Thursday, March 6, 2014

For the Record of Birth.

The Concept.

I make a wall hanging that is a three dimensional fantasy picture.

The sculpture must be interactive in as much that there has to be a function to it.

The function is defined to be wearable modern jewellery that has to be part of the sculpture and also be able to stand on it's own without the actual sculpture.

I see this sculpture in someone's living room.

He likes the sculpture and she wears the jewellery.

I like the idea that there is something extra and precious and kind of hidden in the sculpture.


I start.

I had already made the two little grubs for the Palindrone Cannon, but I discarded them and kept them in mind for a project like this.

Originally, my idea was to make a wall sculpture with a large dead insect and three grub type insect eating the dead one.

A road kill, if you like.

Seriously yucky, and I didn’t think it would appeal to many people.

Then it changed to a large grub giving birth to many smaller grubs. Still too yucky.

And eventually it changed to a large grub with art jewellery in it .

I drew out the basic shape for size and made the main body out of repouséd copper.


Here I have finished the basic body and the first version of the head.

With work like this the path to completion is always littered with rejected attempts, as the small grubs attest to.

I absolutely love the contrast of copper and the gold colour of brass.

All of my work, whether jewellery or sculptures play on the inherent three colours of metals, Gold, red for copper and gray ( silver) for all the other metals in the world.

And the colours of titanium.

And some purple gold in jewellery pieces.


I first carve the legs out of purple carving wax and then sand cast them.

Then I solder the components together.

Sand carving is quick, compared to spin casting, and gives a slightly ' medieval' look which I really enjoy.

Here I am positioning the legs with press stick.

They will be joined to the body with screws later.

Most of my sculptures are made of components that can be removed at will.

I have to, because with projects of this complexity, permanent affixing by soldering is not an option.


A central box with a hinge is made.

It is actually all made out of brass, the red look is just the galvanic plating that occurs when brass is hot quenched into Sodium bi-sulphate to pickle it.

These were then the most soldered parts of the piece.

The lid would have a window of 2mm glass fitted.


This is the 'power' of Delft Clay ( sand casting).

Here I am carving the purple wax in situ.


Here the frame is cast and finished off.

I use all the off cuts of my brass work as raw material for casting.

So much so that I waste almost none of the brass sheeting that I buy.


I made the basics of a new head shape.

I didn't like the copper one.

Here I have carved the wax that I carved for the head, but it turned out to be a dismal failure.

One of the things to move a project along is to develop an ability to discard work with out hesitation.

There is no point pursuing an avenue that has the possibility of leading to a dead end.

That wastes time.


So I made a new head shape—the third time .

More to my liking.

I used titanium that was blued with heat.


Here the silver 'box ' for the pendant is being fitted into the body.

I made this pendant box three times before I was happy.

This one in the photograph was discarded.


Version three.

In the background is the dragonfly being pierced out of a flat sheet of gold.

I print out the dragonfly picture, then I glue it onto a plate of whatever metal I want to pierce, and then I spray a layer clear lacquer on the paper when the glue is dry.

The lacquer stops the paper from fuzzing up the line.


The dragonfly is designed to be detachable.

It is made of three layers, the first is the basic shape, the second layer is the same shape but with the cloisonné enamel cells pierced out.

The third layer is a piece of carved white gold that will be set with the diamonds.

The only solder I used was on the tail end and the wing tips.

The rest is riveted together.

The reason is that this ensures there is no interference in the enamel colour with the zinc that is found in solder. The zinc sometimes makes a dark border in the fired enamel and that would ruin the overall look of the dragonfly.

Initially, I wanted to have the dragonfly as a brooch and pendant.

But I decided to make it a pendant only, because the brooch catch would have been to weak.


I then made a titanium background which I heat coloured.

Then I pierced out some titanium trees and fiddled with a very clumsy 'tail cap'

Beyond awful, both the trees and the cap.

I can still amaze myself how long I can bumble along knowing I am on the incorrect track.


So I made a new set of trees, this time piercing it out of one piece of 2 mm titanium sheet and then carving them into a gnarled old tree trunk look.

I tapped two 1.5 mm threads in the bottom of the titanium trees and in the picture they are held in place by temporary silver screws.



Here is the dragonfly just after being torch fired.

