Have you ever made something with your art that you later wished you hadn’t? I have. This is a story of spending time with your mistakes, persevering and reworking an idea if you can.
I made this ring last year but when I got it back from the caster I wasn’t happy with it. The casting itself was imperfect (bubbles and cavities that weren’t part of the wax model) and the texture boring (an experiment using a piece of cotton gauze dabbed into the molten wax). I thought I could jazz it up by oxidizing it but in the end it was relegated to a shelf in my workroom to gather dust.
Months later I came across it and without much thought tossed it into my crucible for an upcoming sand casting attempt. It was a mistake I could simply melt away. I don’t know why but several days later when I got around to the sand casting project I noticed it in amongst all the other bits and pieces in the crucible and took it out. I might’ve stared at it for a few seconds before deciding to put the sand casting aside because I HAD to hit that boring texture with some heat to see what would happen.
So much fun! The heat from the propane torch softened out the original texture and as parts of the surface of the ring began to flow I had a brilliant idea…why not solder on a tiny ball of 9k gold. Oooh la la! So I positioned the band in my 3rd hand tool and placed the gold ball carefully on a chip of solder and slowly added some heat again.
Now, if you’ve ever heated silver with a torch you’ll understand something of metallurgy, that there’s a precise moment when a millisecond more heat is a millisecond too much. You can be thrilled one second and totally defeated the next. And I was defeated when I saw that .35 gms of gold disappear into the molten flow of solder and silver just as I pulled the torch away. Damn it!! I was left with a silver ring that had only the faintest hint of a pale gold tinge along its surface. Such a drag! I kept the ring like that for a couple of days before deciding to add some more heat, secretly hoping that the gold would somehow find it’s way back to the surface. As if.
The more I heated the band though the more interesting it became. It was morphing into a moonscape with parts of the surface that held the original casting flaws deepening and pitting as others bubbled and moved. I kind of lost interest in the gold at that point because I was so excited about this new texture. I wore this new version for several more days before deciding it needed oxidizing…
I would’ve left it at that but the more I looked at it the more I wanted to try setting a stone into it, somewhere inside the pitted area that would become a focal point. I chose the spot for the stone and drilled out a seat for a 2mm garnet I had kicking around in my jewel box. I’d planned to do a bead setting but soon realized another fact regarding metallurgy – continual heating of .925% silver brings the .075% alloys to the surface causing the remaining silver to become brittle. Damn it again. Out with the beading tool and plan B was to solder on 4 silver beads around the seat that would act as prongs. Out came the 3rd hand tool again with the solder chips placed ever so carefully underneath the 4 silver beads.
Now, if you’re like me, soldering is both exciting and terrifying because again, heat + time needs to be precise – especially when you’re trying to solder on a thinner area of the band. Everything was going great, the solder was beginning to set down where it should and the silver beads were all in place. I was queen of jewellery making in that moment. That was until one of the beads suddenly jumped off the ring and 2 others decided to coalesce. DAMMNN IT! After some fiddling I was able to set the stone securely and added some texture to the surface. Voila!
In the end I decided this was where I wanted to leave the ring and I have to say from start to finish I learned a lot about re-working a piece, transforming it from a mistake for melting in a crucible to my favourite ring of all time. Amen,