Some while back, we published two articles in our premium content about ceramicists who create wonderful art with rings of clay. This is known as chainmail from clay. It’s labor intensive and impressive to look at or touch. Readers have asked us for more information on making chainmail from clay, so we reached out again to Tony and Cecil. Here’s how they make their rings strong and sturdy.
Chainmail from Clay DIY
Tony Furtado is an artist and awesome Americana Roots musician from Oregon. In his clay studio, Tony is apt to be creating beautiful animals or fascinating chainmail from clay. We asked him how he makes sure his chain links survive handling, assembling, and firing.
“I use a clay body with a good amount of grog and fire to cone five or six. Yes, I encounter cracks once in awhile, but they are almost always at the join seams. I have learned to be meticulous about joining. Since clay has memory, I work very quick to curl the short coils into circular links.”
Tony’s describes his process like this:
I start by extruding coils — generally about two to three foot lengths.
Then I cut pieces to the size of each link. The ones pictured here, I believe, are six-inch rings.
I cut them at a slight diagonal so it will be easier to connect the two sides without having to add much filler to complete the connection. (Note: a diagonal cut increases the surface area to be joined.)
Anyway, next I curl each link to complete a circle and let them sit to dry just slightly.
After I complete the number of rings I will want to use, I join the seams on half of them — traditional score-slip-attach.
I like to add texture to my chainmail from clay. I add it either before or after joining the seams. It helps mask the imperfect connections and adds interest to the form.
After the connected rings have gotten to leather-hard, and the unconnected rings are almost leather-hard, I start putting the piece together in a typical “4-in-1” chainmail pattern.
From there, I create small and large swaths. Or I might make snake chains, oversized persian bracelet patterns, and other interesting jewelry patterns I think will look good fired with an oxide wash.
There isn’t a way I know of to fire these glazed without fusing the rings all together. And maybe that would be cool too!
Cecil Kemperink of The Netherlands works in huge expanses of chainmail from clay. She believes her work should be seen up close and actually handled by the observer. Cecil is all about motion and undulation.
She mixes her own clay bodies. It’s important for her goals that every piece she makes has it’s own material, color, structure. Touch and feel are as important as the visuals to her. She customizes her firing temps to match each clay mix, feeling that the work’s movement and sound are somewhat dependent on the firing. Like Tony, Cecil agrees that each ring has to be carefully crafted by hand. The joins are critical. It’s impossible, she says, to hurry a project.
“Time is an important theme. I make every ring with my own hands and I join them by hand, each one,” says Cecil. And that’s impressive since some of her work ends up room-sized!
Chainmail from Clay Resources
If you feel like trying this classical jewelry making technique and adapting chainmail patterns to chainmail from clay, have a look at The Ring Lord.
Read more about Tony’s chainmail from clay and his other ceramic processes.
Here’s our article about Cecil’s almost living chainmail from clay.