Sunday, 1 October 2017

Playing With Copper & Acrylics

I really have to stop experimenting with stuff and get down to what I really want to do, which is enamelling, metal clay and making bezels. Of course, that is all experimental too, since I have no idea what I'm doing.  Oh well, I'm retired and allowed to play.
Not sure what lead me to try this, and I'm not even sure what to call it. Maybe it was the box of acrylics I just got for a community school painting class. The lighthouse is a no-brainer; it's 10 minutes down the road and one of my favourite places and favourite inspirations. Maybe it was a photo of an amazing piece someone else did with a two-dimensional look, bears over a landscape or something. It might have been wolves or that might have been another one. And maybe it's because I have a nice piece of balsa wood that I've been eyeing for months and trying to decide what to do with it.
Anyway, it started with a quick sunset seascape with acrylics on the balsa. And it was VERY quick - I didn't prep the wood and I forgot to use water with the acrylics. Then I traced the outline of the little painting onto a piece of 20 gauge copper. Drew the lighthouse and cut it out with my saw. * It looked okay so I tried to put liver of sulphur on the copper and managed to just turn it into dirty looking copper. Then I had to figure out how to put it together and how to string it. I don't know why I didn't just use the wood as the backing but I decided to use a piece
of 26 gauge copper, making it a three-layer sandwich.
Can you tell I don't do a lot of planning? Or measuring, for that matter.
Actually, the 26 gauge copper folded very nicely over the painting, although it took a fair bit of trimming so the fold wouldn't show in front.
Riveting was the only option for putting the sandwich together, since trying to solder it would turn the painting into a little piece of charcoal. The way I solder, anyway. I have two hole cutters, one a handheld one which does about an 18 gauge hole and one a workhorse, which does big, bigger and biggest. The workhorse was too big and the handheld was too small to fit my rivets. I felt like Goldilocks.  So I set everything aside for a few days. A few days later, I was in the hardware store for something and being a hardware junkie, I was cruising the shelves and saw the cutest little drills ever. I had no idea if they would fit a Dremel. Which they didn't, by the way, the Dremel chuck is too big for the weensy drill shanks. One of the little drills was exactly the size I needed for my rivets so I wrapped the shank with painters tape and that worked perfectly in the Dremel.  Of course I didn't measure.
I hate doing anything the same twice, but if I do, here is what I would change:
I would have a plan.
I would measure.
I would make the border of the front copper piece thicker, so less chance of rivets touching top and bottom.
I would prep the board before painting and use water with my acrylics.
All the pieces would be cut out at the same time and ready for painting/assembly. And they would actually be rectangular.
The holes would be cut in advance and then the dimples/eruptions could
be hammered out.
Liver of sulphur expires. Even the powdered stuff. I found this out. I would use fresh stuff.
It's fun having the time to play around and maybe some day I'll actually make something so totally unique and beautiful, people will be begging me for a tutorial. Or maybe I'll just have a room full of things that I don't ever want to repeat.  I don't care, I'm having fun!

* The jewellers' saw - just a funny anecdote. I use a #2 saw blade on everything and have been using the same blade for a couple of years now, with a fair bit of cutting. I was getting a little vain about my cutting skills. I used it so long that it was losing its edge and the blade was getting dull. So I changed it. And then changed the pieces of the new one. And again. Apparently I'm going to have to hire someone to take the edge off my blades before i use them. The jewellery gods make sure I will never have a swelled head.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

