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How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay for Personalized Handcrafted Jewelry Gifts
Learn How to Create One-of-a-Kind, Personal Charms to Wear or Give as Special Gifts
Personalized Silver Jewelry Charms Capture Special Memories and Important Milestones
There's something really special about jewelry charms that delights and enchants us. Maybe it's because we choose these tiny miniatures to represent people, passions, experiences and things that we — or the people to whom we give them as gifts — cherish.
Using metal clay allows you to create one-of-a-kind, highly personalized, handmade gifts of fine silver charms for yourself and the special women in your life. These are unique gifts to celebrate special memories and create new ones.
Even if you've never made a single piece of jewelry before, you can create stunning fine silver jewelry charms to adorn bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and even key rings with the help of Sue Heaser's book, and a few simple tools and materials. "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay"
The Secret is Using Silver Metal Clay
Silver clay is a unique jewelry making material that lets you create pure silver metal jewelry using many of the same simple techniques used to shape polymer clay or modeling clay. In case you're not yet familiar with metal clay, let me take a moment to tell you a bit about this wonderful jewelry making material .
Fine silver "metal clay" isn't actually clay at all - it's pure silver metal (99.9% silver) in a malleable, clay-like form. (Sterling silver is only 92.5% silver; the other 7.5% is copper.) You can sculpt metal clay with your fingers, roll it out into sheets, form it into balls, rods or ropes, impress it with nearly any texture you wish, carve it, drill it, sand it, set gemstones into it, and much more. Once you have created, refined and perfected your piece, you allow it to dry and the water evaporates. Then the piece is fired it at high heat in a kiln or with a handheld butane kitchen torch to burn off the organic binder, leaving behind only the pure silver metal. It's a magical process! Not quite "spinning straw into gold," but an experience that feels almost like alchemy.
What's Your Experience with Silver Metal Clay?
Have you ever tried making jewelry with PMC, Art Clay Silver or another brand of silver metal clay?
8 Reasons to Learn How to Make Silver Jewelry Charms
Here are eight great reasons to learn to create your own precious metal silver charms with Sue Heaser's wonderful book, "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay":
- There's nothing quite like the joy of creating, wearing or giving a special piece of jewelry you made yourself - especially if it looks handcrafted rather than "homemade". The step-by-step instructions in "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay" will teach you to make fine jewelry from precious metal that's professional enough to wear, sell, or give with pride.
- You can make any type of charm you want! Making your own silver charms means you're not limited to the selection being offered in stores at the moment. Anything you can think of can become a pure silver charm.
- Your handcrafted charms will be one of a kind. Even if you make three charms exactly the same way, each one will be a little different because it was made by hand. And once you master the basic techniques, you can easily add your own personal touches and create your own original designs.
- Making fine silver jewelry charms from metal clay is easy! The projects in this book use simple techniques to produce sophisticated results. If you've ever used polymer clay or other modeling clay, you already have many of the skills you'll need to make these beautiful silver charms.
- You don't have to worry about making mistakes. Most mistakes in metal clay are fairly easy to fix. and until you fire a piece and it becomes solid metal you can easily rehydrate the clay with water and reuse it. Unlike traditional metalsmithing, if you goof up or just change your mind you haven't wasted any precious metal!
- Making silver charms is an easy way to get started making your own fine silver jewelry from metal clay.These charms are small, easy to make projects, and even if your first few don't turn out as well as you had hoped, you won't have used a lot of silver while you're building and refining your skills. And you'll be able to master new metal clay skills that can be applied to making other types of silver jewelry.
- Silver charms are fairly inexpensive to make. The rising cost of precious metals has made silver jewelry - and silver metal clay - significantly more expensive than it was a few years ago. Because charms are very small they require only a small amount of precious metal, so they're more affordable to make than earrings, pendants, pins, bracelets or rings.
- Charms are personal. The charms we choose to wear say something about us — our passions, our hobbies, our experiences, our travels, our families. They tell a story. Learning how to make your own silver charms lets you create jewelry that expresses who you are and what matters to you. It also allows you to create very personal, treasured gifts that reflect the unique interests of your lucky gift recipient.
