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PMC Metal Clay | Creating Design Motifs

Updated on March 17, 2015
Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell is a freelance writer with WriterAccess, webmaster, member of Pinterest Party on FB and the owner of Lake Erie Artist Gallery.

How to Add Design to Precious Metal Clay

Precious Metal Clay's unique qualities allow artists to create precious metal jewelry in a much faster way using completely different techniques than traditional metalsmithing. The result is highly creative pieces using precious metal alone or in combination with stones, organic materials, other metals, enamels, glass, and polymer clay. New combinations are being discovered all the time, as the formula for PMC develops and changes.

One of PMC metal clay's unique features is that design motifs can be added to the clay at several stages of a piece's development. This lens will introduce you to how to add design to your clay piece.

Click here to buy a Metal Clay Starter Kit.

The Best Place to Buy Metal Clay Online

Delphi Glass

Art Clay Silver Starter Kit

ART CLAY WORLD-Create pure silver jewelry without a kiln! Everything you need to mold shape fire and finish Art Clay Silver rings pendants charms and more. Kit contains: Art Clay Silver 650 Clay type 20 gr instruction booklet instructional video refillable butane torch firing brick mini-file set (12 assorted) spatula (cleaning tool) stainless steel brush (short bristle) adjustable ring sizer rubber block for stability during work wet/dry sandpaper (#600 and #1200 grit) polishing cloth tweezers and ring mandrel.

Stamps and Molds

One of the most versatile and easy things to do with PMC is to stamp a design into the clay. This has to be done while the clay is in its raw, wet state. While you are working with PMC it is important to keep a spray bottle of water, or a small paint brush nearby to keep your clay wet. PMC dries out on the edges first, then on the flat exposed surface.

You can use commercially made stamps or you can make your own. The best mold material is the two part mold material made for PMC. It is flexible, yet durable so that it won't break easily but it is easy to peel off the clay. When using stamps or molds, make sure to put a bit of olive oil on the stamp or else your clay will stick to every crevice. There are a lot of stamps made for scrapbooking and polymer clay. Some of them work well with PMC.

Another material you can use is cork clay. Cork clay works well when making curved or hollow shapes. For more information on cork clay, see PMC Metal Clay | Hollow Beads.

PMC Technic: A Collection of Techniques for Precious Metal Clay - Timm McCreight

PMC Technic: A Collection of Techniques for Precious Metal Clay
PMC Technic: A Collection of Techniques for Precious Metal Clay

Product Description

In this book, ten leading artists teach their specialty, with clarity, care, and passion. Innovative techniques are pesented with clear instructions and examples. Tonya Davidson: Using the PMC Syringe Celie Fago: PMC Hinges Jennifer Kahn: PMC Bezels Doris King: Fusing Sterling and PMC Terry Kovalcik: Viscosity Painting Noortje Meijerink: PMC on Ceramic Kelly Russell: Using Stencils with PMC Barbara Simon: Lampworking and PMC CeCe Wire: Water Etching on PMC J. Fred Woell: Coreless Beads

Also available in the UK--PMC Technic

 

Metal Clay Start Kit

This is the most common form of PMC. PMC+ is available as a Clay, Paste, or Sheet. It has a shrinkage rate of about 10%, and fires in 10 minutes in a kiln. Use the Paste to coat organic objects such as leaves or pine cones to create an exact replica in silver, or build it up around a completely organic form to create a hollow piece. The water-free Sheet won't break or crack and can be folded like origami paper.

Applique

Another design technique to use with PMC is applique. This is similar to the applique done with fabric, except that the additional piece of clay is attached with paste or slip or water. Paste and slip both mean the same thing, so for the rest of this lens I will use the word slip.

It is easy to cut out shapes from lump PMC with cookie cutters, Xacto knives or clay cutters. To add one piece of clay to another, make sure that both pieces are sufficiently damp. They don't need to be dripping wet. Then paint slip onto both pieces where they will attach. The slip is the glue that holds them together. Let them dry.

You can also add wet clay to fired PMC this way as long as you haven't polished the fired piece.

