For the love of silver…for the love of life!!

Posts tagged ‘fine silver’

In a Whirl.

Day 16

Now we are just past the halfway mark I am beginning to feel as if I am in a bit of a whirl! I have so much that needs doing apart from Thing-a-Day that I am beginning to struggle finding the time to fit it all in. Since I managed to do all 28 days last year I am determined not to fail this year!! …but it is not easy!!!

Today I have returned to the little drum shaped lampwork beads with their rustic rings and decided to make them up into a bracelet using pieces of one of my handmade fine silver chain designs. I did consider adding other dangly bits and pieces but decided to keep the lines plain and simple. (And the same can be said for my write-up today!)

(Day 15) I’ve Got You Surrounded!…

….but only just!

It has all been a bit of a rush today. I have baked 5 madeira sponge cakes today (all destined to be frozen and then turned into birthday cakes over the next few weeks) and I have fitted in my ‘thing’ for today while they were baking in the oven.

I have coated the ring I made yesterday with a layer of PMC (precious metal clay) slip (of which I always have copious amounts!) and embedded little fine silver wire scrolls (made from offcuts of wire from wire wrapping or similar activities). Another layer of slip ensures that all of the scrolls are surrounded with PMC and when dry the excess PMC can be sanded away to reveal the shiny wire scrolls again. As the PMC shrinks in the firing process it makes the scrolls seem to rise up even more from the surface.

This time a small crack has appeared in the layer of slip after it has been fired and will need patching up and refiring – but that will have to be tomorrow now. Just to get the effect, I have given the silver a bit of a shine with a brass brush and slipped the ring over the cabouchon bead….but the silver will be much shinier when it is all finished and has been tumble polished.

I love it!! Even though it has turned out exactly how I wanted it…seeing it in reality has given me a real buzz.

I’m still not quite sure what I am going to make with it as it is such a statement piece… Perhaps I will get inspiration during the night!!

Hoop-la!

Day 14

Whoever said that Sunday is the day of rest just hasn’t got a grip on the real world!! I seem to have been constantly on the move today and getting my ‘thing’ done has been squeezed between getting organised for dinner and visiting a friend. I would have liked to have done a bit more…but at least I managed to do something!

Today, I got a little closer to finishing off that super lampwork cabouchon bead! I have already decorated two drum shaped beads by making rings out of fine silver sheet which has then been embellished with PMC (precious metal clay) slip and tiny pieces of fine silver wire twisted into scroll shapes and embedded into the PMC. I have drilled little holes in the silver bands so that a piece of wire will fit through the rings and go through the hole in the bead – which holds everything in place. I can then wire these beads onto chunky chain to make quite a statement! I rather like the effect and think it makes the glass beads look like something from antiquity. So I want to do the same sort of technique with this bigger bead.

Having cut the strip of silver sheet I fused the two ends together to make a complete ring. A little gentle teasing with a ring mandrel and it was a perfect fit on the bead. It just needs the PMC treatment now – which I hope to be able to do tomorrow – and I might even get as far as finally creating a piece of jewellery out of it!

All Tied Up!

Day 13.

I’ve not had a chance to get down to any real work today as I have just done a 12 hour stint of babysitting…but I have had a few quiet moments. I have found that making these silver braids is something that you can easily put down and pick up again so I thought I would do one today. I do have a tiara to make and so I thought this would come in handy and I may be able to finish it off later this month.

It is a technique that I explained on my blog when I first learned how to do it and I’m afraid I am just too tired to explain it all again here!! So if you are interestedplease click on this link!

Day 8 – Making Moulds for Precious Metal Clay casts.

I think I might have found a quick way for transferring my posts for Thing-a-Day from Posterous to here…I hope this works!!…

Day 8 – Making moulds for Precious Metal Clay casts.
Last week I received a commission to make a pair of silver earrings for a lady who wanted to have a pair of earrings featuring shells. She wasn’t 100% sure what she wanted – except that she didn’t want them to be very long and she wanted shells…preferably pink shells.

Well, I scoured the internet trying to find somewhere that I could get tiny pink shells that might work well for this particular commission – but to no avail. So I phoned the lady back and asked if she would be willing to let me experiment a bit with a few ideas before coming up with a final design. I also asked if she would consider having silver shells instead of real seashells. She seemed to be very happy to let me play! And so this commission is now officially part of ‘Thing-a-Day’.

