have had the pleasure to work with metal clay, enjoy the process of creating fine silver pieces, stretch my design skills to include a pendant with a hinge and just truly enjoy the entire time.  I have some amazing new pieces of jewelry and I am writing this post to reveal the photos of the projects and the stories behind the scenes.

10 grams of silver metal clay is not much, about the same amount as one stick of gum.  I used half the package as slip by adding water and thinning the clay until I could paint with it.  I scouted around my yard for tiny leaves that had nice shape and texture, picturing what they would look like as silver.  I selected a Violet leaf, three tiny Maple leaves and an Elm leaf.  They were small and I figured each leaf would require about 1 gram of silver, give or take.

Thicker layers with some curling as they dried
The technique for using real leaves with metal clay is basic, just paint thin layers and let them dry.  Fire them and finish, voila!  But, along the way, chatting with other metal clay artists, I discovered so many different methods and variations to the process, each idea or tip added even more possible outcomes and results!  It is amazing how each artist interprets the layering and resolves little issues along the way.  My Etsy team, Metal Clay Heads, had so many helpful suggestions and photos of their own leaf projects!  It was like having them by my side along the way, super great members with tons of experience to share.

I started with thin layers, then progressed to thicker paste-like layers.  As the layers became thicker, the leaves began to curl as they dried.  For my projects, this was a good thing.  But I was given a few tips that would help for keeping the leaves flat, if that is what I was hoping for.  There are also many ways to keep the leaves from sliding around or blowing away, and more tips on how to manage the silver that leaked under to the front of the leaf.  Great ideas that I have tucked away for future use!

The first leaf that was thick enough to fire was the little Violet leaf.  I layered my logo cutout on the back, dry clay to dry clay, using slip.  Once dried, I torch fired it and was thrilled to see the result!
I already had a design in mind for this leaf and make a bail with fresh clay, added a genuine Peridot gemstone and carved some leaf, stick and berry accents.  I fired the second time, did some finishing, used some Liver of Sulphur patina gel and was thrilled with the final piece!

Fine Silver Leaf with Peridot by York Avenue Studio
Fine Silver Leaf with Peridot - Back - York Avenue Studio
The next leaves ready were the tiny Maple leaves.  I had a design in mind for the upcoming Metal Clay Heads Team Challenge, which is to use the technique of a working hinge and the theme is Magical or Mysterious.  I put a lot of thought into this tiny pendant and with big expectations that I would have success, I carefully worked on the details and was thrilled that the planning worked out well!

Here is the big reveal with descriptions:

Tiny Secret Fine Silver Maple Leaf by York Avenue Studio

Tiny Secret Fine Silver Maple Leaf by York Avenue Studio

Tiny Secret Fine Silver Maple Leaf by York Avenue Studio

Tiny Secret Fine Silver Maple Leaf by York Avenue Studio

Tiny Secret Fine Silver Maple Leaf by York Avenue Studio

Tiny Secret Fine Silver Maple Leaf by York Avenue Studio
Along the way, the Elm leaf project went south, and I plopped the leaf back into the slip jar to reuse the clay.  But, I picked some fresh Bella Donna leaves and made them into gorgeous little earrings!

Fine Silver Bella Donna Leaf Earrings by York Avenue Studio
I would highly recommend trying some leaves with metal clay for anyone who is just starting out or for anyone who is stuck without any inspiration for a time.  Making leaves is so rewarding and without fussing over the detail or shape, just letting nature be the “mold”, the result will be beautiful detailed pieces of jewelry for charms, earrings, pendants, etc.  The added bonus is that just a little clay goes a long way!

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