Faublous Fire and the Quantum Karp

Have I mentioned to you yet that I am TOTALLY addicted to enamels? Oh my have I been having fun! My journey to addiction began when I tried my hand at some simple sifted enamel pendants. I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with sgrafitto in enamels early on. If that wasn’t fun enough I then discovered Barbara Lewis’ immersion method of torch firing beads and other jewelry components. It helped me to re-familiarize myself with the torch (it’s been a while since I did any serious work with a torch) and gain confidence in my enameling capabilities. I loved watching the enamel fuse to the bead in the flame and playing in all the wonderful color. I find this new art form to be very soothing to the spirit. Therapeutic if you will, though dangerously addictive. After a long period of torch firing beads and emboldened by my success I decided to dip my toe into the world of cloisonné … and I’ve decided I’m never coming back.
After playing around with some 20 gauge round wire to make my first pieces I finally invested in some proper fine silver cloisonné wire, and what a world of difference it has made. I can hardly believe how quickly I’m going through the stuff… I already feel panic setting into my heart as I realized I have less than a foot left today. I’ll have to wait a week to get more. I can’t imagine how I’ll cope when I run out. Did I mention that this art form is like the crack of the jewelry arts? Oh yeah … I’m sick. 🙂
After admiring several pieces of Japanese themed pieces from other artists online I found myself inspired to attempt to make a Karp, or Koi in a pond with a lily pad. I started it yesterday about 5:00 and was a woman possessed, working until 1:00 a.m. to finish it. I had to be up at the crack of dawn, and through I tried to convince myself that getting sleep was the wiser course of action it was impossible to get my mind off of the little carp painting that was coming to life before my eyes.
In the first phase I prepared my copper base by fusing a couple of layers of counter enamel to the back and a base of white to the front. Once the base was prepared I drew my design out to scale in my notebook then I cut and shaped the cloisonné wire to form every detail of my carp and little lily pad. I use a product called Blu-Stick to glue the wires in place as I am setting them. It looks like blue elmers glue and is about the same consistency but it burns off clean in the firing process. You can see some traces of it in the picture. I had not yet fired the wires into place.

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     In the next phase I pick my pallet of colors and begin wet packing them into the cells created by the cloisonné wire.  I add enamel to the cells, fire it in the torch to fuse that layer and then wet pack again.  This is a process repeated many times, fusing layer upon layer of glass until all of the cells are full.  The wet packed enamel is allowed to dry before firing.  The dry enamel looks like colorful sand.  The coloring is much lighter before the enamel is fired, and then it darkens with beautiful effects.

Here is the wet packed design unfired:

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And here is the design after firing when the enamels have darkened:

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     After several layers are fused and the cells are full the image is ground back with an alundum stone to level the surface and remove excess glass that may be covering the wire design.  I was very pleased with my little coy!  I then torch fired beads in matching colors to create a necklace to show off my new friend.  I absolutely love the colors, the design and everything about my latest piece.   I cannot wait to see what my efforts over the next year will yield if I remain steadfast in my enameling experiments.  I am enamored with enameling, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

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More fun with Enamels

Well, it’s official. I have a new addiction. I can’t stop playing with enamels – and don’t want to. I made another cloisonné piece recently. I call this one Patron of the Arts. It’s a tribute to the art patrons out there whose support makes it possible for artists to live creative lives and continue their work to put beautiful things out into the world. Without the art patron, we would not be able to do what we do. While it’s fun, it also serves as a sort of badge of honor telling the world that the person wearing it is a supporter of the arts.  Buy Art!

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My latest enameling adventures led me to create these cute little pendants in a copper setting.  The setting is made from copper sheet.  After the enamel disk is set I sealed the copper so that it would not turn one’s skin when worn.  I absolutely ADORE these fun little pendants and will be making many more to come.  Please forgive the low quality of pics.  My camera seems to have disappeared so these were taken with my camera phone.

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Keep an eye out on my blog.  I forsee some workshops and possibly even some tutorials in enameling techniques to come!  Thanks for following me.

Mermaid Complete!

I finally made it to the store to get a new pickle pot so that I could complete my mermaid cloisonné pendant. For the beginning pictures of this project, see the post prior to this one. It shows the white enameled base with the wires initially set. Tonight I got to paint her. Actually it’s more like wet packing sand than painting really. I mix the enamels with water and use a paintbrush, toothpick, or piece of wire to fill the cells of the design. After it’s all set I laid a paper towel over it and allowed it to wick water from the enamel. Afterwards it looks like a bunch of colored sand set into the cells of the wire design.

wet pack 1

Next I used a dry paintbrush to brush away and loose enamel and prepare it for torching.  The more glass you add to a piece the longer it takes to fire it.  I was so excited when my mermaid finally made it to the torch – it seemed to take forever for the glass to fuse.  Of course that’s probably because I was holding my breath and counting every second.  At last the metal glowed, the glass flowed and my first firing was complete!

first firing

It was a real pain trying to get the wet glass to pack into some of the finer areas; the arms, the fish tail and the tips of the seaweed were real buggers.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get enough glass into the tight spots to get a good fill, but I gave it my best shot as I wet packed it the second time.  When I went to repack the tail I accidentally grabbed the wrong green – ACK!  I didn’t realize that I’d grabbed the green for the seaweed until it was too late.  As I started packing I recognized that the colors weren’t the same, but I decided to just go with it.  It looks a little like a shadow on her tail though, so in the end not much damage done.  This time I used some of the transparent that I had used on the bubbles to layer over the opaque blue background to try to give it a more watery look.  Off to the torch she went!

