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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Filigree Cuff Bracelet

I can't tell you how happy I was to finally take a filigree class taught by Gia Gogishvilli, the master of filigree (and Repousee/Chasing and all metalwork)!  We had one week to learn how to twist the metal, flatten it, anneal, make solder, file the solder, make the filigree pieces, make the frames for the filigree, learn the proper gauges, make and solder hinges, etc.  It was a lot to learn.  Most of us needed a bit more time once the week was finished, so Gia set up a couple of extra time periods to meet again, which was extremely helpful to all of us.

So as complete beginners, we began with building our sterling silver frames.  One for the left, one for the right and one for the middle.  The size of these frames depend on the size of our wrists or whose wrist we we're making this cuff bracelet for.  We made cardboard templates to be sure of the sizing.

The basic frame
Using a template
Then we added the design inside the frame.  This wire must be fully annealed before shaping.

Adding the inner wires
Once the frames were built and all inner pieces soldered in place, we could then begin to make our filigree wire.  This is a process of taking two or three fine silver wires and twisting them to the point of breaking...annealing and then twisting even more.  It is difficult as a beginner to know when the wire is twisted enough because it's far tighter than one can imagine.  Once the twisting is complete, we run the wire through the rolling mill to flatten.  We then anneal one more time before beginning to make filigree wires.

There are different types of filigree wires, called ornaments.  Some have a single loop, some have a double loop and others have a tight double loop.  I've seen some filigree made with just loops and no tail.  I decided to do a tight double loop for this project.  The wires are supposed to all look exactly the same, but I need more practice with this.

Adding Filigree (ornaments)

As we insert the ornaments into the frame, each one is supposed to fit snugly.  The goal is to fill an entire frame with ornaments before soldering, but some of us had trouble with that in how they would keep popping out because we were not placing them properly.  It takes practice!  Once a frame is complete, we turn it over and solder with filigree solder, which is more like a powder than regular silver solder.  You can make your own solder by combining silver, copper, brass, cadmium and zinc with flux and borax, which turns it into a hard piece of metal.  You must then file this piece of metal to make your solder for filigree.

With persistence, the frames eventually fill up!

Now it's time to make the flower that will be placed in the middle over the large opening and also make the small half circles that will form the edging of the bracelet.

Adding the edging
Soldering the flower

Now comes the hinges.  These were simple 3 way hinges made out of tubing.

Trying to decide which stone to use.

What's next?  Finishing the hinges, forming the entire bracelet, cleaning and polishing and setting the stone.  Phew!

The Finished Bracelet

The back hinge

What an amazing experience!  Thank you Gia!  Until next time...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Filigree Earrings

While still fresh from my filigree class, I wanted to make something a little more simple.  Filigree earrings!  I messed around with a few designs on paper for a bit and finally came up with something suitable...and simple enough.

I began with square wire, 16 gauge, to make the frames, formed and soldered together with regular silver solder.  Until the class with Gia, I had not realized the utmost importance of getting these curves correctly done.  They have to be perfect.  No dents, no sign of having been misshapen and reshaped...just smooth and curvy.

I then twisted 2 lines of 22 gauge fine silver into filigree wire by attaching one end of the wires to my doorknob and the other in my Foredom, basically stretching across the length of my studio.  Holding the wire straight and tight, I turned on the drill and it twisted until it broke, at which time I annealed and twisted again.  (It may seem a little scary to do this at first, but you'll get used to it.)  Once satisfied with the tight twist of the wire, I annealed it and ran it carefully through the rolling mill.  Then I made the small "ornaments" which will fill all the little spaces in the earring.  This time I used a double loop, with the outside loop being a little bit larger than the inner loop.  I also used Victoria Landsford's Filigree Solder (Rio Grande) which is far easier than making my own and works quite well.

Some teachers think it's best to form lots and lots of little ornaments before placing, and others think it's best to make one at a time.  Each one has to fit correctly in the space it is going to be placed, so even if you make them ahead of time, you will often have to clip a little off the end to make it fit correctly.  So it's up to you how you want to do this.

I considered putting a gemstone in the middle of the earring, which would have been lovely, but because I used such heavy square wire for the frame, the earrings were leaning towards being on the heavy side, so left them out.  I do like the look of a solid, heavy frame, though.  In this next pair, I used a smaller gauge wire for the outside and inside frames.

