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A Review Patrik Kusek's Craftsy Online Class "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension"

Updated on July 13, 2017
Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret Schindel is a jewelry artist and internationally-known expert on metal clay techniques. PMC certified in 2006 by Celie Fago.

Patrik Kusek's new online class, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension"
Patrik Kusek's new online class, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension" | Source

Patrik Kusek's New Online Class: A Great Way to Learn How to Bezel Set Gemstones in Metal Clay

In his new class on Craftsy, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension," well-known metal clay artist, author, and instructor Patrik Kusek provides clear instruction that teaches participants how to make a torch-fired, textured, fine silver pendant with a cluster of bezel set faceted fire-in-place gemstones and layers of textured silver to great dimension and visual interest.

Two of the metal clay skills that most people are anxious to learn when they start working with this wonderful medium are how to texture metal clay and how to set gemstones in metal clay. I've written in-depth guides on both these subjects, but there's no substitute for watching an experienced teacher demonstrate each process to help you learn good technique.

I Recommend Patrik Kusek's Online Classes Based On My Personal Experience

I love expanding my jewelry making skills, so I try to take classes from top-tier instructors as often as I can. While taking on-site workshops is ideal, it's not always practical or affordable. That's why I often take advantage of online classes.

One of the online classes I took in 2012 was Patrik Kusek's "Resin Cabochon Metal Clay Ring". It was my first class with him, and I not only learned some very clever tips and techniques but also enjoyed his clear and approachable teaching style. The students ranged from beginner-intermediate students to artists with advanced level metal clay skills, and he managed to keep us all engaged and left each of us with a richer toolkit than we had going into the class. I subsequently purchased recordings of some of Patrik's other metal clay and polymer clay online classes, and each of them has been excellent.

So when Patrik asked me whether I would be willing to review his new online class geared to less experienced MCers, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension", and share my thoughts with my readers, I was happy to say yes to his request.

Patrik Kusek on the video set while recording his online class, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension"
Patrik Kusek on the video set while recording his online class, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension" | Source

This Class Is Best For Jewelry Artists With Beginner to Intermediate Level Metal Clay Skills

"Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension" is targeted primarily to people with beginner-to-intermediate metal clay skills, although more experienced users also might benefit from some of the many tips and tricks that Patrik shares throughout the lessons. I certainly picked up a couple of neat tips!

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What You'll Learn In This Class

The class is organized into seven lessons delivered in HD video, a total of more than two hours of professional instruction, that take you from setting up your work area with the necessary materials, tools and supplies before you start all the way through to cutting and assembling a striking pendant from silver clay, bezel setting and attaching gemstones, adding additional layers of textured clay to add dimension and design interest, attaching a dimensional bail, drying, refining, repairing and firing the metal clay, burnishing the sintered silver metal, adding a liver of sulfur AKA LOS patina, and finally polishing the silver selectively to bring out the textures and dimension of the pendant you just made.

Patrik Kusek teaches how to bezel set safe-to-fire gemstones in fine silver metal clay in this online class. These rough-cut bezels have been dried but not yet shaped or refined.
Patrik Kusek teaches how to bezel set safe-to-fire gemstones in fine silver metal clay in this online class. These rough-cut bezels have been dried but not yet shaped or refined. | Source

The Seven Lessons

Lesson 1

In Lesson 1, "Essential Skills", Patrik explains how metal clay transforms from a clay-like material to solid metal through the sintering process. He also talks about some of the key differences between the three most widely used fine silver metal clay formulas, Art Clay, PMC+ and PMC3. He also talks about the advantages of working with fine silver metal clay vs. other types and metals, including the ability to be torch fired and the wider range of firing schedules that will sinter fine silver clay successfully vs. other types.