The strip of stainless steel foil is there to protect the bail and tail from accidental melting.

I could have fired another layer of enamel so as to make all the cells flush, but I like the indentation one layer gives.

Sort of like a liquid effect.


Then I carved the white gold of the head and set some diamonds and emeralds in it.


I made a titanium slip catch behind the tree.

To remove the dragonfly all that has to be done is to press down on the thorax and then slide the pendant off.

It works very well.


I added a tube and I was going to set a colour change cubic zirconia that I had cut before into the pendant.

It is a really vibrant stone and under incandescent light it changes to a red colour.

But eventually I set a very high quality Bolivian Amethyst instead.

The reason was that a piece of jewellery of this quality need a natural stone.

Unfortunately cubic zirconia lowers the tone of the neighborhood, as it were.

I also re coloured the background titanium to a un-graduated blue.

The first background I felt was too busy.


The pendant components.

I made a removable plate that can be engraved separately.

I also set 27 Emeralds into the edge of the pendant.

The emeralds are from Sandawana and are a really nice colour for such small 1.2mm stones.


The back of the main pendant.

One of the big problems in working with silver is that it tarnishes.

And when multi-metal pendants like this have to be cleaned, there is a big chance of the titanium blue being damaged.

To prevent this, this pendant was first plated with palladium and then rhodium.

I am not overly happy with the rhodium colour, but I like it more than a tarnished pendant.


After I had carved and sand cast all the various bits and pieces that hold the frame in place it was time for the background.

The black background at this stage is just cardboard.


I made several versions of the 'kelp' looking brass strips before I settled onto this design.

The two copper circles are screw plugs that close the holes for mounting bolts.

In another life I was a rigger, installing large neon signs on the side of buildings.

That taught me to make the installation of anything hanging simple---very simple.

Just two holes and key hole slots on the back and the sculpture can be installed.


Then I affixed the kelp pieces onto a piece of 1.5 mm flat steel sheet.

At first I was going to rivet them on with copper rivets, but that did not look neat enough.

So then I made 1.5 mm silver screws and tapped a thread into the steel background sheet.

This allowed me to remove each one individually, should they be scratched during further work.

Much more effort, but quicker in the end.


I also made a holder for the two chains that the two pendants will need.

There will be a thick chain for the big pendant and a thinner one for the dragonfly.

First a brass sheet cut out and then the top and bottom ribs are soldered on

Then I shaped some copper sheet on repoussé wax.


Here it is fitted on the background .

I used a 2mm silver screw in the bottom.


It is fitted with a little lid that has a 2mm glass window in it.

I put in a silver chain for the photograph.


Finishing off and applying the sealer is always a lot of work.

It always take longer than anticipated.

This wall sculpture is made out of about 240 hand made separate pieces.

I exclude any store bought screws and bolts in the count.


Close up of the finished pendant.


It of course can be worn without the dragonfly pendant.


I set an emerald in the top head spike and a diamond in the forward facing one.


I experimented with LED lighting.

This is just a cheap strip I bought at the local electrical shop.

There are far better colours available.

My original ides was to make up an electronic circuit that would have photo voltaic cells designed in the front of the frame.

These would, during waking hours, charge a large capacitor that is fitted inside the frame tubing and then when the daylight fades, strategically placed led's pertinent to the sculpture would light up.

With my next sculpture, called “Nest” I will do more research on the how to aspect.

I'm betting it's do-able.


The somewhat scratched back awaiting it's last coat of paint.

All the little dots are screws.


The Dragonfly pendant.


I installed it onto a wall in my shop.

Dramatic it is.


I have always liked the idea of multi purpose jewellery.

Most of my pendants are reversible.

I like the idea of a picture wall sculpture that has delicate jewellery in it.

The sculpture measures about 600 mm x 550 mm .

There are 39 gemstones set in the piece.

A video of the pendant can be seen at:


Jane Walker said...

As always - delicious and delightful. I have always adored dragonflies ... and, whether on purpose or inadvertently, your sculpture and the big grub refer very closely to the dragonfly lifecycle!

Kim Sannes said...

I am just trying to comprehend how many different skill sets were required for this particular project. Amazing!

Sandra Graves / Isis Rising said...

It turned out so amazing. I loved watching this one come together.

- Sandra