Precious Metal Clay Techniques

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Precious metal clay (also known as PMC) is simple to use and opens up endless possibilities in arts, crafts and jewellery making. One of the most versatile and malleable forms available for producing detailed and intricate jewellery, sculptures or other creative pieces, PMC is a much quicker solution than traditional metalsmithing processes. PMC, sometimes also referred to as silver clay, works on the same principle as many art clay substances. However, following drying metal clay is fired, burning off the binding agent and leaving the precious metal behind. The popularity of this adaptable material continues to grow due to the ease of use, flexibility and variety it provides artists and jewellery makers alike.

Precious metal clay is a soft-like substance that has the same moulding properties as art clay. Ideal for creating any size, shape and form, clay can be used for elaborate pieces with unique detail. The pliable and moist texture allows the clay to be moulded into shapes with various designs and details.

These qualities mean that there are various techniques in working with precious metal clay, making it an exciting and flexible medium to work with. There is plenty of scope to create interesting and intricate designs and textures using methods such as rubber stamps, etching, adding stones and other design techniques. There are various forms of metal clay as well as diversity in the amount of metal mixed in the solution and the time needed to burn away the organic binder during the firing period of the process to create silver, gold, bronze, copper or steel pieces.

Setting techniques
Once you have your basic form, you can create unique and interesting jewellery pieces by setting different kinds of gemstones, beads or glass into the finished metal piece. These will have to be set into the metal once the firing process is complete to avoid any damage. There are many different ways stones can be set into the metal clay depending on what materials are being used.

Stones can be set directly into wet art clay, with the widest part of the stone being embedded, when fired the clay shrinks and locks the stone into place. Alternatively set stones once the clay is dry and sanded down by using a small drill to create the hole where the stone will sit. A touch of glue can also be used to help hold the stone in place.

Texturing techniques
There are many ways in which to add texture to your PMC creations, from using standard etching and carving techniques to the more creative methods of metal clay shavings, frosting, clay appliqués and syringing.

To achieve a unique and interesting texture, shave or grate dried metal clay and paste the shavings to an existing piece. For a frosted look, apply a thick layer of paste clay and use a spatula or frosting knife to create a rough affect. Another popular texturing technique is to create shapes from precious metal clay and attach with water to the existing design. The options for creating interest and variety in metal clay are endless.

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