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Thoughts on PMC?


#1

My first post! I am new to this, just learning how to make jewelry.
I was wondering what you guys think about PMC…

Thanks,
Jen


#2
  I was wondering what you guys think about PMC.... 

jen -

aah, are you sure your name’s not ‘pandora’? what a fertile topic -
but then my ‘think’ is more smugly self-centered than those who put
in less time & effort carving & forging. this incident occurred at a
fine art show (with apologies aforehand to those whose living is
selling, instructing or using that medium) a man picked up piece
after piece of my work until he came to one i’d forged and engraved
into a shell for setting opals & turquoise i’d carved. he asked “is
this made from that precious clay stuff?” half of a beat to bite
back the first words popping into my head, “no, that’s made from a
sheet of sterling; i use a lot of shortcuts such as a bandsaw in my
work, but taught myself how to work the metal without substance
shortcuts.” when he blinked i added “it’s a personal opinion on that
material. if you know anyone who collects or restores old cars, ask
what he or she thinks about the use of ‘bondo’ material in those
cars.” that put it in perspective for him and he handed his credit
card to me.

ive

who can hear the loud screams of outrage above the white noise of
her air machine. BUT remember people, another person’s opinion is
arrived at after taking a different road than you used.


#3
 no, that's made from a sheet of sterling; i use a lot of shortcuts
such as a bandsaw in my work, but taught myself how to work the
metal without substance shortcuts. 

This is a problem – people not recognizing craftsmanship – that
exists independently of the existence of PMC. We all need to be a
part of educating the public about metalsmithing so that among other
things, people will understand that yellow gold doesn’t become white
gold in an instant.

It’s true that the learning curve on PMC is much, much, much shorter
than with metalsmithing. However, I will also state for the record
that to do PMC well is also a skill that also takes time to develop.
It’s just a different skill set. More akin to working with wax or
clay, yet different still from either of those.

~Elaine

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992
@E_Luther


#4
     My first post!  I am new to this, just learning how to make
jewelry. I was wondering what you guys think about PMC.... 

Rather open ended question there. I think it’s terrific.

As a metalsmith, I think of PMC as another tool available to me.

As an instructor, I’ve found that many, many people who want to make
metal jewelry but for whatever reason do not wish to pursue
metalsmithing, are thrilled to find PMC. It’s opened a lot of doors
to creativity for many people, and there is amazing work being done.
The learning curve is so much shorter than metalsmithing.

As with any tool or technique, it should be used for what it’s best
for, or for things that would take a lot longer using traditional
metalsmithing methods.

I’ve said here before that with the best PMC work, you shouldn’t be
able to tell that it’s PMC. Which, unfortunately, I think leads to
a misconception by some, who only recognize PMC as PMC when it’s um,
bad.

But, you should post again more specifically. What do I think of
PMC? For a beginning jewelry student? It’s dangerous. It’s so
easy and so rewarding you may lose interest in traditional
metalsmithing skills. The two are diametrically opposed. Yet, to
do the best work possible in PMC, I think a minimum of metalsmithing
skills are necessary.

So go ahead, ask a more specific question, please.

~Elaine

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992
@E_Luther


#5
it's a personal opinion on that material. if you know anyone who
collects or restores old cars, ask what he or she thinks about the
use of 'bondo' material in those cars." that put it in perspective
for him and he handed his credit card to me. 

I don’t disagree with your opinion of the ease of working with this
material, but by no means is it similar to bondo on a car. Bondo is
non metal, PMC IS particles of fine silver in an organic binder -
once it has been fired (sintered) the organic material burns off
leaving 99.9% fine silver or high karat gold.

PMC carved is easy to do, Silver (either Fine or Sterling) in any
other form is not easy to carve. You can bend most sheet (Fine or
Sterling) but alas, PMC in any for is not that easy to bend without
breaking it. PMC is less dense than cast pieces and also weighs
less than the same amount of casted material. There are benefits to
that aspect.

I’m not a huge fan, I feel that this product has been marketed to
non professionals (the local house wife who wants to play with
metal.) Too many think that PMC can be cured in the oven!


#6

A friend and I just took our first workshop on PMC. We felt it was
a new door opening.

We are both experienced in lapidary and silver/gold smithing. We did
not jump in early as we needed to watch as it progressed. We felt
now was the time.

The teacher was excellent, well prepared and willing. Our first
exposure gave us a good understanding of the process, and helped us
reinforce our thoughts of combining fabricating with art clay
techniques.

Had I not preregistered for a workshop this Saturday, I would have
made my way to New Mexico to attend this weeks PMC convention.

The school we are attending for two eight week summer silver classes
has both a traditional and an art metal jewelry teacher. The
traditional teacher dismisses art clay as “play dough” We will find
out on Wednesday what our instructor thinks about it. A toss-up I
think based on what she has said over the first two classes.

