Thoughts of Design Inspiration


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What is Copper?

Check out my new Blog post  What is Copper?

I am now also blogging at my other sites, here’s the beginning of the post. Please check the above link for the rest of the article! You’ll learn about history of copper, its properties, uses, with samples of art and jewelry.

copperrmain

Copper is an essential mineral found in plant life and in the human body and it is also a metal alloy with a reddish-orange color. The use of copper dates back over 10,000 years. Pure copper is very soft and malleable and is combined with other metals, such as brass and bronze, for use in jewelry and other uses. Copper is used in currency (the U.S. penny), and is used as a heat conductor, in medical instruments, and has been used as a decorative coating of famous gates, such as the Temple of Jerusalem, sculptures, and statues, most notably, The Statue of Liberty, the largest copper statue in the world.

Since 100% of copper can be recycled without any loss of its original mined quality, it is the third most recycled metal. Over 80% of the copper mined since it was discovered thousands of years ago is still in use today. When copper tarnishes, a beautiful green patina covers the piece… Read more

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Ammonia copper patina experiment


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Patina Play

ammonia salt patina on copper evadesigns maine handmade jewelryIt seems that the natural patina process is a very sought after topic right now – I get questions all the time. It’s really a lot of experimenting, and essentially you need to have fun with it. It won’t always work, you might try really hard to fume something for days and your patina all washes off! That is really part of the whole idea. It is easy to paint on some fake patina and call it “patina jewelry”, “patina art” or “patina decoration”. Why not challenge yourself and create something natural that the powers of the atmosphere and some real ingredients made happen?

 

I will list the steps of my latest ammonia patina experiment. This is a lot of fun, but remember to wear a mask or at least do not breath in the fumes.

ammonia fuming method for copper

The blue abyss for your copper!

 

Solution – ammonia with a little salt
(There are many actual recipes, I just eyeball this.)

  1. Cut, shape, sand, clean your copper really well.
  2. Prepare a container (plastic, glass) where you can hang something to suspend your items and that has a way to seal it (lid, plastic, etc.). Put some of your solution on the bottom of your container.
  3. Spray your copper pieces with the solution and some salt (occasionally I also add baking soda).
  4. Suspend your pieces on top of the solution and close the lid.
  5. Let fume for a few hours to a day, then check. You may want to sprinkle them again or spray with your solution. Let fume as long as you think they look the way you want. There will be a crumbly or fuzzy coating of blue on top of your copper.
  6. Rinse well carefully, let dry for a day.
  7. Coat with your preferred method (clear coat, wax, etc.)
  8. Make into jewelry, wear and enjoy or give to a friend!
ammonia patina on copper

Ammonia patina crumble (or fuzz) after it has been removed from fuming container.

Blue copper patina clear coated

The same two after rinsing, drying and clear coating.

 

ammonia copper patina drying

Ammonia patina after rinsing, drying in the open air

tumbling media and copper


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Tumbling Madness

rock tumblerA tumbler is a great tool to do a few things – tumble, polish, harden, smooth and so on. I did my first experiment with copper (and a few pieces of stainless steel, even though they do say it’s good to keep the metal one kind).

The tumbler I have is a 3 lb model with a rubber barrel. The only thing you had to do before use according to the manual was to oil the bearings. (I used shredder oil.) The shot I use is stainless steel, sort of all purpose with varied sizes of pieces especially made for jewelry tumbling. I put in 2 pounds because I read that you should have the barrel half to 3/4 full of material. Not sure yet if this actually only applies to rock tumbling since I have been reading contradicting info elsewhere. Some jewelry tumbling instructions say to just use a little shot media and there are videos showing the tumbler only 1/4 full.

tumbling media - mixed stainless steel shot

Tumbling shot – mixed stainless steel for jewelry

tumbling copper jewelry

Tumbler filled and ready to go.

copper jewelry and junk pieces to be tumbled

Copper pieces ready for the tumbler.

