This Friday's topic is: What is the most difficult piece you've ever made, from a technical perspective? describe why it was so challenging.
We are a group of jewelry artists working in various mediums who have chosen different topics to write on as a group.This event takes place about the same time each month. Why not visit the other artists listed below the following blog.
In the Fall of 2008 I wanted to create a competition work of art that was also a celebratory piece honoring my husband's and my thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Of course I didn't start it with lots of time.... nah, I always have to wait until the last moment. So, instead of shipping the work to Chicago for the North American Design competition (NAD) I took it with me when I flew back for a Masters Symposium with Art Clay World.
And no, I didn't win anything in the competition. But that is okay for I enjoyed the process of designing this work AND figuring out the engineering progression of building it so it would wear beautifully. Besides... it was made for our anniversary.
The theme of the competition was Celebration.... So I wanted to have 'streamers' of confetti-like wire working it's way around the silver. This style is technically a variation of a torque. A torque is a neckpiece that wraps around the neck and is solid except for a hinge in the back or front.
The important thing to remember about designing a new work in jewelry is 'how will I make it from the sketch?' or, as I like to call it, reverse engineering. I like to draw out a work and then make a list to the side charting out what I have to do to build the work and in what order should they be done. This prevents the bad oral verbage when this artist finds out she cannot do a particular process because it was not planned properly.
Okay, that said, I bent some 12 gauge argentium wire to fit my neck and shoulders, Wrapped two layers of argentium 18 wire in a celebratory manner around the 12 gauge. I started and stopped the latter wire at the areas where the clasp and hinges were to be located. I then fired the work for a short time to get the copper (Cu) to the surface of the argentium. Argentium has very little Cu in its alloy in relation to standard sterling silver. Instead of the full amount of Cu the metallurgists added germanium to the mix. When the argentium is heated and the Cu removed the germanium and fine silver are on the surface of the wire and the tarnishing factor of the metal is then reduced greatly. I removed the Cu firescale by boiling the piece in white vinegar. I am not a fan of Sparex (very caustic acid).
After cutting the work into two half circles I created a hinge for the back of the neck using fine silver tubing and added quartz crystal beads to the hinge ends instead of riveting. It is much more feminine that way. Then I created a hook on one end of the front wire. This became a gravity clasp. I spent the most time on this portion because I didn't want to have it open on me when I wore it. Then I created the shield in metal clay from Art Clay World that was to hold both mine and my husbands birthstones. The back of this shield element is as decorative as the front. And the 'hook' from the other wire fit onto a specially constructed area in the back of the shield.
I added three diamonds to the work as well as the small peridots. Any three things in my life be they flowers, stones, fingers or dots signify I LOVE YOU. All stones were fired in place ... except the amethyst, it was set post firing. To make the work more exciting I covered several areas of the 'confetti' with Art Clay Silver Overlay Paste and then added droplets of paste clay. This way the wire is not just wrapped around the 12 gauge but also has a small and very subtle 'texture'. One who works with metal clay can understand that this work went through many, many firings. The last element I added was a quartz briolette to dangle off the end of the shield. This signified our quest to find our higher spiritual self that we began in the 1980's.
I finished it at the end of October, went to Chicago, then we madly packed for our European trip, we left on November 20th and he passed out of my life on December 5th.
I have never worn it.
I don't think I can.
But, it sits in my studio as a reminder of our wonderful life together and his incredible support of anything I did with the metal clay, polymer clay. live theater or any jewelry I created.