Friday, April 18, 2014

Oh the beautiful patina

The next project and demonstrations focused on techniques used to add a patina to copper. A patina is the coloration that occurs on metals, and in this case on copper, when it is exposed to various chemicals processes and oxidation.

Harlan introduced us to a number of ways to add a patina to metal.  There is even a book, Patina:300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelrs & Metalsmiths, housing a whole bunch of formulas that can be used to produce different effects.

Above are two of my patina samples.  As you can see I continued on with foldforming leaves and turned them into my samples.  The bottom sample was produced easily by applying a light layer of salt to the copper leaf and then suspending the piece in a jar in which I had placed some ammonia.  It is important that the copper piece not actually be submerged in the ammonia, but suspended above it. Then I closed the jar and left it for 24 hours.  Finally, I washed the salt off, dried the leaf and coated it with a layer of clear coat.

The top leaf was produced by a chemical formula from the above mentioned book.  I did not actually mix the chemicals and cannot remember what went into it.  However, once the chemicals were mixed, they made a thick paste which was applied to the hot copper leaf (it had been boiled in hot water) and allowed to sit for 24 hours before washing the paste off and sealing.

Another patina which turns copper truly beautiful, is a heat patina in which the copper is rubbed with peanut oil and is then heated to create varying orange hues.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Prismacolor and Paint

The next class on my list was Color and Surface taught by renown enamel artist Harlan W Butt.  If you are not familiar with his work, please take a minute to check out his website and be prepared to be amazed by his breathtaking cloisonne vessels.  He is truly a master and I was thrilled at the chance to learn from him.

The Color and Surface class was focused on learning different techniques for treating metal.  The techniques covered were applying Prismacolor and Paints, Enamelling including cloisonne & champleve as well as discussion of plique a jour, Etching, Patinas, Keumbo and Reticulation.

The first project was to produce a set of 18 samples using prismacolor pencils, prismacolor crayons, and various paints including acrylics and metal paints.

I started with 18 copper squares of the same size. I thought that it might be nice if all of the samples were unique and so I played around with the squares before adding the color pigments.  I ran some through the rolling mill with pieces of twisted wire in between to create patterns.  I dapped, hammered and patterned some of the others.  I also drilled holes in some so that they might be used in jewelry pieces. Before I began applying color, I sandblasted all of the base pieces so that the colors would have a better chance of adhering.

Above you can see the various designs I came up with. I was most pleased with the look, feel and finish of the prismacolor pencil.  I especially like the center, top piece, as something about the movement throughout is pleasing to me.  I also love the way the two space vistas came out.  As could have been expected, the acrylic paint that I used, was easily peeled off of the metal. I was too impatient for the metal paints to get overly creative with them, although being specifically made for metals they adhered well.

Although they are not the best images, above you can see two necklaces created with primacolor sample components.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

End of the World

As a part of the metals club I had the opportunity to share ideas with others and help to spread the talent of the metals students.  One way to do this was through club participation in special events.   The "End of the World" brooch contest was one of these.  The idea was that each member of the club create a brooch sharing their idea of the end of the world.  I decided to keep on with my exploration of folforming and enamelling.

Here you can see the front of my completed brooch.  I first foldformed the copper base and then carefully applied layers of enamel.  My idea of the End of the World is when plants grow their own barcodes, which you can see emerging from the leaf.  I also used enamel on the back to trap the copper tubing and hook that would be the pin findings and piano wire for the pin stem. 

Foldformed, enamelled leaves

During this class I began to experiment with foldforming copper after a classmate brought in the classic book by Charles Lewton-Brain.   I found that I really enjoyed the process of creating leaves with varying patterns from copper sheet.  I then spent a fair amount of time practicing my enamelling skills by applying the enamels to the foldformed leaves.

You can see the progression here from just copper to covered with enamel.  I have continued to work with these two techniques as I love the variety of textures and colors that can be achieved.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Putting it All Together

The final project for this class was to create a vessel with a glass base.   The final vessel was to highlight each of the 4 technical processes we learned in class: electroforming, powder coating, machining and spinning.

 The glass element that I chose to use was a spice jar with lid.  There was a plastic stopper on the lid.  Since I have strong opinions and beliefs surrounding the use of GMO's (genetically modified organisms) in our food supply, I decided to use this project to make a statement.  The materials I chose to use included brass, copper, sculpey clay and heirloom Cherokee Red, White and Blue corn.