So how did it all go down:

  • I filled my tumbler with 2 pounds of stainless steel shot and the metal pieces in the picture (with some junk copper end pieces in there to fill it up more)
  • Added water to just cover the contents and one drop of dish soap

 

Notes: My tumbler had a little trouble getting rotating at first. I washed the outside to make sure there was no oil that might cause it to slip, cleaned the nylon shaft covers to make sure they were clean. My husband’s opinion was that because I had all the 2 lb of shot in there the barrel was too heavy. It did start turning though and kept going eventually, and then later on when I stopped it you could see some of the rubber started wearing off on the nylon shaft covers and the grip got better.

copper coated with rubber after tumbling

I let the tumbler run for about 7 hours.  (It is surprisingly quiet!) Excited, I open it…everything looks fine, except my metal is totally coated with black rubber! Bummer. What is this?! I went online searching and found some similar results by other people. There were possible explanations: the barrel needs a break in time where the loose rubber will come of,  there wasn’t enough soap, there was too much tumbling media. I have no idea, but I will try again with less media and more soap… It took me a good amount of time to scrub the metal clean. Otherwise, the pieces did get smoother edges and earwires were harder. I would say for perfect results, you would need to tumble a bit longer. I still had to hand sand some pieces a bit and hammer my wires a bit more.

Overall a good first attempt. Hopefully next time no more rubber!

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torch fired enameled copper by evadesigns - evädesigns


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Torch Fired Enamel Fun

torch fired enamel copper by evadesignsThe darn winter here in Maine took me out of commission for a bit from enameling, hammering and all the fun! Yes, too much shoveling wears out your arm. Anyway, I finally got it back enough to be able to do some copper work. I can’t wait!

I was super happy of my results. I think I have discovered a bit more technique, and acquired a bit more courage to try my own things. I am really into this melting copper wire on the enamel right now, you can get some really interesting results (or, a total failure is possible, too…) I’ve tried different swirls and even  what I call “metal rain” – just cut a lot of little pieces and sprinkle!
torch enameled copper by evadesigns - jewelry, enameled earrings

And yes, then there are the poppies, I have become a poppy maniac. I quite weirdly got the inspiration on this color scheme of blue and turquoise by looking at a bunch of laundry…crazy, right? The laundry was sitting on the floor and it was a shirt and a fleece coat and the color combination was just marvelous. “That would look great in enamel” and there I go.  You can get inspiration everywhere – even in your laundry! This poppy color is quite awesome, I am so excited about it. I really hope I can make somebody else as excited about it as well! It certainly catches the eye. I will be making many and many of these.
I have tried to master this “two prong” technique, since I’m drilling two holes in my poppies. So far, better that I expected. I haven’t dropped or anything. It does take some more torch firing enamel on copper by evadesigns torch firing copper poppy by evadesignsconcentration and a bit of planning, and your enamel needs to be deep enough so you can dip the two prong into it. This reminds me that I do need to get some more metal containers for my enamels that are deep and rather narrow. It just works better.

Hope you can experiment, too. There is an endless learning curve with this stuff and that does keep it interesting, I’m hoping forever!pper by evadesigns - jewelry, enameled pendant poppy

 

 

 

 

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blue poppy enameled copper jewelry by evadesigns


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Copper Component Inspirations

Blue enameled copper poppy

Blue enameled copper poppy

I promised to share what I’ve made so far inspired by my last visit to the Bryn Athyn Cathedral. I went nuts about the golden poppies in the stained glass window – so mesmerizing! So, I handcrafted some poppy shapes out of copper and enameled them with a torch. I’m finishing one of them into a necklace right now. I also made components out of copper – links and such, sort of rustic and very handmade.

The blue poppy is my favorite – yes, my shape is rustic, not your most finessed poppy, but I think that’s part of the charm! The other one is wild orangish even more rustic version with bright yellow melted enamel whiskers thrown on top. Still looking for ideas of how to incorporate it into a piece of jewelry. It is going to be something sort of earthy looking!