It isn’t the first time that I have taken moulds from shells and cast precious metal clay silver shells from them – and they always work out pretty well – so I was quite confident to make the 2 piece moulds. I use a product called Siligum, manufactured by Gedeo to create the mould and as it dries to a flexible material there is no problem with having undercuts in the shape to be cast. It is really simple to do and the moulding material sets within 5 minutes.

I have cast 2 different shell types (so she can have a choice) and both of them are really quite small – measuring about 1.8cm (about 3/4″), but when the PMC silver has been fired in the kiln it will shrink by about 10% so making the shells a little smaller still. So I think these will ultimately be a good size for a pair of earrings.

I have cast one shell of each type today and after drying them have fettled down the inevitable seam line where the 2 halves of the mould joined but otherwise have left them unfinished.

Tomorrow, I will tidy them up a bit further and, if it is not too cold to work in my ‘Studio’ shed, I will fire them and possibly start experimenting with enamelling them to see if I can get a pink hue. I have a lot of blue and green enamels as these are my favourite colours and they are fairly consistent at producing good results…I tend to steer clear of red colours though, as they never work very well for me. So – although I don’t actually have a pink enamel, I believe that flux enamel has a bit of a peachy pink cast to it when fired onto fine silver..so I will give that a go!

I’m really quite excited! Roll on tomorrow!!

“Argentium Experimentium”

Is there anyone else out there that is trying to get to grips with Argentium silver and not exactly meeting with success??  I have tried to find information on other people’s experiences with it but have come up with very little success so far…but I will keep looking!!

I am a really recent convert to making jewellery with silver so I don’t have a lot of experience of working with the metal to really know what to expect when faced with Argentium!  But I have always been one to have a go and experiment!  I love working with pure ‘fine’ silver…it is just so clean and beautiful to work with….but it is not a very strong metal.  So although I make chunky, decorative chains from fine silver and use pmc with it as well, I am very aware of its limitations. That is why I was very excited when Argentium was finally available in the UK!

I have made earwires and catches with it since July with great success but I thought it was time to get more serious with it…and I especially wanted to see how compatible it is with pmc….so I have been having a play with it this week…  Can I just say that I am pretty new with pmc as well…and am reluctant to commit large pieces of it to experimentation!!

I have had a go at annealing the Argentium with a torch – using the Sharpie trick – and just watching for a very dull red colour change in a darkened studio but found it less than successful…so this time  – after initially trying to wind it round mandrels straight from the supplier and creating a very springy spring!  – I tried annealing it in the kiln…with the door ajar to allow lots of oxygen to circulate…

After allowing it to cool a bit and quenching it – it still looked rather springy…

Trying to get it tight round a mandrel was impossible – although I taped it into place!  See the gap that sprung open as I cut through the rings!!!

Anyway – I persevered…  I have already discovered that Argentium fuses really well…doesn’t even need a flux…and amazingly it goes silver again as it reaches fusing temperature!  Can you spot the difference between the fused and non fused rings here!!!

And here is the difference between the colour of the fused rings (right) and the smaller rings that I cleaned up in pickle…

So now we have my little pmc additions.  I have previously tried attaching stars and holly leaves to elongated Argentium  jumprings using pmc slip with some success and discovered that  if the attached area is too great it causes the Argentium to distort alarmingly!   So I have been very careful of the way I have attached them this time.  The rings were real experiments where I literally only attached the rings to the back with 3 or 4 little spots of pmc slip…just to see how strong a bond this would make!

Well – you can see by the results that the rings have distorted pretty dramatically  here so obviously the Argentium has adhered pretty well to the pmc even with a few dabs of slip!!  I am still pretty shocked by the extent of the blackening of the Argentium though – considering how bright it was after fusing it!  It is so thick it is actually pinging off the surface in little flakes!!

So I plopped them all into pickle after they had all cooled down a bit! and they came out looking lovely!

But as I gathered them all together I felt a horrible crunching noise in my hand and—– disaster!!  The ring from the ivy leaf – which had distorted so much in firing had snapped!  And as I manipulated it more I discovered that not only had it snapped but that I could break the rest of the Argentium off of the pmc leaf just using my fingers – and worse still…it snapped just like a piece of dry spaghetti!!

