Thursday, May 17, 2007

PMC Process

When I started working with precious metal clay I was very nervous about the cost and feared that I would waste the tiny lump while fiddling around trying to figure out what to do with it.I sprayed everything in sight with so much lubricant and covered my hands with so much Badger Balm that I was dropping tools right and left. Between the slippery surface and slippery roller and slippery hands, just getting the damn stuff flat was a major undertaking. I used an old brass filigree to texture some clay – but the filigree was probably the only thing in the room not covered with lubricant so, of course, it stuck and tore the sheet of quickly drying pmc to shreds. Panic! By the time I had a couple of pieces drying on the cup warmer, my heart was pounding and I was exhausted. Who knew working with pmc could give you a cardio-vascular workout?

Those first pieces looked ok, though they were quite ragged – I forgot to sand them while leather hard. And let me tell you, it’s much easier to sand pre-fired pmc than to sand post-fired actual silver metal. But all was not well. One of the pieces snapped in the hands of my curious partner and I broke another while polishing it. (I think the problem was that I hadn’t fired them long enough.) I was devastated. Then I read some online instructions about working with pmc that included the line “Make lemonade”. So I did.

Making the next batch was much less stressful – it helps if you’re not holding a lubricant-doused clay knife in a death grip. That’s when I made these two pieces, which are what I’d had in mind when I first started thinking about working with pmc.

It’s a thrill when an idea becomes a real object on your work table. They aren’t exactly what I imagined, but, as Pablo said: "An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought."

The more I work with pmc, the less I care about making pretty things. I've been hammering it (see Ragged Heart below), bending it, carving it roughly after firing, even heating fired pieces with a torch to see what happens when they're over-fired.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was reading Donald Friedlich's preface to Tim McCreight's PMC Decade -- an unbelievably gorgeous and inspiring book -- and found this: "...Mimlitsch-Gray has taken [an] irreverent and almost violent approach to metal clay, by simply stepping on the clay with her sneaker to make a wonderfully raw and crumbly object that is rich with texture. This object could be made of no other material." Lightbulb! It's clay! Then it's metal! Stages! Process! I immediately went into the studio and made this pendant by rolling some pmc into a ball and stamping it with a sealing wax-type stamp. I smoothed the edges only enough to prevent injury and oxidized it. Yes, you could do this with lost wax casting and probably some other techniques that I don't even know exist yet, but I love this piece because it's all about what you can do with stuff that is clay first and then metal.

1 comment:

Sylvie said...

Thanks, Maggie for directing me to this article you wrote. I'm so excited about this new medium. I'm not as "adventurous" as you are in your approach to it. That's something I have to work on. Letting go of the perfectionism that seems to be so ingrained in my fabric. You have a wonderfully free spirit and daring approach to your work that I admire. And the resulting jewelry you create is just stunning! You are my inspiration for this right now. And I truly appreciate that.