Friday, 20 May 2016

Final piece - The Street

Into the final week of making for the Street project... I realised that this was crunch time, and I had to pull it all together. 

My first task was to drill a stone setting in the cast piece - this was tricky - initially I tried using the pillar drill, but broke a drill bit which became embedded in the piece.  I decided to turn it over and use the other side, soldering the drill bit side down.  I tried bursting solder over the drill bit to cover it, but this didn't work.

I hand-drilled the other side, hoping that my hand was steady enough to create a good straight recess for the stone.  I then made my brooch pin housing and clasp from rectangular wire and tube.

Then I needed to solder it them on - easier said than done!  I had a bit of trouble with the solder paste - it looked as though they were fixed, but I hadn't heated it for long enough and the tube came off when I was trying to clean everything up.

Thankfully, it did work the second time, with help from Colin, our tutor - the cast piece had been soldered in place, and was drawing heat away from that area of the brooch.  With a fairly low flame he heated the cast element and flicked the flame to burst the solder under the pin housing... success.

After this I soldered on my prongs to hold the enamel piece.  This took more time than I had bargained for - I ended up trying four or five times, and ended the day on 19 May with only one prong in place.  However, I came in fresh the next day and soldered the other prong without too many problems. 

Now I needed to clean up.  Although I really love the white finish given by the pickle, it is hard to maintain, so I cleaned the piece in the magnetic polisher.  This gave it a very shiny finish, which I am not very keen on.  I took a small brass mop brush to give the whole piece a scratchy finish.

In short, my plans to start making the piece in the last two weeks did not allow enough time for last-minute changes.  If I were to re-do this project I would start making the brooch back two weeks earlier, to allow for plenty of finishing time.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Street - moving along

The Street project is having to move fast.  I made a brooch back from square wire - at first I made two pieces from 1.5 wire, but then decided it was a bit flimsy to hold the pieces.  I made another shape in 2mm wire, and this seemed much more what I wanted.

Decided on a fairly complex shape with a lot of angles.. however, using a mitre jig makes this a lot easier to manage.

Here he is - we call him Magic Mike.  And he is!

I was soon into my favourite part - arranging the pieces together.

I kept seeing more objects that could be developed into more elements for the project, but already felt I had too many! 

At the point when I thought I had my design fairly fixed I started moving on to adding pieces to hold the enamel.  I decided to solder a piece of sheet silver to the wire as a platform for my prongs to sit on.  I had made the holes quite small in the enamel piece, so only 0.7mm wire would go through.

In my first attempt at soldering the sheet silver to the wire, I melted two of the solder joins in the wire - knocking the angle out and making the sheet the wrong shape.  Another join had gone out of true on the other side.  I had to heat this again and push the wires flat on a fireproof block.

I had been trying to solder it this way up (above).

My solution was to cut another sheet, and solder it the other side up, with honeycomb blocks supporting the wire.  I painted all of the solder joins with rouge to prevent them from melting.  It worked!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Street

I started by taking photos of a walk home from the city - lots of interest to be found.  I love the light that hits Glasgow in the spring.

This led to a lot of drawing... I developed a few shapes that started to recur.  I liked the gridlike patterns of railings and netting particularly.

 I was thinking of etching some of these patterns into enamelled copper, but it soon became clear that they didn't show up well on the samples I had.  I tried the bolder images, but they still didn't show clearly enough - the pattern was only just visible under light, but it had only etched the shiny surface of the enamel away.

Sunday, 21 February 2016


Our next project is going to be 'A Sense Of Place'.  

I've been thinking about it a lot... I would like to base it on an area that always feels like 'my home' (oddly - I only lived there a few years).  I suppose a lot of my formative experiences were made there.  

I found this film which I love - showing Brentford in 1960, in all it's post-industrial scuzzy glory.  The canal and gasworks figure highly, and the flats I remember dominating my school are just being built.  The high street, park, and police station all look just the same, as does the building at the end of Green Dragon Lane with the huge tower.  The details are all there - the tiles on the local pub, the walls and structures.

The place in Glasgow that most reminds me of it is Tradeston, with all the bridges, tunnels and railway arches.  I'm planning to do some drawing there (if it ever stops raining!)

Anyway, enjoy the film.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Christmas stuff

We've been making stuff for sale in various Christmas fairs this week.  I'm wondering if the fair at Royal Exchange Square will be on at all this weekend... we have a hurricane blowing outside.  If it calms down by Sunday I will be there manning a stall from 3.30 til 6.30... if you're around, come and say hello?

Here's a few things I put together .  Oh, plus a very out-of-focus shot of the lift sign, which I realised probably influenced my design a bit!

This week has been about trying to do something simple (and often over-complicating it, having to take it apart and do it again).  It's been a useful test of patience and perseverance. 
Silver sheet scored and folded with a smooth hook earwire and platinol patina (dipped).  There's also a couple of different polish finishes underneath the patina which catch the light.

 I forgot to take a photo of the finished items!  Damn.  They have a sparkly finish from the wire polishing mop.

Hmmm!  Did you ever think you had a brilliant idea, then discover a photograph on your camera phone that you'd forgotten about...?
Reticulated silver with white enamel.  Silver ear hooks with granulated silver balls soldered to the backs. 

Friday, 27 November 2015

wabi sabi brooch

Here's the process of putting together my wabi-sabi brooch... 
These files are amazing!

Metal master on brass sprue.

The clasp I decided to use as a metal master, so I made a little mould and vulcanised it.  A surprisingly quick process.
here's the wax version ready for putting on the sprue tree!

My favourite part of it is probably the slice of green-coloured resin.  It's green because I was experimenting with natural colouring and tried a tiny bit of spirulina in it... appropriate, I thought!  A happy accident.

Background image is not mine, but an amazing jeweller I saw at Sieraad.
all the bits coming together... at the top is the bit of square wire with a groove filed into it for the tube to sit on.  The tube is to house the brooch pin.
Brooch bits getting acquainted.

Monday, 16 November 2015


Here in Glasgow it's been dark and raining for most of the past weeks.  Time to stay in and watch films!

I came across Bill Morrison's Decasia tonight... a film made from found footage, all of which has been damaged or is decaying.  I can't link to the film - although I think you can see it on BFI player -  but here's a flavour of Bill Morrison - "Light is Calling".  A melancholy beautiful thing. The music for his films is amazing - Michael Gordon using orchestra and various odd things like washing machine drums.

a bit of Decasia here