Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mirror, mirror

After finishing the electroforming sample it was time to move on to my electroforming final project.  The assignment was fairly open with the goal being to create a wearable that had been electroformed.  At this same time I was working in Dallas in homes with beautiful antique items.  I was struck by the intricacies of all of the ornate, gilded mirrors.  I decided to create my own.

For the initial trial of this process I covered a small mirror and created my design with wax.  The goal was to plate the wax with copper and then melt the wax out leaving a hollow form holding the mirror.  I followed the given procedure but once I removed the mirror from the plating bath I immediately realized two problems that I had neglected to address beforehand. The first one, which might seem obvious to some of you, is that once I melted the wax out of the form, the mirror would no longer be held in place by anything.  I would have needed a different design to make that work. And secondly, the copper just wasn't thick enough to support the delicate petals of the flowers and I was afraid of breaking. I ended up leaving the wax inside the copper plating which effectively made it unwearable in the Texas heat where it was created.

 Here is the first mirror in the series. I was unhappy with the way the copper looked on the wax and so my solution was to gild it with gold foil.  It added more texture and helped to define the floral design more.  I made the chain out of brass wire hammered into ovals.

My new plan was to cover the mirrors with sculpey clay and to adorn the mirrors with flowers and swags in the same manner as i did with the wax.  I figured that once the clay was baked on, the leaves and flower petals had a structure to keep them strong and to support the copper. I applied at least 2 coats of copper conductive paint being careful to try and cover all of the clay. This was a crucial step because any place that was not covered with the paint would not have copper adhere to it.  Once the paint was completely dry I suspended the mirror in the plating bath for many hours until the thickness of the copper was at the desired level.
 The mirror above shows what the copper plating looks like.  I can see some areas where the paint didn't cover and so there is evidence of the sculpey clay hidden beneath.

The round mirror above was my favorite of the set.  I used gun blue patina to paint the leaves and create color contrast with the copper flowers.  I made the chain from copper wire that I hammered into flat ovals.

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