Insect Jewelry 8/2017

 

 I have a long interest in insect jewelry (1993, 1997, 1998, 2001). No cultural group makes as many representations of insects as do Native Americans, as butterflies and dragonflies have symbolic importance to many tribes. On our road trip to New Mexico in July, I was able to see and photograph some wonderful antique examples of butterfly pins and one dragon fly pin from those on at exhibit at Jonathan Hill’s booth at the Traveler’s Market in Santa Fe, when I gave a lecture on Prehistoric Southwest Jewelry. Unfortunately, since the Market was closed, there were no lights on in any of the displays, so I had to shoot at high ISO through the glass cases. Thus, these images are somewhat pixalated and not very sharp. These vintage pieces show styles and techniques that one rarely sees today and have a terrific animated quality, although they are less anatomically correct than contemporary examples of such jewelry.

I looked through our considerable collection of books on Southwest jewelry and could not find much on these vintage pieces. I decided to ask John C. Hill, Scottsdale gallery owner and appraiser for help. “The inlay piece (in first photo) is Zuni and likely from the 1930s. The inlay is usually made by Zuni craftsman and the silver work by Navajos. But generally called Zuni Inlay. The butterflies could be Navajo, most likely, or Hopi, because there were far fewer Hopi smiths than Navajo. These generally are after the WWII GI Bill. The Zuni inlay is rarely marked. The butterflies would be marked more often. But again generally Indian silver work is not marked before 1970”. 

We also toured the very impressive Jan and Lauris Philips Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry with curator Cheri Falkenstien-Doyle of the Wheelwright Museum. I was able to photograph a few vintage butterfly pins, as well as more contemporary butterfly and cicada pins by well-known Native American jewelers.

Just in this small sample of insect jewelry, one can readily see the evolution of styles, materials and techniques, which make such jewelry so collectible and of interest to jewelry historians. 

 

REFERENCES:

Liu, R. K. 1993 Butterfly Jewelry. Ornament 16 (3): 16-17.

—1997 Dragonfly Brooches. Ornament 20 (4): 24-25.

—1998 The Symbolic Importance of Insect in Jewelry. Ornament 22 (1): 38-43.

—2001 The Symbolic Importance of Insects in Jewelry. Transactions of the American Entomological Society 127 (2): 167-171.

Vintage Zuni inlay butterfly at Jonathan Hill’s booth, in Traveler’s Market, Santa Fe. Photographs: Robert K. Liu/Ornament Magazine.

Vintage Zuni inlay butterfly at Jonathan Hill’s booth, in Traveler’s Market, Santa Fe. Photographs: Robert K. Liu/Ornament Magazine.

Hopi or Navajo butterfly pins, of silver, with stampwork, probably date from the 1930s to 1940s. An example is in the Doneghy Collection at the MIA, Minneapolis. The small inlay butterfly is most likely Zuni.

Hopi or Navajo butterfly pins, of silver, with stampwork, probably date from the 1930s to 1940s. An example is in the Doneghy Collection at the MIA, Minneapolis. The small inlay butterfly is most likely Zuni.

Vintage silver dragonfly and two butterflies, some set with turquoise, all with stampwork. Hopi or Navajo, all courtesy of Jonathan Hill, Santa Fe.

Vintage silver dragonfly and two butterflies, some set with turquoise, all with stampwork. Hopi or Navajo, all courtesy of Jonathan Hill, Santa Fe.

Additional butterfly pins, of later date, from Jonathan Hill booth. Silver one is set with turquoise and silver bosses, while other has bezel-set wings of turquoise.

Additional butterfly pins, of later date, from Jonathan Hill booth. Silver one is set with turquoise and silver bosses, while other has bezel-set wings of turquoise.

Butterfly pins, probably from Santa Domingo Pueblo and possibly made from late 1920s to 1950s. Often called Depression jewelry, as they were made from non-precious or low-cost materials like phonograph records/battery cases, other plastics and gypsum, as well as turquoise. Because we walked through the Philips galleries rather quickly, due to the volume of material, I did not have time to record the captions on the displays. These bear some similarity to polymer butterflies made in recent years. Courtesy of the Wheelwright Museum, as are the last two images.

Butterfly pins, probably from Santa Domingo Pueblo and possibly made from late 1920s to 1950s. Often called Depression jewelry, as they were made from non-precious or low-cost materials like phonograph records/battery cases, other plastics and gypsum, as well as turquoise. Because we walked through the Philips galleries rather quickly, due to the volume of material, I did not have time to record the captions on the displays. These bear some similarity to polymer butterflies made in recent years. Courtesy of the Wheelwright Museum, as are the last two images.

A butterfly with turquoise wings, most likely also made by Liz Wallace, but I cannot be sure. Again, the shadows cast by the exhibition lighting adds to interest.

A butterfly with turquoise wings, most likely also made by Liz Wallace, but I cannot be sure. Again, the shadows cast by the exhibition lighting adds to interest.

