Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Posts Tagged ‘refining’

A Three-Metal Mosaic

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/02/23

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post describing and showing a pendant I think of as The Little (Oblong) Piece that Could (because, with each problem, I’d pick it up, dust it off, say a few words of encouragement, and keep it going to completion…).

On one side of that, trying to develop a collage (or mosaic) design, I was applying a series of pieces that went straight across the “base” piece. I’d moisten the base and the mosaic piece, press them together, and wait for that to dry. Then, I’d repeat the process with the next collage piece. But the backing piece, which would of course soften a bit as I applied each next piece, kept cracking along those long and straight borders, so I ended up adding a series of elements to the other side to reinforce it all. That was not a problem, of course, because I like making reversible pieces; I actually found it interesting to think about what I might add from both visual and structural considerations.

Still, there is another way to approach this issue right from the start: design the piece so that no border between the mosaic elements goes entirely across the piece! That is, use the collage pieces to provide the necessary structure right from the start. A very basic example of that is one of the Three-Metal Mosaic pieces I made earlier this winter.

The base of this piece (not shown) was made from Rose Bronze, as was the center rectangle (which is shown in the photo to the right here). Then, going clockwise and starting in the upper left corner, I added alternating “mosaic tiles” of copper and yellow bronze. Although there is some lining up of pairs, I was careful to have no “line” extend the whole way across the piece in any direction! This is the simplest way I know of to avoid the problem I kept having with The Little (Oblong) Piece that Could.

Once I had all these tiles fully assembled, I tidied up the edges as needed (with just a damp sponge; sanding only a tiny bit at the corners, to round them off slightly), and added the Rose Bronze bail. The colors you see are mostly just the differences between the three separate metals, enhanced a bit by some green kiln-produced coloring on both the yellow and rose bronze textured “tiles” in the mosaic (but not, curiously, on the smoothly-extruded bail).

Who knows why, but I don’t seem to have a photo of the other side. Still, trust me, this piece is another of my fully-reversible designs! The other side was made using a delicate texture of tiny flowers, and then embellished with “vines” and “coils” in the three different metals. Since it was while looking at some mosaics in one of the museums I visited last week when I began thinking that I didn’t remember writing a follow-up post to the one about The Little (Oblong) Piece that Could, however, at least I do have this shot of the side that matters for this comparison.

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The little oblong piece that could….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/02/28

This piece faced a number of challenges coming into existence!

It started out well, but with one small twist. You see, one of the fun things about guild-chapter meetings is that members bring their own favorite tools and let others try them out. At a meeting of the Western PA Chapter of the PMC Guild well over a year ago, I made several pieces using textures that my guild-mates had brought. Most of those are gone to new owners by now, but the last one I made that day had been sitting in my “figure this out later on” drawer for way too long.

What I made at the meeting was an oblong piece. I trimmed one end straight, rolled that end over a straw and pressed the edge into place, thus forming a foldover bail. On one side was a texture molded by Donna, with alternating stripes of little raised and lowered dots. I don’t remember who brought the gently-striped texture I used on the other side that remains visible, now, only on the bail at the top.

This piece should have come out much the same as the others I made that day but, somehow, it ended up much thinner than the rest. And for some reason (maybe I was getting tired?) I didn’t even notice that until I had it all shaped and starting to dry. Having made it at the end of the day, I didn’t really have time to re-do it. I thought it was too nice to give up on, however, so I didn’t just roll the clay back into a ball for use at another time. I let it dry and put it aside for the time being. And it just took me a long time to get back to it. After finishing a number of the bar-shaped pieces I recently wrote about, I remembered this one.

I had already decided to make it a bit thicker by applying some “mosaic” elements to the “plainer” side. Now, I should have known better about positioning those elements because I’ve had this happen before: once I added the pieces, the “thin” part to which I’d attached them broke apart along a border between two of those.

Not a problem. I stuck the two parts back together then, as you can see above, I added a decorative “bar” along the other side to reinforce that section. I had planned to embellish that side a bit, and the break simply helped define where and how to do that.

Except that, while tidying up the edges of that bar, the thin bit broke again, this time along the (only) other border between mosaic elements (which, once again, I should have known to orient differently).

Not a problem. I stuck the next two parts back together then added a second decorative bar on the non-mosaic side for further reinforcement. Design-wise, I thought that complemented the other bar nicely anyway. And with all the reinforcements, I knew that the final piece (once sintered to “solid” silver) would be fine.

In the process of tidying all that up, however, I decided that the edge along the top of the mosaic-additions didn’t match the rest of it. I rolled out a little rod of clay and attached that. It did seem to finish off (visually) that edge nicely.

Except that, in finishing off (smoothing) the edge of it, a chunk of that addition broke off. That was a real surprise, something I can’t explain. Still not a problem: just more fiddling to get it back in place and hide that seam.

It went into the kiln at last on Friday night, along with pieces from a workshop I’d taught that afternoon. (Once again, of course, I forgot to take photos of those…. That’s understandable. Rachell’s sister Ramona was visiting from Ohio, I did a special little afternoon session for them, and I wanted to have their pieces fired and tumbled and back in time for Ramona to take hers home with her. But, I digress….)

I didn’t actually fire up the kiln until Saturday. Everything came out of there looking fine. I quenched most of the pieces, and even remembered to not quench the pieces to which Ramona had added CZs to avoid shocking those.

As I was doing the unloading a fellow artist from the community center (Amy, who’s a musician) stopped by to say hello, and I showed her the results. I noticed that a bit of kiln-shelf had stuck to my piece, so Amy and I went across the hall to the ladies room so I could wash that off. I then handed it back to Amy, who proceeded to drop it onto the hard concrete floor there.

She was, of course, very apologetic. I said, not to worry, this stuff is sturdy, let’s go back to my studio. I should have known better than to hand it over where I did, should have waited until we were back on carpet-covered hardwood, neither of which would have caused any sort of problem. Even with the concrete, there was no crisis, only a slight ding, and right in front of Amy I think I was able to rework the piece back to how it had been before. (And if you can’t see the repair, then I’m right about that.)

She then headed off to get something to eat, and I proceeded to call Rachell and Ramona to say their pieces were ready for pick-up. While waiting for them to come over and get those, I polished this one up, and headed back over to the ladies room to add the patina.

I finally managed to get photos today to include with this post that show the end result. After all that fiddling, it now weighs in at 8.9 grams of fine silver (i.e., 99.9% of it is pure silver, nothing more). I sure hope the life of this little piece from now on will be smoother than were its beginnings.

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