5 Feb 2011

Cufflinks born on a woodland path

I end up particularly fond of some of the pieces that I make that have more of a story behind them – some feature that makes a piece unique to me – either the way it evolved, the materials used or the thought process that inspired it. Some pieces just end up more personal than others.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

I saw a TV program many years ago where a sculptor was making big metal structures in a barn attached to his home – one of his comments really struck a cord with me and I think of it very often.

He said that the work he did reflected his daily life and he didn’t worry too much about always trying to make it perfect. If he woke in a bad mood and his tool marks went a little deeper that day, then his mood was embodied in the work. If his cat came along and rubbed his head against his arm as he was working and the nudge caused his tool to make an additional mark, then that mark was a permanent declaration of his cats love for him. His life was an important character in the development of the art.

I really like the idea that a piece of work reflects our lives in this way – they become personal and organic and much, much nicer than something impersonal churned out in the thousands from a machine.

I have always been fascinated by fir cones. I simply cannot resist picking them up and putting them in my pocket when I walk – they’re perfect little natural sculptures – I love the regular geometry of their appearance and the spiral patterns of the open scales. I have a house full of cones picked up on walks, little tiny wee ones still on their branches and even one mahoosive one (well over a foot long) that I saw drop from a specimen tree in a stately home garden. I figured that as it nearly brained me, it was fair game to keep it.

I have favourite trees that I know drop particularly pretty cones and even though I have more than enough cones to decorate my home, I still can’t resist picking a few up when I pass by. They even get to play a part in presenting my jewellery.

So it was a natural progression to me to encapsulate the abstract of them into an etched design. I have spent some time since I started making jewellery, trying to figure out how to bring my love of cones together with a jewellery project. I had the idea that using the regular geometric shapes of a cone I could make an abstract pattern for a texture to etch. Not necessarily obvious as a fir cone image, but a unique texture inspired by one.

I picked up a long cone from the path as we walked through Beacon fell in Lancashire, a place I’ve mentioned several times in my blogs – they had been doing a lot of tidying of trees and there were a lot of cones and trimmings on the path edges. I also took some nice needle-clad branches for the same purpose. Once home, I took an assortment of photographs to use as my reference and settled on one particular cone photograph that I thought would lend itself well to making a texture and set about digitally manipulating it into a two tone image that would be suitable to etch from.

For etching, the image needs to be just black and white – not a black and white photograph, but the image must only have black and whites – white is the area to be etched and black protects the copper surface and prevents it being etched. If the image is recognisable, like a photograph, the image needs to be both mirrored and made into a negative, as the white areas within the image will be removed from the copper surface and once oxidised black, will be the darker areas that form the image.

So I worked several versions of the photograph, until one looked like it would work as I hoped, which I then mirrored and made a negative of it, ready to apply to the copper sheet for etching. Whilst it is now very much an abstract from the original photograph, I hope you can still recognise some of the structure of the pine cone bracts.

I wanted to make this design into a pair of cufflinks for a gift, but was working on them far too close to Christmas to have time to get suitable fittings in a copper finish (appalling winter weather had seriously impacted on postal deliveries) – so I had to design and make my own. So I settled on a short chain and toggle bar for fitting them in wear. I attached a small D loop to the back of the etching and a couple of links of chain, to a two part toggle bar, much as I make for my toggle bracelet clasps.

2 thoughts on “Cufflinks born on a woodland path

  1. Yes, I print the design (negative and mirrored) on paper, iron it very carefully and thoroughly onto the prepared sheet metal and then cover every remaining surface of the metal, as it etches all the metal that’s exposed.

    The blue circuit board paper is what’s usually recommended as a resist, but I found a model makers forum where a chap said he had great success laser printing onto glossy inkjet photo paper as the waxy gloss coating adheres to the toner and sticks to the metal with it when you iron it on, giving rise to a thicker resist layer with nice sharp edges – I found this to work really well for me. You can see some photos of the resist on the metal before I sealed the edges in this earlier blog: http://boojewels.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-adventures-in-etching.html

  2. Hope you dont mind me asking you a question, see when you do the etching, do you iron the paper onto the copper, then put it into the soultion? i have done this on sterling silver but i ironed the image onto the metal using this blue paper that they use when making fuse boards, then cold etched it for 3 days, i also used stop of varnish so it would not etch the ends of the metal.

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