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Twisted copper and pearl pendant

Create copper clay tendrils and finish them with pearl drops

Design work is often less about sitting down with an intention in mind and more about just letting things happen and seeing where they lead. Do yourself a favor. Go out and buy a package of polymer clay. Keep it in your pocket. Play with it while chatting on the phone, waiting in line at the bank, watching television, or any other time you find your hands idle.

This is something I do, and it’s exactly how this unusual twisted copper-and-pearl pendant came about. I was just playing and then, suddenly, there was this piece in my hands that I knew had to be expressed in metal. Create the pendant as shown or treat yourself to a pack of polymer clay to see where your creativity leads you and your finished metal version.

When working with copper clay, it’s best to use a separate set of tools for those that cannot be washed well, like files and polishing papers. Silver metal clay will react adversely with the copper clay in the firing process and is best left out of the mix.

We’ll get you started with the instructions below on forming the pendant body. For the rest of the instructions on firing and finishing the piece, click here for the free project PDF.

Materials

  • Copper metal clay: 20 g
  • Copper wire:
    - 16-gauge (1.3 mm), dead-soft, 12 in. (30.5 cm)
    - For Art Clay Copper: 18-gauge (1.0 mm), dead-soft, 1 ft. (30.5 cm)
    - For other brands of copper metal clay: 20-gauge (0.8 mm), dead-soft, 1 ft. (30.5 cm)
  • 5 4–6 mm, half-drilled, round drop pearls

Tools & supplies

  • Flush cutters
  • Pliers: large roundnose
  • Sponge-tip makeup applicator
  • Rubber clay shaper
  • Open-shelf firing supplies (if using Art Clay Copper): long tweezers, pickle, small slow cooker, copper tongs, fiber blanket, heat-resistant glove
  • Kiln posts
  • Heat patina supplies (optional): Butane torch, butane, fire-resistant surface
  • Clear jeweler’s lacquer (optional)
  • Two-part epoxy
  • Diamond pearl reamer (optional)
  • Denatured alcohol (optional)

Toolboxes

Instructions

Twisted copper and pearl pendant 1
Photo 1
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 2
Photo 2

Select the pearl wire. Art Clay Copper (ACC) uses an open-shelf firing method, so you’ll lose some material when the copper clay oxidizes in the kiln, and therefore you’ll need a slightly larger gauge of wire for your pearl wire. For ACC, use 18-gauge (1.0 mm) dead-soft copper wire. For all other copper clays, use 20-gauge (0.8 mm) dead-soft copper wire.

NOTE: The copper wire must be 99.9% pure and dead soft, or it will break after you fire the pendant. If you have to refire the pendant to repair breaks, the wire will be more likely to break after a second firing. Copper wire from a hardware store or other non-jewelry supply source is more likely to be an alloy than pure copper.

Cut the pearl wires. Cut five pieces of the selected wire: two 1 1⁄2-in. (38 mm) pieces and three 3-in. (76 mm) pieces [1].

Form and cut the bail wires. Use large roundnose pliers to form a U-shaped loop in the end of 16-gauge (1.3 mm) dead-soft copper wire [2]. Use flush cutters to cut the loop from the wire.

Twisted copper and pearl pendant 3
Photo 3
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 4
Photo 4

Repeat to make a total of three U-shaped loops, forming two loops equal in length and one shorter than the first two [3].

Prepare the wires. Use a file to rough up the ends of the five pearl wires and the three bail wires so they have some tooth to help anchor them in the clay [4].

Twisted copper and pearl pendant 5
Photo 5
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 6
Photo 6
Roll the clay. Use your fingers to form 15–18 g of copper clay into a rough snake shape. Using a piece of hard, clear plastic, roll the clay into a long snake [5]. Then, taper the ends of the snake by applying more pressure to the ends of the plastic as you roll the clay [6]. Wet the entire snake with distilled water so you can continue manipulating it without the clay cracking.
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 7
Photo 7
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 8
Photo 8

Shape the clay. Form the snake into a U shape, then twist the ends of the snake together [7].

Insert the bail wires. Insert the ends of the bail wires into the top of the clay loop [8]. Place the two longer wires on the outside, with the shorter wire between them; this will help the pendant hang nicely when worn. Center the loops on the pendant so it hangs properly; adjust if needed.

Twisted copper and pearl pendant 9
Photo 9
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 10
Photo 10

Insert the pearl wires. Insert the end of one 1 1⁄2-in. (38 mm) wire into one end of the snake [9a]. Repeat, inserting the other wire into the other end of the snake [9b]. Insert the end of each 3-in. (76 mm) wire at various points where the twisted pieces come together [9c–e]. Check the piece for visual balance, then set it aside or in a dehydrator to dry completely.

Make paste. Put about 3 g of copper clay into a glass or plastic dish. Use a spatula and distilled water to turn the clay into a thick paste [10]. The paste should not drip, run, or flow; its consistency should be like toothpaste or cake frosting.

Twisted copper and pearl pendant 11
Photo 11
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 12
Photo 12
Reinforce the wire attachments. Use a sponge-tip applicator to muddy the surface where the wires enter the clay [11]. Apply paste to the entry area of each wire. Use a clay shaper to smooth the paste, creating a seamless transition from the wire to the pendant. Use a flat paintbrush and water to blend the paste into the body of the piece [12]. Dry completely.
Twisted copper and pearl pendant 13
Photo 13

Refine the wire joint. Clean excess clay off the wires, and smooth the reinforcements using various finishing tools, such as the damp sponge-tip applicator [13] and/or sanding swabs.

NOTE: Take care not to sand away all the clay you added for reinforcement. If you used water, let the piece dry completely.

Some people find copper clay dust irritating. Wear a dust mask while sanding.

For the rest of the instructions, click here for the free project PDF

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