Thursday, 18 September 2014

Enamel Decal Experiments..........And Mistakes

I've been playing again! I posted recently about trying some of the enamel decals I ordered a while ago and being a bit unimpressed with the results. Well I tried again and ordered some more decals, this time just in simple black designs rather than designs in colours. Previously the coloured decals I tried were a bit of a disappointment due to the colours losing their brightness during printing and fading after firing.

I uploaded my designs in PDF format to Fotoceramic and they then worked out the cost and sent me a PayPal invoice. I received the decals two days after payment which is pretty good service. Here's one sheet of the decals I ordered...

I ordered 6 of each design so I now have nearly 450 decals {Carried away? Me? Never!}  The total cost was £35.05 so they work out at about 8p each. You can create your own designs, use text {which is a great idea} or purchase digital graphics that allow commercial use.

So after counter enamelling and firing two layers on the front of my earrings it was time to choose the designs. I then trimmed the decals as close to the design as possible.

I soaked them in a bowl of water until the backing paper came away and using tweezers placed them on my earrings.

The decal slides around quite a lot until you blot it with kitchen roll so you can reposition it quite easily. You then blot it carefully pressing from the centre outwards to remove as much water as possible and leave it to dry.
There are various ways to dry the decals - if you are using a kiln to fire the enamel you can place the pieces on top of the kiln to take advantage of the heat, leave them somewhere warm such as a sunny windowsill or you can do what I do and warm up a soldering block using my torch then set the enamel pieces on top. I leave them for about 15 minutes and reheat the soldering block a couple of times.

 There's no sure way to know if the decals are dry as they don't change colour but 15 minutes in a warm place works ok for me. There's no point rushing this part {even though we all want to!} as the decals will bubble and be ruined if you fire them before all the water has evaporated.

Once the decals are dry I put the enamel piece onto the trivet and heat slowly keeping the torch a fair distance away until I'm sure the decal really is dry and isn't going to bubble. Then I move the torch closer and fire as normal. The decal smokes a bit then turns white as the enamel heats up.

The white colour then becomes transparent as the top varnish layer of the decal burns away leaving the enamel design.

After reading up on it I understood that I needed to fire the piece until the decal became completely smooth but as you can see in this photo the result was a design that was starting to break up and this decal still wasn't completely smooth. The decals can also sink into the enamel if they are fired for too long.
To stop this happening I decided to fire for slightly less time and to add a top coat of transparent enamel to cover the decal and give the earrings a nice smooth finish.

This is the orange pair with a layer of transparent geranium pink on top of the decal about to be fired.

So, the orange pair in the photo above were fired and the transparent just didn't look very pink. It had altered the orange base colour slightly but I wanted pink! So I added another layer of transparent in red this time and fired it again. Bear in mind this was the 5th firing....

Mistake #1
The shape of these earrings is much too long and thin meaning the trivets I use didn't support them properly. They were hard to balance on the trivets too and did tip up a couple of times depositing the enamel powder everywhere {cue swearing}. The difference in thickness of the top layers of enamel and the much thinner counter enamel layer resulted in a warped piece of copper.

Too may layers of enamel. You can see in the photo the difference in thickness at the top and bottom of the earring.

Mistake #3
Dropping one of the orange earrings on the floor just after firing. And like a piece of buttered toast it landed front side down. On carpet. Yes my shed has carpet. Surprisingly the bits of melted carpet did come off very easily. But it didn't help.

So a few days later the earrings decided they'd had enough of all this stress and this is the result......

Notice this didn't happen until a few days later. The other earring is also cracked but obviously isn't such a drama queen as it's mate and decided to keep hold of it's red/pink/too thick/carpet textured shiny enamel coat.

Here's the rest of the decal experiments I'm glad to say worked :D 
The finished versions can be seen in the top photo collage.

The green pair with the flower decal are my favourites. I mixed up a new green mix using three different green opaques and now want to enamel everything with it!

Only 400 and odd decals to use up now so no doubt there will be more...... but not all in green.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Torch Enamel Earrings - More Poppies!

I do seem to have a bit of a poppy thing going on at the moment. My poppy bangle sets are proving to be quite popular - I had several made to order sets and singles to make last week and I sold the silver poppy studs I made too! 