Even though they weigh less, the outside and inside frames are not as prominent to the eye.  I think I will continue using the 16 gauge square wires in the future.

Perhaps a filigree ring will be next on my project list...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Simple Repousse Heart (Great for Beginners)

This piece is VERY easy and does not take long to complete.  One or two days is all you need.  The design is simple and there is not much detail to worry about, so I think it's a perfect beginners piece just to get you started on the mechanics of doing chasing and repousse.  I wanted to begin getting back to using my chasing hammer and tools with something that wouldn't cause my shoulder pain to return.

This is the basic design I came up with.  It's a large heart with a smaller heart above and 5 leaves extending out from the top.  I actually drew the design on the other side of what you see below, laid it on the hot pitch (after covering with chapstick for easy removal) and begin repousse work.  Once I felt I'd done as much as I could, I removed the piece from the pitch pot by heating with the heat gun, pulling off with tweezers and quickly wiping off the leftover pitch.  Then I turned it over to define the forms on a steel block by edging around all the shapes.  Then I put it back on the pitch (again with chapstick), and defined the shapes further.  Unfortunately,  I did burst through the metal a couple of times when I was defining the leaves, which I later had to fill with some silver solder.  It happens sometimes, and I try not to beat myself up too hard.  I simply repair the crack when I'm completely finished forming the piece.  The sterling silver is 22 gauge. The next one I make will be 20 gauge, so I'll have less chance of breaking through with the thicker silver.

Then I removed it again from the pitch, annealed, and added some texture around the heart.

Now it's time to get out the jeweler's saw and cut the design out of the sterling silver.

Once I finished sawing the shape out and filing the edges, I went over the entire piece with white diamond polish followed by the red buffing compound.  Then I formed a chain from some sterling silver oval shapes I'd made earlier, silver beads and garnets.



Sterling Silver or Copper (I suggest 20 gauge)
A Pitch Pot filled with pitch
A chasing hammer
Repousse Tools
Steel Block
Jeweler's Saw
Tracing Paper
Buffing compounds

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chasing & Repousse with Valentin Yotkov

In October, Valentin Yotkov came to Spruill Arts Center for a one-week chasing and repousse workshop.  Just about all of us in the class had taken one of his classes previously, so were able to work on the second project, which is considered a more intermediate level.  

For anyone just beginning to do chasing/repousse, or anyone interested in the process, I'll give a brief synopsis of our week below.

We began by transferring the design via tracing paper onto our piece of copper and then beginning the lining process, working from the outside and moving inwards.  

 Now we move to the inside and line the entire piece, making sure we are pounding hard enough that the design will appear on the opposite side of the piece when turned over.

Once the piece was completely lined, we flipped it over and began to repousse...

...until we had completely finished with the entire design.  One goal was to vary the depths of the design in the proper places.  Another was to use the correct tool for the part of the design we were working on, which can be a little confusing at times.

Then we flipped it back over and did all of the finishing touches (the outside braid, the flattening of the rectangles of the cross, re-lining where needed, adding texture to the background, etc).

At this point it's important to not anneal the piece because you want it to be hard and strong, so it's best to remove it from the pitch with a heat gun and then clean off any excess pitch with the heat gun and/or acetone.

Everyone's pieces came out great!  I'm pretty sure we were all quite pleased with ourselves.  Valentin is an excellent teacher and was as gracious as always, helping us along every step of the way.  A GREAT week!  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hammering out the Details

Glad to be back with Gia for a few weeks!  I've been getting rusty in the chasing and repousse department!   We're all working on a design Gia has drawn up for us.  This is what mine looked like after the first go-round of puffing it up, i.e., repousse.   (Definition of repousse:  Raised in relief by hammering on the reverse side.)  

Gia gave the class a demonstration on how to chase the scalloped edges using my piece.  (Definition of chasing:  To groove, indent.)  Chasing is always done on the front of the piece.

On the left is his demonstration, on the right is what I have to do next.  I find it extremely helpful to have his work right there in front of me as I work and try to replicate what he has done.  