Contemporary cicada brooch of turquoise and gold (?) by Liz Wallace; note how the shadow enhances the appearance of this jewelry, seemingly suggesting that it is in flight. Cicada imagery in jewelry was used by both ancient Hohokam and Navajo (Liu 1998, 2001). The cicada is among Wallace’s favorite insects and also of importance in Chinese culture.

Contemporary cicada brooch of turquoise and gold (?) by Liz Wallace; note how the shadow enhances the appearance of this jewelry, seemingly suggesting that it is in flight. Cicada imagery in jewelry was used by both ancient Hohokam and Navajo (Liu 1998, 2001). The cicada is among Wallace’s favorite insects and also of importance in Chinese culture.

NAIL HAMMER WORKSHOP 4/2017

Nail Hammer Workshop 4/2017

In late April I did a nail hammer workshop graciously hosted by Trish McAleer and David Freda. About 2010 Ken Bova, a jeweler whom we have covered several times in Ornament (31.5, 2008), told me he had made riveting hammers out of nails and chopsticks, when he needed such a hammer and did not have any available (you can see some of his hammers if you Google Ken Bova). Even though I had never seen Ken’s hammers, I made some in 2010 from large nails and spikes, and gave some to my son Jon and one to Phil Audia, a multi-talent craftstperson. Later, I wrote about these hammers and other artist-made or designed tools (Ornament 33.5, 2010). Earlier this year, I donated one to the Mingei International Museum, after I saw their show on hand tools.

On Friday afternoon, I drove north to Trish and David’s house, to give a nail hammer workshop that only lasted 3 hours before attendees had to leave.  Besides myself, the workshop participants included Trish, David, Ketarah, LaVerne, Pat and Wendy. I had brought material for nail heads, black bamboo handles and wire for lashing on the nail heads but Trish had provided more appropriate standard and masonry nails. Using a belt sander/disk sander and shaft-mounted grinding wheels, we were able to grind/polish the heads much faster than if we hand filed the nails to shape. Their triangular shape made gripping the nails difficult in a vise, so resorting to machine grinding was a better and quicker alternative. As David and Trish’s spanking clean studio is mainly used for enameling, soldering and casting, I felt our sawing and grinding was the equivalent of being bulls in their china shop, but fortunately we did the dirty work mainly on the deck or in the garage workshop. David was a great help to the participants, in grinding, drilling and torchwork, while Trish was the first to complete her nail hammer project. In between working with the workshop attendees, I was able to get a brief look at David’s next project, of casting life-size honeybees, which he may have been working on since late 2016, when I was gathering material for an article on his orchid and butterfly jewelry (Ornament 39.2, 2016). Overcoming a lot of technical problems, he is almost ready to make an orchid brooch with honeybees, which are greatly threatened worldwide by pesticides, parasites and other assaults on their numbers. They treated me to an exceptional sushi dinner, among the best I have ever had in southern California. As both Trish and David are avid divers and naturalists, dinner conversation was like being with my biologist friends, thoroughly enjoyable.

After I got home, during the weekend, I decided to make one of the masonry nails into a hammer, by hand grinding, filing and wet-dry sandpaper, a much more laborious process then using an electric belt/disc sander. Now I have four nail or spike hammers, with faces ranging from approximately 0.4 to 1.4 cm high, which are used when small surfaces are worked on or if the space is too tight for conventional metalworking hammers. I was not happy with the way I had lashed the new hammers and re-lashed older ones where the wire had loosened, so I re-did the lashing on one new and two older hammers. I still want to improve the wrapping or lashing process with wire, as I feel many times it is not tight enough, nor esthetically pleasing. I want to try adapting Polynesian lashing methods to nail hammers, and may ask Steve Myhre, a very talented New Zealand carver friend, who does beautiful Polynesian lashing on his stone and shell jewelry, for some advice.

The 6 and 8 penny nails, as well as the galvanized spikes are much softer and easier to file/ground than the hardened masonry and standard nails, as well as having very different shapes. Thus the resulting hammer faces are widely varying in shape and result in hammers of differing heft and weight. 

I very much enjoy forging and hand filing, although I do appreciate the speed, convenience and fine finish possible with electric sanders and grinding wheels. With hand forging and hand filing, the craftsperson has much more control, and improves neural-muscular skills through the repeated motions required in these processes. There is something very satisfying in slowly bringing the metal nail to a shape you desire, especially when your file is cutting well. But the masonry nail was so hard that I feel I should now re-sharpen my files, using a liquid honing process advertised by Boggs Tools of Paramount, CA.

NAIL HAMMER WITH BAMBOO HANDLE I made in about 2010, from a 6 or 8 penny nail that was forged and hand-filed to shape, then wrapped with copper wire. This example was recently donated to the Mingei International Museum for their hand tool collection.

OLDER NAIL, SPIKE AND DOG CHEW HAMMERS made by author; I had planned that we would make examples of such hammers for the workshop but we did not have sufficient time. The dog chew hammers function well as miniature rawhide hammers. 

