Thursday, January 17, 2013

See-worthy vessel

"Orange Slice" -  Copper hollowware vessel  (5 1/2" wide by 2 1/2" tall)
I finished this one a couple days ago. This was the first to have a clear enamel finish on it and looks pretty shiny. The top was buffed to a shine and then a patina was added. The bottom was a former printing plate and the center bowl was just a scrap piece of copper.

A faculty friend at school donated a nice piece of 14 gauge copper yesterday. Thank you!  Two days ago I was in the studio cleaning up a detail on "Nebula" but that turned into re-doing the entire surface and also adding a clear enamel finish. I will post pictures soon for that.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thee process

This post is about the process that I go through to make my vessels.

I made a dome out of copper in the school's studio with the materials provided to create a bowl. This ended up being a drinking chalice. I  then decided to try and make another bowl. This time, I wanted to make it double-walled to make it appear heavy. I ended up with "Green Bowl" and it Most were well received during following critiques in and outside of school and so I kept working with this idea.

outer wall raised  from a 12" diameter copper disc

"Green Bowl" -raised copper

Working in the studio at school is a privilege because of all the resources available. Since most students work on small-scale things such as jewelry, I thought that I should find a way to use less of the metal available; as these bowls can be quite large. I looked into buying metal,  but obviously copper is very expensive and brass isn't too far behind, especially on the student budget. I talked to people and found generous friends that would donate materials and I would find many items at thrift stores and rummage sales.

I have gotten a cymbal, some copper dishes, many old serving trays, award plaques and various other forms of sheet metal that were destined for the scrap yard or landfill.

That being said, most of my vessels start out with relatively flat pieces of metal. I take the metal and place it over different shaped swages or stakes and then proceed to hammer the surface of the metal to raise or sink it into shape. Keeping the starving student/artist budget in mind, and also looking toward the future of having my own studio full of tools, I have fabricated some tools of my own. Below you can see "Window to Ankh" in progress with the main tools used. I have been hammering the bottom section of this bowl into shape to match up with the top. The bottom is sunk into the concave shapes on the wood block.

I made two hammer heads out of oak table legs from a table that was being thrown out. I found a big piece of firewood to grind into to form a swage-block. Many times I will use the metal forming stakes in the school, however, they are expensive to purchase so I am figuring out ways to keep making these when I am eventually out of school.

So, as the metal is hammered, it is stretched and also hardened. It is similar to bending a piece of wire. If you bend it once, it is harder to bend straight because the crystalline structure of the metal gets compressed. This also cause the metal to be more brittle and continuing to bend or form it could cause it to tear or break. Annealing the metal is important in the process because it allows the crystalline structure to decompress. This is done by heating the metal. Once annealed and cool, I can continue to shape the metal without tearing it, however, there are limits to how far the metal will stretch.

Many of the vessels have hammered texture on the surface that is created from the hammering into shape but is mostly applied afterwards for decorative purposes.
soldering complete
After  I shape the bottom and the top of the vessel and trim off excess metal, I solder them together. (Other parts, such as the zipper, on this bowl are already soldered onto a portion of the vessel. Once soldered, I can begin working on the final finish. I begin grinding, sanding and buffing.
grinding and sanding completed
Depending on the design and patina I have in mind, several steps may change in the finishing process.
When I am happy with the finished surface, I can add a patina. There are many different options to be explored with these. The patina I chose for this vessel is a cupric nitrate for the green and also liver of sulphur for the dark copper inside. One is applied to the heated metal and the other is just mixed and applied with special techniques to get the desired results.
applying cupric nitrate
After the patina is on, I proceed to make adjustments, clean and check everything over before applying a wax or clear-coat finish.

That is the gist of it.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Ziplace" completed

I finished my first zipper necklace titled "ziplace" a couple days ago. I found a neat zipper on some vintage Stacy Ames dress and bought it along with more junk from the junk store for only $5. I cut the zipper off and then torched what fabric was left holding the teeth together.
After that I reassembled all 420 teeth onto some welding wire. I used welding wire because I know it is very strong, shiny and it will hold its shape very well. After all the teeth were on, I found out that the wire was a bit too small and too hard for the teeth to be crimped onto. The teeth were spinning around and not holding their place. I then took them all off and found some music wire at a store which was just as hard but a little more coarse and with a larger diameter. I even sanded the wire to give it some extra grip.

I broke two teeth attempting to tighten them onto the welding wire and in the process of switching them over to the music wire, I lost some more.

I finished assembling the necklace and felt a need to close the negative space of the zipper pull. I found some interesting pieces of metal from past bronze casting operations. The metal came from the spillage of molten metal out of the molds. The pieces I found were thin and relatively flat pieces with the characteristics of wax drippings. I selected a certain section and proceeded to cut and shaped the piece and then made copper rivets drilled holes in the pull and then attached the two together. This gave the piece a more central focus point on the zipper pull instead of through it and the copper rivets also helped to compensate for the copper stop at the end of the zipper. The wire running through the necklace also happens to be part of the clasping mechanism around the back of the zipper.

"Ziplace" - (chocker necklace) re-purposed zipper and miscellaneous metals
I enjoy this idea of using the utilitarian object (the zipper) and placing it into a different context. I think the idea with the bracelets and this necklace is the idea of change. I like to think of how our society throws things away that have alternate uses or more life left in exchange for something different. I think re-purposing these as jewelry also leads to the crazy thought of zipping off body parts to exchange them for another.

I also started working on another medium-sized bowl pictures soon...

Thanks for reading :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Work in progress

Happy to have this one coming along smoothly. Should have it done today if I can stay away from the computer. I'll post pics as soon as I can. I'm sure it will look much different when it is finished... It is now finished.

Also, Happy New Year to everyone!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Minuscule progress on the bowl today. I'm just getting back into the swing of swinging a hammer for a long time. I started to break in some of the primitive wooden tools I made. I started with my hammer that was previously a table leg from a table donated by the Vitamin Studio. I also used my block of wood that I ground different shapes into as a swage block for metal.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Back 2 life, back 2 reality

I've been away from the studio too long. I finaly made it back in today for a few hours and decided to start with something small. "Zipwrist", a bracelet, was a good start. I've made several versions of the reclaimed zippers in the past and this is my new favorite. I worked on making this one today and was happy to finish. I had planned to work on a bowl that is in progress so I lugged around my tool box and a load of miscellaneous copper for pretty much no reason but I'm happy I started small with the bracelet. I feel excited and a bit anxious to get back to pounding out more bowls. The break has been a good chance to work on other important things and also to get my mind ready for new ideas. Check the "Wearables and What-not" link. I will be posting more pictures than just the two. I also have a feeling I will be doing quite a few of these.