Friday, September 05, 2008

Silver Bird Pod

I've been going through lots of back magazines, cutting out articles and photos to save. The photos I use to make my Book of Attractions. I love being able to analyze the similarities in what interests me. And it's so much easier to find inspiration when the photos themselves are arranged in a nice manner. All those shelves of magazines SEEM like a good idea, but I rarely go back unless I'm searching for something in particular. Then I can't find in in the reams of paper.

I've also been cutting out artist profiles for a binder. I just slip them into protective sleeves, one article per sleeve. I do the same thing for projects that interest me.

In Art Jewelry, I found a step-by-step tutorial for a metal clay pendant that I've always loved. Celie Fago is perhaps my favorite metal clay artist and I've followed her work for years now. Funny, I never noticed before that she calls these pods. Oh, now I know why I like it. I thought it was just because that shield shape shows up in my Book of Attractions more than any other.

Well, it seemed like the perfect project after the experiments with making a small box in bronze clay. So I set to work. I used the photopolymer plate with the branch and bird, like on the bronze lentil. Then I decided the shield shape was too big for just that. So I made another PPP with a nest on a branch.

So both the front and back have the bird and nest: nest on top on one side, nest on bottom on the other. Then I made the sides and pulled out the teeny, tiny 1/16" letter stamps I bought in Purdue. After a bit of search on the web, I found a bird quotation to wrap around the sides of the structure:

"No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings." -- William Blake

Perfect! I assembled and fired in a borrowed kiln. I decided to try out keum boo at home on my scientific hot plate, and it went perfectly. Gold birds and eggs on both front and back. Then the trouble began.

I tried and tried to do beaded silver wires like the gold ones in the tutorial pod, but my micro-butane torch just couldn't handle the wire when it had the heat sink of the pod right next to it. I even got bold and hit it with my glass torch, but that just doesn't have a fine enough flame. So I gave up and just finished the back of the bail connection like a rivet. It's probably not strong enough, but it's going to do for this iteration.

Oh, did I mention that I worked out of order? Silly me, I patinated the box to the most beautiful blue you've ever seen -- night sky at the nest? -- and THEN I torched the thing and ruined it. Oh, well. Lesson learned. I'll get to live with plain dark black sky.

Finally, I used an image of two barn swallows -- one on a branch and one flying -- with the word soar to fill the pod. I got to use the new ICE resin which I purchased from Susan Lenart Kazmer at Bead & Button. I had trouble with the resin, too. It's hard to measure accurately because the hardener is much less viscous than the resin. The blue paint I added didn't mix in very well. But worst was that it didn't level -- it wicked up and over the edge and went places I didn't want it to go.

So, I have a long list of things I don't like about this one that I'm going to try to fix in a second version: patina, texture on the sides competing with text, the bail, resin overflow, color of the resin.

It's good to earn respect for the artist's who write these tutorials and teach classes. When everything goes flawlessly, it seems so easy! When trouble strikes and restrikes, it takes real perseverance to get it perfect.


  1. Love the pod!! I read your post on the bronze. Celie has been lowering the firing temps to try to get rid of the pitting that occurs because of the carbon. She fires at 1516...and so do I now. I haven't had a problem with pitting and the texture seems better

  2. I wasn't even going to respond to the metalclay critique, because I didn't think there was anything to critique! I looks wonderful. Great pictures. And now that you've shared your struggle here - never tell anyone again how much trouble you had with it. They'll never know.

    Things happen when working with metal clay and you have to learn to roll with the punches and make them work for you. Which you did beautifully with this piece.

    And I share your frustration with drawing balls on either end of a wire such as this. The only torch that will work is a Smith Little Torch. Butane isn't hot enough, Propane/atmosphere won't work, most torches used for jewelry are hot enough but have tips which produce a flame that is too large. You need a very hot, very small flame.

    I'm really impressed with your self taught efforts though. You do great work.

  3. Thanks for the info, Gail and Lora!

    I was going to try the next load of bronze at 1525; now, I'll drop it even more.

    I've been debating the Little Torch for more than a year. I ordered one yesterday. I will put quick connects on it and just pop it into my propane/oxygen lines in place of my glass torch.

    I'm really loving the metal. Now I need to work on combining the metal and glass. I've been searching for info on riveting glass into place. That seems to be tough.

  4. Hmmm,.. Riveting glass should be the same process as riveting metal, just way more care taken in the doing. I just proposes a riveting class at San Gabriel Bead Company in Arcadia for Winter. January 31st I think. But I'm sure you can also find a great metals program near you that would include riveting.

    I've never seen riveted glass. If you have some links to images I'd love to see them.

  5. I took a great semester long class with Claire Holliday on metalwork. Ritveting was one of the first things we learned. Riveting glass is different though, because it's so easy to break the glass.

    The easy solution is to do tube rivets. That I know I can do. I own a special tool made by Jim Moore for just that -- a half ton press with special fittings to flare and tighten the tube all at once.

    I'll let you know how it goes.