COMPARISON OF FORGED/FILED 6 PENNY NAIL HAMMER VS STANDARD NAIL HAMMER MADE IN NAIL WORKSHOP, where the head of the latter has been ground flat and polished. Ebony handled hammer done in 2010. Alongside are standard nail and 8 penny nail, used in older and newer hammers. Note the very different heads and faces that result from the two different types of nails, and that of electrical grinding vs hand filing.

SPIKE, NAILS, BLACK BAMBOO AND WIRE for lashing hammer heads to handles. The spike is galvanized. Due to lack of time and more appropriate nails provided by Trish, we only used the bamboo handles and wire with balled end for workshop.

COMPARISON OF STANDARD AND MASONRY NAILS ON BOTTOM TO SPIKE AND 6/8 PENNY NAILS ON TOP. Due to lack of time, only the smaller, tapered standard nails were used. Sizes range from ca. 9.5 to 20.0 cm long. A piece of round dog chew leather is also shown.

SPIKE, NAILS, STANDARD AND MASONRY NAILS: when used, the heads are cut off the 6/8 penny nails and spikes, whereas the heads are used as the faces of the hammers for the standard and masonry nails. These are so hard it is easier to just grind the heads to shape, rather than forge/grind new ones.

DAVID FREDA PREPARING TO DRILL A HOLE IN BLACK BAMBOO HANDLE for anchoring the copper or brass wire that will be used to lash the nail onto the handle. Note how precisely everything is arranged on his bench and the great light. We felt like bulls in their china shop.

TRISH WAS THE FASTEST IN MAKING THE MOST PROGRESS on her nail hammer; here the ground/polished standard nail has been fitted into the bamboo handle prior to being lashed with annealed copper wire.

KETARAH SHAFFER SAWING SLOT IN HER BAMBOO HANDLE; slot needs to match thickness of prepared nail, which becomes the hammer head. Her ground and polished nail head rests on bench by the vise.

WENDY SHAW FILING SLOT IN BLACK BAMBOO HANDLE of nail hammer. A close fit of the nail into the sawn slot will help keep the hammer tight. This is part of the fastidious jewelry studio of David Freda and Trish McAleer.

NAIL HAMMER IN VISE: workshop participant about to wrap nail in place with wire. The nail is a standard or hard cut masonry nail, provided by Trish McAleer to the class. I think Polynesian lashing techniques with thread might be a feasible alternative way of fastening the nail head to the handle.

NAIL HAMMERS AND NAILS, with ebony handled hammer done in 2010, black bamboo handled one done in recent workshop. Alongside are standard nail and 8 penny nail, used in older and newer hammers.

DAVID FREDA HELPING WENDY melt a ball on end of her copper wire and annealing wire, before it is wrapped or lashed around the nail of her hammer. Annealing makes for tighter lashing.

DAVID FREDA’S NEW WORK, of casting the body, legs and wings of honey bees, life size. The body and leg casts are hollow. All the gold parts will be enameled and placed together on cast orchids. Working in this minute size has entailed developing new techniques by Freda, which taken him since late 2016? The blue objects are wax parts not yet cast.

IMG_7920a.jpg

OLDER NAIL HAMMER WITH EBONY HANDLE AND 3 NAIL HAMMERS MADE DURING WORKSHOP, using standard nails ground on electric sanders and wrapped/lashed with copper or brass wire.

RE-LASHED NAIL HAMMER WORKSHOP HAMMER, made with standard nail. I did not like the way I had hurriedly lashed my hammer at the workshop, so I re-did the lashing more carefully and with less copper wire.

HARD CUT MASONRY NAILS, with top as bought by Trish, the lower one hand ground, filed and wet-dry sanded by the author. Due to lack of time in the workshop, which was only about 3 hours, we used sanding belts and disk sander provided by Ketarah, as well as rotary grinders and rubber polishing wheels in David/Trish’s garage studio. Because of the triangular shape, it was hard to grip these nails in a vise for hand filing.

ABOVE NAIL AND BAMBOO HANDLE of hammer in process of being fitted. A slot is cut in the handle, into which the nail slides.

NAIL HAMMER, ADDITIONAL BAMBOO WEDGE AND HANDLE WITH CUT SLOT. The additional wedge will hold the hammer better in the slot and an additional small wedge will be slid in to make the fit even tighter. The final step will be to insert a wire with the end melted back; then the wire will be wrapped or lashed around the nail and fastened. Cyano - acrylic glue will also be used to help hold together the assembly, although the main strength should be through the wire lashing.

OLDER NAIL AND SPIKE HAMMERS VS NEWER ONES MADE WITH MASONRY AND STANDARD NAILS: because the latter two have very highly polished faces, they do not show well in this photograph. The following image will show their faces and bodies 

VERY DIFFERENT FACES, HEADS AND BODIES OF NAIL AND SPIKE HAMMERS: when regular nails or spikes are used, I forge and file the bodies of the hammers, but with hardened standard and masonry nails, only face and head are ground and polished. The faces range from 0.5 to 1.4 cm in size.

