9 Dec 2009

Design or serendipitous accidents?

Or . . . “today I haz mostly been working with copper”

Just depending on the combination of what needs to be done, available materials, customer commissions etc., my work tends to go in phases. Some weeks I’m perpetually soldering silver, melting blobs or wrapping loops. Other weeks, as this last one, my work has been fairly exclusively as metalsmithing copper.

An intermediate, pre-oxidising, stage of
some twisted rope necklaces I’m working on.
Please click on the photos to see a larger, sharper version.

I do love all sorts of different types of work – and I suppose that the very variety of what I end up making keeps me perpetually interested. Sometimes the therapeutic rhythm of joining rings for some of the loose chainmaille designs I do is just what is needed, other times I love to shape and form raw metal – I just love expending the energy and getting dirty hands. On another day, I love to lose myself in the still and clean work of some fine wire wrapping.

I like to make all my own raw components, that way
I get just what I want, in terms of workmanship and design.

And some days, like today, nothing hits the spot better than getting thoroughly dirty by shaping metal, hammering, soldering, pickling and oxidising – I find myself totally lost in the work and oblivious to the passage time and outside world.

I’ve tried keeping clean as I work and it’s just not possible. You need the fine control and touch that no tool can do better than your bare fingers – you need to feel the metal, you need to become intimate with every twist, turn and edge and you consequently end up thoroughly grubby. But nothing cleans dirty fingers quite as effectively as some nice soft moist fresh bread. It’s a tad alarming to get to the end of your cheese and tomato butty and realise that your hands are now thoroughly clean and moisturised.

These soldered copper rings are destined to become a bracelet,
inter-spaced with round buttons of spider web jasper.

A friend recently brought my attention to a design award that she thought might be of interest. Which whilst it was very flattering to come to mind when thinking about design, I never really think of my work as ‘designed’. It isn’t really, it largely just happens.

I perpetually have a head full of ideas waiting to take form – shapes and techniques vying for my attention – and as I work on one thing, it then sets off a whole new tangent of ideas – I always have far more ideas than I have time to work on – and every day as I learn and stretch myself, the world of possibility opens even wider. I’ve already scribbled several ideas down over breakfast this morning.

The twisted hammered ring in this pendant arose from a different idea
entirely and the curiosity to see if it would solder successfully. Which it did.

The finished and antiqued pendant, hung on belcher chain.

I often start off with an idea and then the metal takes me somewhere entirely different. Some designs end up exactly as I drew them – but more often they just don’t. The best pieces are often a serendipitous accident – sometimes an idea just doesn’t work how you’d envisioned it – either the metal doesn’t behave how you expect, it doesn’t look as nice as you’d hoped, or the proportions are wrong for what you had in mind, so it becomes something different. Sometimes that result itself opens up a whole new area of possibilities.

Twisted copper earrings that started out as a different idea entirely.

The earrings and pendant shown nearby are one such serendipitous result. I was twisting wire for some rope necklaces, as shown at the top, and in an attempt to get a twist as thick as I could, I tried twisting two strands of a heavier gauge – which wasn’t going to be suitable for the rope I wanted to make, but hammering it flat to open the twist right out gave an entirely different result than the idea I started with. My next version will combine silver and copper together and I have another sketch to work featuring twisted copper with silver nuggets. So watch this space . . .

The earrings in their raw polished copper form,
they’ve since been antiqued to match the pendant, see below.