Working with Organics

I’ve shared a little about how I do my leaves and flowers, but thought I would share my success in the studio from this morning.  One of my absolute favorite techniques is working with the metal clay and pasting it to a consistency that works for whatever organic I am using.  There are many things to consider . . so here’s what I did today:

leaves

First step is to find those treasures in nature.  I picked a couple of small branches from my apple tree (crab apple, I believe) and put them in water immediately.  You want your organic piece to be as fresh as possible.  If you are driving along, bring some paper towels and plastic bags for things you find.  You can wet the towel in the bag and keep the flower or plant going till you get home.  I often do this on my travels to and from shows.  I’ve picked up moss, cotton bloom, cotton leaves, acorns, pine cones and such.

leaves 1

Next, you want to pick the best of the bunch you are working with.  For this round, I was looking for the smaller baby leaves to use for earrings and rings.  Then I picked a couple of larger leaves for pendants.  As I’ve said before, spring is the best time to pick flowers and leaves.  They are new, strong and fresh.  You want leaves that are strong and I like keeping the stem to use as my holder as I paste the leaf.

leaves 0

I begin with a light coat of really watered down paste so I can see what the leave will do.  Some leaves are just not cooperative–those that have VERY high finish/glossy (like magnolias) or leaves with lots of fuzzy surfaces.  This leave always does well as it has a nice textures with lots of vein structure.  Work with the natural folds of the leaf as you continue the layers, because as the leaves dry, they will begin to curl–you can work with some curl, but if it curls too much you risk cracking the paste as it drys.

leaves 2

I ended up putting about 4-5 layers on these this morning.  I used my cup warmer and put my paper plate right on it to speed up the drying process so I could do more layers.  The quicker you begin the layers, while fresh, the better the results.  Paper plates are GREAT and are easily moveable in the studio space.

dogwood on warmer  IMG_0840  IMG_0845

Back to work on my dogwoods for last week.  I decided to put on a few more layers and dried them on the warmer.  Then I began my hand torch work.  I’ve actually did a video of this and will post it later this weekend so you can actually see the action.  It is important to keep things safe, so I put my firebrick on my tile which is then on a pottery turn wheel so I can move the whole thing easily while torching.  I use a small, hand butane torch.

IMG_0846  IMG_0850  IMG_0849

After firing, let it cool and then test it against glass to make sure the silver is solid.  You’ll hear that lovely “ding” sound and all is good!  I use a medium and small steel brush to gently brush away ashes, flecks and the white from the pasting–you’ll reveal the silver when you do this.  Some folks like to leave use this technique for a matte finish, which is fine.  But I like working with glossy finishes and for me, tumbling the silver gives it strength and you can be sure all the paste and ashes are gone.  I also love the dogwood flowers, because if you’ll look closely at the third picture above, you’ll see the honeycomb like texture of the burned out seed pods.  Cool!

IMG_0851

They are now all getting a bath in some steel shot, burnishing fluid and water in a my heavy duty tumbler.  I am going to let this tumble for most of the day and then we’ll see what happens next!  Look for my video in my next post!

One thought on “Working with Organics

  1. Robin, this is fascinating! I know nothing about how jewelry is made, so I find your blog really interesting. I keep thinking what a gingko leaf would look like using your technique. How beautiful that would be on a neck ring. Can’t wait to see more….

    Like

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