Heatbending and Heatshrinking. Light, Coiled And Lyrical. Part III

Heatbending and Heatshrinking.
Light, Coiled And Lyrical. Part III

FRESHLY CUT, THIN BLACK BAMBOO CULMS that were heatbent with a torch about a day or so after culling. A broom handle mandrel was used, to make these single and double tight radius bends. Those on the left were from a batch that still had too much moisture, so the bends needed to be tied with thin copper wire to hold their shape until they dried more. The diameters of the bends were 3.5-3.8 cm.

FRESHLY CUT, THIN BLACK BAMBOO CULMS that were heatbent with a torch about a day or so after culling. A broom handle mandrel was used, to make these single and double tight radius bends. Those on the left were from a batch that still had too much moisture, so the bends needed to be tied with thin copper wire to hold their shape until they dried more. The diameters of the bends were 3.5-3.8 cm.

 

With the current drought in California, many plants are suffering. I have lost one species of clumping bamboo, another is threatened and my favorite black bamboo is not doing well, with many plants of the grove dying. I am able to cull some of the dying plants before they change to the point where they are not useful for jewelry but others are too far gone. This has prompted me to prune a few thin culms off those struggling but still live grasses, to see how they will heat bend while still fresh. Most were of so small a diameter I would not have used them in the past, except perhaps for intertwined torques or earrings (Liu 2012).

 

HEATBENT DOUBLE TIGHT RADIUS BEND CULMS in process of being made into earrings. One of pair has square 18 gauge bronze wire matrix fitted to bent bamboo circle. One end of wire fits into drilled hole, other into a slot filed in upper part of circle. Finished example in last image of blog. Note thin copper wire holding bent bamboo in place while piece is being worked.

COVERLITE GLUED in place but not yet trimmed before heatshrinking. Trimming results in better heatshrinking, reducing crinkling and also eases cleanup.

SINGLE TIGHT RADIUS BEND EARRINGS, with heatshrunk Coverlite on wire matrix, precious coral and sterling silver bead terminations and 18 gauge sterling silver earwire, handformed, forged and buffed. In this type of earring, both ends of the wire matrix are in drilled holes, which are glued into place; ca. 9.5 cm long. Open end of silver earwire worn toward head.

 
 
SQUARE BEND TORQUE WITH FOSSIL SHARK TOOTH VS INTERTWINED TORQUE AND PENDANT, latter with freshly cut black bamboo culms. Note how tight the intertwining, as well as the bail of the pendant is also a tight radius bend. This torque is decorated with vintage Bohemian glass rings and beads from the African trade, and Baule brass bead terminations. The 45-70 million years old fossil Lamna shark tooth from Morocco is accentuated with two Cornaline d’ Allepo Venetian beads, which simulate the way Polynesians use red sealing wax to decorate their shark tooth jewelry. The tooth is attached to the bamboo with wrapped, annealed square bronze wire. All photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.

SQUARE BEND TORQUE WITH FOSSIL SHARK TOOTH VS INTERTWINED TORQUE AND PENDANT, latter with freshly cut black bamboo culms. Note how tight the intertwining, as well as the bail of the pendant is also a tight radius bend. This torque is decorated with vintage Bohemian glass rings and beads from the African trade, and Baule brass bead terminations. The 45-70 million years old fossil Lamna shark tooth from Morocco is accentuated with two Cornaline d’ Allepo Venetian beads, which simulate the way Polynesians use red sealing wax to decorate their shark tooth jewelry. The tooth is attached to the bamboo with wrapped, annealed square bronze wire. All photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.

 
 

      Of the two batches I culled, one was used about a day after cutting; when heated with an acetylene or Orca propane/air torch, these bent very easily around a small diameter wood dowel held upright in a vise. As seen in the first photo of this blog, some were single tight radius bends, others double tight radius bends. Still others were bent into circles at both ends, to act as pendants, with the top bend serving as the bail. In a second batch, used the day after also, the bamboo was still too laden with moisture, so that it was necessary to twist fine copper wire around the bends, to keep them from springing apart after heating and cooling.

These tight radius bend black bamboo components were used as a pendant on an intertwined torque, and two styles of earrings. I felt the bends from freshly culled bamboo had that wonderful lyrical feel reminiscent of plant growth and form that I try to capture in my jewelry. In order to add the color that is suggestive of flowers, or seed pods, I integrated square wire matrices into the bamboo bends, then attached red Coverlite. Since model airplane coverings are films and not fabrics, they do not drape or fit well into small crevices or discontinuities. Therefore when you are working with Coverlite or similar materials, you have to keep gaps to a minimum. In order for such polyester films to really heatshrink, every attachment surface must be uniformly glued. When glued and heatshrunk, this model airplane covering brings both color and pleasing geometric planes into play for these very light, yet strong earrings.

