With all of the commercial textures, templates and cutters available - how is a novice artist supposed to create original works of art? Think about it - if you buy texture "A", and use cookie cutter "M" to form the shape - how many other people around the world might make those same choices too? It's understandable that while learning the actual craft of metal clay and becoming familiar with it's intrinsic nuances and capabilities you might want to lessen the learning curve stress and just use what's available, but I'm also confident that you have a desire to create jewelry that speaks to you, that shares a little bit of your unique creative abilities, and that makes you proud to say "I made this"!

An artist's creative 'voice' or style should be unique - even if it's said that there are really no original designs left in the world, that every new idea is simply a version of one that has gone before. Some makers have a very strong sense of self, while others may take a while to discover their inner muse. If this is true for you, or if you're just not aware of all the ways there are to create original design elements for metal clay, I'm hoping that this page will give you some ideas. The first section offers suggestions on modifying commercial products, the second describes how to use 'found' objects, and the third lists a few ways that you can create your own texture, shape, and design materials.

Using Commercial Design Elements
Absolutely every retailer that sells metal clay also sells commercially designed and manufactured texture 'plates', 'sheets', 'mats', and 'stamps', some of which may even have been designed by one of your favorite artists. They're fabulous. Even 'I' love a few of the designs. But they're selling millions of individual units to millions of individual customers, making opportunities for innovative designs difficult. However there is a way to use these products and still make unique pieces.

Texture Modification
1. In addition to the various texture 'sheets' etc, you can find small leather working or scrapbooking stamps made of both rubber and metal. Try layering textures by impressing a stamp onto the base texture. Locate a spot in the commercial texture where there is a void, or where the design is faint and add interest with an additional stamped image. [include Halo Armstrong piece with description of elements used]
2. Create a collage by layering a number of 2 card thick texture cutouts to an underlayment of un-texured clay that you have rolled 2-3 cards thick. [note to self: include photos of Hadar's quilts and Kris's bears]
3. Add an applique. An applique can be made with a very small cookie cutter (found in most craft stores) a straw, or a section of thin walled pipe or tubing. The applique  may be placed entirely on the larger piece of clay, or may hang over the edge. [Include photo of Intro Leaf]
4. Make a faux 'plaque'. Use decorative scissors, a paper punch, or sharp detail scissors to cut a small shape from a tape covered file folder or file card, or a plastic report cover. Place the shape in the center of a texture sheet, lay the clay over both, and roll over them at the same time to create an impressed texture. The plaque will have created a blank space where you can then use letter/alphabet stamps to write a name, phrase, or date. If you try this, make sure the clay is a little thicker than usual. You'll be selectively thinning the clay with the plaque, and again with the stamps.

Shape Modification
1. Cut out a thickness of clay with a cookie cutter of any size - let's say it's a flower shape. Then use another cookie cutter with a different profile to remove a section of the first shape - this time pretend it's a circle or oval. Cut an oval out of the edge of the flower, and you have a good shape for a hoop earring, cut a circle out of the center of the flower and you'll have a donut shape. Then if you join a slightly larger disk to the back of the piece (over the original circle cut out) and you'll create a depression on the front where you can set a pearl, a piece of dichroic glass, or another decorative element.
2. Use files and/or sandpaper to alter the perimeter of a shape originally formed with a commercial template or cutter.
3. Create articulated jewelry by dividing a large or long textured shape into two or more sections with a tissue blade. Drill matching holes in the edges before firing, then after the piece has been sintered and polished, re-join the shapes with jump rings.
4. Interrupt the edge. Instead of simply using a cutter to create the shape, use a pin tool to cut out around a specific shape in the texture itself. Either all the way around the design, or only partially. Using a flower and circle as our examples again - Use a circle cutter or template to create the shape for a floral texture. Then use a pin tool to remove clay around the edges of a few petals. Now you have a familiar perimeter with the flower shape extending past it.
5. Think beyond the usual. Don't use a heart template to cut a shape from a heart printed texture. Think of the print as an abstract and use a cutter asymmetrically.

Found Object Textures (Under Construction)

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