Stone to bowl – finger tips

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A bit of a leap forward in time. These are the first pieces cast in copper from beeswax lost-wax models dipped in clay mix. I’ll explain the process more later.

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The finger tips are a simple development of the work that I was doing in Munich and were a good test of the process, being very fine but also small. I like that they are handmade by me for my hands; and exemplify the whole process- having been made using environmentally-friendly, traditional processes.

The surface finish is pitted, but I like this and I plan to make more. It would be fun to do a community finger project.

Takako Selway and I will do some filming of the process for her film about “Hands Making”

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Stone to Bowl. Copper smelting

Finally I am three weeks into my Stone to Bowl residency and I feel that I should share progress.

One element of Stone to Bowl is to develop a replicable way of smelting copper from malachite/copper ore in a traditional way that means that I can work in the landscape anywhere.

First task was to source some Scottish copper ore. The mine in Bridge of Allan is long closed, but I found some copper traces on the waste heap. These photos show the mine entrance and the pieces that I collected.

After initial smelting experiments I have been putting the ore in closed ceramic  balls with added charcoal to give a reducing atmosphere for the smelt. (While I was on my residency another artist was successfully smelting malachite using oxy-acetylene.)

The furnace is charcoal burning; and for these experiments I was using an electric air blower, although I will use bellows when I understand the process more. The dry ceramic balls are made of a local refractory clay mixed with fibre -horse dung, and sand. Inside is copper ore in pea size chunks  with 25% charcoal. The balls are placed on the furnace charcoal once it is burning well and the furnace is run until the ore is to a high enough temperature to smelt, hopefully. The balls are then plunged into water and broken open.

The first smelt was not a complete success. Some copper was formed, but a lot of this was pelletised rather than consolidated and some had to be panned from the ashes of the furnace.

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However I reheated this copper to consolidate it and a reasonable amount of copper was retrieved. Again I used an electric furnace for this process while I am experimenting.

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I am not sure that a chimney furnace is needed, a horseshoe hearth might be as successful as one can see what is going on. The chimney furnace is made of a refractory clay mix similar to that used for the balls.

I tried another smelt later in the residency of which more anon.

100 days and Stone to Bowl

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This photo shows the difference between a two-part sand mould and an open pour. The level of detail on the two part mould is far greater than on the open pour.

I had read that this was the case, but I’d not experimented myself previously.

Both pieces are ‘my-smelt’ copper with silver alloy, cast in oil sand. The piece on the right is made in a two-part mould. The piece on the left I heat-patinated after I’d cleaned it up. Both are from the same former, which is an Edwardian mourning brooch. I will make the more detailed piece into a necklace; the open pour piece is too heavy to wear, but is very tactile.

100 days

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This is one of my favourite 100 days pieces so far. It’s a neckpiece using a piece of brass from the beach, drilled and threaded on a glass and silver bead necklace. The glass beads are from Togo and were waist beads that my daughter brought back. The colours are just right for the patina on the beach find.

100 Days

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Alongside the Stone to Bowl project I’m doing a 100 days project where I try and do something that is new/not work-driven each day. This silver bowl I started at college, but I now have new skills to finish it properly, so I did.

It is made from rings of silver soldered together and to a textured base and then slightly melted to give the organic finish.