One of the challenges of these simple earrings is the bezels. They are a prefab product I picked up very early in my metalsmithing carreer. I just want to use them up, rather than melting them down. But they are an odd shape (to me) and it is sometimes hard to get them closed over the stone. They are made by forming the cup shape into a flat piece of metal with a press.
I have a few more pairs laid out and I'll keep working at them. I am still trying to figure out whether the problem is with me or the bezels. Probably, they will get less and less simple as I work thougheach pair.
Look at me, working on a simple project to solve a problem. Normally I drive myself mad with the most complex thing I can imagine! Maybe I really am learning.
Lessons learned in jewelry class came fast and furious. Previously, I'd had teachers who slowly taught the skills and kept all practice pieces very simple, with little patience for a student who wanted more. The college level class was another thing entirely. Just amazing.
One of our first lessons was in forging. I went in thinking we would be shaping sheet or hammering texture, not at all realizing how specific the term was.
Forging is the thinning and elongating of metal by hammering it with a narrow edge of a hammer. Initially I thought it was a very limited idea- one could create tapers and give them a bit of a turn. However, it's amazing how often the technique comes in handy. You take a round piece of wire and hammer crossways from where you want the thickness to begin tapering to the end or where you want the taper to increase to. Then you turn it one quarter turn and do the same along the same area. This results in a square and slightly thinner cross section to the hammered wire. Then you planish away the marks and round the wire again with the flat side of the hammer. Anneal, move down a bit and repeat the process.
It can be a bit tricky to keep the squaring even, sometimes the wire will squash and you need to resquare with the hammer or file away angles that are too acute. It's easiest to start with a very thick wire-the copper in the dragonfly piece is about 8 guage. I worked the softer, more delicate silver later, once I was used to the process. It takes some time and patience, annealing and pickling when the metal won't move any more.
A side effect I found in working the copper so hard was the discoloration. I love it! All the handling and annealing gave it a dark, weathered look. A wonderful contrast with the brightness of the silver.
The most fun I had was creating a blade of grass and the delicate body of the dragonfly. Tapering here and flattening there to create dynamic shapes.
I quickly got a new forging hammer, the one above, that still needs a name. It quickly became one of my favorites, with a convenient place just over the bench. And I use it all the time for very basic things. As we get to know each other better, I'll probably grind down the hammer's edges a little to make it friendlier to my finished pieces. For now I'm getting to know it, as is, and appreciating it's roughness and angles.
Before, I made a mess of filings trying to get a nice taper for accenting. This is much more conservative of the metal in a piece.
It's not always the perfect solution, for example on the Dragonfly's wings, I went with piercing and light hammering instead. This was the original idea:
I had very thick sheet and loved the idea of hammering it down to thin enough to be dragonfly wings. I hammered an awful lot and still felt way to heavy to begin. Thinning sheet is something I've yet to do really successfully. I've heard recommendation of using a rolling mill to apply even pressure. But I'll inevitably try with the forging hammer. Sometime when my eardrums are feeling very strong.
Still, the forged lines were very expressive and moving the metal extremely satisfying. I think it offers much better control of the taper and it makes measuring a piece, for example a ring, much easier. The result feels very raw and can be very delicate at the same time. Flattening parts or all of the forged element gives you room to drill holes and add elements with solder.
My family will be out of town having the time of their lives.
And I'm staying home to have a party! (yes, I do feel like a teenager whose parents have left town for the weekend)
It's an artist's retreat at Simbelmynë's house! I'll hit Costco and fill the house with food. I'm used to all sorts of eaters-picky eaters, carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, food sensitivities, OmNomNomNivores... Also I have hot and cold running WiFi, which is, of course, optional. And, never fear, coffee.
Everything's ship shape with lots of room for big projects. I'm not far from Construction Junction, really you could get pretty crazy. I'm planning to set aside areas for specific things, and we can adjust as people arrive with their projects and goals for the weekend. I have lots of places to sleep, if you're from out of town or just don't want to leave.
The jewelry studio will be in full swing. I have almost every type of equipment anybody could need-from torches to finishing equipment. I have tables and corners and quiet areas for writing, being quiet, meditating. A park next door for walks and listening to the world around us. A full crafting room with all sorts of supplies, if you forget anything. I even have a macro photography studio, if you want to get some small photos.
We can swap, dump, laugh, play, work, meditate, trade secrets, teach, learn, whatever we want to do.
