Behind the Scenes: Wire Wrapped Blue Morpho by Elements & Artifacts

I'm very excited to present a behind the scenes look at my Blue Morpho project! This request came via my Facebook fan page, and while I have done behind the scenes photos in the past, none have been as extensive as this one. Here we go!

Nearly every advanced project of mine begins with a sketch and/or concept. Most of them stay in my bound sketchbook, but sometimes, for mobility and ease of creation, I will create a template on none other than a sticky note. The notes are later stuck into the relevant page in my sketch book. Yes, my sketch book is riddled with sticky notes. 

The sketch acts as a guide for my wire armatures. In cases like this where I need the piece to be symmetrical, I only sketch one half of the piece and follow the same guide for each side.

Once the armatures are formed, they are taken to my workbench so that they can be work-hardened and flattened on my bench block. This helps the wire hold its shape and the flattened armature creates a nicer palette for the ornate wire wrapping.

Ta-da! The finished armatures, work-hardened.

Here is a mid-wire-wrapping snapshot. This particular photo only shows two stray wires, but there are times when a piece holds a dozen wild antennae before I finish things up.

This is the nearly completed wire-wrapped pendant. In the background, I have just finished the sterling rolo chain with the gemstone accents. The aqua quartz drop has yet to be added.

The next step was to give it an LOS bath for an antiqued finish. I prefer to antique intricate pieces because it really draws out the details, but oh does it STINK.

Post-LOS bath, the piece is dried and has a dark matte finish.

A little hand polishing and voila!

Next, the wings! Water-based paints on tissue that will dissolve in water can sometimes be tricky, but the goal is semi-translucent wings and it's worth the hassle. The silhouette below was hand painted after  pencil tracing the outer edge of the butterfly pendant for size accuracy.

I trimmed the wings away from the tissue and glued them into place. Rough edges are left for now so that I don't accidentally create a large gap between the tissue and the edge of the wings. Once they're glued into place, I use an exacto knife to clean things up.

Once the glue is dry, I can add a dusting of macro pigments. This creates the shimmer! For the Blue Morpho, I went with a teal blue.

This shows the wings just after the sparkle and sealant were added. The sealant hardens the tissue, waterproofs it (to an extent, but I wouldn't press my luck) and traps in the pigment and paint. It gives the final touch of translucence to the wings as it wets the tissue.

And here it is! The finished Blue Morpho! This will land in my shop very soon!

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