Friday, 5 November 2010

BoB the overseer

BoB the overseer
Originally uploaded by Murano Silver

BoB likes to make sure my workin's are up to standard!
Every so often his paw flicks out until I've tickled his chin enough for me to continue (BoBs quality control "wages" lol)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Beads and Beyond - September Edition

 I wrote an article for Beads and Beyond (September Issue). It's on making memory bracelets and includes two layer photo pendants, carving text and fingerprint charms.
September is a silver clay special so there are a total of FIVE fabulous projects :)
Also in this months issue are the details for entering their Jewellery Maker of the Year competition there are 8 categories including Bead Stitching, Chain Maille, Lampwork, Linking, Stringing, Metal Clays and Mixed Media.
Prizes are well worth winning so get your thinking caps on as the entry deadline is the 16th September.
Nicola xx

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Mixing Up Hadars Bronze, Steel and Copper Clays

This is how Hadars new steel clay looks out of the container...I thought (as Hadar was good enough to demonstrate mixing) that I'd take some pictures of how it's done. The steel clay is very exciting and I'm very much looking forward to capitalising on it's magnetic properties!
Safety Instructions:
You are working with powdered metal - I personally use a dust mask AND barrier cream such as gloves in a bottle. (You normally only get one set of lungs and metal sensitivity rashes suck!)
Mixing Instructions:1) SHAKE the container well ~ this re-disperses the binder & metal particles
2) Pour into a mixing container (this ones a little large the smaller ones are easier)
3) Using pure water (the de-ionised stuff that you put into car batteries and fancy irons)
Spray the powder and start stirring.
4) The mixture will begin to clump (looks like crumble topping at this stage, especially the Bronze....YUM)
5) Go easier with the water once you get to this stage ~ it's not long after that it really starts binding together.
6) Once it's reached the above stage then you can smoosh it all together put it between two plastic folder sheets and start rolling it out. (you can add a little more water to the sheet and fold/roll it in to make the clay extra pliable)

For firing instructions see Hadar Jacobsons Art In Silver Blog, she also has a video on mixing the clay & lots of gorgeous eye candy. :)
Nic xx

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Anubis - Masters Registry

Whilst there's still more work to do, I couldn't resist giving you a peek at how my Anubis figure is progressing.... a far cry from his early days ;)
Or even earlier.....
I 've put more pictures in my "Works in Progress" album on my Flickr photo stream.
Third fill and fire to go then I can start working on the base! need to be careful with the height now, at 11.8cms tall Anubis (+base) still need to fit in my kiln!
He currently weighs in a 151 grammes :)
Nic x

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Hadar Jacobson Class

Hadar Jacobson teaches fabulous workshops and you'll learn LOADS about mixed metal clays.
Silver Clay has always been my preference as the warm metals don't suit my skin tone but after a class with Hadar my love of Bronze, Copper and Steel (yes you heard right ~ STEEL!) has been unleashed too :)
Our first project was to inlay bronze and copper together as these two metals scinter well together. The orange red colour below is the copper the brown is the bronze. We were shown how to make deep indentations in the background clay, dry it, then overfill with the contrasting clay.
Then you sand back to the layer that shows the two contrasting patterns. You'll find Hadars firing shedules on her Art in Silver site.
Below is a picture of Hadars Steel clay in it's powder form. I thought it was going to be a real pain to mix but it was actually very easy and the benefit is that it removes the problems of shelf life and waste clay. It does require a good shaking to make sure the powders haven't settled and evenly distribute them.
After mixing it produces the smoothest loveliest clay that is really flexible and a pleasure to work with (this is the same for all of Hadars clays).
I can see great potential in the steel as you can attach things with magnetic clasps and swappable elements will definitely be explored further!
There's so much more to say about Hadars class (I got so much out of it) so I'll post again soon with some more things that you might like to try :)
Nicola xx

Monday, 24 May 2010

Soldering Silver Clay onto a Sterling Cufflink Finding

Soldering Silver Clay onto a Sterling Cufflink Finding
Originally uploaded by muranosilver

This version shows the solder flowed on the base, then the cuff-link finding brought in ~ you'll find an alternative version on my Flickr stream showing the solder being put onto the finding and then brought onto the preheated PMC base.
(Use whichever works best for you)
Written Instructions for prep etc on on this blog post
Happy making
Nic xx
p.s. The creaking noise was my chair, lol

