Photos and Discoveries from Phoenix Workshop

Last weekend I gave two workshops at The Metal Heads, Feat of Clay in Phoenix, Arizona. You can see photos from this workshop on The Metal Heads website. Here is a direct link to the photos. These photos are posted on a Yahoo! forum, so you may have to subscribe to the forum in order to view them.

I’d like to emphasize that beautiful pieces have been created at every workshop that I’ve taught. If I haven’t posted them in the past or fail to do so in the future, it it either because a camera is not available or the quality of the photo does not do justice to the pieces. So please don’t take it personally.

At every workshop new possibilities open up. Through questions and discussions we raise new ideas, share personal styles, and discover new techniques. I’d like to share some of these with you.

At a previous workshop in San Diego, someone — I think it was Dona Di Carlo — mentioned the cut-off wheel.

At my workshop we were making the Bamboo Slice Earrings project from my last book. This project requires filing a side groove, which is normally a time-consuming process. The cut-off wheel, mounted on a rotary tool, does it in seconds.

t-Cutting wheel1

t-Cutting wheel2.

Cut-off wheels are available from hardware stores and need to be mounted on a screw mandrel.

The cut-off wheel led to a design idea. I used it to score fine lines in dried copper clay.

t-Cutting wheel3

Then I filled the grooves with bronze clay, dried, sanded, and fired.


This may be a good time to mention that when you do inlay projects, Quick-fire clay requires a lot less sanding. Sanding is easier with Quick-fire than with my traditional clay, and it’s best to stop sanding as soon as the design emerges. If you over-sand, the design may not be crisp enough after firing.

Back to Phoenix. A few things were established:

1. The black powder that you see on the bottom of your kiln after firing copper and bronze does not come from the carbon; it comes from the oxidation of the firing pan. The carbon does not leave the box if you don’t fill it all the way up. Lining the bottom of your kiln with shelf (fiber) paper is a good idea. Wholelottawhimsey sells a firing cloth that can be used for both covering the box and lining the floor of the kiln. Since it’s reusable, I ordered some right away and am going to try it.

2. Hot riveting can be done with slip. Julia Sweeney painted silver clay slip over a textured copper piece that was already fired. She hot-riveted it and the result was a continuous design that is part copper, part silver.


The photography conditions were not ideal, but I hope you get the idea. If you try this and send me photos, I’d love to post them here.

3. Heating pieces with a torch can add beautiful colors to mixed metal designs. This is what Florence Coleman did in these beautiful pieces on the right and left:


4. Quick-fire clay is very easy to carve. Here are two amazing hand-carved pieces by Paula Weiss:



5. The following was discovered by accident. We were running out of time and one of the boxes needed to be crash-cooled. I filled a sink with water and sank the box in it, hot from the kiln. However, the water splashed into the box. At first it just evaporated, then the carbon started to bubble. When it was cool enough to touch, I dug the pieces out with my hand. What surprising colors! The copper was an orangey color and the bronze looked like gold. Norm, who made the piece, wanted to leave them just like that. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo to show. Later I repeated this on purpose and got the same result. If you do this at home, be sure to wear heat-resistant gloves!

And finally, an idea came up for inlaying silver in copper without riveting. I am currently experimenting, and will let you know as soon as I get consistent results.

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