Ceramic Beadmaking classes 2017

If you’re in the UK and would like to learn how to make ceramic beads, I will be running a ceramic bead making class again at the Flame Off in Uttoxeter. The full day class is held on the 1st June, with taster sessions on the 2nd & 3rd.

 

 

Main Class Thursday

This full day class will have a seashore theme.

In the first part of the class, you will begin by learning how to make ceramic beads, pendants and cabochons, learn the basic techniques, and progress to stamping, carving and sculpting clay to add more detail. You will have plenty of opportunity to develop your own ideas. We’ll hopefully have time to make all of the designs shown here.

After lunch, (you will need to bring a packed lunch for yourself) the second part of the class will focus on glazing and decoration to bring your designs to life with colour.

This class is suitable for all from beginners to those with some experience. Your beads will need to be fired twice, so will be forwarded to you 7-10 days after the class.

The cost for the full day class is £85 including all materials and firings.

Click here to book a place on the full day class.

 

Taster classes Friday & Saturday

 

This short class will give you a taster of creating ceramic beads. You will be shown some basic techniques to create beads, pendants or cabochons with a floral theme, or get creative and follow your own ideas using the techniques shown.

Your beads will need to be fired twice, so will be glazed in a single colour and forwarded to you 7-10 days after the class. Alternatively, if you’d like to decorate them yourself, you can book a place on the Saturday class to complete your designs.

The cost for the taster class is £45 including all materials and firing.

Click here to book a taster class

 

Hope to see you there! 🙂 

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A new approach to etching metal

Quite a few people have been asking how I transfer such sharp designs to copper when creating my popper cuffs, so I thought I’d put it out there for everyone to share… Hope someone finds this useful! 🙂

I purchased everything I needed for etching a couple of years ago when a friend of mine kindly shared how to do it. (check out http://www.annamcdade.co.uk/ her work is incredible!)  I managed to make a couple of things, but never really got on with the process of transferring designs to the metal to be etched.

Part of the process involved taping up the back of the metal so that it would be protected from the chemicals… so during a brainwave moment, I realised that I could cut the designs from sticky backed vinyl and use that as a resist on the metal.

My designs are cut using a Silhouette Cameo. For anyone that doesn’t know, a Cameo is a craft machine used to cut paper, fabric, vinyl and much more for all sorts of crafts. It’s pretty much the same as a printer, but rather than printing it uses a tiny blade to cut out the designs. To find out more of the kinds of things you can do with the machine see here http://www.silhouetteamerica.com/?page=what-can-you-make I think you’ll agree that you need one!!!

If your budget won’t stretch that far, this process will also work with hand cut designs. Use a really sharp scalpel and medium pressure to cut the vinyl without going through the backing paper.

Here’s a step by step of how I transfer a design to metal using vinyl…

 

etch 01

 

  1. Copper blanks cut from sheet. Here they still have the protective film on. Leave this on while you sand and file the edges to make sure there aren’t any sharp bits. It will protect the copper surface from being scratched with your tools. Once you are happy with your finish, remove the tape and give them a good clean. I use a scouring pad and washing up liquid. You will know they are perfectly clean when the water sits on them like a skin. If the water breaks on the metal, you still have grease or dirt on them so keep cleaning! Leave them to dry on kitchen roll and try not to touch them as oils from your skin will create a barrier from the etching chemicals.

etch 01a

  1. While they’re drying out, open your designs up in Silhouette Studio (the software provided with the cutter), size them to fit your blanks.

etch 02

  1. Here are the cut designs. these were then taped up with transfer paper ( like masking tape, but less sticky!) ready to stick them to the copper blanks.

etch 03

  1. The designs were cut to size once on the transfer paper and pressed on to the blanks. Make sure to give them a good rub down so that they stick well. This is where your cleaning the metal helps, any areas that aren’t stuck down will allow the etch solution to seep underneath and spoil the design. Tape up the backs of the blanks with more vinyl to stop the etch penetrating both sides.

etch 04

  1. To etch the designs, I use Edinburgh etch solution. This is made from ferric chloride and citric acid. It is a lot safer than other solutions used for etching, but safety precautions should still be taken and never empty used fluid down your drain!!! Once mixed up, it should last for a long time, it’s yellow when you start out, but mine’s turned green after being used so much. The recipe is based on the overall ratio of; 4/5 saturated ferric chloride solution (40%).1/5 citric acid solution which consists of 3/4 tap water and 1/4 Citric acid powder.The blanks are suspended with tape upside down in the solution. They are upside down so that the copper removed during the process falls off the blank and creates a nice clean design.

