(Scottsdale, Arizona USA)
I’ve just recently learned about PMC (yes, I know, I must have been living under a rock) and am dying to work in this media.
I’m a potter and have been a jewelry maker so it seems a natural fit. My worries are – is this (yet another) capital intensive craft that may or may not break even? I see lots of stories of lots of people with their sales dying on the vine.
Second, how much of an initial investment is needed, exactly? What would I absolutely HAVE to have? I have lots and lots (and lots and lots….) of tiny tools, home space to work, and time, since I am unfortunately unemployed.
What I do NOT have is a ton of disposable income. Finally – really – if you had it to do over again, would you? Spend the money, time effort? Or would you stick with something you know (and love) that isn’t too awfully expensive a hobby?
by: Michelle Schiller
When I learned about PMC I purchased a kit that had everything you needed to get started from Fire Mountain Gems. http://www.firemountaingems.com/shopping.asp?skw=KWCRAFTARTCLAYKIT Turned out that PMC really isn’t for me, I struggled with coming up with designs and forming the clay. I think I would be better with sheet metal.
Since you are a potter you will probably excel at PMC!
I love working with PMC – my biggest challenge (besides the cost of the actual silver clay) is trying to take advantage of how creative you can be with a piece. I’ve recently started incorporating resin into my designs (which have been well received, here’s a pic, http://wiltonartisans.com ) which I think adds another element because you can add color.
Another thing I like is if you make a mistake you can always let the silver rest and reuse it for another time. When people ask me what PMC is like I describe it working with a material similar to modeling clay. It will take any texture/shape you want and when it’s fired and the binders burn off you are left with fine silver.
It can be time consuming….sanding, firing, tumbling, adding patina if you like – but the result is a one of a kind piece.
My biggest hurdle right now is the price. I was buying wholesale 45 grams of PMC at $60 last year and now it’s over $100. I still work with it but I’ve decided to do smaller pieces because the price point is lower. I always weigh the pieces when I’me pricing them to see how much silver is used.
There are some fabulous books out there as well as PMC stores online that have great beginner kits. In terms of things you must have (in my opinion) – I use a kiln, roller, playing cards (to determine the thickness when I roll out the clay)templates for shapes (or cookie cutters, or free hand draw), things to add textures (anything goes! lace, flowers, shells, store bought texture plates), cocktail straw (to add a hole for jump rings) a tool/blade to cut the clay into the shape you want and then I use a hot plate to dry the clay before firing…then I use my small sanding tools to smooth everything out.
Hope this is helpful!
Start small and grow
To begin you only need a few tools, many which you may have as a potter or if you have used polymer clay: non-stick sheet,roller,different thicknesses of playing cards, shape cutters, and texture material. If you use low fire clay, such as PMC+,PMC3, or Art Clay Copper, you can use a micro torch from the hardware store instead of a kiln. But you may already have a kiln as a potter, if so you have one less major expense and have widened the types of clay you can use to other types of copper and bronze clay, which are considerably cheaper than the silver. As previous poster said the price of silver clay has increased dramatically over the past couple years and that makes your finished product more expensive. There are indeed many good books out and Youtube has several good tutorials if you search “metal clay tutorials”. They show how few tools are needed to make beautiful pieces. The beginner’s kit that was mentioned from Fire Mt. is about the least expensive I’ve seen and gives you the basics so you can get a taste for it. I enjoy working with the clay, there is something magical about seeing the clay turn into that shining jewelry.
I am a part time jewelry artist and have been fortunate because most of my pieces are custom for patrons who have seen my previous work and have commissioned me to make pieces. I price my work competitively with full-time professionals and have been successful with that, but I don’t know if I would have enough business to make it my full time career. We are all feeling the effects of the economy on our costs and sales, but if you make a quality item that is unique and interesting I think you can find a market. Good luck to you.
In terms of cost: consider working in wax
PMC is an interesting material, but in terms of both cost and quality of the results, consider working in wax and having your pieces cast professionally.
Wax is very inexpensive, and is available in many formats. Most pieces involve carving, but one can also build up in an additive way or use sheet wax or wax wire. Almost anything can be carved with a single wax carver and wax file, or with a very cheap set of dental tools.
Once your wax model is carved, you can make an RTV mold yourself (with products like Oomoo), or after your work has been cast have a vulcanized mold made so that you can create additional copies of the piece. Not putting down PMC, but traditional lost wax carving is cheaper and produces professional results.
You will love Metal Clay!
by: Marnie Ehlers
Casey… I say, “DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!” You won’t regret it. I have worked as a bench jeweler, constructed jewelry from sheet metal and wire, I enjoy working with wax and casting, but when I found metal clay I fell in love all over again! Yes, silver metal clay is expensive however the ease of construction offsets the price of the clay. There are now base metal clays on the market that are very inexpensive. I would recommend taking a class with a good instructor. They can teach you all the tips and tricks to create professionally finished pieces without wasting a lot of money figuring it out for yourself. I would not go out and buy any tools yet because you probably already have most of the tools you need. If you go to my blog at you can see a the alien party earrings I made using a toothpaste cap, a couple of old toy parts and a piece of cardboard. How inexpensive is that?
I wouldn’t ever give up my metal smithing skills or my joy of casting and working with wax but I love the instant gratification of metal clay without having to pay to send out my casting!
Marnie Ehlers, Tucson AZ
web site– www.goodmusedesigns.com