Holly Gage: Inventor, Negative Space Caning With Metal Clay

by Metalwerx on April 30, 2012

Ever since precious metal clay was introduced in 1990, artists the world over have tried to find ways to take this wondrous material in new directions. Holly Gage has developed a technique using combustible clays to create canes and hollow forms. She will lead a workshop May 19-20 at Metalwerx, “Negative Space Caning with Metal Clay,” to teach her innovative method.

"If I Could Fly," brooch by Holly Gage

It sounds simple enough: use wood, cork, and certain brands of paper clay to form inner cores which burn off, giving dimension and design possibilities to a piece. Holly is credited with developing the process.

Making canes by alternating layers of metal and wood or cork clay can lend intricate negative space to a form. Hollow forms can be used as focal pieces, beads, or anything—it can be flat as well. It’s a hands-on process where a little bit of instruction can go a long way.

Intricate open cane earrings, Holly Gage

The two-day workshop is for metal clay enthusiasts of all skills levels, but Holly warns, “Whatever you think you know is not necessarily applicable to this. It is a process having you think differently and creating in a whole new dimension, a springboard idea starting the launch sequence to explore more.”

Holly was fascinated by the use of color in polymer clay jewelry, so she began experimenting with combustible clays to make spaces. As anyone who works with metal clay can attest, a design with individual rungs and other delicate open work can become very tedious. She spent six months in trial-and-error activities to improve the process, and discovered that of all the combustible clays, wood, cork, and certain brands of paper clay worked the best. “Here, the combustible materials act as a support as well as  temporary space holder that will fire away,” she said.

"Another Dimension," brooch by Holly Gage

She tried using Creative® paper clay, but the volcanic ash content did not completely burn away. “It would hold the space,” she said, “but I had to chip it out.” She cautioned that this work must be done very clean. If the cork or wood clay gets into the metal, it will leave pits. You can read more about this process here.

Holly also devised a way to use up the leftover material. “You can recycle it even if it has the combustible foreign particles,” she said. “I’ve come up with a way to use mixed metal and cork clay sanded material so that it’s not wasted. Scrap and dust and everything.”

Who could have anticipated that one day artists would use paintbrushes and a moldable metal in clay form, found objects, and extruders, to make jewelry? For Holly, a nationally-recognized and award-winning jeweler, metal clay has become the most “accurate” way for her to express herself. When she successfully perfected the negative space caning procedure, she was pleased with the end result and the response from the arts community.

"Deco" necklace, Holly Gage

“I thought it was cool,” she said. “Now I can control my results a lot better. It’s innovative and different, and it’s been received rather well.”

There are still a few seats available for Holly’s workshop.  To register,  or learn more about the class, contact Metalwerx at (781) 891-3854, or visit http://metalwerx.com/workshop/531. To see more of Holly’s work, visit http://www/hollygage.com

–by Yleana Martinez

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marnie Ehlers May 3, 2012 at 3:42 am

I have taken this workshop with Holly and it is fantastic! Holly is not only a great artist but also a great teacher. If you have a chance to take a class with her you won’t be disappointed.

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