Pam East has just written Enameling on Metal Clay. She creates jewelry-making techniques and shares them through workshops, classes, the web, and writing. Born and raised in Southern California, Pam now resides in Alpharetta, Georgia with her husband, daughter, a cat, and Ari the wonder dog.
PAM AND HER PARAGON KILNS
By Pam East
I'm an enamellist and a metal clay artist. When I started looking for my first kiln, I wanted one kiln that would serve both these needs. I found exactly what I was looking for in the Paragon SC-2. Over the years this versatile little kiln has been an absolute workhorse and has never let me down. It's fast and precise. I can fire an entire load of metal clay, from start to finish, in about half an hour! The addition of a window in the door has made it perfect for enameling. Being able to watch the enamels fuse eliminates problems with over-firing.
Recently I decided to branch out with ceramic glaze firings, larger enamel pieces, and increased production capabilities. Of course, my first step was to call Paragon. Their friendly staff helped me choose a Paragon E14 Xpress kiln to add to my studio. When it arrived I decided to really give it a test drive. My first firing in it was a cone 05 red ceramic glaze. Reds can be very tricky. Under-fire them and the color doesn't show up, over-fire them and they'll turn gray or black. Using the Sentry Express controller could not have been easier. I just set it for "cone 05" and off it went without any further help or monitoring from me. My red glaze pieces came out perfect!
Not only have the kilns been great to work with, so has the staff at Paragon Industries. Beyond being friendly and helpful, they are always open to suggestions and customizations, and have worked closely with me and other customers to improve their line of kilns. In the time I've been using Paragon kilns I've seen the introduction of bead doors, windows, latch modifications and more. They will go to almost any lengths to ensure the kilns they sell will exactly meet the needs of their customer.
I highly recommend Paragon for anyone looking for any type of kiln. With hundreds of models available, and the ability to customize each model to perfectly suit your needs, why would you buy from anyone else?
AN INTERVIEW WITH PAM EAST
Q. At what age did you become interested in art?
A. I come from a creative family. Both my grandfathers made jewelry after they retired. My grandmother was a painter for as long as I can remember. And my sister is a graphic designer.
I never pursued art while growing up, because as a kid I thought art meant drawing, and I wasn't great at it. I would flirt with it from time to time, buying sketch books and colored pencils or pastels, but then my sister would knock of a quick drawing in my sketch book that was so good it would drive me to despair, and I'd give up again.
In college I took a photography course and discovered a deep love of art. I came to realize how limited my thinking had been about what constitutes art and ended up majoring in art and photography.
After I left college I had a variety of jobs, none of which had anything to do with art. On weekends I toyed with stenciling, airbrushing, needlework, and rubber stamping. (I own over 1,200 rubber stamps!) It wasn't until I was in my 30s and my daughter was two years old that I finally stumbled into jewelry making.
Q. How did you get started in enameling and metal clay?
A. I was an enamelist long before I found metal clay. I got my start making torch-fired enamel beads on copper tubing. Eventually I wanted to enamel on silver as well as copper. But I discovered that sterling silver does not enamel well without first going through the complicated process of depletion gilding (refining the copper out of the silver), and fine silver tubing is nearly impossible to find. Also, I was not particularly interested in investing the time and money it would take to become a silversmith.
Enter silver clay. What intrigued me the most was that silver clay fired to pure fine silver, would be suitable for enameling right out of the gate, and could be worked without specialized silversmithing tools or knowledge.
Once I got my hands into silver clay, it took over my life completely. The stuff is totally addictive, and I moved on from beads fairly quickly. The clay is such a versatile medium it wasn't long before I added a Paragon SC-2 kiln to my studio and was making earrings, pendants, pins, and more. Again, my love of experimentation pushed me to see what I could do with this amazing product.
Q. Please describe your first experiments with enameling on silver clay.
A. My first experiments with metal clay were, of course, beads. I had been working on copper tubing for years, and so I started off making silver tubes out of the clay and torch-firing enamels onto them. I had the usual successes and failures when one starts playing with something new. I learned a lot not only about silver clay but enameling as well. A seam in the tube or changes in thickness caused all sorts of problems with the enamel chipping off. It took a while, but eventually I was able to produce consistent tubes with lovely patterns on them that would show through the transparent enamels.
Q. I noticed the pictures of the Paragon SC-2 kiln in your book.
A. The Paragon SC-2 is lightening quick to heat up and fire metal clay. I use mine for enameling as well. I wrote my entire book using the SC-2, and everything worked great.
Q. How did your book idea begin to form?
A. With my background in enamels, it was natural for me to look at everything I made as a canvas. I had been writing articles for bead magazines for several years, so writing enameling on metal clay articles was the next logical step. I wrote several before beginning to think about a book. I had noticed that there were several metal clay books on the market that had one enameling project in them, and there were several enameling books that touched briefly on metal clay, but there was no book devoted to the subject of enameling on metal clay.
In talking to my students, customers, and fellow artists in the metal clay community, I saw a strong desire for an enameling book for metal clay artists. There are many excellent books on enameling in general, but most of them target the fine art market and can be overwhelming for beginning home hobbyists. Also, the general enameling books do not address the specific challenges of enameling metal clay. It is significantly different than working on sheet metal. So I decided I to write a book with a clear focus on beginning enameling for metal clay artists. My goal was to demystify the process and make it easy for anyone to start applying enamels to their metal clay.
Q. What was most challenging about writing the book?
A. Time!!! Or a lack there of. While writing this book I was still running Pinzart, working trade shows, and raising a family. Life doesn't slow down and make time for you while you are writing. During the year I worked on the book, we weathered the storms of a manuscript due right during the holidays, edits due right during my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, and the loss of a family member.
I learned to schedule time for writing and to make it a priority. When a deadline is months away, it's easy to think you have plenty of time, but that's an illusion. Every day counts.