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Kiln Pointers

Working with Silver Clay

Silver clay looks and feels like clay and can be shaped with simple tools. Yet once it is properly fired in a kiln, it becomes real silver. The clay burns away during firing, allowing the silver particles to fuse together into a solid piece.

In 1997 I visited the Clay Pigeons, an Art Clay Silver group in Dallas, Texas. Here are my notes from that meeting. They apply to both PMC and Art Clay Silver. These are the pointers that the members shared that day:

1) Store silver clay in a small plastic bag instead of plastic food wrap. After you’ve used all the clay, turn the bag inside out. The thin layer of clay inside the bag will flake off. Collect the flakes and place them in a small jar with several drops of water. The clay will turn into paste. (Plastic cling food wrap is not as good for storage as a plastic bag, because it is more difficult to remove the clay residue from the cling wrap.)

2) Use a plastic sheet protector, not wax paper or plastic cling wrap, to cover the clay while working with it. Place the clay inside the folder as you work. Lift the top plastic when working, and place it down when pausing.

3) Use a small artist’s brush to apply water to the clay as the clay begins to dry out.

4) To carve a design into a clay piece, brush water onto the clay. Then cut the design.

5) Rub a little olive oil onto the hands to prevent the clay from sticking.

6) If the piece does not dry completely before firing, it may warp inside the kiln. Use a hair dryer to speed drying. If a flat piece curls during firing, you may be able to straighten it with a rawhide mallet.

7) If you break a clay piece before it’s fired, coat paste onto the break. Then fire. Or put a drop of water over the break. If the break spreads during firing, fill the fracture line with silver clay and fire again.

For an inexpensive book that is packed with information, read "Art Clay Silver and Gold: 18 Unique Jewelry Pieces to Make in a Day:"

Some people are astonished that clay turns to silver in a kiln. Years ago after I first heard of Art Clay Silver, I placed a freshly fired piece against a grinding wheel. Sure enough, the piece really was solid silver. It glistened where the wheel ground away the surface oxidation.

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. - Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, TX 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 /

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