I've discovered a technique for getting the copper off the pitch with very little pitch stuck to the back side.  We already know to cover the side of the copper that will be on the pitch with chapstick.  When you begin heating the copper with your heat gun to remove it from the pitch, almost immediately insert your tweezers under the copper from one edge and start to lift a little.  Moving your heat gun around the copper, off it will pop as soon as the pitch is warm enough to loosen the copper.  The leftover pitch is so minimal, you just need to heat it a little with your heat gun and wipe it off with paper towel.  So easy!

Janice, hammering away...

This is what it looked like after I worked on the right side.  Getting there, slowly but surely...

 And this is where I am at right now.  Just a few more adjustments and I'll be done (I think).  Then I have to come up with own design, which is what I should be doing right now.  But that old "homework" mentality never goes away...just when you need to sit down and do what you are supposed to be doing, you end up doing everything else, like blogging!  

Until next time!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Grandma Dolly's Spaghetti Sauce

My Italian mother-in-law has been making this spaghetti sauce forever and it's always a treat when she cooks up a big pot.  She usually makes meatballs for her sauce, which are scrumptious, but I use either ground beef or mushrooms instead.  It makes such a huge pot of sauce that I use the leftovers for lasagne, pizza, on breaded and fried chicken cutlets (gluten free breading for me, thanks), and anything else I can think of that needs a red sauce.  Make a note that this not a thick sauce, so if you want it thicker, add less water.  

2 28 oz. cans Tomato Puree (plus 2 cans water)
2 15 oz. cans Tomato Sauce (plus 2 cans water)
2 6 oz. cans of Tomato Paste
About 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper
1 TBLS. Basil
1 TBLS. Parsley 
1 TBLS Sugar (My mother-in-law uses more)
1 TBLS Baking soda (My mother-in-law uses more)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound of ground hamburger or 1 pkg. sliced mushrooms for a meatless sauce (I like baby portobello)
Olive oil
Parmesan Cheese (garnish)

Gluten-free spaghetti noodles

People often think that making spaghetti sauce from "scratch" is difficult. It's almost as easy as opening a couple of ready-made jars, but tastes a hundred times better.  It's so simple! The addition of the sugar and the baking soda remove the tart tomato taste and turn this into a more mellow tasting sauce.

First, saute the garlic in a little olive oil. Add the beef or mushrooms to brown. Then add all the other ingredients except the baking soda. Bring to a good simmer, then turn the heat down and let it lightly simmer for 2 or 3 hours (or more). After an hour or so, add the baking soda.  Taste it at this point and see if it needs more seasoning and add more if needed. Sometimes I make this around 1:00 in the afternoon and it cooks slowly all day long, making the house smell heavenly.

Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Add some gluten-free rolls and a green salad to finish it off nicely.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Week in the Mountains

I almost missed going to Wildacres this year.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I came to my senses about two weeks prior to classes starting, called the registrar to see if there were any openings in any of the classes and got in at the last minute.  Phew!  

This year at Wildacres, my teacher, Janet Harriman, started our class off with a little Tai Chi called "The Waterfall."  She wanted us to spend our week working hard, but remembering to breathe.  Good advice.  That's Janet in the middle, pouring out our first pieces from their overnight firing.

This was my first attempt at learning Bronze Clay, PMC3 and enameling on metal clay.  We started with the bronze, learning how to work with it, roll it out, keep it from drying out, making slip, attaching wire, etc.  We also worked with fast fire bronze, which has a different color and texture.   Here are Cyndi's amazing pieces (on the last night of Wildacres, we have Show and Tell, where we all put our pieces on display):

We all made a locket (similar to the one third from left), which opens and closes and has a little compartment inside.  I just love how you can set stones (strong enough) into the wet clay and fire them!  I also like the color of the bronze clay.  Sometimes it looks golden and sometimes it comes out of the kiln with a nice patina.  We also spent a day working with PMC3, a fine silver clay.  On the last day of classes, Janice gave us a demonstration on how to enamel on silver clay, which I can't wait to try out soon.

There is always plenty of fun happening at Wildacres.  We had some fantastic items for sale at the auction this year!  This is John Cogswell showing everyone a gathering of fold forming pieces from his students that was being auctioned off.  We also had jewelry items from all the teachers and a three-night stay in a fantastic vacation home in North Carolina.  I think the Florida Goldsmith Society did well (it's their biggest fundraiser of the year).

