Living in beautiful Colorado, constantly surrounded by inspiring majestic views, always shapes my design aesthetic. Making molds of nature's goodies and turning them into copper and bronze jewelry is so fulfilling. Elegant and rustic in the same piece creates a balance between two worlds. Adding different shades of colors together, and even mixing the bronze and copper, emulates Mother Nature's color palette, as no two ''greens'' are the same in the wilderness.
Making a Mold
||You can use manufactured molds for your designs or ones you make yourself. To make your own molds, gather some objects from nature such as tree branches, pinecones and bark.
Carefully evaluate your selections once you return to the studio. Make sure your objects are dry and don't have sap or bugs on them. Trim any sharp edges or unwanted parts with wire cutters.
||Prepare enough two-part silicone molding compound to make molds of the elements you have selected.
Press the prepared compound into a flat pancake, about 1/2 inch thick. Press your natural object(s) carefully into the compound making sure to get the object deep enough yet not so deep it pokes through the back side of the compound. Place a clear snake roller onto the surface of the object and press firmly so the items are level in the compound, but again, do not press so hard they go through the back.
Allow the compound to sit for 5-10 minutes until cured. You know the material is cured when you press a fingernail into the side of the mold and it does not leave an impression.
Remove objects from the compound when cured.
||Add a few drops of distilled water and olive oil to your metal clay and ''smoosh'' it all together. ''Wedge'' the clay by throwing it down with great force onto a hard smooth surface, such as your tabletop. Wedging will remove any air bubbles and help the clay bond better on a molecular level, reducing cracks and blemishes that can ruin your piece when firing.
Press conditioned clay into and/or onto the molds.
Optional: Place a lightly oiled texture plate on top of your clay and press carefully and evenly--you can use a roller if you'd like.
Press a real pinecone onto the clay while still in the pinecone mold. This is done so the backs complement the theme of the design and don't seem forgotten.
Remove the clay from the molds. Your clay pieces will shrink quite a bit in the firing process, a little more than 25%, so plan accordingly. Trim the clay to suit your design.
At this stage, you can use a small straw or small circle clay cutter to form a hole for stringing. Let the clay dry completely.
Tip: Use an old coffee mug warmer or candle warmer to dry multiple pieces. Observe the pieces as they go from wet to dry, as they will tend to warp when dried too quickly. To counter the warping, flip the pieces from time to time.
For the nature-inspired charms and pendants shown, BRONZclay and COPPRclay were used. The following were created for use in the jewelry set shown: one piney pendant, one aspen leaf, one pinecone, four flowers with depressions to receive crystal chatons and two small leaves. It is best to make extras just in case some do not come out of the kiln as you would like.
||If you did not add a hole for stringing while the clay was wet, make sure you add one once the clay is completely dry. You can add a hole using a hobby knife, jeweler's file or carving tools. When creating a hole, be sure to work from both sides of the design so the hole is neat and clean.
Optional: Carve shallow depressions in the dried clay where you can glue in your crystal chatons after your piece is fired.
Firing Your Clay
||Refine the edges and surface of your pieces, making them as pristine as possible before firing. This step will help make your finishing after firing go quickly, so take your time.
||Place the pieces into the activated carbon and fire according to manufacturer's instructions included with your clay.
Tip: It is a good idea to create ''test strips'' to use each time you fire. Roll out BRONZclay to equal the thickness of your design. Place your test strips in your firing chamber with your other objects and fire. After you remove your objects from the kiln and they cool off, try bending your test strip. If it snaps or breaks, your pieces are underfired and they are not sintered properly so need to be refired.
Sintering is vital in your firing process and is where the tiny particles of metal are brought to a temperature just below their melting point yet hot enough to cause the particles to bond or fuse together.
If your test strip bends, you have had a successful firing! It's quite common to have a few test firings as you're learning the correct firing schedule for your kiln.
