Well, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. It was really satisfying to see so many metal clay people defending and supporting the use of metal clay versus traditional metalsmithing. Some of the posts could have been a bit more diplomatic (on both sides) but at least it got awareness up and got people talking.
The Orchid Board is a great place to find information, and it is a terrific resource but, like any forum, there are those that comment on things about which they know not. We just have to show them the error of their ways.
A couple of the comments made me really examine the statements I’ve been making over the years that metal clay can be every bit as cost efficient as traditional metalworking, if one is considering your time as cost. After all, once you become proficient, creating in metal clay can be fairly swift, and there are some things you can do in metal clay that just wouldn’t be easy to accomplish traditionally. Yes, I know you can carve wax just as easily, but if I want a one of a kind, do I really want to carve my piece in wax, send it out to be cast and then get it back and have to do all the work to refine and polish it? That’s 3 steps more than I have to with metal clay.
However, the price of silver being as low as it is at the moment, I know that the cost of silver clay is very high. Yes, I admit it, it’s really much higher at this time. But the sculptability, the detail possible, the personalization I can get I certainly couldn’t with fabrication. Maybe my resistance to wax carving is the detachment. My hands wouldn’t touch metal until I got the piece back in silver. That would certainly take some getting used to. I’m so used to having the silver in my hands, ready to be shaped and molded, that I can’t imagine being removed from that process.
At any rate, I do understand traditional metal smiths inability to comprehend our dedication and loyalty (if not obsession) with metal clay. I have always been able to sell my pieces, but would probably be gobsmacked by the increased sales were I able to bring my prices down to where they appealed more to the masses. If the roof over my head and my next meal depended on the sales of my jewelry, I’d be hitting the streets for boutiques and galleries, and maybe come face to face with the decision of whether metal clay or casting was the best way to survive financially. I know there are many, many metal clay artists who do survive by teaching and writing and selling their art. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. Would it be easier being able to carve wax and cast in sterling in multiples? Probably, but you have to be willing to be that kind of artist. Production has never been something I was interested in.
For me, as an artist, metal clay fills a void that no other medium has. Creating jewelry isn’t just the finished product for me, it’s the journey as well. The experience on the Ganoksin Orchid Board has helped me understand many things about myself. One, that I’m intensely, fiercely loyal to metal clay as a medium. Two, that I will never be a metal smith who uses fabrication solely as a means of creating jewelry. And lastly, that I’m not ready to “step back” and walk away from this journey that I started 14 years ago. I’m proud to be a part of this new medium movement, and I hope in 50 years there will still be those in metal clay discussing, arguing and creating.