 
CLOSEUP OF TIGHT RADIUS BEND PENDANT, COMPARED TO SINGLE AND DOUBLE TIGHT RADIUS BEND EARRINGS;  the one on the right is an older pair, made from bamboo harvested and dried for a long period, versus two Coverlite adorned ones on the left which are from freshly culled culms. The positioning of the wire matrix results in either horizontally or vertically oriented panels of red. Both have decorations of red precious coral and sterling silver beads, as well as hand-formed/forged silver earwires. The older example has vintage Bohemian glass, and Ethiopian silver beads for decorations. Earrings are 9.5 - 12.2 cm long.

CLOSEUP OF TIGHT RADIUS BEND PENDANT, COMPARED TO SINGLE AND DOUBLE TIGHT RADIUS BEND EARRINGS;  the one on the right is an older pair, made from bamboo harvested and dried for a long period, versus two Coverlite adorned ones on the left which are from freshly culled culms. The positioning of the wire matrix results in either horizontally or vertically oriented panels of red. Both have decorations of red precious coral and sterling silver beads, as well as hand-formed/forged silver earwires. The older example has vintage Bohemian glass, and Ethiopian silver beads for decorations. Earrings are 9.5 - 12.2 cm long.

 

While all of these torques and earrings look fairly easy to make, they in fact require a great deal of work, since no two are really alike, due to the natural variation in both the form/size of the bamboo and how it reacts to heatbending. So time-consuming adjustments have to be made to each piece, rendering each finished jewelry one-of-a-kind.

REFERENCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Liu, R. K. 2002/2003 Design Experiment. red lantern
earrings. Ornament 26 (2): 82-83.
—2010 Design Study. Bamboo Torque. Ornament 33 (3): 70-72.
—2012 Bamboo Jewelry. A Sustainable Resource. Ornament 35 (3): 60-65.
—2014a Matrix Jewelry. Building Light and Volume. Ornament 37 (4): 56-61.
—2014b Photography of Personal Adornment. Photographic Techniques for Jewelry/artwear Craftspeople, Researchers, Scholars and Museum/gallery Staff. San Marcos, Ornament Magazine: 164 p.

 

The Magic Of Heatshrinking. Light, Volumetric And Colorful. Part II

The Magic Of Heatshrinking.
Light, Volumetric And Colorful. Part II

TWO-SIDED FRUIT SLICE MATRIX EARRINGS, one with Ultracote adhered with cyano-acrylic glue, and trimmed to shape, while other is just laid on the covering. Trimming covering to shape of earring wire matrix results in better gluing and less buckling when heatshrunk.

TWO-SIDED FRUIT SLICE MATRIX EARRINGS, one with Ultracote adhered with cyano-acrylic glue, and trimmed to shape, while other is just laid on the covering. Trimming covering to shape of earring wire matrix results in better gluing and less buckling when heatshrunk.

FINISHED FIG OR PEAR-SHAPED MATRIX EARRINGS, with only two of four sides covered. The Ultracote covering, while difficult to adhere, will heatshrink tightly, yielding these nice parabolic curves. Note that it is smoother than the unfinished earring, which had not yet been heated as much as this pair. Because both sides of the Ultracote are yellow, it gives the illusion that more than two sides are covered. I feel this design is the most successful application yet of heatshrinking, but it is difficult to execute successfully and repeatedly.

FINISHED FIG OR PEAR-SHAPED MATRIX EARRINGS, with only two of four sides covered. The Ultracote covering, while difficult to adhere, will heatshrink tightly, yielding these nice parabolic curves. Note that it is smoother than the unfinished earring, which had not yet been heated as much as this pair. Because both sides of the Ultracote are yellow, it gives the illusion that more than two sides are covered. I feel this design is the most successful application yet of heatshrinking, but it is difficult to execute successfully and repeatedly.

BARE WIRE MATRIX AND PARTIALLY COVERED AND HEATSHRUNK EARRING, in which the four sides were simple, gentle arcs; after soldering, hand-pressure pushed in the tops , to give pear - or fig shape. The Ultracote covering has been glued, with initial heatshrinking and still needs to be cleaned up with a file or sharp craft knife. Note dimples in yellow covering, which were later smoothed by additional heatshrinking.

BARE WIRE MATRIX AND PARTIALLY COVERED AND HEATSHRUNK EARRING, in which the four sides were simple, gentle arcs; after soldering, hand-pressure pushed in the tops , to give pear - or fig shape. The Ultracote covering has been glued, with initial heatshrinking and still needs to be cleaned up with a file or sharp craft knife. Note dimples in yellow covering, which were later smoothed by additional heatshrinking.