Next he explains how to set up a workstation and the importance of planning out the steps to create your piece from start to finish, and having all the materials, tools, supplies and equipment you will need within easy reach before you start. This allows you to work efficiently and helps minimize the likelihood that the metal clay will dry out before you want it to. He shows you a simple way to keep your lump clay moist during your work session, and then demonstrates how to roll and texture a sheet of clay to get a crisp, even impression.

Lesson 2

In Lesson 2, Patrik demonstrates how to cut out the base of the pendant, dry it, and refine it with sanding sponges. In the process he shows a variety of tools, commercial cutters, found objects, and commercial and homemade templates that can be used to cut out shapes from the clay. He also shares lots of helpful tips on how to made clean cuts, various options for drying the clay evenly, how to cut and mark your sponge sanding pads, which grits to use and in what order, how to support the dried clay properly while sanding or filing (very important!), and how to gently bevel the sides of a dried clay shape to remove any sharp edges.

Lesson 3

Lesson 3 of this class is devoted to learning how to bezel set gemstones in metal clay. One of Patrik's downloadable class handouts includes the parts and technical names of a faceted gemstones as well as Rio Grande's gemstone firing tests in fine silver metal clay. While there is never a guarantee that a gemstone will survive firing successfully, these firing tests will help you choose stones that have a high likelihood of coming through intact and unchanged. Patrik also shares some of his top picks for both natural and man-made gemstones that have a high success rate in torch fired pieces.

After reviewing the basic tools and supplies needed to bezel set a fire-in-place gemstone in fine silver metal clay, there is an excellent demonstration of how to measure the height of a gemstone using playing cards or thickness spacer slats, how to roll fresh clay to the correct height for bezel setting the stone, how to seat and embed the stone properly so that its table is level with the surface of the fresh clay slab, and how to cut out a setting for a round stone with a lubricated drinking straw. Then he shows how to dry the bezel setting, repair any cracks, if necessary, and then sand and refine it before attaching it to the pendant base. To finish the lesson, he demonstrates how to modify the process to create bezel settings for other popular stone shapes, including princess or square, pear and marquise cut stones.

Lesson 4

In Lesson 4, Patrik explains the three basic types of unfired metal clay connections - wet-to-wet, wet-to-dry, and dry-to-dry - and when one type is more optimal than another. He also explains how to make strong joins for all three types of connections and shares many useful tips, including how to remove excess fresh clay from the edges of an attachment area without filling in the texture on the surrounding clay. One that was new to me was his nifty trick that will let me take my time while deciding on the placement of a fresh clay component on a layered piece without worrying that it might dry out or accidentally stick to the lower layer before I make my decision about where I want to attach it. Very cool! In this lesson, the bezel set gemstones from Lesson 3 are attached to the pendant base using water and slip in dry-to-dry connections.

Lesson 5

Lesson 5 is jam-packed with useful information, including how to texture clay evenly with deeper texture sheets using the drop-card method to control the depth of the impression; how to shape the textured fresh clay sheet into soft, fabric-like folds and use a wet-to-dry connection to attach it to the base and the edges of some of the bezel settings; how to cut out a dimensional bail with a template and then dry, refine, and attach it to the back of the pendant; and how to remove and refine large amounts of excess dried clay from the edges to shape the top layers to match the pendant base.

Patrik Kusek demonstrates how to ripple and drape the textured silver clay as though it were fabric to add surface interest and dimension to the class project pendant.
Patrik Kusek demonstrates how to ripple and drape the textured silver clay as though it were fabric to add surface interest and dimension to the class project pendant. | Source

Lesson 6

In Lesson 6, Patrik demonstrates another essential technique: how to fill in fine cracks or minor dings (such as an indentation from a fingernail) with tiny snakes of fresh clay, smooth the surface with a thumb or clay shaper before drying, fill in again as necessary, overfilling slightly to allow for the shrinkage of the fresh clay, and refine the dried patch to make it invisible. He also shows two methods for repairing clean break by reattaching the pieces invisibly, even if they are textured. He ends this lesson with a demonstration of how to rehydrate or reconstitute dried metal clay scraps into smooth, usable lump clay.

