Firstly, may I take this opportunity to wish my readers a Happy New Year and I hope that 2017 will be a good year for us all.
For obvious reasons, I couldn’t show all of the pieces I’d been working on in December, as many were intended to be given as gifts, but I can now share them with you. Some have yet to be given, due to family illness over the festive period, but I think the secret will be safe enough here for now.
Having found some embed-able and fire-able brooch pin backs for metal clay, I got in the mood to make various brooch pins for family and friends, especially for those that are less likely to wear conventional jewellery. Most people can find a spot on a bag or jacket for a pin, even if they don’t wear earrings etc.
My [adult] son has a pet African pygmy hedgehog called Mr Bruce Quillis, so the hedgehog pin was for him. I spent an inordinate amount of time – and was greatly amused by it – trying to capture the individual look of his gorgeous spiky little chum and feel that I got pretty close to his proportions and cheeky personality.
I started by tracing a side-on pose of a African pygmy hedgehog, to get the basic shape, then tweaked the sketch to embrace his specific features. Bruce has especially long and robust forehead quills, which he can lower rapidly, putting your fingers in mortal danger, at the approach of anything he considers dangerous or unknown – even if you’re handing him his favourite treat of a dried mealworm. He lowers them as a precaution, then raises them again when he realises your intent. So they certainly needed to be featured. He also has larger than average ears, which sit lower than other hedgie’s and are rather square in shape. His snout is a little longer (the African Pygmy Hedgehogs have longer snouts than domestic wild hedgies anyway) than others in his breed and he has incredibly bright and attentive eyes, which stand rather proud.
I then needed to contemplate how to actually reproduce him in metal clay. I needed to make him look like a hedgehog, but without his metal quills being as dangerous as the real thing. The finished pin needed to be wearable on a garment without presenting snag hazards or sharp points. So I transferred the sketch (mirroring it of course) and used a fine engraving tool and engraved his quills into a rubber carving mat, along with some other positional details. I used this to impress a slab of metal clay, which once dried, I further engraved for fur and details and appliqued his facial features to give it some dimension. Filing the edges to an irregular shape around the quills gave rise to a safe, wearable impression of his quills. He has rather delicate legs and tiny toes, so these needed to be simplified so that they weren’t too fragile. I don’t mind telling you that I held my breath as I took him out of the kiln, hoping that once shrunk during firing, it still looked like Bruce. I also don’t mind admitting to the kiln-side happy dance I did when he peeked out of the carbon at me and I recognised that gorgeous cheeky face!
The round pin in the gallery below features various appliqued details on a plain round base, including tiny sculpted teardrop shaped wells that were filled with flame coloured UV resins for a splash of colour. The round pin and hedgehog were in Aussie Metal Clay Antarctic Moonlight and the various leaf pins are in Prometheus Sunny Bronze.