Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Joy of Metal Clay: Reconstituting dry metal clay

Sorry but my planned post on base metal clays will not happen this week.
My other work, a 7-year-old birthday party, and a craft show this weekend have gotten in my way of playing and experimenting, sorry.

I thought long and hard about topics for this post and then I came across this useful video about reclaiming your dried up clay pieces. One of my favorite properties of silver metal clay is the ability to completely reclaim your unfired pieces. I have many pieces sitting waiting for either inspiration that will improve the design or to be reclaimed. The advice I give to my students is to remember that clay can be reclaimed! Early on in my metal clay career I was so excited to create and afraid of reclaiming that I fired many pieces that I ended up being disappointed with.
In this video, Lisa Cain, artist and instructor from the Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery, explains her process of reclaiming her silver clay. I have tried many low tech techniques and methods that I thought would be simpler but this is the best method.

Here are my comments:

1. She uses a coffee grinder to break up her dry clay. I have tried using a pill crusher or just cutting it and well the coffee grinder is the best option. (Note about pill crushers, I have bought several and the only one that I have found useful is the one I bought at Whole Lotta Whimsy - believe it or not there is a difference between pill crushers out there).

2. She strains her dry clay through a mesh. I think this is a great idea. I have used a tea strainer that works great. Skipping this step you will lead to hard bits that don't mix well with the clay (trust me I have tried it).

3. Mixing the clay with a little water. My approach tends to be different here. I will mix my clay powder between plastic wrap as I find it keeps it all together and I can use my hands to knead and mix through the plastic.

I have tried re hydrating the clay using other methods which can work but, I do find often I still get lumps. Of all the methods I have tried I think this one is the best.

One last note. This method does tend to produce DUST. Wear a mask.
If you have any thoughts please share!!!

Heather

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