Friday, 21 May 2010

Making a Silver Clay Finger Print Charm

Making a Silver Clay Finger Print Charm
Originally uploaded by muranosilver

Mini-vid tutorial on making a fingerprint charm.
Here are the Key points:
1) Make sure you have everything to cutters/rollers etc ready before your start.
2) Use thicker slats to allow enough clay for the finger to push into.
3) If the print doesn't look clean then roll it up, re-condition the clay and start again :)
4) Leave enough edge to drill a hole for the jump ring to go through.
5) Dry it thoroughly (a warm room overnight is good)
6) Sand & clean the edges (or use a baby wipe to clean up the edge if it's neat enough already)
7) For maximum strength kiln fire but if you haven't got one of those torch or hob fire in a VERY well ventilated area.
(Instructions for this are on this blog)

Happy Making
Nic xx

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Texturing Silver Metal Clay

Texturing Silver Clay
Originally uploaded by muranosilver

3rd in the series Silver Clay - the very, very basics...
How to take a good impression using a texture mat + using a cutter
Nic xx
P.S> Feel free to suggest other topics for my 60-90 second video minis :)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Rolling Out Silver Clay

Rolling Out Silver Clay
Originally uploaded by muranosilver

2nd in the series of "Silver Clay the Very Basics" this one shows you how easy it is to roll conditioned silver clay. Sorry for any clumsiness (had to use one hand so I didn't get in the way of the camera)
Nic xx

Monday, 17 May 2010

Art Clay Silver Conditioning

Art Clay Silver Conditioning
Originally uploaded by muranosilver

As so many people get the packet and then aren't sure what the "silver clay" should look like here's a short video of what it looks like fresh out of the packet AND how to add moisture to the clay.

If you need to re-hydrate the clay then once it's wrapped in cling film put it back in it's zip lock packet with some moistened kitchen towel. (After taking the paperwork out, lol)
Hope it's useful
Nic xx

Guild of Enamellers - Conference Classes

Above is the Art Clay & Enamel pendant I made after taking Mr Ueedas class at the Guild of Enamellers conference. If you're interested in enamelling it's worth joining the Guild of Enamellers and learning from the immensely talented fellow members. I went to this years conference and would've loved to have done ALL of the many classes on offer.
Membership benefits include:
A quarterly journal of information, tips and techniques for both the beginner and experienced enameller plus sources of materials and equipment.
Access to the Guild’s library of books and VIDEO/DVDs. (UK only)
Opportunity to attend regional workshops (fantastic ones!)
Opportunity to attend the Guild's Annual Conference, a weekend of workshops, talks and apply to have your work assessed for an award....
All of this costs the princely sum of just £20.00 amazing!

This years conference classes included:
Jane Short ~ Basse taille brooch in a day
Dorothy Cockrell ~ Cloisonne Mr Ueedas ~ Enamel on Art Clay Silver Jill Leventon ~ Fold Forming & Press Forming Lesley Miller ~ Stencils for Enamelling Janet Notman ~ Torch Firing Copper BeadsMany people were trying these things for the first time so the results are fantastic! I'm putting together some pictures on the Art Clay embellishment and enamel class I took with Toshihide Ueeda ~ it was truly a wonderful experience and he and Daisukeb Minagawa (his interpreter) made it a very pleasant learning experience.
Can't wait until the next conference!

Nic xx

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Blog Giveaway - Winner & Next Giveaway

Congratulations to One Creative Queen on winning the giveaway!! Please contact me with your address and colour choice so I can send you your prize :)
More great news ~ My Murano Silver blog has reached it's 100th post so we'll be doing a giveaway there soon (eyes peeled)
Nic xx

Book Review - Sculptural Metal Clay Jewelry

I've had Kate McKinnons "Structural Metal Clay" book for a while now (it's superb) so I was very excited to see the arrival of "Sculptural Metal Clay Jewelry".
Kate is a "jewellery engineer" ~ her designs are not only visually appealing, but also constructed for maximum strength and wearability. This book expands on her previous one and also includes a DVD so represents excellent value.

Inside the book you'll find a wealth of information broken into three main areas..
Basics: Tools, Basic Techniques, Firing, Finishing & Safety (The safety aspect is particularly excellent and well covered!)
Elements: This includes 19 techniques for making simple components in metal clay and fine silver wire. Even experienced metalsmiths will benefit but new users will find the info really helps in achieving professional results
Projects: 10 Detailed Sep by Step projects such as: Knobby Chains, Rivet Post Rings, Amphora Pendant and Bird on a Branch Necklace.

