Metal Clay a winning choice for MW instructor Michela Verani

by Metalwerx on September 6, 2011

Winning four awards in as many months has left Metalwerx instructor Michela ‘Mikki’ Verani ecstatic: “It’s amazing. I’m shocked. On cloud nine.”

In April, Mikki won second prize in the Bead Dreams Competition  for her metal clay scatter pin, “Dragonfly Nymph”. One month later, Mikki was awarded the Employee’s Choice Grand Prize in the Fire Mountain Gems Competition for her two-part “Dragon’s Hoard” pendant. Her winning streak continued into July with prizes in Art Clay World’s North American Design Competition for her metal clay bracelet, “Garden Dreams”, and the Art Clay Club Chairman Award for her “Iris Inro” pendant.

Dragonfly Nymph pendant, silver, moonstones

But that’s not all. It’s the second year in a row that her work was selected for publication in the PMC Guild’s fifth Annual, a yearly compilation of the best work in metal clay, this time for “Fern Box”. The Annual will be made available in October, which also happens to be when her how-to article, “Ice Storm Pendant,” will be published in Bead Unique Magazine.

“It tells me I went into the right area. That I can submit to contests that have hundreds or more people entering, and come out in the top three,” Mikki said. “I’m moving in the right area in my work, and it’s good work. I guess I’m getting to the top of my game!”

The Dragon's Hoard

Mikki will share her metal clay expertise in three Metalwerx classes this fall, Intro to Metal Clay, Intermediate Metal Clay Techniques, and Advanced Metal Clay Techniques. She has achieved Level II in the Metal Clay Master’s Registry, one of the first in the world to achieve this credentialing, and is also an Art Clay Certifying Senior Instructor.

The Dragon's Hoard, revealed

Metal clay inspires a lot of emotion in jewelers. Some have a hard time accepting it as a genuine jewelry art form, and there are others who love its plasticity. Mikki likes “how forgiving it is. If I don’t like what I’m making, I don’t have to fire it. I can grind it, reconstitute the clay, and make another piece,” she said.

Garden Dreams bracelet

“With traditional metalsmithing—cutting, soldering, hammering, you get to a certain place and if you don’t like it, you’ve destroyed your metals unless you melt it down and reconstitute it. With metal clay, you never lose it,” she said. “I like that it works like clay, so flexible. It’s a nice meld of dimensionality.”

Iris Inro pendant

Metal clay, in which silver, gold, platinum, bronze, or copper is mixed with a water-soluble organic binder, is a relative newcomer to the jewelry making world. Precious Metal Clay was developed by Dr. Masaki Morikawa of the Mitsubishi Materials Corporation in Japan. In 1990, the material was introduced to Japanese artists who produced complex, elegant jewelry using ceramic-forming techniques.

To bring the product to the U.S. market, the makers convened a who’s-who of metal artists at Haystack Mountain School in Deer Isle, Maine, to experiment with it. After a distributor for the product was identified, the material became available here in 1997. Since then, another company, the AIDA corporation, has entered the market with a slightly different product called Art Clay.

“People are starting to realize you can make some nice things with it,” Mikki said. “At first, the people using it weren’t metalsmiths, they were crafters. But I’ve started to see people take it more seriously as an art.”

Michela "Mikki" Verani

Artists in metal clay can now undertake certification programs offered by specific brands, enabling them to receive discounts on material. The international Metal Clay Masters Registry was established in 2004 to formalize the credentialing of these various programs. Working at their own pace, artists complete fifty projects in five categories to be professionally evaluated.  The educational organization, Precious Metal Clay Guild, provides a wealth of information for its members, including a discussion board and a yearly conference.

Mikki has had six winning pieces for the annual Fire Mountain Gems Competition, each of which has been featured in their full-page back cover magazine ads. The exposure has been good for sales, as she gets calls from folks interested in purchasing her work or taking classes with her.

Fern box

“It’s a nice adjunct to metalsmithing,” she said. “Metal clay is more cost efficient in terms of tools. Just think of how casting takes so much equipment. And it has an immediacy to it that can’t be done in regular metals. There are things you can do without having to sculpt or carve or cast wax.”

You can see more of Mikki’s work on her website, Everlasting Treasures. All Fall classes at Metalwerx begin September 19. Visit the Metalwerx online to see a list of all classes and upcoming weekend workshops, or to register.

–by Yleana Martinez


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

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