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Enjoying using and experimenting with metal clay


Thanks for the thought – But I sort of misspoke – it’s not the
drawings Ihave trouble with, it’s the execution. I just put a few of
my sketches up on – there are
a bunch of them.


I am, BTW, a bit annoyed that people are acting as though I don't
want an honest critique. I DO want an honest critique. But I want
it focused on the I need. 

By your own admission you don’t know enough about metal clay to know
what you need. You only know what you want,
which is not the same thing.

If you find yourself drawn to metal clay, for whatever reasons, I
suggest doing your initial experimentation in an inexpensive
material that approximates the working properties of metal clay.
Whether that might be earthen clay, plasticene, polymer clay, or
something else I don’t know. But at least that way you wouldn’t feel
the economic pressure to try and produce saleable pieces before your
technique is up to snuff.

Elliot Nesterman


Hi Deborah,

I guess thats your proper name, may I use it? You say you want a
valid critique? of your work, lets put that in plain english, do you
mean an honest view of your current work? Because in my view the only
way you will get a proper answer to your question is to answer it
yourself. So you ask me? how do I do that?

Now im being drawn into this against my better judgment, because
there seems to be a wide gulf between what your asking and what
replies your recieving, and like many of us here on this forum our
time is valuable, giving it for free is not what we normally do.

I have a completly different take on this long discussion which is
as follows.

If Im your mentor or again lets put that in plainer english your
teacher, and your my pupil, you ask me for a comment on your work. I
will send you away with the following task. go, find the most
successful pmc user,.

Then ask yourself what are they doing that I am not? then come back
to me and tell me what you have found out.

You have said you want to work in pmc for various reasons, nothing
wrong . with that, but your missing the point.

Let me give you an example. when I started out in this game I wanted
to do enamelling, not just enamelling like for example people that
coat iron with glaze to make baths, but I wanted to do enamelling
like Faberge!! do you get the pointe you need a target to aim at. then
find the way to hit it.

So, do some research on who’s the best, most successful pmc
jewellery maker, then ask yourself what do i need to do to match his
work, purely as a learning exercise of course. Id like to know who it
is too.

await your results


That may be the case in some times places, etc. But in this case, my
"yes, but…"s are an attempt to get the actual I need,
despite testy, borderline-obnoxious, know-it-all types who are sure
they know my type and who and what I am. So far, in some cases, with
some people (maybe those who see what I’m trying to get at), it’s
actually working. It’s actually leading me to some I

I am grateful even to the people who gave me answers that weren’t
helpful; it’s helped me refine my questions and figure out what I
need to know. Sometimes I don’t exactly realize it myself until
people give me the wrong answers.

So thank you to everyone, even the testy, borderline-obnoxious,
know-it-alltypes who are really not playing the game either –
instead of giving answers that might help me, they are trying to
prove to me that what I’m doing is wrong and will never be right, no
matter what. So really glad that there are others on this list…



Your teacher should be able tell you that you can use pre-made
bezels with the stones. I have done metal clay with the sterling
silver bezels set in and fired it then I set the not furnace friendly
The other trickything about clay is there will be some
shrinkage so it can distort fine designs. As a sculptor I know that
every time you touch the piece you leave amark and the easiest way
to smooth any clay is to use a small sponge sold for ceramics and
also sculpting they are cheap. wet it and smooth it takes out
fingerprints. once it is fired if you do not like the piece it can
me melted with a torch even a propane plumbers torch in a crucible I
spent the 20 dollars on one with a handle and use a pinch of borax
powder each time Imelt PMC is usually fine silver or sterling and yu
can remelt it and use it for drop casting (PDF file)

if the link doesn;t make it through searge google drop casting on
broom you can use pine cones anything organic you can soak since you
like experimenting I use the cruscible and a steel bucket of water
with the items in it soaking the higheror lower you pour the
different affects you will find.

so I hope this helps

Do you have any advice as to how to file/sand the piece without
breaking it? That was my big issue on my first piece (the star
with the triangle and garnet bead). I actually started using the
texture thingies (don't quite know what else to call them, lol)
because I couldn't get the front of this piece (I added the
triangle later) to look uniform and nice. It looked awful (still
does, IMHO, but not as much with the triangle piece on it). I'd
like to be able to make a nice bezel with the clay, but when she
was asked about how to make one, our instructor sort of hemmed and
hawed saying it would never turn out right, so I figured there was
no point in even asking. Do you have any advice?

