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A First and Another First

In 2013, I was the first artist to ever combine the techniques of fold-forming and metal clay in a single piece. It's cool to be the first person to have done something, considering how long humanity has been on this rock hurtling through our solar system. Fold-forming didn't really come about until the late 1980s, and metal clay wasn't invented until the 1990s, so to be fair, the combination of those two techniques has only been possible within the last two decades. Still, I'm glad I thought to do it. Here's an example of one of the pieces I did:

Seeds and Sprouts cuff bracelet, 2013. Fine silver, peridot.

This bracelet has a fold-formed ridge that runs the length of the cuff, and is also anti-clast formed for extra curvature and hammered for added texture. Then I formed the flowers, leaves, etc. using silver metal clay and natural peridot stones. (When fired, metal clays become solid metal so this bracelet is 100% silver.)

More recently, I had created a pendant cap to hold a quartz crystal. This piece was made from copper, and looked fine in copper, but I wanted to try something. I wanted it to look like gold. In fact, I wanted it to look like tumbaga, a copper and gold alloy used in pre-Columbian South America that is a rich, warm orange-ish gold color. My idea: coat my copper piece with gold metal clay paste and then fire it to fuse the gold to the copper. This gold paste was designed to be used only with silver, however. I had no way of knowing if it would fuse to copper. If I attempted this and it didn't work, it would be a costly mistake. But I reminded myself of a favorite quote:

"The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried."
—Stephen McCranie

So I decided to go for it.

I'd heard about a very experienced metalsmith and teacher (Chris Darway) who had successfully fused gold metal clay paste to sheet copper, so I suspected that if it could be done using his technique, it could also be done another way, with a much more three-dimensional object. My experiment worked. It didn't quite mimic tumbaga as this is piece is one metal fused to another, vs. alloyed together, but maybe I'll work on another idea I had to approximate that look, next time.

The Clarity Amplifier pendant, 2015. 22K gold over copper, natural quartz crystal, 2.5 inches (approx 60mm) long.

So this success is another first. I'm the first person ever to fuse gold and copper together in a three-dimensional object using metal clay techniques. As I mentioned, it's fun to be first, but I'm more excited that it worked, as this opens up more creative opportunities for me and all other metal artists.


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