Green Man: Using Porcelain with Metal Clay


The Green Man is a foliate mask, a human face made up of leaves. The image is traditional throughout Europe. While I am going to talk about making a Green Man pendant, the real point is incorporating porcelain into silver clay pieces.

Porcelain and metal clay don’t sound like they would go together. However, there are many ways to incorporate porcelain into silver clay pieces. I’m going to talk about the most basic one, where a metal clay piece is built around a porcelain core.

First of all, when building metal clay around porcelain (or glass), one needs to remember that metal clay shrinks when it is fired. Thus, you need to leave just a little space around the porcelain, so the shrinking metal clay does not cause it to break. For this piece, I used Art Clay silver, because it shrinks the least of any metal clay of which I am aware. This means that you need to leave relatively little space for shrinking, although you still need some. Secondly, I am going to give you a firing schedule that works for me. I am not claiming it is the only one, or even the best one – it just works for me.

The first think I did was to acquire a porcelain disk. Any type of porcelain would word. The disk I used is a sort available in many craft shops. Then, I built the Green Man face atop it. The leaves were made from molds, with the addition decoration using syringe. The nose was sculpted. The eyes were blue CZ in a Marquis cut. I’m not going to go over the details.


Next, I added some silver on the back to make sure that the porcelain would hold when the metal clay fired.

20190430_084122Once a bail was added, this back would work. However, it is not terribly attractive. The solution? To mold another leaf and attach to the back.


After finishing the greenware, I used denatured alcohol to clean the porcelain and the CZs. As you work, you get tiny amounts of silver dust on your project. If this is fired on the gems or porcelain, it will make them cloudy. I then fired the piece. If porcelain (or glass) changes temperature too fast, it can shatter. Thus, I ramped up at 800 degrees F/hour to a temperature of 1200 degrees F. Glass can only get so hot without starting to soften. I do not think this is true of porcelain, but am not certain, so I decided to play it safe and low fire the silver. Since a pendant won’t be subject to too much stress, low firing is sufficient. I let the piece sit at 1200 degrees F for 45 minutes. I then ramped down, again at 800 degrees F/hour, to a temperature of 600 degrees F. Then I ended the firing.

After the piece had cooled enough to handle, I brushed, tumbled, and applied a LoS patina, as usual.



Above, you see what the finished piece looks like, front and back.

Combining porcelain into your metal clay gives you new frontiers to explore. Further, incorporating glass is very similar (but not identical! — glass will stick to your kiln shelf if you don’t take the proper steps, which will be discussed in some other posting). There are other ways to use porcelain in silver clay as well as the basic one I discuss here. I will talk about some of them in a later posting.