Level One

The Metal Clay Master's Registry was announced at a conference during the summer of 2008, and I signed up immediately. I started working on B6 - Resin in a Wearable Object, followed by C1 -Stilt Rivet Brooch. I no longer remember what intervened, but I put the Registry on hold and didn't get back to it until late 2015. My first level submissions were sent for review in November 2016, and the evaluations were returned on January 9, 2017.  This post was written January 14, 2017.

A2 - BiCone Bead
Originality of Texture - 3.5 out of 3.5 possible points
Craftsmanship - 2.0 out of 2 possible points
Symmetry - 1.5 out of 2 possible points (darn!)
Finish - 2.0 out of possible 2.5 parts (what's wrong with the finish?)
Total points - 9.0 out of 10

I am mostly amused at the aspect of my personality that is grieving over the lost points, instead of reveling in the excellent overall score. I am definitely a 'half empty' kind of person. Something I already know to strive to overcome in my life every day.

I always want to try to do something different than has been done before. So on this project I wanted to join the narrow ends of the bead rather than the wider (potentially easier) ends. I built the cones on a form designed by the fabulous Linda Kaye Moses, dried and sanded them and then joined the two cone shapes with thick slip. I then made two cones of heavy index card paper with small holes in the tips through which I inserted a stick that kept them upright and close together. I left the metal clay bead on this form for a week to make extra sure that the bond between the two metal clay cones had time to cure/dry. Overkill? Maybe. But better safe than sorry. The dry bead was later sprayed with water and covered with sanding dust to develop texture.

I had also been curious about flocking and wanted to use it to further enhance the texture by coating the inside of the bead. I realllly love the outcome and may use flocking again at some point - even though it is a very fragile material for jewlery.

The evaluators loved this bead too. The flocking peeks through holes drilled into the bead, and the color is reinforced by eight 2 mm ruby cz's. One of their comments is one of my very favorite of all time about anything - "The flocking brings (at least to me) a pleasant mix of seriousness and whimsy. The rich color is associated with royalty while the material itself is more likely to be found on toys and as a lining for a jewelry box. And, of course, the hair on a Ken doll." The hair on a Ken Doll! Love it!

A6 - Box with Friction Lid
Design - 2.5 out of 3 possible points
Craftsmanship -3.0 out of 3 possible points
Interior - 2.0 out of 2 possible points
Fit of the lid - 2.0 out of 2 possible points
Total points - 9.5 out of 10

I have long been interested in all things historical and follow a Pinner on Pinterest who collects photos of tribal jewelry. Her Pins of Yemeni, Tibetan, and African pendants and boxes inspired this small prayer cylinder.  The texture is reminiscent of a medieval 'diaper' pattern and was carved into a linoleum block. One of the domed ends is removable and is fitted with the bezel that makes the lid slide into the body of the box.

The evaluators certainly liked most of the elements of this project - except for the addition of the gold fill jump rings which hang as decoration from the safety chain of the lid. Ok. Different strokes and all. They also thought that the metal clay, slanted coil/'jump rings' which function as the hanging mechanism for the necklace were 'disturbing' when viewed next to the straight lines of the texture. (impossible to see in this photo) Again - different tastes for different viewers. I like them.

 B1 - Bezel Set After Firing
Setting - 3.5 out of 3.5 possible points
Integration of parts - 2.7 out of 2.5 possible points 
Design - 1.7 out of 2 possible points
Finish - 1.5 out of 2 possible points
Total - 9.5 out of 10

So - This pendant was made as an afterthought. The box was made as a class sample and I wanted to think of something to do with it. I played with different stones and this Rutilated Quartz fit perfectly. I made the bezel with commercial fine silver bezel wire and set a vintage photo under it. I've been using high domed or faceted Quartz, sometimes with naturally occurring rutiles to make a statement about how we (I) tend to view the past. The dome magnifies, and the rutiles cut the image - reminding us that the past is not as nostalgic as we imagine and reality is often not as 'pretty' as a static image would have us believe. Everything has it's flaws.

Setting this stone was a bear and I was happy to know that the evaluators realized that. "the stone is well set, especially considering that it is recessed within the box, which makes for more difficult access. Good Job!" Thank you!! A regular setting tool wouldn't fit between the bezel and the side of the box, so I used a spatula! 'Whatever works' is one of my mottos.

