Thursday, October 3, 2013

Biggest Challenge

This past summer a former student of mine (from my days of teaching elementary art) asked me to make a necklace for his daughter that incorporated a screw that had been in his daughter's broken leg.  Sometimes I have an idea immediately, but this time my mind was a big blank.  (Ask my husband..... this is nothing new.)

It took me quite awhile.  ( I was busy enjoying summer and kept putting off what I knew I needed to do.)   About six weeks ago, I finally just told myself "Do It!"  So I drew up some ideas, sent them off to the customer to see if any of them were what he had in mind.  

After he picked his favorite, my next challenge was to figure out how to actually make it.  There were several techniques that I've never tried before and I decided to try them in this piece.  

Some of the challenges:

1.  Getting the piece to shrink to the right size so the screw would fit.  That one was pretty simple as the piece is made 118% bigger than the final piece.  The scanner and the computer are invaluable as tools to figure this out.  (Although there is a metal clay shrinkage ruler that can also help determine the beginning size and I did use it too.)

2.  Making the sides thick enough to create wells to hold the items.  I could have rolled the clay out with cards but felt that I needed something thicker.  So, I pulled out my clay extruder (which I've used only once before to make a bezel tube.)  This time I used the square cam to extrude a thick square snake which I cut into fourths.  The inside dividers were rolled by hand.

3.  Next I had to figure out how I was going to keep the screw in place.  (I didn't fire it in place as I wasn't sure what it's chemical makeup was.)    I decided to try resin.  Never used resin before either.  I did some test pieces before I took the plunge.  (Nervously took the plunge!)  The screw is held in place with clear UV resin and the blue is also resin, tinted.  (Had the resin supplies for years.  It was about time.)

4.  Finding teeny tiny pearls was impossible.  So...... I made some.  Once before I "made" a pearl for a piece so it was no problem to do it again.  Just polymer clay and "pearl" powder.  The most difficult thing here was how small I had to make them.  I thought I had them tiny enough but still ended up cutting them in half to make them fit.  (Glueing them in was no picnic either!)

5.  Finally, hanging the piece on a cord created yet another challenge.  Originally I was going to put the three keys at the top of the piece so they would go through the cord.   I wasn't sure what type or thickness of cord I was going to use so I turned them and hung them by putting jump rings through the keys.  But, when using the same size of jump rings, the pendant didn't hang right.  I had no problem leaving the middle key without a jump ring but wasn't sure the customer would see it the same way I did.  So..... after some trial and error, I enlarged the two outside rings and left the center ring the same size.  

6.  The amount of time I spent on this piece was quite extensive.  I didn't really keep track but it took  days and days and days.  (Mostly because I wasn't sure what I was doing and because I was trying new things.)  The piece has lots of silver in it and lots of time but I didn't charge the customer for all the hours.  Instead I looked at it as a learning piece.  It made me try some things I hadn't tried before (and definitely will try again.)  The customer shouldn't have to pay for that.

The back....... it's important too.

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