Sunday, December 9, 2012

Filigree and Curlicues

With a little left of my Goldie Bronze clay I was having a tough time staying away.  I have pages of new ideas for next year and am really anxious to try them out.

Bronze clay is perfect for experiments as it's inexpensive and reconstitutes several times over to a soft,  easily manipulated state.  I've been thinking about filigree and airy designs.  As a self-taught jeweler and no classes around that teach this technique, I got to work on my own.  I rolled a long thin snake and tried to put it onto a clay frame I had made and it just wasn't working.  Wetting the snake to curl it and get it into position just wets the frame and everything eventually gets mushy.  (Put used clay into dish for reconstituting.)

Make new frame.  I don't have a syringe for bronze clay so I turned to my extruder. Using the smallest hole I extracted a snake that was very fine and with a damp brush I formed curlicues on my non-stick surface.  I had drawn out a pattern for the first pair of earrings so I knew the size and shape of the curls I needed.  After letting them dry it was much easier to place them on the frame with a little water to "glue" them on.

The first pair of earrings came out perfect but in my obsessive need for perfection I sanded it too energetically and one broke, not to be repaired.  I did try.  (More clay into the dish for reconstituting.)  And now I have to make the earring again.  But repetition is one way we learn.

I'm now getting better at curling snakes of clay.  After reconstituting the clay in the dish I try another pair of earrings--bigger and trapezoidal in shape.  Well the frame was a bit too big but I figured out that I could attach cross bars of clay to the frame to act as support for my curlicues.  And that worked pretty well as they aren't really noticeable under the filigree.  This larger, more open design was a bit harder and the earrings didn't come out exactly the same.  But I got a lot of practice making curls as I broke a few in the process. (Broken ones in the dish for reconstituting.)

Adding reconstituted clay to the piece I had left I made a large triangular frame for a pendant.  A bigger piece, it needed more support than the earrings so I put a wide bar across the triangle and attached a circle & post for a half drilled pearl.  I wanted to see what random twists and curls would look like.  Using long strings of clay I just let is fall naturally and then used a little water to keep it in place.

Now the big test.  Will these fine filaments of bronze clay survive the high temps of the kiln.  Like any other metal clay, bronze clay shrinks a bit when the bonding agent burns off.  It has to be fired twice in coconut shell carbon--once to burn off the bonding agent and at a higher temp to fuse the bronze particles together.
Fingers crossed I programmed the kiln. And here's the result.  No broken filaments, even after vigorous cleaning.

I'm pretty pleased with my first attempt.  I have a way to go in refining this look.  I know I don't like the randomness of the pendant. I prefer the pattern of the earrings.  And I think less curl might work better if I use more of them.  I'm waiting for another batch of bronze clay and when it arrives I've got a couple more designs I can work on to help me get better at this.