Monday, November 25, 2013

Rethinking the Stone

I recently taught a Level Two Certification class, and to prep for one of my demos I wanted to make a new piece. The project is to 'Set a Cabochon Using Commercial Bezel Wire'. The project entails adjusting the design to accommodate metal clay shrinkage, firing the base mount, and adding the fine silver bezel in a second firing. After polishing and any patina, the stone is set with burnishers and pushers.

There was only one shell with a hole!
Remember how I like to remind you that you can add your own creative voice to any project? Even one where there are specific parameters you have to work within? Well, I took my own advice and used an unusual object for the cab. In general a cabochon can be defined as a flat bottomed, domed stone. But I don't have much of a feel for mineral stones like Lapis, or Tiger's Eye, or Malachite. I wanted to use something else for my sample.

A friend had sent me a goody bag containing shells, deer antler slices (naturally shed - don't worry!), small pebbles, and other interesting bits. One of the shells had a hole in the "hinge" portion that intrigued me. I don't think it was a natural hole, but it set my imagination spinning and made me wonder how I could make use of it in my design. I did some sketching and some online surfing and came up with a seaweed and pearl theme. After enlarging the shell 119% (to account
I used a pencil to roll some definition
and dimension into my paper seaweed
for shrinkage and for the bezel wire) I made some paper templates so I'd have a good idea of how the construction might go together. I wanted the area where the stone would be set to be perfectly flat, but thought a little 'movement' would enhance the seaweed effect. So, I made my pendant in two parts. Letting each part dry separately gave me the opportunity to sand each to perfection before they were joined. I couldn't really think of how to drape the seaweed while keeping the top part level. I'm sure there's a way, and I'll probably do some more experimenting with this design in the future. 

Some dimensional wallpaper
gave the perfect weedy texture
and LOS did the rest.
To add to the deep sea theme, I used a jeweler's saw with the dry, unfired clay to cut a seaweed silhouette into the back. I always like to add a little surprise for the wearer to discover. After firing, polishing, and patinating the piece, I sewed up a little magic with some glass seed beads, pearls, antique coral, and free-form stringing to embellish the hole in the shell. I haven't actually permanently set the shell yet because I'm not quite sure how I want to hang the pendant. I think maybe a combination of pearls and chain - but I want to have a clear idea before I complete the setting. Imagine if I pushed the bezel over and then decided I needed to solder the chain. That would be a disaster!

This particular 'stone setting' is definitely too ambitious for a student to have completed before the end of class. Just stringing the little beads took two hours. (Oh, to have good eyesight and hand/eye coordination again. Sigh.) But having samples like this one demonstrates how one can take a skill learned in a workshop and let your imagination run wild to create something totally unexpected.

Next time a class project requires a certain element, try thinking out of the box. A true cabochon may very well be a turquoise gem stone, but if you define it as a 'flat backed, domed object' you could also use an antique button, beach pebble, a watch crystal with a photo underneath, or a variety of other artifacts. Try to find a way to add your own stamp to any project.

Posted by Lora Hart 
Artistic Advisor


Anonymous said...

Great article, Laura. I like the idea of the jeweler's saw to create a seaweed effect on the reverse of the pendant. I have so many 'items' that I have wanted to incorporate into a pmc design and now I have inspiration :)

Roxanne Coffelt said...

Way to think outside the box. I love the look of the shell in the bezel!

Lora Hart said...

Thanks folks! MIss Anonymous (if you are a Miss), please put a picture in the slideshow if you do incorporate one of your 'items' into a metal clay piece. Glad you both liked the idea. :)