Because you didn’t include any of my post, it’s hard to tell if
you’re asking this question to me. But I’m going to be self-important
and pretend it was to me. :wink: To sand while in what they call
"greenware" stage (dried but unfired metal clay), The best way is to
use sand paper in different degrees of coarseness. You can fold, and
bend, and roll, and cut the crap out of it, so it works really well.
You just have to be really gentle when it’s greenware. Hold it
gently, sand it gently. I do a lot of delicate designs, so I know it
can be done. And the smoother you can make it before you fire, the
less work once it’s metal. And if you do unfortunately break your
piece (yes, I have done that many time. But usually because I’m a
dumb-a!@# and knock it on the ground or something like that. LOTS of
@#$%^&!!), you can “glue” it back together with slip. I make sure I
soak the broken edges to get them soft, then I use slightly thick
slip. You then have to check that your seam is really solid. It can
be done. I’ve proven it many times over. (grumbles curses) Then sand,
grind, and polish once it’s metal!

And about the bezels…this is something that’s going to take some
work, but you can do it. I taught myself. In part from just asking
other people who knew. No classes. Just jump in and do it. OK. if you
just use embeddable stones, you’ll completely limit yourself. Or
wreak some stones. You CAN make bezels from the metal clay itself,
but that’s not really ideal either. Because of the shrinkage " and
the fact that you need a bezel to fit a stone very exactly " you will
need to be very good with your size calculation. And there is usually
some distortion, and that makes it hard to get a good fit. I’m also
one of those people who honestly feel that metal clay isn’t strong
enough to make the best settings " unless you make it VERY thick or
you do something like a flush setting where there’s a lot of metal
supporting the stone. I love to do flush settings in metal clay for
small accent stones where I drill and shape the setting after the
piece is fired, but not much of the thick metal clay bezel. Making a
really thick metal clay bezel is not only harder to set, it also
takes a lot of annoying and not-quite-accurate shrinkage calculation.
So I prefer to either use embeddable bezels, or solder a bezel on
afterwards. Most of my designs now are ones where I do the later.
It’s just how my designs work. But embeddables are easier if you
don’t solder yet. Use fine silver bezel wire, fit it to your stone,
then close the seam with some metal clay slip " or even better "
metal clay oil paste. (You’ll get a better description of that if you
google “metal clay oil paste.”) Now, I personally like to make bezels
thicker than the standard 30 gauge bezel wire, and that won’t always
hold together as well with the seam held together with just metal
clay, so I fuse the seam before I put it in the kiln if I use a
thicker embeddable bezel. (Solder won’t hold up in the kiln. But most
of my designs are done by soldering the settings and metal clay
together after firing, so I don’t fuse that much.) But that might be
more than what you want to deal with now. So start with standard
bezel wire. And standard fine silver bezel wire is pretty easy to
set, so it’s good to start learning with. Now, because the piece will
shrink up around your setting, it might “squish” it. A good way to
alleviate this is to fill the bezel with a little bit of investment
before firing. But make sure it’s really dry before you fire.

Hope some of this helps! EL


Hello Debbie

With no negotiation or excuses or “yes, buts”, here’s what you will
need to do:

  1. Take classes in jewelry rendering, real world and virtual world.
    Learn how to wield a pencil and, if you choose, learn how to wield
    drawing programs. Learn them better! Never stop.

