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j e w e l r y
t ech n i q u e s
e x p lo r ati o n s
k at e M c k i n n o n
One of my favorite fictional characters, Hercule Poirot, always wore a
silver boutonniere on his vest, given
to him as a young man by one of
the two women he ever loved. Make
this interesting amphora setting to
show off a favorite bead, practice
your appliqué, fusing, chainmaking
and open box-building skills, and to
evoke the well-dressed Poirot and
his romantic devotion.
necklace 22¼" (56.5 cm)
pendant 1¼" × 2¾" × ½"
(3.2 × 7 × 1.3 cm)
50–75 g of fine silver clay for Amphora
50–75 g of fine silver clay for chain (optional)
1 glass 14 × 63 mm tube bead or size of choice
1" (2.5 cm) of 10- or 12-gauge fine silver wire to
snugly fit bead hole
16 or more dry fine silver clay 8mm rings
12 or more dry fine silver clay 3mm balls
2 fine silver 15 mm jump rings and 2 fine
silver 13 × 30 mm S-clasps or 8" (20.3 cm) of
12-gauge fine silver wire
Liver of sulfur
2-part epoxy resin
Texture pads or rubber stamps
Sharp tissue blade
Heavy-duty flush cutters
Soft paintbrush and water
Cocktail straw or small drill bit and drill
5mm circle cutter
Flat- or chain-nose pliers
Kiln brick (optional)
Large round-nose pliers (optional)
Lampworked bead by Stephanie Sersich
Note I used a long, narrow lampworked
bead for my design, but you can use any
large bead for yours; just design the setting
to accommodate the bead size.
This lovely project can be made entirely of metal
clay. Just create larger hanging holes and attach
a metal clay chain directly to the pendant. I used
S-hooks to connect my piece so the chain could
be removable, giving the option of wearing the
amphora on a plain, less expensive chain if
Techniques + Elements
Fused rings (optional)
sculptural metal clay jewelry
01 | Back. Roll and texture a sheet of
fresh metal clay to a finished thickness
of 3–4 cards. Cut an elongated fan shape,
15⁄8" × 31⁄8" (4.1 × 8 cm), to form the amphora’s back. Cut decorative windows
in the back of the piece, to show the
bead from behind, and to cut the weight
of your finished piece. Cut hanging
holes at the top right and left corners,
either when the clay is bone dry, using a
small drill bit, or when it is fresh, using
a cocktail straw. If you cut fresh, you
can remove the cut material from your
cocktail straw and either use it to roll a
little ball of clay for an egg or a ball-end
head pin. Let the back piece become
hard-leather hard to bone dry, and, if
you wish, appliqué small pieces of dry
clay to it for interest. I used three plain
circles, cut from a thinly rolled sheet
with a drinking straw and attached
them bone dry, with a wash of water.
02 | Side rectangles. Roll and
texture a sheet of fresh metal clay to a
finished thickness of 3–4 cards. Cut two
⁄2" × 3" (1.3 × 7.6 cm) rectangles. Use a
ball-end burnisher to make small divots along the length of the rectangles
where you’ll add the dry clay rings. Use
the circle cutter to cut out a few of the
divots; the rings will frame the holes
later. Let the rectangles become hardleather hard to bone dry.
It can be helpful to lay your 8mm bone-dry clay
rings onto the freshly cut sides, to help you
position your divots.
03 | BASE. Roll a plain sheet of
freshmetal clay 6 cards thick. Cut a 5⁄8"
× 1" (1.5 × 2.5 cm) rectangle to form
the amphora’s base. Use the wire that
will support the bead to make a hole
in the base where a rivet post will go.
Keep in mind that the hole may not
be dead center, depending on the fit of
your bead in your setting. Let the base
become hard-leather hard to bone dry.
Note This rivet post will hold your bead in
place, so be sure to choose a wire gauge that
fits your bead hole tightly. Beware of large
beads with tiny holes; you want your wire
to be thick enough to support the weight of
the bead without bending.
clay ball. Let the balls set up briefly,
and, when sticky, press and rotate them
in their divots to secure.
05 | Use a small amount of water
and pressure to squidge the box sides
together, assembling an open box form.
Brush the joins with a damp paintbrush
to gently smooth and clean them.
The prepared box back, sides, and base, bone dry,
and ready for assembly.
Place the dry clay balls in the drop of water in your
dry clay divots, and let them get sticky.
04 | Use water and pressure to squidge
the dry clay rings to the two dry 1⁄2"
× 3" (1.3 × 7.6 cm) rectangles so they
frame the divots or cut-out holes. For
the rings that frame a divot, fill the ring
with a drop of water and drop in 1 dry
06 | Let the box dry completely. Fill
any errors in your joinery, if necessary,
with tiny snakes of freshly rolled clay,
and smooth in place with a thin wash of
water or slip. Let the box completely dry.
07 | optional. Make and assemble
a 16" to 24" (41 to 61 cm) metal clay
chain for hanging the pendant.
The finished box form, ready for the post imbed
and firing, and a finished Amphora box in the
background. Note the different look of flush vs high
08 | Reset the rivet post into the
hole in your base, which should have
shrunk in drying. This is one of my
favorite techniques to get a really good
fit on a large wire imbed; make the hole
in wet clay, set the post in the dry clay.
The drying process offers just enough
shrinkage to ensure a tight fit of the
wire in the hole. Fire the box and chain
for 2 hours at 1650° F (899° C).
09 | After firing, work-harden the
chain by hammering the links on the
anvil and a bezel mandrel.
10 | Attach 1 commercial or handmade fine silver jump ring to each of
the hanging holes. Fuse the rings closed
circle of flowers necklace
owl peeking pendant
sculptural metal clay jewelry
sea prong rings
pebble prong pendant
sea prong bracelet
sculpt art to wear
About the Artist
Kate McKinnon is a mixed-media artist who
lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Her work
focuses on the engineering of how elements
work together, connect, and grow into finished
pieces of jewelry. She won the prestigious Rio
Grande Saul Bell award in 2003 for her innovative design with metal clay, and has taught
and lectured internationally. Kate is the author
of several self-published books on jewelry
design, a mixed-media book, and a novel about
rebuilding Thoreau’s dream in a form to suit the
digital age—an urban Walden.
Paperback w/flaps, 8½ × 9
160 pages + DVD
Available April 2010
Master teacher and jewelry artist Kate
McKinnon begins Sculptural Metal Clay
Jewelry with an overview of metal clay
basics: terms, techniques, and tools. Next,
she offers detailed instructions for creating
a variety of metal clay and fine silver
wire elements: components, settings,
findings, attachments, 3-D forms, and
textured effects that are the foundation
of her signature jewelry designs.
The technique section is followed by 10
unique projects that combine foundation
techniques with one-of-a kind design
elements. Projects include:
+ three-dimensional rings
+ organic chain designs
+ metal clay and lampworked bead pendants
Her designs have multiple components
made from metal clay and fine silver wire,
including not only clasps, chain, and
settings, but also moveable and removable pieces, unusual textures and patinas,
unique construction and engineering, and
creative ways to incorporate beads.
All of the techniques are shown with
crystal-clear step-by-step photography. For
added instructional assistance, the author
and her techniques in action appear on the
enclosed DVD bound in the back of the
book. This book and DVD combination
offers jewelry artists both the techniques
and design inspiration needed to create
gallery-level jewelry that is truly art to wear.