Let’s talk materials and specifically, ceramic pendants materials. I get this question a lot on social media and although the information is given here and there on the blog, I thought I’d reiterate it in a more specific way.
What wire do you use in the ceramics pendants ?
I use high fire wire for the ceramics pendants. They’re ceramics so they are fired twice at very high temperatures. A standard wire would not hold the heat and would probably break and / or melt. The melting point of aluminum is 660°C, a cone 019 – which is the lowest temperature I fire to for luster – is 668°C while the highest temperature I use is 1200°C. The high fire wire is an alloy of nickel and chrome, usually. Their respective melting points are 1453°C and 1860°C.
Do you add the wire before the firing or after the firing ?
I usually add the wire before the firing. At that stage I also balance my pendant to check if it will hold gracefully on a chain and not wobble on one side or the other. When the ceramics is fired, it shrinks. So the wire is hold firmly in place by the clay itself and the added glazes that are fused all around the wire.
Adding it afterwards would imply the use of glue and it would probably be weaker. The downside of adding it before is that fired wire is usually darker and will lose its silver shine – which I don’t really need anyway.
I don’t use any wire in sculptures or figurines as a wire going through a whole ceramics piece would probably cause it to break – mainly because of tension and differences in thermal expansion of the materials.
Is the material real porcelain or polymer clay / cold porcelain ?
It’s real porcelain, like the one used for china, diner ware, mugs etc. Ceramics, porcelain in particular, has been used for a very long time both for useful means and for decorative purposes. Polymer clay on the other hand is made of plastic – PVC and phtalates – and I don’t want to use it.
What kind of gold paint do you use on ceramics ?
I use a gold luster from Duncan, that is red when unfired and gold when fired at a cone 020 to 018. It requires a bit of extra work as the fumes are super strong and I get to wear a fancy respiratory protection. It also requires dedicated brushes, paint thinner to clean them, and all of this is disposed of properly after use.
It’s real 22k gold after firing because of chemical reactions and magic.
Do you fire the gold or is it another kind of paint ?
The gold is fired at around 668°C, as well as the mother of pearl and white gold.
What kind of varnish do you use to make your sculptures shiny ?
I don’t use a varnish, it’s glaze. The glaze is a powdery material suspended in water that I either brush on or dip my bisque fired pieces into. It forms a thick coating. When fired at cone 6 (1200°C) it becomes vitrified and fuses to the ceramics. This creates the shiny effect : it’s basically a coat of glass on the pendant or figurine.
How do you fire pendants that are glazed on both sides ?
I use a bead firing stand ! It’s made specifically for this use. When I was learning this craft I also made pendant stands out of ceramics but they take more space in the kiln and have a shorter life.
What brand of clay do you use for ceramics pendants ?
I use two brands from Canada : Plainsman and PSH (Pottery Supply House). They make lovely materials.
I think that’s it for now ! Anymore questions ? I have a FAQ that’s pretty full of informations, and the rest of the blog is also packed with answers. You can ask me anything on social media or by e-mail 🙂