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.
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.