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Metal clay and polymer clay pendant

Metal clay dances with its polymer-clay counterpart in this pas de deux
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant template
Pattern

The literal translation for the French phrase “pas de deux” is “step of two” and has come to mean a relationship involving two parties, though it’s most often applied to a passionate ballet performed by two dancers. In the latter case, when a female is partnered in such a dance, she can jump higher and take positions impossible in a solo performance. In return, the male performer gets to show off his strength and extend his bodyline, something also not possible when dancing by himself.

In this partnering of metal and polymer clays, both elements can stand alone, but combined, they take each other to ecstatic new heights. The lovely gradation of the polymer-clay inserts is easy to mistake for enamel. The bold colors are perfectly set off by the seductive glow of silver.

SUPPLIES

  • 2 acetate sheets, clear or matte
  • Metal clay, 72–80g
  • Metal-clay paper, 2x2 inches (5.1x5.1cm)
  • Metal-clay slip or paste
  • Polymer clay, 1 ounce (28g) yellow
  • Polymer clay, 1 ounce (28g) orange
  • Sterling-silver wire: 18-gauge, 4 inches (10.2cm)
  • 6 sterling-silver jump rings
  • Sterling-silver wire: 22-gauge, 33 inches (83.8cm)
  • 50 dyed coral beads, 3x6mm
  • Sterling-silver chain, 24 inches (61cm)
  • Sterling-silver S-hook clasp
  • Tape
  • Craft knife, stencil cutter, or scalpel
  • Plastic sheet protector
  • Olive oil
  • Acrylic rod or PVC pipe
  • Playing cards
  • Plastic wrap
  • Jeweler’s files, small
  • Atomizer or small spray bottle
  • Tissue blade
  • Bamboo skewer, 1⁄16-inch-diameter (1.59mm)
  • Small brush
  • Bowl of water
  • Thick cardboard
  • Sandpaper or polishing paper, 400- to 2000-grit
  • Tubes or straws, 3–6.5mm diameter
  • Kiln, ceramic-fiber shelf
  • Brass brush, soft
  • Tumbler with stainless-steel shot and burnishing compound
  • Pasta machine*
  • Photocopier
  • Plastic bag
  • Freezer
  • Toaster oven*
  • Rubber-tipped clay tool
  • Polishing lathe, cotton buffing wheel
  • Roundnose pliers
  • Wire cutters

* Dedicated to nonfood use only.

INSTRUCTIONS

Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 1
Step 1
Template A on the left, Template B on the right
1. Make the templates. Create your own design, or use the template, above. Place a sheet of clear or matte acetate over the design and tape it in place so the drawing will not move as you cut out the template.

Use a craft knife, stencil cutter, or scalpel to cut out the interior pieces from the template. Do not cut around the outer edge; leave a large border around the template. This is Template A. Set this template aside.

Place another piece of acetate over the drawing and tape it in place. This time cut around the outer edge of the design. This is Template B.

Roll out the metal clay. Start with 36–40g of metal clay. Work on a lightly oiled surface, such as a plastic sheet protector. Use an acrylic rod and playing cards to roll the clay into a square 3 cards thick.
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 2
Step 2
2. Cut out the top layer. Lightly oil the back of Template A and place it on top of the metal clay, pressing it gently so it does not slide around. Use a craft knife to cut around the openings, but do not remove the cutouts yet. Remove the template. Position Template B and cut around the outer edge of the pendant. Remove the excess metal clay from the perimeter of the pendant and store properly for future use. Remove the template.

Next, carefully remove the metal-clay cutout pieces, but do not pick up or move the pendant or you may distort its shape. 

Allow the piece to dry to a leather-hard state.
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 3
Step 3
3. Refine the top layer. Use small jeweler’s files to smooth the edges of the openings. Do not file or sand around the outer edge of the pendant.
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 4
Step 4
4. Cut out the bottom layer. Roll out another 36–40g of clay to a thickness of 3 playing cards. Use an atomizer to lightly mist the top of this metal-clay slab with plain water, being careful not to overwet the clay. Lightly mist the back of the cutout piece. Gently press the misted sides together. Allow the clay to air dry slightly. When the solid slab is firm, but not hard, trim away the excess metal clay from the outer edge. Keep your cutting tool perpendicular to the clay so you do not undercut the bottom piece. Allow the pendant to air dry completely.
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 5
Step 5

5. Make the bail. Use a tissue blade to cut the square of metal-clay paper in half. Mist the two halves lightly and press the moist sides together gently. Allow the metal clay to dry.

