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Colorful metal clay brooch

Dye oxide patinas lend a limitless palette

There are many ways to add color to your metal, but I’m particularly fond of dye oxide patinas. Depending on how you apply them, the patinas can give you color from sheer transparent to opaque pastels. The versatile patinas allow you to place individual colors into the recessed areas of your texture, or lay several colors side by side so they gently blend, resulting in the refined coloration you find in enamels. Dye oxide patinas are easy to work with and clean up with water, and you can mix them to create custom colors.

For those of you who are familiar with Zentangle drawing, the design of the project brooch was inspired by the tangle named “Henna Drum” by Jane McKugler of Londonderry. I’ve always loved this sweet little flower, and it was easy to transform its likeness into a brooch.

Read instructions below on applying patina to the brooch. For the complete project instructions on making the brooch, click here for the free project PDF.

Materials

  • Metal clay: 35 g
  • Metal clay paste

Tools & supplies

  • Cardstock or plastic for stencil making
  • Fine silver pin-back findings: catch, hinge, and stem
  • Chainnose pliers
  • Wire cutters

Additional tools & supplies for patina

  • Non-contact infrared thermometer
  • Tweezers
  • Paintbrushes (with natural bristles)
  • Dye oxide patinas (4–5 colors)
  • Eye droppers
  • Artist’s palette or plastic medicine cups
  • Solderite board
  • Denatured alcohol in a small spray bottle
  • Sealant/varnish
  • Acetone (optional)

Toolboxes:

Instructions

Colorful metal clay brooch 1
Photo 1
Colorful metal clay brooch 2
Photo 2
Patina

(For instructions on creating the metal clay brooch in this project, click here for the free project PDF.)

Set up the work area. Preheat your mug warmer for 15–20 minutes. Set up your work area with bowls of water, an infrared thermometer, tweezers, and paintbrushes.

NOTE: I use one bowl of water to wash the dye off the brush, and a second to give the brush a final rinse, making sure that all the previous dye is removed.

Prepare the patina dyes. Shake the patina bottles. Use an eyedropper to place a few drops of the colors that you are using into an artist’s palette [1]. (I made two of the featured brooch: one using purple, blue green, green, and pea green, the other using red instead of purple.)

NOTE: If you haven’t used these dyes before, test the colors before starting on your piece. Paint each color onto a piece of paper so you can get a sense of how you want to use them [2].

Colorful metal clay brooch 3
Photo 3
Colorful metal clay brooch 4
Photo 4

Heat the brooch. Place your brooch on the mug warmer. Using the infrared thermometer, check the temperature of the brooch [3]. The piece needs to be around 200°F (93°C) before you apply the patina. If you have trouble getting your brooch to that temperature, move it to a different area of the warmer. The heat in a mug warmer is not consistent, so be patient until you find the right spot.

NOTE: If needed, cover the mug warmer with a stainless steel bowl to concentrate the heat being transferred to the brooch. Use heat-resistant gloves or hot pads to remove the bowl.

Apply the first color. Load a brush with a drop of patina and run the brush along the outer edge of the recessed area [4]. Dip the brush in water, and work in the area of the patina, feathering the patina toward the middle of the recessed area. When the patina has dried, assess the color. If you want a deeper color, reload your brush and repeat the previous step. Alternate a brush of dye with a brush of water, feathering the dye out with the water.

NOTE: Occasionally check the temperature of your piece to make sure it stays at about 200°F/93°C.

Colorful metal clay brooch 5
Photo 5
Colorful metal clay brooch 6
Photo 6

Apply the second color. Using water, clean the paintbrush well. With your second color, repeat adding color and feathering toward the middle. Add a brushload of water, and blend the colors [5]. If you want a deeper color, repeat. Don’t worry if patina gets on the raised areas; you can clean it any time with a damp makeup swab or paper towel [6].

Apply the third color and highlight the flowers. With a clean paintbrush, apply your third color to the inside corner of the petals. With a brush full of water, blend the colors together.

Apply the fourth color. Apply a small amount of your fourth color to the inside lip of the center circle; again, use water to feather the patina. Allow the pendant to sit on the warmer until the patina is dry.

Clean up the frame. With a damp make-up swab, carefully clean off any patina that may be on the frame. Check the swab as you clean to see if you are still removing color. Continue cleaning until you are no longer seeing color on the swab.

NOTE: Do not touch the recessed area, or you will pull the patina off. Don’t let your fingers touch the patina area as you work.

Dry the patina thoroughly. Move the brooch to a dehydrator, and allow it to dry for a few hours. Turn off the dehydrator, then leave the brooch in the dehydrator overnight so it remains dust-free.

Colorful metal clay brooch 7
Photo 7
Colorful metal clay brooch 8
Photo 8

Position the brooch. Carve divots in a Solderite board to accommodate the pin-back findings. Place the brooch on the board so that the findings settle into the divots and the brooch lies flat [7].

Apply denatured alcohol. Spray a light coat of denatured alcohol onto the brooch, and let it dry. This will remove any moisture from the brooch and help the varnish affix to the metal.

Apply the varnish. Dip a tiny brush into varnish. Place the drop on the end of the brush into a recessed area; try to place the drop close to the raised elements so the varnish flows around them [8]. Three drops will probably be all that is needed to fill each petal.

NOTE: Do not overfill the recesses; you want the varnish to dry slowly and evenly so it doesn’t crack.

Allow the varnish to dry. Leave the brooch where it is. Place a cardboard box over it to keep it dust-free while it dries.

NOTE: Cardboard, unlike plastic, allows some airflow and helps with the drying.

Don’t touch the brooch until the next day. It’s tempting to pick up the box and look, but don’t do it unless you think fingerprints are a design element!

Remove excess varnish. Use acetone to clean up any misplaced varnish on the uncolored areas. Work carefully, and don’t get acetone on any of the colored areas.

Insert the pin stem. Place the pin stem into the hinge, making sure the stem is properly aligned. Use chainnose pliers to gently squeeze the hinge closed.

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