11 Aug 2012

New adventures in bronze

Apologies again for the tardiness of my blogging recently; sometimes events just run away with you despite the best intentions. Thankfully, it’s in large to being busy with orders, so I’m certainly not complaining. I still have a collection of photos from our holiday in June to post, but I haven’t even looked through them all yet – I have a lot of the Olympic torch, but they’ll need some editing as many are poor due to atrocious weather and the resulting low light levels.

Having done a considerable amount of work in copper, I don’t know why I haven’t worked in bronze – I think it perhaps looks even nicer left bare than copper does as it’s a nice rosy warm gold colour, at a fraction the price of gold and you can do things with it that you can’t with gold plated or filled.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.
Large feature bronze earwires with deep pink dyed stabilised Tiger Eye beads, wrapped on ball ended bronze headpins.

I did get a small sample some time ago to check how it melted etc., but never really had the spare funds when ordering wire to add some bronze to my basket. But as I was placing a large order for copper wire, thought I’d buy a small quantity each of a few common gauges to see how it worked.

One of my molten bud designs featuring lots of glossy molten bronze buds trapped in a double wire wrapped loop. The bronze does seem to take on a slightly pinker colour after heating than the raw wire, even though it’s been extensively pickled and tumbled.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with it – it’s harder and springier than copper and a bit tougher on the fingers to work with, but the results are worth the effort. It especially melts nicely to make ball ended headpins and the molten ‘raindrop buds’ that feature a lot in my work. It also takes some more hammering to form shapes, but that means you have a little more control over your finesse, as it’s slower to take form.

I got these gorgeous turquoise coloured translucent torpedo shaped semi precious beads with a square cross section and they look lovely with the bronze. I’m not sure what stone they are, but they look similar to some hemi-morphite that I’ve had before.

I was curious as to how it would oxidise and antique and finally got to try that with a few early samples I’d done just for that purpose. To all intents and purposes it oxidises just the same as copper – I did both copper and bronze pieces at the same time and at the point they were fully darkly oxed, they looked exactly the same.

Some turquoise magnesite beads with bronze headpins and earwires, after antiquing.

Once removing some of the darkness, the more gold colour of the bronze was evident and the antiqued appearance of finished pieces was much the same as copper, just with a slightly more yellow base colour. In fact, when they’re first polished, the bronze and the copper look very similar, but copper mellow warmer within 24 hours of the initial polish, where bronze retains its initial bright appearance for longer.

A large faceted amethyst spiral wrapped in bronze, then antiqued.

I have some antiqued gold chain and wondered how well the antiqued bronze would match with it, so put together some earrings featuring some turquoise magnesite cubes on bronze balled headpins and the antiqued gold chain. After polishing, the two metals are a slightly different tone, but this is more evident in the photographs than in the actual jewellery when viewed life-size.

I think there will be a lot more bronze in my portfolio in future, it has been fun to work with it and I have no idea why it has taken me so long to get around to it.

Other recent work:

This pair of earrings were one of those designs that emerged from a problem-solving session and one that my sub-conscious largely worked out without seemingly much conscious intervention. The solution flirted away at the corners of my mind, tantalising me with snippets of thoughts that took a while before they popped into my mind, fully formed.

I had a particular brief from a customer and it became evident that I wasn’t going to be able to do exactly what she wanted – which was something very small and fine and in copper and I didn’t think that the idea she had would be sufficiently robust, so I’d been trying to combine methods that would give rise to greater stability at the small scale required.

These earrings resulted from that thought process and were somewhat at a tangent to the initial thinking and I don’t know why I haven’t tried something like this before. The outer diameter is a smidge over 15mm (0.6″) and they’re about 3mm (1/8″) wide and once inserted in the piercing, they pretty much close around the lobe and look like a complete loop in wear. My methodology needs a little further thought as the pair I made in silver highlighted an issue that I’d simply been lucky with on the two successful copper pairs I’ve made.

The silver pair have been made for a gift, but I shall be making myself a pair too.

As is often the case, once I make a design, my mind either gets fixated on making more of the same, or lots of variants come to mind. I’m perpetually striving to find different and interesting ways to make nice beads into everyday earrings, as alternatives to straight headpins. I’ve spent quite some time in perfecting a method for combining my rosebud knots with beads and have a pile of new beads waiting to get some of this same treatment.

And finally . . .

I am often heard to curse at how my lovely, albeit tiny, garden gets ravaged by snails – my plant selection is heavily informed by what they don’t like the taste of. I have a gorgeous stripy hosta that looks like the leaves were made in lace. Only this last couple of weeks, I had to abandon a beautiful new mauve Campanula that was razed to a few tiny spiky stems in a few days. My husband came in from the garden commenting that the snails had seemingly got it and I replied that they had indeed pretty much had all the open flowers. “When did you look at it?” asks he . . . “there aren’t even any leaves left”. Looks like Campanula are off the list too!

Now normally, the snails only do their damage after dusk and when I feel brave I go out after dark, armed with a torch and re-locate a few to improve the odds for my blooms, but I went out one afternoon and there was this big bugger, brazen as you like, gorging himself right at the top of my poor bedraggled hosta.

And something pretty to calm you after that horror . . . that’s better!

2 thoughts on “New adventures in bronze

  1. Thanks Cynthia, that’s very kind of you. I went out in the garden earlier and the other two Campanellas that I had are not long for this world either. Bad snails indeed!

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