Follow up to Richard in Denver. The stapled cheese thing showcased
in the May 2003 issue of Lapidary Journal once again reminded me that
I don’t understand the lure of using PMC (Precious Metal Clay). The
cast piece run earlier by LJ, although not appealing to me, did not
discourage me from learning casting techniques because I know that
many items that do appeal to me use this process. However, if I were
in marketing for the relatively new PMC, I would make sure that LJ
had lots of articles available which show not only specific
techniques but also show not just average, or good, but spectacular
jewelry. Just my 2 cents. Nancy
Follow up to Richard in Denver. The stapled cheese thing showcased
When I saw the “stapled cheese puff” in the Lap Journal, my first
thought was that it looked like kitty litter leftovers. I’ve seen
some really gorgeous things made with the Precious Metal Clay that
made that project look like a kindergartener’s mistake. The
potential is there, just with the journal would have chosen a better
project to display.
Dear Nancy, I also have problems being excited about PMC. Perhaps I
should try it and see how to work the material. As with a look at
some jewelry books from 20 to 30 years ago, much of the castings of
the time look quite primative compared to recent work. There was
much of the rough nuggety look and all sorts of apparently
unfinished forms. This is some of what I see in PMC. Perhaps with
time and more artisans using the material, the initial experimental
stages will be passed and some truly exciting results will be seen.
Some is attractive to me, as done today. Some simply is not
attractive and looks crude. Time will tell how this material is
accepted into the marketplace of common people or if it remains, as
do some beautiful techniques in other media, in the hands of the
artisan and hobbyist. Well, we all have our personal tastes!
Thanks for listening.
The potential is there, just the journal could have chosen a better project to display.
Hi, Betty-- You’ve touched on something that keeps baffling me-- I
know good work can be done with PMC, and IS being done, but the
illustrations in magazines and the PMC newsletter are almost all
crude and amateurish. I suppose I should submit some of my pieces I
think are better, but I never seem to have time. Wierd, though,
You know the saying about good make up, it should look like you’re
not wearing any? Well, with very well done Precious Metal Clay, you
may not realize it was made with PMC. Perhaps we have a case of the
work with typical clay looking characteristics being recognized as
PMC or Art Clay Silver, and the professional level work metalsmiths
are assuming it was cast.
I assure you that metal clays are here to stay. The PMC Conference
in 2002 had 305 attendees, 50 from Japan, and you may be surprised
to know, the majority of attendees were also metalsmiths.
PMC can be useful to metalsmiths as a model making technique, for
objects to be cast.
PMC has opened up the world of jewelry making in metal to lots of
people who are afraid, intimidated or not interested in
metalsmithing. Some of them move on to include metalsmithing after
As a metalsmith, I teach my students how to incorporate
metalsmithing standards into their PMC work. I teach 10-15 PMC
classes a year; I see a lot of student work. There is some
beautiful, well made, strong work out there that you would not look
down on as metal clay if you saw it. My students have made work
that would fit right in in Metalsmith Magazine.
I remind you that when polymer clays first came out (Sculpey, Fimo,
etc.) the early work was distinctive and sometimes unattractive.
Now, more than 10 years later, the work being done in polymer is
astounding, amazing, beautiful. Remember that PMC has only been in
this country since 1995. These are the early days. Frankly, these
are also the very exciting days, new, experimental.
I for one am enjoying being on the cutting edge of the most exciting
development in jewelry since fold forming.
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Certified PMC Instructor and a metalsmith
I recently took a class in PMC and was delighted with this material.
What an incredible idea! There are some things one can do with PMC
that would be almost impossible to do in any other way. Does that
make it bad? I don’t think so. We now use computers to produce
designs and there was a time when if you didn’t “hand design and
produce” you weren’t one of the ‘better jewelers’. I think that’s
what’s happening with PMC. People have a tendency to think they are
perfectly capable of casting or sculpting by traditional methods and
view PMC as “cheating”. But I think if you look at PMC with an open
mind, the new possibilities it opens can be mind boggling. Yes, I
think initially most of the work produced with the medium just
screamed “PMC” when you saw it. But even in the short time it has
been available, I think the progress is phenomenal, and I’ve seen
pieces done with it that are beautiful. I think probably the “cream
puff” piece was more a matter of showing you that you could produce
results with very basic and available materials. I also wasn’t
enamored with the results, but the technique itself was fascinating.