 
POD MATRIX EARRINGS WITH ONE COVERLITE PANEL AND FIG/PEAR-SHAPE MATRIX EARRINGS WITH TWO ULTRACOTE PANELS, from 2014/2015, demonstrating matte and shiny surfaces respectively, as well as how they react to heat. Heatgun on highest setting used for both. Fig/pear-shaped earrings are 7.2 cm high. All my earrings are supposed to be worn with open end of earwire facing inward. These were photographed with a macro lens, with studio strobe, on a Varitone background (Liu 2014b).

POD MATRIX EARRINGS WITH ONE COVERLITE PANEL AND FIG/PEAR-SHAPE MATRIX EARRINGS WITH TWO ULTRACOTE PANELS, from 2014/2015, demonstrating matte and shiny surfaces respectively, as well as how they react to heat. Heatgun on highest setting used for both. Fig/pear-shaped earrings are 7.2 cm high. All my earrings are supposed to be worn with open end of earwire facing inward. These were photographed with a macro lens, with studio strobe, on a Varitone background (Liu 2014b).

 
CROSSED COIL MATRIX EARRINGS, with one panel of Coverlite covering, are 5.4 cm high, 2015. The Coverlite conforms to the planes of the panel and is a matte finish. The brass wire was annealed, then wound on a wood dowel, much like one would make large jump rings. Nipped apart, ends filed square and soldered to form two crisscrossed rings. These are photographed with both reflective and transiluminated light. My bamboo and matrix jewelry is carried by Freehand Gallery, in Los Angeles.

CROSSED COIL MATRIX EARRINGS, with one panel of Coverlite covering, are 5.4 cm high, 2015. The Coverlite conforms to the planes of the panel and is a matte finish. The brass wire was annealed, then wound on a wood dowel, much like one would make large jump rings. Nipped apart, ends filed square and soldered to form two crisscrossed rings. These are photographed with both reflective and transiluminated light. My bamboo and matrix jewelry is carried by Freehand Gallery, in Los Angeles.

For the pendants and initial earrings, (which I began working on in June, 2014a), I used silicon bronze brazing rods, as I needed them to be light and strong. I wanted to determine if the wire matrix system and heatshrunk coverings would work as well in earrings, as the combination could produce volumetric and colorful ornaments. However, bronze brazing rods were too heavy for earrings and too thick to easily or neatly bend (even when annealed), so I started using round, sterling silver wire that I forged flat, to both strengthen it with work hardening, as well as to provide more gluing surfaces. As seen in the image with the matrix pendant and earrings (blog, Pt. I), this method worked, but was time-consuming, especially with complex shapes and the fact that I do not like to use pickle. Therefore I clean up firescale mechanically after soldering, which is tedious. However, this is not entirely negative, as the firescale and heat coloring of brass wire during annealing and soldering gives a warm copper tone to the shiny brass, and is much more complementary to the rustic feel I like, especially when paired with black bamboo. What increased additional labor to these sterling silver matrix earrings was my making complex shapes; I wanted trios of three earrings, so that they could be paired and worn in three different ways.

     About two months later, I switched to square 18 gauge half-hard brass jeweler’s wire from Rio Grande, soldered onto sterling silver earwires, a better solution. These brass and silver earrings were all much more simple shapes, many formed after annealing, on improvised mandrels, such as beads or wood dowels. As with all jewelry processes, one tries to simplify with experience; for example, the Pod part of the earrings started out as 3 separate pieces of brass wire, soldered together at one end, then closed and soldered with the silver earwire at the other end. Soon, I just notched a piece of square wire at the midpoint, then soldered on a second piece, to form the three wire pod framework, speeding up the work and making a stronger, easier soldering joint.

CROSSTOWN RIVALS COIL MATRIX EARRINGS, with the three coils completely covered with Coverlite and thoroughly shrunk with heatgun, resulting in a wrinkled, crinkly finish, 6.4 cm high.The yellow/red combination represents the colors of the University of Southern California (which I attended in my freshman year), while the yellow/blue is that of UCLA, where I got my Ph.D.

CROSSTOWN RIVALS COIL MATRIX EARRINGS, with the three coils completely covered with Coverlite and thoroughly shrunk with heatgun, resulting in a wrinkled, crinkly finish, 6.4 cm high.The yellow/red combination represents the colors of the University of Southern California (which I attended in my freshman year), while the yellow/blue is that of UCLA, where I got my Ph.D.

     Since switching to the combination of silver and brass, I have tried a series of earring designs, mostly based on seed pod or fruit shapes. They are exceeding light, weighing between 2 to 3 grams, yet are strong, having a soldered matrix and polyester covering that is designed to withstand hard crashes when a model airplane lands. Their shapes and coverings are colorful, and give the illusion of having large volumes. Taking advantage of the relative ease of making coiled square wire circles, I use these soldered together and expanded asymmetrically for coil earrings, or at right angles to each other, which results in a visually pleasing geometric shape. By utilizing the same method as making jump rings, a wood dowel ensures that all the coils are the same diameter. This is an easy way to make standard components. Different ways of juxtaposing these coils or jump rings produce very different designs. For instance, if the coils are left uncut, a number of them when soldered together at one spot produces a visually pleasing shape when pulled apart where it has not been soldered. The coil matrix earrings are an example. However, it is difficult to glue and have the model airplane coatings adhere to all parts of the coil.