Lesson 7

As you would expect, Lesson 7 - the last lesson - focuses on firing and finishing fine silver metal clay. It starts with an important step - cleaning the surface of the gemstones just before firing. It's something you should do with every piece that contains stones, even if the surface appears to be clean. Sometimes there's a very sheer film of silver clay tinged water or spec of clay dust that isn't apparent to the naked eye that, if left in place, could dull the stone's sparkle after the piece has been fired. (Most of us learn this lesson the hard way!)

The class project pendant is torch fired, since the class is aimed primarily at less experienced metal clayers who may not yet have invested in a kiln. Patrik explains the pros and cons of kiln firing vs torch firing fine silver clay, as well as the types of pieces that are suitable for torch firing. He reviews safety tips and explains the parts of a butane torch. Then he demonstrates torch firing as he fires the pendant. I love the fact that in addition to the medium shots that show the set-up and the angle of the torch, there also are insets that show a tight close-up view of the flame and the clay so it's easy to see the flame-off and binder burnout as well as the dull peach-salmon color of the clay when it is heated to the correct sintering temperature. Patrik mentioned in the Virtual Classroom that he recommends maintaining that temperature for a minimum of 5 minutes rather than a minimum of 3 minutes to ensure complete sintering, and I agree completely.

I'll add a tip of my own here. I like to set a timer (I use my electronic kitchen timer) for five minutes - but not start it yet - before turning on the torch and put it within easy reach but a safe distance (about 2 feet away) from the firing surface. That way, when the clay reaches sintering temperature (i.e., when it turns a peach color), I can start the countdown with a quick tap of the timer button rather than having to take my eyes off the piece to check how much time has elapsed. I just keep moving the flame at a 45-degree angle in the same circular pattern until I hear the timer beep. Now, back to the online lesson.

After the piece has been torch fired and cooled, we are shown how to burnish the whitish crystalline structure on the surface of the freshly fired silver with a soft brass brush, add a liver of sulfur or LOS patina to bring out the texture and dimensional elements, and remove the patina from the high points with a polishing pad to bring back the silver color and create contrast. There are even suggestions on what to do to reclaim the silver if you decide you hate your finished piece.

The Finished Class Project: A Layered, Textured Fine Silver Pendant and Bail Featuring Bezel Set Stones

The finished class project for Patrik Kusek's online class, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension" is this dimensional, multi-layered, fine silver pendant with a cluster of bezel set gemstones.
The finished class project for Patrik Kusek's online class, "Silver Metal Clay: Adding Stones & Dimension" is this dimensional, multi-layered, fine silver pendant with a cluster of bezel set gemstones. | Source

Close-Up Views in HD Video Let You See Exactly What Patrik Is Demonstrating

One of the things I find frustrating is when the images of a jewelry making technique intended to demonstrate the process don't show sharp, close-up views that let me see clearly what the teacher is doing each step of the way. When I'm editing any jewelry making product article that's one of the things I'm a stickler for - making sure that readers can see exactly what they need to in order to replicate the steps in the project tutorial.

Here you can see a still image of the HD video showing the close-up view of Patrik's hands as he demonstrates how to apply silver clay slip with a rubber-tipped clay shaper using a rolling motion.

Patrik Kusek demonstrates how to roll the slip off the tip of a rubber-tipped clay shaper to apply it in a controlled manner to the back of the dried, shaped and refined silver clay bezel setting.
Patrik Kusek demonstrates how to roll the slip off the tip of a rubber-tipped clay shaper to apply it in a controlled manner to the back of the dried, shaped and refined silver clay bezel setting. | Source

The Advantages of This Type of Online Class

One of the best things about purchasing an online class on Craftsy is that you can start whenever you want, go through it at your own pace, and return to it as often as you wish as a refresher.

