Saturday, September 22, 2012

1st Foray into Precious Metal Clay: PMC3

Foray: a brief excursion or attempt especially outside one's accustomed sphere.
You got that right, Webster!

Spoils of the Foray

Precious? That all depends. Talking about the price? Then, Yes!
I've worked with BronzClay before, but when I ordered
my first PMC3 (fine silver) - a 25 gram package was $51.85
and that was the best price I could find at the time. I ordered it from Cool Tools.

Right now, that same teeny, tiny package is up to $63.13 at Cool Tools.
Rio Grande is selling the same package for $71.43. Sometimes I really 
like the prices at RioGrande (and I order a lot from them) - however  in cases like this, 
I just don't understand such a huge price difference. It really pays (pun $ intended) to price shop.
But I digress.

I ordered this package back in July and just now got the courage to use it.
I was a wreck. Plus, I  mostly created a wreck. 
There was something about knowing how expensive it is that made me crazy.
And I went into it with no real plan about what I was making. I just
knew I didn't want it to be a cliche. So I focused on making a few
components with half of the package.  I found some tiny 'sticks' outside to use for some texture.
On other pieces, I used shells for texture.  When I finished, I knew that
Kathy Van Kleeck's work had made a big influence on my pieces. 
But her pieces are gorgeous...mine were the result of terror. 

Prior to 1st Firing - half of the package

I did a lot of research prior to ordering this clay. And I did a lot of research
before I got up the nerve to open the package. However, what I missed
along the line somewhere was that when fired, this was going
to be 99.9% pure silver. ie: it will not be stiff if it is a long, thin piece.
After firing for 3 hours - (one hour to ramp to 1650°) and two hours held at 1650°
I could bend the long piece with my hands.  I had let the pieces
cool down in the kiln.  I tumbled the pieces
and used a leather mallet on the long one and it helped a lot.

LOS patina and brush texture added
The small pieces were quite hard (sintered) and apparently the long one was too.
But as an experiment, I re-fired & took the pieces out immediately after the firing finished.
It  had the same results. The small pieces were hard, just as the first time...the long one could
be bent with my hands...easily. Perhaps I just have super human strength as
suggested by my lovely daughter. :)

Instead of letting the rest of the clay get hard in the package, I made
more components - made them round & larger & used a large portion of
the clay to make a ring. Online directions told me to make the ring 2 sizes larger
than what I wanted. So I did. And allowing for the shrinkage rate (12-15%)
I made the ring wider than I wanted it. Another lesson learned. The ring
did shrink in ring size, but the width of the band did not. So the ring is
really wide. 

I used part of an old shell for texture on the ring and added
three tiny balls to represent sand. Also, it shrunk more than I thought it 
would in ring size.
but I did manage to increase that with a ring mandrel and leather mallet.
It fits me now. I may end up using it as a component anyway....instead of a ring.

25 Grams of PMC3 and one Penny

So there you have it.
25 Grams = 1 Long Pendant (2.5 inches), 11 Component Disks and 1 Ring

I'm glad I tried PMC3, but it'll have to come down a LOT in price
before I try it again. 

Big thanks go out to the people who answered my emails
about PMC3:

Bottom line: PMC3 is Fine Silver and will fire soft if it is too thin.
Some say that's part of its charm. I say maybe Sterling Silver Clay next time. ;)

Carpe Diem!


Chelsea said...

These look so cool! They make me want to get a kiln just so I can try this.

Lela said...

Thanks, Chelsea! I've got some good news for you...PMC3 can actually be torch fired. Here's a pdf to give you a bit of an idea how that's done.

fanciful devices said...

looks SO GORGEOUS! absolutely does not look like the work of an amateur. but yeah, working with something that you are worried about screwing up is no fun. maybe that's why i use non-precious components. but my hats are off to you, lady!

Lela said...

Thank so very much, Marina! Well, you see....your creations become precious once they're finished. You do it the opposite way. ;)

tammi said...

I'm so glad you bit the bullet and forged ahead to try the PMC3. It's my favorite formula. It's the strongest of the three PMC's. You did really well for your first shot. I'm glad I could help you with your questions. As far as torch firing goes, just try a very small piece to begin with. I melted my first piece. It finally dawned on me that those little things moving around in the orange glow was actually molten metal. Also, torch fired pieces will tend to be more brittle due to incomplete sintering. There is just no way you could hold the torch on the piece long enough at a consistent temperature to render it fully sintered. Good luck with future tries and let me know if I can help.

Lela said...

Thanks for the heads up on torching PMC, Tammi. I won't be trying it since I have a kiln, but I'd seen a lot of videos, etc out there that talk about using a torch. I'm sure it would be a lot harder to pull off than it looks.

Thanks again! And BTW, your clay work is GORGEOUS!

Juliette Williams said...

Lela! They are absolutely beautiful!! I'm still struggling, but have a good friend who is very good with PMC3 to help. Plus, she has a kiln for it. Really lovely, congratulations!!

Lela said...

Ah, thanks, Juliette. Best of luck with least the experience made me want to get into my stash of BronzClay now. I love my kiln...

Lucie said...

I so wanted to try PMC too, but for now the prices just forbid that and I don't have a kiln either, so I'll wait but your experiment is awesome...

Lela said...

Thank you, Lucie. It was fun, but as I said...nerve wracking! ;)