Sunday, October 12, 2008

Capturing Nature with Liquid Silver

Well, okay, maybe not liquid, but certainly squishy silver. Today's feature is about another Etsy artisan, Marina McCarran, a.k.a. Meridian Studio. She creates amazing, organic snapshots of nature that you can wear! She creates these beauties using real leaves, petals, and other objects from nature and combines them with colorful semiprecious stones. Rather than making a mold and casting these natural pieces over and over again, her work is as unique as nature, because she picks her petals and uses them directly to create her forms using precious metal clay and paste. I had to do a little side research to really understand what she was talking about, since I couldn't see it, but after a quick trip to Rio Grande to look at some of these products, I think I get it. Precious metal clay or art clay silver comes in a variety of textures, but began as a clay, feeling sort of like modeling clay. The original material was invented by Mitsubishi Materials in the early 1990s, and is composed of tiny particles of metal (in this case fine silver), an organic binder and water. The resulting material can be formed by hand or pressed into things to take on their shape and texture. This form is then allowed to air dry (at which point it can be sanded and refined somewhat) then is fired in a kiln or with a torch or gas stove. The heating process burns off the binder and causes the piece to shrink a small amount. After it emerges from the heat, the result is composed of fine silver (0.999 pure silver, as opposed to sterling silver, which is 0.925 pure), is utterly indistinguishable from the pre-fired form and can be further finished by polishing, grinding, or oxidizing. The different products available today vary in firmness (from relatively hard clay to toothpaste texture to near-liquidy slip for gluing slabs together), degree of shrinkage (anywhere from 8% to 30 %), and curing time (depending on the size of silver particles).

Marina tells me that she has a couple of ways she makes these organic forms. If the leaf or petal is light and delicate, she uses the silver art clay paste, applying it with a paintbrush until there are 10 to 15 layers of paste. Once the paste has air-dried, she must carefully remove the leaf or petal, then sand the edges and add other features (stone settings, bails) made out of the clay before it is fired. These are some of her most impressive pieces--you can almost imagine the little petals nearly falling to pieces under the weight of the silver paste!

She has also created pieces using a rolled out layer of clay which she then presses the leaves into. She tells me that this method is usually reserved for more delicate, fragile objects that would fall apart under the weight of the paste. Often these leaves are dried or pressed leaves or flowers, giving her only one shot at getting it right! I have a feeling that method is the one she used for the leaf print that I purchased from her, pictured below:

As an added bonus with my purchase (and because she's such a sweetheart) she also sent me a pair of her ear-huggies! They are simple, ear-hugging designs that are comfortable to wear and so pretty! They cling right to the front of your earlobe and have small earwires that do not really show up when you're wearing them. Check them out, they are a really great idea!


fluffnflowers said...

I always wondered how PMC worked but could never bring myself to ask! Very cool.

(And I love her huggies!!!)

Paula Manning-Lewis said...

Hi Julie,
Thanks for commenting on my blog. Your name is very familiar, only I don't know if it's from etsy or DCF. Too much internet surfing has me confused! If you are ever out and about, come check out my studios and gallery, Chroma Studios, 1606 Central Ave SE Suite 102. I'd love to show some of your work! In fact, we are having a silent auction show in December to benefit the Roadrunner Food bank. 50% of the sales price will go back to the artist. I put up a call to artists in the art in abq group if you want to know more.

thanks again for your comment. Albuquerque isn't that big a town, so I'm sure we'll meet eventually!


Paula :)

5erg said...

I love leaf motives! And this jewelry is so well crafted too. Interesting!