Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Playing with Copper Clay

Six little copper clay pieces fresh from the kiln. Well not actually fresh. I got after them with a wire brush straight away as I had not one jot of patience to photo and show you what they look like fresh. These are pieces that have only been cleaned. There's no patina on them and I am quite liking the surface as it is. The copper has a very mellow glow to it fresh like this. I'm going to hang onto them for a few weeks to see how they change now that they're in the air. I'm quite chuffed with how these came out, especially after my last disastrous firing.



All but the piece in the top left of the photo were made in press molds. That top left one was made by rolling out clay, pressing it on to a texture plate, and then cutting it out. A few notes on the experience:



1) This clay had been in the fridge opened for about 6 weeks. It came out of the fridge just as fresh and workable as when I put it in. To store it, I wrapped it in plastic wrap which I carefully smoothed all of the wrinkles out of. I then wrapped it in another layer and popped the whole thing into a zip lock bag and squeezed out the air. I then put the whole works into the smallest Rubber Maid container I could find. Maybe that's storage over kill, but the clay came out fresh and moist without any tiny speck of oxidation on it.



2) My experience is that copper clay is a lot easier to work with than the bronze clay, so far. The copper is smooth as butter and the bronze is a bit grainier. I've only used the moist clay and have not tried the powdered clay. I'm just too lazy to mix up the powdered form.



3) I cut off just the amount of clay that I thought I'd need for each piece. The rest I wrapped and put into the container which was kept in a little ice bath. That's a Cool Tools tip, I believe. The last time I just left the unused portion out on the table wrapped. The ice bath worked pretty well to keep the clay workable compared to last time.



4) I sprayed the off cuts of clay with distilled water and wrapped them up in plastic for a few minutes to rehydrate. They got pretty mushy in there but I followed Cindy's advise and rolled them in between sheets of plastic. Great tip! The clay freshened up like magick! I could roll the fresh off the block clay without plastic on a plastic cutting surface. I did use a little dab of olive oil on my fingers and the work surface. Kneading the fresh clay to condition wasn't too bad. Actually a lot easier than wedging porecelain.

5) The largest piece started out as a 1.5" disk. One of the problems with copper clay,bronze too, is that it can warp and needs to be dried quickly. I have a dehydrator that I used for my pieces and the none of them including the large piece warped. No flipping the pieces as they dry evenly top and bottom. Not even the large piece warped at all.

6) I fired the kiln exactly according to the package instructions. Ten o'clock pm, kiln on, off to bed. Lovely, to wake up to cool , finished pieces!

7) 21.4% shrinkage. So prepare to work large with this stuff.

The package of bronze in the fridge is next. You know there are several strange studio things stored in the fridge. I've a house full of family staying this weekend. For that matter, 30 or so people coming for a B-Day party. Do you think anyone will notice this stuff? Hope nobody eats any of it. I'm thinking maybe I should hide it all in the back of the fridge. Nobody goes there. The back of the fridge is always the most dangerous fridge zone.

13 comments:

peacockfairy said...

Way cool! Sounds like it is fun to work with!

bellajoya said...

Yeah, the back of my fridge is dangerous too, but that's because everything freezes back there!! Beautiful pieces, I love copper. Isn't it fun playin' with new stuff? :)

Silver Parrot said...

Oooh...I heart that dragonfly!

mairedodd said...

intake of breath - these are beautiful! i am anxious for you to list some - need, no, NEED to work with something like this! thanks for explaining how to work with the medium...
and,yes, i think the back of the fridge is very safe, especially on the second shelf!

Mari Aparicio said...

I love jewelry in copper and gold tones. My favorites.

SueBeads said...

I love the first one on the left!

hint said...

The more I see of copper the more I want to use it!!! These are gorgeous and your tips are so helpful. Thank you so much for posting them.

sharon said...

Love the top middle and the bottom right, the color is sooo warm and glowy.....I want to reach over and touch it! I agree with the back of the fridge, 2nd shelf, that is the dead zone!

Prairie Emporium said...

LeAnn, I love all you copper, sounds like a lot of work but sure did turn out nice. Have fun with the birthday party.

stregata said...

Woo hoo, LeAnn!!! These are amazing!! Beautiful! Awesome! No, not the back of your fridge, the copper pieces! Now I really HAVE to get that kiln!!! Thanks for all the step by step information! I just love these...

Marie Cramp said...

Hey LeAnn,
I just have to have that bottom right one!! OMG stunning, it almost looks like a fosil! Seriously though, can you save it for me???
Love it!!
Marie

Kaew said...

Nice, very nice.

Thanks for sharing.

Looks like a lot of fun :)

Cindy Gimbrone said...

Hi LeAnn,

Gosh, it took me so long to get over to take a look at your pieces - why didn't I come sooner?!? Wowie! They look so good! Lots of great tips too. I love to wake up to cool finished pieces!

Look forward to what else you create with the copper clay!

Cindy