I don't Know What To Call This One

It's getting cooler at night and my old house stays pretty cool in the heat of the day so I've been inspired to do some making that requires heat.
The number of times I've ordered round copper blanks lately is annoying because they haven't been in stock at several different companies. My disc cutter doesn't cut them big enough for what I need at the moment and I keep putting off my enamelling lessons because I was too lazy to saw some.  The alternative yesterday was housework so sawing it would be.  I  want to enamel and don't know why I put it off, because I love sawing metal and I'm not bad at it.
As I was sawing happily and mindlessly, putting a couple of cut blanks in my enamelling drawer I noticed some copper washer rings and my brain shifted out of neutral. I decided to saw out the bust of a Pegasus and, after some deliberation, decided to put it on one of the washer rings. Used my copper solder for the first time. Pickled and burnished. It was pretty but blah. No contrast. So I used some African Gold wax on the ring. That made the head look blah. Have a tiny bottle of silver glitter stuff that's supposed to be mixed with adhesive, resin or polymer clay, so I mixed it with some Diamond Glaze and painted it on. For some reason the Diamond Glaze took all the glitter out of the silver and it ended up looking an ugly matte grey. So I waited for it to partially set and then scraped and sanded it off. Decided to try Liver Of Sulphur. Got out my old bottle and tried to mix some of it with hot water. One lesson of many today - L.O.S. doesn't last 10 or more years, even in a plastic bottle and double freezer-bagged. It's powder! It's supposed to last forever! Anyway, after repeated dunkings it turned the copper a little bronze but not much.
Thought it might do so I took the pendant back to my desk and tried to sand the high points. It just made it streaky looking so I sanded it all off the horse, left it on the ring. Next thought was to just put some crystalline wax on the whole thing and leave it. Put too thick a coat on, went to visit a friend for an hour and when i came back, the whole pendant was streaked with an ugly sticky finish. Cleaned all of that off and put a fine film over the whole thing, strung it and put it away.
And then I wonder why I can only get one piece done in a day.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Banged Bangle

Almost perfected!  I made myself a bangle today. Kind of silly because I rarely wear jewelry and I'll wear it today and probably forget about wearing it most other days. I felt guilty because I should have been out mowing the lawn so I had to do something productive in order to justify being inside instead of doing my chores.  Now that it's finished, I can have a guilt-free nap.

This bangle was pretty simple to make and started with an 8" piece of copper tubing. I have man-sized wrists and hands, thus the length; anybody else would probably only need 6"

All you have to do is hammer all your frustrations onto the piece of tubing so that you've got a piece of flat, doubled copper. I was too lazy to sand by hand, so I used the sanding attachment on my Dremel and it made it nice and shiny. Mark the holes for your rivets and Voila! It should have been annealed before bending into a bracelet shape but again, too lazy to do the cleaning up afterwards. Besides, what's the use of having man hands if you aren't strong?

The change I would make in the next one is to put any decorative rivets closer to the middle because they leave a bit of a shoulder where they are, 1/2" out from the central decoration. A quarter inch would have probably been perfect.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

I Like Craftsy

Prince Edward Island is where I've called home for the past 13 years and I love it here. Beautiful beaches around every corner, hot summers, normal Canadian winters and complete strangers who actually smile at you in the supermarket.

These pictures aren't the beaches, they're from my favourite place to take visitors, Sea Cow Head.

A lighthouse, gorgeous view of the Confederation Bridge and red cliffs, water...who could ask for more. Just make sure you have mosquito spray!





The only things missing in my world are classes to help me advance my jewellery-making education. Enamelling, metalsmithing, metal clay work...all things that I want to learn and I would like to learn them without spending a fortune on metals that will end up being discarded.  Since I haven't been able to access real live teachers, online is my only option and I have found Craftsy to be about as close to a real teacher as you can get. The only thing missing is the camaraderie of fellow students. Their prices are terrific, especially if you take advantage of their frequent sales and the teachers are wonderful. Over the past few years, I've bought quite a few of the jewellery making classes and love to be able to watch them over and over.

The latest Craftsy class I bought was Settings For Every Shape, by Robert Dancik. It reminded me of several methods I had forgotten about and showed me the proper way of doing them. And it addicted me to making metal boxes.

I get a lot of sea glass and get bored with just wire wrapping it, so I try a lot of different settings, some good, some not-so-good. I'll leave it to you to decide.

This is derived from the Tab Setting lesson. Argentium silver, it has a cut-out in the back to let the light shine through the sea glass, and my inspiration was seaweed cradling the glass.



These were two of my boxes and like them or not, they're a lot of fun to make. Sea glass, shells, pearls, anything goes. I had originally filled the boxes with concrete and preferred the rustic look but I wasn't using the proper concrete and it all flaked out. So plan B was to try resin. I was too lazy to mix up a batch of 2 part resin so I just used Diamond Glaze.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Learn from my mistakes

A lesson In What Not To Do With Enamel

Maybe I'm too impatient to ever become any good at enamelling. Or maybe I need a more dedicated space to work at it, so I don't rush to be finished so I can put my kiln away and clean the table for supper. Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse.

