What’s on Your Bookshelf?

These days, there are so many terrific resources available to help you through your metal clay learning journey.  Many of us start with a basic class, but before too long we are ready for more information, guidance and inspiration.   Books are one of my favorite ways to satisfy this desire to know more about metal clay and its possibilities.  In this Etsy Metal Clay Team post, I write about a few of the gems on my bookshelf. 

The Art of Metal Clay, Techniques for Creating Jewelry and Decorative Objects.  Sherri Haab (Watson-Guptill Publications, 2003). This was my first metal clay book.  It is a great beginning book because it addresses PMC® silver and Art Clay® silver products.  Although some of the product lines have changed since this book was printed, the general firing charts still apply. Sherri first covers basic steps in working with silver metal clay, then devotes chapters to specific techniques including carving, working with molds, creating hollow forms, setting stones and combining silver metal clay with other media. The example projects range from whimsical to elegant. What I appreciated most about this book when I was first starting out was that the projects were inspiring and well-presented without being intimidating. 

PMC Technic, A collection of techniques for Precious Metal Clay, edited by Tim McCreight ( Brynmorgen Press, 2007).  “Wow” is the word to describe this book. Tim McCreight brings together 10 artists, each offering a chapter on a technical approach to metal clay.  Every jewelry piece presented in this book is elegant and amazing.  This is not intended to be a step-by-step project book, but rather “a record of what can happen when curiosity, passion and talent spill together”. The chapters address using PMC syringe; making hinges (authored by Etsy MetalClay Team member and senior instructor for the Rio Grande Rewards Program, Celie Fago) fusing sterling and metal clay; developing form with slip; using metal clay on ceramic; using stencils, lampworking and silver metal clay;, water etching; coreless beads; and my favorite chapter by Etsy Metal Clay Team member, Jennifer Kahn, PMC Bezels. This is an advanced book that will truly inspire you.

Ah, the topic that just about every jewelry maker wants to master – stone setting.  Setting Stones in Metal Clay by Jeanette Landenwitch (Brynmorgen Press, 2008) is about comprehensive as it gets. This book takes traditional types of stone setting techniques and adapts them to metal clay.  Jeanette covers a variety of approaches for making bezels and prongs; she covers specialty settings such as tabs, inlay and channel. The book includes a two-page gem test firing chart which reports results from firing (torch and kiln) specific stones in place.  It includes a great couple of pages on dealing with shrinkage and how to account for that in your stone settings.  The Appendix in this book is also terrific. It includes an introduction to gemology terms, discusses the Mohs scale of hardness and addresses health and safety. The other little thing I love about this book – the pages inside are spiral bound.

Think beads are only simple accent pieces for jewelry?  Think again!  Metal Clay Beads by Barbara Becker Simon (Lark Books, 2009) shows you how to make fabulous, stand-alone, bead masterpieces. This wonderful book combines beautiful photography with step-by-step instructions for making unique metal clay beads. The projects cover fancy lentil beads, box beads, pillow beads, draped beads, and even combining metal clay with lampworked glass beads. In addition to the bead projects, Barbara describes how to reconstitute dry, unfired clay; how to make flexible clay sheet; how to properly join fired and unfired clay elements; colored-pencil application; and, an exciting section about creating texture plates.  I also love flipping through this book because it includes photographs from the very talented Etsy MetalClay Team members, past and present:   Lora Hart, Lorena Angulo Lynn Cobb , and Catherine Witherell

I love the sturdy, industrial organic textured look of Kate McKinnon’s work.  Her first metal clay book, Structural Metal Clay (2008, printed by Jostens) introduced me to so many innovative concepts such as using a butane torch to fuse-close jump rings, making fine silver components for embeds in silver metal clay, and making heavy gauge metal clay chain. Some of Kate’s most popular work presented in this book is using hammers to forge fine silver ring shanks and embedding them into metal clay ring tops to make amazingly sturdy rings. Thanks to this book, I acquired my first collection of hammers and anvils.  If you are looking to begin combining some traditional metal smith techniques with metal clay, this is a great book to get you started.  It is also spiral bound! 

One of the most recent exciting explorations of metal clay is Metal Clay Fusion by Gordon K. Uyehara (2012, Lark Crafts).  Rising costs of silver metal clay has encouraged many of us to experiment with copper and bronze clay and this book may have you falling in love the artistic possibilities of these two metal clay options.  Silver metal clay projects are presented, as well, in this book.  Metal Clay Fusion provides you with step-by-step instructions for twenty-two projects (!!), from simple to intermediate.  Gordon devotes 10 pages to the topic of firing which can be especially tricky for base-metal clays. This book also includes the author’s own “artist declaration” which will get you thinking about being authentic in your work, and, a rare section on competition tips.  And a bonus in this beautifully photographed book, you will recognize the distinctive work of Etsy MetalClay Team member, Liz Hall.

The last book I want to mention isn't about metal clay, but about color. Margie Deeb’s, The Beader’s Guide to Color (2004, Watson-Guptill Publications) is a great resource if you regularly add color to your work.  Many of us are familiar with the concept of complementary colors, but what about pairing dominant colors with sub-dominant and accent colors?  Do you understand analogous colors?  Do you know what color is easiest for the human eye to take in?   This book is geared towards seed-bead artists, but I find myself going back to it again and again when I am looking for just the right bead to accent my ocean blue apatite or lime green peridot.  If you have no or little background in color theory, this is a good book to have on your shelf.

A final note, if you aren't looking to expand your jewelry-making library, be sure to pull your old books out every once in a awhile; you never know what you will re-discover.  Books really are the gifts that keep on giving!      

 ~ Karen West


Chocolate and Steel said...

I think the Art of Metal Clay was the first metal clay book I bought! Thanks for the info:)

Margie Deeb said...

Thanks for the review, Karen! I'm glad to here my book is valuable to you!


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