 

  1. Check every half an hour or so to see how they’re progressing and when you’re happy with the depth of the etch, remove them from the solution. Drop them in to a solution of bicarbonate of soda and water to halt the etching process. At this point, if you’d just like plain copper cuffs you can remove the vinyl design and begin to shape and polish them. But I want my cuffs to be coloured, so I dropped alcohol inks into the recesses and left them to dry.

etch 05

 

  1. Once they’ve dried (I left these overnight) remove the vinyl design and give them a buff with a soft cloth to remove any flaky bits of ink and coat with renaissance wax to seal. I then polished up the backs and sealed again with the wax. They are now ready to be shaped in to cuffs. I set these with popper settings to use with my lampwork poppers, but you can leave them plain, rivet elements to them, or whatever takes your fancy

etch 06

 

  1. Here’s one finished off and ready to go!

 

etch

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, leave me a comment if you have any questions, and if you’d like to own one my cuffs, I will be taking lots along to the Flame Off show at Silverstone and listing afterwards in my Etsy Shop!

 

 

Caroline x

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Artisan Whimsy- making stamps & moulds

You may or may not have seen from my earlier post that I’m a member of the Creative bead chat group… they have recently formed a new social network called Artisan Whimsy. It’s a great place where like minded people gather to share their knowledge, help each other out, show off and generally have a good time.

As a member of the ceramics team, I was asked to write a blog post about something to do with clay. For those of you who missed it, or aren’t a member, here’s what I wrote about…

Making stamps & moulds

Despite being a complete sceptic, I’m a typical Aries, which means although I’m creative, I’m also lazy and will find the easiest way to do something. I think that’s why I love clay so much, you can be as impatient as you like with it and still create something great!

So in my quest for less effort and to produce consistent results, I’ve been trying out different ways to make stamps for impressing textures and designs in to clay and generally speeding up the process of filling my big kiln. There are loads more ways of creating stamps and texture sheets, but here’s a few I’ve tried for my designs…

 

 

My first try was with plaster of Paris, making a master form in polymer clay, then creating a two sided mould for pressing beads. To make them, I used the small, deep really useful plastic boxes. Fill up to an inch with plaster and as it starts to harden pop the master in so it’s sitting half way in. Once this side has dried, top up the box with plaster so the master is completely covered. While the plaster is still wet, use a paintbrush to rub over the design inside the plaster. This will remove any air bubbles and give you a nice sharp design. Once the top’s dry, pop the whole lot out and the two sides will separate. Pop out the master and leave to completely dry for a couple of days.

These worked great and transferred detail really well, but broke easily and took a few hours to make. They last a long time if you’re gentle with them though.

 

 

Then I tried polymer clay. Making a form, then a mould from the form, baking to harden and then using with clay. My first attempt with using the mould failed miserably, I didn’t dust the mould with anything to release it, so ended up picking all the wet clay out and washing and drying it again before I could use it. Once I’d sorted out how to use it properly, it worked really well. I have a few that I made over a year ago that are still going strong. They transfer detail perfectly and are rigid while you’re using them so you can wedge your clay in easily to make sure you fill it up properly, but as I mentioned earlier… make sure you dust them well to get your design out in one piece!

