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Suggestions for a PMC Kiln


#1

Welcoming and asking for any suggestions for a PMC Kiln and if
possible, a price range that those “in the know” think would be
reasonable to expect to pay for a decent kiln. (Advice would also be
welcome - - i.e., what to avoid, what is essential, etc., etc.)

Thanks,
Cameron


#2

Cameron,

I must say that I too tried metal clays thinking I could use the
stuff for “short cuts” in jewelry making, repair work, etc, as some
things seemed possible with clay, in theory, that were more
complicated with fine silver raw materials and would be easier with
24 kt gold clay as well…I learned - after investing a great deal in
abeehive type kiln, then onto a “PMC hotpot”, then firing cone, then
a secondary kiln dedicated to metal clay (I have one for annealing
and enameling), a generous supply of PMC then Art Clay then onto
making my own clay alloys, that it is not worth the outlay in the
long run. Better by far to stick to or learn traditional gold and
silver smithing and the processes that are intrinsic to the art.

Metal clay art looks like metal clay art, and with very few
exceptions that are breathtaking (Gordon Uyehara as a case in point)
the markets (in which I have seen sellers trying to sell metal clay
art) do not bear the costs of the final products. Equally, there
seems to be a stigma attached to metal clay products which dictates
that the perceived value is far less than traditional silversmithing.
The main point is after all the special equipment (other than firing
it on a gas stove- which by the way, works just fine) and investing
in a clay form of fine silver or high karat gold the cost is never
returned. I have found that for schools and other groups,
occupational therapy, camp projects, etc. in which safety is a
concern and all the equipment necessary for basic fabrication and
soldering is cost prohibitive metal clays can provide an
entertaining period and a tangible jewelery product for far less of
an investment…That said the most basic kiln with an attached
pyrometer or a supply of cones that indicate the kiln’s temperature
are more than adequate if you are testing the form.I would also
recommend seeking out a used kiln, with an attached pyrometer, and
preferably a front opening door, and inside tracks of which will
support additional tiles, or racks particularly if you are just
getting into metal clay as a possible jewelry making medium. I would
even say that unless you are absolutely certain that you are going to
continue working with metal clays for a very long time, if not
exclusively, the rapid fire cone is adequate unless you have a gas
stove and a stainless steel or cast iron domed cover to concentrate
heat is good enough for experimentation. The $800 (after you add on
shipping and taxes to the $650.00 kiln) or so you would spend on a
new kiln, if you are just beginning is far better spent on a torch
set up, raw materials and hand tools and learning to make jewelry on
your own! A butane torch and charcoal block are even quite adequate
and one will get the same results on say band rings, stone set rings,
or pendants etc. as you will investing in a form that, as a living,
is not as profitable as traditional methods, and In my opinion, no
where near as versatile nor predictable.

Even with the “new advances” and products available( like the
veneers that allow one to apply thin layers of texture, or mixed
metal inlays etc.) in the metal clay realm, your money would go much
farther investing in traditional equipment for fabrication.

The cost of metal clays is at least doubled ( though closer to
triple) the cost of .999 silver and gold raw materials ( sheet,
casting grain, wire, bezel, etc.).Then there are tiered lessons, and
privileges associated with buying into the tiered system of
instruction and being able to teach methods that allow one person to
get their clays cheaper than another that factors into the overall
high cost: low return: low perceived value. I truly urge you to
consider cost vs. return on investment before making that first
purchase of 7 grams of the stuff for $35.00 or so, when an entire
ounce of.999 silver is $17.31 (as of today) and your end product
will carry a far greater return- if selling your art is what you plan
for your work- not to mention that your results learning traditional
methods will be far more predictable!

After all metal clays are a great way to reuse industrial wastes and
for the manufacturers to profit from that recycling, but I expect the
fad to be quite short lived as many of the objects break easily, turn
black in contact with aluminum, are in general, obviously not
traditionally fabricated jewelry and consumers are beginning to
realize the shortcomings, and many former enthusiasts beginning to
realize that their investments will never be met with the same market
that exists for art jewelry.

Certainly many will disagree with my warnings to you, but many of
those who will protest will, no doubt be in the business of selling
metal clay accoutrement, teaching it, etc…so the objectivity I am
offering you as an individual that put out a great deal of money and
spent a lot of time to learn these things for myself, will be skewed.
If you are set on metal clays as a hobby, fine, just do it in the
most conservative way you can- Don’t opt for the fancy kilns with top
doors or separated compartments and dual controls- find a good used
kiln that can be resold if you tire of the results. If you are going
to open a school, or offer to teach metal clay on a storefront
premise, and/or charge per piece to fire patrons works, then buy the
better kiln that has clearly easily digitally controlled temperature
setting capabilities, and multiple compartments that allows one batch
to be fired while setting up a second in another cell in a unit
because it can be written off when you account for the outlay- after
the fad dies out.

rer


#3

I have a Paragon SC2 and use it weekly (lately it’s been daily use)
for metal clay, glass fusing and enameling. It works great. I know
many other metal clay artists who also have this brand/model and are
very happy with it. In talking with metal clay artists over several
years, it seems that the Paragon and the Sierra Evenheat kilns are
the two brands most recommended. You can expect to pay $550 (US$)
and up for a good kiln but I can’t imagine not having one. It’s one
of my most used pieces of equipment.

