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Magical Metal Clay, Nature & Gems With Susan Studd

Metal clay is just magical and Susan's mesmerising jewellery designs prove that! Metal clay can be moulded, sculpted and formed just like modelling clay and can be fired in most cases, with a gas torch, on a gas hob or in a kiln. Once fired the clay turns into 99.9% pure silver which is hallmarkable and even purer than sterling silver!

This form of jewellery making allows you to be creative in experimenting with textures, shapes and even adding sparkly gemstones! You'll find all the metal clay tools and supplies you need online with Kernowcraft, as well as a range of free guides and tutorials to help you learn more about the art of metal clay.

In this interesting interview, we chat with jeweller and tutor Susan Studd all about her jewellery making story, why she loves sharing her knowledge with students and her love of nature which inspires her designs. Susan also shares her advice and top tips on getting started in metal clay yourself! We hope you love learning more about Sue's magical designs which showcase a range of skills and techniques from texturing to stone setting.

"I was so intrigued that I was absolutely dying to have a go and try to work out how this clay worked, the alchemy seemed impossible..."

How did your journey into jewellery making begin?

I saw a young lady making silver clay jewellery in her studio in a farm shopping complex in Radlett, Hertfordshire. I was so intrigued that I was absolutely dying to have a go and try to work out how this clay worked, the alchemy seemed impossible. The jeweller held workshops so I signed up for one and became totally hooked, I wanted to learn more.

Describe your jewellery in 3 words.

Ethereal, magical, unique

Tell us how your textile and art background influences your jewellery designs.

I have always been interested the Natural World which is the main focus for most of my work. I have been highly influenced by flowers, plants, animals, shells, crystals, the moon, dragonflies and the oceans, of course landscapes have been a big focus of my artwork but most have the moon in the background!

Nature plays a huge part in my life, I love my garden and pottering around in it. We live in the Suffolk countryside.

Tell us about your experience of creating a brand for your jewellery business.

My branding has been brought about by my love of dragonflies and my love of colour. I use turquoise boxes, the colour of the Emperor Dragonfly’s body, pinks, mauves, olives are soft colours and are very feminine besides being gentle colours in nature.

Tell us the meaning behind your business name.

Ah! I am often asked this question. The Magic of Fireflies and Dragonflies came about from the fact that my husband John and I used to make candles to sell using different moulds, cups, jugs and other interesting receptacles hence ‘fireflies’.

Dragonflies because of my obsession with these insects due to the fact that one landed on me when I was a toddler (many moons ago) and instead of being frightened I was fascinated. Magic is something I am very interested in, the alchemy of silver clay is magic along with the magic of Mother Nature.

How did you discover metal clay and what resources did you use to learn this technique?

As I mentioned previously I watched a young jeweller making silver jewellery in her studio. I became fascinated and joined one of her workshops. We moved from London to Suffolk and I lost touch of metal clay until a friend asked me if I wanted to go on a silver clay workshop which I did. I attended a few more, bought some books on it and progressed from there. I have attended online courses to ensure my progression.

What advice would you give to those wanting to try metal clay but not sure where to start?

I would suggest that they should find a good tutor and attend a workshop to try the basic techniques and then if they like it to attend more workshops to experience more techniques. Then carry out jewellery making on their own, there’s always YouTube to help too! Online courses can be very good if you have the backing of being able to ask questions if you get stuck or don't understand something!

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Favourite gemstones and why?

I love aquamarine, I love blue stones but aquamarine has ocean-like qualities, the colour varies from stone to stone. Turquoise is a favourite, again, a blue stone and often used by Native American peoples, I have a gold band ring inlaid with turquoise made by a member of the Zumi tribe. It’s unusual for turquoise to be used with 18ct gold!

Jadeite is another favourite, it’s qualities are fascinating from whites, browns, reds and pale greens, its translucent qualities are beautiful. It is believed that if you are given a piece of jade jewellery it is lucky!

What’s one thing you wish you knew before starting with metal clay?

How fragile the dry clay is before the refining process… I have broken quite a few pieces!!

You run silver clay workshops! Tell us about these and what gave you the inspiration to start

For 36 years I was a Primary school teacher. I love teaching and after I had mastered a lot of silver clay techniques I decided that I had the teaching skills to pass on these skills to people that want to make silver jewellery. Once a teacher always a teacher!

Most of the workshops are for people to acquire the basic skills, many then return to learn lots of other techniques including ring making and other types of jewellery.

We love your use of texture and shapes, tell us more about your design process and where you find your inspiration.

Many of the shapes I use are based on natural flora and fauna. I like to use shapes that are related to the subject of the piece I am making.

Textures are often from natural pieces like leaves, pieces of bark, or found objects but I also use textures from wallpapers, and bought texture mats which I try to match to the subject matter. Many natural forms like shells have their own unique texture and patterns so I make good use of Mother Nature's own provision.

"Whenever I buy supplies or gemstones from Kernowcraft I receive them quickly and they are very well wrapped. A very reliable business..."

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What’s one technique you would love to master?

I want to make silver clay bangles, I haven’t as yet made one but I have been reading up and have watched an online lesson. I will master the technique and hopefully make myself some unique bangles!

Favourite commission and why?

I enjoyed making a unique silver wedding ring. It has tiny flowers and leaves all around the top of the shank and the bride was truly delighted with it.

"What I love most of all is when students brush a piece of silver clay that has come out of the kiln and it turns silver, the look on their faces is priceless! Magical!"

Tell us why you are using Kernowcraft for your gemstones and supplies.

I use Kernowcraft for my gemstones as many of the gems are reliably and ethically sourced. The gemstones are of a good quality and are well presented on the website. Whenever I buy supplies or gemstones from Kernowcraft I receive them quickly and they are very well wrapped. A very reliable business.

What is your favourite thing about running a small business?

I love meeting people and helping them but what I love most of all is when students brush a piece of silver clay that has come out of the kiln and it turns silver, the look on their faces is priceless! Magical!

What are your top tips for using gemstones?

Make sure your design is large enough to take the gemstones as the silver clay shrinks. Be careful where you place bezels, which really should be fine silver, handmade or bought as you will be putting them on dry clay. Try to get colours that enhance your designs and work well together if you are wanting to place gemstones in the kiln in silver clay make sure that the stones are fireable, many aren’t.

What designs can we expect to see from you soon?

Ahhh…… something magical and natural! 

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