Thursday, October 28, 2010

Zephyr Art TN: Art Clay 101

This past Tuesday I attended an introductory class on pure silver Art Clay taught by certified Art Clay Master, Gina Witten. Gina is the much needed Director for the Visual Arts at the Fly Arts Center in Shelbyville, TN, near my home in the sleepy, tiny town of Wartrace. 

Art Clay is a clay-like mixture of pure silver particles, a binder and water. It comes in a mailable clay form, a looser syringe form and other clays with differing firing temperatures and drying times. It can be pure silver, bronze or copper; we used the silver. 

We started by using Sculpy to do a mock-up of our design so that when we went to the silver, we would be able to create our piece in the roughly 4 minutes we had before the Art Clay started to get too dry. 

Then we created our designs in the real thing. This clay has a more firm feel than the very pliable, bakeable  Sculpy. I had never worked with this medium before, so I had no idea what to expect from the clay, in terms of what it would really look like finished. In clay form it does not appear silver at all, it very closely resembles the neutral white colored Sculpy. We had various tools to choose from with which to create our pieces: punches, patterned plastic, stamps and rollers. I chose a faux bois piece of plastic and my roller to flatten my little ball of clay into a flat oval. I then made two faces with a woodgrain on one half of each. I meant to put woodgrain on the pendant, as well, but the 4 minute sculpt time had me nervous and I forgot! She's still pretty, though.

When the designs were created, we placed them in a food dehydrator to dry completely before firing. 

After getting completely dry, we fired the pieces (because they were small things, one could use a kiln, as well) by using a butane torch. We circled one piece at a time with fire until it turned a beautiful salmon color. When this was achieved we set a timer for 2 minutes and slowly circled the piece for that time. 

We then let the pieces cool and scrubbed off the remnant of the binder that burned off in the firing process. 

My camera battery died right at the part where I oxidized my pieces with sulfur, so I can't show you the beautiful yellow color that the sulfur turned when mixed with water. 

Here is my finished work. After going through the process I gained understanding of how the clay burns off, leaving the pure silver behind. It was hard to imagine in clay form what the finished product would look like, but I discovered that the clay itself really will end up being the silver image you sculpt it into (minus a bit for shrinkage). I think I could really get into creating with this medium, I can't wait to try it with Ep! 


  1. Very cool...loved your pics and thanks for walking us through the steps (especially since I missed the class, lol).