On my days off, I love to browse the charity shops to look at any interesting bric-a-brac but also to look at the books they have on offer. On one of this occasion last year, I picked up a book titled ‘The Jeweller’s Art: An Introduction to the Hull Grundy gift to the British Museum’. The cover enticed me but the content blew me away. It’s completely mind-blowing how intricate pieces like these can be created without any modern technology. It got me wondering if the medium of metal clay could produce similar results.
I’ve been making metal clay jewellery for a while now and I am still amazed by the versatility of this material. There is so much to learn and every time I experiment with this medium, it throws up a lot of surprises. It’s almost like magic but with science behind it. So I decided to make the jaguars from the book.
I started of by creating a form out of air drying clay. I have never learned sculpting in school and most of the time, I learn through experimentations and failure informs me on how I can improve. Indeed, that was also how I learnt sewing and pattern cutting.
The form is very rudimentary but it was a good start. With the clay dried, I used it to make a mould so I could reproduce the form in metal clay. Instead of one Jaguar, I decided on a twin and used white and gold bronzes.
It too me a while to remove the clay from the mould and refine both pieces together. While doing it, the tail kept breaking off so I had to reinforce it by adding metal clay slip on areas prone to breaking to build up the strength. When the clay was completely dried, I chucked them in the kiln and let the magic happen.
I love it when I dig the items out from the carbon. The anticipation (and sometimes disappointment) is almost like opening a present on Christmas day. When the items cool, it takes up a completely different form.
After that, it’s a lot of burnishing and polishing to bring out the amazing colours of the metal.
So what it it? A brooch? Belt buckle? Ring? Well, I don’t know, I might stick a pin at the back to turn it into a lapel pin, but at the moment it may just be a piece of sculpture. It’s nothing like the amazing jewellery in the book but I hope with practice, I can get to a tenth of the craftsmanship of those artists. Until then, I can only dream.