  2. Take classes in jewelry fabrication. Now! Not later! Classes in
    metal clay and other forms of jewelry making. Take the classes, as
    has been suggested, with instructors whose work you most admire.
    Save your pennies, dimes and quarters (and big bucks) for the
    instruction, travel and supplies expenses. Hold off on buying
    materials until you get hands- on instruction on how to best use

  3. If you ask for critiques, be ready to roll with any perceived
    punches that come your way. Send your artist ego away on a brief
    vacation, and read and listen to what is being said about your work.
    No excuses!!! No arguments!!! This is not about you, it is about
    your work (drawings and jewelry) as hard as it may be to separate
    you from your work. If you ask for feedback, you have to take a deep
    breath, pay attention, and hear what is being said. If you can’t do
    this without fear, then don’t ask, ever.

  4. Aim high and take the learning steps to get to the heights.

  5. Love what you do (actually, this is only the first step), but not
    so much that you can’t abandon what you do when it doesn’t work.
    Don’t fall in love with a process, design, or finished product that
    just plain doesn’t do what you hoped it would do. Check out how
    often painters paint over the first (second, third, etc.) painting
    on a canvas. And remember, erasers were invented for a purpose!

  6. Recognize that we Orchidians are just trying to help keep you on
    track (thought some of us will use your vulnerability to bad
    effect). No more conversations about how you feel about what is
    being said, or what you think we mean. We mean what we say, and
    we’re saying it in response to your initial question and those that
    followed. And we’re just as diverse as any other community and will
    come up with diverse answers. Old Joke: Put two Unitarians (Talmudic
    scholars, philosophers, etc.) in a room and you will come out with
    three different political philosophies. That’s us! So, please, stop,
    stop, stop, trying to protect yourself from us. We’re mostly with
    you on this ride, we’ve been there, we may be there right now with

  7. And lastly, It doesn’t !@%$#*)@%#^ matter what others think or
    say about your work. What matters is your satisfaction or
    dissatisfaction with it. The only time it matters is if you want to
    sell you work, and it doesn’t sell. Then you have to figure out why
    that is happening, and if you want to do something about it. This is
    not easy, to find the balance that will satisfy you and others who
    might become customers or collectors. The best rule: make good work,
    the best you can, and damn the consequences!

And Hanuman, isn’t it time to let this thread wind off the spool to
its end.

Linda Kaye-Moses

So, do some research on who's the best, most successful pmc
jewellery maker, then ask yourself what do i need to do to match
his work, purely as a learning exercise of course. Id like to know
who it is too. 

People would be advised to look at the work of Celie Fago, Gordon U.
( I think), Lizard Jewelry, I need more coffee! I can
picture the work, but am blanking on the names.

I’ll go get some names and I’ll be back. Oh, Pam East, does
terrific, crisp work and then enamels. Helga La Lepsig works with a
metalsmith’s way of thinking, you guys might like her work.

In the mean time, check out the Masters Registry for metal clay.
It’s a program where you have to make things to a challenge with
very specific parameters and then they are judged whether they pass
or not. Nice work and interesting to see how people interpret the
same instructions.



Thanks Elaine for all those leads for our struggling Deborah to
study, adsorb, and plan how she might replicate some of the simpler

Im a metal smith, so im off to look at Helga’s work. Not that I want
to go down the mc road. im much to interested in persuing my wrought
approach to all I do.



I have some Art metal clay, which I got some years ago, and have
beensuccessful in reconstituting the hard lumps and will be making
some items.

All of my work is fabricated or cast, and I thought i would add some
metal clay for variety. I like Eleanor Phillips suggestion of making
fine silver bezels and imbedding them in the clay, then, setting the
stones after it has been fired. However I have some small 2mm lab
created rubies and sapphires that are too small for me to make
correctly sized tiny bezels, so I will just imbed them in the metal

My question is, can the fired pieces be burnished in the tumbler
with the imbedded stones?

Hand burnishing will be difficult as the pieces are highly textured,
and getting my burnisher In the grooves will be difficult. My steel
shot has some pins that might do the job of getting in the grooves,
so if I can tumble them safely without ruining the stones, I would
prefer it. Alma


Hello Alma

I’ve tumbled small stones in the past, even in a conventional rotary
tumbler (I now use a magnetic finisher). The shot doesn’t damage the
stones. I’ve never used lab created stones, just natural stones, 3mm
or so. I think I would be hesitant to do this with large stones.