If you are using PMC sheet, it is even simpler. Cut out your design in the PMC sheet. Sheet can be cut with scissors, hole punches, or Xacto knives. Place your cut out design on the base piece of PMC, then to hold it in place, add a tiny drop of water. Let it dry.

Creative Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration - CeCe Wire

Creative Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration
Creative Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration

Product Description

Imagine a material that looks and feels like clay and yet, when fired, becomes pure, solid gold and silver! That’s metal clay, and here are the fabulous techniques and instructions, lavish photos and projects that will open up endless creative possibilities to every crafter. With this versatile product, metalwork becomes easier and faster, and it’s simple to create meaningful gifts or add techniques to the forms you’ve already mastered. Combine the clay with lampworked and fused dichroic glass, enamel, and beads. Make exquisite jewelry, sculpture, carvings, and more. Try a great new liquid gold for coating silver objects. Among the glittering, gorgeous projects: an African Mask Pin, Groovy Flower Earrings and Ring, Puzzle Piece Bracelet, and a Twig and Leaf Condiment Spoon.

Also available in the UK--Creative Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration

 

Etching and Carving

Etching is another way to add design elements to your Precious Metal Clay piece. Using a stylus or any fine pointed tool, etch your design into wet or dry, green clay.

Etching into wet clay will give you deeper strokes and the ability to move the clay around. Etching into dry clay will give you a much lighter touch. This is a great time to sign your piece. You can poke holes into the piece for design or to have a hole through the piece. Always remember that your design will be smaller in the finished piece due to shrinkage.

For deeper impressions, you can carve into the clay with carving tools. Good tools to use are dentist's tools or jeweler's wax carving tools. These tools are made to cut into small places so are good for working with PMC.

11 Piece Double Ended Clay and Pottery Tool Set

This is a great set of basic tools to work with PMC or polymer clay or both!

11 Piece Double Ended Clay and Pottery Tool Set
11 Piece Double Ended Clay and Pottery Tool Set

Product Description

This versatile set includes 11 different double ended clay tools. They all have comfortable wood handles. The tools can be used for earthenware clay polymer clay plasticene and any other type of modeling compound. These are also great scraping tools for encaustic painting!

 

Syringe Filigree Work

Precious Metal Clay comes in a thick paste in syringes right from the manufacturer. These are great for adding delicate filigree work, or tiny detail work. The syringes come with several tips to give you different thicknesses. To add the filigree to the base piece, paint a small area with slip, then add the syringe paste. Then go to the next area, and repeat.

To keep the syringe effective when working, put it point down in a tube or glass of water between applications. When you put an open syringe away, make sure to close it tightly, wrap it in a damp paper towel, and seal in a ziplock bag.

Syringe work takes a very steady hand. If your hand shakes, this is not a good technique for you.

Texture Sheets - Great for adding design to your PMC

Makin's USA Clay Texture Sheets, 7-Inch by 5-1/2-Inch, Cobblestone/Brick/Wave/Sand, 4 Per Package
Makin's USA Clay Texture Sheets, 7-Inch by 5-1/2-Inch, Cobblestone/Brick/Wave/Sand, 4 Per Package

These texture sheets are a quick way to add textures to your clay projects. Includes 4 sheets per package. Each sheet is a different pattern. Many sets of sheets available! Size of sheet: 4.75" x 6.25".

 
Makin's USA Clay Texture Sheets, 7-Inch by 5-1/2-Inch, Honeycomb/Eyelet/Weave/Lace, 4 Per Package
Makin's USA Clay Texture Sheets, 7-Inch by 5-1/2-Inch, Honeycomb/Eyelet/Weave/Lace, 4 Per Package

These texture sheets are a quick way to add textures to your clay projects. Includes 4 sheets per package. Each sheet is a different pattern. Many sets of sheets available! Size of sheet: 4.75" x 6.25".

 
Makin's USA Clay Texture Sheets, 7-Inch by 5-1/2-Inch, Screen/Stripe/Check/Dot, 4 Per Package
Makin's USA Clay Texture Sheets, 7-Inch by 5-1/2-Inch, Screen/Stripe/Check/Dot, 4 Per Package

These texture sheets are a quick way to add textures to your clay projects. Includes 4 sheets per package. Each sheet is a different pattern. Many sets of sheets available! Size of sheet: 4.75" x 6.25".

