Copper in the Arts

April 2014

Gage Designs: Creating Jewelry And Instruction with Metal Clay

By Nancy Ballou

Holly Gage has always loved art. When she was a young girl, her parents sent her to a variety of classes which included painting, metalworking and other media. By 13, she had already gravitated toward jewelry making.

Holly Gage DesignsBronze copper pods, Holly Gage Designs

"Images would form in my mind and flow through my hands,” she recalls. She went on to earn a BS degree in fine arts and education from Kutztown University. Today, she and her husband Christopher own Gage Designs and she specializes in creating with and teaching others how to use metal clay.

"Metal clay consists of small particles of metals like silver, gold, bronze or copper,” Gage explains. “It comes in powdered form. It's not really clay but looks and feels like it. When mixed with an organic binder and water, it can be rolled out, shaped and manipulated like any soft clay by hand or in a mold. I usually use a cut, dry and assemble technique with my exacto knife and wet lump metal clay to adhere the different parts. After the clay dries, it is fired in a kiln. I have three small kilns in my working studio. One is for base metals, one for silver and the third for glass. The large kilns vary too much. The binder burns away leaving pure sintered metal. It can be sawed, hammered, soldered and drilled as in traditional metal working. Texturing turns out beautifully. I often combine metalwork and metal clay methods. It really expands my artisan toolbox. I like copper because of the colors and contrast it makes. In the beginning, when working with titanium, which is rough, I use silver then copper metal clay as a base. Working with it is forgiving. The joy comes in manipulating something soft that then becomes something hard and permanent. Techniques like soldering ear wires, cold connections, ball riveting, rotary polishing and a variety of stone settings are indispensable alongside and in conjunction with metal clay." Drawing from her own experiences, Gage Designs art is relatable. After watching her bunnies escape to the garden, she created "The Great Bunny Escape."

Holly Gage Copper DesignsHolly Gage Copper Designs

Her walks in the forest inspired her "Meadow Pods" series. Many of her pieces are architectural, such as a pendant that swivels, with gems representing stained glass windows. Gage does custom work, too, and her real love is for teaching and mentoring. She instructs one-on-one online classes of approximately 15 at her off-site class studio. Online classes include real time video so she can make comments, suggestions and answer questions as she views a student's art.

"I teach about metal clay and mentor on how to run their own jewelry businesses,” she says. "I especially enjoy my retreats to other countries because they allow me to do traveling that I never would have done. We always spend the first few days studying the culture, architecture and the sights. I tie culture and design classes into every metal clay class. I provide them with a complete itinerary for the subjects that will be covered. A retreat called 'Midsummer's Dream Metal Clay Retreat' is coming up June 24th - 29th in Yorkshire, England. I am glad my artistic path has led me to so many journeys."

Resources:

Gage Designs, P.O. Box 614, Bowmansville, PA, 17507, (717) 445-5755

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