RE: your bezel. Make sure that you fuse, rather than solder, your
bezel. If you don’t, the solder joint can melt in the kiln. You can
also join the ends of the bezel using metal clay Slip/Paste. There
is a lot of on the web about this process, so do a
search. There are also pre-made fine silver bezel cups that can be
embedded in metal clay pre-firing. Rio carries some and Metal Clay
Findings has developed a line of them with small tabs for the metal
clay to grab onto

RE: burnishing and finishing without a tumbling. Cut up a fiber pad,
Scotchbrite (from into 1 inch squares. Press the
screw from a flexshaft mandrel through the center of three squares.
screw into the mandrel. put on face shield and turn on ventilation.
apply to your fired piece. Then use successive grits of Radial
Bristle Discs from Rio or elsewhere to finish your work.

Hope this helps,
Linda Kaye-Moses


Thank you all for letting me know that it is safe to use the tumbler
to burnish my metal clay with the imbedded stones. I have a rotary
tumbler. The lab created stones are faceted which is why regular
bezels aren’t really suitable. Small cabochons would be perfect, but
as I have a number of the small faceted ones, I will use them I got a
batch to practice bead and bright settingof stones, and really enjoy
working with them and incorporating them as accent pieces in my work.
Knowing that I can tumblel them I will be using them with the Metal
Clay. Alma


Hi Alma,

I’m assuming you know that you can bezel-set faceted stones, but
just in case you don’t, yes, you can. The bezel cups that Metal Clay
Findings designed, have small openings in the bottom of the cups
that enable a small bit of the clay to protrude into the cup. This
actually was designed to provide an additional mechanical join, once
the clay was fired and the bit shrunk around that opening. The
openings are not really needed for this purpose as there are also
small ‘legs’ on each bezel cup that serve the purpose of mechanical
joining. Just so you know, I am not affiliated in any way with MCF.
just like their findings.

However, the opening would also be useful when setting small faceted
stones in a metal clay piece. Obviously one can’t set large faceted
stones using these cups as the depth of the cups might preclude
that, but for a smaller stone, the culet can be placed in the
opening, allowing the stone to be set prior to firing. If you wanted
to set your stone in these bezel cups after firing, you would need
to use a scribe to create a depression through the opening and into
the metal clay itself. This would accommodate the culet after

It is also possible to use standard fine silver bezel cups for this
purpose, but you would need to create a small opening in the bottom.
These cups can be embedded in the metal clay pre-firing even without
having the ‘legs’ that Metal Clay Findings makes. I just like those
of MCF for this purpose, since the 'leg’s add a little bit of
insurance, a slightly better join.

You can also just solder stonesetting findings after firing metal
clay, which I think offers you more flexibility of process. You
would then have no concerns about re-melting solder or metal
degradation (happens because of the high temperature for long
periods of time).

And one more thing, you can also fire your piece and add sterling or
fine silver findings embedded in fresh metal clay, and re-fire. In
this process, you could in fact fire at the lowest temperature and
duration that the manufacturer recommends, and this can help to
prevent any metal degradation (most common with sterling embedded in
metal clay).

There are so many ways that metal clay allows you to achieve your
goals. Hope you enjoy trying them.

Linda Kaye-Moses


Thanks Linda for the about the small bezel cups. I tried
making some myself several times, but was not satisfied with the way
they looked when they were burnished on the top of the stone. And it
seemed I never did get them to sit right, These little 2mm stones are
not as easy for me to bezel set asare the larger ones, but I like to
use them as accents. Hence I tooka class in bead and bright setting
of pave sized stones which I use when fabricating. Great class, and
I got a lot of exercise crawling around the floor trying to retrieve
the little CZ’s that we used for practice. Thanks again for letting
me know about all the possibilities. I printed out your email to
have on hand for reference. Alma.