Points were taken off because the design was an afterthought. The jump rings that act as the hanging mechanism for the chain were not soldered closed before being soldered to the back of the box. "This is not a structural problem - they are well soldered in place - but the gap is poor craftsmanship". (I actually saw that too and thought about un-soldering and doing it over). They didn't like the commercial chain with this piece either. OK. I always use commercial chain. They DID like the green garnet slices.

What I take away from the full evaluation comments is that they are looking at every single element and how those elements relate to every other element. They are looking at the work as a whole, and although their perceived slights may not count against the score - they're seeing and commenting on them. Which I appreciate.

B6 - Resin in a Wearable Piece
Design - 2.5 out of 3.5 possible points
Use of color - 2.0 out of 2.5 possible points
Craftsmanship - 1.0 out of 2 possible points
Innovation - 1.0 out of 2 possible points
Total - 6.5 out of 10 

Did you read the opening paragraph? I made this in 2008. I was pretty proud of it. I especially like the large gauge wire 'dots' set in the resin (placed on double stick tape before the resin was poured in). And I tried to polish it up before I sent it in. But they knew it wasn't up to snuff. "The finish is uneven, with both sides showing a higher polish at the center just below the inlayed dots than elsewhere" (you can see that in this photo) "This same ring could have been made faster and probably with a better result by starting with silver sheet". I totally agree with the finish statement. But the silver sheet comment brings up a huge pet peeve.

This is metal clay. No one has ever said that the metal clay shouldn't look like sheet, that it shouldn't be untextured or that it shouldn't be flat. Although I think that one should use the right materials for the job at hand, and indeed, perhaps thick gauge sheet would have made a nicer ring, the challenge was to use metal clay. Not everyone who uses metal clay uses a saw. Not everyone has access to big tools, or has the hand strength to perform a number of jewelry making tasks that require that ability. That's why they use metal clay. And if they want to use metal clay to approximate the appearance of sheet metal - ok. That's their choice.

So while I understand completely why this piece failed, and may agree, and already knew that I was taking the easy way out by submitting something I made 8 years ago, I don't agree with all the comments of the evaluators.

C1 - Brooch with stilt Rivets
Design - 1.5 out of 4 possible points
Craftsmanship - 2.5 out of 3.5 possible points
Finish and Patina - 1.7 out of 1.5 possible points Thanks
Functionality - 1.0 out of 1 possible point
Total - 6.7 out of 10

This was the other piece I made in 2008. And was quite proud of at the time. I hand pierced the design out of dry clay. Not so easy. Also not so easy to sand and smooth all those edges. With nothing broken. 

"I like the play of shadows across the etched copper backplate, but there could be much greater interplay of layers, forms, and materials.This is a solution to the challenge, but not a Master's solution." Ouch.

They also didn't see the point of making the pierced piece out of metal clay when it could have been made from sheet metal. Pet peeve strikes again. They weren't fond of the half drilled coral flower just sitting on top of the pierced piece either. They did think the steel pin back functioned well and "lays nicely on the lapel of a jacket". Well at least it wasn't a total loss.

C10 - Materials. Candidates Choice
Originality - 1.0 out of 2 possible points
Craftsmanship - 1.5 out of 3 possible points
Metal Clay Application - 2.0 out of 4 possible points
Functionality - 1.0 out of 1 possible point
Total - 5.5 out of 10

OK. This pot was an experiment. I took a ceramics class last year, and made a number of these little pots that went together like a lentil bead. Two domes joined together. The silver plaques are also ceramic clay covered with slip, with paper/sheet punched leaves. I called it an Ikebana pot (I really know nothing about the art of Ikebana). 

I knew the silver had to have ceramic glaze to stick to, so I applied clear glaze over the top of the pot to aid in this function. I'm also going to experiment with silver over underglazes at some point so all you people with previous experience and knowledge - don't add a spoiler to my experiments. Don't tell me! :)

"This piece satisfies the requirement of combining metal clay with a second material though I am not convinced the marriage is a happy one." Well, all right then! I don't like this pot either, so I'm ok with having to re do this project.

