Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fine Silver Metal Clay

Photo: A Dali's Summerhome ring, by Kate McKinnon. fine silver metal clay, drybuilt, with an imbedded ring shank.

Hello, it's Kate McKinnon, writing from Tucson, where it's sunny, cool and fresh from a deep desert rain. I've been doing some filming this week, and I wanted to share a video with you that I just posted to YouTube.

I've spent the last 12 years working with fine silver and fine silver metal clay, and in that time I've thought a lot about its potential to allow one to maintain a clean, safe metalsmithing shop. Working in fine silver, for example, I can usually skip the soldering, fusing my connections only with fire, and in metal clay, I can work as cleanly as a cat. Several of my CraftEdu classes will focus on things like drybuilding, which is a clay term for letting your pieces and parts dry before you assemble them. This will allow you to make your joins with just a lick of water, instead of added slip, and will save you time, join cleanup, and mess on your bench.

In the video, I share a series of tips designed to help you have a cleaner, safer metal clay shop, and have some suggestions for instructors, studios, and shows. I hope you enjoy it, and, if you work with metal clay, I hope it gives you a few new ideas for working cleanly!

I recommend that you hit "Play," and then, when it starts to go, hit "Pause," so that you can let the whole thing load before you play it. Otherwise, it will stop and start.


  1. Thank you very much for the info you gave in the video. I will be changing the way I do some things with my silver clay.

    The things you talk about in your video should be taught in all the level 1 certification classes as well. I wish I would have heard this when I was certified... I already have some bad habits to stop.

  2. I wish that the things that I mention were taught as well. The certification classes are really more of an introduction to product, I think- they are put out by the distributors, and the intention is to entice people into the product, and in doing so, make it seem as simple as possible.

    I understand this motivation, but since it's so easy to work cleanly, I think that students would appreciate hearing about things like drybuilding, and clean cutting, and I know for sure they would appreciate it if the kilns weren't firing in the classrooms.

    I'd hoped that we'd be a bit further along as a field by now, but unfortunately most Cert classes and beginning classes still don't offer this info. That's why I made the video, and I hope that over time it gets widely passed around.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thank you for creating this very thoughtful video. I have been working with metal clay for almost two years and I am mostly self taught. I am a sanding and polishing nut. After burning the midnight oil trying to finish several pieces I noticed the next day I felt a congestion in my chest. I now always wear a respirator when I am sanding and polishing. I guess I should add latex gloves to my creative process because I always seem to get metal clay under my finger nails.

  4. Kate! I finally had a chance to watch your video - great information, everyone (especially newbies) really should see this. Fantastic.

    Really strange thing happened at S2 - I touched a container of powdered brass or copper clay and immediately I tasted metal. Weird.

    Do you know Sarah Shriver? I swear, you two could be sisters!