 
7gypsies 17724 Textured Rubon: Victorian Corners PK
7gypsies 17724 Textured Rubon: Victorian Corners PK

Texture Rubbing & Rubbing Sheets Set includes: 1 adhesive rubbing sheet, 3 texture sheets, 1 gold foil sheet, 1 black velvet sheet, and 1 silver glitter texture sheet.

 
Sculpey Texture Makers -Country Squares
Sculpey Texture Makers -Country Squares

POLYFORM-Texture Makers. Includes two flexible sheets for adding textured patterns. Great for adding decorative elements to your clay projects. Each sheet measures: 6 x 4. This set features a Basket Weave design and a Small Grid design. Theme: Country Squares. Made in China.

 
Sculpey Texture Makers -Swirls & Scrolls
Sculpey Texture Makers -Swirls & Scrolls

POLYFORM-Texture Makers. Includes two flexible sheets for adding textured patterns. Great for adding decorative elements to your clay projects. Each sheet measures: 6 x 4. This set features a Funky Swirl design and a Traditional Scroll design. Theme:

 
7gypsies 17722 Textured Rubon: Victorian Room PK
7gypsies 17722 Textured Rubon: Victorian Room PK

Texture Rubbing & Rubbing Sheets Set includes: 1 adhesive rubbing sheet, 3 texture sheets, 1 gold foil sheet, 1 black velvet sheet, and 1 silver glitter texture sheet.

 

Adding Designs with Organic Materials

Pasta, leaves, or sticks

One of the most interesting ways to add design to your clay is using organic materials embedded in your clay or by wrapping the clay around the organic material. Most organic material burns away in the kiln, leaving behind the design in the clay.

This way you can add nature's designs into the clay directly. Leaves make a terrific impression in the clay. You can use live or dead leaves for this. Sticks, moss, burlap cloth are more examples of textured items.

You can also add some food items for design or texture. Many artists use alphabet noodles to write in PMC. The best way is for them to be dry and uncooked. Press them into the clay, fire, and when the piece comes out the design will be there but the pasta will have burned away.

Patinas

Liver of sulphur

Once the piece is fired, and cleaned, you can add a patina. The most popular substance to add patinas is liver of sulphur. Liver of sulphur oxidizes silver. The result is a patina that ranges in color from a light gold to black. There are a few ways to control your result. If you use lukewarm water, the color will change more slowly allowing you to stop when you reach your desired finish. You can take the piece in and out of the liver of sulphur solution, dip it in cold water to stop the process, then repeat. If you really hate the finish, just heat up the PMC again with a torch and start over.

Another less used finish is a bleach solution. This adds a gunmetal patina to the silver. These methods do not work on the gold PMC.

© 2009 Paula Atwell

What is Your Favorite Technique with Metal Clay?

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    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 8 years ago

      Beautiful examples! I'd be afraid of messing it up but I love the idea of it. 5*

    • Mortira profile image

      Mortira 8 years ago

      Wonderful tips and design ideas! Welcome to the Beads and Jewels group!

    • charliehorse1 profile image

      Charle 8 years ago from Northeast Florida

      Paula, this is such a definitive article and I am grateful for it. I am setting up an ornamental iron shop--for larger metal-working projects; but you got me interested in PMC a while back. Mainly because my wife makes bead jewelry. Your display pieces are impressive and I am following you in anticipation of even more informative lenses. I am putting this lens in my folder marked "metal art."

    • SophiesWords profile image

      SophiesWords 5 years ago

      Your metal clay lenses are all fascinating and very informative - it's like being at art school! Thank you so much!

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 2 years ago from Central Florida

      This is completely new to me. So many ways to be creative with jewelry making.

    • Paula Atwell profile image
      Author

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Charmcrazy It is a fun and unique medium.

    • DaphneDL profile image

      Daphne D. Lewis 2 years ago from Saint Albans, West Virginia

      These works of metal clay are stunning. I've used the polymer clay but never this. I'll have to check out more of your articles about metal art.

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