Hey hey! It’s challenge time! This month’s theme is Patriotic. I have to admit, I struggled a bit with this challenge. I don’t really do much decorating, and all of our family is back East, so we don’t really do much in terms of picnics and barbecues either. I could do a shirt, but then, would I ever really wear it? I wanted to do something that spoke to me and my lifestyle, not just go for the ever-present day red, white, and blue. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
After a bit of thinking on it, and asking Earl what he thought of when he thought about patriotic (stars and stripes, if you were wondering), I came up with the idea to do a bit of jewelry! Stars are wonderfully patriotic, but can pull double duty for so many other events as well. A bit of a subtle addition. And we all know how I like to be subtle sometimes (but only sometimes).
To punch up the challenge a bit, I decided to work with metal clay. It’s a type of clay that has a clay binder, but also has metal particles in the clay as well. Once the clay has dried, you burn out the clay binder, and the metal sinters together to create a finished piece in metal. Cool, huh?! I was really happy with the results, and I hope you’ll be too! And don’t worry, there’s a silhouette aspect to the whole thing too, I promise!
DISCLAIMER: I AM COMPLETELY NEW TO METAL CLAY. THIS IS MY FIRST METAL CLAY PROJECT. AS SUCH, I HAVE INTENTIONALLY NOT WRITTEN IN ALL THE STEPS. PLEASE CONSULT A METAL CLAY BOOK OR CLASS BEFORE FIRING UP YOUR OWN PROJECT.
Want a suggestion for where to get started with metal clay? I purchased the Craftsy course “Torch-Fired Precious Metal Clay” by Jenny Vestal. The course contains 12 lessons with almost 400 minutes of videos to guide you through the process. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, but I wanted to point you towards the resource that I used. I’ve worked around fire quite a bit, since I cast metal, so please take it from me: Respect the fire. Plan ahead every step of the way and know exactly what you’re going to do before you do it. Ok, I’ll turn off my “mom” voice (see mom, I do have one!) and get you started on this walk through!
Creating Impressions for Clay with the Silhouette
See! Silhouette stuff! Actually, you can do this project with regular oven bake polymer clay if you wanted to, no metal clay needed! It just won’t have the metallic finish that, well, metals do.
Don’t have a Silhouette?! No problem! Instead of cutting into the printfoam to create the design with your Silhouette, you can press right down into the printfoam without the pre-cut guidelines! Jump down to step 3 to get started if you’re not using a Silhouette!
Here’s an abbreviated version of the materials I used:
For the impression:
For the clay:
Firing Materials and Saftey Equipment (not listed here)
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Step 1: Set up the shape in Studio
I decided to go with a shape from the Silhouette Store instead of making my own (*gasp*). I knew that I really wanted to focus on the process instead of the design this time around. I chose the flourish shape because it was simple, but still looked pretty. I could also easily envision the swirls curving out of a flat star (more on that in the next step). The first thing to do is to size it appropriately. I made 2 sized – 1.5″ for the earrings and 2″ for the pendant. To change the size, I went to “Object – Scale” and set the size there (Studio V3). I also moved it slightly over to the right so that the material I’m cutting into didn’t fall under the rollers. There is a roller at 1″ and then again around 3.75″, but you can always move the second one or go into the middle of the mat if you needed to.
Step 2: Cut
The material we’re cutting into is Printfoam paper. I’ve also seen it referred to as scratch paper. I purchased mine from Dick Blick and it was over by the stamping supplies. Basically, you can press down on parts of the paper to make a design. With stamping, you could then lay ink on the printfoam and press it onto your paper. Only those areas that weren’t scratched would show. Here, we’ll be using it’s ability to press parts down to make a mold of sorts for our clay. That’s the next step, but I figured that understanding the process would help a bit. First, we need to cut our design into the foam. Line everything up on your mat and use the following settings:
Blade: 3 Speed: 1 Thickness: 33
You can play around with these a bit, but that’s what I found worked best for me. Note that I’m also using a very small pattern. Usually, with small patterns, I set my speed to 1. You could probably go faster with a larger pattern. This is what you’re project will look like after it’s cut (it’s a bit hard to see – that’s ok):
Step 3: Press
Ok, now we’re going to press in all of the parts that we want to be raised. Keep in mind that we’re making a negative of the pattern we want. So the parts we press in now will be higher on the final project. Got it? Oddly enough, this is where I used my match! I alternated between a match, the tip of a bamboo stick, and a pin to get down the parts that I wanted raised later. The cut lines will provide a natural barrier for you to press up to, but you do need to be a little careful that it you aren’t too ambitious in your pressing. It won’t come back up when you’re done!! Here you can see all 3 steps of scratch paper (clean, cut, and pressed) side by side, followed by a close up of the pressed piece.
