Behind the Scenes: Forsaken Leaf of Shadow and Flame

I wanted to do one more behind the scenes photo series to show the typical progression of a metal clay project. This one uses BronzeClay in anticipation of the warmer tones often present in my autumn offerings. 

Here is my most basic metal clay layout: clayboard, tools, cool slip, yellow sticky note templates, texturing items, and wax paper. 

BronzeClay is a little more granular in texture than its silver counterparts, so it doesn't create super clean lines when cut with a needle tool. However, it cleans up nicely with filing and sanding in the greenware stage.

These are the raw metal clay pieces in the drying phase.

Once they are dry or nearly dry, I use a series of sandpapers, files, and cloths to smooth the edges and clean each piece. This is one of my least favorite parts because the texture and feel of dust on my hands always gives me the heebie jeebies. ;)

Here they are! All cleaned up and ready for firing.

This type of metal clay has to be fired in a firing pan with activated carbon. This prevents color change and oxidization during the firing. This particular firing pan was created by folding super thick aluminum sheets (my fingers were soooooo lacerated even with extra caution) into the shape of a box with a lid. This is the one option that does not cause spalling during firing, which creates a huge sooty mess to clean up inside the kiln. I'm all for fewer messes. ;)

The leaves are layered in the carbon and cannot touch each other or they could possibly fuse together.

Once the firing pan is loaded into the kiln, I program it with the proper ramp, hold time, and temperature. This one is...quite hot.

Once the firing is complete and the pieces have cooled off, I can put them into my tumbler to smooth and polish. This eases the muscle tension that comes from doing this first buffing step by hand, but I do still have to hand burnish them once they are done.

After hand-burnishing, I usually break out the flex shaft tool for some added shine.

The next step is to add gilding. As part of the concept behind this piece, I wanted to add in something dark but I didn't want straight-up black. I went with a dark damson plum. The (stinky) paste is rubbed on, allowed to sit, then wiped and polished with a moon cloth. Once that has dried the surface is sealed.

This shows the contrast: the one on the left is not gilded, the one on the right is gilded.

 And here is the finished piece with the description:
Forsaken Leaf of Shadow and Flame 
This hand crafted bronze leaf was formed in bronze metal clay, imprinted with the veins of a leaf, and cut from a hand drawn template shape. Details were added as an abstract expression of the holes that form as a leaf desiccates in autumn; no two pendants will have the exact same pattern. 

After firing, the leaf was tumble polished, hand burnished, gilded by hand in dark damson plum, polished to draw out the golden-bronze highlights, and sealed. The interplay of dark damson against sparkling gold-bronze represents shadow and flame.

The leaf pendant is accentuated by a wire wrapped dark red faceted garnet. They hang together from an 18" long petite antique gunmetal chain. The pendant is 1.75" high.

These pendants are part of my first Autumn 2012 collection! They will go live with the first harvest on August 1st! There are over 90 unique items in this collection with easily half of them being earrings. Below are previews for Ambre Lantern, Queen of Autumn, and Vinalia.

All images and designs are  © Elements & Artifacts 2012. Please do not use or copy.