Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Journey in Making, Part Two

* This is part two of a three-part story - for part one, scroll down to the last entry! *

This shows the central body piece being fitted to the other two. This one was the most challenging to carve because it had to hug the other body piece exactly. The wood pieces were pegged together with rods of sterling silver, and the fit had to be snug
so that the silver would not show.

After adding an additional wood piece to articulate where the wings attach and pegging everything together, the piece was ready to sand and dye! Our shop tech let me borrow a leather dye that he described as "blacker than black". Yummy~!

After I painted the dye on, I burnished the surface of the wood with a brass brush to work the color in. I did this about 3 times. Later, I sprayed the whole thing with a clear glossy sealant to make the surface more "beetle-y".

Time for the fun part - COLOR! I tend to do a LOT of samples, especially when I'm enameling, because I'm reeeeally picky about the final product. These are a few of my color samples for the outer wings of the beetle. Since I was not making a total copy of any particular beetle species, I needed to come up with a color combination that was alluring as jewelry but also looked convincing on an insect.

I experimented with many transparent enamels to come up with the right color and pattern. These were my final two samples. I decided to go with the left one - the more orangey-red didn't have enough contrast with the greens I chose.

In total, I layered 5 different enamel colors to get the right colors. The reactions between the different layers ended up being important, too - the speckling effect was due to one of the bottom layers coming up through to the top.

Here you can see the wood carving of the body along with the final wing samples and the shaped copper pieces for the actual wings, pre-enamel.

to be continued in Part Three...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Journey in Making, Part One

(photo: "Khepera". carved boxwood, sterling silver, enamel on copper. copyright emi savacool, 2009. model credit: kaitlin kerr. photo credit: ken yanoviak.)

I've encountered many people who are totally floored when I tell them the price of a piece. Most people are not accustomed to paying much for jewelry - and when H&M sells necklaces for less than 10 dollars, why would you want to pay any more?

I always try to explain to them that the price reflects the amount of hours that go into a particular piece of jewelry. In addition to the artist's unique concept, which is valuable in and of itself, there is a HUGE amount of skilled labor in Crafts. In fact, when you break it down, many times the artist is actually selling their piece at a loss!

To help explain why it takes so much time to make a piece, I've decided to do a little "show-and-tell". For my last piece, "Khepera", I took many in-progress photographs, which I am happy to share with you now!

We start with the inspiration. This winter I had ordered two mounted specimens, a cicada and a beetle, in order to help me understand the three-dimensional qualities of these insects. The beetle in particular was stunning and dramatic. Next to the beetle, you can see what I started with - a thick block of boxwood.

I made a very rough mock-up of the form of the head with plasticine clay, then roughed out the general form in wood with a bandsaw. This picture shows a bit of carving with a flex shaft and serrated burr - my primary carving tool.

The general form is carved here. In this picture you can see two horns I ended up getting rid of on the top of the head. A lot of design decisions are made right in the middle of making something, and I thought these horns looked dumb, so they got the axe.

In this photo the head is fully carved and sanded. (I must have figured out the macro function on my camera then too, because the picture gets a lot clearer from here on out!) You can see I used the clay again to estimate the size of the rest of the body. Notice the beautiful and careful modeling of the clay here. (Har har!)

The body in wood, cut out on the bandsaw. (This is still without the middle section.)

The body, roughly carved with a flex shaft and burr.

Precautionary measures - wood carving produces a LOT of sawdust, so it is important to cover yourself from head to toe. I use goggles/glasses, a mask, an apron, and a handkerchief to cover my neck so no dust goes down my shirt.
You can see some of the dust in this shot, and the rest... mostly here. Usually it just falls off of my lap when I stand up to take a break.
This is what results.

to be continued in Part Two...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Studio-In-Progress

Mallory wrote in her blog that "New Jersey = Purgatory". I moved back home with my parents this weekend, and I'm fighting against that ennui that comes after finishing a busy semester and trying to keep the momentum up.

This is where my new studio will be. It doesn't look like much now, but this is after I cleared piles of plumbing debris away, swept up, and scrubbed the walls. Tomorrow I'm going to masonry etch the concrete to get it ready for painting. Once it is painted, I can set up my new bench (!!!) and all of my tools and GET WORKING! My fingers are itching already.

This is my new bench! It's not technically a jeweler's bench - it's a lab table that my dad got from a job he finished in New Brunswick. Still, the whole thing is fire-resistant, it's really sturdy, and it looks really sharp. The only problem I anticipate is not having a bench pan to catch my filings, but I might ghetto-rig something up.

I can't stress enough how hard I am trying to keep working at jewelry. I'm trying to do one studio-related chore a day, and so far I have gotten a lot done. Looking at everyone's blog updates keeps me really motivated - it makes me want to work when I see that other people are working too.

This Friday - Crafts Exhibition at the DCCA! (Congrats to Maricha for having her piece featured on the website!)