Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

"The look" of precious metal clay


#1

I’m a student jewelry maker.

I subscribe to a number of metal-oriented art magazines plus browse
the web to see what’s out there.

And, of course, hit the history books to learn what’s gone before.

It really seems like precious metal clay (pmc) is a real
technological breakthrough in what one can make with it given much
less expensive tools.

But everytime I see pmc item photos, it “looks” like it’s pmc
instead of silver, copper or bronze metal. I can’t quite describe it,
but pmc seems to have “a look” all its own - and I don’t like it. It
doesn’t seem like “real” metal.

Anyone else feel that way?

Is it possible to make pmc pieces that don’t look that way, that
look like fabricated sheet or wire, or cast metal? If so, is there
some technical trick to it?

If it isn’t possible, I’m not really interested in spending my
precious few learning hours on it. If it is, I would like to give it
a shot.

Thanks!


#2

i think it’s much less about the look of it. it’s[to me] about the
process and it’s superior/super malleability.

maybe you need to look at more of it [not knowing how much you’ve
actually seen]…


#3

Metal clay is not sheet or cast. It’s a sintered metal that has a
versatility not available to traditional metal working. I’m not sure
whether you’re seeing poor finishing or just a different design
sense. Metal clay can be finely finished to rival anything you’ve
seen in Tiffanys. Perhaps you just haven’t been looking at the right
websites or the right books. Lisa Barth has a new book on stone
setting. Barbara Becker Simon has a book out on beads that will blow
your mind. Crafthaus just finished an exhibition on metal clay that I
was honored to have a piece in. You need to think of metal clay as an
extension of your creativity unlike anything you’ve ever used before.
You must try it and discover for yourself if this material can become
what you want.

Jackie


#4

Hi David,

PMC is nice, but is expensive compared to buying metal stock gauge
and casting grain.

Back in the day when I was trying it out, it cost me $75 AUD plus
postage for 25 grams of fine silver PMC, whereas 25 grams of fine
silver casting grain is considerably less.

What you save in the tooling you lose in the raw material. If you
are making small one offs, and don’t intend to use a lot of silver
PMC can work for you. Investing in good tools would always be
recommended by anyone on this list (I think).

Depending on what you do to the PMC, you can get pretty good
results, but by the time you’ve done what’s needed to get those
results you may as well have either made it by hand or cast it, out
of cheaper raw materials.

I’m a student too, and I did look into it. It’s expensive, and no
amount of olive oil stopped that product from sticking to my
fingers. Maybe it’s changed now, but fabricating jewellery by hand or
casting appeals to me more.

Regards Charles A.


#5
Is it possible to make pmc pieces that don't look that way, that
look like fabricated sheet or wire, or cast metal? If so, is there
some technical trick to it? 

I do know what you’re talking about; it doesn’t bother me, since I
think it’s a beautiful medium, but I also prefer a look that’s closer
to traditional metalwork. :slight_smile:

One of the things I enjoy doing is constructing pieces from PMC,
using them as master models for lost wax casting, casting them, and
then manipulating the castings (hammering, etc.). This works for me
as I am able to sculpt the masters in the PMC (I am seriously not
good at carving wax), create blanks from them, and then treat the
castings with traditional methods.

While it might seem like creating a model in PMC is not very
cost-effective, I do a lot of my own alloying and I find it handy to
have fine silver kicking around. This also means that if the PMC for
whatever reason did not fire entirely successfully, it is not wasted;
even if it is still “raw” in the centre, it will still fulfill its
intended purpose for casting and does not have to withstand the
rigors of wear that would require a perfect fire.

Cheers,
Kieran


#6
But everytime I see pmc item photos, it "looks" like it's pmc
instead of silver, copper or bronze metal. I can't quite describe
it, but pmc seems to have "a look" all its own - and I don't like
it. It does n't seem like "real" metal. If it isn't possible, I'm
not really interested in spending myprecious few learning hours on
it. If it is, I would like to give ita shot. 

I started using PMC quite awhile ago when it was first available on
the market. At that time I learned to use it through trial and
error. At the same time I was learning gold and silversmithing also.
After a couple years I took Rio Grande PMC instructors course. It is
a fascinating product. During the class we made things that looked
like ‘sheet’ metal so yes it is possible… .but… PMC
does not replace tradiational metalsmithing.

