Thursday, March 15, 2018

My Filigree Bracelet with Gia Gogishvilli

I can't tell you how great it 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...

(Edited 3/15/18)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sugalite Delight

My son gave me this unusual looking Sugalite stone for my birthday.  Lucky me! It's really lovely close up - it has small bursts of clouds, and a little bit of yellow all swirled around making it gorgeous! I spent hours (weeks) wondering what I wanted to do with it.  I love when people give me special stones.

This is the design I came up with, deciding to make the entire piece in sterling silver and adding some red garnets and an amethyst.  Sometimes it's important to draw a design out on paper like this, but other times I like to just jump in and see where the process takes me.

I changed my mind along the way (this happens a LOT) and added more stones to the "chain" part of the necklace and filed a texture all around the edge of the bezel.  Below you see the stones just delicately balanced on a piece of square wire to see how they'll look.  A piece of dental floss keeps the large stone from getting stuck in the bezel because I'm not yet ready for it to be set quite yet - there is still more soldering to do.

Here the bezels are all soldered, the chain is attached, all jump rings are soldered shut and NOW it's time to set the stones.  For all the beginners out there, it's very important to remember that ALL soldering must be done before setting the stones. at a time...

And finally the finished product.  The good news - I like the design and how well it turned out.  The bad news is I didn't count on the square wire, which holds the small stones, to turn slightly outwards.  Definitely something to think about the next time I want to do a similar type of design.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Textures in Metal Clay

I recently took a class in Metal Clay with Pam East.  The only experience I had in this medium was a week-long class at Wildacres in North Carolina with Janet Harriman in 2013.  Metal clay is a clay-like medium that consists of very small particles of metal (silver, gold, bronze or copper) that is mixed with a binder and water.  It can be shaped just like clay, molded by hand, carved, stamped and put into molds.  After it dries, it is fired and the binder burns away leaving the pure sintered metal.  

We started out with some simple pieces using bronze and copper, and later moved to fine silver.  I discovered that Metal Clay is the BEST for textures. You can get deep, dramatic patterns using something called Photo Polymer Plates.  Here is the how-to video:  

I also discovered it's a friendly medium for 24k gold keum boo (a technique for applying 24K gold to silver). Because fired silver metal clay is more porous than regular silver, the gold practically melts onto the silver when heating on a small kiln.  Here's a how-to video on keum boo:

Another benefit is the ability to insert gemstones into the metal prior to firing.  Only specific stones can take the high temperatures required for metal clay, so it's important to make sure the gemstones you are using are safe.  Cool Tools has an excellent gemstone firing guide online.

Metal clay is a whole new medium for me and an exciting new tool in my toolbox of metalworking skills. There are some experienced metal clay artists doing amazing things...Gordon K. Uyehara, Celie Fago, and Ivy Soloman to name just a few.  Holly Gage won the 2015 Saul Bell Award in Metal Clay with this necklace:

The 2016 Saul Bell award went to Rodica Frunze with this piece:

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...

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!

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!