But I plodded on with my plans and popped a bit on enamel onto the pieces that were left…only to get distracted at the vital moment and ended up leaving them in the kiln for much too long…so that wasn’t much of a success either!!  A bit of a bad day all in all!!  (And it does get worse!!)  But look again!!  …why has the Argentium not blackened this time?  I fire my pmc and my enamel at the same temperature 820 degrees C – so why did it go black when fired with pmc but not when enamel firing and accidently leaving it in a hot kiln for the same sort of time??

Having messed these up I left them to cool in the kiln and had an evening with my grandchildren before looking at the pieces this morning….and yes…I couldn’t resist a fiddle!!  I could tell that the wire was just not feeling right…no where near as fragile as the ivy leaf ring was – but obviously not good…and there we go….  A pile of so much scrap!!

The broken wire I have discovered balls up beautifully – so perhaps that is not entirely wasted…but I can’t think how to salvage the pmc!!

I don’t know what I have learned from all this yet…and would welcome any comments!!  Perhaps Argentium isn’t compatible with pmc…not with a physical bond anyway.  I am thinking that the shrinking process with the pmc3 is disturbing the Argentium when it is at its weakest and most brittle state and causing it to shatter all through.  Perhaps it can only fire with pmc at its lowest firing temperature.   Perhaps it is only safe to use it with a mechanical attachment to pmc pieces….

Perhaps I will just go back to fine silver!!

As I have said above…I would really welcome any comments…and would love to have some information on how you have found Argentium to perform in the workshop…and with pmc if you have tried it!!

If At First You Don’t Succeed….Do It 120 Times!!!

I have learnt a lot of different techniques for making jewellery over the past year or so, but the one thing I still enjoy more than anything else is making fine silver chains, using pure silver wire.  It just relaxes me so much and I can go into my own little world and make beautiful bracelets and necklaces.  But as people keep telling me..nice as they are…a chain is just a chain – there is no WOW factor…even if it has a really decorative design…it is still just a silver chain.  I know they are right.

Last Christmas, I sold quite a lot of chains that I had wired semi precious stone beads onto.  Many people think that these stones have healing powers and this made them more attractive to buyers.  I hated wiring those beads on last year.  It is one of those techniques that I just couldn’t get to grips with.   It was great to get commissions – until they said they wanted semi precious stone beads!…that really knocked the shine of it!!

Not long ago I developed a new design for a chain that I knew would make a really great basis for a beaded bracelet and it incorporates my favourite twisted link which is rapidly becomming a feature of my most popular chains.  I knew I would have to face the hated bead wiring to really make the best of this chain.  So this weekend I decided that I would do nothing else until I had made 4 beaded bracelets.

I had to make a batch of ballpins – fine silver wires with a little bead of silver fused onto one end – as it is these that the beads are wired on with.  As I planned to use around 30 beads for each bracelet that meant I needed at least 120 pins….I could put off the beading for a little bit longer!!  But inevitably – I had to face it.

I chose a range of beads that were colour co ordinated…a range of red/pink; a range of turquoise/blue; a range of greens; and a mix of blacks an reds.  Most of the beads were semi precious stones but I added some glass ones as well to add a bit of sparkle and add a variety of shapes and sizes.

The first bracelet was a trial…I was all fingers and thumbs!!  Some of the wires had to be cut off because I had not done them right but I kept on and a little over an hour later I had a beaded bracelet!!  and it looked really good!!  And you know – there is nothing that spurs you on like success!  The second one came a little easier and looked just as beautiful!  I was definitely getting into this, I had developed a technique that worked for me and it was getting easier and easier with each bead I wired.  My fourth bracelet took about 40 minutes to complete the beading…still a rather long time – but it was no longer a challenge – more an exercise.

I was actually rather upset that I had only done enough pins for four bracelets because I wanted to try a freshwater pearl and swarovski crystal one too!  I have had other commitments today and so I still haven’t had a chance to get another one done…but just try and stop me tomorrow!!  I have an idea for a necklace too!!

I have shown a few people these new bracelets and have had nothing but positive reactions…so I am really quite excited!!  Why, oh why did I put it off for so long??  If I had faced my demons back in January, after the Christmas rush, I could have had loads of lovely colourful fine silver and semi precious stone bracelets and necklaces for sale on my website ages ago!!  What a silly woman I am!!

I’d love to hear your comments on what you think of my new beaded collection of bracelets!

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