Copper clay …first attempt

I’ve been taking it really easy for the past couple of days. With the Olympic starting last weekend, I’ve done next to nothing except watch and support Great Britain. Even though things were a bit slow for Team GB, they really did very well today, getting medals in Cyling Track and Canoe Slalom/Kayaking. The medal count rose dramatically from 6 or so yesterday to 15 today. Amazing!

In the midst of it all, I managed to open the package of copper clay I’ve had for months now and made a few pieces. The brand I bought is Copprclay made by Metal Clay Adventures. I love the look of copper, and the fact that it takes patina beautifully, but I’ve never wanted to work with it because firing can be a hassle (as with all base metal clays). Not only can they take forever to fire, but also, the results are not guaranteed like the fine silver clays (it took almost 10 test firings and lots of research for me to get to an almost fool-proof schedule for Fastfire Bronzclay). That said, I was tempted to try copper clay after coming across Wanaree Tanner‘s blog and copper clay firing guide.

Unlike the silver clays which are a dream to fire, firing base metal clays successfully depends on a multitude of things – type of kiln, firing container, type of carbon, etc. So, after making a few pieces and of course, a test piece (very important with base metal clays so as not to ruin your masterpiece either due to under/over firing, distortions, etc.), I put my 5 cards thick test piece (approx. 6/16″ by 1 9/16″) and a pair of 3 cards thick earrings (approx. 1/4″ by 1 13/16″) in the kiln to fire.

I noticed the following while constructing the pieces:
1. It remained somewhat flexible even after drying, so corrections can be made with care.
2. It also carved easily as I tried my newly-acquired Dockyard carving tool on a piece (not anything tech, more like drawing lines really). Carving silver clay can be a little tricky as it can chip easily in the dry stage.
3. It warped while drying especially on my mug warmer, but I was able to correct it by placing a heavy book on it as well as gently using my fingers to re-shapen. From what I saw, the warp formed in the first few minutes when the clay was quite wet, and formed a concave shape. I then removed it from the mug warmer and pressed it down gently in the middle before putting it back.
4. Joining dry parts require more paste, and it has to be of a thick consistency, or parts will fall off. I’d read about this and was prepared. I used a mixture of thick paste and slightly running paste with a drop of lavender oil in it.
5. It took longer to get to the firing stage as I had to combine air-drying with my mug warmer to prevent warping.

Just heard the sound of the kiln telling me it’s finished firing. I’ll leave checking the pieces till tomorrow, and in the meantime pray that by some stroke of luck, I got it first time. Tomorrow will tell.