I played with copper today! Created a fun new hair fork and some antiqued hammered circlets which I’ll use soon as frames for steampunk pieces!
A fun little gallery of the antiquing process below.
A friend took a trip into Artisans in the Attic this week and she pleasantly took some pics for me, which showed me that my clay pendants were getting low. Which means it’s time to make some more. She mentioned she’d like to see more colourful ones so I obliged! Normally I am random with the colours but this time I worked more systematically AND took note of my colour combinations so I’d have recipes for the next time. And then I realized that you probably haven’t seen how this works! Lots of people don’t realize that I colour my polymer clay with mica-based powders.
First, here is the raw clay. I condition the clay, roll it out, cut it with shape cutters, then texture each piece by hand using various texture tools I’ve collected and made.
Using the world’s tiniest brush, I start adding miniscule amounts of colour to the clay, one at a time. It’s easy to add too much and saturate the clay, so I have to take my time and pay attention to how much I’m adding and where I let the powder go. It can have a mind of its own!
I’ve found that blending colours on the clay adds much more depth and interest than just solid colour. Here I’ve built up several colours, overlaying them and creating new colours in the process.
Next I came up with a peacock-inspired colour set.
(This is on the same blue background as above, the colour is all washed out… you’ll see the true colour when I take the final photos later on :)
And a metallic set:
Which one is your favourite?
These are so fun! An enormous mix of vintage earring and necklace pieces, charms, hand-wrapped wire curls, handmade clay elements, keys, gears, leather-wrapped wire, filigree, beads… so much going on. And they’re sold individually so you can pick your pair!
A while back I got myself some vintage leather belts, with some vague ideas of how I could use them as the base for some honkin’ big assemblage steampunk pieces. I didn’t really get a chance to start playing until a couple of weeks go. I cut up a couple of belts and started digging through my pile of vintage and new metals and bits and bobs, and began figuring out some placement. Here’s my original set of playing pieces:
I glued up the larger pieces, leaving plenty of holes where I could back up the glue by wiring things down (I never quite trust glue). Then they sat on my bench for weeks while I had to get other stuff done. But today, I got to pull them together, add wire, extra embellishments, chains and clasps. And boy howdy do these make me happy!
The first one I ended up turning sideways – I just liked it better that way – and it needed more balance on the left so I added a few more feather charms. I used flat aluminum wire to create a light, airy balance on the bottom right.
I got to play with old keys I got at the local flea market, clip-on earrings & leather belts from thrift shops, bracelets and metal charms, vintage watch faces, aluminum wire, copper wire, glass beads, pearls, vintage buttons a friend gave me, and a couple of cabochons dug out of a bag of broken things sent to me by a friend who used to work at a jewellery warehouse.
A closeup of the flash of the labradorite on this one:
I love how things evolve. This last one was my least favourite when I started but now it might be my most:
I’m getting ready for the Holiday Spirit market at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design. I feel like these might steal my table’s show, which I’m totally happy with. So now I’m working on ways to display these giant sumbitches. I’m thinking… minimalist cardboard busts, covered in aged paper?
I purchased a small fistful of these tiny watch parts one time because I couldn’t help but think they’d make perfect bird heads. Today the muse hit to give it a go!
I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted it to go, but first, I traced the watch part – doesn’t it look just like a head with a beak and an eye?! – and tried a couple of sizes and angles of body before I found one I was satisfied with. Next, I textured some clay and started cutting it out!
After placing the heads and wings, adding a few more genuine watch parts, and doing a bit more texturing, I came up with two separate colourways and did half the birds in each using pearlex powders and a teeny weeny brush. One set is sorta peacock-ish and one is rather rustic and cosy:
Loving it so far! I wasn’t sure what to do next, though – I had only thought through as far as the bird shape itself! Now what? Well, I knew I wanted some matching beads in there so I found a few that worked and, using some heavy gauge wire I built these bail-type things:
But there’s an inherent flaw here! Can you see it? Well, basically, the big hole at the top is facing out but a chain would have to go side to side. D’oh! what to do, what to do…. I could turn the big loop but I liked the hammered look – plus, a single loop isn’t very stable for a bail. I dug around the studio to see what I could find and came up with a couple of ideas:
Nope. Not working. That black cord with the lark’s head knot is almost right but the cord itself is too slippery and won’t stay. Doing the same thing with a chain just looks messy. Finally I realized I can CUT the chain and use jump rings to attach – then we get a Y-shape with a fun drop pendant, and everything lies nice and flat! After that I was able to quickly finish up my workday and get back to Deep Space Nine :D
Another weekend, another project. And aren’t those colours to die for?!
