...actually it's science and some work, but PMC is a pretty amazing stuff. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, PMC stands for Precious Metal Clay. PMC is a rollable clay made up of tiny particles of pure silver, an organic binder and water. When fired with a torch or kiln, the binders and water burn away and you are left with pure 99.9% silver. I've been working with PMC since last Spring and I'm still amazed how you can turn a rolled piece of pliable clay into a strong piece of metal.
However, with all of it's versatility it does have some drawbacks:
1. It is quite difficult and messy to work with -some people just never get the hang of it or get very frustrated because it just sticks to everything! There are ways to work around the stickiness factor, though.
2. It's extremely expensive. The price for 25 grams of clay is about $35 which translates to $39/oz. Compare that to sterling silver which is about $11.46/oz currently.
3. Until I invest in a kiln ($650) I am limited to making small pieces that are under 1 inch diameter.
As I write this I realize there are times (Gasp!) that I wrestle with continuing to work with PMC. I have sold some of my metal clay pieces but I seem to have more success with my gemstone and Swarovski jewelry which can withstand a higher markup. With the high cost of PMC and the labor involved, buyers will need to more educated, before they are willing to pay the prices needed to make it financially viable. Here is the breakdown of just my Etsy sales. If I factored in my off-Etsy sales the "gemstone" number would probably be higher.
SALES JUST ON ETSY:
52% Gemstone or Swarovski
43% PMC or using PMC components
By mid December last year, I was at a point where I had decided I would really limit my use of PMC. That was until I received a custom order and was reminded once again how wonderful this medium is. Here is a pendant I made for a gal's son for Christmas.
She had seen a pendant in my shop ,that was sold, of a different Hawaiian Petroglyph, and wanted a picture of a Kukini Runner. I was inspired once again to get out my clay. This is what I came up with and she loved it. Within a couple of weeks I had another request to make another one! Could this be the secret to sales, using the versatility of metal clay to engrave personalized characters or maybe lettering? I'll have to delve into this idea further and maybe offer some custom order listings.
As for now, I'll still continue my experimenting with different techniques of jewelry making. Recently I picked up a book that I bought last summer on fusing fine silver. I had thought about learning to solder but I pretty much have all the tools I need to fuse silver. With soldering sterling silver, I would need to invest in soldering boards, pickle, flux, soldering paste and the list goes on. Fusing can be a topic for another day, so stay tuned!
And as far as PMC goes, I'll continue to use it because, well, I really enjoy it. As long as it still intrigues me to turn clay into metal I'll keep at it whether it's financially worthwhile or not!
Oh, and lastly here is the magic of PMC. My finished jewelry using the unfired pieces shown at the beginning of my post all fired, dipped in patina, and polished. Click on this picture if you'd like to see more jewelry in my shop Beadin By The Sea.