Making a pair of colored metal clay earrings

Finished product
Finished product

Metal is great. Patinaed metal is great. Enameled metal is great. But sometimes you want a drop of color that is not quite enamel. These earrings are an example of how to do that. The pattern was a throwback to my hippie youth of many decades ago. Of course the same idea works with any pattern.

Figure 1. A raised texture on a smooth background.
Figure 1. A raised texture on a smooth background.

Step 1. Roll the clay to a thickness of 1.5mm. Yes, this is really thick for earrings. All will be made well. Lubricate a texture sheet (the one in the photo is not the one I used in the piece, but the actual sheet used didn’t photograph well). Lubricate a template. Lay the template atop the texture sheet, lubricated side up. Roll to a thickness of 0.75 mm. This will result in a textured, raised pattern on a smooth background. Then cut out the desired shape (I used a circle) and make openings for the earwires.

Figure 2. Drying
Figure 2. Drying

Step 2. I like three dimensional earrings. I dried the clay on plastic Easter eggs to give them shape. Afterward, they were cleaned used standard greenware techniques. I fired them at 1500 degrees F for an hour (I was co-firing 960 sterling).

Step 3. Starting to color.
Step 3. Starting to color.

Do not brush the silver after it comes out of the kiln. Instead, after it has cooled, use colored pencils to provide color. The breaks between the different colors will be dramatic. Don’t worry. We’ll fix that later. You can layer, add shadows, whatever.

Figure 4. Color complete.
Step 4. Color complete.

After the color is complete, use a wadded paper towel or similar soft implement to blend colors. The more you rub, the more natural the color will look.

Step 5. Burnish and spray.
Step 5. Burnish and spray.

Brush, with your thumb over the colored pencil. Yes, you will lose some color, but you can go back in and repair it. Tumbling would remove the colored pencil. To make these shiny, you need an agate burnisher (and patience, to work around the corners). Any spots that are not colored can be fixed with the pencils. Now comes the most important part: spray with the same fixative that artists use for colored pencils. Without that, the color will wear off. The spray is available in a variety of forms (e.g. shiny and matte). Use the one you prefer. The spray is pretty noxious, so it is best to hold breath, spray, stand back, and then breath again. Let the spray dry.

Step 6. All done!
Step 6. All done!

Add earwires. I tend to use two jump rings per earring, but it’s completely up to you.

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