Earlier in the week I was planning my studio time. All previous projects have been complete and are off the bench, and I was musing aloud about what I could work on next. My very clever husband suggested I “get back to my roots” and pull out some gemstones and silver wire. And oh boy was he right!
First, I pulled out my silver wire, which I haven’t used in forever – partly because the last couple of spools I had were over-worked out of the package. But yesterday I had a whole new spool which turned out to be beautifully soft and usable. This helped enormously.
I pulled out my notebook of ideas and flipped to the page with gemstone combinations. I’d chosen these a long while ago for my “Focus” line, and the idea is that certain gemstones have ancient, mystical meanings, which when combined make for a stronger result… plus: pretty colours!
Working from my previous research makes picking combinations much simpler. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried this but working within constraints can make creativity blossom! When you have unlimited options you can easily get stuck, but if you pick a constraint then your brain is free to work within that constraint without getting overwhelmed.
The containers with the gemstones in them positively creaked from disuse, but the contents were gleaming and shiny and gorgeous. Choosing the shapes and sizes of stones from my stash was fun within the colour constraints.
More individual images over on Facebook.
Today I’ve been having fun with copper and oxidation. First, I created some earrings out of non-non-tarnish wire (bare copper!).
Next, I prepared a solution of Liver of Sulfur and dumped all my shiny pretty earrings into it. They instantly turned black! But that’s OK, that’s the point:
Next, I gathered some supplies – my dremel with the flex shaft (invaluable), some earplugs, a face mask to avoid getting little bits of black dust up my nose, some safety glasses, and a few abrasive pads for the dremel:
Then… I just started buffing! It’s almost magical to watch the black come off and leave behind this gorgeous, soft finish to the metal, with dark crevices to show off the wire work.
The process is so amazing, I had to show you a video!!
How cool is that?! And here are some finished pairs of earrings:
One night while browsing Etsy I discovered that you can get filigree blanks that are much larger than what I normally work with. I simply HAD to have them. I got a nice shipment of various shapes and then went to town with my Gilder’s Paste. This is a waxy kind of goo that you dab on to metals and burnish off, and it helps drab pieces turn into dynamic, colored WOW:
I had SO much fun with these. As you know, colour is what floats my boat so figuring out what works was super delightful.
And then… I was stuck. I wanted them to be part of my steampunk-y assemblage pieces but when I started pairing them up with my regular bits, nothing was working!! I tried keys and gears and hammered wire and rusty things and patina’ed metal and so many other things I can’t even remember them all. NOTHING was working. They sat on my bench for two weeks!
Seriously, it was awful. Look at this mess:
Somehow, one day I found the answer, and it was this: Bling!
Suddenly it all started coming together…
and that meant it was time to add wire! And much like everything I do… they instantly became my new favourite :D
Are these not totally fabulous??
I’m also really pleased to have found a new type of chain for my non-silver pendants:
My bellydancer friends tell me these will work well in the Tribal Fusion community. Now I’m looking for a way to get them to see!
Every time I pull out the antiqued wire or dig through my box of random metal bits or make another trip to the thrift store jewellery section, I end up moving in a totally new direction than I thought I was going to be going in.
I’m certainly not complaining! It’s wild and exciting to be constantly evolving.
But it also means my production times can get compromised. I spent most of the weekend in the studio and only got six sets done:
But what sets they are!! I can’t be sad about the time I spent hemming and hawing and trying new things and playing with patina and looking for dangly things and making decisions when the results end up like this:
My whole weekend has been consumed by bare copper (weird for me not to use non-tarnish wire!), chasing hammers, sea sediment jasper, liver of sulfur, dremel collets, and the new ceramic tile which I’m really enjoying as a photo background.
I’ve never done this before but I LOVE it.
Liver of Sulfur is this goop you dump your metals into in order to make them oxidize – that is to say, turn it black.
Then, you buff it back off the raised areas to get this lovely soft contrast between the dark crevices and the shiny copper.
I didn’t actually know how to buff it, or what to buff it with! I have a dremel rotary tool and a kit full of random bit-type-attachments, so I tried a few and found one.
I wore that one to a nub on the first half-dozen pieces, and then had to wait until today to hit the hardware store to find a replacement.
As it turned out I found a BETTER buffer/polisher-thing and it did another dozen buffs without being worn down at all!
I ran the liver of sulfur three times, which is a waste, but the first time was a test, the second time was being over-eager once I knew that it worked, and the third time was because I was done wrapping for the weekend and wanted to have the rest of the pieces finished before I quit for the day.
The small wire here is my regular 22ga wire, made to look miniscule by the very heavy 16ga wire I’m using for the main wrap.