Bear in mind that I didn't properly sand these pieces because they aren't going anywhere so you will see some of the cloisonné wires that would normally be sanded out.


These are my favourite pieces and I'm mad at myself for messing them up. They are simple cloisonne and meant to represent the red cliffs of Prince Edward Island at the edge of the sea.
My use of colours was pretty good and I paid attention to Ricky Frank's instructions about using a salt-and-pepper method to blend colours. I paid attention to his hint to slightly dome the piece so there wouldn't be as much stress. What I forgot was to put a layer of counter enamel on the backs. Between the lack of counter enamel to relieve stress and probably an overly thick layer of transparent on top because I got impatient,  the glass cracked in the last firing.


This was another cloisonne piece and I used glass threads on top of the design. I really like it and it would have been a nice piece once sanded and with another few coats of transparent, except for one really really dumb mistake.
I cut the piece at the top to make a bail. Bend it and roll it over and it would make a lovely, enamelled bail. Yup. Try bending glass.







This piece WAS really pretty before I fired it the second time. Another one with glass stringers and I should have given up on it before it ever went in the kiln. I'd put the stringers on in the design I wanted, and lift the firing screen to put it in the kiln and my hand would shake and the whole thing would fall apart. About five times. Of course, by the time I finally got it in the kiln, I had my fingers all over it and by that time I was getting a turkey ready for the oven so this lesson is that greasy fingers and enamelling don't mix.


And one last lesson that should be obvious. Because I'm using copper until I figure out what I'm doing, I get a lot of firescale on the back of the pieces. Especially when you forget the counter enamel. When you are doing cloisonne, you have to put multiple layers of thin transparent over the piece to build it up to the top of the wires. I was using powdered transparent and as I shook it on, I was shaking little pieces of firescale onto the paper below, and then I'd pour it back into the container, thinking the screen would filter it out. It doesn't. You can really see the little flakes on the first picture. Guess I'm going to have to break down and order more transparent. And be a little less thrifty.

When you don't have access to classes, except online, learning things like enameling and metalsmithing is definitely a lesson in humility. I suppose the advantage to doing it without an instructor is that, unless you post it on a blog, nobody else has to see your blunders. Anybody who is interested in trying cloisonne, Ricky Frank of Rio Grande has some terrific You Tube videos. For straight enameling, try Craftsy; they have torch fired enameling, which is fun. You didn't get the pictures of that.


Monday, 15 May 2017

Sea Glass Fun

There's nothing more exciting than finding a nice piece of sea glass on a beach walk. And it's particularly nice if you can make a piece of jewellery with sea glass that has a provenance.
This piece of pale blue is from Old Chelton Beach in PEI. I was practicing different types of bezels from a Craftsy class and this one decided to be a little organic, reminding me of seaweed cradling the glass. It is made with .999 silver and my original plan was to antique it but it looked too nice with the bare silver. In my opinion lol.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Game Of Thrones - Bah!

I just binge read all 5 books of George Martin's Game Of Thrones and now I'm sorry I did. I've never watched the TV show of the same name and if I had, would probably not have started the books. Couldn't put them down, mind you, and had a couple of 4 and 5 in the morning sessions.
Each book gets progressively darker and weirder, with a cast of way too many sadistic and monstrous characters. The only ones with redeeming qualities seem to get killed off or ignored in the story line. Book I sucks you in by making you want to know the story of the Stark children which is why I read and read and read, only to finish book 5 still not knowing where they will end up.
I should know better, after reading Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series, which went on for something like 13 books and kept me waiting year after year for the next one to come out. And then Jordan died before the last book was published. I figured it was either him or me. That series was much better, with a smaller cast of characters in which you could invest your liking and interest. Game Of Thrones has too many bloody (literally)  plot lines that you have to read to see if the people you're interested in happen to make an appearance. The books are so long they read like a gory Charles Dickens, like Martin is being paid by the word. I guess with the TV series, he is.
Now I should really do some housework.