Sunday, April 24, 2011

Adventures in Bronze and Copper

I've been experimenting a lot with bronze and copper clay lately.  I've learned to really like the bronze.  I'm still on the fence about the copper but that might be because I'm allergic to copper.  It makes me sneeze when I file it and itch, too.  It's strange that bronze doesn't do the same thing since bronze is 90% copper.

After reading an article in Metal Clay Jewelry (a publication by Art Jewelry Magazine) about bronze and copper inlay, I thought I'd try it.  Basically you stamp, carve, or somehow make a depression in one of the clays (I chose bronze), let it dry and then fill the depressions with the other clay.  Pre-firing I was pleased with my pieces. 

Post firing not so much.  The copper in the Willow piece wasn't even visible.  I tried grinding it down to see if maybe it had gotten covered or something with the bronze, but it wasn't.

The bracelet didn't come out too bad.  I added Baldwin's Patina to it, which is supposed to darken the copper to a nice brown but not change the bronze.

My biggest disappointment was the brooch with the swirly leaf.  I was so happy with it pre-firing.  Post firing, though, showed that some of the copper "disappeared" or something.  I'm really not sure what happened.  I will have to go back and read the article to see what I did wrong.  Here is the brooch, both pre-and post-firing.  I did add Baldwin's Patina to it and it did bring out the copper more, but it also accentuated all the problems with it.

I'm thinking fine lines probably aren't the best idea for this medium.  And maybe I need to make my impressions a bit deeper.  I am intrigued enough with this technique to keep experimenting.

The last piece, the flower shape with the tulip in the center came out okay if you didn't know that the tulip was supposed to be copper. It also "disappeared".  It can't have burned away because copper fires at a higher temperature than bronze and I fired at the bronze schedule.  Plus it's still there in that there isn't a depression where it's supposed to be.  It's just bronze colored now.  I think I will play with the firing schedule a bit with a slower ramp time and see if that helps.

I patinaed this piece with the Baldwin's as well.  The directions say not to let it dry on the piece, but this is what happens when you do.  You get a nice bluish green similar to verdigris, which I decided to keep.  I've protected it with a layer of Renaissance Wax.

Back in the studio I have another experiment with verdigris type patina which I decided to leave over the weekend.  I'm interested to see how it turns out tomorrow.


  1. Really interesting process, thanks so much for pioneering and sharing.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I still haven't opened my pack of bronze yet.


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