“Although I don’t really consider metal clay as metalsmithing, there can be metalsmithing involved in the process. I’ve always been someone who enjoys working with their hands. I started out doing beadwork as a hobby and then wanted to create more one of a kind components like toggles, earrings, focal beads, etc.
I started working with metal clay in 2001 shortly after hearing about it. I’ve been creating smiles as a dental technician (ceramist) porcelain crown and bridgework for over 35 years. I was able to apply that knowledge to do metal clay. One of the first brands to appear was Precious Metal Clay (PMC), manufactured by Mitsubishi, who recycled sliver from x-rays and computer parts, then making it into a clay form. I discovered it’s a beautiful medium that can be carved, stamped, molded, shaped and formed much like ceramic clay but once fired it becomes pure silver. Then you can treat it just as you would fine silver.
Over the years they have been improvements on the original formula, shrinkage rate of 30% to 10%- 12% shrinkage, plus more manufacturers and types of metal clays are available. I enjoy using the bronze and copper also.
I’m mainly self taught through books, videos, and asking lots of questions from anyone willing to answer them. I went to New York to take a PMC certification offered through Rio Grande in 2008 to expand my abilities and be able to teach others to create their own art. Although I’ve taken several workshops, one of the best I’ve taken was Enameling on Silver Clay. First we created our silver pieces (decisions, decisions!) then after firing and polishing we learned how to enamel them. It was busy 3 days of learning and fun.
My favorite technique is being able to embellish with stones or glass before firing. There are many man-made stones available and natural stones that can be fired directly in the metal clay. I am also inspired through nature. I enjoy making leaves. The detail in the leaves come out so crisp or making a mold of a pod/stamen, pretty much anything found with texture and recreating it in metal clay then I might add stones.
It’s hard to decide which piece that I’ve made is my favorite. I did a commission piece that was quite the challenge. A dobro guitar pendant just like the one the customer plays. We were both very pleased with it. Another piece I’m proud of is a bronze box with riveted fine silver accents and a star shaped clear cubic zirconia on the lid/handle.
I have decided not to do any shows this year. My work is available on my website: www.cwilsonstudio.com. I am currently not holding classes due to Covid19, but normally offer group or one on one classes. Everything is provided, so no need to go buy tools. No one wants to spend money on tools if they’re not even sure they like it or just want to make a special gift. I do have a destination workshop scheduled September 9th-12th, 2021 at Inspiration Alcona in Lincoln, MI. For more information: https://www.inspirationalcona.org/art-for-adults-home-page/2020-arts-retreat.”
Colleen has been a member of MSG since 2018.