I think what we have is a bit of a clash between those that feel one
must spend many years piercing metal before taking the next step,
and at the other end, those who see a new addition to what we
already have at hand.

I don’t ever want to close a door without entering it first. The
door does swing both ways. Fear keep so many frozen in an age. Many
have exquisite techniques and are content to function within that
ken of knowledge. Others enjoy venturing to other planes, and if
they fall, simply get up and continue on.

If I could change anything at all, I would like to take the fear
away from those who cling to the known. Respect what has gone before
and incorporate it with what is yet ahead.

Terrie


#7

Well, I have to put in my 2 cents on this one. I am old enough to
remember when we didn’t have cake mixes - you made your cakes from
"scratch"! Well, I’m here to tell you that when the first cake mixes
appeared, a big hullabaloo went up - “how dreadful - it’s cheating -
they use the mix because they CAN’T bake and on and on went the
comments.”

Then as time went on, people discovered that the cake mix saved them
time from measuring all the ingredients and found out that they
could “invent” new recipes using the cake mix as the base. Gradually
it became “okay” to use cake mixes and then it was the “in” thing to
"add stuff to" the cake mixes. Today cake mixes are used by almost
all people - each using them in a different way. For some it’s a
time saving method, for others it’s simply they never learned to bake
from “scratch” and for the very young, they never knew there weren’t
cake mixes.

And so, I have noted, it has progressed with PMC. At first people
scoffed, then gradually as they saw what others could actually do
with it, they began timidly to try it. Now it has become an accepted
material… You can produce pieces that look like repoussee or even
in some cases almost like reticulated metal. You can "imitate"
granulation - there is no end to what you can do with this material,
hollow forming, braiding, forms ad infinitum. And as time goes on,
I don’t doubt that they will develop even newer forms of the clay
that have still greater strength.

So before you knock it down, try it. I was amazed at how much skill
it takes to produce a really good piece. So keep an open mind - all
processes are just that - processes. Whether you “fuse” or “sweat
solder” the end result is the pretty much the same - you have joined
two pieces of metal together - but each has a slightly different look
and feel and there are times when “fusing” is the right way to go and
times when “sweat soldering” is the chosen path. I veiw PMC in the
same manner. So give yourself the benefit of a doubt and go try it.

Sorry, looks like I put in 4 cents worth.

Kay


#8
My first post!  I am new to this, just learning how to make
jewelry. was wondering what you guys think about PMC.... 

Dear Jen, all,

The great folks on Orchid are sharing some very valuable thought’s
on PMC. My experience is while some people like it other’s do not
care for it, some love it, others loath it. I’m not a PMC expert,
far from it really, but I do have great exposure to this new medium
so I’d like to share a couple thoughts I feel are valuable. From my
experience of fielding a vast amount of technical calls is that
there are A LOT of people who want to produce jeweler and many want
to cast items or produce the same item over and over yet they don’t
have the experience nor the capital to invest in the equipment and
many are to impatient to deal with the learning curve that’s
involved with our beautiful profession. What to do, what to do? Well
PMC allows people to experience working with a precious metal AND
affords them the opportunity to mass produce a line of jewelry
relatively inexpensively. However, because of my experience and
investment in equipment I could produce the same item for much
cheaper than the new person, but they can save on an investment of
equipment they’re not even sure is going to work out for them. In
other words, PMC can be an introduction into an otherwise
intimidating and expensive art form/profession. One more thing,
there are many people executing extremely beautiful works in PMC
that perhaps we would never have the opportunity to experience and
that would be sad.

My thought’s on PMC, thanks for humoring me.

Thackeray Taylor
Rio Grande Technical Support.


#9

Hi Jen,

I cant believe it !! I was just about to post the same question! PMC
almost seems too good to be true doesn’t it??

I am in Ireland, and have been involved in this forum for a number
of months, and whilst contributing and reading each mail, I have
noticed the Rio Grande company mentioned an awful lot, so I ordered a
catalogue it arrived just the other day.

So I know what you are talking about “thank God”. I work with
Swarovski Beads, Pearls and Gemstones and have ideas of having some
centre pieces cast, in the mean time I’m really curious about PMC,
lucky enough I had a kiln left to me by a very good friend who was
called to heaven.

And I have felt guilty seeing it gather dust in my bedroom, maybe
now it will get some use.

Enjoy the learning, and the freedom to express your creative self.

Tina
Dublin, Ireland


#10

Precious metal clay specifically and metal clays generally are
simply new 'tool’s on the block and therefore are somewhat suspect,
right? However, I’ve been a studio jeweler using ‘traditional’ tools
and techniques since 1976 and have been using, and teaching the use
of, PMC since 1996. This tool/process/technique/material has added a
new dimension to my work, a dimension that I would not have achieved
without metal clay.

