Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bogged Down in the Details or My Obsession with Bezels

Have you ever started a project and all of a sudden you realize your concentration is focused on a part of the project and you aren’t progressing?  You’re just stuck thinking about the same thing over and over?  Well, as most of you know, I make jewelry using silver metal clay.  I like to put the Mojave Stone cabochons that my dad cut and polished in bezels and design around the stone.  Let me share with you how I got stuck in the process.   

Bezel shaped to fit a stone

I decided that I would make the bezels (the thin strip that goes around the stone and holds it in place) out of the same silver metal clay as the setting.I made a mold for the stone by pushing it into polymer clay (plastic clay that holds its shape) and carefully removed it.  Then I poured jeweler’s investment (that is a type of plaster) into the mold, let it dry and used it as a plug.  The plug holds the space for the stone and can be fired with the clay in a kiln.  Some stones can be fired in the kiln but Mojave Stone is not one of them. 

Plug in fired setting


I made the ¼” wide clay bezel strip the length I needed and attached it to the clay leaving a little extra room for shrinkage.  The high temperature fuses the micro pieces of silver and the piece comes out being fine silver (.999).  I sanded and finished my piece of jewelry and put it into my kiln.  I love taking the piece out of the kiln after it cools.  It is the color of white and when I take my brass brush to it the color changes to silver.  Magic! 
 All that sounds like I was doing everything by the book.  At least I thought so.  But when I put the  stone in the fired bezel, it did not fit.  In fact the bezel shrank and was too small for the stone.  Fortunately I have several sizes of stone and I was able to ‘save’ the necklace.  Perhaps I should say I redesigned it with a turquoise stone that fit!   
redesigned necklace
  Metal clay shrinks about 10% when it is fired which I thought I had compensated for. Hmmm!   So I continued to work on bezels and more bezels.  I also used sterling silver bezel wire and became so involved in bezels that I was not designing jewelry.  I was just making holders for stones. Not creative. Just frustrating.   
Bezel Wire - Holders for Stones




The light went on in my head and I decided to stop.  I needed to design jewelry and relax about the bezels.  I needed to find the fun again.


In the meantime, I came across Lisa Barth’s book Designing from the Stone.   I was ready to read it and try the method she describes.  Her instructions are very clear and her jewelry is lovely to see.  So this week I designed a pendant and used the tabbed bezel wire she recommended.   It is pretty cool stuff and I have another method for making bezels.  I made sure the bezel was the correct size, poured the jeweler’s investment as a plug and fired the piece last night.  This morning I took it out of the kiln and the stone fits!  So now I am putting the finishing touches on it and have a success!  I am much less frustrated because I am looking at the whole process instead a obsessing over a part. 

Checking the fit of the stone

 
Fired Setting
   
I don’t expect anyone to run out and make a piece of jewelry from this explanation.  I am hopeful you will appreciate the process of making jewelry from silver metal clay more. Mostly I hope the next time you and I get bogged down in the details we stop, take a step back and look at the big picture.  Find the fun again.  The details will work out.  
Finished Necklace Using Tabbed Bezel Wire
 


 
 



 
  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bogged Down in the Details or My Obsession with Bezels

Have you ever started a project and all of a sudden you realize your concentration is focused on a part of the project and you aren’t progressing?  You’re just stuck thinking about the same thing over and over?  Well, as most of you know, I make jewelry using silver metal clay.  I like to put the Mojave Stone cabochons that my dad cut and polished in bezels and design around the stone.  Let me share with you how I got stuck in the process.   

Bezel shaped to fit a stone

I decided that I would make the bezels (the thin strip that goes around the stone and holds it in place) out of the same silver metal clay as the setting.I made a mold for the stone by pushing it into polymer clay (plastic clay that holds its shape) and carefully removed it.  Then I poured jeweler’s investment (that is a type of plaster) into the mold, let it dry and used it as a plug.  The plug holds the space for the stone and can be fired with the clay in a kiln.  Some stones can be fired in the kiln but Mojave Stone is not one of them. 

Plug in fired setting


I made the ¼” wide clay bezel strip the length I needed and attached it to the clay leaving a little extra room for shrinkage.  The high temperature fuses the micro pieces of silver and the piece comes out being fine silver (.999).  I sanded and finished my piece of jewelry and put it into my kiln.  I love taking the piece out of the kiln after it cools.  It is the color of white and when I take my brass brush to it the color changes to silver.  Magic! 
 All that sounds like I was doing everything by the book.  At least I thought so.  But when I put the  stone in the fired bezel, it did not fit.  In fact the bezel shrank and was too small for the stone.  Fortunately I have several sizes of stone and I was able to ‘save’ the necklace.  Perhaps I should say I redesigned it with a turquoise stone that fit!   
redesigned necklace
  Metal clay shrinks about 10% when it is fired which I thought I had compensated for. Hmmm!   So I continued to work on bezels and more bezels.  I also used sterling silver bezel wire and became so involved in bezels that I was not designing jewelry.  I was just making holders for stones. Not creative. Just frustrating.   
Bezel Wire - Holders for Stones




The light went on in my head and I decided to stop.  I needed to design jewelry and relax about the bezels.  I needed to find the fun again.


In the meantime, I came across Lisa Barth’s book Designing from the Stone.   I was ready to read it and try the method she describes.  Her instructions are very clear and her jewelry is lovely to see.  So this week I designed a pendant and used the tabbed bezel wire she recommended.   It is pretty cool stuff and I have another method for making bezels.  I made sure the bezel was the correct size, poured the jeweler’s investment as a plug and fired the piece last night.  This morning I took it out of the kiln and the stone fits!  So now I am putting the finishing touches on it and have a success!  I am much less frustrated because I am looking at the whole process instead a obsessing over a part. 

Checking the fit of the stone

 
Fired Setting
   
I don’t expect anyone to run out and make a piece of jewelry from this explanation.  I am hopeful you will appreciate the process of making jewelry from silver metal clay more. Mostly I hope the next time you and I get bogged down in the details we stop, take a step back and look at the big picture.  Find the fun again.  The details will work out.  
Finished Necklace Using Tabbed Bezel Wire