Once upon a time, on an urban rock hunt, hubs and I stopped into a small rock shop in a strip mall in a little town in Virginia. And like I normally do, I HAD to show off the fine silver piece I habitually wear, that I made. Of course. After a lengthy admiration of my fine silver piece, hanging around my neck on its plain hemp cord, the owner said “That’s very nice. What kind of mold did you use?”. I was thoroughly taken aback. A mold? “No, I made it by hand. No molds. All hand-formed. By hand”. And I continued shopping, musing. It was a simple question that had some unexpected insights into how my fine silver pieces are received by “anybody but me”. On the one hand, I’m flattered that someone thought my piece came out of a mold. On the other hand, nope. The making of this piece (and all my fine sliver pieces) is MUCH more complicated than slapping my PMC into a mold.
Photo Credit: Sorchae Aaron
PMC stands for Precious Metal Clay. It’s a product created by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation in the 1990’s. Micro-particles of fine sliver (or other fine metals) are mixed with a proprietary organic material in a process that creates a clay-like substance which can be worked very much like clay. The resulting formation is dried to remove residual moisture and then is fired. The firing burns off the organic material and leaves a pure fine silver product, testable at .9999 fine silver. Other fine metals test out according to their individual properties, but this artist has not yet experimented with them.
So back to my fine silver piece, formed by hand, mistaken for a piece created using a mold. My design process begins with a piece of cardstock. I fold it in half and draw a design on the folded edge and cut it out. The cut piece of cardstock, laid open, is a symmetrical template I use to cut out the base piece from a flattened sheet of clay. I may or may not choose to add a stone. If I am adding a stone, I create a stone capture or a bezel. At this point, the process becomes anarchic. I create and arrange design elements according to the whims of the moment. Rarely do I create something as symmetrical as the piece I habitually wear. I tend to prefer a chaotic assemblage. I roll out snakes and lay them down in scroll-work designs. Sometimes they are twisted together. Sometimes I roll small balls and add them in graduated sizes, or matching sizes, or some graduated sizes and some matching sizes. I add design to the back of the piece to make it as interesting and captivating as the front of the piece. I never design a piece in advance of working the clay, beyond a choice of base design, stone and stone capture. I build for strength and beauty and I aim to explore the limits of the medium. I want to know what it can do and what I can do and I want to push the materials, and myself.
Once the piece is finished and dried to remove moisture from the clay, I prefer to use a torch-firing process to burn off the organic matter, rather than using a kiln. Mainly because I don’t have a kiln (smile). But there may be a small bit of swagger involved with wielding fire to make my pieces. I am, after all, Scorchye.
Photo Credit: Deb Striker