Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Visit to a bronze foundry - Lost Wax Casting Method

Last week we went to visit a foundry in the Cotswolds area. It's called Pangolin, named after an African anteater!  We had a fascinating day and were amazed to see all the work involved in creating their massive bronze sculptures.  Our friends who were staying with us in Cheltenham had also been with us in San Miguel de Allende earlier in the year and they, like me, had tried their hand at  wax modelling for bronze casting, so it was especially interesting to see all the phases that our sculptures had gone through.

The pangolin foundry uses both the lost wax method and also sand casting, depending on the piece.

The lost wax method dates back at least 6,000 years and the technique has not changed very much.

1. The artist first creates his sculpture using wax, clay or some other media.

2.  A mold is then made of the original sculpture.  An outer rigid mold is made from plaster or clay and an inner flexible mold is made from rubber.  Molds can be two or three parts, depending on the overhangs and include shims (wedges or tapers) so the pieces can be put back together accurately.

Clay outer mold. The wedges are the shims

Outer rigid brown/white mold with pink rubber mold

 3. A wax cast is then made by painting molten wax into the rubber mold.  Once a thin layer has been painted on, wax is poured in and out of the mold to create a thickness of 1/8" - 1/4" of wax over the whole rubber mold.

Wax in the rubber and plaster mold

4. When the wax has cooled and set, it is carefully removed from the rubber mold. A system of wax rods (runners) are then added to the wax.  These will allow the bronze/silver/gold to run into the sculpture.  Small rods (risers) are also added to allow air to escape as the metal runs in.

Refining the wax models and adding risers and runners

5. The wax model is then encased in another mold able to withstand high temperatures, so that the wax can be melted out.  This mold is made from grog - a crushed, fired clay mixed with plaster.  The grog sets quickly and a hard block is formed around the wax.  This same mixture is also poured inside the wax to form the core, as the final sculpture will be hollow.

6. The finished block is then placed upside down in a kiln and heated upto 700 degrees C. This melts the wax out of the mold.

The kiln

7. After the mold cool, they are turned the right way up and filled with molten bronze. The metal fills all the space left by the melted wax and the sculpture, including the runners and risers.

8. Once the metal cools, the mould is broken open and the raw cast sculpture is revealed.  Cracks are filled with bronze, and the risers and runners are removed.

9. The final process is then patination and a large range of colors are available.

I'll show you a little of the sand casting process on Thursday and also some final pieces...but here is one of my favorites for now:

Dodo by Nick Bibby

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fish Pedicure!

On Saturday myself and couple of friends went for a fish pedicure in Cheltenham. I hadn't heard of such a thing until I read a friend's blog last week - Silver with Lesley.

Hmmm. It looked like a different sort of experience so I convinced Chui and Kathrin to come with me...thinking we'd go for 15 minutes, but Chui persuaded us to try the 30 minutes session!

Well, a picture is worth a thousand words so I'll show you some pictures:

The fish are Garra Rufa fish and they nibble away at dead skin but leave healthy skin intact!  They are also called Doctor Fish or Nibble Fish! They have an enzyme in their saliva that breaks down dead skin cells.  The fish have been used medically to help those with eczema and psoriasis.

There are quite a few fish pedicure places in Britain where you can go and get your dead skin nibbled away!  Check out AppyFeet for a location near you!!!

 The initial experience was really pretty yucky. It doesn't feel like tickling - instead it's more like pins and needles. We went first thing in the morning as we wanted the fish to be hungry - and the tanks to be clean!! There are debates about the whole health and safety thing of the same fish eating various people's skin etc.... - which means that these "spas" are banned in several US states.  But no conclusions have yet been made ...and so far, we have survived :-D

Chiu's new fish booties!

Whereas you typically think of pedicures as relaxing times, often with a chair massage too - this was not quite so relaxing. In fact, we spent 30 minutes laughing and crying! The fish seemed to do different things on different people - presumably finding some areas more tasty than others!!!

Anyhow it was an unusual experience and our feet definitely felt softer afterwards!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Meet my followers: Joy

I'm really delighted to introduce you to Joy Funnell today - one of the followers of my blog.  I first "met" Joy at the beginning of 2010 when she purchased a couple of pairs of my early aluminum earrings. From then on, I started reading her blog and following her creations.  I remember one of the first blog posts that I read of hers. It was about her trip to Japan and how she made a necklace inspired by a drain cover!  Check out her "down the drain" post!

Spirito di Venezia by Joy

Joy is a metal clay artist and senior instructor living in Hastings in the UK. She runs many classes - either for certification in metal clay, or beginner or specific technique classes.  She is an instructor at the upcoming Metal Clay World conference this July.   Her work can be seen in many different publications.  Her blog is called "fired with imagination" and she sells her work, and metal clay, on her website.

