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.