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

Posts tagged ‘precious metal clay’

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!!

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!

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 silver..so I will give that a go!

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

Sorry – I got a little sidetracked…

I can’t believe how long it has been since I last put a post on here…I am so sorry – I got a little sidetracked!!

One of the suppliers I use in the UK to get my fine silver sheet, precious metal clay (pmc) and Argentium silver – Cooksongold.com – has just started a forum.  That may not sound too exciting – certainly not to many of you in the US as you seem to have so many of them (which we have looked at with envy from afar) but it is pretty much the only one devoted to jewellery (as far as I know) in the UK.  It has opened up a whole new world to me!!  I have had the chance to talk to people that know what I am talking about – and have experienced the same problems we have as jewellery makers in the UK – and talk about places and businesses that I have heard of and can access!!  It all seems so friendly…and yes…I have to admit it…I am just a bit addicted…no….majorly addicted!!  I am finding it really hard to drag myself away from the computer in order to make some jewellery…not just talk about it!!

Then on Friday lunchtime I got a commission – a bit of a rush job – to make a pmc (precious metal clay) charm to go on a bracelet – to be ready for Saturday lunchtime!  Well, that stressed me a bit I can tell you!  But I got it finished, packaged and delivered in time!

This is the front and back of ‘Kerry’s 30th birthday charm’ with a peridot swarovski crystal and a black freshwater pearl.

So then I decided to take the rest of the week-end off…to re evaluate…and sort myself out a timetable!

As I have said many times before – my favourite ‘chill-out zone’ is our local visitor attraction – Norton Priory Museum and Gardens – so this is where I went to unwind.

When I got there it was to discover that they had a special display on.  Sir John Myddelton’s Companie of Artisans and Merchants…a historical (Medieval) re-enactment group…were encamped there for the weekend – treating us to a very entertaining display of what life in Middle Age Britain was all about.  They were all very knowledgeable and very willing to talk about and demonstrate the ancient skills and trades they had mastered.  All their clothing was an accurate reproduction of what people wore back in the 1470s.  It was a totally fascinating and entertaining day.

I have photographs here of the 2 women who were preparing the dinner for the whole ‘Companie’ that evening – baking bread rolls and preparing a mutton stew and a baked fish….a selection of ‘oyles, tinctures and ointments’ prepared by the Herbalist and some of the amazing colours of wool produced by the Dyer all made from natural vegetable dyes.  There was also a Blacksmith, Furniture Maker, Silk Worker, Higgler and Candle Maker and many others.  It really was so interesting!

The weather was pretty lousy but that didn’t really matter – I had a lovely afternoon!

So having had a relaxing weekend, hopefully I will approach next week with a rather more balanced timetable – so that I can make a little bit of jewellery…and have a little bit of interaction on the forum… and have a whole lot of fun!!…now that’s what I call balance!!

What a Great Week-End!!!

Wow!  Have I had a great week-end (and a bit).

For a while now I have been toying with the idea of making some fine silver rings using pmc (precious metal clay) and building them on fine silver sheet metal ring liners.  Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I won’t pay over the odds for something I can do myself – so I bought some fine silver sheet with the determination to make my own ring liners rather than buy them at twice the cost (plus postage of course!!) from some other supplier.

Over the weekend I had a go at making a couple of rings with the fine silver sheet – cutting, shaping and fusing the join – and made a pretty decent job of it – if I say so myself!!  I then went on to produce two designs in pmc on these ring liners – and that really did make my day because they worked out so well!!

Since it all went so well I had another go yesterday and did a couple more rings…building up the pmc and fine silver designs.  I fired them in the kiln this morning and was even more pleased …because I was able to produce another couple of really good rings…but I felt something was missing…

…you see that one second from the left… inspired by the 40th anniversary of the moon landings –  I felt my ‘moon craters’ needed a little something in them.  I knew that I had some enamel powder somewhere – so I went digging around and found some transparent blue.  Now it has been a while since I last did some – not too successful – enamelling, but since these rings were only experiments for me to wear I took the plunge and filled my little craters with the enamel powder and popped the ring  into the kiln.

I’m really glad I went for it because I am just so pleased with the way it has turned out!!  I can only get better with these techniques…I just need some practice…but boy! am I happy with my week -end’s work!!

I’d love to hear your comments!!

Argentium Rules….UK!!

As previous readers of my blog, and followers of Thing-a-Day 2009, know – I work in fine (pure) silver, mostly making decorative chains, but I also dabble in PMC (precious metal clay).  I have never liked to add sterling silver to my work as sterling silver tarnishes so easily – and fine silver doesn’t!!  So I feel that sterling doesn’t fit in with the style of jewellery I want to promote at Solunar Silver Studio.  Now the only drawback of fine silver is that it is a little weaker than sterling silver.  Generally this doesn’t matter but it is a real problem with making earwires for earrings…especially if you hope to sell them.  I am happy to wear fine silver earwires because I am aware that I might have to reshape them a bit if the grandchildren swing on my earrings!!  …   But you can’t sell earrings with that warning on them!!

