Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Electroforming on Copper

Here are some more experiments.  These are done on reject clay pieces just to see how the process works and how to control it.

For some reason the edges of the copper turned up on this one.  Not sure why.  I don't like the back at all. 





I like to do post earrings so attaching the wire that the object hangs from was a challenge but I finally figured it out. 

All of the copper coatings above are very thin and flat.  Next I'm going to put some of them back in the solution and leave them there much longer.  Also, I'm going to experiment with liver of sulfur and some patinas.  I've never used them before so this should be interesting.  I kind of like the shiny copper color and would coat the copper with a sealant if I wanted to preserve it that way.

I think the reason most electroforming you see on glass beads and vessels is very rough or irregular - that corroded look I mentioned in the last post- is that it is very difficult to get the paint perfectly even and smooth, at least using a brush.  I just wanted to try it and see what I could get.  I did learn that I need to round edges and use slightly thicker paint.  Also, the wire that must touch the paint becomes embedded and when you remove it, it leaves a mark.  Moving the wire a couple of times during the process can help with that, but it's a nuisance.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Electroforming Copper Experiments

The electroforming process in the most simple terms is this:  you paint an object with a special conductive paint, suspend it in a solution with some copper pieces ("anodes") and then run a small amount of electricity through everything.  Copper is removed from the anodes and deposited on the conductive paint on your object, the "cathode".

To experiment with the technical aspects of electroforming, I dug a few pieces of baked clay from my reject box and got to work.   On my first attempt at electroforming, I had the amps turned up way too high and got a very grainy, brittle, and breakable result, so this time I turned it very low.  Most of the gorgeous lampwork items I've seen have a fairly heavy coating of almost corroded-looking copper -  lumps and bumps - which I love, but I wanted to see if it was possible to get a thin, flat, and even coat.  The conductive paint can be thinned for spraying, so I thinned it somewhat and applied it to this earring.  I think I thinned it too much, and apparently the paint doesn't like going around sharp corners because I failed to get copper deposits all the way around.  As I mentioned, this was a reject piece and I had not sanded off the sharp cut edge.  I rinsed the piece in distilled water, dried it and reapplied some thicker paint making sure it was thick where it goes around the edges.  I definitely think rounded edges would be a good idea.  I also wanted to see how detailed the design could be using thin lines so I kind of scribbled a bit. 



The electroforming process imposes some design limitations.  You can't do polka dots, for example.  All areas of paint must be connected so that a continuous circuit is formed.  Also, the copper does not stick to the object it is on.  You can't just paint on a bead cap because it would fall off.  The object must be "caged" in some fashion.  I think of it sort of like wire wrapping - you have to have enough copper around the object such that it can't "fall out".  Also, since the copper has to go on the back as well as the front to keep from falling off, you have to think about designing the back.  You should, but I didn't.  I was in a hurry to try this process so in these examples, I just started painting without a plan.

Hollow lentil bead painted with conductive paint.
My funniest experience was with an old hollow lentil bead I had laying around.  I thinned the paint enough so that it would run, let it run down the front of the bead and then connected it in back.  I thought it looked kind of cool.  After it dried, I tried to electroform it but the darned thing wouldn't sink even after I held it down in the solution to let it fill up.  I even took a hypodermic needle and injected it with solution!  Finally I hung a weight on the bottom.  That kept it down in the solution but with all the manipulating I scratched off the paint in enough places that nothing was deposited.

More later.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Electroforming Copper on Polymer Clay

A couple of months ago I visited my sister in Pennsylvania and told her that I, like almost everyone in the jewelry world, was thinking of incorporating copper into my work. She said, "Well, if you are going to do copper, you should try electroforming." She is a fabulous lampwork artist and has made many electroformed glass beads, so we did a quick test to see if it would work with polymer clay. It did, so I started accumulating the items necessary to do it myself. Finally everything came together this week. This picture will show you why I felt like a mad scientist as I put the rig together.

I have an idea for some pendants using image transfers and some copper accents, but I was worried that the copper solution might harm the transfers or stain the light-colored clay. As a quick test, I took a piece of pearl clay with an image transfer, put a little of the electroconductive paint on it, then electroformed it for about 4 hours. The image transfer and clay seem to be fine, although I want to do another test, but I must not have had the paint thick enough because only parts of it received any deposits of copper. Clearly this technique will take some practice, so stay tuned.

You can check out my sister's beads at her Laurel Mountain Glass Artfire shop  or in her Ebay store.  She doesn't have any electroformed work for sale at the moment, but you can see some other artist's work here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Workshop with Dan Cormier

This weekend the Southern Ontario Polymer Clay Guild hosted Dan Cormier teaching his Relief Beyond Belief workshop.  Die forming is a technique Dan adapted from metal work and he says "It's the easiest and most addictive system I know to make contoured and voluminous forms from flat sheets of polymer clay, and it remains my favourite way to create beads, buttons, brooches, and other three-dimensional objects in a range of shapes and sizes."

As part of the workshop, we received a special collection of dies to use in class and to take home for future projects.  Dan has a number of different die sets available with each one featuring a particular shape in nine graduated sizes.  The die sets don't seem to be on his website yet, but I imagine they will be soon.

This was a "process" class so we focused on techniques rather than creating a finished project.   You'll have to stay tuned to see what I make using die forming.  In the meantime, you can go to Dan's site to see his extraordinary work using this process.

Some examples from Dan's website:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Now I have two blogs.

Today I split my old blog into two parts.  All the posts about wearable art, jewelry and polymer clay are here and my posts about travel, photography and personal subjects are in my original blog: Cynthia Blanton's Blog.

I hope you will subscribe to one or both.

I'm back!

(Note: this message was originally posted on April 21, 2010.  The date got changed when I moved it over to this blog.)

Sing my song below to Gene Autry's tune........

I'm back in the workshop again
Back where my clay is my friend
Where I make a swirly bead
And the time goes fast indeed
Back in the workshop again

Crankin' the Atlas once more
Couple of bead holes to bore
Where I stay up late at night
Under the old Ott light
Back in the workshop again.

Kato's firm you know.
Back in the workshop again.
Premo's soft today
Back in the workshop again.

Yep, after being away for most of the last four months, I'm finally home for awhile. My latest absence was because my dad's wife died. She was a lovely lady and I will miss her. Because of her Alzheimer's, they had been in a locked floor of an assisted living facility, and my dad was desperate to get out of there. I flew to Arizona, packed up all his stuff in a truck and then drove us 2200 miles to Florida where my brother lives. He's set up in my brother's house, so assuming they get along, things should be OK for awhile.

Today, I actually spent time in my studio making some custom clay cutters. I'm thinking seriously about trying to make a business of this clay stuff, and being an MBA, I think about production costs. I want to be able to churn out some moderately priced earrings and pins, and cutters will help me do that in an efficient manner. They aren't too hard to make. I bought a Cookie Cutter Crafting Kit which contains some light-weight aluminum strips, adhesive tape, and a tools for bending the metal. (Polymer Clay Express carries another kit which I haven't seen) The smaller shapes are harder to get right, but I got a little better with each one. And the nice thing about these is there is no "top". You can cut with either side so you can make mirror-image pieces like the red ones below.