COMPARISON OF COIL EARRINGS WITH COVERLITE OR ULTRACOTE, where they are soldered together at the top to the silver earwire. Then the bottom is spread or pulled apart. The dark, wound brass coils used to form the matrix have been formed on a wood mandrel, then annealed so that they are easier to work.

COMPARISON OF COIL EARRINGS WITH COVERLITE OR ULTRACOTE, where they are soldered together at the top to the silver earwire. Then the bottom is spread or pulled apart. The dark, wound brass coils used to form the matrix have been formed on a wood mandrel, then annealed so that they are easier to work.

     Like my heatbent black bamboo jewelry, these wire matrix earrings with model airplane coverings all require heat to varying degrees, whether to solder metal, heatbend bamboo or heatshrink polyester films. Since my primary job is as a writer/researcher and photographer at Ornament, sporadic opportunities to work in the studio hamper my growth as a jeweler. I feel that my projects with bamboo, wire matrices and high-tech model airplane coverings work well together and have great potential, but I may lack the time or skill to fully develop them. I hope other craftspeople will adopt and work with these materials and techniques.


REFERENCES
Liu, R. K. 2002/2003 Design Experiment. red lantern earrings. Ornament 26 (2): 82-83.
—2010 Design Study. Bamboo Torque. Ornament 33 (3): 70-72.
—2012 Bamboo Jewelry. A Sustainable Resource. Ornament 35 (3): 60-65.
—2014a Matrix Jewelry. Building Light and Volume. Ornament 37 (4): 56-61.
—2014b Photography of Personal Adornment. Photographic Techniques for Jewelry/artwear Craftspeople, Researchers, Sholars and Museum/gallery Staff. San Marcos, Ornament Magazine: 164 p.

 

The Magic Of Heatshrinking. Light, Volumetric And Colorful. Part I

The Magic Of Heatshrinking.
Light, Volumetric And Colorful. Part I

EARRINGS OF SQUARE BRASS AND ROUND STERLING SILVER WIRE, COVERED WITH COVERLITE OR ULTRACOTE COATINGS; both wires are 18 gauge. Brass square half-hard wire is formed on mandrels, while silver earwire are shaped with pliers and lightly forged. Except for the yellow triple coil earrings, all others have only one or two panels covered. Note that the top pear-shaped earring, covered with Ultracote, has really beautiful curved and complex surfaces caused by the heatshrinking of the model airplane coating. It is better shown in other photographs in next blog. Foreground Pod earring is ca. 7.0 cm long. All these photographs are taken with a Canon 7D, and 60 or 100mm Canon macro lens, and studio strobes, against Tufflock, transiluminated plex or Varitone backgrounds (Liu 2014b). Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.

EARRINGS OF SQUARE BRASS AND ROUND STERLING SILVER WIRE, COVERED WITH COVERLITE OR ULTRACOTE COATINGS; both wires are 18 gauge. Brass square half-hard wire is formed on mandrels, while silver earwire are shaped with pliers and lightly forged. Except for the yellow triple coil earrings, all others have only one or two panels covered. Note that the top pear-shaped earring, covered with Ultracote, has really beautiful curved and complex surfaces caused by the heatshrinking of the model airplane coating. It is better shown in other photographs in next blog. Foreground Pod earring is ca. 7.0 cm long. All these photographs are taken with a Canon 7D, and 60 or 100mm Canon macro lens, and studio strobes, against Tufflock, transiluminated plex or Varitone backgrounds (Liu 2014b). Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.

I   have always believed that earrings were the most frequently worn piece of jewelry, next to necklaces, although I have no hard figures (Liu 1998). In tribal cultures, earrings might be items of personal adornment that are rarely changed, but in Western societies, earrings are switched with the occasion or the mood. Thus, many women usually own large collections of them, since their lower cost relative to other types of jewelry enhances the opportunity of buying more, or of wearers making their own. However, certain generations may now have changed their buying habits and own fewer.

      While there may have been studies on what attracts the eye more, the human figure or the face, it is the latter that draws our attention when we look closely at someone. Since I write about jewelry, am a photographer and also a jeweler, I often study what types of earrings are being worn. I like and frequently make discreet and small earrings (with precious materials and/or ethnographic/ancient artifacts); smaller, discreet earrings are probably worn the most but I frequently see large hoop earrings, which often have little visual mass or interest, other than their size. I feel earrings should have both visual interest and good design. I am especially drawn to large, light ear adornment, especially colorful earwear that give a suggestion or a feeling of a flower tucked behind a ear, such as is the practice in some tropical cultures. An example would be the Chinese lantern flower earrings I made in 2002/2003, which give the impression of such flowers dangling from the earlobes, but are actually light, heatshrunk covering over a soldered and formed gold wire matrix. Since these earrings dangle off the earlobe, they easily catch light coming from the front or back. With only one pivot point from the earlobe, they also swing easily, adding eyecatching movement.

