Tracey Spurgin
Metal Clay Artist and tutor

What is Metal Clay?
Silver clay was the first metal clay to venture onto the market.
It is silver that is reclaimed from industrial processes such as the film and medical industries. Using various lengthy processes to reclaim the silver, it is ground to a fine powder mixed with an organic binder and water.

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The resulting product looks and handles like a soft putty or clay. The clay can be presented in different forms; lump clay, paste, or in a syringe to apply details and accuracy.

Tracey trained in fashion design and textiles.
She started making wedding dresses then moved to work in various crafts with all sorts of media. She later became an adult education teacher in arts and crafts. Her discovery of metal clay came accidentally, but has been her devoted passion ever since.
Here’s what she told us: I feel very lucky to have studied under the world’s best artists in metal clay. Each one has been such a highlight, however when I travelled to Japan it was such an honour to train with the Japanese masters at the factory and offices of Aida, the makers of Art Clay Silver. The experience will be a memory I treasure forever.
In the beginning when I began to work in silver clay there were two brands in just one metal.
Now the metal clay family has grown with many brands of base metals too. The challenge is keeping up to date with the rapid growth. But I still prefer to work with my first love of silver.
The challenge is always to push myself on a journey of discovery and to find a technique or skill I have not tried before; to create projects that I can go on to share and teach in a workshop. I currently find myself being drawn into creating pieces that have movement and mechanism such as hinges and locks.
I predominantly teach, and focus all my attention on running and teaching at the Craftworx studio, or demonstrating at shows, writing project tutorials, or giving talks and presentations at venues across the UK. This leaves little time for working as a production artist to make-to-sell. I do sell my creations on a small scale at the events I attend, usually nearer to Christmas as well as through two local galleries, Three times a year I open my studio doors for open studio events where the visiting public are invited to browse and shop with all eight of the artists located at the studios on the farm. The location is a stunning area to work in, just outside the picture postcard village of Bishop Burton.
Metal clay is very user friendly and needs only a minimal amount of inexpensive tools to work with, at least initially. Over time, like many skill based crafts, you add to your tools and equipment collection.

There are several process and foundation skills that need to be learnt to start working in metal clay. The first thing to observe is that the clay has a limited working time of about 2-3 minutes out of the packet, so it is essential that you have a clear objective or design of what you intend to create. Once the clay has been rolled, textured, shaped or moulded into the desired design, it is left to dry. This can be done naturally, or pop the item into a domestic oven to dry on a low heat of approximately 120ºC for about 20 minutes.
Once it is fully dried it is like a piece of fine plaster, but at this stage you can use files or sanding grits to refine the edges and shape the piece. For more complex constructions, at this plaster dry stage, pieces can also start to be assembled using a little silver clay paste.
Once you have the piece as you would like to see it as a piece of fine silver jewellery, then it is ready for firing. This can be done with a kitchen blow torch, on a gas hob, or in a programmable kiln. During this process the organic binder is burned away and the fine silver particles fuse together to become one solid metal. The end result is Hallmark quality fine silver jewellery. After firing, the piece is white in colour and ready for polishing. A gentle brass brush is the initial start. Then you can progress with tumblers, polishing wheels, or hand-held rotary drills.
A final polish with a soft cloth and polish will be required to complete the piece. As fine silver jewellery it can also have sterling silver soldered to it too.
This is my advice if you think you would like to give Metal clay a try. Metal clay is an amazing material to work with, however it is an expensive product and learning the hard way through trial and error can be hard on the pocket. We all want good value for money so find a good quality course with a qualified instructor, as they will be able to give you plenty of sound advice so as to avoid the costly mistakes. Do your homework and compare who offers what.
Also check where their facilities are located, what facilities are there for parking, disabled access etc. What is included in the cost of the course? What will you be making? Is the clay and jewellery findings included? What will you be taking home? Insurances? Read the terms and conditions when you book.
When you have found the right class for you, relax and enjoy.

Happy claytime.

To see more of Tracey’s work or find out about her workshops and classes please log onto the following:
www.craftworx.co.uk
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mob: 07961 883115
Facebook: Tracey Spurgin or Craftworx

 

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