Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stubborn Enamel

Ever torch firing your enamel and it seems like it is taking for evvverrrr! Well there are a couple of reasons, but one I discovered this weekend working with some students in Charlotte. I had my first torch enameling class on Saturday and we were enameling 2" pieces. No problem, the enamel was flowing within seconds! Sunday I'm teaching another torch enameling class with 2" pieces and the enamel is taking forever to flow! What the h@#? Why such a dramatic difference? It wasn't due to the usual influences, bigger piece or not enough heat, those were constant, what could it be? What was the difference? On Saturday we used "transparent" enamel and on Sunday we used "opaque" enamel! That had to be it, so I went to my neighboring artist whom specializes on ceramic glazes etc. and asked his advise. He called an associate that used to work for the company that sold Thompsons Enamel their glass, and he said I was right on! The opaque enamel flows or fuses at a higher temperature than the transparent. The particles that make up the opaque-ness float in the glass like sand floating in the ocean while the particles that make the transparent colors dissolve or saturate in the glass like the salt in the ocean. Therefore, they fuse at different rates, this also accounts for the ability to blend transparent colors and not the opaque colors.
So long story short, if you don't have a large enough torch to get your enamels to flow, maybe by using transparent colors you may be more successful. Just sayin'

Monday, January 23, 2012

Towel Tales

I am a very fortunate woman! My husband Norm does the laundry! How did I manage this you may ask!? Reverse the male psychology of "acting dumb and making stupid mistakes!". Genius! When your relationship first starts, turn all of his underwear and socks pink a couple of times, he'll take over the laundry duty! See, I don't mind pink underwear! Well anyway, the down side to this is the nagging I get about stains on my clothes. I have a bad habit of wiping my hands on my backside in the studio. Eventually enough pickle on you shirt tails and your shirt is full of holes and stains. I have the solution now, I pin a hand towel to one of my belt loops or the front of my apron with a big antique diaper pin. When I instinctively go to my backside with my wet hands, they brush against the towel and I remember to use it instead of my shirt tails. So whom has who trained? On the Eco friendly side of this towel tail, I use far less paper towels now too!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oh Phewy!

I woke up this morning with such great expectations! I have made quite a few sketches of what I was positive would be the next years new projects, well I was greatly mistaken! Out of four that I tried to do, only one came out remotely like it was supposed to and that turned out to be pretty lame. Now don't get me wrong, they were all great in theory, they just didn't work off of paper. I have one that I've not given up on, but I've modified the original idea so much it's barely the same thing. I'll try to work on it some more tomorrow.
Today's tip comes from, "do as I say not as I do." I have been known to tell my students not to tape their pieces to their templates before using the rolling mill. There's a good reason, and I was reacquainted with that reason today when I taped my pieces to a particular spot on the template that I wanted to make sure got imprinted. I spent the next 35 minutes peeling tape off of both the sterling silver that I was texturing and the brass template. I was fortunate in the fact that it didn't adhere to the rollers of the rolling mill too. So....once again, I do not personally recommend that you tape your pieces to your texture plates or anvils for that matter, when texturing unless you enjoy picking mashed and mangled, very sticky tape off your piece when you're through texturing. If so, keep a good supply of GooGone handy. But even that didn't help me get the tape out of the deep impressions made by the texture plate. On a happy note, the texture came out very deep and exactly where I wanted it. This is the project that turned out ok. It makes a pair of earrings that is inexpensive, easy and looks great, but would not be a very good class, it's really done much too quickly for a class. This will have to be a magazine submission. Very simple and low tech.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Brass patina

As we all know, liver of sulfur does not do too much for brass. There are a few other ways to get that antiqued look to brass that liver of sulfur gives copper and silver. If you want to purchase a commercial product I would suggest Silver Black, apply it to your brass with a Q-tip and you have a great looking patina. If you don't want to purchase yet another chemical, use Apple Vinegar! Yep, the stuff from the grocery store! It's cheap and very effective. All you have to do is fume your brass in a container with the vinegar. Don't submerge your piece, just seal it in the same container. One student of mine came up with a great way of doing this. She purchased a plastic pencil box, the kind with a lid that is about an inch above the rim of the base. I've found these at the dollar tree. You pour your apple vinegar in the bottom portion of the pencil box and then stretch a section of panty hose leg over it. Place your brass to be patinated on the "panty hose hammock" and close the lid. The shape of the pencil box allows for space between the vinegar, panty hose/brass and the top of the lid. Your brass piece never touches the liquid, but it gets the full effect of the fumes. Now here is the one major draw back with this process, the longer you leave it the darker the patina. It's not instantaneous like silver black. Letting your piece fume over night gives you the best results. Give it a go and let me know how it works for you. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I've discovered two handy tools in our studio. They are not new, but I've never used them in the way that I am using them now.
The first is quite simple and I need to knock myself in the forehead like the old v8 commercials for not thinking of it sooner, duh! Okay, here it is, drum roll, 2" masking tape! Yep, you heard me, 2" masking tape. Just cover your piece of metal with the wide masking tape, draw the design you need to saw out on it and saw away!!! It doesn't move while your sawing but is easy to remove when you're through. I use a pencil, so it doesn't smear and I can erase, love it!
The second is this little 3" grinder that Norm got for me at, you guessed it Harbor Freight. It is a small bench top grinder with an attached flex shaft. On the left hand wheel there is a semi soft "fiber" wheel. I am now using this instead of my sanding sponges to take the sharp edged off of my metal! It's amazing, just run the edges on it and Presto they are rounded, no more sharp edges! And so fast!! Humongous bonus, it is under $30.00! This is my most favorite tool of 2012! Okay, it's my first most favorite tool of 2012, I'm sure there will be many more to come, at least I hope so! Happy New Year!