Sallie Bly and her friend Patricia Walton, silver clay teachers, stopped by Paragon this week and shared pointers on silver clay:
1) When using cork clay or other material to make a hollow silver piece, vent the kiln from the beginning of the firing. Do not begin venting after the piece has fired for some time. Delayed venting can cause the cork clay to ignite inside the kiln. After the cork clay has burned out, insert the plug in the kiln's vent hole.
2) You can place the silver clay on a ceramic fiber shelf or a hard ceramic shelf. In either case, raise the shelf with 1/2” posts. This heats the silver clay more evenly by allowing air to circulate under the shelf.
3) Do not use paper clay as a filler material for making hollow silver pieces. Paper clay is made from volcanic ash and does not burn away.
4) You can fire the lower-temperature silver clays to 1600 F even though they are not rated to that temperature.
5) You can remove the silver clay piece right after it has finished firing. (Wear long protective gloves, face shield, and firing safety glasses whenever opening a hot kiln.) After the elapsed hold time at the recommended temperature (i.e. 1600 F), turn off the kiln and remove the silver piece with an 8”-long putty knife or similar tool. (You can remove the soft ceramic fiber shelf, but do not remove a hard ceramic shelf at high temperature. The sudden temperature change could destroy the shelf! Allow ceramic shelves to cool to room temperature before removing from the kiln.)
6) You can apply enamel to silver clay. If you use opaque enamel, you can apply it to the unfired silver clay and fire the silver and enamel together in one firing. For transparent enamel, fire the silver clay separately. After you have cleaned the fired silver piece, apply the enamel and fire again to the enameling temperature.
7) As a rule of thumb, the silver clay piece should be dry before firing. But you can place a moist piece in the kiln so long as you let it dry before heating higher than 200 F. To dry a small piece in the kiln, program to a target temperature of 125F – 200F with a 20-minute hold. To dry large silver pieces, use a one-hour hold.
Thank you, Sallie and Patricia, for generously sharing these tidbits.
Last week I described a silver clay heart that I made for my wife. I explained that after I fired the heart, “The silver was covered with a white coating, which took a couple of minutes to scrub off with a small wire brush. The crude little heart that I squeezed out of a syringe was no longer clay. Now it glistened.”
Peggy Koop of Insomniac Beads in Plymouth, Minnesota wrote, “By the way, the silver is not covered with a white coating. That’s actually the way fine silver looks. It’s that color because of the way the light hits it and reflects the particles. It is not some type of substance that you brush off.
“The silver starts to glisten when you brush it because you are changing the plane of the particles and hence the way the light hits it. If you burnish the silver, you change the surface further and get an even brighter surface. Tim McCreight wrote an article on the subject some time ago, but for some reason this myth seems to keep circulating.”
Beverly Keener of Northford, Connecticut wrote, “I am a retired primary school teacher and taught for 46 years. During the early years I supplemented our family income by producing miniature pots. Many were the days when I came home from teaching and worked all night glazing and firing pots for my husband to take to a show.
“I have had my Paragon Home Artist kiln for about a month now,” Beverly continued, “and after the initial stages of apprehension, I am now firing away. It has been more than 20 years since I worked with clay, and it took me a long time to decide to purchase another kiln. I kept thinking at age 71 that it's probably too late to turn the pages back to when I used to make tiny pinch pots.
“Well, last evening we went to the home of old friends for dinner. I took two of the very first ‘new edition’ pots, little vases no more than 1-1/2" high, and my friend wept as I gave them to her. You can see from this story why your kiln pointer about the gift medallion resonated so with me.”
Thank you, Peggy and Beverly, for the wonderful letters. I look forward to hearing from others.
We have just released a new oval glass fusing kiln called the Ovation-10. It is a digital top-loader with a 41” wide, 11.25” high, and 22.5” deep interior.
This morning was unusually cold for March. My gloved hands were numb after my five-mile bicycle ride to Paragon. I worked hard against a strong head wind all the way here. But I always feel clear-headed after my morning ride to work.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org / www.paragonweb.com
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