I’ve seen some classic made jewelry designs that I wouldn’t wear to
my own funeral. I think you can dislike a design but have respect
for the method. I think we should look at PMC as another avenue for
exploration. I don’t like casting and don’t have the equipment to do
it, so for me I think PMC is going to fill the bill for those small
things I can’t make any other way. PMC is affordable and full of
incredible possibilities if you just open your mind to it.
I had to laugh at these comments. My spouse looked at the
"project" in the LJ and said it looked like a turd. I thought so
too. I have seen MUCH nicer items made from PMC, perhaps, they just
wanted to show “technique” and point out that core material can be
non-toxic (as the cheese puff would be . . )???
There is a store called Pistashio in Chicago, they have some
beautiful examples of PMC. And there are some Japanese PMC tutorial
books that show beautiful pieces made from PMC.
I suppose I should submit some of my pieces I think are better, but I never seem to have time.
Yes, please do! We are always looking for interesting material for
Projects, certainly, but also technical articles, images from
designers, tips, comments, news on upcoming events . . . Of course I
understand that most of you don’t have enough time to do your own
work, and that many of you express yourselves best in metal, stone,
etc., rather than in words, but if you have an idea, why not drop me
We have two sets of guidelines for potential contributors, one for
submitting projects and the other for features. Although we’ll look
at whatever comes our way, it’s best if you ask first if we could use
what you have in mind, before writing or photographing the whole
thing – it can save everyone time and effort.
I’d be very happy to hear from anyone, and if you’d like our
guidelines, just ask!
There is a store called Pistashio in Chicago, they have some beautiful examples of PMC. And there are some Japanese PMC tutorial books that show beautiful pieces made from PMC.
I’d love to see the Japanese PMC tutorial books. Could you please
say what the titles and authors’ names are so I can track them down?
I suppose I should submit some of my pieces I think are better, but I never seem to have time. Weird, though, isn't it? "
Noel, you are absolutely correct! And if you’ve made some stunner
pieces, by all means you should take the time to do a submission.
I’ve seen some really pretty things done on TV craft shows, so I know
it’s out there. Just makes me wonder if the Journal is inadvertently
comparing PMC to PlayDoh… Huge difference there!!
Hi all, I’d just like to second what Merle said! I’m editor of Studio
PMC, the PMC Guild’s newsletter, and I really, really want to see AND
feature the great work I know is being created in PMC! But I can’t
unless people creating that work send it to me. (Hint, hint, Noel.
Now’s a good time for us – we just moved to four-color printing
throughout the publication, so the photos will look considerably
better going forward.
As others have observed, PMC is still a relatively new material, and
as with all new materials, some of the work being done isn’t terribly
sophisticated. (For that matter, not all the work being done with
traditional metalsmithing techniques is that great – would you
judge silver as a material based on beginner projects?) Tthe group of
artists working with PMC has been relatively small, and they’ve all
been beginners until very recently. As more artists work with this
material over a period of time, I’m seeing more and more really cool
work in PMC, and I think that trend will continue.
As for whether it’s worth trying – depends on how much you like to
play around with new mediums. PMC is a new tool in the tool box, and
it has some great qualities, which can allow artists to do things
that would be difficult or impossible using traditional techniques.
It’s very accessible, and doesn’t require a lot of equipment to get
started, so can be very appealing to artists who work primarily in
other mediums. But it’s not going to make traditional metalsmithing
techniques obsolete. Of course, lost wax casting didn’t make
fabrication techniques obsolete, either. It’s just another technique
you can learn, or not, as you choose.
I will say, though, that there do seem to be plenty of people
learning it. The PMC Guild now has more than 2,000 members, and that
number is growing daily. Rio Grande sold more than a metric ton of
the stuff last year. It’s not for everyone, but these folks seem to
think it’s pretty cool.
