Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bronze Age

WARNING! Techinical content may appear when you least expect it!

I've had a little 100 gram packet of bronze clay sitting in the fridge for a little over a week. Today was the day. No porcelain clay day, too much wind, too much pollen blowing around, too much asthma, to go out into the studio.

This is a new adventure for me. I love fire. I love the alchemy of taking ground up bronze made into a pliable mixture that resembles clay and turning it into metal. Actually, it is already metal just not solid. It's not really clay. It just works a little like clay. I've read a lot about this stuff. Its pretty new in terms of metal clay. Most say that it is sticky to work with and dries out quickly. Well, I gotta say those people have never worked with the porcelain I use. This stuff was very pliable and really did have quite a long working time.

So what I did was use some plaster moulds that I use for porcelain and make a few test pieces. I dried them in my dehydrator (no I'm not a full on crunchy earth mamma, I use it for hiking and back packing food). Once dry, I sanded them with emory cloth, and then packed them in activated carbon, according to the directions.

Five hours firing later and a couple to cool this is what came out of the kiln. Definitely metal. This stuff is tough. I can't bend it. I can't break it. Surface? Yuk. There is a lot of carbon built up there. A quick cleaning with a wire brush shows the metal beneath. Tomorrow I'll be taking a brillo pad and brasso to these pieces to see what happens.


stregata said...

Oh LeAnn,
how impressive! Can't wait to see how they turn out. I've been wanting to try that myself, but it is difficult to find BronzeClay here and I also can't afford a kiln at the moment. I can't even find a place that sells the ovens for PMC here. Oh well.
So I am intrigued and will be watching what you do.

sharon said...

I really like them as they are now.

2ifbysea said...

I have a 100g package of the bronze clay sitting on my work table and haven't used it! I've worked with PMC in the past and have heard the pros/cons about bronze clay. I've been a bit hesitant to open the package and play. I didn't know about keeping it in the fridge??? Is that important? I hope not, because mine's just been laying around...

SummersStudio said...

Renate, if you ever do get a kiln, get one with a programmable controller. My little one is manual and this was 5 hours of checking every 15-30 minutes to get the schedule right.

Sharon, you would probably not like the feel of these. They are crusty.

Cristi, I think if the pack is unopened it will be fine. But it does mold once opened. And if you have mold on it you need to scrape it back to the clay. I've never used PMC so my experience with bronze clay is good. Others don't like it because the firing is fiddly and the clay is stickier.

kelleysbeads said...

I love how ancient these look after you got them out of the kiln & brushed off all the carbon. How cool & so different from the porcelain! Did you just hear all those doors opening up? TONS of possibilities!!!

SummersStudio said...

Thanks Kelley! Lots of potential and a pretty steep learning curve.

LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

LeAnn, I'm so thrilled you shared your first bronze clay work! Having worked (MANY years ago) in wheel-thrown porcelain, which is like throwing toothpaste (that's an image right there, isn't it?) I am grateful to hear that the bronze clay is not quite that mushy. LOOK at the lovely start!

I did wonder, when you said you used plaster molds, whether that might cause the bronze clay to dry faster, kind of like it does with stoneware ceramic clay, because it's porous? And if it did, is that a good thing or a not-too-good thing?


SummersStudio said...

HaHa, Lynn, throwing toothpaste is such a good image. And pretty darned accurate.

The bronze clay is very pliable and not at all like clay of any kind. I think it feels a little more like polymer. I kept my hands lightly oiled with olive oil and I think that kept the clay from drying too fast. The plaster molds work but I pulled the bronze out pretty quickly. I actually think that stamps would work better or making polymer or 2 part resin molds. The package does recommend not using any tools that absorb water which I promptly ignored.

More later on this. I'm going to order another type of activated carbon to see how different the patina is on the bronze.

Anonymous said...

I made a few pieces from the bronze clay and I love the look of it.
Yours look great!
I don't have my own kiln, so I haven't made any more. gotta make the investiment and get me a kiln.

stregata, you can get all the supplies and clay online. Just google it to find the different suppliers to order from.