Thoughts of Design Inspiration

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

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enameled copper jewelry


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Enamel surfaces – what fun things can you melt with a torch

torch fired enamel jewelry with melted wire

Melting stuff is always fun – right? Not to talk about playing with fire. I’ve been experimenting with various substances you can melt on your enamel surface. So far I’ve tried wire, mashed up glass, enamel sticks, other bead chips. Not sure where the limits might go, but it sure creates some interesting effects!

torch fired enamel jewelry with melted wire

Wire sprinkles on this enameled piece with transparent green enamel

Of course it can be a bit tricky to get these things stick while you have a torch going and one hand is busy holding your steel rod (where your copper piece is dangling). The power from the torch is like a wind that makes your piece move constantly so getting something on top of it can be challenging. The mashed up glass you can sprinkle on, with copper tube you can roll the hot tube in it, which is great. I think the hardest to get the way you want them is shapes of wire, they go and blow away real easy in the “wind” of the torch. Also, your piece you are trying to adhere it to is often curved and the wire will just slide of. So, yes, it’s a balancing act, luckily no acrobatics involved!

enamelsurfaces4

Melted thin enamel stick

enamelsurfaces5

Smashed up glass beads, use that hammer!

enamelsurfaces2

Smashed up glass in very small bits with transparent enamel on top.

torch fired enamel jewelry

Sometimes you may get an eye…

 

I find that my favorites are the wire coils and smashed up glass (they call it frit if you go buy it in the enameling universe).  I imagine you can buy some really nice even shaped frit, but I find that I like my own smashed up stuff better. It gets more interesting and doesn’t always work (which is part of the fun). Some glass bead chips don’t melt, or you might have smashed something that is not exactly glass. Also, using transparent enamel can make it even more interesting because of the see through effect, and you can keep layering it on. The copper wire I use gives out a nice smoke when it gets torched and you can end up creating some nice flame patina on it, too. It is the hardest to make stick, your copper piece has to be hot enough and your arm very steady. Plus you want just enough enamel to adhere it properly but still keep the surface texture.

I will keep experimenting, no two pieces are never alike. That’s the best fun of using the torch!
You can find more items on my website: www.evadesigns.us

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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.

torch enameling evadesigns maine


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Three Stages of Copper

torch enameling evadesigns maine

Heating the copper with a torch using a trivet.

When I make enameled copper jewelry for some reason I always count three stages. (Well, there are really many more to the whole process.) You have a copper sheet that you cut your shapes from – file, shape, hammer, drill, sand, polish. I say you are now at stage one. Then you get all your enamels ready, your frit (I call frit any type of pieces of glass you  may add to your enamel pieces), you set up your torch and workspace (sifters to sift various amounts of enamel onto your pieces, holding agent, trivets, surfaces, tools.)

copper shapes ready for enameling to make jewelry evadesigns

Copper shapes formed and hammered.

Then if you are making large pieces (like my shells) you will be using the trivet method, not the “dangle it in the fire and dip” method. The first thing  is to counter enamel, after that’s done I think I’m at stage two.  (Counter enamel just means it’s the back side of the piece.)You get tons of firescale on the other side of the piece after counter enameling, you need to sand it off and clean the copper again. Often you actually get such wonderful looking colors that you don’t want to enamel the front side… There is such a thing as making art, even “paintings” with firing large pieces of copper. There are artists that make patterns and scenes with the fire alone.

copper jewelry evadesigns torch firing

Firescale cleaned off – aren’t the colors exciting!

So, anyway, to stage three. My stage three is the actual final enameling of the piece. It will be just the front if you are using the trivet method. Multiple layers, possibly using different colors. If you are doing your dipping method you are working on both sides together.  I do prefer the dipping, I use it whenever I can because by pointing the fire in different ways you get more variations of color just by heating the object more or less. Enamel colors have variations depending how much heat you apply to them. I find that the most interesting effects often happen with the dangly method and really playing with fire. Yes, it truly is playing with fire!

finished torch enameled copper pieces for jewelry evadesigns

Finished torch enameled pieces.