The 16ga is very heavy but surprisingly easy to wrap with; I make a curl and then hammer it, and then it’s essentially immovable after that, which is great for trapping a stone.
I kind of like how the bails at the top mostly look like hearts! Trying to come up with a name for these that isn’t as corny as “for love of the ocean” but that does mean kind of the same thing (since these are sea sediment jasper).
This is the newest direction for Gayle Bird Designs; expect to see more of this style, probably mostly at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design high-end gallery in Sydney.
I’ve been sculpting in polymer clay for a long, long time – before there was much online to help folks out. Recently I’ve been digging into it again and loving it! I even signed up for the Metal Clay class at Craftsy.com just today… can’t wait to find some time for it. But meanwhile, here’s something I’ve been doing recently: When I first got back into clay in terms of jewellery last year, I started sculpting little hearts and nautilus shells. I had all these leftover teeny watch parts that were too small to wrap, so I started jamming them into the clay. I was in love with them! But then my husband said, “That’s great Gayle. But how many of those can you make in an hour?” I feebly said, “um, two?” That was clearly not fast enough for my limited production time, so I took the lid off a watchmaker’s case and started cutting out circles. Voila! It didn’t get super fast though until I finally broke down and bought a pasta/clay machine. For the sake of 30 bucks I have no idea what I was waiting for! This thing is genius. It conditions and flattens the clay in literal seconds, with absolutely no hand pain. The last piece of the puzzle was PearlEx powders. I’d been seeing them around and finally I bought a case… and then another. And now I’m completely addicted! I made two dozen of these last weekend, and another two dozen throughout the evenings this week! All I need to do now is get ’em all wire-wrapped to make them ready for sale. My next batch, I’m thinking of doing a tutorial for it. SO pleased. So, so pleased. Also, am I the only one who just stares at her own work?! Especially photos where you can really see the details!
You ever get new materials and then have to wait until you have time to play? And then MORE new materials come in, and you still can’t get to them… and it builds up until you end up combining them all at once into some crazy conglomerate project? Well, that’s how these pendants came into being! Teaspoons, copper wire and beautifully dyed ocean sediment jasper were piling up in my studio while I got married. Well, the honeymoon is over and here they all are on one new pendant line! I love the contrast of the brightly coloured stone against the patinaed age of the silver. And then I had fun taking them outside to take photos. So happy right now!
For the hundreds of people who have gone away crestfallen over the years… I’ve finally made brooches! These are all I have… when they’re gone, they’re gone! Available exclusively at the Holiday Spirit Fine Craft Market, TOMORROW, Friday, Saturday & Sunday! No time! Setup is in 12 hours! Gotta run!!
In the midst of unbelievable chaos, I managed to complete a last-minute batch of steampunk flower pendants before the CBCCD show in 4 days! I especially love the one with the red/orange leather, below: I had to make some more because I nearly sold out at my last show! These things go very fast. I was tucked in behind the table at the C200 show and it was fun watching jaws drop from my nearly-hidden vantage point. I started playing with sheet metal – copper and aluminum – shaped, hammered and hole-punched as a basis for the flowers. It’s working pretty great! You can see it on the left, above, and in the middle, below. In other news, about a month ago I was building flat, round, upholstered display discs (see turquoise, above!) and in so doing, I think I over-used the duct tape and strained a tendon in my right index finger. It could also have been the heavy wire-work I was doing for ornaments and neckwires. In any case, working was painful and it seemed the best thing was to rest the finger. So aside from my day job, I’ve been avoiding using that hand for four or five weeks now. Getting back to the bench and being able to create again was a relief! It’s still a little stiff but I couldn’t help myself. I hope to get a few brooches done before the show, but it is hard to say if I will have the time. The fancy martini fundraiser party is this Thursday, and you can contact CBCCD for tickets. After that, we are open Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday for only $2.00 admission. Hope to see you there!
Been making crazy amounts of jewellery these days…
Check out how awesome that labradorite is!
Finished up a bunch of rings lately, some even with gears and such!
Managed to get a few gemstones going as well, although I’m not quite able to identify this one.
This rainbow one is totally fun.
And a huge flowery one! So cool.
For the first time ever I’m running a calendar and a production schedule. Today I’m supposed to be making ornaments :)
Hoo boy, I love this batch. I had several new sets of components I had wanted to try – enameled flowers I got from an artist on etsy, lacquered birchbark I’d harvested from a friend’s woodpile, skeleton keys my dad salvaged from his basement, and stamped bronze and copper filigree that I’d coloured and varnished myself. I meant to do four different styles, but somehow they all got mashed up into my steampunk line and turned into something crazy and awesome.