Sawtooth School of Visual Art (SCVA) over in Winston Salem has just launched a new show in the second floor gallery. The show features work created by the presenters at this year’s Metal Clay Artists’ Symposium (MCAS) which takes place September 15 – 18 at Sawtooth. This is a huge event, and the first of its kind in the area, featuring internationally known artists and instructors from around the US and one from Moscow, Russia! There will be hands-on workshops, lectures and breakout sessions, vendors, and more, right here where you can lay hands on it in person. They still have seats available, but many of the workshops are already full. If you want in, I suggest you hie thee hence, forthwith! Here’s the link again: MCAS.
Metal Clay, aka: PMC, or Precious Metal Clay, first hit the market in Japan around 1990 (according to Wikipedia.) It enables an artist to create fine jewelry without using traditional fabrication methods. PMC is a trademarked brand of metal clay. When it first came to market in the US, it was the only game in town; however, I think there are other brands available now. At first, it was only available in silver and gold; however, other metals such as copper, pewter, and bronze are now available.
The way it works is, fine-grained metal powder is mixed with an organic binder and water to a clay-like consistency. The artist creates their piece, and the piece is then fired – usually in a kiln, although one can use a torch. During the firing, the organic binder burns out, leaving pure metal behind. Items made with PMC silver, for example, are 99.9% silver after firing.
I hosted a workshop for a PMC instructor back around 2003, and I participated in the workshop, as well. I hated the stuff. As a potter, I worked with earth clay every day, and PMC just doesn’t feel the same. It doesn’t have the same plasticity as earth clay, and it’s harder to work with. I was not inspired by PMC in the least, and frankly, nothing I made that day should have been fired.
This is why I admire the work in this show so much – I know what it takes to work with the medium, and I promise, if you tried it, you’d know what I mean. Here are a few shots of my favorite pieces in the Sawtooth show. I did not note anyone’s name, other than the maker of the vest, whose first name is Carrie, and the only reason I remember that is, she is from my hometown of Trinity, NC.
The Giraffe is made of bronze. The vest is made of textured mixed-metal tiles, each roughly an inch square, and joined with copper jump rings. (Let me just tell y’all, jump rings take FOREVER – you’ll never catch me volunteering to do something this complicated with them.) The quilled pendant is silver, on a silver chain, with a pearl at center, and the tiny pots appear to be silver, although they may be pewter.