Mixing Silvers for Curvature


Subtle Curvature

A subtle design feature to consider in your silver creations is the aspect of flatness or non-flatness. I truly love an organic look with natural curves to my pieces, and the way I achieve this is to use different brands and types of clay. The curvature makes my piece look as if it grew out of nature. The method I share here is not a fine art, it’s an organic art. That means that the results you get are not totally predictable but most likely reproducible.

As you look at the photos below, try to figure out how you might achieve the same look and/or curvatures using other methods. I have yet to find a technique or tool, like a dapping block, that would yield the same organic shapes.

I use layers of clay, clay that have different shrink rates. I’m talking about exclusively using silver clays in this T & T.

So first, here is a link to a guide on shrink rates per type of clay. Metal Clay Shrinkage Calculator 
If you click on Clay Type, a drop down menu contains the rates.

There is a clay that is not included in this great resource, and it should be. It is FYI clay—see below.

The  materials I used are these.

  • PMC3 Syringe
  • PMC3
  • 960 mixed by me —  or EZ960 with a 10% shrink rate
  • FYI

FYI (For Your Inspiration) is a silver metal clay with a shrink rate of 20%. You can read about it and purchase it at Val Lewis’ site.

The clay with the higher shrink rate will become the smaller areas in the final piece, after the kiln-fire process. 

Below then in the photo captions are explanations of how to get curvatures, using different silver clays with different shrink rates.

This is a clear example of the kind curvature I’m after.
These earrings were made by layering woven PMC Sheet with a shrinkage of 10% on top of a layer of a silver clay on the back or bottom.
I have forgotten the name and brand of the bottom silver clay, but I can bet its shrink rate was around 15%.

PMC Sheet with a 10% shrink rate comes in two sizes: 3X12 cm and 6X6 cm.
RioGrande carries
PMC+ Sheet with a 12% shrink rate.

An example

The central piece in this bib-style necklace shows a subtle example of curvature. The two ends and the background were made of FYI clay.
The two flat frames of silver were made with 960. They could have been made of PMC3 to achieve a similar subtle curvature.
Below is a better view of the subtle curve.

This is another view to show subtle curvature. Note there is different curvature from top to bottom also,
because the top frame of 960 was smaller in mass than the bottom frame of 960.

Another example

Here is another bib-style necklace with many components with curvature.

First, the central piece is not that curved. I think this is because the amount of 960 was enough to have prevented the FYI background from influencing it. This teaches that one needs a dissimilar amount of silvers.

Second, more curvature occurred in the small oval charms in the beaded section below.
These were made of FYI with a tiny bit of PMC3 Syringe as the frames or outlines. Thus, they curved more. 

I made all these components flat. The curvatures developed during the kiln-fire process.
I did nothing to change their shapes after the fire process.
Below are more views.

A view of unfinished piece to show subtle curvature

Another view of finished piece to show subtle curvature

Another example

Here is another example of curvature on a less obvious shape. The back of this cross was made with FYI (20% shrink rate).
All the components on top were either PMC3 Syringe or PMC3 (12 to 15% shrink rate).
Below are different views to show the resulting curvature.

There is curvature in the entire cross and on each arm of the cross.

Note the dotted bar at the bottom had minimal impact on the curvature.
This is a good piece upon which to reflect: by what other method could I get such complex and organic curvatures?
Whether or not you like the curvature is a matter of personal taste and preference.

Here is what I am NOT talking about. The photos below show how to shape a piece by drying it in the desired shape. See the T & T on Shaping Creations. You may agree that this looks kinda two-dimensional. Or you could create a domed-shape piece, and it would shrink proportionately or according to the mass of each area and the entire piece. I think the look is different than what I’ve described above, the curves that result from using clays with different shrink rates.

That’s it. If you experiment with this, do send me photos!

For online courses in metal clay, go to I Love Silver, where you learn how to design and create your own silver creations.

© Kris A Kramer 2019