 

 

Next I tried a new product ‘Oyumaro’ It’s a mould making compound that works by dropping one or more of the plastic sticks in to boiling water. After a minute it becomes squidgy and can be pressed onto anything you wish to make your mould from. It sets as it cools and holds detail fairly well, but can be a bit fiddly to use. It’s better for making texture plates than a full shaped mould, and great for making a quick reverse image of a stamp. It will stay in the shape you have made it until you drop it in hot water again. Great because it’s re-usable, can be cut and can produce huge sheets by melting lots of sticks together!

 

 

 

And finally, I tried styrofoam. I got this in sheets from a craft supplier. This makes more of a stamp than a mould. To use, I printed my design on to a sheet of paper, then cut a piece of styrofoam to fit. Put the paper with design facing up onto the foam and draw around the lines with a ball point pen. This will transfer a light design on to the foam which you can then deepen using your pen or a stylus tool (don’t press too hard and rip the foam). To transfer, put it on your clay and give it a quick roll over.

The finished design is fairly detailed, but not fantastically neat. For a rustic style, I’d say it’s ideal. A quick whizz over with a wet paintbrush will neaten everything up.

I don’t know how long these will last, the styrofoam is quite brittle, but it holds the shape you have carved in it really well. I think thicker blocks, carved with a sharp knife would create some great, more solid designs.

 

So there you have it… some quick, and not so quick ways of getting your unique and original designs on to clay.

I hope this has been useful and maybe saved you a bit of time and effort!

 

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Building a Raku Kiln

 

Hello again… it’s been a while!

 

I don’t think I’m very good at this blogging lark! Any spare time I get, you’ll usually find me up to my elbows in clay. But every so often when I do remember I have a blog, there’s always lots to say, so here’s a peek at what I’ve been doing…

I decided to make my own Raku kiln… I’ve no idea if it will work, and typically when I’d finished it started raining, so I’ve only had a quick go ( just to test that it didn’t explode or anything), but I’ve taken pictures as I’ve gone along coz I thought it might be interesting! 🙂

 

So here’s the ingredients…

  • A metal bin with lid from Ikea (I use an identical one for the reduction part of the firing)
  • Ceramic fibre blanket
  • A long arm propane burner
  • Ceramic buttons and Nichrome wire for securing the blanket to the bin
  • Tools
  • Gloves & facemask for cutting the blanket.

A note about the fibre blanket… it’s nasty stuff, I’m still itching from handling it, and that was yesterday morning! You should never breathe in the dust that comes off it and a mask and gloves are essential.

So to start, I cut a circular hole 2 inches wider than the burner on the side of the bin and a slightly smaller one in the lid.

Then I marked even spaces around the sides and drilled holes for the buttons and wire to be fastened in.

It’s a bit mucky in this picture because I had to empty the reduction bin into it the other day when I forgot how many hare beads I’d put in! Note for future, always count what you’ve got! I did give it a clean up after the cutting. I used my Dremel drill with metal cutting discs to cut the holes, I also wore a full face visor mask type thing and welders gloves for this bit… there were a lot of sparks!

I made these buttons from stoneware clay. The nichrome wire goes through them and the blanket, through the holes in the bin, and are bent out to secure it all together.

 

This is what the bin looks like now all the buttons have been fastened through it. The bricks at the bottom are to hold the kiln shelf which will lift everything I’m firing above the flame.

 

I filled the lid with a circle of the blanket too, so that when it’s on, it will create a good seal and get the heat going nice and quickly. Once they were all fastened in, I cut the blanket out of the burner and vent holes.

The last job was to make the kiln shelf. As I’m too tight to buy a round one, I cut it from a square one I had, again using my dremel drill (that thing’s worth it’s weight in gold!) and about 15 cutting discs… they’re pretty tough to get through!

 

The shelf went in on the bricks, I put the lid on and lit the burner! It was a bit scary, but sure I’ll get used to it after a few goes. The heat that comes from it is amazing, definitely not something I’ll be doing with the kids around!

 

So the only job left to do is a proper firing. Hopefully, I’ll get a couple of hours to play over the weekend… but for now, I have tons to do for my next fair. I’ll be at Haydock racecourse for the Beads up North Fair on Sunday 29th July… Hope to see you there!

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