Tag Archives: beginners

Make your own silver jewellery with Precious Metal Clay – it’s like magic!

What is PMC (Precious Metal Clay)?

At its most fundamental level, PMC is particles of fine silver bound up with an organic binder and a little water to make a malleable clay-like material.

 

 

 
When shapes made out of this clay are fired (in a kiln or with a blow-torch) the binder and water burn away, leaving a fine silver piece, ready for polishing.

The finished piece contains higher-purity silver than 925 sterling silver and can be hall-marked just like silver jewellery made with silver sheet, wire and blocks.
The binder materials accounts for about 10% of the overall volume of the clay, so the fired piece ends up 10% smaller. This is important to know when making rings, for example!

Because the clay is 90% silver, it’s not an inexpensive material to work with. Many crafters will be familiar with polymer clay (you may recognise brand names like Fimo) and graduate to PMC to make silver jewellery using similar techniques.
The cost of the materials, and the discipline this imposes on managing waste and controlling the size of projects sometimes comes as a shock!

Why is PMC good for home experimenting?

The upside of PMC though, is that a starter kit of tools isn’t expensive to buy, and small pieces (like earrings or small necklaces) can be fired with a chef’s blow-torch instead of a kiln.

 

 

 

Unlike the benches, bench-hooks and silver-smithing tools needed to make silver jewellery using traditional techniques, PMC can be shaped and refined using clay modelling processes – great for home experimenting.

PMC is available from many retailers in the UK, and in a variety of pack sizes, so the experimenter on a budget can carefully control their use of their key raw material!
One aspect to note is that opened packs of clay will dry out if not handled carefully, or left unused for a while. Open a pack of the size needed only when needed and carefully preserve the remainder!

What will you learn on our class?

We’ve structured our beginner’s class to give you a feel for a range of clay-modelling techniques you can develop at home.

You’ll learn about the properties of the clay to begin with – important to minimise costly waste and ensure you’ll have enough clay for all your beginner’s projects.

You’ll also learn about rolling and shaping, taking a lump of silver clay and making the basic shapes for your pieces.

 

 

 

We’ll introduce you to the use of textured surfaces to give your jewellery more interest and show you how to add bails to necklaces.

We’ll cover the stages of clay shaping, drying, refining, firing (also called sintering) and polishing; each one of these is an important step towards making a finished piece that will be strong enough to be worn regularly.

What can you make on our class?

You’ll make three pieces on our class. If you have spare clay and finish your three pieces before the end of the class, we’ll aim to make a further piece.

First, you’ll make a pair of earrings (like Jenny’s).
This will introduce you to clay handling, shaping, cutting and sanding. The size of these allows these to be fired with a blow-torch – instant gratification!

 

 

Then you’ll make an initial letter necklace – any letter of your choice!
You’ll discover how to roll a smooth snake of clay and shape it in to a letter.
We provide a template for all 26 letters of the alphabet to work to.

This is a tricky assignment but worth it as rolling and shaping is a key technique, applicable to many jewellery design elements.

 

 

 

Finally, you’ll make a pendant incorporating a bail to hang from a necklace, textures, added silver details and a highly-polished section – known as ‘high shine’ in the trade.
You’ll learn about rolling textures in to your clay, cutting shapes and integrating layers.

You’ll also learn about making bails and securely adding them to a pendant base as well as polishing and finishing.

 

 

 

After your three projects, if you have clay (and time) left over you’re welcome to make another project. We’ll help you decide what is achievable in the time, with the clay that remains.

The aim of this beginner’s class is to give you a feel for the versatility of PMC, introduce you to some key techniques you can use at home, and to send you away with three pieces of silver jewellery you’ve made yourself!

Want to have a go yourself and enjoy the magic of making silver jewellery out of clay?
Visit our PMC begonners class website page here and let’s get creative!

If you’re not ready to book but you’d like to receive updates and our monthly newsletter, you can subscribe here.

Happy crafting
Mike

What does it cost to get set up in stained glass?

Using the circle cutter for stained glass

Using the circle cutter for stained glass

We get this question often – at craft fairs, exhibitions and gallery demo days: I fancy having a go – what will it cost me?

The flippant answer is – your soul! It’s an engrossing hobby, can become an all-consuming lifestyle, and some even do it for a living!