PMC is another ‘tool’ in your shop. It is not a waste of time but it
is not the end all be all. To make things that are amazing with it
you need professional tools, patience, and experience. At a novice
level it looks terrible but so does other metal work. The ‘look’ you
might be describing from PMC is probably because the piece not being
completely finished before firing ~ not enough sanding, not enough
perfecting. PMC is a lot more expensive per ounce than traditional
fabricated metal so I really think about what I am going to make with
it. I now use it very sparingly and make almost everything
traditionally. When I teach a class I incorporate PMC right into the
learning with everything else. It is not easier. It is not less
expensive. It is just different. It has possibilites and limitations.
You need a kiln. Torch firing is not the way to go. If you are going
to make things with it take a class instead of struggling. Make sure
the class is using a kiln to fire the pieces. There are a few little
tricks to making it really work out well and achieve a 'finished’
look. So, all that being said…I think PMC should just be taught as
another skill in jewelry making. There should not be a division. PMC
doesn’t replace anything ~ just add it to the list of skills, things
to know, things to try… It is very worth while but not a
replacement to gold or silversmithing. Hope all this helps… happy
making and creating :wink:

joy kruse


#7
It's a sintered metal that has a versatility not available to
traditional metal working. 

I’m curious. Just what can you do with precious metal clay that you
can’t do with traditional metal working techniques from fabrication,
repousse, engraving, etching, casting, electroforming, etc?

Also how durable is it? Can it be worn every day as a ring. Can PMC
pieces be repaired or sized with solder or fused? Can you set stones
in it. Channel, bead, prongs, and bezel?

Thanks.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#8
Is it possible to make pmc pieces that don't look that way, that
look like fabricated sheet or wire, or cast metal? If so, is there
some technical trick to it? 

Yes. And one of the best ways to do that is to use PMC Pro, which is
harder and takes a much higher shine. Looks pretty much like
sterling.

Elaine
CreativeTextureTools.com


#9

David,

I know what you mean about pmc, but check out the work of Gordon
Uyehara. I absolutely love his work, and to me, his work does not
look like the “typical” pmc pieces which you see everywhere.

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/11w

His pieces look more like cast work to me, but not like any cast
work I’ve ever seen if you know what I mean, and not like other pmc
work.

Also look at Hadar Jacobson’s work:

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/11v

Personally I think it has to do with one’s skill level and design
aesthetic, as to the quality of the results you can achieve.

Helen
UK


#10

I am a fabricator and caster who has tried metal clay. I think that
what you may be seeing is the difference in density. Even properly
sintered metal clay is not as dense, is more porous, than casting.
Casting is more porous than rolled sheet or drawn wire. Since I can
tell the difference when polishing cast work versus rolled sheet, I
think it would be even easier to feel a difference between sheet and
metal clay. This is not meant as a slam! It’s different in its
physical composition. Anyone who says it is absolutely identical is
just wrong. It does not solder the same (you must burnish first
because it is so porous) and it does not polish the same. Period. It
can do some neat things, and maybe you will like it. But if you
choose to use it, progress with your smithing skills, too; that’s my
advice.

I just love traditional silver/gold smithing techniques! They are
rewarding beyond measure, fascinating to learn, and a very deep and
broad subject which one could study for a lifetime. Of course, I am
willing to add new innovations, too. I’ll try almost anything that
helps with finishing, for example, and for that I love some of the
new 3m products. And I did try metal clay, but felt it inferior to
working with wax and casting, for me. I particularly disliked the
"shortness", or sort of crumbling-breaking texture of it. This
could, of course, be exploited by a good artist, instead of
attempting to cover it up. I just didn’t take to it. For me, the
waxes available to us are so varied, appropriate for different uses,
that they are hard to beat. But then, I was already set up with an
expensive casting shop!

M’lou


#11

I feel that PMC is part of the tool box and, like any other tool in
that box, it’s what you do with it that matters. PMC has unique
properties, as clay does, yet I don’t often see those
characteristics exploited. What is so much more common is the
material being used as an an analog or substitute for stock materials
or processes that can do the particular job more efficiently and
effectively.