Th evaluators commented that the silver tiles looked as if they had been over tumbled, perhaps not realizing that they were silver over ceramic. They said that maple leaves are possibly lowest on the list of plants used in Ikebana, so perhaps I should have used another kind of leaf (perhaps I just shouldn't have called it an Ikebana vase).  They said more, but why torture myself by re publishing it here?

My take away? 1. Don't send anything you're not confident with. 2. Don't just give a thing a specific name for the sake of expediency. I kind of wonder what the comments would have been if I'd called it "ceramic pot with silver accents".

D2 - Gold Layer as Detail
Design - 5.0 out of 5 possible points
Craftsmanship - 2.7 out of possible 2.5 points
Application of Gold - 1.5 out of 1.5 possible points
Integrity - 1.0 out of 1 possible point
Total - 10.2 out of 10 Wowzga! Thanks for sure!

Well, my little ego has been stroked but good on this one. "They like me. They really like me." (Sally Field upon winning an Oscar)

They just kvelled over this piece. (google it) Tell me something they didn't really love. "This is my favorite piece of the group. This piece has a well thought out, complete design with a very clean application of gold. Overall, this is a very strong piece with a strong Egyptian feel.

I repeated the cylinder seal design in the oval you see above the necklace and in the clasp. They also really liked that.  The inset 'river' space was made by  using decorative scissors to cut a strip of thin plastic, and placing it on the clay before I textured it. The plastic leaves a nice impression with no additional texture. 

What I thought was texture/design overkill the evaluators thought was a "good illustration of the challenge, particularly because gold is traditionally associated with the sun. The addition of the arch and square garnet above the relief gives the pendant a reference to a stella, which builds on the antiquity of the cylinder seal". I'm much deeper than I ever realized! Thanks for the analysis. 

D6 - Metal clay with a Copper Alloy
Design - 3.7 out of 5 possible points
Craftsmanship - 2.0 out of 2.5 possible points
Finish - 2.5 out of 2.5
Total - 8.2 out of 10

This piece is actually a Level 3 PMCC Certification sample. I had taken a class with Cynthia Eid mostly because I wanted to meet and work with her. I knew I'd never buy a hydraulic press, didn't really want to use a hydraulic press, but thought it was a good thing to know about. And I was right. I really enjoyed the class and the time spent with the other women in the workshop. I spent so much time making a texture from brass wire covered with packing tape, and there were so many women in the workshop, that I only had time to make one half of what was supposed to be a bead. I made the other half later, and then decided I didn't want to make the bead. So this hydraulically formed/domed thing sat in my metals toolbox (I have one for metal, metal clay, and wax) for a couple of years. Until I used it to make this pendant as a sample for how to set an irregularly shaped 'stone' after firing. The partial bezels and the prongs are metal clay. I love it.

The evaluators do too. "This project answers exactly what was intended, namely that a metal clay master should have some experience working with traditional metals." And even though they liked it, and I got good marks on it - they're really happy to give you their opinion. Which I appreciate. "The curves along the left side nicely echo the curves of the partial bezel but I warn you against making visual decisions based on rational observations." That's me. "I suspect that the curls of syringe clay are intended to relate to the shapes pressed into the copper," (you're right) "but to my eye they are extraneous." They also didn't like the "contorted strand of pearls". I'll have to think about their comments a little longer to know how to incorporate the ideas into my work (or not).

E3 - Metal Clay Paper
Design - 3.0 out of 4 possible points
Innovation - 1.5 out of 2.5
Craftsmanship - 2.0 out of 2 possible points
Finish .07 out of 1.5 possible points
Total - 7.2 out of 10
Small twinge  - just sneaked by

Another sample. This time for a Bubble Blower class I recently taught. I  left the bubble blower out of the cylinder. Would the inclusion have made a difference for the Innovation score? We'll never know.

"I think the 'ears' that attach the chain complement the bold graphic forms of the paper overlay". Thanks. The ears were meant to be seen as leaves - but whatever...

"Please take a close look at the finish using some kind of magnification." (I did!) "I think you will agree that there are lots of sanding lines that should have been removed." Ok. I'll look again when this piece has been returned. "Not fond of the pink flowers" Again."It's the pink color that draws me away from enjoying the metal clay paper element." The metal clay elements are flowers, the coral pieces are flowers - I like them.

