Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gravity, Gravitas: The Weight of Silver

I'm not going to write about the high cost of silver because everyone is doing that and nobody really knows what's what and I certainly don't have a clue. But I would like to describe my personal response to this meteoric leap in cost.

First, I wrote students in my upcoming classes to say I wouldn't be selling PMC in my classes. Figuring out when to buy clay and how to price it is beyond what I want to do. Second, I sold my scrap silver and that made me feel A LOT better about the price of silver. I suffer no qualms of contradiction for celebrating the price I'm getting for my scrap on the one hand, and carping about the cost I'm paying for silver on the other.

But here's the real response I want to describe:
The cost of silver was worming its way into my studio life. It was inhibiting my work; there was a big green dollar sign hovering just under my desk light, over my desk whenever I sat down to work. It was off putting and fast becoming a serious deterrent to rolling out clay. Then I started thinking about it in a different way; as a call to action of sorts. After all, I do use other materials in addition to PMC; why not take this as a challenge and let the other materials do the heavy lifting? The silver is not diminished by being lessened. Rather, it's celebrated. Cherished.

For many years I've made this toggle clasp (Ouroboros, pictured below) out of carved solid snakes of PMC.

It's heavy, very heavy. It uses a lot of precious metal clay. So, last week I remade it out of polymer then embellished it with little bits of PMC.

As soon as I finished it I began to see other ways I could have accomplished the goal of using silver less automatically, and other toggles I could make. Now I have many ideas I intend to pursue, all of which serve the dual purpose of nourishing my creativity (I love a challenge) and saving my precious silver.

Above is a photo of polymer toggles in process.

Above shows a carved PMC toggle
ring and carved wood sticks that have been rubbed with paint and will be embellished with silver and fashioned into toggle bars.

Many years ago, when I first discovered these materials, adding metal to polymer was my starting point. I loved polymer clay but until I began mixing metal with it in the early nineties, it lacked something, for me anyway: it lacked gravity; it lacked gravitas.

A little PMC goes a long way to enhancing polymer. It adds weight, which in my opinion the polymer needs, it adds dynamism, it adds value. I love the way the combination looks and feels.
But there are so many other materials that are so enhanced by that dash of silver; wood, rusty metal and old tin, broom straw, etc.

Although I made these sample toggles for my upcoming Treasures Bracelet class, all of my upcoming classes incorporate polymer to some degree. Because silver prices are a concern to anyone likely to come to my classes, I expect these ideas will find an enthusiastic home among my students, and although I won't actually get into my studio to pursue these ideas myself until July, I will have the opportunity to talk about them with the creative crowd in my classroom.

Class Rescheduled: PMC Pendant with New Polymer Inlay Techniques

at the Baltimore Bead Society

4 Day Class - October 29th - November 1st

First create your own, unique textures for metal clay from black and white images using the tear away technique. Then, using these textures, design and construct a beautiful seamless PMC pendant using techniques developed by Celie. After firing and finishing the pendant, you’ll use tear away paper to roll print an image onto colored, collaged sheets of polymer clay. Then you'll transform these with paint, pastel, oil crayon and colored pencil into brilliant miniature tapestries. Finally, size and set your polymer image in your PMC pendant using rudimentary metalsmithing techniques including riveting, hammering, and patinas. Finish your pendant with a sterling chain and decorative dangles.

For more information and to register contact:

Terri Wright at