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Rainbow PMC Wavy Earrings RainbowPMCProjectWebPix.jpg (35968 bytes)

Mary Ellin D’Agostino
2004

PMC is a natural for use with enamels.   For “almost traditional” enamels, you can make the fine silver base out of PMC.  What is really new is the potential for mixing the enamel directly into the PMC3 and firing it to create a hybrid material.  The advantages of this for the non-enamelist are great—there is far less preparatory work to be done (creating the fine silver base, washing and sifting enamels, applying numerous coats of enamel, stoning between coats, and, well, you get the picture).  Besides all that, it is easy to do and you can get fantastic results.

Materials & Equipment:
PMC3 clay and paste, stainless steel wire or high temperature wire, programmable kiln, ear wires or other findings, PMC working tools, textures, and Thompson Enamels in the following colors:
Cobalt blue—a dark opaque blue
Nitric blue—a bright medium blue
Gem green—a bright transparent green

Safety First:
Thompson enamels are lead free.   However, all enamels contain silica, which is a hazard to breathe.  Always wear a dust mask when working with dry enamels and work in a place with good ventilation.  Do not use enamels containing lead for this without taking appropriate safety precautions.

Procedure:

1.      Decide on the basic shape or pattern you want to use.  Draw the basic shape on a piece of parchment paper or plastic sheet.  Trace a second copy of the design so you can make both earrings at the same time.  Remember to reverse drawing for the second earring if the design is asymmetrical so that the earrings will be mirror images of each other. 

2.      Choose which colors you want and in what proportions. 

3.      Measure out a small quantity of your first enamel color onto your work surface.  Mini-measuring spoons ideal for this are included in the Rainbow PMC kits.  Repeat this for each of the colors.  Be careful to not mix the enamel colors.  The ratio of clay to enamel for these colors should be either equal amounts of clay and enamel or twice as much enamel as clay.  If you don’t use enough enamel, you may not get a good colorful effect.

4.      Dip a paintbrush into water and just touch the brush to the enamel to moisten it.  Do this for each color, but be sure that the brush is absolutely clean between adding water to each color.

5.      Measure out the amount of PMC3 clay desired using a mini-measuring spoon.  Thoroughly mix the PMC3 into each color of enamel using the pallet knife.  You can add more water as necessary to facilitate mixing.  Be sure to clean the pallet knife between mixing each color to avoid contaminating the enamel colors.

6.      Allow the clay and enamel mixtures to dry (if necessary) until you can shape the enamel and clay mixture into a ball that you can roll in your hands.   Split each ball in half (one for each earring). 

7.      Measure out two more portions of clay equal to the amounts of clay you mixed with the enamels.

8.      At this point, you have 8 pieces of clay: 2 plain and 2 of each of the three colors.

9.      Roll a ball of clay of the first color into matching coils and place on the patterns.  While they do not have to match exactly, a good match will enhance the appearance of your earrings.

10.  Repeat for other colored mixtures and the plain PMC3 clay.  When rolling out an applying the plain PMC3 clay, roll out one end a little thinner.  As you apply this final piece to the design, use the extra, thinner part of the coil to create a bail.   Use paste to join the end to the coil.   Alternatives are to create the bail separately and attach it wherever you want or drill a small hole and add a jump ring after firing.

11.  Gently compress the pieces together, applying a small amount of water and paste to ensure that the coils bond together.

12.  Apply texture if desired using rubber stamps, textured paper, lace, or with potters tools.

13.  Dry the piece thoroughly in a dryer box or with the hair dryer.  If the pieces are not dry when you go to fire them, the moisture may cause them to puff up.

14.  Twist stainless steel wire into a frame for suspending the earrings over the kiln shelf.  If you lay the pieces directly on the kiln shelf, they may stick or have rough backs.

15.  Fire at 1450 for 10 minutes.  You can start the pieces in a cold kiln or preheat the kiln and place them in the already hot kiln.  Just be sure that the earrings are kept at a temperature over 1290F for over 10 minutes.

16.  Brush and burnish or tumble the silver surfaces of the piece as usual.

17.  Attach the ear wires

Notes:
Blues and greens are really the only colors of enamel that work well when mixed into PMC.  Most other colors of enamels can’t take the sustained heat and turn a khaki color.  Other colors can be added using traditional enameling techniques.

You can load the PMC3 and enamel mixtures into syringes and extrude them to create fine lines. However, since the PMC/enamel mixtures are not as strong as plain PMC, you should use a base or frame of plain silver that is decorated with the PMC and enamel if you are concerned about strength.

Complete directions are included in the Rainbow PMC kits by MED’A Creations.