Optimistic Failure

In the past few weeks not everything has gone to plan. Although at first a little disheartened, it has of course pushed me to open up new possibilities and investigate alternative solutions. My attempts at vitreous enamelling mixed metal (steel and copper) were disastrous as was my pursuit of enamelling soldered and curved steel. My vision included pieces that allowed recesses for my components to nestle, as well as using a non-magnetic material alongside steel to start controlling where connections could happen.

A possible solution, I decided to start with was dye sublimation using my failed steel and domed copper sample. Dye sublimation is applied on top of either a white or clear enabling fluid. The mixed metal piece was sprayed with a generous white coating and the image was transferred through the 3D vacuum heat press. The quality of image transfer was really good, unfortunately under the heat the image slipped and cropped off the head. As I had already attached brooch fixtures to the reverse, the vacuum also distorted and bowed the piece. I will try dye sublimation again, either without the brooch fixtures or placing the piece on a wooden frame to prevent it bowing. I also tried a plain vitreous enamel panel with the clear enabling fluid and again the results were really pleasing and possibly with better durability than the decals I have been using.

The process has sparked ideas in how I could combine the two methods, but also in producing the elements separately and looking at cold connections rather than attempting to produce a piece as a whole right from the start. The sample pictured above is mixed metal, a copper base with a raised steel rim, If I am not able to enamel a mixed metal successfully, then I need to apply the same thought process and work out how to refine the application of lacquer and enamel paint.

Having struggled with my shaped, dished and mixed metal pieces and as I worked towards finalising pieces for my assessment, I took three further pieces to be laser engraved. The first yellow example has been engraved with an extract from a newspaper clipping announcing my grandparents wedding – I manipulated the image slightly to enhance the contrast between the text and background and I am really pleased with the effect. The grey example I zoned the engraving of a portrait to a central circle and similarly to the green example a central square diary extract. I decided on concentrating the laser on a selected area as to retain some of the glorious shone to the enamel that I work so hard to achieve. Although I had tested out the composition, in the flesh the pieces looked far too vintage. I took steps towards resolving this by taking inspiration from some of my successful samples and palimpsest images and layered decals over the engraving. In the future, I would like to try layering the images with the laser and or intermixing with dye sublimation.

It has always been important to me that the back of a piece of jewellery is just as important as the front. I had been working on brooch pins which were simple, functional but also echoed the overall shape. I like the idea of a brooch without pins and that doesn’t damage clothing, so wanted to also develop the magnetic function as a clasp. I had been sampling flocking and thought that this was a great contrast to the cold and hard steel and enamel. I think this distinction has great potential but unfortunately my application wasn’t greatly refined, so lesson learnt and this is certainly something I will look to outsource in the future.


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