So to carry on the theme because I like the shape I made a couple of pairs of simple enamel poppy earrings too. They are pretty easy to make once the enamelling is done. The balled sterling wire is threaded through the hole in the centre of the poppy then bent at a right angle before being bent up over itself to form a loop at the back that stops the enamelled poppies from flopping forward when the earrings are worn. The wire is then curved into an ear hook and finished.

I made the poppies in minty green and mauve and another concave disc pair in bitter green...

I was thrilled to see my new order of decals arrive today. The designs look really sweet and a bit clearer than the last lot so I'm hoping to have another go with them tomorrow

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Decals And Torch Enamelling

I love adding designs to things so when I discovered you could combine enamel decals with torch enamelling I had to have a go. I ordered the decals a while ago and after a quick go which left me decidedly underwhelmed with the result I kind of lost interest in it and left the decals in a drawer for a while. I thought I'd better have another go last weekend so dug them out again.
I don't have my first attempt but I did discover that colours don't work too well. The bright designs I uploaded to be transformed into decals came back decidedly dull looking which looked equally dull after being fired onto the enamel.

Here's part of one sheet of decals ......

The photo is a bit deceptive as the decal sheets have a blue tint to them in real life due to the layer of varnish on top of the enamel decal which burns away during firing which isn't showing up in this photo. The colours are also a lot duller! {Damn you camera for making something look white just when I don't want you to!}
I thought I'd try using one of the black three ball flower decals this time and you can see the results in the top photo.

I was pleased with how they looked but bear in mind this was just a quick experiment. The colour of the decal changes to a sepia tone which is quite nice. I fired a layer of clear transparent on top of the round discs as the decals can sink a bit during firing.
The bullet shaped earrings had a harder time of it! I tried a coloured decal on them first and followed some advice I found online about applying the decal, letting it dry then sifting a layer of clear enamel on top before firing. The result was the varnish covering the decal ignited briefly and the already dull colours in the decal faded badly. I wasn't going to give up though so then added another layer of mint opaque enamel on top to cover it up and had another go with the black ball flower design this time.

This worked ok and also produced the interesting effect you can see around the edges where the clear enamel is pushing up through the mint opaque layer above it. I really like the effect and will be experimenting with it again soon  
I'm going to leave these two pairs of earrings for a while to see if any cracking or other weirdness happens before I do anything with them.

Here's another experiment with one of the coloured decals. This is the original design....nice and colourful....

and this is the result after firing the decal.....

The colours are very dull. I'm sure you've noticed that the enamel is badly cracked too. I didn't bother to counter enamel the back as it was a quick experiment. So after two layers of enamel and three firings the difference in expansion and contraction rates of the enamel and copper caused the enamel to crack the day after firing. I used 24g {0.5mm} copper sheet.
So for all those who torch enamel and think you can get away without enamelling the back on thinner gauges of metal, this is what can and probably will happen if you don't!

I have some more decals on order {no colours this time!} so as soon as they arrive I'll be experimenting again and will take photos of the process so I can post another one of these slightly rambling posts with much better results hopefully!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

New Copper Bangles - Flowers, Beads, Twists And Linked Designs!

My recent holiday gave me a chance to come up with a few new copper bangle designs. They are a good seller in my Etsy shop and website so I figure expanding the range makes good sense.
I started by making an intertwined set using 2.6mm round copper wire. It's very simple to link the bangles - it just consists of an extra step once you've soldered, shaped and textured them. Two of the bangles need to be cut open again at the solder join and one of them linked with the remaining soldered bangle and the other bangle linked through the first two before they are soldered closed again and finished. I made the bangles slightly bigger than normal to allow for the space taken up by the bangles being linked. I then had a bit of a brain freeze moment about it all and thought they were still going to be too small but opening them out fully and measuring the inside diameter reassured me they were the right size {does that make sense? I hope so!}

Next I made a set using some lovely etched lampwork glass beads made by Su Bagley of Pixel Pyro Lampwork on Folksy. She made the beads with a larger hole than normal so they would fit on thicker copper wire. I made a set of three bangles with a hammered and line texture with one of the bangles having two of the etched lampwork beads threaded onto it before being soldered closed. 

The beads are in four lovely colours.

