Friday, November 29, 2013

Australian Moons Bracelet Fabrication Part 1

I love my Five Moons Bracelet design, but I wouldn't ever want to reproduce it exactly. When I received a request to make a custom version, I thought it was a perfect idea. All the quirks of construction are already worked out, and the fun part of designing the one-of-a-kind vignettes on each panel are the excitement.

After working on the birds in fine silver clay, and amassing a pile of tiny leaves for the branches, I started to work on the panels themselves. This time I used a ball peen hammer to texture the sheet for the moons, meditative work that needs to be undertaken with proper attention to prevent damage to the body from repetitively raising and dropping (not actively striking) a hammer thousands of times.  I also formed the wire rims for moons and textured those with a fine linear hammer. Prep work like this takes longer than you think.

Then the fun began, as I bent tiny bits of wire to form branches, carefully dipping those and the silver leaves into flux (not too much, not too little), before placing them into position. Each bird is different, because I want each panel to have its own character. Some branches start from the top and others from the bottom. Some have the bird facing up and others down. Flowers and tiny berries appear amongst the leaves. The client requested some gold and to incorporate diamonds, so I added 18k yellow gold tube bezels strategically, one per panel.

After I was pleased with vignettes (I let them sit overnight and check the next morning to see if anything looks out of place), I formed a pile of tiny jump rings from wire to add the connectors on either side of each panel. These are carefully glued into place with more flux and tiny granules which add a decorative touch, but also reinforce the connections which do all the work. I also got carried away with tweaking things that bugged me, such as the owl, which was split to allow the branch to appear in front. Because the owl was thicker than the branch, it just looked wrong, so I had to remove some thickness from the pieces. Slightly burned fingers from holding the two bits against a belt sander did the trick. And then I couldn't resist adding bigger eyes for the owl and extra tiny claws to a couple of the birds as well. This is the part I love about the work - elevating the details to the next level.

Once the flux is dry, off to the torch goes each panel. This is the most nerve wracking part for me, as the flux expands as it heats up, often pushing these tiny bits out of position. So I sit with a torch in one hand and a pick in the other to carefully reposition everything that might have moved (and the flux only allows movement when it is hot). Then I take the temperature on up to the fusing point and carefully rotate the piece to check that every last free part actually attaches firmly together. Heat control is critical. Too little and something may pop off later. Too much and melting can cause me to remake the entire piece.

Whew! What a sense of relief when these are all fused! Now comes the required, but less fun, more tedious part of finishing the bracelet with connections and clasp.