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Carol Avery Ocean ART Jewelry

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

From the artist, Carol Avery, about the hand casting artistic process:

The media I work with includes silver, copper, and bronze metal clay. Silver clay originated in Japan just a few decades ago, reclaiming silver that would otherwise be thrown out. It has been enthusiastically embraced by artists worldwide. Copper and bronze clay versions were developed in the U.S., resulting in less costly artistic media. In all forms, metal clay consists of incredibly fine particles of metal, combined with water and organic binders.

I use only silver clay, the purest form of silver, in creating this custom line for Reef Life Foundation. Each custom cast piece is 99.9% pure silver.

Metal clay can be manipulated very much like ceramic clay—it can be stamped, pressed into molds, rolled/cut into slabs and constructed, even dried and carved with cutting tools. I start with actual sea shells, fossils, and plants. I utilize a two-part silicone mold-making material to take impressions of these items. Bits of metal clay are pressed into a mold to create jewelry components. They are air dried, then sanded to remove rough edges. To make beads, I roll out small clay slabs over texture plates, then cut or tear roughly triangular shapes and wrap them around cylinders.

In the transformation from fragile clay-like structures to hardened metal, the pieces undergo an extensive firing process in a tabletop kiln, burning off the binder and water. There is some shrinkage of the items in the process, resulting in greater detailed texture.

Due to oxidation, an enemy of copper and bronze (aggressive, destructive rusting), these components are immersed in activated charcoal particles, which absorbs the oxygen given off during the firing. When I dig out fired pieces of either clay type from their charcoal grave, I imagine myself as an archeologist unearthing ancient art fragments from the sea.

After firing, I finish the pieces with wire brushes, sanding sticks, files, and polishing papers. For this project, I aim for a more rustic appearance, so more brushing and less polishing. I hasten the patination (natural darkening and coloring over time) with oxidizing liquids, then more brushing to highlight the higher area of the items.

Finally, the fun part, creating the jewelry. Ah… I’m not letting out my secrets, developed over the past two decades. I’ll let the jewelry speak for itself.

Carol Avery, Ocean ART Custom Jewelry
Hand Cast Bronze, Copper and Purest Silver ART Jewelry I created to raise awareness and funding to
Plant Corals on IntelliReefs, Saving Our Oceans!

My custom, hand cast, Silver ART jewelry line is 99.9% pure!

(by law, silver must be at least 95% silver; sterling silver, 92.5%).

Although silver clay originated in Japan, American ingenuity resulted in copper and bronze versions. They are much more affordable, as easy to craft yet challenging to fire. Unlike ceramic clay, metal clay types need slow heating to a target temperature, then holding that temperature for a specific period of time, from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on the type. Bronze clay takes up to 10 hours. Copper and bronze clay have a special requirement--an oxygen-free firing environment. A workable method involves burying items in coconut shell charcoal, leaving space between each one. Charcoal absorbs excess oxygen from the firing process, preventing the scourge of jewelers, fire scale. It's a pervasive oxidation (like rust) that degrades metal over time, also darkening it.

Most jewelers scoff at using silver clay for various reasons, cost a major one. Yet, it's an art medium that appeals to me and others not trained in traditional jewelry making. Virtually anyone can create jewelry pieces from it, though it takes an experimental approach to tease out its unique nature. Cost is a factor, though traditional jewelry fabrication requires expensive equipment and great skill to excel. For me, silver clay and its cousins, copper and bronze clay, offer much more creative freedom. I'm not hampered by lack of certain skills--my creative juices can flow unencumbered.

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