Oh, and one last note – the Japanese PMC books are available
through Rio Grande. A word of warning: they are in Japanese and
there are no plans to translate them, although I understand the
photos are striking and worth the price of the book. Still, if you’re
looking for a how-to book to get started, there are several others
written in English (including ones from Tim McCreight and the PMC
Guild’s director,CeCe Wire) that might make a better starting point
if you do not read Japanese.
The trouble, as I see it, w/ PMC is the application of the material
itself. I have seen very little work that exploits the unusual
qualities that are peculiar to this material. There doesn’t seem to
be a lot of artists approaching it as a clay, or finding an
interesting use for the high shrinkage formula. What I HAVE seen is
a lot of people using it as a low tech approach to higher tech.
processes such as fabrication and casting. To my eye it usually
appears pretty much as it is: good intentions w/ less than convincing
I have not seen the Japanese uses of the material, but I would be
glad to amend my opinion if someone shows me compelling PMC work–
pieces that can only be produced by using PMC or use PMC as an
innovative material, or use PMC as a material that expedites
process, producing a clean fabricated look quicker or more
efficiently than actually fabricating.
I am not opposed to PMC, but I remain unconvinced and unexcited–
and vaguely irritated by those who consider themselves jewelers or
silversmiths by virtue of a PMC kiln. Certainly the world of Polymer
clay-- Fimo, Sculpey-- has come of age; isn’t PMC due? Respectfully,
Here is a link to a few images of work done by PMC artist Kathleen
Dustin. http://www.pmclay.com/zshow23dustin.html I think her work is
an example of PMC jewelry done well.
The trouble, as I see it, w/ PMC is the application of the material itself. I have seen very little work that exploits the unusual qualities that are peculiar to this material. There doesn't seem to be a lot of artists approaching it as a clay, >
I have been following the thread on PMC with interest, as it is all
very new to me. Though I was not particularly impressed with the
ring in the Lapidary Journal article, I was impressed by the fact
that the article suggested the use of a torch for firing. I though a
kiln was a must. To be honest, it only recently dawned on me that
PMC was made of actual precious metals and not some sort of metallic
colored polymer (I told you it was new to me)
Reading Andy Coopermans comments, specifically those included above,
a question occured to me. Its strictly an acedemic question; I dont
work with PMC nor do I plan to in the near future, Im asking merely
to satisfy my own curiosity.
Could hollow objects be formed of PMC similar to porceline? That
is, could a thin slurry of PCM be made, poured into a mold and then
drained, leaving a thin coating which could be built up, removed, and
fired to yield hollow objects?
Just wondering, Joe
Here is a link to a few images of work done by PMC artist Kathleen Dustin. http://www.pmclay.com/zshow23dustin.html I think her work is an example of PMC jewelry done well.
It still does not use the potential three dimensional possibilities
In a workshop that I took at the 92st. Y in NYC, the people who did
the best with PMC were the clay people, the sculptors and potters.
They realized the three dimentional possibilities of PMC and did not
treat it as metal.
Yes, you can fire PMC (and Art Clay) with a butane torch, however,
in my personal opinion, a kiln is superior.
As to the question about slip casting – no, basically, you can’t
slip cast. Any other opinions out there on that? If you really
want to know, Joe, you could email your question to
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Certified PMC Instructor
could a thin slurry of PCM be made, poured into a mold and then
drained, leaving a thin coating which could be built up, removed,
and fired to yield hollow objects?
I do pottery/sculpture as well as metals. As an art student several
years ago, I used to make press molds for decorative appliques on my
pots. I think your pouring a hollow form would work but you’d need a
lot of experimentation to find just the right consistency of PMC and
the right length of time to leave it in the mold to get the correct
thickness. As would any hollow form in ceramics and metals, yours
would have to have a hole not only for firing but for letting the
excess slurry to be poured out.
I’ve made over a hundred tiny faces in silver PMC (original version,
which shrinks 30-40%). I used my wax molds and just pressed the
little ball of clay in, let it dry a bit and popped it out. I
normally cast little faces the traditional way but I was looking for
very small faces to use for earrings without having to re-do my
waxes/molds and PMC was the perfect solution. I saved myself 5 hours
or so of normal sprueing time/cutting off the sprue/clean-up. The
faces were perfect with very clear detail; two hours firing time, no
investment, no flasks, no burn-out, no mess.
Donna in VA