Thursday, May 13, 2010

kate mckinnon-sculptural metal clay

Just received my signed copy of Kate Mc Kinnon’s new book, Sculptural Metal Clay, so I thought I’d write some of my thoughts I have about this book.

As many of you know, I first learned about metal clay from Kate when she was living here in St. Louis.  The book is set up much like a workshop you would take from the artist herself, the emphasis being on techniques and not on projects.  This is the real difference that I see between this book and most other metal clay books on the market.  Most books have set by step instructions on how to make a ring, pendent etc.  Instead, Kate describes the techniques she uses to make components, which you can incorporate into your own jewelry designs.  She discusses, among other things, ring bands, rivet posts, prongs and box building, 19 elements in all, a wealth of information. 

There are also 10 projects in the book, but even if you were to copy these projects exactly, they wouldn’t turn out exactly the way they are in the book.  Kate used her favorite beads from other artists in the projects and it makes them easy for you to personalize.

As with any book or class with Kate you are going to hear a lot about safety.  She feel it is her duty to warn others about the dangers of firing metal clay incorrectly and working with it without respecting safety issues.  Personally I think the beginning of the book is a little preachy, but that is Kate’s way.  She works very clean, advises artist to make clean cuts and never sands or uses slip.  When I first started working with metal clay, I was so nervous about handling the clay too much I swear my heart pounded the whole time.   I have since experimented myself and worked with other artists and therefore I am not freaked out about rehydrating or sanding from time to time.  But if you have never tried it Kate’s way, I suggest that you give it a shot.  If you work the way she suggests not only are you handling the medium safety, but your pieces will look more organic, they will look like metal clay pieces, not like refined silver that mass produced jewelry looks like.   Why not take advantage of the possibilities of this incredible medium. Embrace it. 

I wish that she would have added even more information of work hardening and finishing pieces.  Although Kate writes more than most authors do on the subject, there is never enough information for me on this subject.

In conclusion, this book is a welcome addition to every metal artist’s library.  The beginner will learn to basics and safety issues and the novice will get the opportunity to learn an important metal clays artist’s point of view and pick up some great techniques along the way.


kate mckinnon said...

Thanks so much for the review, Rachel!

I sand sometimes, too, when I want a specific bevelled edge or the like. What I object to is the common practice of teaching beginners to make rough cuts, and sand and file as default behaviors. So many people sand everything; this is not necessary or sensible.

I think if we taught people to handle the clay more sensibly when they were beginners, they would make better work (more safely) from the start.

Rachel Kranzberg Miller said...

very true!