Why I Agreed to Review This Metal Clay Book
As a jewelry artist who works mostly in metal clay and the Senior Editor and Technical Editor of Metal Clay Artist Magazine, I've got a very extensive library of metal clay books. In fact, I own nearly all the metal clay books that have been published to date. So I have an excellent frame of reference for evaluating and comparing metal clay books, and also very high standards for deciding which ones I think are worth recommending. My review of "Designing From the Stone" by Lisa Barth provides a good example of what I consider to be a must-have metal clay book.
I'm picky about the books I'm asked to review, and when I do agree to write a book review it's with the understanding that my book review will be completely unbiased. But when renowned artist and author Sue Heaser asked whether I'd be interested in reviewing her newest book on making silver charms with metal clay, I didn't hesitate to say yes. For one thing, I own several of Sue's other books on both metal clay and polymer clay (she has written 14 craft books as of this writing), so I knew the information would be reliable, the instructions would be clear, concise and easy to understand, and the projects would be interesting as well as helpful in teaching the sculpting and metal clay techniques covered in the book.
I also was very curious to see how she would take what is usually a very simple and, frankly, boring first project for metal clay newbies - making metal clay charms - and turn it into something that even experienced jewelry artists like me would want to make. Since Sue Heaser is a well-known and talented miniaturist, I had a feeling her silver metal clay charms projects wouldn't be just the usual, run-of-the-mill, roll-and-cut "cookie cutter" type charms.
Some of the Silver Metal Clay Charms You Will Learn to Make With This BookClick thumbnail to view full-size
What Makes This Metal Clay Book Special
I was delighted to find that, as usual, Sue did not disappoint. Here are some of the things that make "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay" worth owning.
The Charm Selector Feature
The "charm selector" makes it easy to choose the charms you're interested in making and go straight to the project instructions. Pages 16-19 are a visual table of contents to the projects, photos of all 50 charms with the page numbers for their respective step-by-step instructions. Just browse through the photos on these four pages, choose the charm you want to learn to make, and go straight to the project pages. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself flipping back and forth through a jewelry making book trying to find a particular project, especially when the index in the back is long, dense, or in tiny type. Whoever came up with this brilliant idea should get a medal!
The charm designs are fabulous! Prior to reading this book, the only charms I ever was motivated to make were either for a metal clay charm swap among fellow metal clay artists or for contributions to charm bracelets that were raffled off to benefit nonprofit organizations. But after seeing some of Sue's more sophisticated and unusual designs in How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay, I've already started thinking about adapting some of them into my own unique versions for a special bracelet for myself. I also plan to make some pairs of charms as earring dangles, and maybe a few to hang from my key chain as a pretty, one-of-a-kind fob. Sue provides some wonderful ideas for different ways to use and wear your handmade silver charms.
The Variety of Motifs
The variety of designs is terrific. Sue has done a fantastic job of creating 50 different designs with enough variety to suit anyone's taste. Miniature owls, birds, ducks, fish, turtles, hats, dresses, purses, shoes, sailboats, books, lucky clovers, horseshoes, snowflakes, shells, baby rattles, even champagne glasses (filled with optional tinted resin "champagne" with tiny clear seed bead "bubbles")! Be sure to check out the photos near the bottom of this page to see just a few of the many wonderful charms in this book. Sue even shows you how to make two styles of converter beads - slider beads with a hole along the bottom edge to which you can attach the charm of your choice with a jump ring. Using a slider bead lets you to add charms to necklaces or bracelets other than curb link chains, such as snake chains, ribbons or leather cords, with either one or multiple strands. She shows you how to make a large converter bead style for necklaces and a smaller one for bracelets.
Motifs Are Grouped Into Themes
Here are the eight themes and the projects included in each one:
- Maltese or Celtic Crosses
- Lucky Clovers
- Toadstools / Mushrooms
- Pumpkin Coaches
- Flying Kits
- Teddy Bears
- Baby Rattles
- Ballet Slippers
- Music Clefs and Notes
- Ball of Yarn with Knitting Needles
- Sailboats and Flags
- Tennis Rackets (with and without tennis balls)
Fashion Charms - Clothing and Accessories
- High-Heeled Shoes
- Purses / Handbags
- Parasols / Umbrellas
- Birds / Bluebirds
- Turtles (Steampunk)
- Picture Frames
- Birthday Cakes (fabulous!)
