Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Arts: In 2022, try something new

By Elizabeth Brannon

What would you say if I told you a local artist could help you create a great piece of silver from a lump of clay in just one day? Or that you could create 111 pair of earrings in two days and be profitable immediately?

Would you say I had too much eggnog?

Well, silver from clay in a day is a reality and you can experience it locally.

Sandra Butchko is one of the top Precious Metal Clay artists in the USA.  When I asked to interview her about her art and metal clay, Sandra said, “the art clay is more interesting than my life!”

Sandra lives in Highland Village and offers classes and workshops in a variety of geographies and locations, including at ARThouse in north Flower Mound.

Sandra Butchko

Sandra has been an artist her entire life, starting as a ceramicist making macramé beads, up to 80 thousand per month, and selling to a company that distributed the beads. When macramé became less popular, Sandra then supplied the bisqueware to ‘paint your own pottery’ stores.

At a conference in Las Vegas, Sandra saw a metal clay demo for the first time and was immediately fascinated. She took a class to become certified as a level 1 instructor, then took another certification to become a senior instructor, which allowed her to certify other instructors.

In the early days of art clay silver, there were only 11 instructors teaching, and Sandra was one of them. Sandra has been teaching art clay for more than 20 years, published an article on Metal Leaf Magic in “Metal Clay & Color, Inventive Techniques from 20 Jewelry Designers” by Mary Wholgemuth (2012), and is an accomplished metal clay artist.

Art Clay Silver comes from Japan and is recycled silver. It comes from X-rays and film negatives (a recycling company came up with the product). Precious Metal Clay (PMC) is made up of a fine silver powder, an organic binder and water. When the binder is burned out, either by torch or a kiln, the artist is left with a beautiful silver creation. It’s non-toxic and a mask is not needed when working with the clay or burning out the binder.

While in clay form, the artist sculpts various shapes or jewelry and can press the art clay into molds. Sandra makes the molds with a laser cutting into a rubber mold. She has hundreds of molds available for students to use in creating their unique piece of silver or jewelry.

Metal clay is not like polymer clay – you just jump in, get your hands into the metal clay, have fun, create and be successful.

Art clay is beautiful, offers instant gratification, and is very affordable. You can create beautiful works in silver without the time and effort needed to become an actual silversmith (a silversmith is a metalworker who crafts objects from silver.)

Sandra also works with glass and often uses glass in her art clay projects. She particularly likes dichroic glass which is a multi-colored glass with reflective properties. Some of the pieces created with metal clay and dichroic glass are breathtaking, and can be created by artists new to the craft as well as accomplished artists like Sandra.

Interestingly, Sandra doesn’t see herself as an artist – she says the clay is her guide. When you put the glass or clay in front of her, Sandra understands what she needs to do. In her 20-plus years, she doesn’t just sit down and decide what to make – the clay and glass call her on a journey. From Sandra’s perspective, her goal is to free the artist in you. Clay will free you and take you somewhere that’s exciting on your journey.

Creating with art clay is easy and appropriate for any age. In a typical class with Sandra, students learn about the metal clay itself, how to work with it, how to create with it and how to complete a project with little or no experience. Sandra is passionate about working with metal clay and teaching others about it because it’s fascinating and fun.

All day workshops are planned for once per quarter, and other workshops can be arranged on demand. Contact ARThouse for classes/sessions/workshops/opportunities.

Remember, it’s 2022, and most of us are ready for something new. Create your first work of metal clay art to express your hope for the new year.

Art Thoughts: “Art is the highest form of hope.” – Gehard Richter


Elizabeth Brannon serves on the Flower Mound Cultural Arts Commission.

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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