Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Why use metal clay



Not wanting to beat a dead horse (ugh, what an expression), I do
want to comment on the Cheetos article, a seeming bugaboo since it
first appeared.

Finding appropriate cores for hollow forms using metal clay has
alway been an interesting adventure. Since metal clay is still only
13 years young (in the States), there is not the collection of tools
and equipment available that have accumulated for metalsmiths who use
more traditional methods of making their work.

Hence, the use of non-traditional ‘stuff’, like Cheetos, to create
objects made using metal clay. We users of metal clay have used what
is at hand, what can be scavenged and, finally now, the tools and
equipment that are being developed for use specifically with the

As the years have passed for users of metal clay, the work being
produced is becoming more sophisticated and the users more
accomplished at making the material behave. If you haven’t tried
your hand at using metal clay, it may be hard to visualize how this
material can produce precious metal (and now copper and bronze, too)
objects that are worth looking at or wearing. Find a friend with a
metal clay kiln, buy some clay, make a piece and fire it (maybe take
a class first). Verrry use-friendly, and, for some end-products, it’s
the most efficient way to go.

If you haven’t yet seen it, get a copy of the latest issue of the
PMC Guild publication, the 2010 PMC Annual or check out the Master’s
Registry for pieces that represent some of the most interesting work
that is being made using metal clay, by some of the most proficient

Why use metal clay:

  1. For some pieces it is the most efficient method;

  2. It is just one more tool/method/material to add to one’s

  3. It permits some very interesting ways of producing good work
    (Cheetos notwithstanding).

  4. It allows an easy entry into working with metals and, for some,
    the only possible entry path to using precious metals.

  5. and more, and more, and more…

Linda Kaye-Moses
Making precious metal jewels since 1976


I share a mill building studio space with Art Clay Master, Carol
Babineau (whose works, by the way, are simply astonishing).

Now granted I am still a silversmithing student, but there many many
things that she can turn out in an hour that take me a day. It can be
annoying :slight_smile: There are techniques that I cannot even touch yet, like
casting, that she can execute in minutes, whether by using a mold or
sculpting by hand. She can sit at her table, carve and sculpt as you
would with wax, but when she’s done, instead of sending it off to the
estimable Daniel Grandi to be cast in a couple of days (or owning a
whole lot of additional equipment), she pops it into the kiln. I
contend that the artistry is the same, though the processes are

There are some things that need a torch and metal and lots of tools,
but metal clay is a lovely and viable alternative and in some cases
allows one to execute forms that are otherwise out of reach.

She can’t make my big, beautiful foldformed bangle in metal clay,
though. Neener neener neener!

Chris Lehmkuhl
Student of Cynthia Eid and others


True, there are many artists who are doing excellent work with metal

I tried it several times, both the original formula, and the new
improved formula, but went back to casting for several reasons. First
of all, the price of the silver metal clay is very expensive. I have
scads of silver left over from various projects, and with casting am
able to use them, producing items at a fraction of what making the
same thing in metal clay would cost. There is nothing that I can do
with metal clay that cannot be done with wax, at a much lower cost.

One can carve hard wax, shape softer waxes, and even sculpt it with
special sculpting wax. Hollow forms can be made by building a shape
around water soluble wax.

One does not need a lot of extra equipment for casting. First of
all, both processes require a kiln. If one is doing their own
casting, all they would need to add would be a casting machine, which
often can be purchased used at considerable savings. In a short
period of time the cost of the casting equipment is easily recouped.

This is by no means meant to extol casting over metal clay. Both have
their place in jewelry making. However, the expense of the metal
clay, over that of using my scrap silver makes it less desirable for
me. So that is why I no longer use metal clay.



You say that a range of tools are not available- well look at the
material-clay and go to a pottery/ceramics suppliers. Work done in
PMC has been done before in clay for centuries- press moulding,
wrapping round objects, pressing objects into the clay etc. I use a
basic range of clay working tools and my wife uses items from her
cake decoration/sugarcraft days.

When doing bronze and aluminium casting I use expanded polystyrene
for patterns and cast with them in situ as they burn out easily.
Hollow clay onjects can be formed arounf newspaper or other organic
materials and burnt out. i have cast golf club heads using sugar or
starch patterns formed on a CAD prototyper which can be burnt out or
dissolved. you just have to approach the problem from the right
direction. It is not cheating to show artistic talent in a
particular manner otherwise photography would be banned

Nick Royall