Thursday, May 31, 2012

The ring of fire!

Firstly, two posts in one week! I am even scaring myself! OK, the back story: I have been making jewelry for nearly 10 years and I am a fabricator, which means that I take metal sheet or wire, usually silver but sometimes copper and I do a number of things with it which can include sawing, hammering, soldering, texturing, etc, etc! If it is not a good day that might even include biting it - yes, that's what that texture is! OK, not really, but occasionally I will swear at it! For a long time I have been interested in trying out casting but it is not for the faint of heart. Lost wax centrifugal casting has the potential to be very dangerous and you need a skilled teacher to guide you. I lucked out with the wonderful Sheri Cohen who teaches at the Irvine Fine Arts Center, not only is she a fantastic teacher but she is also an incredible jewelry artist.

The Centrifuge - a.k.a - the ring of fire!
This is the centrifuge where you melt the silver. The idea is that you release the wound up centrifuge which spins the molten silver at an incredible speed, which then shoots into the negative space in the flask - the negative space is where your wax was before being burnt out in a kiln. The scariest part of this is getting the flask from the kiln into the centrifuge. This is not easy and is made even more difficult by the fact that are wearing a leather apron, dark glasses and full face shield. On top of this you have to wear oversized gloves and try to to manoeuvre the incredibly hot flask with a pair of tongues! It is like a party game for masochists!

The protective gloves that you must wear - way to big - but one size fits all!
I imagine that this process gets less stressful the more times that you do it, which is good, as I am sure that my heart couldn't take it!  Anyway, success!  All my pieces cast, and no one was hurt in the making of this jewelry.  Happy days.
Fresh from the kiln, needing a good scrub and polish.
As you can see after the cast pieces are cleaned up, worked over on the grinding wheel - there are lots of sharp edges to knock down - and then buffed, a patina added and then a final polish the pieces are looking pretty good. I am pleased with the results.  I think that knowing how to cast adds an extra tool to my creative toolbox and I am looking forward to more experimentation.

The results - they still need a little refining but looking good! 

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