This gorgeous necklace was made by Barbara S Fernald, whose work with metal clay and jewelry I very much admire. She lives on Ilseford, Maine, on small island with a winter population of only about 70 people. Much of her work is inspired by the island, it's beaches and the sea around her. She made all of the large silver beads in this necklace from fine silver metal clay using her own hand made molds and texture plates.
You can see more of her work at her website or her Etsy site. From her website you can follow her blog where Barbara generously shares her work and glimpses of island life. I find her blog a treat and always look forward to hearing about what she's up to.
So what is metal clay, anyway? I often see metal clay referred to as PMC. PMC (Prescious Metal Clay) was developed in the early 1990s by Dr Morikawa of the Mitsubish Matericals Corporation. Technically, PMC is a brand name. There are many brands of metal clays on the market now and many types of materials available, including fine silver, gold, bronze, copper, steel, just to name a few.
What all of these metal clays have in common is that they are composed of very fine microscopic particles of metal suspended in a non-toxic organic binder. This results in a plastic substance that can be molded, carved, shaped, pushed and prodded into many forms and in ways that would be difficult to achieve with traditional metal smithing techniques.
Once formed and dried, all metal clays are 'fired' usually in a kiln but some types can be torch fired. Firing is a little bit of a misnomer too. What happens is that the organic binder burns out and the particles of metal sinter (melt together) to form a final piece that is 100% metal.
This only scratches the very surface of metal clay. It can be a very technical medium, sometimes frustrating, but I always find it exciting to work with. The number of metal clays being developed is growing at a very rapid pace. It can sometimes be hard to keep up with!
There are many, many resources out there if you'd like to know a bit more about working with metal clay. Here's a few that I turn to frequently when I have questions.
I'd love to hear about what you think of metal clay! If you've got any resources that you really like, let me know. I'll add them to the list.
Many thanks to Barbara for sharing her photos with us.