Monday, October 4, 2010

She's Crafty

I like to create. Some might call it crafting. I feel a little young to call myself a "crafter" but I guess, in reality, that's what I am. I knit. I sew. I screen print. I paint. And now I can add "Silver Smith" to my arsenal of crafts. People always tell me that I'm creative. I guess they are right. I can be creative, but usually it's just that I'm really good at seeing other people's ideas and running with it, adding my own personal touches. The other day, I stumbled on a jewelry website. I saw some pieces of silver jewelry that really caught my eye. They had a very rugged and organic look to them, (and a very high price tag) and they were personalized, which is something I always like to include in my crafts. I thought "I wonder if I could do that". So, I asked Google how to make silver jewelry. I found out that there this new stuff out there called silver clay. You mold it, like clay, let it dry, then fire it in a kiln. Sounds easy enough. I mean, I've never ever used clay before, unless you count Play Dough, and I don't actually have a kiln, but how hard could it be? I'm crafty, right? So I did a ton of research and found out exactly what I do and don't need to make my own silver jewelry, and I placed my order. I found out that you don't need very many tools. Mostly just your hands and a few household items will do. The kiln was a little trickier. I found an even newer kind of clay that can be fired at very low heat (relatively speaking) and can be done in a mini kiln, of sorts. It's mostly just a fancy ceramic pot that you put ethanol in the bottom and your jewelry on the top and let the sucker burn. I placed my order and impatiently waited 5-7 days for it to come in the mail. In the mean time, I did a ton of research.

When I came back from running errands on Friday, my package was waiting for me! The first chance I got, which was Saturday night, I got started. I knew that the clay would dry extremely fast and I would need to work quickly, so I set up my silver command center at the kitchen table and got to work. I was feeling pretty good and hopeful, until I opened up the container of clay and found an amount of clay about the size of a quarter in there. Hmmmmmm......I know silver is expensive, but jeesh! Disappointing, yes, but I wasn't going to let that ruin my new craft experience. So, I got the clay out and started working with it. Perhaps I should have practiced on some ceramic clay first? This was not as easy as I had hoped, but I did, finally, get something similar to what I was hoping for. I let the piece dry, with the help of my hair dryer and then got out my sand paper to do some last minute adjustments to the piece before firing it. Once the sand paper came out, it really started looking good! By now, it's late and Eric is already in bed. I asked him to stay awake while I fired the silver, because, according to the directions, I should have a responsible adult do it. But the responsible adult in our house was upstairs snoring away, so I was on my own. I fired up the mini kiln and patiently waited. It took about 15 minutes for all of the ethanol to burn off. By now, my house smelled like a keg party, because of all of the ethanol. Once the silver cooled enough to touch it, I took it out and started buffing it clean. (One of the more gratifying steps of the process, I must say) After making it perfectly shiny and clean, I noticed that the letters I had stamped in the pendant weren't really standing out. They were the same silvery color as the rest of the piece. I found the others online that I liked and realized that their letters were tarnished on the inside, while the outside of the piece was shiny. SO, I went back to google and ask it how to tarnish silver. I did all of the work, just to drop it in a cup of bleach and watch it turn black!! Really really black. And my little silver polishing cloth wasn't getting the tarnish off at all. So, I went back to google again and asked it how to polish silver with household items, since I don't have any silver polish. (Google knows everything) Lots of buffing and baking soda later, plus making some charms with beads, I had a piece that looked really close to the original one I found on the internet a couple weeks back!

I made another piece last night with the leftover clay from the first pendant. It turns out that you really don't need that much silver clay per project.

Oh, by the way, I'm selling these on my etsy site, if you want me to make you one too!

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