Sunday, November 25, 2012

Coil Bails in Metal Clay

After exploring wire bails (discussed in last week's post) for the smallest pieces in this series, I thought I would work with coil bails for the mid-size ones.  With the intention of integrating the bails into the design of these pendants, I am looking at ways to hang them that go beyond drilling a hole and inserting a jump ring.  If you haven't rolled coils in metal clay, below are images of my two best tips.    Of course, remember to lube your working surface and any tools that will apply pressure to your clay so they will release and not tear.  I continue to find success with just simple Olive Oil.  On the left, I am using an acrylic block to roll the coils out after starting them with my fingers.  This method seems to keep the coils more even on their tiny, fragile scale and prevents your hands from wicking moisture out of them.  Second, keep them damp!  Spritz coils or  lightly brush with water to keep them flexible, they dry quickly and if you see stress cracks starting, I generally find it's time to start again.

In the images below, I have rolled out fresh clay coils and attached them to greenware (dried clay) pieces.  For coil bails, I roll the coils out one at a time and use them immediately due to their quickness to dry out.  Once I have the coil the length I am aiming for, I flatten one end with my finger.  I paint a small amount of paste where the coil will attach on the back  of my piece. Next, I slip a tool (such as a pin tool) under one end and slide along it to lift the coil with a little more control.  I place the flattened end on the paste and press firmly in place.  After gently flipping the piece, I dampen the coil with water on a brush so it does not crack as I bend it.  I lay a straw lubed with olive oil on top of the coil and paint paste where it will attach on the surface.  I then gently lift the coil around and press it to the front.  You might keep it simple and mimic the back design where it is flattened or you could spiral the tail in to be more decorative.  As I attach it, I go back in with a rubber shaper tool, I clean up the areas I attach as much as possible before it starts to dry.  I try not to move them until until they have set up a bit and then place them on a mug warmer to dry out.  Once the color changes to a dry looking white, I gently twist the straw while pulling it out.  Remember, as the clay dries it shrinks, so removing the straw as soon as possible will lessen the chance of it cracking your fragile, unfired coil.  The bail being built below is shown at the top of this post fired.

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