But sliding back into reality for a moment, it’s not cheap to get started, which is why a day’s course or spending time with an established glass artist is a good idea: it’s not like buying a pad and some paints!

So, come on Mike, what’s involved?

Well – the fundamental tools you will need for copper-foil (Tiffany method) stained glass are:

A glass cutter – not the £3 job you can buy from a DIY store, a proper oil-filled tungsten-wheeled one. Our preference – Toyo Supercutter, costs about £25.

A good pair of grozing pliers, for nibbling, and a pair of cut runners, or glass snappers. Together these are about £15. We use Glastar snappers.

Next, you’ll need a grinder. We have several Glastar grinders, large and small, for teaching, and the lowest-priced one we’ve found that lasts is the Superstar, at £150 now that VAT has gone up.

You’ll also need  decent soldering iron. There seem to be two that are worth considering, both by Weller, the giant of soldering technology! The 80W ‘starter’ iron is ok for occasional use and costs about £50 with a stand to keep it safe when working. The 100W ‘pro’ tool is about £90.

So those are the main tools you’ll need.

But you’ll also need a work surface, a straight edge, layout strips and pins to hold your design together when soldering, and pens, paper, something to keep your glass in, and a good working light. All this lot could cost you £50 if bought in one go.

Oh, and let’s not forget – the consumables!
Foil is now about £10 a roll, and you’ll need at least a couple of rolls to begin with, and solder is now about £10 for half-a-kilo, which is enough to get started with. And flux and grinding lubricant for your grinder, and cutting oil (or white spirit) will add about £10 on top.

And now – glass!
This is a tricky one. We start our students off on clear ‘horticultural’ glass initially while they learn to score and break glass consistently.

This is cheap, but once you’re confident enough to make something with ‘proper’ coloured glass, you’ll find that sheets about 12″ by 12″ cost from £5 up. The fancier glass costs more, but we always recommend newcomers start with Spectrum glass as it’s affordable and easy to cut. And looks great!

For any sort of interesting design, you’ll need several different sheets, and the off-cuts may not be very usable shapes or sizes.

As a guide, we reckon on about £30 for glass and consumables each for our students on our Vitreus Art one-day class.

If you’re looking at leading, a collection of tools to add to the basics above can be bought for about £25, plus the lead itself.

Check back next time for info on some other tools that are fun to use, like the circle cutter in the picture above.
In the meantime, do leave a comment and let me know which tools you’d recommend to a novice, or which you found hardest to use!

Happy glass making,
Mike

P.S. If you’d like to know more about our one-day beginner’s classes, go to:
www.vitreus-art.co.uk/classes

Or email me via this blog.

Thanks Monty Don, Mastercrafts Stained Glass

Yes, thanks to Monty Don – much admired by green-fingered housewives (so I understand).

On the 19th April 2010 the BBC broadcast an episode of Monty Don’s programme Mastercrafts, following 3 stained glass novices as they  learned how to design and construct stained glass panels. The programme concluded with a competition to win and create a commission for a local school.
BBC programme link here…

The students were taught by hugely experienced artist Sophie Hussein over a period of 6 weeks. Naturally the 1-hour programme condensed the processes and left much out – but it was still a very interesting piece of TV.

For me it was good to see genuine crafts being given a respectful airing, rather than the superficial ‘here’s one I made earlier’ treatment by another programme last year. (No names, no pack drill…)

Why do I bring this up now, 6 months after the show aired?
Because yet again, at the weekend as Jenny and I were teaching a class of beginners on our one-day stained glass workshop, a member of the public visiting the adjacent gallery (Rowans Galley, Brackley) said to me – ‘Oh, I saw that programme with Monty Don and I thought – that would be nice to try.’

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said something like that to one of us when we’ve been exhibiting or demonstrating since the programme went out.

And a number of those keen, arty folks have signed up to one of our classes to find out how it’s done;  some have since gone out and bought the tools and got started on their own projects.

So thanks Monty, Sophie (and the 3 talented students featured)!

If you’ve been stimulated by the programme, or would like to try stained glass, we offer our Introduction to Stained Glass course just for you!
Get in touch to find out more or visit my stained glass website.
www.vitreus-art.co.uk/classes

I’d like to hear what got you started with your craft or artistic passion – leave a comment!