Friday, 14 October 2016

Changing seasons, changing colours - experiments with bronze

Up until now, I've always worked only in silver clay but for a long time I've had a hankering after the beautiful golden tones of other metals. I started experimenting about a year ago with bronze and copper clays but couldn't get them to fire properly in the kiln. This can be a bit tricky and I'm not the only one who has trouble getting the firing schedule right at the beginning. Luckily, I was only firing test strips and hadn't spent hours working on pieces only to see them break before my very eyes!



This was just some of the failures along the way! Some were more metallic than others - some looked good until you tried to bend them and then they just snapped. I know I don't intent for my jewellery to be bent but it's important to know that a piece is fully sintered.

After reading just about every article and blog on the internet and much messing about with kiln temperatures and ramp times I finally found a schedule that works for me! It's only taken over a year (although to be fair I have done a lot of other things in between trials!)


Wooo Hoooo! My first successful firing tests - strips that can be bent in half with pliers and rods that can be bent when hammered in a vice without braking, splitting or tearing! Now...on to actually try a design - where better to start with than my favourite leaves whose autumn colours inspired this detour into bronze in the first place.


Here are the first leaves - they all look different because I've now been experimenting with how best to finish them. Some have been polished up to a shine and others have been left with a more satin finish. I like them both and the contrast between the two. Now I'm going to leave them sitting around for a while a see how the appearance changes over time as natural patinas occur in the air.

And now I've got it to work - it must be time to make some more! I'm looking forward to combining colours in my work in the future. 


N.B. The clays I was experimenting with were Prometheus Bronze and Goldie Bronze - I think the leaves were all from Prometheus because that's what I had the most of. It will be interesting to see the colour difference (and shrinkage rates)  when I do some with the Goldie Bronze. I noticed that my test strips were quite different colour straight out of the kiln.

Metal-clayers out there - did you have as much trouble getting base metals to fire initially and do you notice colour differences between brands?