If you RSVP I can make sure I have what you need. Or just show up, the more the merrier!
Stay all weekend or come and go as you please.
Official Start is 7pm Friday, March 18 and end at 7pm Sunday March 20.
(Please ignore the photo it's from the highway, for some reason)
We're the last house on the left.
This piece turned into a crazy interjection of heavy and lightweight elements. The assignment "necklace with a forged element" really seemed hard to me. It was an assignment for Jewelry Making I.
I like to make delicate things- bubbles, bugs, chain... But the shapes you get forging wire-long and thin, pointed pieces, weren't speaking to me. All I could think of was hooks and curves, and those are fine as part of a necklace or bracelet, but not as a focal componant.
And then the dragonfly idea struck me. Forging a piece of grass, the long spindly tail of the bug, the legs. Perfect.
I started having so much fun I forged out the clasp as well! And it all balances the heavy metal with delicate light elements.
For class I've been working to challenge myself. Not only to learn each technique as thoroughly as possible, but to encorporate as many techniques into each project as possible.
Turns out this philosophy is crazy.
The extra parts- the chain, endcaps, intricate cut work wings-those took up time and when I hit a snag-getting all those pieces soldered together almost ended everything. A bit of the tail burned off, I slightly damaged the wings. Fortunately, the benefit of working on it for class, I could take it to my teacher, repeatedly, and she helped me get it down and all of the damage was repairable.
I've got several potential designs that spring from this one. Yay for education!
I have been taking on side projects (even a couple of commissions!) during this overcommitted semester. One being a signet for a friend's costumed role play game. And it's being issuey.
First, copyright, I'm trying to secure permissions to legitimately make the piece. Otherwise I'll be creating original art. Not that I don't want to do the work, it just seems cooler to use the original artwork. No explaining, none of that feeling that it's made up.
Hey, if you're a working artist and you've dealt with fan art, leave a comment? I've contacted the company, but they're being slow to get back to me.
But the real reason I've busted out the blog tonight is copper.
I'm making a copper version of the ring, the final version will be silver.
I'm not casting it, I'm fabricating it. I've solved most of the problems I've encountered, but soldering with silver leaves lines all over my piece and I don't much like that.
I was looking for copper solder. I don't mix my own alloys yet. And my search came up with one option that isn't highly recommended. I think my next educational quest will be to learn more about the metals.
Tonight I found a brilliant suggestion! Copper plating the silver seams! I know it will work after my experiences with brass. The pickle, a strong acid that is used to clean silver, suspends copper. It's easy to take the copper out of suspension by introducing some steel into the acid. Whatever's in the pot is copper plated. I can just cover the silver seams!
Burning myself and improving my skills, of course.
Just minor, every day burn, no drama, but it was a wakeup call. It seems I need a physical reminder that I can't work on a project from 10 am until 8pm with only breaks to drive to class and back, supervise homework and eat quick meals.
The piece is coming together. This is the "Necklace with forged element" there are several forged elements, actually, the clasp (not pictured) piece of grass, the dragonfly's body and legs are all forged from round wire, copper and silver. the legs are part of of the grass piece and the body and wings are soldered together. I had to put it down after my last pass with the torch. Both the dragonfly and I took a little damage.
It's due on Thursday morning, so the rest of the solder will flow, surely.
Funny, I didn't think this piece would come to much of interest, and it's currently my favorite thing I've made this year. If all goes well tomorrow, I have some wicked plans... Just you wait!
The other thing I'm working on is a dragonfly out of forged elements. This one may or may not be for a class assignment. I might just be making it for fun. Who knows.
I'm very glad I'm taking this class from the beginning. I could probably cope with the second semester class' work, but I'm still finding myself wanting in knowledge about these basics. For example when the instructor said she wanted "forged elements" in the necklace, I really had no idea what she meant.
I was thinking that forming, patterning and any other hammer-related activity counted as forging. It turns out it has a specific meaning- thinning and tapering metal over an anvil using a larger hammer with a narrow tip- think of a cross-peen hammer or big old blacksmith's hammer.
She's started us with tapers, like the dragonfly's body and legs, but I'm playing with thick sheet for this project. It's still in progress, I hope to achieve most of the wings shape by forging it thin. They're not the same size, so there will be some cutting and filing. However, I'm loving the effect of the shaped metal.
School is fun!