New Directions in Design

Since finishing my introductory jewellery course last week I have found new inspiration for a whole lot of different techniques and styles. In particular, I can now make my own soldered elements such as sterling rings, hoops, loops, bangles and so forth. I have also moved into etching and I am using a method that allows me to transfer my own proprietary designs onto the metal. This is a HUGE leap forward in my design process, as it opens up a raft of unique and exclusive designs and patterns that I can apply to metal and use to make all manner of adornments from. I didn’t learn the etching at school – I did a lot of online research and scouted around town for the materials and chemicals.

I have however put together a basic jeweller’s tool kit, complete with tumbler, pickle pot, various saws, files, dapping block, punches and so forth. They all live in this huge wheelie tool box. A new world of working has opened up now that I know how to use these tools. I am inspired to enroll into the intermediate jewellery course, which starts in February, however I am not sure if this will work out because I start my part time studies next year (two nights a week) and will also be looking for a new job. I don’t want to overload myself but at the same time, I really want to expand on the techniques I have already learned. I want to learn lost wax casting and proper ring construction. I can do basic circular rings, or rings with little bezels soldered on…but I want to do more.

Here are some examples of the etching I did. Both of these are done with commercially-available rubber stamps.

First ever etchings

I then cut out some discs from the lace etching (left) and domed them to make earrings…

Copper Lace Earrings Copper Pod Earrings

I’m quite pleased with my first attempt. I plan to work a bit more with copper before I start with sterling. Copper is such a lovely metal anyway, and it is great fun using components I would not normally use in my designs.

I’ve also been doing quite a lot of work with resin. Since my designs are characterised by bringing elements of the past into the present, the ability to preserve precious old documents and paper into adornments is something I love doing. I’m always collecting old papers, booklets and prints from France, and I have used some of them in these recent resin designs. The papers mostly date to the late 18th century or early 19th century.

When working with paper in resin many people will tell you that you have to seal your papers before putting them into the resin, otherwise the resin will soak the paper and discolour it. Well, I love the discolouration and I do not seal my papers The result is something quite ethereal and otherworldly. The luminosity of the metal shows through, giving these humble little documents a whole new identity, almost like they are backlit.

Resin necklace selection

Above are some of the necklaces I made with my unique resin pendants, each of which is a one-of-a-kind design using original and genuine antique papers.

24 Juillet 1814

The necklace above – a big, bold design – uses an illustratiton from the 18th century with text from 1814. I love how the text on the back of the paper shows through in reverse…reminds me of a magic spell.

1764-Marie's Sisters

The round pendant above uses a 19th century illustration which portrays the sisters of Marie Antoinette. The whole picture, of which this is a snippet, had the whole family dancing in their palace in Austria in the year 1764 – before Marie went to France.

1939 Wallpaper

I really love how the above pendant came out. The paper I used for this one is taken from a wallpaper sample book which dates to 1939. The section of paper is ridged, and has this very detailed and colourful pattern of dots painted onto it. There is also gold and peach. Very retro and Deco. I’ll be getting into that wallpaper book again very soon – it is a huge book, with many thousands of pendant’s worth of paper inside.

One thing I was very excited to work on was to transform a selection of early 19th century French illustrations onto metal. I have been collecting these beautiful illustrations for a few months now and as soon as I see them for sale, I grab whatever I can get. The illustrations could best be described as a decorating catalogue from the year 1810. The pages have  hundreds of beautiful black and white drawings of home decor elements, such as rosettes for ceiling roses, huge illustrations for painting onto walls, wallpaper sketches, whole room layouts and Roman-style columns for entrances. The style is typical from the era – very much Neo-Classical. This was the time of Napoleon I and if you have seen the style of his time you will know what I mean.

My challenge was to work out a way to get these illustrations onto the metal, so I could etch the designs permanently into brass, copper and silver. I did a lot of research and found that a transparency film process was the best bet. And it was! Once set up, I can simply print the illustrations, adjusted to any size I want, onto the transparency (overhead projector) film and transfer them onto the metal. Once permanently onto the metal (by way of the toner ink print) they act as a resist to the etching solution. Rather than explain any further this complicated and somewhat technical process, I will show you a before and after.

First….the illustration:


And once it has been digitally tidied up, transferred to a pdf, printed onto transparency film and then transferred onto the metal and etched, we have this…

Florearium necklace

This pendant is quite large (5cm) and I will make them smaller once I go into more serious production, but I am happy with the result. I did find it difficult to oxidize the brass to bring out the detail, so I rubbed it with some Gilder’s Paste. In future I will use copper or sterling for these pendants.

I think a whole lifetime would not be long enough to use all of the illustrations I have, but I will bring out some more in the coming weeks. All of this does not mean I am moving away from Antique Assemblage. This will always be my first love and core design focus, but I love to experiment and make pieces that my markets customers can buy for everyday wear or gift giving. I am a bit low on assemblage pieces, but I have loads of treasures waiting for transformation, along with heaps of stunning new gemstones on their way to me as I write.

I’ve been making up a whole batch of earrings for my January markets. I adore Czech glass beads, as they come in all shapes and sizes and there is a great range of aged, grungy and old looking beads on the market these days. I am now able to combine my basic silver smithed elements such as hammered rings and earwires with these beads and even some resin pieces. I’m happy with the results and my market customers love them.

Earrings Earrings

Last but not least, I will show you a special necklace I made for myself for Christmas. It’s a luxurious combination of white topaz, saltwater pearls, lavender opal, white sapphire, andalusite and pave diamonds. I sketched this design out many months ago and have had the components sitting on my workbench for ages. Finally, last week, I was able to devote 3-4 hours to making it. I love the subtle colours and feminine styling.

Present for me!

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