What is Metal Clay?
I use something called ‘Metal Clay’ for most of my CRZyBest creations, it comes as base metals and precious metals. For me Metal Clay is my favourite material to use as it combines my skills and knowledge of Silversmithing, Sculpting and Ceramics which I have developed over 30 plus years of education, teaching and creating.
Metal clay is created using reclaimed metals which are turned into fine particles and combined with an organic binder. So, it is a great eco-friendly material to create tiny sculptures and jewellery with. Working the metal clay in a similar way to traditional ceramic clay; you can model, roll out, join together and sculpt. An obvious difference is the weight of a small amount of metal clay, compared to traditional ceramic clay and this means gravity is even more of a challenge!
During firing, the organic binders burn away and the fine particles of metal fuse together, creating a solid metal object. The process of turning the clay into metal is called sintering.
Metal Clay creations by nature are usually quite small, the largest single metal clay sculpture I have made to date is this copper dragon, which I made for an alternative bouquet. I was lucky enough to have the support of the company who make this particular copper clay, as the size meant this dragon needed it's own bespoke firing schedule.
Precious metal clay comes in silver and gold; for this blog, I will focus on Silver Clay as that’s what I use. Silver clay comes in a variety of forms and some can be torch fired, whilst some have to be kiln fired. The main silver clay that I use is a 950 Silver Clay that is best fired using a kiln. The 950 means that 950 parts in a 1000 is pure silver with the remaining 50 parts, other metals to create a stronger metal. The 950 Silver Clay I use can be hallmarked as 925 Sterling Silver; to find out more about hallmarking please read my blog about the CRZyBest Hallmark.
A variety of base metals are available as Metal Clay: Bronze, Copper, Steel and Iron in various forms are created by various company's, all with their own firing instructions and different properties.
It is possible to combine different metal clays, although each metal has a different shrinkage rate, so this does need to be taken into account when making and mixing with metal clays, anything from 5% to 15%. You may have noticed that in my product listings, silver pieces are often smaller than copper pieces.
Copper clay is probably my favourite metal clay to explore new ideas with and with the best way of firing it being a method called ‘carbon firing’ which is a process that needs a kiln and something called ‘activated carbon’, it can be quite a challenging material too. Sometimes when I am developing one of my sculptures, I might fire the piece two or even three times to get the finish I am looking for. I also love heat treating copper, which can create some amazing colours!
Bronze clays are my second favourite base metal, also best when carbon fired using a kiln. There is a variety of bronze clays available which all give different finishes, from a white bronze clay that gives an almost antique silver look, through various shades including a lovely golden bronze which is ideal for creating my tiny bee sculptures with.
If you want to find out more and have a go at making your own metal clay creation, then why not check out my blog about ‘Create with CRZyBest’ workshops, hosted by me and held at my very own CRZyBest Shedquarters, or get in touch now!