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Twisting wire, playing with metal clay and more

What I learned at the 2017 Bead&Button Show

I took a basic metals class with Kieu Pham Gray at the Bead&Button Show in 2016 and learned so much that I decided to take another this year. She is fun and super informative. The latest class was to make the Twisted Twinkle Bracelet which is a lovely stacking piece made out of sterling silver wire. It was the perfect opportunity to practice my soldering and sawing skills.

To twist the wire for the bracelet, Kieu introduced us all to the wire twister tool as shown in this video taken during the class. The tool is available at or you can probably find it at any local hardware store or Harbor Freight.

Kieu is always full of helpful tips. Here are a few of my favorites from the class:

  • Are you a gangster? Huh? You’re holding your torch gangster style. Don’t hold it sideways. Hold it straight up and down. Um, ok.
  • Sawing - Make sure to saw straight up and down. If you’re doing it right, it should cut like butter with little effort.
  • Use stainless steel shot in the tumbler with a little bit of Dawn.

Kieu will be sharing more of her tips with Facet readers in a new video series coming soon.

These are the pieces that I made at the show during Martha's class. I am still deciding whether I am going to patina them.
Some of the many textures that were available to use in Martha Biggar's class.


My second class was “Introduction to Silver Clay with EZ960” with Martha Biggar. Martha, a former middle school teacher, has the well-honed skill of intuitively being able to tell when people need help and the ability to give it to them in an encouraging way with her no-nonsense down-to-earth demeanor. I made several pairs of earrings and a ring (that actually fits!) in the class.

At the beginning of the class, Martha described the different types of metal clay. She explained that EZ960 is a newer product that debuted last spring which only available for sale at EZ960 is PMC3 plus PMC sterling, so it does not need two part mixing. Copper and other added metals is what makes silver tarnish, but this doesn’t happen with the EZ960.

Irina Miech teaching students how to work with metal clay.
Samples of Irina's work from the class.

My first experience with metal clay was an Introduction to Metal Clay class at Eclectica taught by Irina Miech. She is a true master who creates organic looking masterpieces with ease like these metal clay pods. My favorite part was learning how to use metal clay in a syringe to add details to my pieces. It is one of her signature mediums and she likens it to cake decorating.

I learned a lot during Irina’s class, but had problems with rolling the clay too thin. As you can probably guess, I’m not too good rolling pie crusts or sugar cookies, either. I was using a wooden roller which is one of the most basic tools of the trade.

However, when I walked into Martha’s class, she had glass rollers sitting on the supply table. I’d never seen glass rollers before. Well, there’s a reason for that! Martha’s husband, Ed, makes them in his glass blowing studio. I loved them! Problem solved. The glass roller prevented me from putting more pressure on the middle area like I did with the wood roller. I suppose for some physics-related reason, the pressure was more evenly distributed with the glass roller. All of my metal clay came out the right thickness.

The rest of the class was pretty similar to the one I took with Irina, except there were a few of Martha’s homegrown tips to share. Here are my top four:

  • After pulling the metal clay out of the bag, close and tuck the remaining bag of unused metal clay under your thigh to keep the air out.
  • Keep a thin layer of oil on everything.
  • When applying a texture, simply push back and forth a little bit.
  • Apply texture to the back of all of your metal clay pieces for a more finished look.
Ed Biggar's glass roller
Every year I learn something new at the Bead&Button Show. I already have my list of classes for next year sorted out in my head based on seeing the completed projects from my friends. I can't wait for the 2018 class schedule to be released.  
FIND MORE: wire , metal clay , bracelets , earrings , rings

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