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