Next are two sets of poppy bangles - one with a copper poppy and one with a sterling silver poppy. I enjoyed making these even thought the soldering was a bit tricky to begin with {things moved!} However, now I know to make sure the flower has good contact with the bangle before I start soldering.
The poppy is formed then a balled piece of copper/sterling silver wire is threaded through the centre and the flower wire wrapped onto the bangle. I then added another wrap of wire on the other side. It's all soldered in place and the ends of the wire smoothed for comfortable wearing. 

I am slightly biased but these are my favourite of all the bangles I've made so far

The last new design is a set of three with one bangle with a single twist. Deceptively easy to make by folding the wire into a U shape, flattening the top section of the U with a hammer or rolling mill then annealing and pulling the ends in opposite directions. Then just cut to length and make as normal. 

I think that's enough bangletastic-ness for now!

'Til next time......

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My First Torch Enamel Project In Making Jewellery Magazine!

Issue 71 of Making Jewellery magazine comes out today {21st Aug} featuring lots of fab projects including my first torch enamel project for a magazine. I've done several wirework step-by-steps for Bead magazine in the past but never anything involving enamel so it was a treat to do it.

I was emailed by Sian the editior of Making Jewellery a few months ago asking if I'd like to contribute a project. I said yes {of course!} then immediately wondered if I was going to be asked to make a wirework piece. I don't make much wirework jewellery these days so was really pleased to be told I could do a project using torch enamelling as they hadn't had any torch enamelling projects in the magazine before.  

After finding out the theme for the issue was going to be "autumn" I decided to go for a copper leaf enamelled in a blend of lovely autumn-ish colours and made a pendant as the main piece and a pair of earrings and bangle charm as the two "extras".

That isn't a photograph of me by the way! {I think it's Abby Clancy, I was busy that day.....}

I took some photos of the pieces I made before sending them off to the magazine to be photographed and made a collage......... because I like making collages :D

I was pleased to see Kristen, a fellow jewellery maker whose blog K S Jewellery Designs I follow, also has a project in this issue! She went with the leaf theme too and made a very pretty silver and bead wirework necklace and pendant.
It's nice to be in good company!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Enamel Experimenting And Gold!!

This week I have mostly been playing with enamel. 
I've been wanting to try using wire to create "cells" along the lines of cloisonne but nowhere near as exact {or skilled}.... no, I went for a slightly more rustic approach and used 16g {1.2mm} copper wire which I formed into jump rings then placed onto the partly fired second layer of opaque enamel and fired until the rings were fused into the enamel.

I pickled the copper rings beforehand to make sure they were nice and clean before placing on the enamel. I wanted them to stand a bit proud as I was then going to fill them with wet enamel.

I filled the rings with wet enamel then let the enamel dry naturally before firing.

They worked ok. There was some firescale on the surface of the enamel that pinged off the copper wire as it cooled but I think that adds to the rustic style. Next time I might try a thinner gauge wire but I do like the texture it gives the enamel in my first attempts.

I also spent some time teaching my friend Nicki how to torch enamel. She enjoyed herself and a few hours later went home with these pretties.

No, I haven't gone all Spandau Ballet on you, I'm referring to the simple gold studs I made recently after an order for gold ball earwires didn't go quite as planned. A customer asked if I could make her some gold ball earwires and I said yes of course I can and ordered the 9ct yellow gold wire. When I started to ball up the wire I discovered that it doesn't like balling up very much and quite a bit of it just shrivelled and turned black. I managed to get three out of the ordered five pairs of earwires made which my customer was happy with and then refunded the difference for the missing two pairs. 
Which left me with lots of mangled looking gold wire and a slightly annoyed feeling because I was quite a lot out of pocket..........until my brain clicked into gear and I remembered I have a rolling mill! Meaning I can melt the gold wire and put it through the rolling mill to make a small piece of gold sheet that I can then do things with!
So that's what I did and after adding a leaf vein texture to the gold sheet I made three pairs of simple studs.....

The studs have sterling silver posts and scrolls as I wasn't going to go as far as buy gold versions and gold solder. I'm very much still a silver girl at heart  
I still have a tiny amount of gold left so watch out for a silver pendant with a small gold ball somewhere about its person coming soon{ish}!