Julia Rai is an artist and teacher predominantly working in metal clay. She visits London Jewellery School as a tutor as well as working from her teaching studio in Cornwall. She is the director of the Metal Clay Academy, an excellent online resource for metal clay artists. Julia has won many awards and accolades and was the first person in the world to reach Metal Clay Masters Registry level IV. We decided to find out more about her and her work.
How did you get into jewellery making?
I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and did dress making, knitting, crochet etc from childhood. I took a beginners silver smithing weekend course about 10 years ago and really enjoyed it. I then discovered metal clay and found it so accessible and easy to work with, I’ve concentrated on that ever since.
Blue Pearl Earrings
Who/what inspires you at the moment?
I’m inspired by lots of things. I love science fiction and fantasy films and TV and see lots of interesting shapes and forms in these which fill my sketch book. I’ve been known to pause a TV show or film and sketch a shape or note down an idea before I forget it!
I also love the work of Lalique and find constant inspiration in his work.
What is your favourite subject to teach?
I love teaching beginners metal clay classes at my teaching studio in Cornwall as well as the metal clay intensive week at London Jewellery School. I set up the Cornwall School of Art, Craft and Jewellery with my business partner Marion Wilson in March 2013. Introducing people to this amazing material is a constant source of joy and satisfaction, especially when they start off believing they’re not very creative. When they go home with beautiful silver jewellery from a three hour taster class and can’t believe how good they look, my work is done!
At London Jewellery School you teach the Art Clay certification. What type of student would benefit from taking this qualification?
The Art Clay Certification is for people who want to extend their skills and also like to get some form of qualification. The way I teach it is very hands on and I guide, demonstrate and give students tips and hints to help them pass the projects to a very high standard. Once people have passed each level they also get a discount from the Art Clay distributors so this can really help artists to cut the cost of working with Art Clay while learning lots of new skills.
What is the Metal Clay Masters Registry?
The Metal Clay Masters Registry is an international credential for metal clay artists. There are no classes, just 50 projects in five categories. There are five levels and each level is achieved by passing the stringent standards of each project, 10 at each level.
You can choose which projects you complete at each level and you are responsible for gaining any additional skills you need to meet the criteria. When you’ve made 10, you send them off to the USA to be evaluated by some of the top artists in the metal clay community. The Registry isn’t cheap to join and the projects are challenging. The evaluations can be blunt but the learning is huge. It’s taken me in directions I never thought I’d go and I’ve increased my skills and experience being part of the programme. I’ve passed all the Levels up to Level 4 and I’m currently working on Level 5 when I have time – which is not easy with running CSACJ and teaching at LJS!
If you had unlimited budget/resources what would you make?
I have a fabulous collar neckpiece in my sketch book which I’d make in silver and gold metal clay.
I’m still considering its construction and given enough time (my biggest challenge!) I’d work it out and make it.
What is your favourite biscuit or jewellery making snack?
Tricky one as getting biscuit crumbs in metal clay is not good! I do love a chocolate caramel biscuit though!
Mayan bead (all pieces by Julia Rai)
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to take a class with Julia when she visits us in London. This year she is teaching the following classes: