I recently left my job of 6 years to start a 3D graphics apprenticeship with Worlds Away Productions. It was something I'd started right after graduating college, but then got scared about money and health insurance and took a full-time job doing something completely unrelated. I'll be posting updates and things I make in 3D as I make them.
So the Indorican Multicultural Dance Project costumes are finally done. I only have this picture until the photographer shoots the troupe:
Now I'm in the process of altering a ring I made as a birthday gift. Easy as it may sound, putting gem eyes into a bronze snake ring that already has metal eyes is actually a very elaborate process. I got a mold made of the original casting, got a wax made from the mold, carved out the eyes in the wax, got another bronze ring cast from the new hollow-eyed wax form, antiqued the ring using liver of sulphur, then took it to a lapidary. I get it back on Thursday, "after" pics to follow.
The Indorican Multicultural Dance Company had the first use of my costumes in April. Here are some pictures of the completed costumes:
Tonight, a little more than a month after my previous post, I finished what all of us in the soldering class had initially thought was the impossible: the Byzantine chain bracelet with handmade toggle clasp.
After a few weeks of frustration and agony I'd gotten the hang of controling the flame, the manual dexterity of handling those terrible little tweezers to place minute chips of solder on seams of metal. It all came together and, for better and for worse, completely opposed to my feeling in my previous post, soldering became the most relaxing task in my life.
The thing I love most about FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), where I took the Intro to Soldering class, is the lofty goals their classes present. On the first day of class, our instructor showed us the projects we would be required to complete. The ring, which looked like a forest of intricate confusion, and the Byzantine chain, which I believe is called Byzantine because of its mystifyingly complicated pattern (it's also known as "The Idiot's Delight"). How are we going to solder a tiny spot onto a delicate silver jump ring just over a quarter inch in diameter? Chie, our teacher, made it look easy, but he also had over 20 years of experience.
We started out trying to solder little sticks of silver onto a plate of brass. This must be like arts and crafts time in hell, I thought. Little did we know this would be harder than soldering silver to silver. So when the time came to "graduate" to one of the more complex projects, it was still difficult and it still took time, a lot of time, but we were prepared for it.
This one started out as 6 feet of 18 gauge sterling silver wire. I cut it into manageable 18"-ish lengths and used a skinny metal rod with a turn crank called a jump-ringer to coil the wire around so they ended up long, stiff coils of silver. Then I annealed the wire coils by heating them with a torch until they turned the color of salmon in the flame. Next, after dunking the coils into water to cool them off, I used a tiny sawblade to cut each individual ring from the coil. That's how the rings were made.
Then I took pliers to pull the ends of the rings away from each other and linked them together in the Byzantine pattern, which took a while to get a hang of. After that, I soldered each one closed individually.
The clasp I made out of another, larger gauge of silver rod using pliers and a forging hammer.
And now, to my total disbelief, it's done! In place of the anxiety I felt before there's a sense of accomplishment.
A few months back, I decided to take a wax carving class as the recommended "next step" in jewelry design. The class was tedious, slow, and frustrating at first. The process of sawing and filing a small block of hard green wax from a larger block into a perfect little rectangular prism, then drilling a hole for the saw, inserting the blade and cutting a circle out of the prism, filing out the hole to the size of my finger, and filing the outer part into a dome shape took 8 hours. All measurements had to be exact, in millimeters. Then carving it into a design took another 5 hours. Once the grunt work was done, the carving was enjoyable, even exciting. I could do that part at home, 10 minutes to a half hour every night, as the teacher had recommended. The process made me realize that some things (still) take time. I started to understand the medieval guild system, and the need for a master to have apprentices in order to ever get anything accomplished, and the need for apprentices to begin by doing the basic work and observing the master. Working for too long was not advisable. When my eyes went blurry or my hands started to cramp, it was time to stop. Rushing to get something finished would inevitably lead to mistakes that could not be reversed. Wax carving is one of those things that you must simply allow to take as long as it takes.
After the wax class ended, I had created a lovely silver ring with two snake heads and a really huge brooch with my initials. I decided my next challenge would be soldering. I'd welded quite a bit in college and thought my prior experience would make it relatively easy to pick up this semi-related skill.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Hours upon hours of dropping the nickel tweezers to avoid burning my fingers because I'd held the flame on the tiny silver pieces I was trying to solder to a small brass plate too long. Burning the tweezers so badly they snapped anything i tried to pick up into the air. Cursing like a maniac in the open studio hours on Sundays. Four hour stretches of getting barely anything accomplished.
This is another thing that's going to take time. Time to learn, and time to do.
The professor, who I also had for wax carving, is a master jeweler. He has been teaching at the school for more than 20 years, and making jewelry for longer. His soldering demonstrations take minutes, while we struggle for hours to make the slightest progress.
During class, and on the weekends when I struggle to complete my projects, I am filled with feelings of hope as things begin to stick, and wild, maniacal desperation when everything starts to melt off again. But after a few classes, in everyday life, I began to feel an incredible sense of well-being.
I became aware of the joyful fact that this soldering class, this voluntarily-elected exercise of trying to make tiny pieces of metal stick to a small metal plate with a torch, is of absolutely no consequence to anyone. Nothing is at stake, no one is depending on me to master this skill. I'm not enrolled at this college and I don't need to worry about a grade. And this is the most stressful, difficult problem I have in my life right now.
How wonderful is that?
Just started working on some costumes for the Indorican Multicultural Dance Company. Bought a dress form. Ordered a rotary cutter. Learning to use gouache. Getting swatches of stretchy fabrics. Reading books about special stretchy fabric sewing techniques. This is one of the books I just got. It's really straightforward and helpful, and it's written in a very unpretentious way. A great teaching book!
And here's the rotary cutter I'm getting. It cost more than the Fiskars model but I really love Olfa. Their cutters are so sharp and never seem to get dull.
Sketches to come...