Friday, May 13, 2016

Hollow forms

Our first project at the Rebel Heartistry Retreat was to make a hollow form.   We could make a ring or a pendant and since I love, love, love rings....... guess what I made?

This was not my first time at making a hollow form but it was my first time making it out of sterling silver with traditional metal smithing tools.  Besides the fact that I don't use a jeweler's saw when working with metal clay (although I have in certain instances) there is one major difference that I noticed.

The fine silver clay is more porous than the sterling sheet.
(I wonder if that is true of sterling silver clay?)  Because it is, the hollow form does not have to have any holes to let the gases and fluids  escape.  We had to drill holes in the inner band for that purpose.

"Aquarius" was made by covering a rock with metal clay, cutting it in half when dry and pasting the halves back together.  Embellishment was added on after the hollow form dried.  As with lots of my jewelry, this piece told me what it wanted to be when I accidentally broke off a corner (which became the spout with a crystal drop.)

I wanted to show the construction method we used in construction of the ring, but for some reason I can't download it.  (Not sure why.)  But this is the basic form of my ring (embellishes will come later.)  We constructed the inner band and soldered it onto sheet metal.  Then the outer band was soldered on and the center and outside were sawed out.  (Sawing really wasn't that bad.)  The last step was to solder on the other side onto the rings and saw that side out too.  I was afraid of getting too close to my bands so I had some major filing to do.  (That is not fun.)

Of course the metal clay piece is constructed with the use of metal clay paste while the sterling silver is constructed with solder.   The finished metal clay piece can also be soldered.  It takes a little more solder since it is a porous material and sucks the solder in.

This metal clay necklace was formed somewhat like the ring but was constructed with paste rather than soldering

Soldering makes me nervous but I can do it.  I need to do it more often so I feel more comfortable with it.  I tend not to do it as the paste works great and is less stressful.  But, it's all relevant.  I will start to solder on my bezels now, rather than using the paste.

The last piece is metal clay and the bezel was added with metal clay paste.  I guess it's good to be able to do both processes, depending on the situation.  Which ever I use, I now have a soldering set up and bought myself some easy, medium and hard solder.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Back in the groove (almost!)

Okay, I've been gone a long, long time.  Gone from this blog and gone from making jewelry, until this past week.

When I get home from spending the winter in Florida, I usually go into a funk.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's the lack of sunshine or having to get back to the real world.   Last year I got into a major funk .  My mother fell and broke her back in two places, which threw me into the roll of caregiver for both my mother and father.  She is doing much better this year but neither one of them drive and since I don't have any siblings I'm it.  I look at this as a chance to spend more time with my parents.  My mother is 86 and my father is 92.  No one knows when God will call them home.  (Although my father says he will not make it to lunch time.......... every single day.)  Nothing has changed this year from last year but this year I'm not in a funk at all.

I got home from Florida on April 18th.   In two days I had everything put away (even my Christmas decorations....... I had a legitimate reason for not having them put away before I left.  Really I did.)

Two weeks later I was flying off to Texas with my daughter Heather for a Jewelry Retreat.  The sweet girl gave me the retreat as a birthday present.  We had a great time.  The retreat was called Rebel Heartistry and was set up by Vivi Magoo.  They set up retreats around the western and southern area.

There were 14 of us who came together at the Round Top Inn (a bed and breakfast in Round Top, Texas.)  The Inn is amazing.  It's made up of various buildings that are all beautifully decorated.  I guess Heather and I were in the main house as that is where the kitchen was located.  Each building was decorated differently and were within walking distance of each other.  We worked in another studio (where we also had "wonderful" breakfasts") and had happy hour in an old tobacco house.  (How can 14 women drink so much wine.)  Our meals were catered for both lunch and dinner.  I'm afraid to get on the scales on Monday but I sure did enjoy the fantastic food we were served everyday.
Somehow, my meals today were very lack luster.  Oh well, it's back to reality.

The house Heather and I stayed in.

Inside our working studio

Our instructor was Jess Cotes from NC.  My daughter has been buying her jewelry for years and met her once while she was still living in NC.  Jess is a very talented young woman who not only teaches her craft but also nurtures the artistic souls of her students.

Jess demonstrating soldering to Heather and Pollyanna.

I didn't take any of my metal clay materials to Florida this year.  (I usually do and it takes up half the truck.)  I did take some stones that I meant to work on and never got to.  I also took watercolors and never got to those either.   What I did get to was quilting.  I belong to the Pine Island Quilts R Us group which is made up of amazing women who are so nice and are willing to share their knowledge.  In January I went on a quilting retreat at Lake Placid.

Okay, I'll wrap it up. (For now.)  I'm back now and I'll be posting on a regular basis.  (Knock on wood.)  Some of the things I plan on talking about is what it's like as a metal clay artist to work with sheet metal, sawing and soldering.  (Although 50 years ago..... Oh god that sounds so old........ I had a class on silversmithing.

Also, I usually print a book from my blog at the end of the year.  For 2015 there were so few posts to my blog that I didn't bother.  I need to  make up for lost time so I may become a blabber mouth.  Who knows.  We will see.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Varying a multiple

The photopolymer process is often used to create multiples.  This makes it quicker and easier to repeat a design.  If I want to be able to tell people that a certain piece is one of a kind, I need to vary each piece a little.  Often that is changing the color of a CZ or firing the piece in a different generation of clay which creates different sizes due to the shrinkage of each generation.  It may also mean varying the kinds of beads that each piece utilizes in it's final design.  These are some of the things I did with my skulls.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sugar Skulls........ Making the plate

The design has moved from the brain to the hand.  The preparations have been made and now it's time to make the photopolymer plate.  Next to making rings, this process for making the mold is one of my favorite things to do,.

