I’ve had a kiln on my wish list since at least 2013. I’ve not really been able to justify one for work, but I had a go at some glass fusing in Mr Tumnus (my ultralight) and realised that unless I wanted to burn out the element, I needed something a tad more firey. So, I’ve bought a Prometheus Pro 7 kiln. I’ve named him Idris, because he’s a friendly (I hope!) dragon, like #SmeltyMelty is a dragon. For those of you younger than me, and not in the UK, Idris is the dragon in Ivor The Engine.
My first proper project has coincided with the testing of some new texture sheets, from my favourite supplier – The Jeweller’s Bench
I’ve been buying my texture resources from Joanne Tinley aka The Jeweller’s Bench ever since she started creating them – ( I started by buying her e-book tutorials, then had a 2 day one-to-one training package in her workshop which was phenomenal – I can’t recommend her highly enough).
Up to now, her textures have been aimed predominantly at rolling mill use, though I’ve used them really successfully on Art Clay Silver – they give a wonderfully tactile texture because they are laser cut from card. I love them – I love that they are compostable when I’m finished with them in Morris-The-Mill and I love that they are reusable for clay.
These new ones are rubber, and as a result have a much crisper and cleaner look and feel to the texture. I love these just as much – it’s like comparing velvet with silk – each has it’s place and use, and both are gorgeous.
Because I’m testing these for Joanne, I wrote up some notes for her to include with the sheets, and thought it might be interesting for those of you who follow my blog to share here too. So, here’s how I made these:
Before use, I ensure all my tools are out, and my mini humidifier is ready. I also try to make sure I have a drink, am not expecting anyone to call and have been to the loo. Art Clay Silver is a costly product and it’s time sensitive when opened, so, prep is everything 😉
I then lubricate the texture mats and my rolling surface (teflon mats). My favourite lubricant for this is a blended essential oil.
Then I condition my clay (by rolling and compressing, to make sure that there will be no bubbles to pop when it’s fired) and roll it out.
I like to use a texture mat either side of the clay to get the clay to the same thickness as the mat,then I place a 3 card bundle on either side of the texture I’m going to use, and place the pre-rolled clay between.
Rolling from the centre out, in one fluid stroke each way gives the best impression and a 3 card thickness will allow for refinement after it’s dry and also for shrinkage when firing.
I find this gives a reassuringly sturdy feel to the piece after it’s been fired, and is my preferred thickness for earrings. I tend to use a 4 card thickness for pendants
Because The Jeweller’s Bench Texture Mats are such good quality and so flexible, I’ve found the best way to remove the clay from them is simply to peel the mat from the clay, rather than the clay from the mat. This isn’t always possible with other brands of rubber / silicone mats. These also give an exceptionally crisp and smooth finish to the impression; even better than most of the silicone textures I own, aimed at stampers. The other bonus with these is that there’s a positive and negative of each of the textures on the one sheet – zoom in on the photo collage of the clay after rolling to see this in action
Set the mat to one side and cut out your form – I use sugar-craft cutters, bits of pipe, shrink plastic templates I’ve made and now The Jeweller’s Bench fabulous stencils with my needle-tool
I found the best way to achieve a crisp line the exact shape of the stencil is to move from the inside to the outer point of each shape, and to do that at each edge individually, rather than ‘draw’ round the shape as one would with a pencil.
I like to cut all the shapes I want from that piece of rolled clay, before I lift the excess clay, squish it quickly and pop it under the lid of my humidifier. This ensures it gathers a little moisture from the more humid atmosphere that’s within that, and gives me more time to play with the shapes.
I usually place the cut out pieces on a former, so that they are more dimensional. If using a sugar craft cutter, it can often be challenging to get the piece out – I’ve found that adding some of the essential oil to the surface of the form will effectively ‘suck’ the cut piece from the cutter
Leave all these to dry before refining – sand / file / drill / add any embellishments at this stage to ensure that there’s no smudging of the gorgeous textures
When you are finished using the texture sheets, remove the remaining lubricant using an old soft toothbrush and regular washing up liquid. I don’t get any clay left behind using this method, but if you do have some, then retrieve that first – don’t wash it down the sink!
Tools used in the making of these pieces:
The Jeweller’s Bench texture mats, top to bottom:
Scattered Daisies sm
Tree Branches 1 med
Watercolour Vines sm
Watercolour Ribbons sm
The Jeweller’s Bench Stencils:
Leaves and Petals
6 and 8 Pointed Petal Flowers
Hexagonal cutters and micro dot cutters: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Elsilversupplies
Sugarcraft cutters – I bought mine from the lovely Natalie who used to run BAKE!, and is now :http://www.floralcrafting.co.uk
Art Clay Silver, teflon rolling mats and Idris-The-Kiln: https://www.metalclay.co.uk
Pergamano papercraft tool (I picked mine up at a local craft fair): https://pergamano.com
Tools I’ve scavenged/repurposed:
Mini humidifier – an old plastic deodorant cap, filled with water** then emptied, so that there’s a minimal amount remaining inside, then placed upside down on one on my teflon mats. The residual liquid will slip down the sides, and help create a vacuum when the lid’s on the mat, and the humidity will be higher inside the pot. I can usually get 3 or 4 rolls out of the clay before I need to wipe it across the damp teflon and recondition, using this method.
**if you live in an area that you know has impurities in your water, you might wish to use distilled when working with ACS
Drying forms – anything that has a profile you like, and is non-absorbent works here. I’m using these glass paperweights, because they fit beneath my cover and they were my grandad’s, and a large plastic ball that was discarded by a great nephew once he’d retrieved the rubbishy toy from within it. I also often use the little dishes that contact lenses come in for smaller pieces
My drying station is packaging from a family sized box of supermarket profiteroles – it keeps the dust off (it gets very dusty in a jeweller’s workshop, even before you factor in the Quentin Crisp level of housekeeping we employ!) and allows the clay to dry at an even pace because it has it’s own little environment. I find there’s less warping than if I leave it uncovered, or try and hurry the process.
Playing card set – any cheap playing cards; these were won in an amusement arcade, and I taped them into bundles, with the top card designating the thickness. Ie the 3 of hearts has 2 cards below it.
These texture mats are 2.21mm thick which equates to 7 of my playing cards
Essential oil – I have a fabulous blend from my reflexologist that I keep in a roller ball for when I need calming, and it works brilliantly for both keeping the clay conditioned and for stopping it sticking. I’ve used Art Clay Silver Balm, and Slick, but I have found they can go mouldy and have damaged some of the rubber stamps I used to use for this.