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

Posts tagged ‘pmc’

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Day 17

All through 2009 I kept putting projects to one side saying to myself…”I’ll save that until February…”. Thing-a-Day is my excuse for spending time ‘messing about’ and doing things that I normally can’t find time for.

This is one of those things! Some months ago I bought some photopolymer plates with the intention of using them to make my own stamps for Precious Metal Clay (PMC). I had found a website by Maggie Bergman that had a fantastic tutorial on how to make stamps with your own images from photopolymer plates and was determined to have a go. But – as often happens – other things get in the way and my box of PPPs is still unopened. One of the things that has delayed my starting on this venture was the fact that I had to make myself a clamp to hold the plate and my image tightly together while the UV light does its work to cure the polymer and develop the design…a simple enough task, but a big enough obstacle to prevent a impulsive foray into this new activity!

So…that is what I have spent my half an hour or so doing this afternoon.

Taking 2 small photo frames apart I have got the glass which was needed for the main part of the clamp (These image-pac sachets require a clamp with both sides clear to let the light through). I had to create a little gap between the two plates of glass so that the photopolymer sachet could be squeezed to an even thickness when the clamp was used – so I used some little strips of neoprene on both of the plates of glass. On the reverse side of the glass I stuck little neodymium magnets that were part of a (now defunct) Christmas present that my son had been given and bound everything down with some electricians tape – which also made the sharp glass edges safe. Those neodymium magnets are vicious little beasties – which is why I have used them on the outside of the clamp and not the inside. The attraction is so violent that I feared for the safely of the glass if they were allowed to snap together in direct contact with each other. This way I get enough pull for everything to stay together! Then finally I have put a bulldog clip onto the end of my clamp to ensure everything stays together – and also acts as a handle to help me position the clamp into the UV tunnel.

E voila!! One clamp! Money spent on project….a big, fat zero!! Just how I like it!! And as a bonus, I get a great photo to put at the top of my write-up! Yep! A good day!!!

(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!!


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!

Eat Your Heart Out Rene Lalique!.. ;)

Thing-a-Day  Day 11

The experimental piece I have been working on today has been really interesting. It has been something I have wanted to have a go at for nearly 2 decades but have never really been brave enough to risk ruining a piece of silver if things went horribly wrong!

When I had a go at making some filigree silver pieces from fine silver wire earlier in the year, I realised that this would be my opportunity to have a go at this technique of enamelling as the value of the silver in the filigree pieces was not very large and I could just about live with the possibility that the whole lot might be trashed!

So this is my journey through the plique-a-jour window!

Plique-a-jour enamel is a style of enamelling where transparent enamels are fired into individual cells without any metal backing – thus creating a stained glass window effect.

1. I purchased a piece of mica sheet to use as my ‘non-stick’ backing plate and put my filigree pieces onto it.
2. I then attempted to fill each of the little cells with wet enamel – although there was a little bit of bleeding underneath the wires due to the twisted nature of the filigree wire it was impossible to get good contact between the wire and the mica sheet.
3. This was the enamel after it had dried for a while on top of the kiln.
4. …and again after it had been fired for the first time! Quite a few holes to be filled there!!
5. More wet enamel was put on top and then fired again. When everything had cooled down a gentle lift with a fingernail behind the wire and the pieces just pinged off of the mica…brilliant!!!
6. The effect from the front is now fine.
7. …but the look from the back is pretty rough!!
8. I ground down the enamel from the back of the filigree using a carborundum stone.
9. A little better now – but not as tidy as I would like! The areas where I had reinforced the fragile joins with a dab of PMC slip had now been ground down into irregular shaped patches…not so pretty…

All in all – I think this has been very successful – as I have seen how well the mica backing sheet works and how easy it is to remove the enamelled pieces. I would try again using a lighter coloured enamel as the royal blue is a bit dark unless held up to the light. I also think it would work really well for pierced sheet silver – or PMC.

I have always loved Art Nouveau styles and this enamelling technique was used a lot by Rene Lalique…so I will definitely have another go later on!

Oooops!! (Thing-a-Day Day10)

OK – so today has not been one of my better ones! …well pretty much a disaster to be honest…but such is life!

I had got myself all excited about trying to enamel my silver shells and then things didn’t quite go to plan.

From what I had read on the internet – I was led to believe that clear flux enamel powder fired to a peachy pink colour on silver – so that was what I planned to work with for starters – since the lady that wants these earrings wanted to have pink shells. The only other vaguely pinky colour that I have is deep mauve. I have never had success with red shades of enamel and so I have never really bought any.

Initially, I was going to enamel the entire shell – these were made as experimental prototypes anyway – so I was prepared for disasters. But for some reason I thought that I would try just the areas around the openings into the shells first to see how things went. That is the beauty of vitreous enamels…you can keep building up layer upon layer of enamels – so long as you don’t make the layers too thick – so you can patch up holes and modify colours as things go on.
But when my shells came out after the first firing of clear flux – the results were anything but clear, or peachy pink…in fact – it was sort of sandy yellow! Not what I was hoping for at all.

So there was no point in continuing with the clear flux so I thought I would just see what colour the deep mauve might turn out to be….and hey!…guess what!! It’s deep mauve!!! So I didn’t want to continue enamelling any further with colours that were just not going to be right. It isn’t a total tragedy as the mauve just looks like the deep shadow within the crevices of the shells…but it’s certainly not what I had in my mind’s eye!

I will have to see if I can do anything else to make these prototypes a bit more attractive later on. I suppose I could consider using coloured transparent resin, but it is not a product I enjoy using….so I will have to have a ponder about it for a while!

I may have a play with enamel again tomorrow – but it will not be with the shells. I’ll have a go with the filigree shapes I made a few days ago and see if I can experiment with the plique-a-jour method of enamelling…

See you tomorrow!!

More Silver Shells

Thing-a-Day   Day 9

Today I decided to make a second shell of each type out of Precious Metal Clay..after all, if they turned out fine I would then have 2 pairs of silver shells suitable for earrings…and if they didn’t really match at the end of the day, I will have a collection of silver shell charms to hang on some of my charm bracelets or make summer themed cluster pendants from, with the addition of a few well chosen beads and pearls. I also cleaned up all the shells a little more and drilled tiny holes into the ends of them and embedded handmade jumprings on pegs into them, using PMC slip.

When all was dry I fired up the kiln and popped them in.

When I was making the shells I put a small ball of combustible material into the centre of each piece as I was casting them in the mould. This meant that when the pieces were in the kiln the combustible material would burn off leaving a hollow centre to the shells. This makes the shells look more authentic when they are fired because you can see into them rather than them being a solid lump.

This is a photo of the shells after they have been fired and given a quick brush with a brass brush. They need to be given a good polish up before I start to try and enamel them…but I don’t have time for that today.

I am very pleased with the way they have turned out…and, bearing in mind that this photo of them is HUGE in comparison to their actual size the little pock marks that you can see are hardly noticeable with the naked eye. That said – nothing in nature is perfectly flawless – so I can live with a few little marks!!

Hopefully tomorrow I will get some enamelling done!

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 I will give that a go!

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

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