Artist forges fine jewelry from clay

Published 5:58 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

Janet Harriman is a master artist, a jewelry maker and metalworker.

After 40 years of crafting beautiful jewelry, the Smyrna artist has settled on a different type of creation: silver clay.

It’s a departure from traditional jewelry making. It’s clay and has all the clay properties, so one can add texture, carve it, create shape and designs. Before it’s fired, it’s sanded, and when it comes out of the kiln, the design worked by hand will be fine silver jewelry.

“You work the design in clay, then you fire it — it’s kind of magical,” Harriman said.

The medium itself originated in Japan — a byproduct of a computer-related process and therefore a recycled material, according to Harriman. It’s non-toxic and easy to work with, she said.

“Metal clay is fairly easy. You don’t really need an art or jewelry background,” Harriman said.

Living near the coast, Harriman takes many of her design cues from nature, using leaves, shells and other items to make a first, and lasting impression.

“I like to put (a texture) in the clay, so you’re not looking at a blank piece of paper,” she said. “It’s a finer clay so it takes a better impression than regular clay. You use that as a starting point and then add to that.”

Harriman has been working with the medium for nearly 15 years and teaches the silver clay design to others in weekend workshops. On June 3-4, River Walk Gallery and Arts Center will be hosting Harriman and her workshop for anyone who’d like to explore the process.

“It’s a good way to step into creativity and get into the process. Once you do the workshop, you’ve got all the skills to do it on your own,” Harriman said, adding that she’s enjoyed the designs that newcomers to the art achieve.

“(They) can be fairly involved. I’m always surprised what people can do with metal clay,” she said.

Her class size is limited to eight people, so that it’s hands-on, and she can work closely with each participant. All skill levels are welcome, Harriman said.

The class runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 3 and 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on June 4. The cost is $265, which Harriman said is largely due to the cost of firing finished work.

“It does seem expensive, but students do come out with a lot of finished work,” she said.

For more information or to register, call 252-342-2369 or 252-729-8691. To see more of Harriman’s work, visit or the artist’s Facebook page.