About The Artist

Barbara Brown in the design studio.

Barbara Brown has always had a love of expressing her creativity through both music and the visual arts. As a jeweler, she finds creating with her hands grounding and deeply satisfying. Precious Metal Clay (PMC) has emerged over the years as her medium of choice. Barbara enjoys the feel, the tactile sensation of forming and molding clay, as well as the satisfaction and delight of guiding it into precious metal creations. She enjoys the textural possibilities that PMC offers and loves the holistic process of the medium. The fluidity of PMC allows Barbara to transform clay into her organic, nature-inspired shapes and designs, which is then fired into precious metal. Indeed, she finds the magical transformation of clay to pure silver and gold nothing short of miraculous.

A career in music evolves into a career as a fabrication jeweler.

By way of a twenty-year career in music performance and education, Barbara followed an interesting path to her current double-career of fabrication jeweler, and partner/assistant winemaker of R&B Cellars, a family owned winery which she owns with her husband/winemaker, Kevin Brown. Out of college, Barbara was a professional performing flutist. She soon became attracted to the Kodaly Method of music education, went back to school for certification, and proceeded to lead a double career as performing flutist and music educator/choral director.

Barbara at an R&B Cellars event.

The path to visual arts and jewelry making was a natural one.

As an educator with summers off, Barbara was able to explore the passion of creating things with her hands. Among her many creative explorations, collage painting and jewelry making were what spoke to her the most. Ultimately, the limitless textural possibilities of PMC made this her favorite medium, whereby she could now combine the textural delight of collage painting with jewelry fabrication. Moreover, with PMC, Barbara can now incorporate the depth she found in her music, and express it in a visual medium. In 2004, the Barbara Brown Designs jewelry line was born.

Artist Statement

I love texture. Everything I see or hear is translated into texture in my mind. Rich textural symphonies (Brahms comes to mind), or cool jazz standards are as much an inspiration to me as viewing a sunset in Maui, or a beautiful seashell found on the beach. My designs evolve in a number of ways. Often, I like to let my hands follow their own path and create as I go. Sometimes, I will sketch out a design I have been thinking about before even touching the clay. Other times, simply finding an unusual textured object can be the source of inspiration.

Once it is understood that working with Precious Metal Clay as a medium essentially means the manipulation and fashioning of clay, endless possibilities abound! A texture can be pressed into the clay, or a mold can be made out of an interesting object. A watery version of clay, called "slip", can be used to paint onto an object, such as a leaf or a twig. When fired in a kiln, the original object burns away leaving a slightly smaller replication, but now, the object is 99.9% fine silver! The textures that are a part of every day life influence my Precious Metal Clay designs.

Precious Metal Clay

Precious Metal Clay (PMC)

Precious Metal Clay, or PMC, is a revolutionary material made of fine silver powder, water and a non-toxic binder that has a clay-like consistency. This clay can be carved, cut, pinched, molded, twisted and rolled. It can be applied through syringes and clay extruders. Once your creation is formed it is fired in a kiln, or with a hand held torch. The binders and water burn off leaving the piece in its original shape, with all the texture and details intact (slight shrinkage will occur). However, now the design is 99.9% pure silver, essentially fine silver. This process from soft clay to hard, precious metal is so magical that it is called Silver Alchemy.

Precious Metal Clay also comes in gold, a material made of fine particles of 91.7% gold alloy and 8.3% silver. After kiln or torch firing, the precious metal is 22K gold. PMC Gold can be used alone or as a decorative element on silver items. PMC Gold and Silver fuse together under firing.

PMC offers limitless design possibilities. In addition, it can be formed around "cork clay" to make a hollow bead, with the cork clay burning off in the firing. Clay "slip", a paste version of PMC, can be brushed onto found objects, such as leaves or twigs. The organic matter burns off in the kiln leaving behind a fine silver replication of the object. Stones and glass can be fired into the clay, and softer stones that cannot withstand extreme heat can be set in place after firing. Other metals, such as gold and sterling silver can also be fired into a design.

Once Precious Metal Clay is fired and the silver has fused together, it emerges from the kiln with a white "chalky" film, which needs to be burnished off. Starting with a brass brush, then using ever finer grits of sand paper with a rotary tool, the PMC jewelry begins to gleam like the pure silver it is. These pieces can be put into a tumbler to get an ultra shine, or a matte finish can be created using the rotary tool and matte buffers. To add texture and depth, the jewelry pieces can be oxidized in liver of sulfur, which darkens the details, cracks and crevices.