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