Photopolymer is a process taken from the printmaking world.  I use to do t-shirts using the photopolymer emulsion on a silk screen.  Instead of squeegeeing ink through a screen to create the finished design, it is used to create a reusable mold.  In both instances it is used to make multiples.

Photopolymer plates can be plastic or metal.  Both are covered with the light sensitive emulsion and both require the same finishing steps.  The plates can be different thicknesses from ones that create a shallow to a  very deep design,  Plastic plates will warp and harden over time.  Metal ones will last longer. Both should be oiled and kept in a cool place after use.

Okay, I've gabbed enough.  Here's the process.

Working in a room with very low lighting, place the transparency that contains the desired design on the emulsion side of the plate.  (The print should be as dark as possible.  Sometimes I tape two prints together.)  Create a sandwich by layering a hard piece of backing,  a spongy material, the plate with the design on it (if it contains lettering they must read backwards), and a piece of glass.  This sandwich is held together by clips which compress everything for the best contact of the plate and design.

The next step uses a UV light (but you can also go outside and dance around in the sun...... if you have some.)   I use the light.  Place the sandwich (glass side up) in the UV light (be sure not to look in when the light is on.)  Time for one minute.  Take the sandwich apart and head to the sink to brush the plate with a soft bristle brush. Scrub until the softened emulsion is brushed off.  (Brush gently or the design could be lost.)  The areas covered with the black design were protected from the light and will wash out.  The areas where the light was able to get through will harden and remain.  After brushing, rinse the piece to remove stickiness.  Pat dry and place back under the UV light to finish curing.

The plate is now ready to be used with the clay.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sugar skulls - preparing the drawing for the photopolymer plate

Once the design has been decided on, it's time to make the photopolymer plate.  The plate is a piece of metal covered with a light sensitive emulsion.  It is kept in complete darkness until it's time to "cure" the plate and create the design.

The first step in the process is to take the finished design and print it onto a transparency sheet.  If you are as old as I am, you'll remember these as what was used to create a presentation on an overhead projector (those are obsolete too.)  The one thing that has to be remembered is that what ever is black in the drawing is what will be raised on the finished silver piece.  Sometimes it is during this step when I have a "Senior Moment" kick in.  (Too many of those..... moments!)
Remember..... what is black will be raised in the final piece.  This is what I wanted my finished pieces to look like........ This is not what my first few finished plates turned out like.

Sometimes after a design is decided on, it is necessary to invert the back and white to get the desired effect.  I inverted my drawing for some of my first plates.......... which gave them a whole different look than the one I was going for.    But........ it wasn't a failure....... just different.

This is what the design looks like using the first drawing.  This is rather large and is not yet finished as I want to add color in the form of resin or enameling.  

How it looks using the inverted drawing.  (This is unfired, dry clay.)
What a difference it makes.  

In my next post,  I'll share the photopolymer process itself.  (I just love making them and using them!)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The making of a Sugar Skull - the design process

In my last post I said I would share the process used to create my sugar skull necklaces and earrings.    
The plan is to break the process down into several posts....... so stay tuned.

The first step in the whole process is designing what I want to make, in this case a skull.  I ended up making a variety of skulls but they all pretty much use the same process.  

The drawing for the skulls is created either free-hand, with the computer or a combination of both.  In this case I used them both.  I drew half the skull, scanned it into my computer, copied and flipped it so that the finished skull would be symmetrical.  (In the olden days I would have drawn half, folded the paper in half, held it up to a window and traced it.  This would have also given me a whole skull.)  Same idea....... different method.  

This drawing is then scanned into the computer and duplicated multiple times so I have something to draw on without redrawing the skull every time.  Several pages are printed out so I can try a variety of designs on the skulls.

The next step is to use a black magic marker and draw different designs for the skulls.  Then, back to the scanner.

As you can see (these are scanned copies of my marker drawings.)  I also play with size.  The reason is that the clay shrinks between 10-12% (If I use a third generation clay.)  And 30% if I use the original clay (which they don't make any more....... Damn.  It's kind of nice sometimes to have that much shrinkage.)  The first two designs were not used.  

 I do several pages of designs, shrinking them multiple times 10% at a time.  This process helps me see the finished size of the skull.  When done, I choose the size I want and then use the design one step bigger than the finished piece will be.  

The first two designs were not used.  The other two were used and I also made a plain skull like my original drawing.  (There was a method to my madness for leaving one plain. Will explain in a later post.)  

There it is.  The design process.  Takes several hours to complete and involves old and new art techniques.   

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Better late than Never or (I think I've used that title before.)

This post should have been made over a month ago, but of course I was still in my "funk" period.  But, as the title says...... better late than never.  

I've been reading Kathy Reich books and watching the entire ten seasons of "Bones."  That and seeing my daughter's skull necklace must have influenced me.  I was certainly into a Sugar skull mode.  

I made more skulls than I intended  due to a mistake on my part.  I made several photopolymer plates from my skull drawings.  A photopolymer plate is a way to make molds or "stamps" from original drawings.  In a future post I'll share more info on the plates and how my mistakes made for more variety in the skulls.