Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gold Accents in Metal Clay

I love silver.  I always have.  Maybe it's because I have childhood memories of traveling to the southwest and seeing beautiful silver and turquoise work.  Maybe it's because there so many cultures from so many different parts of the world that have stories of silver that are incorporated into their mythologies.  I just know it is one of the materials I have always been drawn to.  That does not by any means make it the only material I work with.  Every once in a while, a piece calls for something more.  The piece featured in this post was inspired by "Pele's Hair", volcanic glass threads that are created when molten material is thrown into the air.  They look like piles of golden volcanic hair and called for some color accents to this piece.  

Before incorporating the gold, the base form was built using silver clay coils wrapped around black glass and volcanic beads.  The piece was fired in the kiln to burn out the clay binders and just leave the glass, beads and silver.  When silver comes out of the kiln, it has a matte white finish that is normally brushed to reveal the shining metallic surface, not in this case.  I applied overlay paste to the areas I wanted to accent.  Once dry, I slowly built up layers of the gold paste until it reached a mustard color.  At this point it can either be kiln fired or torch fired to burn out the binder and leave the gold.  The key is speed!  On the above right, there is an image of the piece glowing from the torch fire, once that glow appears (this is best done in the dark) you are only holding it for a few seconds.  Any longer and the gold and silver will melt together and you will lose your accent.  The more layers of paste, the deeper the color in the end.  Just like silver, after firing it will still be that matte mustard color and must be brushed to reveal its luster.

I used Art Clay Gold Paste over the fine silver to create these accents.  After firing the gold left is 22k and can be used on glass and porcelain, as well.  While this is a relatively affordable way to work with gold, at the end of the day it is real gold and you are still paying market price for it.  I initially worked with both gold paste and gold sheet in my senior certification class with Art Clay World.  The instructions that come with both are good and there are lots of great video tutorials online, but for the price of gold it is really something best introduced in a class with an experienced teacher.  It will save you frustrations and some very expensive experimenting!

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