Three meals a day.  Seems the bell is constantly ringing for us to get up and come on down for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  The photo below shows all of us, except two tables hold The Sycamore Hill Writers Group.  We share Wildacres with them every year.  I approached one of the writers on the road late one night, saying, "Karen Fowler?"  She said, "Yes?"  I introduced myself and told her I had just started reading her new book, "We are All Completely Beside Ourselves," and how much I was enjoying it.  Karen is also the author of "The Jane Austin Book Club."

Here are some of the pieces made by the Foldforming class and the Trapped Objects class.  I wish I had more from the other classes, but the lighting was odd and I didn't have my good camera with me.  This one is Foldforming, taught by John Cogswell:

Trapped Objects - Joanna Goldberg is the teacher:

Some of the people in my class after Show and Tell are below.   We had a great time!  Monica was always cracking us up and Cyndi made sure we had some good music to keep us going.  We did an amusing skit about Janet, adding "The Waterfall," reminders to breathe, and a golf ball rolled under one of our feet to stimulate our creativity.  Roberta stole the show with the golf ball scene!  Monica wrote the entire skit, filled with sentences that had been actually said out loud during the week including, "Can you solder my crack?"  "You've got to spit on it."  Okay, maybe you had to be there.  : )

Before we packed up and left this wonderful place, I purchased this sweet piece from Janet.  I absolutely love it and have been wearing it every day since returning.

All in all, a GREAT week.  Janet was a wonderful teacher -- we learned a lot in one week.  We also had amazing laughs!   Until next year!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Linking and Etching and Firing, Oh My!

We got lucky and Ken Bova came back again to show us not only how to use an assortment of links and cold connections to make our Story Chains, but also how to make the famous "Chopstick Hammer!"  You can see a photo of Ken's hammer on his blog. (I'd show you mine, but I haven't finished it yet.)  He also threw in demonstrations on torch enameling and another on etching with saltwater.  I've been busy in my studio ever since torch firing until I've practically burned down the house and today I began etching designs on copper!  

I have about 1/3 of my Story Chain finished, so will work on it as time goes on, attaching small, meaningful artifacts that would make nice additions.  Let's start with some photos of the Story Chain.  Many students created a "theme" chain.  The one below is about Deanna's parents, with each piece telling a little story about their lives together.

Pam's chain is about things that can make sound:

Gillian made hers based on life experiences and events, especially her son's upcoming wedding:

Mine is an assortment of small mementos from my life, plus additional stones and things to make it look pretty. 

Susan chose a game theme for her chain and I can't wait to see it when it is finished!

This morning I decided to try the saltwater etching process that Ken taught us.  Basically, after using any of the following paints/markers that will repel the etchant, and making a design of some sort on a piece of copper (after cleaning), I filled a plastic container (never use metal) with water and a LOT of Kosher salt (it must be saturated with salt) and heated it in the microwave until no more salt would dissolve.  I then attached a battery pack with 4 D batteries to the ends of two alligator clips - a negative and a positive.  I hung my copper piece (anode) on a copper wire and hung it over the edge of the plastic container.  I then made another wire with a plain piece of copper and hung it in the solution, as well (cathode).  I attached the positive alligator clip (red) to the copper wire holding my piece and the black (negative) to the wire holding the plain piece of copper and suddenly the plain piece began to bubble (see photo below).  After awhile, the liquid will turn copper colored as the piece is etched.  (Don't forget to cover the back of your copper piece with duct tape to keep it from being etched.)

After experimenting with four D batteries, I then changed to a car battery charger that we had in the garage and set it on the 6 volt setting.  Both worked equally as well.

I would say it took about 20 to 25 minutes for my piece to etch.  Amazing.   So clean and so simple.  I cleaned off the residue of paint pen with acetone and can now use the etched copper in a piece of jewelry.

And for the torch firing experiment, this is the best color I was able to come up with doing this on my own.  I had been hoping to get some purples and oranges  (I'm only using white enamel here), but this is as good as it got. 

Thanks, Ken, for another great workshop!