Enameled copper rustic orange poppy

Enameled copper rustic orange poppy

My copper components were so much fun to hammer – I got really into heating copper and hammering like a mad person. I recommend that to everybody… great stress reliever. I just made these swirly links today, and showed them to my husband. He instantly said ” I see these were inspired by the railings in the cathedral”. I didn’t even realize that. Well, it’s great if you can keep the inspirations producing without even knowing!

I’m incorporating all these new rustic findings into pieces of jewelry. I have actually come up with some totally new designs that are different than what I usually make. I’m very happy with how these inspired items are coming along. So, go get inspired!

copper poppy blue enameled flower poppy by evadesigns

Blue enameled copper poppy necklace

handmade copper links

Hammered and torched copper links

Hammered handmade copper links by evadesigns

Rustic copper links

Handcrafted copper links torched to patina by evadesignsMaine

Hammered and torched copper components

 

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Flame Painting Copper

flamed copper earrings by evadesigns, copper coloring method

Flamed copper earrings

I recently saw some videos on youtube on the copper flame painting method. I had seen some really cool wall art in a craft show that some experienced flame painter had done. I just had to try it myself.

I first cut, sanded, cleaned and textured my copper pieces. I used a new technique for texturing I saw somewhere – I wrapped a wire over the copper and then hammered it to produce texture of lines. It actually looks pretty cool! For the other pair, I used a texture hammer.

Then I dug out my small butane torch. I had actually only used it once, I got it a long time ago when I was supposed to venture into soldering. (I’m still intimidated and only tried it once.) Anyway, the small ones are real easy to use. I had a charcoal block but ended up holding the pieces with pliers.

I was amazed how easily you could get some color on the copper! Yes, getting a pair of earrings to share a similar color, not so easy. Not that they need to exactly match in my opinion, some artistic vision is fine.

flamed copper earrings, copper flaming

First textured with wire, then flamed

Then I experimented with coating the pieces to seal in the color. I found that t is true what they say – the clear coat will dull the blue tones. So, I ended up redoing one of my pairs all over because I didn’t like the dulled blue color. I ended up leaving them more warm orange and yellow.

 

The cuff I textured and then torched heavily only once. I sanded off the fire scale and it actually looked interesting just like that. It had this sort of dark reddish tone to black that was quite nice.

Now I wish I had tried this sooner. I’m going to be experimenting more soon!

flamed copper cuff by evadesigns

Flamed copper cuff

 


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Patina Happiness

copper patina

Copper pieces getting happy patina

Patinating copper with all natural ingredients is such a satisfying experience. You don’t need chemicals, your general household ingredients will suffice. No need to wear gloves, respirators, dust masks, goggles, all that scary stuff! Take you vinegar and salt and make a happy stew, that’s all you need.

You do need clean copper, you can use dish soap, lemon juice, baking soda, etc. No happy patina will take on dirty copper. I use glass jars to hang my pieces to patinate. (Use wire or something like that.) I soak my pieces in the vinegar salt mixture and also sprinkle some salt directly on the piece. With experimenting you will find what will work best for you. You can also soak a paper towel in the mixture and put that on the bottom of the container. I cover mine with plastic wrap.

Then just watch and admire the wonderful color! Love the blue green when it starts developing. I’ve recently gotten such nice feedback on my copper patina pieces, there is something about the “all natural” funky patina that appeals to people. Yes, it does take time – after you get your patina you need to let it rest for a couple of days and dry out. Wash the pieces gently and let them dry well. Then you need to coat them with something that seals in the patina – wax, or some type of clear coat.

Not to forget that copper has health benefits, so go play!

A nice tutorial on all natural patina:
http://jewelrymakingjournal.com/vinegar-and-salt-patina/

patinating copper will vinegar

Copper pieces cleaned and ready for patina.

copper patina

Patina getting happy and drying.

evadesigns copper jewelry pieces

Some of my pieces with all natural patina.