      When I began to explore combining light, volumetric and colorful pendants to go with my heatbent bamboo jewelry (Liu 2012, 2014a), I returned to using high-tech model airplane coverings that were heatshrunk during or after application to the model plane skeleton, which are often of balsa wood. In my case, I fabricated metal rod matrices, onto which I glued European polyester model airplane coatings of Coverlite or Ultracote, with cyano-acrylic glues. (There are perhaps twenty or more types of coverings for airplane models that fly, of varying thicknesses; I have used about four, some of which were not identified, as they were cutoffs sold in unmarked rolls.) Then I used either torches or heatguns to shrink this covering. Sometimes the heatshrinking created wonderful geometric planes that were aesthetically very pleasing, but often unpredictable and sometimes not repeatable, so pleasing results are sometimes due to serendipity.

 
HEATGUN VS OXYACETYLENE TORCH, respectively ca. 600 °C and 3100 °C, a difference of about 1500 degrees. Usually, I use an acetylene or propane/air torch to heatbend bamboo and/or solder; these are respectively 2400 and 1980 °C. Heatshrinking polyester can be done with a torch, but is safer with a heatgun.

HEATGUN VS OXYACETYLENE TORCH, respectively ca. 600 °C and 3100 °C, a difference of about 1500 degrees. Usually, I use an acetylene or propane/air torch to heatbend bamboo and/or solder; these are respectively 2400 and 1980 °C. Heatshrinking polyester can be done with a torch, but is safer with a heatgun.

IN PROCESS FIG/PEAR-SHAPED AND POD EARRING MATRICES, shown with a bakelite bead (3.2 cm diameter), imitation of copal from the African trade, that I used as a forming mandrel for the square wire matrices, which are soldered at top and bottom. Earwires are 18 gauge sterling silver, and bent, forged and buffed smooth.

IN PROCESS FIG/PEAR-SHAPED AND POD EARRING MATRICES, shown with a bakelite bead (3.2 cm diameter), imitation of copal from the African trade, that I used as a forming mandrel for the square wire matrices, which are soldered at top and bottom. Earwires are 18 gauge sterling silver, and bent, forged and buffed smooth.

      Learning what works and what doesn’t is all part of building one’s skillbase. The cost of mistakes is a good tradeoff for growth as a craftsperson. If one does not go beyond his or her safety zone, there is not much chance of innovation. While seemingly trite, work does beget work, and unsuccessful experiments often drive improvement and innovation.

 
HEATBENT BAMBOO TORQUE WITH METAL ROD MATRIX PENDANT, of silicon bronze rod covered with Coverlite. The pendant is only covered on three sides and was bent on a vise, then soldered, It was cold-joined to the torque and the Coverlite still needs slight cleanup with files.

HEATBENT BAMBOO TORQUE WITH METAL ROD MATRIX PENDANT, of silicon bronze rod covered with Coverlite. The pendant is only covered on three sides and was bent on a vise, then soldered, It was cold-joined to the torque and the Coverlite still needs slight cleanup with files.

COVERLITE MATRIX PENDANT ON HEATBENT BAMBOO TORQUE AND WIRE MATRIX EARRINGS, some of which are in sets of three, to be worn in different asymmetrical pairs, or are an asymmetrical pair, like the yellow/red cube and triangle. In foreground are two pairs of symmetrical Pod earrings, with all red or red/yellow Coverlite skins. Earrings are 5.0-7.5 cm long and weigh between 1.6 to 3.1 grams each, all from 2014.

COVERLITE MATRIX PENDANT ON HEATBENT BAMBOO TORQUE AND WIRE MATRIX EARRINGS, some of which are in sets of three, to be worn in different asymmetrical pairs, or are an asymmetrical pair, like the yellow/red cube and triangle. In foreground are two pairs of symmetrical Pod earrings, with all red or red/yellow Coverlite skins. Earrings are 5.0-7.5 cm long and weigh between 1.6 to 3.1 grams each, all from 2014.

 

REFERENCES
Liu, R. K. 1998 Ethnographic Earrings. Function and Form. Ornament 21 (4): 38-41.
—2002/2003 Design Experiment. red lantern earrings. Ornament 26 (2): 82-83.
—2010 Design Study. Bamboo Torque. Ornament 33 (3): 70-72.
—2012 Bamboo Jewelry. A Sustainable Resource. Ornament 35 (3): 60-65.
—2014a Matrix Jewelry. Building Light and Volume. Ornament 37 (4): 56-61.
—2014b Photography of Personal Adornment. Photographic Techniques for Jewelry/artwear Craftspeople, Researchers, Sholars and Museum/gallery Staff. San Marcos, Ornament Magazine: 164 p.