Introduction: Molten Glass & Porcelain Pendant
What makes these beautiful pendants extra special is a crystalline lake of glass in the center of each one. These pendants can be as varied as you want to make them by experimenting with size, shape, colors and type of glass. They are smooth and wonderful to the touch and make excellent gifts.
Step 1: What You Need
Unfired clay (I use porcelain)
Paper straw (or rolled paper)
Marbles or small pieces of glass
Clay cutting tool or xacto knife
Clay sponge for smoothing
Clay shape cutters
Step 2: Cut Pendant Shapes
These pendants can be any wearable size and shape you want. They just have to be large enough and thick enough to make a small well for the molten glass. Clay and glass get heavy so I usually keep them under three inches. Here are a couple of good ways to get your pendants started:
1) Take a piece of raw clay and shape into a teardrop 1 to 2 inches long. Flatten slightly to about 12mm thick.
2) Roll clay into a thick (about 12mm) slab and cut out shapes with clay cutters.
Step 3: Depression
Making a depression or well in the pendant is a crucial step in this project. The well should be at least 4mm deep and have sides that are even and solid. The depression will hold the molten glass.
Use your thumb or a dowel to make a depression in the front of the pendant. Make sure you leave a solid bottom. Use water to smooth out any cracks in the clay. If there are ANY holes or cracks in the well, the liquid glass will leak out during firing.
Step 4: Shape and Adorn
Once you have the basic circle with a depression or well for the glass, you can add an artistic touch to all your pendants. You can alter the shapes slightly, etch and stamp decorations and build up the design with more clay. I added leaves, swirls and abstract shapes to my pendants.
Step 5: Bails
Roll a long, thin piece of clay about 5mm thick. Using an xacto knife or straight clay cutter, cut strips for the bails. These will vary in length and width depending on the size and shape of the pendants. I only work with one bail at a time because the small pieces of clay dry out quickly.
Step 6: Straws
Cut a paper straw or rolled paper into 2 inch pieces. Set aside.
Step 7: Attach the Bail
Now take one of the clay strips you just made and cut it to about 2 inches long. You can make the edges straight or decorative. Attach the small strip by scoring (roughing up) one end and adding a little water. Do the same to the backside of the pendant where it will attach. Press on the bail strip onto the pendant. Fold the strip over the straw, and attach it to the front of the pendant in the same way. You can leave the straw in place until after the firing is complete. It will burn away, leaving the correct shape for a bail. (Don't pull the straws out, but if they fall out on their own, that's okay.)
Step 8: Get Ready for the Kiln
Allow your pendants to dry completely. Then take a damp, smooth sponge and smooth away any rough spots and imperfections. Allow to dry again before firing.
Step 9: Fire
Fire the greenware pendants according to your kiln instructions for the kind of clay you are using. I use a medium setting at cone 04. But check both your clay and your kiln.
Step 10: Glaze
I like to paint one coat of high-fire glaze on the back of the pendant and 3 to 4 coats on the front. This will keep the back from sticking to the support or rack in the kiln. With a project like this, I have fun painting different color combinations on all the pendants. Because of the chemical reactions with the glass I sometimes get very surprising results.
Make sure you have kiln wash on your shelves so that any drips from the glass won't ruin them.
Step 11: Glass
This is the really interesting part. The chemical reactions between the clay, the glazes and the glass can give you very surprising results. It's a good idea to write down what you've done so that you can try to re-create it if you love the result. Though there's no guarantee it will work the second time!
Fill the depression in each pendant with pieces of broken glass or marbles. Don't fill over the height of the depression or the glass may bubble over the sides. You may have to estimate if a piece of glass is very chunky. Or you can smash it more.
Any kind of not-tempered glass should work well. I've used marbles in the past and this time I'm trying glass beads and the kind of glass you put in a vase for decoration. If you need to break the glass into smaller pieces, put it into a couple of layers of bags and hit with a hammer just until breaking occurs. Wear eye protection just in case anything escapes. Handle the very sharp broken glass very carefully.
Step 12: Fire Again
How you load the kiln is important. Keep the pendants well spaced since you don't know exactly how the glass will react. Don't let any parts extend off the shelf edge or you may get drips on your kiln floor. Use an appropriately sized stand for each pendant. Some may require a second stand for a heavy bail.
Fire according to the instructions for the glaze you're using. The glass will melt at this temperature.
I fired at cone 5, fast, with a 15 minute hold time.
Step 13: Cool
Allow the pendants to cool slowly in the kiln. Otherwise the glass might crack. Though you might want the glass to crack. It looks pretty cool.
Step 14: See What You've Got
This is about 2/3 of the kiln load.
Step 15: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Well, actually I didn't get too much ugly. I'm happy with most of the pendants in this kiln load with two exceptions. One piece is totally stuck to its stand because there was too much glass in the well and it flowed over the sides. And on another pendant the glaze filled in the bail hole. The lesson here is to always do multiples of a design with slight variations so you get something that turns out right. And then make notes on what you did.
My favorite pieces in this load are the mostly white ones, which also happen to be the easiest, because all porcelain needs for white is a clear glaze. Also, I used an underglaze on many pieces. These looked pretty much the same as the gloss glazes once they got a clear coat or two.
Step 16: Backs and Bails
Here are some close ups of different angles of the finished pendants.
Step 17: Finish
Remove when completely cool. If any of the glass is not smooth to the touch you can add a thin layer of clear epoxy to correct this. Gently sand any rough spots on the pendant backs in the glaze. You can sand by hand or use a Dremmel.
Now you're ready to add a jump ring or a cord.
And please let me see how your projects come out.
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Please be positive and constructive.