- Champagne Glasses
- Gemstone Beads
- Little Houses
- Converter Beads
One of the reasons I like this approach is that it makes it easy to create a charm bracelet or necklace with several related motifs. For example:
- If you or someone you know has a passion for fashion, you can make an awesome, one-of-a-kind charm bracelet featuring the elements of a complete outfit, including a flirty sundress, high-heeled sandals, a summery lace purse, a straw hat trimmed with colored ribbons and maybe a flower, and a feminine parasol to stay fashionably shaded. It would be a real conversation piece and make a fabulous gift for someone special!
- Or what about making a treasured heirloom bracelet to celebrate the birth of a new baby with tiny charms including beaded baby rattles, teddy bears, and duckies, or a bracelet for a child featuring sailboats, kites, and toy cars?
- There's a great example of an animal lover's bracelet with dog, cat, owl, fish and bluebird charms, and you could add (or substitute) a horse and/or a turtle. Of course, once you learn the basics, you'll be able to make any type of animal you like.
Projects for All Experience Levels
There are projects for all levels, from beginner to experienced metal clay users. Each project is annotated with a difficulty level rating of one to three stars, so it's easy to tell in advance whether a particular project will be beyond your current skill level and which ones will help you take your skills to the next level.
A Great Way to Learn Basic Metal Clay Jewelry Skills
The projects can help metal clay beginners build a repertoire of useful metal clay jewelry skills, one charm at a time. If you're brand new to metal clay, you can start with super simple roll-and-cut charms then move on to projects that feature techniques such as adding fire-in-place gemstones, creating components and joining them together, layering, sculpting, creating faux screw heads, adding a liver of sulfur patina, taking a mold of an object in two-part silicone molding compound or polymer clay and molding a smaller replica in silver metal clay, adding bright color with glass paints or tinted resin that looks like enamel, create a silhouette portrait in silver from a photo, engrave a name or design in unfired metal clay, create hollow forms, create many different types of embellishments, capture a fingerprint in silver, and much more.
Clever and Unusual Designs
The designs are clever and unusual enough to inspire even experienced metal clay jewelry artists. Prior to seeing the delightful miniatures in "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay" I had relatively little interest in making charms. Sue Heaser's clever and innovative designs have sparked my imagination and gotten me actively interested in making and using charms in more of my jewelry pieces.
Lots of Step-by-Step Tutorial Photos
I have a thing for jewelry making books (or any how-to books) that include detailed photos of each step of the process. In "How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay" each of the 50 projects includes 8 step-by-step photos.
Diagrams and Actual-Size Images Show Dimensions Before Firing and Shrinkage After Firing
One of the really helpful aspects of this book, especially for people who are fairly new to metal clay, is the actual-size diagrams with dimensions for making the piece side-by-side with an actual-size photo of the finished charm so you can see the shrinkage as well as get a sense of how tiny each charm will be if you make it in the suggested size.
One of the things I really love about this book is that Sue doesn't just teach you how to make a detailed miniature silver dog or parasol or sea shell, she shows you how to Scotties and Labradors and Dachshunds, parasols in two different shapes with beaded or curved handles, with and without added color, and with and without beaded edging, and several different types of shells, including an open cockle shell holding a precious, tiny pearl. So she actually shows you how to make many more than 50 different charms.
Fun and Inspiring Ideas for Using and Wearing Your Charms
The book starts off with a short chapter called We [heart] Charms that includes a brief introduction followed by a gallery of finished jewelry that is sure to inspire. Sue's examples go far beyond the traditional charm bracelet and include fun ways to incorporate your silver miniatures into fun, funky and elegant jewelry designs. And each project also shows the charms being used in a variety of different ways.
If You're New to Metal Clay
"How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay" includes a short section on materials, tools and techniques, but if you have little or no previous experience working with metal clay I strongly encourage you to buy Sue's comprehensive guide to working with metal clay, to familiarize yourself with basic metal clay techniques before making the charms in her new book. "Metal Clay for Jewelry Makers: The Complete Technique Guide"
Even if you're an experienced metal clay artist, I recommend this book as a valuable addition to your library. Its clear and detailed explanations of fundamental metal clay techniques provides an excellent foundation for beginners to learn sound practices in working with this wonderful material. And because it is so comprehensive, even seasoned metal clay jewelry artists will find lots of helpful tips and tricks. t's also a really helpful reference to refresh your memory about a particular type of clay or technique. Highly recommended!
© 2013 Margaret Schindel