Carving wax… And carving wax… And carving wax…

Another project I’ve been working on this semester is my linkage. This is for my Junior Metal Smithing class. Every student is to carve a “master link” out of blue wax, make a rubber mold of that link, and cast it as many times as needed to create a chain. The metal I’ll be casting in is sterling silver.
That is, if I ever get to that point. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, it’s usually hard for me to get started on a project… And I seem to be struggling the most with this one. I’ve already carved two different models out of the blue wax, and both designs weren’t adequate. I need to figure out something that is: unique in design, not flat (has a lot of form), going to link in an interesting manner, and finally, something that is lightweight (silver is expensive… $32 an ounce!). Having to keep all these factors in mind, I’m struggling to get on the right path.
To carve the wax, I’m using a flex shaft with special burs specifically for wax. The flex shaft is controlled by a foot pedal.
I intend on spending most of my weekend searching for the right design. Mistakes are good, though, because they are teaching what NOT to do. But regardless, it’s still frustrating! Here are some pictures of my “failed attempts”:

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Production Processes: Prototyping

I’m taking a course this semester called “Production Processes.” In this class, each student designs their own piece (jewelry, toy, product) that is to be produced in multiples- it could be 3D printed, laser-cut acrylic, fabricated metals, silicon moldings, etc. At the end of the semester, these pieces will be sold at a sale which is completely organized by the students of the class.

Each student is required to incorporate the theme of LAYERS into their piece; therefore, the name of our show is Lamina Jewelry.

For my project, I am interested in produced night lights. Why night lights? you may ask. I think they’re something that everyone has (or could have) in their home. Night lights bring a new, fun feel into each room. I’m particularly interested by light penetrating different surfaces and the effects that this can create, particularly 3D printed materials (gypsum, durus white) and colored acrylic. So I’m thinking of layers in two different aspects: laers with light and layers with the material itself (am I making sense here? I’ll explain)

This past week I experimented with vulcanizing acrylic sheet, something that I’ve never done before in the M/J/C-C studio. A vulcanizer is a pressurized machine that has two heated plates. These plates “sandwich” stacked pieces of acrylic together. By applying heat and pressure to acrylic, a thermoplastic, these layers smush together into one even mass.Image

During my first experimentation, I applied too much heat and too much pressure. So I started out with something looking like this:

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…and ended up with something looking like this:

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Oops!

So a tried another test, this time a little less heat and pressure:

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Hey, that’s better!

Now I decided to take it a step further. I wanted to use more layers of acrylic stacked in a more intricate manner. I found an image of a cow in a pasture and broke down the progression of space into different layers of acrylic- different shapes, sizes, color.

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I’m so pleased with the way my laser-cuts came out!

I them carefully arranged the cut acrylic and placed them between two aluminum sheets, as I do every time I vulcanize.

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For every quarter-inch of acrylic, I need to apply 15 minutes of heat/pressure. I had little more than a half of an inch of stacked acrylic, so I patiently and intently sat and waited.

This is what today’s result was:

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I learned a few VERY important things with this test. The first is that I was still applying just a little too much heat and pressure. This is visible by the bubbles along the top (in the blue) and the distortion of my little cow. I also learned that maybe I need to layer my acrylic differently– possibly in a different order, maybe use less acrylic, and so on. Finally, I realized that I need to get my own aluminum sheets for the vulcanizer, because the ones I was using are dirty and beat-up. This can be seen by the “fogginess” near the bottom/around the cow.

I would say that today was a very successful day! I made some mistakes which is totally okay, because now I’ll be able to get this perfect. I’ll be doing some more laser-cutting and vulcanizing to see if I can get this prototype just how I want it to be.

Start of the Semester Struggles

I always find the start of the semester the most difficult. Adjusting to your new schedule, finding all your classes, getting back into the swing of things. But most of all, it’s SO HARD to think of ideas for my projects!
I am taking 3 studio classes for my Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM (MJCC) major. For two of those classes, I’m working on a single project for each class that is developed and created throughout the entire semester. So I have to think of ideas, great ones, and stick with them for the next 3 months.
The reason I have so much difficultly starting is that I have so many different ideas- it’s so hard to pick one! Even though I may really like an idea I have, the design may not be ideal and it has to be adjusted.
I usually never stick with my first idea. It changes 2 or 3 times until I’m finally set on a design. I don’t think is this is a bad thing, though. I am constantly influenced by things I see and am given a new idea, or I realize I’m not really feeling my first design.
For inspiration, I’ll click around on Pinterest or flip through a book of present artists’ work. One thing I always turn to are my art history textbooks. I am also an art history major (being a double major is a lot of work!) and I love looking for inspiration in past artists’ work. I particularly love the sketches by Michelangelo and Leonardo, and paintings by Caravaggio, Van Gogh, and Monet. I am also really drawn to Ancient Greek architecture and patterns. You’ll probably see a lot of their influences in my work!
Even though it takes me a while to get started, it’s so worth it when I execute an idea that I’m really excited about. When I like what I’m working with, it’s more enjoyable for me to create. And when I enjoy working, I get a better end result (ideas of the Arts and Crafts Movement, STILL being applied today!) 🙂