Lay a 1⁄16-inch-diameter (1.59mm) bamboo skewer on a long edge of the metal-clay paper. Moisten the opposite long edge of the clay paper with water. Roll all of the clay paper around the rod. Secure the clay paper into a long tube by pressing the moist edge against the dry clay. Set the tube aside to dry.

Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 6
Step 6
6. Finish the edges and sides. Brush metal-clay slip around the edges of the pendant to fill in the seam. When dry, go over the edges with a flat file and then sand the edges until the seam is no longer visible. Place a piece of fine-grit sandpaper or polishing paper (400-grit or higher) on your work surface, lay the pendant on it, and move the pendant in a figure-eight  motion to sand it. Turn the pendant over and repeat.
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 7
Step 7
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 8
Step 8
7–8. Cut out one or more openings. If you want to add dimensionality to your pendant, create open areas. This step is optional, and it requires a very gentle hand when cutting out the dry metal-clay sections. Place the pendant face up on a piece of thick cardboard. Using a scalpel or craft knife, lightly run it around the perimeter of the area you want to remove. Do not attempt to cut all the way through the dry clay at one time; it may take five or six tries. Repeat with a second area if you desire. Use a file to smooth the rough edges.
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 9
Step 9

9. Make and adhere clay circles. Press a tube or straw into a metal-clay slab to cut out a small circle. Make 4–6 more circles of varying sizes with different straws/tubes. Allow them to dry to a leather-hard state.

Determine where to position the circles in the recessed areas. Brush slip on the back of the circles and brush a little water on the pendant where the circles will go. Put the circles slip-side down on the moist areas and gently press the pieces together. Dry the piece.

Place the pendant face down on 400-grit sandpaper and sand it using a circular motion. To achieve the finish quality of the pendant shown, it is important that the front is completely level and without imperfections. Repeat with progressively finer grits of sandpaper.

Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 10
Step 10

10. Adhere the bail. Run a line of slip along the top edge of the pendant. Lightly moisten the joint line on the bail and press the pendant and bail together. Use a brush to remove excess slip. Allow the slip to dry.

Fire the pendant. Fire the pendant face up on a ceramic-fiber kiln shelf according to the manufacturer’s instructions for the type of metal clay used.

Burnish and polish. When the pendant is cool, burnish it with a soft brass brush to remove the white appearance that the silver acquired after it sintered. Place it in a tumbler with stainless-steel shot and burnishing compound for at least 30 minutes.

Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 11
Step 11

11. Make polymer-clay insets. The insets in this project were created by blending yellow and orange polymer clay, and then rolling the blended-clay piece out to a #5 setting on an Atlas pasta machine. You may want to choose other blends, or to use a single color. 

Put the polished pendant frame face down on a photocopy machine and make a copy. Cut out the image, removing most of the outer edge of the pendant. Cut the image into distinct sections, so you can adjust the placement of the blend. (The open spaces in the design can also be cut away.)

Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 12
Step 12

12. Place the sections on the polymer clay so it looks like the colors radiate from the center of the pendant.

 

Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 13
Step 13

13. Use a craft knife to cut through the paper into the polymer clay, removing just the insets and ignoring the silver outlines.

Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 14
Step 14
Metal clay and polymer clay pendant 15
Step 15

14–15. Position the polymer-clay insets. Position the insets on the pendant frame. Do not worry if they don’t fit exactly, or if they are higher than the silver cells. Use an acrylic rod to roll over the polymer clay, pushing it into the cells without pressing too hard. Put the pendant in a plastic bag and place it in a freezer for at least 30 minutes, so the polymer clay is firm and cold.

Use a tissue blade to slice across the top of the pendant, removing excess polymer clay. Keep the blade level as you cut. Use a rubber-tipped tool to gently remove the excess clay from the silver framework.

Bake and polish the polymer clay. Use a toaster oven to bake the piece according to the manufacturer’s directions for the type of polymer clay used. When it is cool, wet-sand the piece with progressively finer-grit sandpaper, starting with 400-grit and working through 2000-grit. Work in a bowl of water and change the water frequently to keep the polymer from streaking. Dry the pendant when finished. Next, polish it on a lathe using a cloth wheel (do not use polishing compound).

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