Behind the Process: It's Cozy, Hot and my Favorite New Jewelry-Making Tool- The Kiln

In the past few months, things have been heating up at Lock & Key -- quite literally. Lately I’ve become obsessed with metal clay, a Japanese sculpting medium that includes tiny pieces of metal (like copper or silver) bound together in a puddy-like clay. I’ll spare you the geeky details, but basically it’s a really cool medium that allows me to mix jewelry and sculpture -- with some blazing fire thrown in, too.

metal kiln

The thing about metal clay is that each piece has to be finished in a kiln. The kiln burns off the clay material and exposes the beautiful metal. Sitting pretty at a toasty 1,500+ degrees Farenheit, the kiln is one powerful appliance that I’m excited to welcome to the Lock & Key family.

What is a kiln?

A kiln is basically the same as a furnace or an oven. It holds crazy-hot internal temperatures in order to “cook” things like clay. There are hundreds of different types of kilns that come in all sizes and specifications to finish different types of clay, glass, enamel... I could write an entirely separate post on how to shop for the perfect kiln, but in the meantime you can check out this great kiln guide from Cool Tools in case you’re in the market. I purchased mine from RioGrande.

Open Fire Kiln

Why in the world did I decide to buy one?

About a year ago a friend who is also a member of the Nashville Fashion Alliance and is an amazing jeweler as well encouraged me to try out metal clay and I immediately fell in love with the process. Check out her work as well, Merry Beth Merrick Designs. she is an amazing person and designer. I’d been looking for the next evolution for my jewelry and felt like this delicate and creative medium was the perfect next step. I’m fascinated by the metamorphosis of the medium. You start with one material and end up with a totally different one. Oh, and there’s a neat little treasure hunt that takes place in between. One of my favorite parts of the process is digging through all the cooked clay to find finished pieces!

Treasure Hunt

What does the finished product look like?

Really cool. Precious metal clay (or “PMC,” as we call it in the jewelry world) is one of the most unique mediums in the industry. It allows craftsmen like me to push the boundaries of our creativity, mixing multiple skills like design and sculpture with multiple mediums. Basically, when I work with metal clay I consider myself an artist -- not just a jewelry maker. I’ve loved experimenting with this new art form and hope you guys like the finished products! Take a look at my online shop to see more examples.

Here is a sneak peak coming for Spring 2017.

Sterling Silver, Hand Sculpted Metal Clay Floral Cocktail Ring with Amethyst Crystal Center- Spring 2017