Favourite Parts: Chain making, easy size shanks and box building sections.
Negatives? If you have Kates first book, Structural Metal Clay there is some crossover but as this one is currently £12.99 on Amazon (a saving of £7.00) it still worth buying for the improved layout and fantastic pictures.

This book is great for metal clay artisans of all levels. Refreshingly Kate treats metal clay not just as a stand alone product but as one of the many tools and techniques that a metalsmith can employ in their design arsenal.
Kates approach is to be applauded and (if more widely adopted) would certainly help metal clays acceptance in the traditional metal smithing community.
Available at: Amazon and Metal Clay Specialists. Also available with a "Bonus Pack" direct from Kate McKinnons Website
Nicola xx
Photos used courtesy of Interweave Press & Kate McKinnon

Friday, 23 April 2010

Etsy Metal Clay - Charm Swap Blog Giveaway

Etsy Metal Clay is a fantastic group of talented, supportive metal clay artists and I'm proud to be part of the team...Above is a selection of charms made for our annual charm swap.
Above is one of the two charity bracelets (created from last years charm swap charms) . I can't wait to see what everyone's made this year!
BLOG GIVEAWAY ~ As a bonus to my wonderful blog followers:
Leave a comment and you can win a charm swap charm ~ I haven't added colour yet so you can choose: Pink, Green or Blue PLUS you'll also get sent an exciting mystery surprise bundle :)
For Extra Entries:
1) Become a Follower (or mention you if are already one)
2) Twitter the giveaway (leave a link)
3) Blog the giveaway (leave a link)
(I'll draw it at the end of April)
You can see more of what we're up to by visiting these links:

Nicola xx

Monday, 12 April 2010

Kiln Disaster & Melted a Days Work :(

I bought this Prometheus Pro 1 kiln at the Enamellers Guild Conference. I was quite excited about it (I'd been looking for a more transportable kiln and without vat this was a bargain!)
Above you can see the picture of it's first firing ~ with an empty chamber, just in case!. As some of you know I normally fire at 950 degrees, for 1 to 2 hours. This has worked fine in my Paragon SC2 ever since I got it (a number of years ago).....A jeweller friend of mine was round (we were doing some tube setting together) but as it was a brand new kiln I still checked the piece after about 20 minutes. At this point, looking through the little view hole, it was fine & pristine..... Another 20 minutes later and the piece was the puddle of molten fine silver you can see above.
We left the door open as the metal was literally hissing and bubbling...This picture was taken after the shock & "Oh my Gods" had died down and after I went and got my camera (and it's STILL molten).
Once it had cooled you can see why we were so worried - the metal had been melting it's way through the tile!!!

The supplier said that I should only fire at 800 and he wasn't suprised it melted. When I pointed out fine silvers melting point was higher than 950, the return answer was that was didn't matter as the instructions say to fire Art Clay at 800........but,
needless to say I'll now be firing at 899oC in my "big boy" and a little less in the Prometheus
Nic xx
P.S> If anyone knows how to get a lump of tile off a very melted 4 1/2 hours work please let me know....(and if you like the "Break The Rules" art then visit

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Beads and Beyond Feature

This month Beads and Beyond magazine have covered my work in a two page "Meet and Greet" feature. It's such an honour to be featured in a major magazine article and I'm so pleased with how the photos and work turned out.
My shop has benefited as has my website and it's a wonderful thing to be able to show the family. My mum and hubby have always supported my work, but there were a few folks who thought I was mad to give up a well paid software job & pursue my creative dream.....
Artisan friends of mine assure me I'm not alone in seeing how much more there is to learn (or guilty of forgetting how far I've already travelled).

For those of you on the same journey as myself....a few quotes I've found inspiring.
"Use what talent you possess ~ the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."
Henry Van Dyke
"The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls"
Pablo Picasso

Enjoy your journey...
Nic xx

Monday, 8 March 2010

First Experience of Delft Casting....

Wouldn't this be a great way of replicating PMC masterpieces??
First of all, get the set with the DVD and then watch it! If you haven't got the DVD then there's a very good set of YouTube vids by Andrew Berry...