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In the end I am happy with this experiment.  I am learning a lot as I go and I’m sure I’ll make plenty more mistakes in the learning process, but for now I say ‘Not bad for an amateur.’   I’ve got many other pendants planned and I can’t wait to get to them!  Stay tuned. 😉

Braided Wire Rings

My passion for experimenting with new techniques as a means of furthering my skills has led me to the world of wire braiding. I have always admired the wire braid work of other jewellers but have never ventured into it before as I imagined it to be a rather tedious task. I have to say, it’s not so bad. I gave it a try today for the first time – all thanks to a desire to play with my new bench vise.

To try my hand at wire braiding I opted for a small project. I did a six wire braid with 20 gauge copper wire. After braiding a length of about six inches I trimmed the ends and shaped two rings on the ring mandrel … and then dusted off my soldering skills at the bench and went for it.

I used a type of solder that is new to me, made specifically for joining copper, which contains copper. It’s always nicer to have it joined in a color of solder that already matches your copper wire than to have to electroplate the sliver colored copper later on to match. It worked great on the first band …. but not so well on the second band. I think that as I was beading my solder wire snip it joined with a stray piece of silver wire solder which resulted in a visible seam. To hide this I just put a wire rosette on the joint. I may very well redo my rosette later but I am happy enough with it as a successful experiment for the moment.

Now … am I brave enough to break out the silver? We shall see…

Fun With Fibulas!

I’ve been saying for a while I wanted to make some fibulas for some of my Winged Things creations so that they could function either as a pendant/necklace or a kinetic brooch of sorts. Today I decided to play around a bit with fibulas and made two quick and easy pins in no time at all. I decided to make a fibula to match my Madame Flutterbye pendant (Winged Thing #4) first.

This one was actually the first fibula I made but it didn’t fit the pendant very well so I just added a few swaros and a bone cat for the heck of it.

You will be seeing more fibulas from me in the months ahead, no doubt a tutorial for them as well. 🙂

WIP: And still MORE etched metals.

I loved my etched metal pieces from yesterdays Solitude meditation so much that I decided I wanted them in a broader variety of colored stones so I etched more earrings today. I have a show coming up at Blue Morning Gallery in January and I need some new pretties to show so I’m trying to make something every day for the exhibit.

Yesterday I managed two pair of earrings. Not a lot, but not bad in the midst of having the repair man over to install a new water heater. Our hot water heater went out on the 23rd. Yes … you can imagine all the fun of having no hot water over the holidays. One word: Unhappiness!

Today I etched more ‘Solitude’ images for earrings and three pendants to match. I also took pictures along the way to make a freebie tutorial for my readers who have expressed an interest in learning to etch metal. There is a catch if you choose to use my tut … and that is that you have to be a subscriber to my blog to get the password to unlock the tut and you also have to share a picture of your etched metal experiement results with me! It won’t take me too long to put a simple tut together for this process as it is not too involved, but I’m going to be pretty busy over the next week so it will likely be next week before it’s available.

Now to show off todays creations … Introducing matching sets!

In Chrysophase:

Rainbow Moonstone:

Amethyst:

Quartz Crystal:

Carnelian:

Smoky Quartz:

As much fun as I have had with the etched metal pieces I have a few other nice wire work projects that have been on the back burner waiting for a wire order to come in. It is due to arrive tomorrow and I’m getting excited. I can’t wait to finish up my other projects. There will be more eye candy to share soon, so I’ll be back before you know it! 😉

And >POOF< Delia's gone!

WIP: Etched Metal Process

Today I thought I would share a Work In Progress with you. Back around Thanksgiving I did my first ever metal etching experiments. A lot of inspiration was born of those experiements, but with the holiday season upon me I had to set it aside for a time. Now, with Christmas behind us, it seemed like a good time to continue with the momentum of those Thanksgiving experiments and make some new projects.

I decided to make my theme Solitude to honor the beauty of that mysterious voice that resonates within all of us in quiet, comptemplative moments. These earrings were born from a spontaneous meditation on the beauty of solitude. Solitude is not like lonliness at all … solutide is to lonliness what a Mercedes Benz is to a beat up old volkswagon. Solitude is a glass of full bodied red wine paired with classical music on a warm summer night. It’s standing on the rivers edge listening to the insects buzz, the water flowing and the wind in the canopy of trees above you. It’s watching the sun rise in the middle of the forest. Solitude is beautiful … and it’s usually only in these quiet moments that we can truly get to know ourselves. It’s being able to enjoy your own company. To that end I did a few quick sketches with my resist pens on this piece of copper sheet.

I threw it in a ferric chloride bath for about 40 minutes. The etching process seemed to be much slower this time than it was back in November. I keep my container out in my laundry room when I’m etching and it was pretty cold in that room. The temperature may have had an effect on the time it took to etch. I pulled the copper design plate out, scrubbed off the resist pen with green scrubby pads and then antiqued the metal with LOS and rubbed it out with 0000 grade steel wool to highlight the raised design. This is what the final design plate looked like.

I then cut out, filed and sanded all of the individual pieces on the design plate.

I took the four matching pieces from the plate to make two pair of earrings. I pierced each end of the piece and added handmade ear wires to the top and chrysophase and rainbow moonstone briolettes on the bottom. They are available in my etsy store. I really like the way they turned out.

I still haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do with the old man under the wisdom tree, but I will be sure to post to share him when he’s done.

Stay tuned to see the fate of ‘Old Man Under the Wisdom Tree’. 🙂