Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finished Bronze and Copper Clay Cane Beads

In this photo you can see me cutting my cane into beads. This cane was made with bronze and copper clay. I began with a copper snake in the center. Then I rolled out flat (3 cards thick) rectangles and wrapped it in bronze, copper, bronze, and ended with copper. To choose the size of the rectangles I eyeballed it and then cut strips to fix any mistakes; you can also stretch it a bit to make a bit too small piece work. I wet the out of my cane slightly with a paintbrush of tap water before applying each new layer to assure sintering.
Next I cut the cane, which I had gently shaped into a "rectangle" I cut it with the very thin blade I broke out of my husbands old razor (worked great!). I cut my beads a bit thick and then I smoosh them on the glass you see in the photo with my finger. To make rectangles I used another regular razor blade to accentuate the shape after I smooshed them (its all very scientific).

The above photo shows my  bone dry finished rectangular cane beads on the plate I took them to the kiln in. I fired them in a firing pan full of coconut shell carbon in my Paragon SC2 kiln (which I love).

Here are my round swirl cane beads. These are easier to make. Roll out two large rectangles (one of copper clay and one of bronze) at 3 cards thick, then take the card away from one side and gently thin your rectangles down at a gradual incline until it is as thin on one end as possible. Lightly wet one rectangle with a paintbrush and put the other exactly on top (it is nice if they are exactly the same size-but you can squish and add more as needed to make up for it). Then roll from the thin side and close with your top layer and a  bit more water. Your cane is ready to slice. See slicing directions above. These require less shaping as the cane is round and round is such a natural shape.

The two photos above are my finished work. I drilled the holes I wanted before I fired (easier!) and then I tumbled my finished beads. Some beads are put together with sterling silver rivets (I used my acetylene torch to melt the ends to create these. I got a lot of finished pieces out of the two 2-3 inch canes I made-this is a fun technique for making unique beads.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cane beads

Though I have worked very little with polymer clay in the past I have found it to be very useful when working with metal clays. I have used it to make originals, molds, and texture plates. I have also begun to use some polymer clay techniques. The one I have enjoyed and hope to make more of in the next few weeks before my Christmas shows is the cane work technique. With this technique you build a log or "cane" with bronze and copper clays or even silver and cork clay (which burns out in the kiln). Once you have a cane built you can roll it out to shrink your original design. I've made a cane of copper and bronze that was meant to look like tree rings. I also made one that had three swirls inside. Once the cane is made I slice it up into round beads. The first set I put holes in the middle with cork clay which burnt out in the kiln. The second set I drilled holes on the sides (2 holes per bead)-I connected the finished beads with sterling silver rivets using my torch. The biggest challenge I've found is cutting the cane without smearing and squishing. I'm still looking for the perfect cutting device. It does help to place the cane in the refrigerator or even freezer (briefly) to harden the clay a bit before attempting to cut. Squishing the cut beads with my finger also helped fix the shape and bring out the design-it also left interesting finger prints on the beads.

Next I hope to make  a few copper and bronze canes that are square or rectangular instead of round. I also want to try the silver and cork clay technique. I'll take photos as I work and post those with my next post.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I think that everyone who sells their art runs into the challenges of pricing their work now and again. For my part, I had it under control until I started working with pmc and base metal clays. Suddenly my work went from fitting into semi-neat categories to nearly every piece being unique. What to do? So, with the help of my husband, I began working on a new system. I poked around on the internet and saw many suggestions-most said to simply do time+materials. I wanted more. At this point, and I may change it again in the future, I have a system for pricing my work that includes materials, amount of material, additional findings, equipment depreciation, and time (hourly pay). I set my hourly pay based on my pay when I am at my day job. My database is almost ready (thanks Michael) and I'm excited to see how it works out. If anyone out there has any questions about this process, let me know, I'm happy to share more.