The main corn center is made from pierced brass.  The corn husk is made from spun copper sheet that was then pierced, forged, shaped and patinated.  The stopper was covered with electroformed sculpey clay.  The sign is pierced, powder coated copper and mixed in with the heirloom real corn are small, machined brass corns.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ponoko, Vector drawing & Natural Birth

The next project focused on learning to use Photoshop for vector drawing with the goal being to have a laser cut acrylic component produced by a company called Ponoko.  The completed project was to be a set of 5 brooches with each brooch containing one of the Ponoko components. This was a multi-step process that came, for me anyway, with a fairly steep learning curve and a series of setbacks.

The first thing I had to decide was what I actually wanted to make.  I was really working through feelings and emotions that were linked with motherhood and birth.  Not just the birth of my child, but the rebirth of myself as I moved into the next phase of my life.  Because of this, I chose for my acrylic element to be a baby.  And because I believe that we reflect ourselves onto those around us and we look for reflections of ourselves in others I chose a mirrored bronze acrylic for the material.  Once I made these design design decisions, then I began the computer part of the process.

Being a little older than most of the class, I had less previous experience with digital technology than most of the other students.  My first issue was learning how to actually use the program.  This involved many extra hours in the computer lab and and the repeated help of some of my classmates. The first completed drawing got lost somewhere in my lack-of-tech-knowledge and had to be redone.  This was actually very helpful in the learning process which led me to redo the drawing a number of times until it really was what I wanted.

Once the drawing was to my satisfaction, I used Ponoko's online uploader (which thankfully contained detailed directions) to submit my design for production.  For our class, the suggestion was to use acrylic because of cost but Ponoko offers a variety of material and color options.  The website was also very user friendly.  Once the drawing was uploaded to Ponoko and that part of the process was out of my hands, it was time to finalize the brooch design.

Earlier in the semester, as is evidenced by the last project, I had begun a study of foldforming and enamelling.  I felt a strong need to continue that thread and so brought it forward into this project.  I decided that my series of brooches would combine the foldformed and enamelled leaves with the mirrored acrylic babies.  From this point I began thinking about the best method of cold connection, how to attach the acrylic to the enamelled element, as well as how to attach the brooch backs.  I enjoyed this exploration very much and it was fun to play with ways of capturing elements within the enamel, which is ultimately how I connected the brooch backs and the partially the acrylic element.

Above you can see the finished, "It's Natural" Birth Series Brooches.  For me, there is no disconnection between us as humans and the natural world.  I wanted this series to reflect that point of view and for each brooch to be viewed in more than one way.  For me, these brooches hold the imagery for the literal birthing of a child as well as promoting the idea of a being growing directly from the plant/natural world.  The babies are attached in such a way that they are movable and can be readjusted into a different position if desired.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


The next piece of equipment I was introduced to was the machining lathe.  Initially, I was a little fearful of this machine in which you use sharp tools to shave metal, is loud and requires a face shield during use to protect you from potentially hazardous flying pieces of metal and metal dust.  However, after multiple tutorials from both the professor and my fellow classmates, I relaxed into the process.

Our sample project was to turn a rod of tool steel into four different riveting tools and fabricate a holder for them. This was such a great way to get familiar with the equipment and feel as if I accomplished something.  I appreciated that professor Thurman created a sample project where the end goal was to have a wonderfully useful set of tools.

I chose to make my riveting tool pouch mainly out of leather with metal and bead accents.  By incorporating the metal into the pouch I created a situation where I used my new riveting tools right away.  The beaded element is covering a magnet which adheres to the steel tools creating the closure.

    Above you can see the four riveting tools, each one was cut to a different angle degree.   This set has become one of my most reached for tools any time I have a need for cold connections.

Once we completed the sample project, it was time to move on to the machining final project.  For this project we were to turn a piece of brass rod into five machined pieces.  Once the pieces were made we were to use them to create a cohesive piece.

I made many brass samples while I tried to figure out what to do with them.  Finally, I chose to use a combination of enamelled, foldformed leaves with my machined brass pieces to create the jewelry set pictured above.  While the brass pieces are not all identical, I feel that they create a sense of cohesion from their similar shapes and they way each one is used the same.  I used copper wire to create the chain and the vining tendrils.