I have not become an expert in carving waxes, the closest tool/etc.
to the use of PMC. I did not find it to be a material I could
manipulate well. PMC offers as many options as lost wax casting and,
more. I have found that my three-day workshops cannot contain all
the I want my students to have. Each time I teach, there
is more on process than the time before. It is an
expanding field, with all the excitement that can generate.

I encourage all of you Orchidians to take a PMC workshop (take mine,
take mine!!!), if you can. There is a long list of workshops and
instructors on the PMC Guild website (pmcguild.com) and there’s
likely to be one in your neighbourhood. Workshops are listed in the
Resources section of the website. Just click on Education and then
on General Classes. There are quite a few books out on using PMC and
metals clays (I can recommend two: Tim McCreight’s book and CeCe
Wire’s)

And, if you’re really inspired, the PMC Conference begins this
Thursday in Albuquerque. See you there.

Linda Kaye-Moses


#11

This month’s AJM Magazine has an interesting article about using
PMC. It seems many people are using PMC to create small run items or
to create models for casting. Sounds like a great idea to me!

Pam


#12

Even though PMC has been saddled with something of a hobbyist
reputation, my humble opinion is that it’s overcoming that and taking
its place as one very good medium in the vast array of media to work
with that the jewelry field offers. The problem is that people who
first get into it can tend to see it as a substitute for all or many
jewelry-making skills, and it’s not. I started out years ago
beading, then discovered PMC in the mid-90s at a beading store, and
fell in love with the stuff. It’s very attractive to people who want
to make jewelry but don’t yet have the equipment or the
fabrication/casting skills. After a year of PMC infatuation I sort
of got disappointed, because some of the contortions you go through
to achieve fabrication-type results with PMC could simply be achieved
by…fabrication. I couldn’t resist the challenge of learning the
really tough stuff and dived into goldsmithing.

I took a fabrication class at the local lapidary, and immediately
moved from the pretty, bright, cheerful, sparkly beading store to an
upstairs studio that had cheap plywood work tables and was dirty,
dusty, and smelled of Almag oil (from the lapidary saws). There was
also a funny chemical smell, and suddenly we were sawing, hammering
and melting metal. I loved it. For several years after that my PMC
kiln gathered dust and my stock of PMC dried out. Lately I have come
to appreciate it again, though, and have been really impressed by
some of the work that I’ve seen artists produce. There are some
projects for which PMC is a wonderful solution – mom turned up with
a brass Medusa-head pin from the 1860’s (talk about out of
copyright) and I made a copy with PMC in a few minutes.


#13

There is definitely a learning curve with PMC. I really think that
the key to being successful with it is training, and who you learn
from can make a big difference. I would not recommend to anybody
that they just buy some and give it a go, or they are very likely to
be either disappointed with the results or so frustrated working
with the material that they give up entirely. I have had three
different instructors and only one of those was really advanced.
She had really studied and experimented with the material and knew
what it was capable of and what the pitfalls were, and incorporated
that into her training. She also was very knowledgeable about the
differences between the types of PMC and the advantages and
disadvantages of each so she could recommend the right PMC for the
project you had in mind. She had experimented with all kinds of
stones and knew which ones would hold up to firing, and how to set
them to best advantage for both the stone and the durability of the
piece. All of the instructors had interesting project design ideas
that the classes were based on, but only that one instructor had
really thought about how to structure pieces so that they not only
held up but really were fine jewelry.

Linda


#14
    From my experience of fielding a vast amount of technical
calls is that there are A LOT of people who want to produce jeweler
and many want to cast items or produce the same item over and over
yet they don't have the experience nor the capital to invest in the
equipment and many are to impatient to deal with the learning
curve that's involved with our beautiful profession. 

Yes, there are many who want to reproduce their work, but PMC is
much more expensive in the long run than paying for the necessary
equipment to do the casting in ones own studio. IE: PMC is no less
than $30 + for less than an ounce and that’s not even adding in
shipping nor labor costs. Casting grain sells for about $8.00/ozt.
I would think that even sending out to a professional caster would
be less expensive than using PMC for reproductions! (Just my
opinion.)


#15

Hi Tina, PMC is a wonderful new medium!! You can do anything with
it. I love the fact that I can create any texture and hollow forms
from my sketchbook. The bonus is that I can also treat it as a
"smith " would. After tumbling I can saw it apart, rearrange and
solder anything to it!!! Be careful when you are in the firing
stages. Make sure you kiln is calibrated and you know when you are at
the required temp. PMC fired at the wrong temp for the wrong amount
of time can create problems!!! Have fun with it. It might save you
some problems if you took a class. Log onto the PMC Guild web site
you will find all kinds of info there . You might even find a teacher
…in your area.

Enjoy, Helen


#16

Who is the advanced instructor and where does she give lessons?

Terri


#17
  I really think that the key to being successful with it [PMC] is
training, and who you learn from can make a big difference. I
would not recommend to anybody that they just buy some and give it
a go..." 

I agree that training can save a lot of time and effort, but I hate
to see anyone discouraged from experimentation. You can learn to do
all sorts of things, including “impossible” things, by just jumping
in.

I started working with PMC the moment it became available in this
country (I tried unsuccessfully to get it from Japan before that)
and the instructions that existed turned out to be wrong. Of course,
I wasted some, but I had a great time playing with it. Today, so
much is known-- and published-- that, if a class isn’t immediately
available or costs too much, anyone should be able to get a book and
get going. I say, Go for it!

–Noel


#18

Helen,

Thanks for your enthusiastic response, I have read a lot of mails on
the subject and I have been put off the idea.

The material costs a lot of money, and if you mess up the first time
around well your stuck with it!

So I’m going to follow the metalsmiths road, and have some pieces
cast and finished by someone who know exactly what they are doing. I
will get around to using the kiln some time, I need to educate
myself on its procedures first though.

Thanks for your mail all the same, it was soooo good of you to
respond. About PMC classes , well I don’t know of any in Dublin, I
will look into that too, “just out of interest”.

God bless you
Tina Ashmore


#19

I notice that many people who use PMC say they do so only because
they do not have a kiln, and caster and are concerned about the
expense of these items, and the space they require. . . However,
as Tim McCreight points out in his book " Practical Casting," it
is possible to do inexpensive casting, such as steam casting which
takes no outlay of money, virtually no space, and is made up of
items around the house. The only item one would need to purchase is
a burnout kiln. However, I understand that one can make a kiln out
of a flowerpot and hot plate.

Although I have a full casting set up–vacuum, Neycraft caster, kiln,
etc, I thought I would try the steam casting method just to see if
it was practical to teach beginning casting students who have
limited funds for equipment. I even constructed a burnout kiln
from a flower pot and hot plate. I was really surprised to find that
the method really works great. I had perfect castings, no porosity,
and no hassle with lots of equipment

For one wild moment I even considered getting rid of my casting
equipment and concentrate on steam casting in order to free up much
needed studio space, --but then thought better of it.

The only difficulty is spruing, as the method requires the use of
thin sprues—16 gauge is the recommended size, However, a friend
who regularly casts this way uses 14 gauge with complete success
Once a person gets the hang of attaching small sprues, there is no
problem.

So, if money for a complete casting set-up is the only reason for
using PMC, it would be worthwhile to check out Tim McCreight’s
book, and other sources on line that describe steam casting. It
will open up a whole new area for people who have limited space and
resources.

Alma


#20

As you all probably know, I’m editor of Studio PMC, the PMC Guild’s
quarterly magazine. I’m also writing from the PMC Conference. I’ve
spent most of the last two years steeped in all things PMC. So I’m
certainly biased in PMC’s favor.

PMC has been rejected by a lot of people as a “short cut” or as
"play doh for jewelers." I think that’s selling PMC short. I’ve seen
some spectacular work in the last couple of years, and in the last
couple of days, for that matter. I have also seen some pretty, well,
unimpressive work along the way. And sometimes, I’ve had both from
the same artist. Often the unimpressive gives way to the impressive,
so there’ s definitely a learning curve here – and if you give up
when the first results are unimpressive, you never get to the
impressive part. Remember the first piece you made in beginning
jewelry class? Was that a work of art?

But I think maybe PMC enthusiasts have made another mistake. In
their enthusiasm, they’ve insisted that PMC is good for EVERYTHING.
As an earlier poster noted, they’ve spent weeks and months figuring
out how to make PMC do the same thing as fabrication techniques –
and the results haven’t always been impressive.

But when PMC is used for the things it excels at, WOW! When it’s
used to copy something more easily done by other methods, the results
are less exciting. I think we’re only just reaching the point where
artists are beginning to grasp the stuff PMC is good for, and
bringing to bear other skills on the places where it’s not so great.
I think as time goes on, we’ll see more wonderful, innovative work.

Whether you choose to work in PMC or not, I think it’s foolish to
dismiss an entire medium as amateur. Take, for example, the medium of
Picasso, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci – paint. The same medium is used by
hobbyists and even children. Most of the paintings made, as a matter
of fact, are a long, long way from works of art. But no one suggests
that Picasso’s work is worthless because he used a medium beloved by
hobbyists, nor do they argue that great art can’t be made with paint
just because my five year old can use it too.

It’s not the medium, it’s the artist. If the medium doesn’t inspire
you as an artist, that’s just fine. But you might consider reserving
judgement on others until you’ve actually seen their work – someday,
someone might surprise you.

Suzanne

Suzanne Wade
editor/writer