Step 4: Prepare your clay
No matter what type of clay you’re using, you’ll want to prepare it first. The first thing to do is to decide how thick you want your piece. After looking at a bunch of different projects, I decided I wanted to go with a sheet of clay that was 5 cards thick. Wait a minute, what the what does that mean?! Yeah, I had no idea either. Turns out it’s just the number of playing cards you’re using. You can use a rolling pin and cards flanking your clay to roll it out, or you can use a clay conditioning roller. I chose the latter. I figured out that the 4 setting on my rollers is equivalent to 5 cards thick.
Hey – check me out in the reflection! I also discovered that unlike polymer clay, metal clay left residue on my rollers. So, I cut out some wax paper to roll it in. This meant that my clay had some wax paper crinkles in it, but I was ok with that. You could probably use another plastic sleeve like thing to avoid those wrinkles. At this point, and this point only, I took my clay out of the package. Metal clay dries somewhat quickly, so I didn’t want it to start crack on me while I rolled it. Then I rolled it successively through the 1,2,3, and 4 settings.
Step 5: Impress
Now we’re going to create an impression with the printfoam mold we made using the Silhouette. Find the side that’s less crinkled by the wax paper and press it down flat on the printfoam.
Press down into the foam with your fingers and the heel of your palm. Don’t worry, you’re unlikely to press hard enough to mess with your design in this manner.
Keep pressing all around until you can see little bumps where the design is. It won’t be totally clear from the back, but you’ll start to see it coming through. Notice how it’s starting to dry up a bit? That’s because I paused between each step to take pictures. You can always spritz a little bit of water and fold it in if you need to (though, you’d have to re-roll and create a new impression).
Now pull up your clay and look for the faint lines of the star.
Use your exacto knife to cut away the excess.
Don’t forget to punch some holes for the wire hooks and jump rings to go through. Do yourself a favor and make them big enough (keep in mind shrinkage, see below). I didn’t, and I seriously regretted it.
Step 6: Fire
Ok, now this is the step I’ll hold back on instructions. Fire your clay as instructed. If you’re using polymer clay, that may just mean tossing it in the oven for a bit. If you’re using metal clay, again, I’ll recommend the Craftsy course “Torch-Fired Precious Metal Clay” by Jenny Vestal. Metal clay needs to dry first (24-48 hours air dry). And don’t forget to Respect the fire!
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re using metal clay, the final piece will shrink a bit. (Don’t forget, you’re removing some of the material during firing). Here’s the difference between my starting and finished earring pieces:
Step 7: Finishing your metal (for metal clay)
Next I needed to finish the metal by sanding it. You’ll notice that my pieces have a lot of natural texture from the printfoam and the wax paper. I could have taken the time to start with a higher sand paper and made them really smooth, but I kind of like the weather worn look. Despite the looks though, they are very smooth. I started with a small metal brush and then used some very high grit sand paper (1400-8000) which can only be bought online (here’s a link for you). Keep in mind that it won’t look perfect after the firing. Here’s just after firing and then after I went through all of the sand papers.
Step 8: Add you’re findings
Findings, if you’re not familiar with the term, are those bits that you add to actually make the piece jewelry. Things like your earring hooks. My holes were too small in the end, so I had to use some pretty fine jewelry wire to make something work. I’ll probably head back in there with my dremmel so that I can use my jump rings and make the connections stronger. I decided to go with the cord instead of a chain for the pendant because it just felt right. Like the piece wanted to be a bit more laid back.
And that’s it! Overall, I’m really happy with the piece. I know there are things I could have dome better, but I’m ok with that. I tried a new technique and a new material, I had a ton of fun, and I couldn’t be happier with the first results. Plus, I got to play with fire. I was able to get 2 sets of earrings and pendant. Gee, I wonder what I’ll do with that extra set…
Before I send you off to check out all the other awesome projects in this month’s blog hop, I thought I’d leave you with a little craftermath and a teaser. Check back later this week for a tutorial on some cosplay crafting!
Want to Check Out More Silhouette Projects?
My Silhouette Challenge buddies and I are all sharing projects on our blogs today, so peruse the projects below for a wealth of Silhouette inspiration!
1. Our Rosey Life // 2. My Mom Made That // 3. The Kim Six Fix // 4. Create & Babble // 5. The Frill of Life // 6. My Paper Craze // 7. Kate’s Paper Creations // 8. Simply Kelly Designs // 9. Dragonfly & Lily Pads // 10. Mama Sonshine // 11. Lil Mrs. Tori // 12. Tried & True // 13. It Happens in a Blink // 14. McCall Manor // 15. The Thinking Closet // 16. unOriginal Mom // 17. Sowdering About // 18. Weekend Craft // 19. The Outlandish Momma // 20. Adventures in All Things Food // 21. Practically Functional // 22. Silhouette School // 23. Please Excuse My Craftermath… // 24. Ginger Snap Craft // 25. Pineapples And Pinecones // 26. Black and White Obsession // 27. TitiCrafty // 28. Architecture of a Mom //
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