Monday, August 31, 2009

Took the plunge

Debra helping Cathy with her piece

We dried our pieces in a dehydrator, but also used this very formal method of drying our pieces. It was a good thing it didn't rain.

Some of Debra's unfired examples.

Well, I finally took the plunge and tried copper clay. (Bronze may be next.)

I had been putting off trying one of the other clays because there seemed to be so many variables and all the kinks weren't worked out yet. Besides, I really hadn't explored all there is to know about the silver clay. But thanks to Jan Durkin, one of the founding members of the Western Pennsylvania Metal Clay Guild, we had the opportunity to take a class on copper clay on Sunday from Debra Weld. So I went for it.

Debra is well known for her addition of color to metal. She offered just such a class on Saturday and I would have taken that class too, except for that important factor of money. But on Sunday, when I saw people wearing what they had made on Saturday, I was sorry that I didn't take it.

Oh well, I got to take the copper clay class on Sunday and that was great. We learned lots, made lots of copper pieces and just plain had a good time. It was a fun group to work with and Debra fit right in.

Debra and Jan both took work home to fire. I brought mine with me as I've had the necessary equipment for a year and decided it was time to try it.

Another thing that kept me from using the bronze was the amount of time needed to fire the clay. Copper takes more time than silver but not as long as the bronze. There is no need to ramp the kiln up slowly when firing the copper and once it hits the temperature (sorry, too lazy to go down stairs and look at my notes) the firing time is only 3 1/2 hours. That I can do.

Copper clay only comes in the clay form. But, compared to silver clay it is soooo much cheaper. 100 grams costs around $20. When was the last time we could buy 100 grams of silver clay for $20? Since there is no syringe clay in copper, we had to roll tiny little snakes for our linear elements. Paste had to be made from the lump clay and only lasts a couple of days before it begins to oxidize. It is important to make sure the seams and joins in copper clay are thoroughly joined. Otherwise they might pop apart during the firing. (Hope mine are stable.)
Like silver clay, moisture and pressure are key elements when combining pieces.

I'll probably fire my pieces later this week. First I have to fire my coconut charcoal (which is the best kind for copper clay) before I can fire the copper pieces in it. I made sure I had a special set of tools dedicated to copper only. I don't want to cross contaminate the clay with my silver and ruin anything. I'll be sure to share photos, once the pieces are fired.

The class was wonderful, the instructor was first rate and the people were so much fun. I'm glad I took the plunge.

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