For a while now, I have been aware of the existence of a metal called Argentium – which is basically sterling silver with about 1% of germanium mixed in with it.  Now that little bit of germanium has the benefit of making the sterling it is mixed with much more tarnish resistant and it makes it even stronger than standard sterling silver…….I thought – “Bring it on!!” – but what is this????   It isn’t available in the UK!!!!   WHAT!!!!!!!  How cruel life is!!  But that is all in the past as since the beginning of June, it has been available in limited forms from one supplier in the UK – Cookson Gold.  It is currently only supplied in sheet, wire, earposts and a few other odds and ends – but no earwires!!

Ho-hum!  Out comes the jig thing I use on occasion, and in goes an order for a couple of metres of 0.7 Argentium wire to have a play with.

So today I have been having a play – and I am sold!  It makes some very acceptable earwires.  It is surprisingly strong and springy and I do believe I am going to order some more…and at last….. I can start making some earrings to go with the rest of the  Solunar Silver Studio jewellery range I make!  Of course – it will take a bit of time to see how quickly it shows signs of tarnish but so far – so good……Argentium Rules….UK!!

My apologies to condron.us readers – I have been neglecting posting recently!

Did You Ever Make Mud Pies?

As a child of the 60s – long before the arrival of day time television – when we were masters of our own entertainment… having been plonked out in the garden for the day to get the sun and the fresh air I can vividly remember the joy I experienced in making mud pies and rose petal perfume.  All I needed was a few empty jam jars and a watering can full of water… and an old bent spoon to dig around in the soil and to stir my concoctions!!

So – what has changed????

NOTHING!!!!!!!!

I am now going to give you the recipe for the ‘connoisseur’s choice’ concoction that I made in my garden today!

As a jewellery maker/chain maker I make hundreds and hundreds of fine (pure) silver jump rings every week.  Everybody has their own way of cutting jump rings and I make mine by winding a ‘tube’ of wire of about 25 turns around a mandrel and then taping this up with some low tack masking tape.  I then insert my jeweller’s saw and cut through the rings from the inside of the tube.  The masking tape stops the rings from dropping onto the floor when they are cut through…and it also picks up a lot of the fine silver ‘dust’ that the sawing process produces.

Now – I hate waste.  So I collect the ‘sweepings’ from the sawing and put it in a pot.  I hope to be able to melt this and recover the silver one day.

I also collect the bits of masking tape and when I have a pot full I put them into a jam jar full of soapy water and some of the silver flecks swill off into the water.

Today was a fine, warm and still day so I decided to carry out my ‘experiment’.  I had collected the equivalent of 2 pots of masking tape from which most of the silver flecks had been washed…but I don’t like waste – and I could see there was still some silver adhering to the tape.  So – thinking back to the techniques of my chemical analysis job in the 1970s – I decided to burn the tape along with the silver flecks – collect the ash in a jar full of water and dissolve the soluble ashes. The liquid could then be decanted off leaving the silver flecks and any insoluble ashes left behind.

You may well think I am a lunatic…..but watch and admire!!!!

I started with a small pile…and as it started to really burn I added more from my stock.

Eventually it burned down to this…the large pieces to the top right are wrappers from Art Clay Silver packs which I couldn’t get the last bits of clay out from…and these are obviously made from plastic coated aluminium – and the aluminium wouldn’t burn.

Next, using my spoon…(not a bent one but something from my chemi lab days) – I scooped the ashes into a jar of water…

and then swirled … well more of a manic coacktail shaking technique actually!!

And you thought I was crazy………..

Not impressed yet?????……

Do you see what I see??

I guess you really need the sunlight to see it sparkle!!

OK – it isn’t pure silver….  there will be other stuff lurking in there too.  So I will let it settle for a day or so and then decant off the liquid on the top and the silver gunk at the bottom will go into a crucible in the kiln to make sure everything that I can burn of is burned off.  What is left I will melt with my torch in a scorifier – which is a pot with a spout designed to melt precious metals in.  If there is any scum and random debris I can scoop it off and what is left I will try to do some water casting with or maybe cuttle fish casting….I will have to see how well it works first!

But – aside from my joy at recovering this fine quantity of silver – I have had the delight of reliving my past!  I stink of smoke from the burnt paper and I am covered with smuts from the ash and water.

……I could always pick a few rose petals and lavender flowers and steep it in some water in one of those jam jars and make some exotic ‘perfume’ to mask the smell…

……just like I did when I was a little girl……

I hope I have taken you all back and you have relived a little bit from your childhood too.

Especially all my condron.us visitors.

If you have enjoyed this post please send me a comment and let me know!!

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