E6 - Stencil Process
Design - 2.0 out of 4.5 possible points
Stencil - 1.2 out of 2 possible points
Use of the process - .05 out of 2 possible points
Craftsmanship - .07 out of 1.5 possible points
Total - 4.4 out of 10
Ouch. RE-DO!

This one really hurts. I do what I prefer to call Slip Printing all the time. All the time! You have to make three examples in this project, and I wanted to make houses. I watch a lot of home decorating shows, love architecture, and think I had seen a Tiny House on the street right before I got started on this one. So I made three tiny house scatter pins.

"The piercing is nicely done though I think you made it difficult for yourself by using such thin brass." I intentionally used thin brass, because I like the depth of the slip that 'prints' through it. Commercial templates are cut from very thin stencil film. That's what I use and what I like to use. So since this was more a stencil project than a piercing project, I used what I thought would be best for the metal clay portion of the challenge.

One of the evaluators gave this project a narrative that didn't exist in my mind, and I'm pretty amused by that. "Straw house is black because it has been blown down" (or because the maker just likes dark patina) "the silver being the swirling breath of the wolf, the second house took longer to blow down, but was eventually lost, hence the partial black house, but the roof still 'stands', the twigs and leaves blown around by the wolf." Ummm... Ok "the third house, built solidly, stands and has a flower growing in front of it, hence the 'pearl of wisdom.' (unseen in this photo) Very Clever!" Thanks? "Not sure what the garnet on the first house means." Nothing. I thought it was pretty.

In this project I was using slip as stucco was used as decoration in previous eras. All of the slip designs are meant to imply plants of one kind or another growing on the sides of the houses. There was also thoughtful decoration on the backs of the houses, with a carved brick chimney, a staircase, a back door... Kind of miffed that these details weren't mentioned or given weight. They really hated my idea for this project.

I think if I were to give this first level a name or title it would be "When she was good, she was very very good - and when she was bad, she was horrid".

While in the midst of making I was annoyed, discouraged, elated, excited, bored, and a whole host of other emotions, during the anticipatory time between sending the work and receiving the comments I was interestingly oblivious. I wanted the results back, but had other things to do that kept my mind off it. After reading the commentary I was thoughtful. But I'm surprised by how much more I've gotten out of this process during the writing of this post! It's forcing me to really consider the words of the evaluators. I agree with most of what they said. And I'm looking forward to re making the four projects that didn't pass.

As a side note to others beginning this process - If one means to complete all 5 levels, at some point they will have to do all 50 of the projects. But because each participant gets to choose what project to do when - I could submit four other projects for this level one re-do. I don't have to re-do these projects right now if I'd rather not. But I will.

And when I get the evaluations back for the second time - I'll edit this page with the results. Thanks for reading! Good luck with your own projects.


  1. Thanks for posting, Lora. The evaluators' comments are a real window into how they think.

  2. Thanks so much Special K and Barb!

  3. Thanks for sharing all this with us, Lora! I would amend your title for this level 1 submission to "when she was good, she was very, very good - and when she was bad, she was learning!" :)

  4. Really an interesting read! Thank you for taking time to share your experience with us. And good for you sticking with the program!

  5. Thank you for posting!! Really helpful especially handling the criticism which seems everyone will face at one point or another.

  6. Thank you for posting!! Really helpful especially handling the criticism which seems everyone will face at one point or another.

  7. Really interesting read, Thankyou. However I've come to accept that individual opinions or even opinions of dynamic groups are very subjective based on those very individual opinions and the 'next person or group may have one which differs considerably. I've often made a piece that I'm not happy with, didn't like, or wonder where on earth I got that idea from in my head, but someone thinks it's great, brilliant, fantastic. You only have to watch things like Masterchef or The Voice to see that one likes it , one doesn't. I for example like your B6 for its cleanliness and sharper lines and yet they score it 6.5. I think they're wrong, but who am I apart from the one who may see it, like it , want it and buy it. I've learnt never to put anything in a box under the bench anymore, because someone will always want it, it's just finding that person. Thankyou for sharing, that really made me think about it.

  8. Lora, wow some really high scores. Thanks for posting :) Cindy