She often combines wonderful enamel work with metal clay and has devised a clever method to make the "cells" for enamelling from silver wire.  Her work always looks so neat. Here is one of my favorite examples of her enamelling:

Something fishy by Joy

She joined my "bird a week" challenge so it's been great to see her creativity channeled to birds at least once a week.  Look at this wonderful example:

La Fenice by Joy

Through our correspondences, I find out that she's worked in many other media too, including wood carving, glass work and has recently taken classes in ceramics.

The back of Joy's pieces are a delight as well as the front. She takes real care with the reverse side, often adding stones and always her signature.   Here's a great example:

And I have to end with one of my other favorites - (I know - it's like all of her work is my favorites!). This brooch just makes me laugh! It is one of her bird a week pieces, and shows a wonderful group of little birdies' faces with their eyes looking in different directions!!

I hope you've enjoyed seeing Joy's work. There is such a happy spirit behind it all and I look forward every week to seeing her newest bird.  I'm hoping that we can meet face to face one of these days on one of my trips back to the UK.  Timing didn't work out this trip, but maybe in November???

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weekly Bird in the hand

Here is this week's list of things I'm grateful for - my "bird in the hand":

Photo by iJammin
  • Family and friends whom we've been seeing during our trip in England.  We had some lovely days and too many good meals!
  • Uncle Archie, whose funeral we went to yesterday.  It was a good send off for him.
  • New experiences - but more about a fishy one next week!!!
  • Our fascinating visit to a big bronze foundry - again, I'll tell you more about that soon!!!
  • Gooseberry and rhubarb yoghurt
  • Genius gluten free bread - GF bread that actually tastes like bread and doesn't need to be toasted.  A special bonus is that I also heard this week that Genius will soon be available in the US! Yippee!
  • My friends Angie and Marly who are back in California looking after Harold my parrot and singing with him :>
  • Seeing all the wildflowers on the roadside
  • Good pubs and English cider!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Merry go round - Photo of interest

It's the last Friday of the month, so join us on our merry go round for a quick spin.  The merry go round is where a group of 11 artists/craftwomen link together around the world and tell you a little about their art and craft, through blogging on the same topic.

This month's topic is to choose a photo that interests us - either taken personally or by someone else and explain what attracts us to it.

The photo I've chosen was emailed to me this week by a friend, Janet and to me, it symbolizes "Hope". Here's the photo:

The story that came with the photo was that in January of this year, the weather was so cold in St. Louis, Missouri that bald eagles could not access fish in the river. This was because the temperature of the water was so cold that the fish had all gone to the bottom of the river and it was too deep for the birds to catch them.  The eages were seen flying over homes, looking for food to eat.

Some local residents decided to help them out so that they would survive the cold spell and so started feeding the eagles with fish.

When they started, there were just a handful of eagles, but more and more came and enjoyed their free meal.

The photo is so full of hope for me as it wasn't long ago that the Bald Eagle was an endangered species in the US.  It was 1967 that the Bald Eagle was officially named an endangered species in the whole of the US. In 2007 it finally came off the endangered species list.   If we hadn't done something then - and continued caring, like these locals did in January, no photo like this would have been possible.

I hope you'll take the time to see what photos other members of the merry go round selected by clicking on the links below.  Next month for our merry go round we'll be using these photos as inspiration to create something.   We all live in different places around the world, so time differences may impact when we all get our blog post up.

Samantha at Vintage is for lovers - http://www.vintageisforlovers.com/
Jen at Painted Fish Studio - http://paintedfishstudio.com/
Bethany at Dirksen Dabbles - http://www.dirksendabbles.com/
Laura at Blue Terracotta -  http://blueterracotta.com/
Monika at Red2White - http://red2white.wordpress.com/
Mitsy at ArtMind - http://artmind-etcetera.blogspot.com
Kim at Vilt a la Kim - http://viltalakim.com/blog/
Sara at Crafts of Texture - http://sarastexturecrafts.blogspot.com
Mariana at Florcita - http://florcita.eu/wordpress/
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent - http://lebarduvent.blogspot.com
Ruth at Birdland Creations - http://insidetheartisan.blogspot.com

Or else you can click on the blog hop below.  If you are a merry go round participant, please add your link if it's not already included. You can then copy the code and put it on your blog post too.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blues skies

Following on from my "in the pink" bangle, here is another colored version - "Blues Skies".

Do you remember the song "blue skies" by Irving Berlin?. Quite a few different artists have recorded it.

Blue skies smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies do I see

Bluebirds singing the song
Nothing but bluebirds all day long

I never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you're in love, my, how they fly

Blue days all of them gone
Nothing but blue skies from now on 

This bangle is blue skies AND blue flowers!  No more blue days here :=D  And I also  made some simple earrings to match.

