Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Biting off more than I can chew

Well, maybe not more than I can chew, but my mental mouth is stuffed tighter than a chipmunk's with all the brain strain of working my latest piece out. This photo is at the stage I'm at now...I'll be doing more of a step by step article on the process once it's finished, this is just the bare bones of the piece as I'm getting started on the assembly, so the form I'm working towards is not there yet.

What's going on here is a loom weave over twisted sterling wire, using anodized copper wire for my 'thread'. The title of the piece is "Blue Cascade" and it's representing my version of a waterfall. It took more than a week to work out the design in my head and on paper and it's taken two days just to form the variegated pearl blue teardrop beads and sand them to the polished river stone effect I wanted (still sanding the rest too). I won't be glazing these, the light picks up the little flecks of pearl in the polymer clay and the matte finish is going to contrast so nicely with the glass beads in the neckpiece.

I've got it hanging off my work lamp above my desk because if I lay it down everything wants to tangle up. The cascade is going to diminish as it goes downwards. The top silver wires, representing the water stream before it hits the 'falls', will be tightly held together with the multi-strand of glass beads I've chosen. 

I'd hoped for more movement in the beads themselves but the movement is going to have to be from the form itself, as they are having to be too tightly bound in the end as I fit them between the wires. Luckily I am still getting the feeling I was going for, and trust me, it's never a sure thing with something like this, because there's only just so much you can sketch and visualize...then it's up to the laws of nature whether you called it right or not. It would have been nice if each little bead could dance, but it just will not work that way with this design. On the good side it means they won't flip into weird positions and get tangled up (that's what they were doing before I secured them).

My first big hurdle was forming the wires so that they would fall evenly spaced in the final piece. I'm working with 20 gauge square wire and it's sturdy but can oh, so easily, be bent with just the wrong pressure while forming and shaping around it. Once I had all the wires done then I had to hold them together tightly while adding the 'step' the water runs over. Sounds simple, but those wires want to cross over each other and the loops kept getting caught too. I finally got it and then had to form the polymer clay 'ledge'. I took my time and it came out so well that I didn't even have to sand anything but the sharpish edges to round it softly after it was baked.

But then there was the fear that I had to pull the bottom ends of the wire too far apart so I could fit the beads in between them. Anything could happen at this stage...the wire could bend the wrong way and ruin the line, the polymer clay ledge could crack from the pressure...I think I held my breath the whole time I positioned them, just hoping I had done well in the planning stage for just how long the drop was going to be before the beads were dropped in. 

The anodized wire is not bad to work with really, I can loop it on the end silver loops without worrying about a knot. But it does want to kink as I try to lay the top wire over the silver wire while the beads are pushed so tightly together (a bottom wire is on the back, the beads are pushed through and then held in place by the top wire). 

I only have 3 more rows to go but it's taken me 3 hours so far just to get this far on stringing those 8 beads between the outside beads on the loop (and you can see I still have 5 to run the top wire through). I guess I should not be complaining about the tediousness of assembly when the design could have, just as easily, not worked at all. I guess I'm just trying to take a break and build up some more steam for the rest of it, fingers crossed that things continue to go 'smoothly' (it's all relative lol) 

Hopefully I'll have a finished piece to show at the end of the week!

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