Friday, October 24, 2008

The Coolest Accessory Ever!

Here's something that never, ever goes out of style. I hope all of us will be proudly wearing a sticker or button like this one in the coming week. One size fits all and it looks fantastic on absolutely everyone! Be sure to get out and VOTE!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October WebFind - Shiana Hilltribe Silver

My webfind for October is really fantastic--you must visit Shiana Thai Hill Tribe Silver. Shiana is a fair trade site and promotes continuing education programs, arts programs, and sustainable conservation. Your purchases ensure that the next generation of artisans will survive to preserve the works of their forefathers. Making silver has become a profitable advantage for the Hill Tribe families and an invaluable alternative to growing illicit crops or slash-and-burn farming.

The selection of silver and gold here is simply stunning. Unusual designs, great inspiration and tons of bargains to be had. If you are looking for that perfect focal bead, that fantastic finding you have been dreaming of--this is the site for you. They offer gorgeous black sterling silver--really amazing. The selection is simply endless, you need to take some time browsing this site. A great find--ENJOY!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Beauty of Patina Continued - Patina and Polymer Clay

In my previous post I discussed coloring metal with chemical patinas. Well, there are also many more ways to incorporate the look of aged metals in your artistic designs. I love polymer clay, and when I began creating my Goddess series in polymer, I wanted to create pieces that looked like ancient artifacts. I found that metal paints and patinas work wonderfully on polymer clay! I begin with basic white polymer (Sculpy was my first choice because it was inexpensive to buy and easily available in big blocks). I create my Goddess forms in clay and bake according to directions. When she is cool and sanded down, I decide what the color pallet will be. Michael's Crafts sells Sophisticated Finish paints and patinas in gold, copper, brass, pewter, iron and a beautiful deep blue. All these paints have metal particles suspended in the paint base that react when in contact with the chemical patinas (often sold in sets with the paints) in blue, green, black, and rust. So, for the Goddess pictured to the left here, I simply painted her with 2 coats of copper paint, and misted on blue patina and watched the colors appear! When she was dry I added details with folk art paint, a turquoise cabochon and some wonderful Klew polymer clay leaves. I use Future floor finish or any of the glazes available for use with polymer clay to seal each Goddess and protect the finish. The image below shows (from left to right) an Earth Goddess treated with copper paint scratched and lightly misted with green patina then accented with 24k gold leaf and turquoise metal paint, a Moon Goddess in blue metallic paint and sterling silver leaf, a and a Stone Goddess treated with mixed stone spray paint and ivory folk art paint. I'm working on a rusted Goddess totem now. I've also used textured spray paints (the sand and stone series) layered with metal paints and patinas to achieve a truly ancient stone effect. The possibilities are endless! I strongly encourage all you wonderful polymer clay artists to play with metal paints and patinas--I'd love to hear about your experiments and see what you create! Let me know!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Aging Metals - The Beauty of Patina

Recently, I've come across a lot of posts, blogs and convos about coloring metals with patina. Everyone is searching for the perfect way to change shiny new copper, brass, and silver to appear like ancient relics, colored by time. Who new that there would be such a demand to look old? It is true, aged metals are gorgeous. Brass and copper turn shades of intense blue and green, silver can change to a virtual rainbow of colors, to deepest black. In this post, I will be sharing with you my experiences coloring copper, brass, and sterling silver. I also invite you to comment here, and share your tips and tricks. I'd also love to share photos of works in progress and finished designs using patina colored metals. Contact me with your photos and ideas!!