Here's what I did to make the first of two ball ends for a bangle
1) Clear your work surface, get the clay out and chop it up (I used a metal edge ruler and it was easy)
2) Make sure the clay is soft and mouldable
3) Using the smaller of the two rings turn it upside down (so the joining part is on the bottom)
4) Force the clay into the mould packing it tightly then hammer down the excess on the top.
5) Scrape off the excess to give yourself a flat surface (metal edge ruler again)
6) Turn over and push your master 1/2 way in (in this case my round plastic bead).
7) Use the edge of the ruler to make sure the clay meets the edge of the master.
8) Talcum Powder the master then brush off excess with a soft brush 9) Join up the rings making sure the alignment score marries up
10) Fill the top half with clay & Repeat the tamping down process
11) Gently wiggle the two halves apart
12) Carefully remove the master. 13) Poke a hole from the cavity (where the master was) through to the back I used a small drill bit
14) Following the instructions on the vids carve a funnel that ends in the hole you poked in the cavity (this is what you pour the metal down so it needs to have plenty of room).
15) Clear Debris & tamp down any loose clay
16) Because my bead was round I then did angled holes from the edge to let the air escape.You can see this best on the delft video.
17) Join up the two rings aligning the marks again
18) Using your pre-prepared crucible, heat up the metal until it's a moving liquid.
19) Keeping the flame on the metal pour the metal into the moulds spout. (There will be Flames!)20) You can quench the casting in water (rings and all) as the Delft clay doesn't absorb water. NEAT!
21) Once cool gently ease the two halves apart to inspect your handywork.(please ignore the outside holes ~ in the end I did 4 diagonal ones) This part was quite exciting!!

22) Carefully remove the casting and discard any blackened clay (the rest can be reused).
I love my little Sputnik - Here's a closer look
23) Start the finishing process.....You may want to leave the sprue on if it's a fiddly job (you can saw it off last)Here's the casting looking a bit more like the Ball end of the bangle it will be soldered onto! Hope you enjoyed sharing my first wasn't half as scary as I thought it would be....
Why not have a go yourself? Though I hasten to add at your own risk, yadda yadda don't set yourself on fire (did I mention there are youtube vids?)

Nic xx

Monday, 22 February 2010

Making a 2 part - riveted pendant.

Here's my finished Tin & PMC Mixed Media Pendant & below is how I made it.

Making a 2 layer Pendant1) First find a lovely tin you like and work roughly how big you need the centre cut out to be.
2) Roll out clay 1mm to 1.5mm thick and cut out back shape
3) Repeat for the top using the same cutter (adding texture if required)
4) Cut out an inner shape using a needle pick or slightly smaller cutter.
5) Let all the pieces dry.
6) Once dry refine the INNER edges of your front piece.
7) Line up the front and back then sand the edges for a perfect fit.
8) Drill pilot holes in the front only to make it easier to drill once fired.
9) Either add a silver clay bail at this point OR allow space to solder one on later.
10) FIRE the clay and allow to cool.
11)Using the fired pieces as a template, cut out the tin that will be sandwiched between the rivets.
12)Check for alignment and trim as needed.
13) Ball up the ends of three pieces of 1mm sterling silver wire
14) Line up layers & using a 1mm drill bit drill through all three layers (one hole only)
15) Put the wire through the hole and turn pendant over cut wire just under 1mm away from the back of the pendant.
16) Remove wire use file to take point from cut end (one or two strokes of the file at most)
17) Re-insert wire place pendant face down then hit the cut end in a circular motion ~ you're aiming to make a mini mushroom shape.
18) Turn pendant back to front side and if required flatten the end of the ball.
(this also tends to flatten the mushroom on the back even more)
19) Repeat one by one for the other two (or more) holes ~ drilling each in turn until the pendant is fully riveted.
20) Polish and enjoy!
Nicola x

Friday, 5 February 2010

I'm going to America!

I'm so excited & just had to share ~ I've booked to attend the bi-annual PMC Guild Conference at Purdue University, Indianna USA. It's so exciting to be part of this conference and meet PMC artists from all over the world. Days and days of learning and sharing ideas about metal clay!
You'll find the conference brochure HERE.

But here are just some of the things I'll be seeing...

Incorporating Dichroic Glass into Metal Clay ~ Sherrie Styx
Bronze and PMC with Other Materials ~ Carmen-Alvarez Keefer
Bronze, Copper, and Silver ~ Weers and Hamilton
Textures & Handmade Stencils in BronzClay ~ Janet Harriman
Enamel Illusions (faux enamel) ~ Cindy Silas
Technical Textures ~ Louise Shadonix
Repousse using Photoshop ~ Marian Ward
Water Etching on Hollow Forms ~ Cathy Davies-Paetz
Failsafe Endcaps for Metal Clay ~ RobinBeth Faulkner
Textures and Etching ~ Sherri Haab
How Do I Finish? ~ Elizabeth Agte
Enameling on Copper Clay ~ Yolanda Nieuwboer
Glass Clay ~ Barry Kaiser

Only 6 months to go! Now I just have to book flights and a hotel and maybe a pre-conference course and make some charms for the charm swap (those 6 months are gonna fly by!)
nic xx

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Count your Blesties!