Another advantage is the virtual online classroom, an online Q&A chat session built into the class so that all the participants can ask the instructor questions and receive individual attention. And since all the students can see each other's questions and the teacher's answers, it's very much like being in a live class. I asked Patrik several questions in the virtual classroom while I was going through the class and he was very prompt in answering each one.

Handy Reference Materials in PDF Files to Download and Print, If You Wish

As soon as you enroll in the class you'll also have access to two downloadable PDF reference documents that Patrik has provided: a metric conversion guide and a supplies & resources document that includes a list of materials, tools and equipment used in the class, shrinkage rates and minimum torch firing times for PMC+, PMC3 and Art Clay Silver, tips for working with metal clay, torch firing, setting gemstones, a diagram showing the parts of a faceted gemstone and the proper terminology for each part, and a gemstone firing guide from well known jewelry supplies company and metal clay distributor Rio Grande.

Fun Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Class Instructor Patrik Kusek?


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Woodland Chic: Metal Clay Jewelry As Nature Intended

Patrik also wrote a book on using metal clay to create nature-inspired forms and organic textures. He uses projects to teach techniques for creating organic jewelry and objets d'art based on plant life and other living organisms such as twigs, nests, eggs, bark, wood, leaves, flowers and insects.

There are clear step-by-step process photos and well as beautiful nature photographs for design inspiration. The skill level required for each project can be identified at a glance with the icons { B }, { I } and { A }, which represent beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of difficulty, respectively.

Once you purchase the book you'll find a password that gives you access to a website with additional resources, such as companion videos and downloadable patterns and templates for selected projects. Another interesting feature of the book is the "design challenges" - photos of completed pieces, each with a challenge question (answers are on the website).

Be aware that although "Woodland Chic" contains projects, is not a typical "project book." There are a limited number of projects that were designed to help you learn specific techniques that you can apply to your own designs as desired. For those who already have some metal clay experience and would like to add to their skill set for creating nature themed metal clay designs, "Woodland Chic" can help take your work to the next level.

© 2015 Margaret Schindel

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    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 22 months ago from Massachusetts

      @Sharon Miklos-Thompson Hi Sharon, sorry for the delay in getting back to you! I just checked and Craftsy has this class on sale for HALF PRICE ($19.99) through MIDNIGHT TONIGHT (Wednesday, September 9, 2015)! Just go to the section of my review titled "The Advantages of This Type of Online Class" and click on the link that says "$10 off of the $39.99 class fee" TODAY to get the class for half off. If you don't get to it before midnight tonight, the link might still get you the original $10 discount (unfortunately, there's no way for me to check to see whether it's still valid until after today's sale is over). I hope you get this reply in time to grab the class at 50% off. Fingers crossed! :)

    • profile image

      Sharon Miklos-Thompson 22 months ago

      Hello Margret- loved your info rich review! Would like to purchase the class but wasnt sure which link to use. Could you tell me if I can still purchase this class, & direct me to a link? Thanks very much!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Nancy, thanks so much for your wonderful comment. Patrik is a great teacher, and the metal clay pendant he designed as the project for his new Craftsy class is a marvelous design that incorporates all the techniques he wanted to teach in this class. And I couldn't miss the opportunity to add a review of his book, Woodland Chic, in this review of his newest online class. I agree with you totally about the magic of the transformation of silver metal clay into pure precious metal. It's almost like modern day alchemy! Thanks again for your visit and your kind words.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Beautiful work, and amazing that such pieces spring from what looks to be mundane clay in its raw state. I'm always impressed anew with your knowledge and your ability in this area, and then to take it even further and review a book written on the subject is even more impressive. Great work, Margaret, as usual!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
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      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Lorelei, thanks for your lovely comment! I agree - the metamorphosis of a silver clay sculpture into a finished piece of pure silver metal jewelry stills feels a bit like magic to me even after having worked with this amazing material for nine years now.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      That is amazing. Looking at the beginning product it is hard to visualize the end product. Absolutely beautiful.

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