First, what is "patina"? According to Wikipedia, "Patina is a coating of various chemical compounds such as oxides or carbonates formed on the surface of metal during exposure to weathering. The green patina that forms naturally on copper and bronze is known as verdigris and consists of copper carbonate. Patina also refers to accumulated changes in surface texture and colour that result from normal use of an object such as a coin or a piece of furniture." Well, if you don't have the patience to wait months or years to let a piece of metal patina naturally, there are many chemical patinas commercially available that will do virtually the same thing in hours. My favorite sources for copper and brass patinas are Modern Masters and Michael's Crafts. Both offer a line of metal infused paints and chemical patinas that will change copper and brass to green, blue, brown and black. Simply spritz or brush on the patina of your choice and you can virtually watch the colors begin to change! The photo here is of a pendant I made using a solid copper bead I sprayed with green patina then sealed with automotive clear coat. I also always have brass ager on hand from Kennedy Hardware. This turns brass and copper deep brown to black depending on how long you leave it in the solution. All patinas must be sealed with a top coat or the colors may fade or flake off. Modern Masters sells a gloss and flat UV stable topcoat specifically designed for metals treated with patina. Otherwise you can try light coats of acrylic sprays. Use caution here, products not specifically designed for metals treated with patina can actually make your colors disappear (I speak from experience here...ugh!). A trick I use quite frequently for copper and brass is to spray on layers of automotive clear coat from my local Discount Auto Parts store. Acrylic spray for cars is specially formulated for metals and works quite well--giving a strong, durable finish without changing the color of the patina.

There are also some great books out on coloring metal--I just got "The Jeweler's Directory of Decorative Finishes" by Jinks McGrath. A great source for patina ideas (and much more) with formulations you can make at home. Last night I tried the formula recommended for turning copper and brass indigo blue--something I have wanted to do forever. Simply take a medium sized plastic container with an air tight lid and place a smaller ( I used a baby food jar), open container of common household ammonia inside to one end ( I got the ammonia at my local grocery store in the cleaning products aisle). Prep your copper/brass by sanding, and wiping down with warm saltwater. Place the metal next to the open ammonia container. From here you can do a couple things to add texture to your patina. I sprinkled salt and vinegar on one piece of copper, left another bare, and left the brass bare. Cover the container with the airtight lid and leave for at least three hours up to overnight. You will be amazed at the color you get!!! The copper treated with salt and vinegar got a mottled, spotted coloration of deep blue and black. The untreated metals turned lovely indigo blue. When the colors reach your desired intensity, simply take the metals out, rinse thoroughly, pat dry and seal. Kind of magical actually....The book also describes a similar process to get that rich, blue color by burying the metal in an airtight container of sawdust, garden soil, and tobacco soaked with ammonia and vinegar! That appeals to my inner mad scientist/archaeologist. I like the idea of digging up the metal later, even if it is from a Tupperware container. I'm trying that one next... The photo below shows my ammonia experiment with (from left to right) a solid copper bead, a dome of brass, a fragment of copper sheet and a larger fragment of copper sheet. The large piece of copper had the salt/vinegar splashed on top. Don't you LOVE that blue? All were finished with Modern Masters UV flat topcoat.

Of course, you must be sure to do all of this in a well ventilated area--ammonia fumes are overwhelming if you are not careful. The commercially available patinas that I mentioned earlier are odorless and easier to use, but don't give the intensity of color that you get with the ammonia treatment.

AND, let's not forget the beauty of RUST. Rust is the poor step-child of patina. You don't often think of it as a desirable patina for jewelry, right? Well I disagree! Sophisticated Finishes (from Michael's) has a rust paint and patina set. The paint contains suspended iron particles that react with the chemical patina, turning the iron a lovely orange. I have used this with brass and copper, and love the result. I layer this with blue and green patinas, sand some off, add more--it's a process. To quote Forrest Gump, "You never know what you're going to get!"

I haven't even touched on coloring sterling silver yet...I could go on forever! The most common chemical to color silver is liver of sulphur. Smells horrible, like rotten eggs, but is easy to use and you can get it at Cool Tools. It comes in chunk form--simply place a small chunk in a plastic or glass container of HOT water, and drop in your silver. Have another container of warm water mixed with baking soda on hand to immerse your silver in when you reach the desired color. The color change is immediate and will go from a lovely rainbow effect to deep, dark black in moments--so be ready to remove your silver right away. You can also brush on the liver of sulphur/water mix to better control your patina. Drop in the water/baking soda to stop the reaction and then rinse in cool water. Pat dry and seal.

Well, that's a start...I will be adding to this post as I get your responses--I hope you will join me in sharing your patina questions, secrets, ideas, and finished designs. Let's grow beautifully old together!!!