Once your pieces are successfully fired you can hand polish, starting with a steel wire brush, or tumble polish with stainless steel shot and a diluted mixture of dish soap and water. Tumbling is my favorite method. After about an hour or two of tumbling, remove your pieces and rinse them off. Voila! It's like panning for gold- or bronze and copper in this case!
Cut a 28-inch length of copper Accu-Flex® professional-quality beading wire. String the following Swarovski crystal beads: one 6mm rondelle, one 8mm pearl, one 6mm rondelle and one 8mm olivine bicone. Repeat the set 11 times. String on one 6mm rondelle. Repeat the set 11 more times.
String on one crimp bead then pass the beading wire back through the crimp, forming a small loop. Crimp the crimp bead. Repeat on the other end, tightening up the beads so there is little slack along the beaded strand.
Cut a 26-inch length of beading wire. String one size 8 Delica®. String the following set 49 times: two green size 11 Delicas, one 3mm copper bicone, one 3mm powder green pearl and one 3mm copper bicone. String one size 8 Delica.
Repeat Step 8 to form a small loop on each end of the beaded strand.
Cut 20 inches of chain.
Open one jumpring then add the loop on the toggle bar, the loop on one end of Strand #1, the loop on one end of Strand #2 and the last link on one end of the chain; close the jumpring.
Open a jumpring and add the loop on the other end of Strand #1, Strand #2 and the last link in the other end of the chain; close the jumpring.
Add 4 jumprings to the jumpring just added. Open the last jumpring added and add the loop on the toggle ring half of the clasp; close the jumpring.
String the following onto a headpin and finish with a wrapped loop: one dark gold size 11 Delica, one 4mm olivine bicone, one 6mm rondelle, one 4mm olivine bicone and one dark gold size 11 Delica.
Open one large jumping then add the pine branch pendant and the loop of the dangle made in Step 14. Close the jumping so the pendant rests in the middle of the necklace between the two center rondelles.
Using 2-part epoxy, glue chatons into the depressions made in the clay pieces for your bracelet.
String the following onto a headpin and finish with a wrapped loop.
One dark gold size 11 Delica, one Swarovski crystal 4mm olivine bicone, one Swarovski crystal 6mm pearl, one Swarovski crystal 3mm copper bicone and one dark gold size 11 Delica. Repeat to make a total of 4.
One Swarovski crystal 4mm light topaz bicone, one Swarovski crystal erinite rondelle and one Swarovski crystal 4mm light topaz. Repeat to make a total of 2.
One dark gold size 11 Delica, one Swarovski crystal 4mm olivine bicone and one dark gold size 11 Delica. Repeat to make a total of 2.
Poke a headpin through a metal clay pinecone and add one Swarovski crystal 6mm copper rondelle, one Swarovski crystal 4mm olivine bicone and one Swarovski crystal 3mm copper bicone.
String the following Swarovski crystals onto an eyepin and finish with a wrapped loop. One 3mm copper bicone, one 4mm light Colorado topaz bicone and one 3mm copper bicone. Open the loop on the bottom and add a Swarovski crystal fern green briolette; close the loop. Repeat to make a total of four.
Using jumprings, attach the dangles to a 7-1/2 inch length of chain (following the pictured bracelet or in a pattern of your own choosing.
Open the last link on the length of chain and add the loop of the toggle bar; close the link. Repeat on the other end to attach the toggle ring half of the clasp.
Using a jumpring, attach the aspen leaf focal and pine cone dangle to the chain link in the center of the bracelet.
Using 2-part epoxy, adhere crystal flat backs to the depressions formed in the metal clay flowers.
Open the loop on the bottom of an earwire and add a BRONZclay flower; close the earwire. Thread one size 11 green Delica onto earwire.
Repeat for the other earring.
: : : Additional Resources : : :
The pieces featured in the Gallery of Designs are copyrighted designs and are provided for inspiration only. We
encourage you to substitute different colors, products and techniques to make the design your own.