The magical alchemy of silver clay
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
On our silver clay jewellery classes we regularly hear people comment "it's like magic" as they watch their carefully created clay shapes turn to hard metal, and polish up into a beautiful piece of hallmark quality silver jewellery.
And indeed alchemy - a medieval forerunner of chemistry concerned in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold - is also defined as "a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation or combination". So it's true: making silver clay jewellery is a magical process!
At The Arienas Collective we are fortunate that our resident jewellery tutor, Anna Campbell, specialises in working with metal clay. So we invited Anna to tell us a bit about herself, about this magical material called metal clay, and why she loves working with it so much.
Tell us a little bit about you
Hello! My name is Anna Campbell and I live in Edinburgh. I'm a jewellery artist and resident jewellery tutor at The Arienas Collective in Edinburgh's beautiful Georgian New Town, and I specialise in working with metal clay.
I hold the Art Clay certification and the PMC Rio Rewards certification, accredited by the two main brands of metal clay, and I'm one of only 11 people to hold the Higher Diploma in Metal Clay. You may have seen me featured in the press since I write regularly for Making Jewellery magazine, and I was delighted when a piece of my silver clay jewellery was chosen for the cover earlier this year. I've also got an article featured in the current issue of Making Jewellery magazine which is a special metal clay issue.
I travel to London regularly where I teach at the London Jewellery School, and I'm an assessor and mentor on their Diploma in Creative Jewellery. I'm also one of the silver clay demonstrators on Create and Craft TV and for the last two years I've been invited to teach at the You Can Make It residential conference organised by Metal Clay Ltd.
I sell my jewellery online and in shops, and have also made jewellery on commission for celebrities - but I'm not allowed to say who!
What is silver clay?
Silver clay is material that was invented in the 1990s in Japan. It is made up of fine silver particles that have been recycled from X-rays and the photographic industry, an organic binder and water. It can be moulded and shaped and, once dry, can be fired to make hallmark-quality silver. It is a little-known material, but being featured on BBC programmes Craft Britain and Countryfile this year has led to more people knowing about it which is great news!
Why is silver clay such a good material to work with?
It’s a very flexible material that you can easily work with at home. Traditional silversmithing methods can be quite physical - there’s a lot of sawing, filing and hammering involved. With silver clay we are working with a clay-like substance so it is easier to shape and form. It’s very forgiving - if you don’t like what you’ve made you can squidge it up and start again! The other main benefit is that you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to get started at home.
If someone would like to give silver clay a go, which class should they try first?
There are two to choose from. You could try our 3-hour taster class where you learn to make your own pendant or earrings from the silver clay, or you can choose to make buttons, charms or similar if you prefer. Alternatively join us for our one-day beginner's class where you will learn to make earrings, make your own silicone mould and mould your own pendant, and you will also learn how to set a gemstone in the silver clay.
If you enjoy working with metal clay, can you go on to learn how to make pieces?
Yes, there are endless possibilities! We currently have two intermediate silver clay classes available. Soldering silver clay is one that I have taught at the metal clay conference and is great if you’d like to learn how to make stud earrings and cufflinks. There is also a one-day ring making class where you learn to make two different styles of ring, and also set a stone.
What can we expect in 2019?
I have been working with the Arienas Collective for nearly a year now and it has been so great to see people enjoying working with the silver clay. The classes are usually sold out early which is so great to see. I am planning new, more advanced classes for those who’d like to learn more. I am also looking at planning some beaded jewellery classes, a subject I also teach at the London Jewellery School. I’d love to hear what people want to learn next so do get in touch!
Why did you choose to teach at The Arienas Collective?
I love that The Arienas Collective is different. I’ve taught in colleges, universities and at conferences, but The Arienas Collective has a unique vibe that is all about taking some time out from everyday life to be creative and learn a new skill. I also love that we are a Collective, and that as a group of artists we are supported and championed. There are so many great classes to choose from and I’ve started attending some myself!