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Whimsical metal clay owl pendant

Introductory metal clay project uses basic shapes for sweet charm

In this introductory metal clay project you’ll learn how to sculpt simple shapes, assemble them, and use a tissue blade and a modified coffee stirrer to apply bird-specific markings. Before you sculpt this pendant in metal clay, try making the simple shapes out of polymer clay. Experiment with different sizes, shapes, and surface finishes to create birds with varying gestures and personalities. Once you master the shapes used to create this owl pendant, you’ll have the skills to make a menagerie of animals!

Read the project instructions below, or click here for the free project PDF, which includes additional information on the simple shapes used in the project, metal clay dryness, and metal surface finishes.

Materials 

  • 10 g fine silver metal clay
  • Fine-silver embeddable bail, or fine-silver wire: 16- or 18-gauge (1.3- or 1.0-mm), 25.5 mm (1 in.)
  • Chain with clasp

Additional tools & supplies

  • Coffee stirrer
  • Pliers: roundnose, flatnose (optional)
  • Sanding pads: superfine and ultrafine
  • Liver of sulfur (optional)

Toolboxes:

Instructions

Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 1
Photo 1
Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 2
Photo 2

Form the body. Lightly coat your hands, a flexible Teflon sheet, coffee stirrer, and tissue blade with olive oil or natural hand balm. Roll approximately 8 g of metal clay into a ball with a 19 mm (3/4-in.) diameter. Shape the ball into an oval, and pinch the clay at the bottom of the oval to form the tail. Angle the tail to the left, and taper it to a softly pointed end [1].

Form the wing. Roll a 10 mm (13/32-in.) ball of clay, and shape it into a teardrop. Place the teardrop on the flexible Teflon sheet, and press down on it with your finger to slightly flatten it.

Attach the wing. Dip a fine-tip paintbrush in water, and lightly moisten the left side of the body [2] and one flat side of the wing. Place the narrow end of the wing on top of the pinched tail. Gently wrap the wing up the left side of the body. Press the two pieces together for a few seconds to seal the join.

Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 3
Photo 3
Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 4
Photo 4

Make the wing and body markings. Use a craft knife to cut the end of a plastic coffee stirrer in half lengthwise. Cut and remove half of the cut end of the stirrer.

Press the end of the modified coffee stirrer into the top of the wing to make a semicircular mark [3]. Make two or three rows of these marks on the top one-third of the wing, connecting the ends of each semicircle to create a scalloped pattern.

Use a tissue blade to mark vertical lines on the lower two-thirds of the wing [4] to represent the owl’s flight feathers.

Make three or four horizontal rows of scallops on the owl’s body.

Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 5
Photo 5
Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 6
Photo 6

Attach the eyes. Roll two 5 mm (3/16-in.) balls of metal clay. Moisten the owl’s head, and one side of each ball. Press each ball onto the head to form the eyes, flattening them slightly as you attach them. Press them together for a few seconds. Mark the center of the eyes with a needle tool [5].

Attach the beak. Roll a 3 mm (1/8-in.) ball of metal clay. With your fingertips, form the ball into a teardrop shape [6]. Moisten one side of the teardrop, and attach it to the face below and between the eyes, with the tapered end pointing down. Press the pieces together for a few seconds. 

Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 7
Photo 7
Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 8
Photo 8
Add the feather tufts. Roll a 5 mm (3/16-in.) ball of clay, and shape it into a log. Taper both ends. Moisten the owl’s head above the eyes. Use a needle tool to pick up the tapered log at its midpoint [7], and gently press it onto the head [8]. Hold the pieces together for a few seconds.
Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 9
Photo 9
Whimsical metal clay owl pendant 10
Photo 10

Insert a bail. Insert an embeddable fine-silver bail into the top of the head [9].

NOTE: If you don’t have a fine-silver embeddable bail, you can make your own bail using 16- or 18-gauge (1.3 or 1.0 mm) fine-silver wire. Cut a 25.5 mm (1-in.) piece of wire, and grasp it at its midpoint with roundnose pliers. Bend the wire in half over the jaw of the pliers, then use flat-nose pliers to twist the ends of the wire together a few times below the round-nose pliers’ jaws. Insert the twisted ends into the wet clay.

Reinforce the joins. Carefully brush a little water on each of the points where the eyes, beak, tufts, and wing join the body. Place the owl on a mug warmer, or let it air dry until it’s completely dry.

NOTE: You don’t need to wet the bail area. That join is fine silver against clay, not clay on clay, so the moisture doesn’t help seal the seam.

If necessary, use a toothpick or a clay shaper to apply fresh clay to any gaps in the joins to reinforce the connection [10]. If there are any recessed areas, creases, or cracks in the clay after drying, use a clay shaper to fill these with fresh clay. Again, allow the owl to dry completely.

Refine the pendant. Put on a dust mask, and use a superfine sanding pad to gently refine the surface of the owl, making sure to retain the body’s roundness. Use an ultrafine sanding pad to smooth the body even further.

Fire and finish the pendant. Place the pendant on a kiln shelf, and fire it according to the clay manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the pendant to cool completely in the kiln.

NOTE: A kiln shelf works well for this piece because the back of the owl is flat. For objects that have no flat back, use a kiln-safe fiber blanket. Do not torch-fire this piece; it is quite thick, so it will not sinter well with just a torch.

Sand the surface of the pendant with sandpaper or sandpaper pads, scrub it with a stainless steel or brass brush, or tumble it with steel shot and burnishing compound to give it the texture your desire. Apply a liver of sulfur patina to highlight the texture, and use a polishing cloth or fine-grit sandpaper to remove the patina as desired. Thread a chain through the bail.

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