Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Step Thirty Two: Silver art clay alchemy

Dearest Sylwi

Sorry to hear you have so much on your plate at the moment! :-( Hope to see you back here next week... don't worry about the missed posts. Make them up another time, or skip them completely... in fact, maybe we could rename this blog, 'A few steps and a few skips' ;-)))

Don't worry, I'll be skipping a couple of posts too, later in September. I don't know if I'll skip them completely, or if I'll make them up later, but it's not something we should worry about! Life gets in the way of the internet sometimes... that's all there is to it! ;-)

This week, I decided to try out yet another project that has been sitting on my 'to do' list for ... well, about a year. :-)

In fact, it was just shortly after I first *met* you :-) that I ordered myself a book called Magical Metal Clay Jewellery, by Sue Heaser and some silver art clay from the Polymer and Silver Clay Pit.

Silver art clay is a clay made from finely ground pure silver mixed with non-toxic binders and water. You can mould and sculpt it, just like a clay and then fire it at home. The heat of firing burns away the binders and fuses the silver, to leave a solid piece of silver.

I bought a tiny piece of the clay to try it out and well, then life took over and it got put in a drawer... till today, when the courage I've gained from 52 steps made me take it out and finally open it!

Being a complete novice, I bought the slow dry clay, thinking it would give me extra time to create my pieces. I'm not sure if the clay goes off after a certain date, but I certainly don't think sitting in my drawer (although sealed) for a year did it any favours! :-) The clay began to dry within seconds of me opening the packet, so I had to work fast! You can moisten it with water to make it soft again, but I found that water really started to complicate matters and get messy, so I just moulded the clay as fast as I could into some basic shapes.

My plan for today was to create a little pendant to go on a bracelet with the Japanese kanji symbol "Isshin" engraved on it. Isshin generally translates to "one heart, one mind". I first learned about it when reading a French book about the history of tai chi and another on karate... about 15 years ago. I've since lost the books I had, which were the best references on the ideology behind it... and haven't been able to find any more information since. 

There appears to be a form of karate, called Isshinryu, based on the concept, so there are a lot of websites with basic explanations, but I still can't find a description of 'the one heart, one mind' idea that is whole... or at least, not one as thorough as in the books I had. It's kind of frustrating, because I remember reading about it and being really moved. I'd love to find out more about it! :-)

It wasn't long before I was getting very annoyed with the clay and my lack of skill! :-) It's my first time, so I'm not going to be too hard on myself, but I was really struggling! I created 3 different pendants to try different styles and techniques. Once I'd sanded down the clay to a sort of smooth surface, I began engraving the kanji symbol into the pieces. Things began to go from bad to worse! ;-) 

My favourite square piece developed a crack right through it... but I carried on anyway, curious to see what would happen when I fired it.

That was when the real fun began! Firing can be done in various ways at home. The easiest for me was on wire mesh, sat on top of a gas hob. 

It was a real adventure and my frustration at how rubbish the pendants were, was replaced by pure wonder at the process! :-) True alchemy!

A few minutes of firing and the silver is created. I quenched it in a cup of water and was then ready to start smoothing and polishing...

Using a wire brush and then some very fine grade sandpaper - starting with the roughest sandpaper first and then working down to the finest (superfine, ultrafine and then microfine) - I began to polish them up. 

Okay, so they're pretty horrendous, but I quite liked the one in the middle... apart from the fact, it has a huge crack running right through it! :-)

Next time, I would create a stamp of the kanji symbol first and use that to stamp onto the clay, rather than try to engrave it. I would also roll the clay slightly thicker to avoid breakage. :-)

I went on to try out some Liver of Sulphur gel on the engraved parts to make them darker. I made such a mess that I'm not even going to show you the results! ha ha ha! It did come up some lovely colours though. It was just rather messy. Luckily, I didn't touch my favourite square pendant, so that lives to fight another day... or at least until the crack down the middle gets worse and it breaks into two! ha! ;-)

Lots of love

1 comment:

  1. What an adventure!!! Not only you played with a new medium, but with the one I have no idea it exists! So, I've learned again something new from you.

    I found out that experimenting with something new takes a lot of time and courage (ha, ha). So, I'm very impressed with all your discoveries!!!

    That silver art clay looks really cool to play with. It also reminded me one of your photos 12/365 ha, ha, ha!

    "one heart, one mind" - love it!