Apr 20, 2012

Art Clay Copper Cats with Blue Green Patina

Blue Copper Cat Earrings by York Avenue Studio

When I order material to restock my supplies, I always browse for something new to add to my cart.  More times than I can count, I’ve added Art Clay Copper only to delete it from my cart before checkout.  I really like the price compared to silver, but I am not a copper jewelry type person, I love silver.  I would always justify deleting it by telling myself that I would get some copper metal clay as soon as I had project ideas ready to make.

Well, I finally took the plunge and ordered some Art Clay Copper.  I chose that brand because it can be torch fired.  My plan:  make tiny pieces to torch.
When I opened the package, the bright orange color was startling.  I imagined smeary orange mess all over my workspace and tools, clean up being a nightmare, but I jumped in and decided to go with it.  I wore gloves to protect my skin because I am sensitive to copper, it makes me itchy like mad.  I kneaded the clay without worries that I had to be conservative and only use a tiny bit, as I do with the silver. 
Before I started, my design was planned out.  I used scratch foam board and drew a cat stretched out like he was flying.  I pressed the clay into the foam, cut around the edges and carved some detail.  The copper clay is very smooth and doesn’t dry as fast as silver, it was fun not having to rush.

I have heard horror stories about the copper clay firing.  Melted pieces, pieces that snap, pieces that crack or warp, black fire scale that won’t come off, etc.  These stories of woe come from very experienced metal clay artists and I was feeling bold that I would be successful with just a torch.  I fired the clay with my torch for about 5 minutes, keeping the color bright orange and consistant, not moving the flame around much, mostly centered on the spot where the whole piece was glowing nice.  I have balled copper wire and I am familiar with the color of copper as it balls, so I knew to keep the heat just lower than that color.  As soon as I turned off the torch, the pieces became black.  I quenched them directly in water and the black flaked off.  Then I placed the pieces in my pickle pot.

I tumbled the pieces for not quite an hour and they came out super shiny and cute!  My steel shot, however, was a disaster!  The water was a foamy orange and my shot looks like dull bronze, yuck.  I will keep this shot for copper now and have new shot for my silver.

As much as I love the shiny copper kittys, I wanted to add a blue patina.  I filled a glass jar with paper towel that had been dampened with ammonia.  I snuggled the cats in the paper and tightly shut the jar lid and left it overnight.  In the morning, the kittys had a gorgeous blue patina!  I burnished them with an Agate stone burnisher and the blue became shiny along with the copper highlights.  I had already soldered the sterling jump rings to the cats and made sterling ear wires.  I gave the earrings a solid coating of Ren Wax to seal the patina and reduce the copper sensitivity.

Blue Copper Cat Earrings by York Avenue Studio

The copper sintered perfectly, no warping or cracking, and I’ve dropped them several times, no breaking!  My next copper clay attempt will include some more refined, smoother pieces.  This first attempt was more focused on the sintering and the patina.  It was really enjoyable, can’t wait to make more. 
As always, my supplies wish list grows:  enamels, cutters, molds, textures, coordinating beads, etc.

One last photo, I picked these shell pieces up at the beach this week.  The colors are so amazing!  These are shells that have tiny sea creature holes and look like coral.  More jewelry ideas!


  1. Cute cats! And they looks so happy

    /Anna siivonen

  2. Good job! No copper horror stories for you! So pretty :)

  3. Great job on your first try with copper clay!