Sunday, January 09, 2011

Joy of Metal Clay: Snake Charming

Rolling metal clay into a snake might seem like a relatively basic concept but there are a few handy tricks that can make this skill much easier.
The first thing I learned when attempting to roll clay into a snake is not to do it directly by hand as I had learned early in those developmental years in life as a child playing with my Playdoh and plasticine. Using a hard surface such as a piece of Plexiglas with a handle will allow you to make smoother more uniform snakes.
You can purchase snake rollers, yes that is what they are called from numerous metal clay suppliers. Some companies sell just small sheets of acrylic, while others sell sheets of acrylic with handles on them.
If you want to save your money there are alternatives to buying a snake roller. Besides cutting your own sheet of acrylic - messy task (I have done it). I have found a clear plastic cassette tape case can work quite well (having a husband who won't let go of his old technology, I have lots of these on hand! and he has yet to miss them). For those of you who don't have cassette tapes a CD holder can work but is more awkward to hold in your hand, but you can glue an handle on it (such as a wooden drawer pull) on to the back to make it easier to hold.

Now you have the tool, a snake roller in hand what do you do?

First you want to have moist clay. This is a "feel thing" and hard to describe but often fresh clay right out of the package is fine but you may want to knead a little moisture into your clay to help reduce the risk of it cracking when you shape it.

Second you want to avoid using oil on your roller or surface. If you apply oil everything will slip and slid and you will be unable to roll you snake. You need to some friction in order for your clay to grab and roll. I do not oil my surface or roller and I find this works best.
Third you need to work quickly. The longer you work the clay the quicker it will dry and begin to crack.

Fourth, I recommend having plastic wrap on hand and even a slightly damp paper towel to cover your snake if you need to stop.

Rolling the snake
You can taper the ends by adjusting your pressure

An alternative to snake rolling is to extrude your clay. You can use an old syringe and fill it with clay press and Voila a thin snake:

You can cut the end of the syringe to get a thicker snake!!

Enjoy your rolling.


1 comment:

Gail Davis Bryant said...

Hi FSG, Just to let you and other folks know, there are plexiglass rubber stamp presses (with handles) in the dollar store at Gerrard Square in Toronto (not a "Dollarama" store, but can't remember the name). They are about 2" x 3" in size. Love your idea about the CD case too.