Authored by Amy Cliser
Rio Grande introduced the new WHITE COPPRclay™ to its line of base-metal clays in 2014, and every clay artist in the building could hardly wait to work with it. Thomas Flores, a member of the Rio Grande Jewelry Tech Team, grabbed some of the first packages and started playing, exploring the limits of the new clay and experimenting with combinations of original COPPRclay™ and WHITE COPPRclay. I cornered him in the tech lab and asked him about what he's discovered in his explorations.
Amy Cliser: What's the first thing you tried with this new clay?
Thomas Flores: I experimented with the properties of the two metals in combination, to see if I could get a bimetal look. There are two great benefits of using them together. First, you can really play around with the pink of the COPPRclay™ and the silvery-gray of the WHITE COPPRclay™, getting cool and warm tones in one piece. Second, you can mix these two metal clays without soldering or double firings.
AC: How have you mixed the two in the pair of earrings pictured above (see Item A)?
TF: I placed strips of COPPRclay™ on top of a wedge of WHITE COPPRclay™. To get the two metal clays to bond, I pressed them together while they were wet. When both surfaces of the clay are wet, just water and pressure will bond them. The contrast here comes from the appliqué effect.
AC: The next piece (item B above) is not appliqué, but has a flattened surface with stripes. How did you achieve that effect?
TF: I used a cane method. I made noodles of both COPPRclay™ varieties, rolled the cane, then cut the cane, split it open, and rolled it flat. That gave me this zebra-stripe pattern, which resulted in stripes that look like rings around a planet.
To make the COPPRclay™ stripes stand out, I oxidized them using Midas brown background antique, which brought out the COPPRclay stripe. It made the warm tones darker, a little browner. In this instance, the darker color catches the eye better than the pale pink. I brought the WHITE COPPRclay™ stripes to a contrasting, high polish using the AdvantEdge™ polishing kit. The wheels in this kit are small, making it easy to polish those areas.
AC: How did you combine WHITE COPPRclay™ and COPPRclay™ in the domed necklace components of item C above?
TF: The base of each component here is a WHITE COPPRclay™ disc. While the discs were still wet, I carved furrows into them and pressed wet original COPPRclay™ into the furrows. When the clay was dry, I sanded the lines so they were even with the surface of the WHITE COPPRclay. When the pieces were fired, the lines became pink.
AC: How did you achieve the matte finish?
TF: I didn't polish it; instead, after it came out, I used sandpaper, which played on the silvery-gray of the WHITE COPPRclay™. Then I heightened the contrast by burnishing the tiny copper lines and they became shiny pink against the silvery-grey, matte background. My favorite burnisher for this task is the Swanstrom double-ended burnisher.
AC: I like the way WHITE COPPRclay™ feels a little retro when you don't bring it to a shiny finish…
TF: Yeah, that's what I was going for with the disc pendants. In this instance, I didn't want to make the WHITE COPPRclay™ look like silver, with a high polish, shiny finish. However, the cool thing is that, if you're looking for an alternative to silver, WHITE COPPRclay is a great choice. Instead of using silver for white, you can use this.
AC: How did you make the concentric circle components in item D, above?
TF: They look like wood stumps, don't they? I rolled out strips, stacked them on top of each other, rolled them up lengthwise, just like you'd make a jelly roll, and then I cut slices.
AC: Where do you get your ideas for manipulating these two clays together?
TF: Some ideas come from techniques I've found in various books. But I also come up with ideas just by playing with the clay, seeing what new combinations come to mind and then trying them.
AC: Did you find other, unusual ways to combine the two types of COPPRclay™ in your designs?
TF: I did. The guitar-pick style components (Item E, above) are made with clay that I "alloyed" together. You can see that the metal is pinker, but the color is very subtle. I mixed the two metal clays more than I meant to, but I liked the effect. So I went with the "alloy" mixed look, and it offers another option for design. I'm not sure what the mixed proportions are because, as I said, this one was serendipity. Hypothetically, if you mixed one part WHITE COPPRclay™ to three parts original COPPRclay™, the result would probably be more intensely pink than what I got. That's just a guess. I encourage everyone to experiment and mix it until they get a color or tone they like.
Another way I combined the two types of COPPRclay™ was simply to use WHITE COPPRclay™ alone, and then, after firing, pair it with other components for contrast during assembly. You can see an example of this in item F, above. It's been fun to see all the ways I can manipulate these two COPPRclays in my designs.
Thanks to Thomas for sharing the great results of his experiments. For another terrific example of these two copper clays in combination, be sure to check out the COPPRclay™ two-tone applique earring project by Yvonne M. Padilla.