Sunday, February 19, 2012

Copper and Polymer Clay

This is a piece I have been working on for the past couple of weeks (off and on of course).  Celie Fago has some lovely pieces she combines with polymer clay.  Some day I want to take a class from her and learn how she makes those lovely textures in polymer, but that's getting off track.

So, I wanted to create my own way of combining the two.  It didn't seem interesting enough to just let the polymer show through holes in the clay, so I came up with a design that would allow me to roll a sheet of polymer clay and impress it into the fired metal clay so that it would come up through the holes.  It was a bit of a challenge.  The first time I tried it looked great, but in messing around with it to make the back smooth I totally messed up the clay coming through the front.  So, I spent probably an hour cleaning it out.  That was fun.  Not!  After I was pleased with how much had squished through the front, I decided not to touch the back side.  I baked it in the oven for 15 minutes at 375 degrees to cure the polymer.  I was curious to see if it would mess up my patina on the copper, which it did not. 

After completing the copper clay design and polymer clay experiment, I let the piece sit on my bench for a week or two.  I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it next.  The back was all lumpy and ugly.  After smoothing it out with some course sandpaper, it looked okay - not great though and it was thin and fragile.  So, I cut out a sheet of bronze a little bit larger than my piece and sanded the heck out of it.  That took way longer than necessary!  Very frustrating!  I really do need to take a class in fine finishing metal.  All I had to do the job was a few sheets of sandpaper in various grits.

With the back plate sanded, it was time for some kind of attachment.  I toyed with simply soldering on a large handmade jump ring, but that seemed boring.  It probably would have looked better than what I chose...  Lots of regrets in this piece, but plenty of learning opportunities!  You can see that I soldered on a forged piece of copper wire.  I soldered it from the back and the solder came through to the front (probably too much solder).  It's a little bit messy - nothing that a little liver of sulphur won't cover up, but that would ruin the finish on the copper piece - should have done that before the pieces went together.  Shucks!

Next came the rivets.  I've made rivets before, but I'm not really all that good at it.  (Practice makes perfect you know, and this is technically just practice.)  Another class I want to take!  As you can see in the photo, the bottom right rivet just wanted to lay down.  It was feeling like me - rather pooped.  It was probably 11:30 p.m. by the time I got to riveting.  Unfortunately, in the process of riveting, I marred the lovely patina on the copper.  Fixing it would ruin the patina (which came from the flame of a torch).  But, I may try to sand out the blemishes and "age" the piece with some liver of sulphur, since I don't have anything to lose at this point. Who knows, I may like it better after all the blemishes are covered up.

The moral of the story...  Not everything turns out like you plan.  This is just one of those things.  It all looked so wonderful in my head, but that's the way the ball bounces.  You like some things you make, and you hate others.  This one is somewhere in between.  I'll report back on the modifications if I decide to make them.  If not, you'll probably never see this piece again.


  1. I'm glad you took the time to write about this. I too make extensive projects that from time to time never turn out the way it was thought out in my head. Sometimes they're a success others, not so much. I've even added and changed things I've made.
    Great job on riveting!

  2. Thanks for your encouragement Anise. This was a great piece to experiment with. It's probably not as bad as I think it is - the perfectionist that I am!