I was commenting on a beautiful necklace on Joy Funnells blog when this came up in word verification...
Isn't it great when sometimes life has it's own rewards.....
Give a Little, Get a Little
& remember to notice when life sends you its little Blesties ;^)
Nic x

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Art Clay Copper - Firing & Polishing

Copper pieces all laid out ready for firing. The kiln needs to get to 970 degrees C. I used my enamelling fork to lift the pieces into the hot kiln. The temperature is held for 30 mins & you take them out HOT!
The pieces are dropped hot from the kiln into cold water. This was difficult as many of them were trying to stick to the fibre shelf. (Prying red hot bits of copper off a fibre shelf is not fun!)
Once pickled (which has left my pickle pot in a right mess) the pieces were tumbled in shot for 45mins. Very easy to see the copper in the steel shot (a pleasant change from trying to spot bits of silver).Dried & separated from the shot you can see a few bits of scale which I plan to take off with a burr. The scale seems to stick to straight pieces more than any other shape. The strips were very bendy, dead soft copper (the ones I rolled 4 cards and 6 cards thick).
I plan to hammer these to work harden them.
Some of the Finished pieces - Five Art Clay Rings (hmmm maybe I should make some calling birds next!). I've done a little smashing on my ring mandrel but plan to do some more ~ these definitely have possibilities...maybe the centre of some spinner rings?
The sizes they ended up were:
9 ended up an 8 (size P)
10- ended up a little over 9 (R1/4)
10 ended up 8 3/4 (almost R)
11 ended up 9 3/4 (approx S 1/2)
12 ended up 10 1/2 (little over U)
The 12 was done with the Red, 6 card, Rio slats and I prefer the result so would suggest using 6 card minimum.
Hope that helps & the end result is Art Clay Copper is well worth giving a try!
Nic xx

Friday, 1 January 2010

Art Clay Copper - Cutting, Ring Making & Finishing

Art Clay Copper cuts beautifully and doesn't stick to cutters. It's less sticky than the previous Bronze and Copper clays which combined with the easy texturing and quick firing makes it an ideal prospect for classes.For this testing process I've made five rings on sized mandrels. 12,11,10,10-,9
The clay stuck together well with an angled cut and water join but to be extra sure I gave it a smoosh (technical term there, lol) with the texture plate. This applied extra pressure to seal the join and helped disguise where it was.Hopefully if ACC becomes popular Aida will bring out an Art Clay Copper Syringe type.
When measured after drying the rings are about 1/2 size bigger (I use paper wraps) measuring
I shall measure them again after firing.
These some of the pieces made from a 50g pack. The pieces used a mix of the blue slats from Rio, 4 cards thick and the red, 6 cards thick slats.
Once dry I sanded and baby wiped the edges of the pieces. Art Clay Copper sands relatively easily & I found it less "dusty" in comparison to bronze clay. I made sure I wore a mask though as breathing in metal isn't clever!

Art Clay Copper - First Experiences!

Set everything up...1) Tools texture mats, board etc all clean, no silver clay to contaminate the copper clay
2) Cling Film and zip lock bag ready (to store clay while I'm using the bit I need)
3) Water to moisten and Baby Wipes
(Turns out you use LOTS of baby wipes as the stuffs messy)
4) Gloves in a bottle or barrier cream. (Just in case as you might be sensitive to copper and it likes to really coat your hands)
First ImpressionsIt's Orange!! A real orangutan, cuddles the monkey orange! (The picture above doesn't show quite how orange it is, but for someone who prefers the silver metals it's a bit of a shock!)
Straight out of the packet it splits at the edge when squished. I decided this meant it needed conditioning. So I flattened it, smeared a little water on and worked it in (much better).
Be careful when adding water as it goes into the sticky smooshy stage very quickly.
Using the Clay Once ConditionedArt Clay Copper is fabulous to roll and (once conditioned) not at all sticky. It also doesn't seem to dry as fast as silver clay does. I had plenty of time to roll the clay out with not a cracking edge in sight.
It also takes texture very well. I used cool slip on the texture mat and wiped off any excess prior to impressing the texture (the Orange on this pic is closer to true colour - did I mention how Orange it is yet? lol).
I moistened and worked any clay I wasn't using, wrapped it in cling film and put it in the zip lock bag.
Nic x
P.S More to follow ~ cutting, making rings and firing ACC pics soon ;)

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