It seems that often beginning metalsmiths/jewelers see what they make
as a result of one basic process, combined with supportive processes:
casting a ring and then finishing/polishing it for example. Or
forging a piece and then finishing it. But, for some reason,
processes are rarely combined: casting a stick or twig, for example,
and then forging out portions of it, combining several cast sticks
together and forging and so on.

The best PMC work that I have seen exploits the qualities peculiar to
the material and combines it with other techniques and approaches to
produce a larger layered, multi-processed whole.

There is certainly an argument to be made for regarding PMC as its
own medium, a specific set of materials and processes that produce a
type of product. But that is not metalsmithing or, even, jewelry
making in the greater sense. The problems, as I see it, begin when a
practitioner fluent only in the language of PMC purports to be a
jeweler or metalsmith.

For what it’s worth,
Andy


#12

David, take a look at the Masters’ program work. Google “Metal Clay
Masters Registry”. As Jackie says, metal clay is a different
material that allows one to do things that are different from what I
can accomplish with sheet and wire, a torch, hammers, and a rolling
mill. The sculptural nature of the material lends itself to textures
and patinas that you probably don’t associate with fabrication,
although it will take a high mirror shine. It appears that the
Masters also lean towards these non-traditional finishes in their
scoring, so that will influence what you see in competition.

I’m a small time artisan who fabricates. I’m useless at sculpture,
so casting does not appeal. If I were skilled at the designs that
call for casting, I might invest in all the gear and materials that
casting demands. But if a customer wants a simple charm made from an
imprint of her parrot’s foot, I can knock that out with metal clay
and minimal effort. If I want a three dimensional birdie, I hand the
job to my studio mate and she sculpts it in metal clay, complete with
scaly feet and feathers. Clay, hand tools, kiln or butane torch.
Done.

It is one more arrow in your metalworking quiver. Not for, in my
opinion, production work, but some folks do that too, quite
successfully.


#13
I'm curious. Just what can you do with precious metal clay that
you can't do with traditional metal working techniques from
fabrication, repousse, engraving, etching, casting, electroforming,
etc? 

My opinion is that those who do not do fabricate, engrave, cast,
electroform, ect. metal do not know what they do not know and they
are content with their limitations. What they create serves their
need. I believe those who can do fabrication, repousse, engrave,
etch, cast, electroform, etc look at precious metal clay objects and
know that the end result will not be of a quality or the look for
their need. Someone said that precious metal clay can look like
something from Tiffany’s. I suppose there might something at
Tiffany’s that might look like something made from PMC, but you have
to ignore the majority of items at Tiffany"s that would look like
crap if it was duplicated in PMC. I don’t care how careful you are
and how much you sand, it will not be comparable to the
craftsmanship of the fine quality of silversmithing or goldsmithing
found at Tiffany’s. I looked at the examples supplies by Helen Hill.
Nice work. Not Tiffany’s, not close, not even when I squint my eyes
Does anyone think that something made from PMC will be added to the
Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery? Not saying it won’t happen. Just
wondering!

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#14

Hi Elaine,

Yes. And one of the best ways to do that is to use PMC Pro, which
is harder and takes a much higher shine. Looks pretty much like
sterling. 

If it looks pretty much like sterling, why not just buy sterling,
which actually looks like sterling?

Just priced the PMC Pro, for 25g it will cost you $78.50 USD (I’m
assuming non-trade price), and 25g of sterling casting grains costs
$38.38 USD (Joe Public rate).

Regards Charles A.


#15

I appreciate different things, methods, tools, media - just as I
appreciate different people. Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits.
The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and
they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them; disagree
with them; glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do
is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race
forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, I see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the
world are the ones who do. Will metal clay look like fabricated
jewelry - maybe not, but why would you want it to? Does earthenware
look like procelain?


#16
I looked at the examples supplies by Helen Hill. Nice work. Not
Tiffany's, not close, not even when I squint my eyes 

I merely posted those links as examples of good work using PMC. I
wouldn’t ever liken them to anything at Tiffany’s, as it’s a
completely different kind of work. The two are not comparable, and I
don’t think work made using PMC can be compared with that made by
traditional techniques - not in an elitest way - just different
techniques for different end results. I guess the same debate also
occurred when casting became popular. But as John D would probably
say, you cast the cast work, fabricate the fabricated work and
sinter the PMC work.

