Friday, July 27, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Forsaken Leaf of Shadow and Flame

I wanted to do one more behind the scenes photo series to show the typical progression of a metal clay project. This one uses BronzeClay in anticipation of the warmer tones often present in my autumn offerings. 

Here is my most basic metal clay layout: clayboard, tools, cool slip, yellow sticky note templates, texturing items, and wax paper. 

BronzeClay is a little more granular in texture than its silver counterparts, so it doesn't create super clean lines when cut with a needle tool. However, it cleans up nicely with filing and sanding in the greenware stage.

These are the raw metal clay pieces in the drying phase.

Once they are dry or nearly dry, I use a series of sandpapers, files, and cloths to smooth the edges and clean each piece. This is one of my least favorite parts because the texture and feel of dust on my hands always gives me the heebie jeebies. ;)

Here they are! All cleaned up and ready for firing.

This type of metal clay has to be fired in a firing pan with activated carbon. This prevents color change and oxidization during the firing. This particular firing pan was created by folding super thick aluminum sheets (my fingers were soooooo lacerated even with extra caution) into the shape of a box with a lid. This is the one option that does not cause spalling during firing, which creates a huge sooty mess to clean up inside the kiln. I'm all for fewer messes. ;)

The leaves are layered in the carbon and cannot touch each other or they could possibly fuse together.

Once the firing pan is loaded into the kiln, I program it with the proper ramp, hold time, and temperature. This one is...quite hot.

Once the firing is complete and the pieces have cooled off, I can put them into my tumbler to smooth and polish. This eases the muscle tension that comes from doing this first buffing step by hand, but I do still have to hand burnish them once they are done.

After hand-burnishing, I usually break out the flex shaft tool for some added shine.

The next step is to add gilding. As part of the concept behind this piece, I wanted to add in something dark but I didn't want straight-up black. I went with a dark damson plum. The (stinky) paste is rubbed on, allowed to sit, then wiped and polished with a moon cloth. Once that has dried the surface is sealed.

This shows the contrast: the one on the left is not gilded, the one on the right is gilded.

 And here is the finished piece with the description:
Forsaken Leaf of Shadow and Flame 
This hand crafted bronze leaf was formed in bronze metal clay, imprinted with the veins of a leaf, and cut from a hand drawn template shape. Details were added as an abstract expression of the holes that form as a leaf desiccates in autumn; no two pendants will have the exact same pattern. 

After firing, the leaf was tumble polished, hand burnished, gilded by hand in dark damson plum, polished to draw out the golden-bronze highlights, and sealed. The interplay of dark damson against sparkling gold-bronze represents shadow and flame.

The leaf pendant is accentuated by a wire wrapped dark red faceted garnet. They hang together from an 18" long petite antique gunmetal chain. The pendant is 1.75" high.

These pendants are part of my first Autumn 2012 collection! They will go live with the first harvest on August 1st! There are over 90 unique items in this collection with easily half of them being earrings. Below are previews for Ambre Lantern, Queen of Autumn, and Vinalia.

All images and designs are  © Elements & Artifacts 2012. Please do not use or copy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Behind the Scenes: Wire Wrapped Blue Morpho by Elements & Artifacts

I'm very excited to present a behind the scenes look at my Blue Morpho project! This request came via my Facebook fan page, and while I have done behind the scenes photos in the past, none have been as extensive as this one. Here we go!

Nearly every advanced project of mine begins with a sketch and/or concept. Most of them stay in my bound sketchbook, but sometimes, for mobility and ease of creation, I will create a template on none other than a sticky note. The notes are later stuck into the relevant page in my sketch book. Yes, my sketch book is riddled with sticky notes. 

The sketch acts as a guide for my wire armatures. In cases like this where I need the piece to be symmetrical, I only sketch one half of the piece and follow the same guide for each side.

Once the armatures are formed, they are taken to my workbench so that they can be work-hardened and flattened on my bench block. This helps the wire hold its shape and the flattened armature creates a nicer palette for the ornate wire wrapping.

Ta-da! The finished armatures, work-hardened.

Here is a mid-wire-wrapping snapshot. This particular photo only shows two stray wires, but there are times when a piece holds a dozen wild antennae before I finish things up.

This is the nearly completed wire-wrapped pendant. In the background, I have just finished the sterling rolo chain with the gemstone accents. The aqua quartz drop has yet to be added.

The next step was to give it an LOS bath for an antiqued finish. I prefer to antique intricate pieces because it really draws out the details, but oh does it STINK.

Post-LOS bath, the piece is dried and has a dark matte finish.

A little hand polishing and voila!

Next, the wings! Water-based paints on tissue that will dissolve in water can sometimes be tricky, but the goal is semi-translucent wings and it's worth the hassle. The silhouette below was hand painted after  pencil tracing the outer edge of the butterfly pendant for size accuracy.

I trimmed the wings away from the tissue and glued them into place. Rough edges are left for now so that I don't accidentally create a large gap between the tissue and the edge of the wings. Once they're glued into place, I use an exacto knife to clean things up.

Once the glue is dry, I can add a dusting of macro pigments. This creates the shimmer! For the Blue Morpho, I went with a teal blue.

This shows the wings just after the sparkle and sealant were added. The sealant hardens the tissue, waterproofs it (to an extent, but I wouldn't press my luck) and traps in the pigment and paint. It gives the final touch of translucence to the wings as it wets the tissue.

And here it is! The finished Blue Morpho! This will land in my shop very soon!

All images and designs are  © Elements & Artifacts 2012. Please do not use or copy.