BBR - Sandi Graves
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)
Saint Paul, Minnesota
651-645-0343


#4

Both Paragon and Evenheat are the excellent, if not THE perfect kilns
for firing metal clay, both PMC and Art Clay. Rio carries the Paragon
(blue) and PMC Connection carries the Evenheat (white).

Linda Kaye-Moses


#5

Rer,

 most conservative way you can- Don't opt for the fancy kilns with
top doors or separated compartments and dual controls- find a good
used kiln that can be resold if you tire of the results. If you are
going to open a school, or offer to teach metal clay on a
storefront premise, and/or charge per piece to fire patrons works,
then buy the better kiln that has clearly easily digitally
controlled temperature setting capabilities, and multiple
compartments that allows one batch to be fired while setting up a
second in another cell in a unit because it can be written off when
you account for the outlay- after the fad dies out. 

I would like to respectfully offer a rebuttal to some of your
comments on metal clay.

I seriously doubt metal clay is a “passing fad”, rather it’s a baby.
There’s no telling yet what it’s going to grow into. It’s only been
in the US a little over a decade. That’s barely a blip on the radar
in terms of metallurgic history. We have yet to see where it can go.
Gordon Uyehara is only one of many artists who are already working
with amazing precision and skill. That there are not many yet is only
a function of the very short time it’s been available. The rest of
the practitioners are still learning. Give them time and exposure and
they will amaze you.

One of the biggest challenges I see at this point is lack of
adequate training. I seriously doubt many of you became highly
skilled silver and/or gold smiths without training. And yet because
it’s “just clay” there seems to be an expectation that you’ll be able
to do whatever you like with it, with little or no training at all,
and then when it doesn’t work you write off the material instead of
taking in to account your own skill level. It would be nice if all
the experience with silver smithing translated directly to expertise
with metal clay, but unfortunately that’s not how it works. It’s an
entirely different skill set. One that can expand your toolbox, not
necessarily replace it.

This is why the various “certification” programs have sprung up.
They are offered by the manufacturers to educate people about how the
product works and to help increase success with it. But it’s still
going to be a long time before a high degree of mastery is common
place. At this point there are no where near as many master or high
level instructors in metal clay as there are in smithing, so access
to these people is limited. Again, this is something time will remedy
as our young artists grow and mature in the media.

Personally, I am delighted that metal clay IS so accessible to
anyone who wants to try it, and that they can get some success
quickly. Just think about all the experimentation going on and all
the new ideas and processes on the horizon from these adventurous
artists who might otherwise have never tried working with silver.

It’s a very exciting time to be a jewelry designer! When was the
last time the jewelry or metal community saw anything really new?
Charles Lewton-Brain’s fold forming? What was the last innovation
before that? The people working with metal clay are pioneers,
constantly pushing its current limits, developing new techniques, and
refining the processes. We’re on the cutting edge of something brand
new, and I, for one, can not wait to see what the future holds.

Pam East
www.pameast.net


#6
Gordon Uyehara is only one of many artists who are already working
with amazing precision and skill. That there are not many yet is
only a function of the very short time it's been available. The
rest of the practitioners are still learning. Give them time and
exposure and they will amaze you. 

Here we go again. Every time someone takes a pot shot at metal clay
someone else trots out the great work being done with it by a small
number of artists and mentions folks like Gordon Uyehara. Folks like
Mr Uyehara could sell their work if it was carved out of soap
because it is so good. He and the others mentioned are truly
excellent sculptors there can be no question of that, but great art
can be created with any media and rarely has any direct dependancy on
the media itself.

The problem with metal clay from my point of view has nothing to do
with the art that is made with it. The problems are that is it is
damn expensive and there is nothing that can be done in metal clay
that cannot just as easily be produced by sculpting wax and casting
with a metallurgically superior and more cost effective result. The
only advantages of it that I see are it is easy for novices to
realize a piece in metal clay and the firing cycle gives a fast
result.

So rather than pointing out the great artists please describe in
what way metal clay as a technique is better than other existing
techniques at achieving a result. There must be some clear advantage
in using it for some particular method of creating work. Otherwise
those who need to make a living with their craft cannot possibly
seriously consider it because it is so expensive in comparison to
other methods of producing work that yield equal or better end
results.

Right now the majority of people I see who are making money on metal
clay are the ones selling the material, teaching the classes,
selling the tools and writing the books.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550