Personally i think that you can do really good work with PMC, and
that’s why I posted links to Gordon Uyehara and Hadar Jacobson’s
work, to show what can be achieved. It’s a great medium if your
design aesthetic lends itself to the properties of PMC. There is
good, mediocre and poor work done in every medium, including PMC.
I’m still knocking out mediocre fabricated work myself, but
hopefully, knowing that, I will slowly improve. Sadly, some people
do mediocre work but think their work is good so they’ll never
improve - although of course it’s not a problem at all if customers
want to buy it, and if they’re happy with it once purchased. But I
think PMC gets a bad press because there is a great deal of mediocre
work out there, done by people who have no interest in working metal
by any other method, so you get a lot of simple shapes rolled out,
stamped with a pattern, a hole drilled for a jump ring, et voila,
thousands of pendants made with little or no imagination. It’s
stillfairly new, so hopefully we’ll see some really talented artists
coming through, who have the vision and skill to make the most of
the properties of PMC, just like Gordon and Hadar are doing.

I hope my post doesn’t smack of snobbery - it’s not meant to. I just
appreciate talented work, as we all do, and sometimes get frustrated
with folks who limit themselves by either not exploring traditional
metal working techniques as well as PMC (or beading, etc), or who
get complacent at the mediocre stage, with whatever medium they’re
working in. Btw, I was once (in the 90’s) a beader myself. I wanted
to make jewellery by traditional fabrication methods, but was afraid
of the thought of having to use a torch flame! So my skills (or lack
of them) stagnated for quite a long time. It took me a decade (and a
change of husband) to think “heck, why not, I can do it”.

I think I’m being confusing, in that I’m making two points at once,
but hope fully you know what I mean. But the most important point I’m
making is that PMC is a great medium in the right hands, with the
right vision. Just my personal opinion if course

Sorry for the essay.

Helen Hill
UK


#17

Precious metal clay is a great way for those who have no metal
smithing ability to make something out of silver. It is much like
the polymer clay thing, anyone can do it with little or no training.
That said it is a viable outlet for creativity.

Regards
Chris Makin


#18

Barbara:

I like the sentiments you express here. I totally agree - why would
you want PMC to look like anything but PMC. It think it’s time that
we just enjoy the creativity that we see - that’s what we all are
doing (with the exception of those things that one MUST do). PMC is
definitely a different beast from the usual metals we all work with.
I’ve tried it, took several courses and became certified, the whole
nine yards, but have not pursued it because it is so blasted
expensive. But it definitely has creativity written all over it.
Thanks for a refreshing outlook.

K


#19

What is your problem folks? There is so much work being made using
metal clay that is comparable in quality and design to anything else
made using other processes and techniques, and of which you are
apparently unaware. Please back off a bit, take a breath, and take a
look at the Master’s Registry for some advanced work. Yes,you may
think that metal clay objects are recognizable without being
identified as such, but you are mistaken. Metal clay users make
choices about how their pieces will look, just like you make choices
about how your pieces will look. It’s all about one’s sense of
design, not about the material itself.

I am so very tired of hearing the rants on this subject. Use metal
clay, or don’t use it…use sheet metal or don’t use it…do casting,
repousee, enameling, mokume gane, die-forming, microfolding, roll
printing, or don’t do any of the above, but at least be open enough
to acknowledge that metal clay, the new kid on the block, is a useful
and legitimate technique/material/process for making metal objects.
Some of these objects will be ugly, some will be beautiful, some will
be breathtaking, some will be disappointing, just like objects made
using any other metal working processes.

my rant over,
Linda Kaye-Moses


#20
Use metal clay, or don't use it... 

My thoughts exactly Linda.

The original poster was after personal opinions on PMC, maybe a few
recommendations and these have have been provided in spades.

Some of the opinions are economically based, some are from different
points of view on what jewellery is, some are pro PMC.

It’s a boiling pot.

Regards Charles A.