Here's a little Ella Fitzgerald as a reminder of Blue Skies!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

21/52 Bird a week challenge - Great Blue Heron

As I'm in the UK at the moment, I thought it was a good time to have a non-metal/jewelry bird for my "bird a week" challenge!  And so I tried something a little different - an illustration using plasticine.

Here is my great blue heron.

There are a number of illustrators who work in plasticine - and it's fascinating to see what they do.  I was especially inspired by the work of Barbara Reid who has illustrated many children's book.  I am so attracted by the idea illustration - yet not being able to draw is such a hindrance!  But maybe I will try more in sculptural illustration instead.

I haven't used plasticine since I was a little girl. It felt nice.  Blending colors was fun too. I'm keen to try more.

Our great blue heron has been at our pond in the US regularly over the last few months and next week, we go and see my sister and her family at her vacation home on a lake near us in the Cotswolds, called "Heronslake".  Maybe it'll be a week of herons!

Please click on the links below to see what others have done this week for the "bird a week" challenge.  We are nearly half way through the year....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In the pink

I'm feeling in the pink today!  After flying over to the UK from CA yesterday, although I was up in the night for a couple of hours, (reading my Google reader at 4am this morning), I've felt good today and not tired at all.  We went out with family last night for dinner and they were entertaining so we stayed up until 11pm, not even noticing what time it was!  Hopefully tonight will be a good night's rest too.

So to match my mood, I thought I'd show you my latest pink bangle! "In the pink" - a pink background with pink flowers.  I did a couple of other colors too so I'll post them later in the week.

Our friends from the US also arrived today - managing to get through the volcanic ash on the way! They didn't sleep at all on the flight over, so are having a nap now.  We'll have to work hard tonight to keep them up - and ourselves!!!

Hope you've had a day in the pink today too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Safe landing

We've arrived back in England  - got here about 4.15pm (8:15am Pacific Time).  The flight was fine - no turbulence the whole trip - and thankfully the volcanic ash from Iceland didn't get in the way. Hopefully it won't tomorrow either, as our friends land at Heathrow then but the airport said there were "likely disruptions" on Tuesday! Fingers crossed.

Quick nap and now getting ready to have dinner out with family.

The sun was shining, then it poured with rain, and now it is grey!  So, nothing unexpected.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Meet my followers: Trisha

For this Sunday's "meet my followers" post, I want to introduce you to Trisha Ginter. 

I first "met" Trisha quite a few years ago when I opened a store on "Smashing Darling" - an online independent fashion store. She co-created Smashing Darling for independent fashion designers in the US to sell their designs.

She is herself an independent fashion design of a clothing line called MerGirl, inspired by everyday things she sees in life.  She is also a part owner of a boutique in Williams, in Chester, CT called FROCK.

She was most encouraging when I first joined Smashing Darling and truly believes in promoting others and building up a community of "creatives".  I've enjoyed all my correspondences with her - she has a lovely spirit in all she does.

If you don't know Smashing Darling, it's a great online store - for both buying and selling.   And you know you will always be cared for by both Trisha.  And you can find Trisha clothes for sale there too!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Today's list of things I'm grateful for this week - my bird in the hand:

Photo by '|'||'| '|'[]||{
  • My friends Angie and Marly who have been staying with me this week and will remain here when we go back to England tomorrow, to take care of Harold (my parrot)
  • Great old movies. We all went to see Lawrence of Arabia on Monday night.  Gosh - what a long movie!  Nearly 3 3/4hours long!!!  Good old Peter O'Toole!
  • Dr Fuhrman's book - "Eat for Health".  A wonderful inspiring book.  I highly recommend it.  
  • Green smoothies!  Yummy! One of the recommendations in Dr Fuhrman's book.  I love the fun of making up different combinations of fruits and greens, depending on what I have on hand.   My favorites all seem to have lots of celery in them!  I think celery could become somewhat of an obsession.
  • My new Vitamix! Obviously this came along to help with the green smoothies, but is already busy making other things too!
  • Taking time before reacting.  A little nap one afternoon this week helped me find my way through a difficult situation, resulting in my not taking action.  I'm hoping it is the right decision.
  • Friends who support my singing.  My quintet Vajra Voices is singing in SF this evening and three of my girlfriends are all coming along to listen.
  • Singing with my parrot Harold.
Yes, we head back to the UK tomorrow for a couple of weeks to catch up with family.  We'll see how my daily blogging fits into the schedule while I'm away!!!  Hope you had a good week this week.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Take it easy

Here's another bangle - "Take it easy". It is a reminder for the wearer to take it easy and slow down.  It shows a little snail, slithering through the grass.

I took artistic license and decided not to include a slime trail following the snail however!!!! I thought that wasn't the most attractive part of a snail - but instead, the bangle focuses on the slow tempo that a snail takes....so can remind us to slow down in our life and take it easy.

Do you need a reminder to slow down? Are you always rushing around instead of taking a little time to relax and see what is going on around you?  We can learn a lot from snails....