Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hammer it Out

Two weeks ago, when I was last in the studio, my project was defined by the fact that Jean, the Monday night studio assistant, had come to my night to get my advice on raising a copper bowl. 
My copper bowl now 7"Wx3"H
Raising bowls is quite a bit of fun and a great way to hammer out frustrations. It can get the creative juices flowing too as you find a meditative rhythm with each strike.  I've been working on a bowl for a couple of months now, raising from a flat 6" copper disc.  Since hammering metal over a metal stake is loud, I can't work on this during pivotal class instruction days -- I have to wait until the class is sawing, filing or soldering their own projects.  I also can't work on it if someone needs my assistance.  I think the students are afraid to interrupt me while wielding hammers.   The day Jean came in, the class was in project mode so she and I pulled out the stakes and smithing hammers and proceeded to whack away.

Jean raising her bowl
The metal has to be annealed, a process of softening the metal by heating it to 'red' hot (really pink hot), then cooled.  This heating process makes the metal basically putty in your hands.  As you hammer, you compress the molecules together - work hardening the piece as you go- so you really only get a few rounds with the hammer before it's time to heat it up.  When it's annealed, it looks different, a soft matte finish to the metal with a light foggy pink tone.  When work hardened the copper gets a slightly more orange tone and becomes shiny.  Once annealed you can bend it with your bare hands, but you must allow your metal to cool or quench it in water before handling it!

As always, kids don't try this at home.
My bowl after annealing in the kiln

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Metal Studio - Projects from July

PMC Peacock: brainstorming stone placement
PMC Peacock Before Firing.
In between metal fabrication projects, I've been toying with PMC -- Precious Metal Clay.   PMC is basically fine silver imbedded in a clay medium that once fired in a kiln, the medium is burnt off, leaving the clay behind.  In this piece, I've rolled out PMC and stamp embossed it with a peacock pattern, I cut the shape out that I wanted, dried it and planned embellishments with CZs, or lab grown diamonds.  These stones will be fired into the piece with no damage to them during firing due to their high heat threshold.  

Reticulated Silver With Black Pearl
The most recent project I finished was a tiny purple black pearl set in a 1' x 1.5' piece of reticulated silver. Reticulation is a process where you heat sterling silver sheet to almost melting, after having heated it a few times to bring the fine silver to the surface.  One of the jeweler suppliers I use, Rio Grande, has a lot of great step by step tutorials.  Here's a link to their tutorial on reticulation, but I must also advise:
kids, don't do this at home.