Monthly Sew Along
No, no, not with me. Sewing is not my love and I don't know that I could keep one track for a solid month. This, however, is going to be amazing. It will be hosted by Sophia Helen who is a wonderful researcher and artisan. I very much encourage those interested in learning to build out their kits to participate!
2020 is going to be exciting on the art front for me. Last spring, I finally purchased a kiln so that I can properly anneal my beads. I went with the Paragon Caldera kiln (which I purchased through Mountain Glass). I actually spent about a year pondering which kiln to get. In the end, I went with the Caldera because I can get additional pieces (such as the bead door or an enameling window), but also because it goes up to 2300F degrees. Many glass kilns don't go past 1500F, and I wanted to be able to use this for anything, including possibly eventually melting copper or bronze.
Not long after, I made a purchase of Precious Metal Clay (PMC for short, though that is both a brand name, and a generic term for the many metal clays on the market).
Metal Clay has changed my entire art world. It is magic. Pure magic!
For those who are unfamiliar with this product, it is a moldable base that is comprised of a an organic material and tiny particles of metal (silver, gold, copper, bronze). It works as pretty much any clay in that you can manipulate it into a variety of forms, apply textures, use molds to create uniform shapes, even put it on a pottery wheel and throw a cup. After allowing it to completely dry, it is placed in a kiln and fired. This process burns out the vegetable binder, and allows the metal particles to fully sinter together leaving you with a solid metal object.
I have how-to books for metal clay. I have watched dozens of videos. I still did not fully believe it until I was removing my first silver pieces from the kiln and I accidentally dropped one and it made a distinctive metallic tink-tink-tink as it clattered across the floor.
Pure magic. And I have to say this has absolutely opened up a whole new artistic field to me and I am loving it! Below you can see the first two pendants I made from silver (Art Clay was the brand). (Silver clay is pricey, but it is easier to work with than base metals such as bronze or copper, so it is typically recommended for those starting out.) After these two items I got overly ambitious and attempted a silver and ruby ring, which crumbled while in the greenware state because I was a bit to aggressive cleaning it up before firing it. Later I made another silver/ruby ring that fired beautifully, even though the work itself is clumsy and less than aesthetically pleasing.
I purchased Prometheus Bronze Clay next. I used it to do a few test pieces, as I read that getting the correct firing temperature for base metals can be tricky, and had one pretty one that failed to sinter at all, and another that worked well and is most definitely solid metal.
After getting a bronze item to work, I set out to make a set of Saxon annular brooches for Pennsic. Yes, yes, I know that is not how they were made in period, but things like this allow me to refine and art while also affordably adding necessary items to a kit for a complete picture. I consider this to be the metal working equivalent of machine sewing something. It will also definitely not replace expertly crafted items for reenactment items in which I have a deep research/time investment. Things like my good Viking items will always come from those artisans who have honed their skills and who are producing quality period reconstructions.
I did have one brooch fail to sinter (I fired them separately just in case), but it was easy to make a replacement. I tried to roll out clay to make a pin, but also had issues with that so I purchased bronze wire and hammered and sanded and heated and drove myself nuts, but eventually successfully made the pins for them. (Metal work is completely foreign to me, so I was unaware that bronze is such a pain to deal with or I might just have used copper instead.)
Last month I finally had some more time and I prepared a Saxon girdle hanger as well. The pieces have not yet been fired though, as I accidentally broke one while sanding them down in the greenware (dry, but unfired) state. I have made a repair and should fire them in a couple of weeks.
And then I decided to try out Cyprus Copper clay on some modern items that I could use to develop better skills in working with this clay. I am having an incredible time dreaming up pieces of jewelry and then seeing if I can shape them from magic clay.
Below you can see the three pieces I am quite pleased with. All three came out pretty much as I envisioned, and the setting for the sapphire in the top one is much cleaner than the ruby I tried this summer. These pieces have all over-fired though, and you can see the bubbles in the large annulet on the right side (all of these pieces have the bubbles on the back side). I am now running test pieces to properly dial in the temperature.
I also got exceedingly ambitious over the holidays and attempted to hand sculpt woody nightshade flowers into a pendant. I added a bail after taking this photo, but the piece was drying last weekend, so I have not had time to look at the back and check for cracks. I don't know that this has any chance at firing properly, but at the moment, at least, I am very pleased with the results.
My mother got me a tumbler for Christmas, so I no longer need to hand polish pieces after firing. I can drop them in the barrel and come back half an hour later to collect my shiny metal items.
And there is more! I also dabbled in a bit with glass frit fusing towards the end of the year. I mean, I have a kiln, so why not do all the things! I made glass tree ornaments, and got a mold to make some garden things. It was fun, but not addictive for me in the way that the clay is.
And speaking of glass, my amazing boyfriend has purchased an oxygen concentrator for me! That means I will be stepping away from a hothead torch soon, and stepping up to duel fuel and some serious melting potential.
I hope that 2020 is full of amazing explorations of art!
I am mother to a billion cats and am on journey to recreate the past via costume, textiles, culture and food.
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Blogroll of SCA & Costume Bloggers
Below is a collection of some of my favorite places online to look for SCA and historic costuming information.
More Amie Sparrow - 16th Century German Costuming
Gianetta Veronese - SCA and Costuming Blog
Grazia Morgano - 16th Century A&S
Mistress Sahra -Dress From Medieval Turku
Loose Threads: Cathy's Costume Blog
Mistress Mathilde Bourrette - By My Measure: 14th and 15th Century Costuming
More than Cod: Exploring Medieval Norway