Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pasting Organic Forms in Metal Clay

It's fall in New England, so all around me I am witnessing the natural world prepare for its long Winter's nap.  What I am most drawn to are these dry, lace-like pods that litter the ground.  They have burst and shriveled, after laying the seeds for next year.  I find it hard to resist collecting them, their complex cavities offer so much on such a small level.  

Dried Fall Pods

Building Up the Paste
Working with metal clay, pasting is often a one-dimensional endeavor.  You paint the metal paste on an object in order to fire it and be left with the side that was in contact with the texture, but nothing from the side you built up.  How could I capture the intricacies of this incredible little object?  They are so fragile that making a mold seemed futile and out of the question.  Having been inspired by the porcelain work of my good friend Erica Nickol, I thought why not dip it?  What if the metal clay paste was so thin it could saturate the pod and slowly build up in layers?  So I began experimenting with the silver clay paste and found that the consistency of half and half was just right.  Mixing a single gram of paste with just enough water for it to become a flowing liquid.  The piece had to be hung (over a bowl to capture and recycle drippings) and dry between each layer.  This is the sort of project best done on the side while each layer slowly builds up.  There will come a point where the layers are thick enough that the piece holds its form when saturated and that's the sign to paint on two or three layers of the regular thickness of paste and be done.  The piece below was set with a clear 4mm CZ before firing.  After being tumbled, I gave it a gray patina with liver of sulfur and wrapped it with silver plated colored wire as an accent  Firing the piece on a fiber blanket served as enough of a "pillow" to hold its form.  Check out the final piece above!

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