Process – Metal Clay Components

My personal jewelry style is very sculptural and nature-inspired. I like detailed, intricate jewelry that makes you look closely. I utilize technical skills honed over decades, laboriously fabricating components over the course of many hours, days or even weeks. But it all begins with metal clay.

Vickie Hallmark: fine silver clay components fired and ready to use in jewelry

What is Metal Clay?

Metal clay is an intriguing high tech material that has only been around for twenty years or so. Think of using simple tools to sculpt a piece of clay, but then popping it into a kiln to perform a bit of high-temperature alchemy. Voila! Clay transformed into pure metal. Originally, only fine (pure) silver was available, but now there are many choices, including sterling, multiple colors of gold, bronze, copper, and steel.

Vickie Hallmark – tiny flowers and leaves made from gold clay, ready for use in jewelry

Metal Clay Components

I love metal clay for its immediacy and sculptural qualities. I could carve traditional waxes and cast them to produce my small components. However, skill with clay allows me to use a minimum of time and very simple tools to work directly in metal and make each piece an original.

I typically warm up with a batch of tiny leaves, each cut as a disc from a sheet of silver clay then individually shaped by hand. It’s a meditative process that gets me into the groove before I start to work on more complex sculptures.

Vickie Hallmark – small silver clay sculptural components

For floral designs, I have flowers with 5+ petals, roses, fuchsias, and trumpets, and lots of leaves, big and small, lobed and veined. I also often use small quote plaques on the reverse of complex pieces, and these are made with clay.

Vickie Hallmark – hummingbirds and gold flowers, components for jewelry making

Once I’m warmed up, I can graduate to the fauna. I commonly make birds of every variety and pose, goldfish, and bees. The challenge is transforming a tiny lump of clay to a highly detailed sculpture the size of my fingertip. Each bit is dried, carefully sanded, and kiln fired to reduce it to pure silver or gold. Finally, I sort components into multi-compartment boxes for use at the bench. Only then will I design the base of the jewelry piece and sit down design and arrange a special vignette.

To see what Is on my bench at the moment, follow me on Instagram.

 

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