I’ve been struggling for a week or so to come up with a larger, eye catching piece for the middle of my stand at the BCTF in a couple of weeks. I’ve thrown a lot of ideas around the workshop but the right one has been eluding me … I knew that I wanted to work at a slightly larger scale (and maybe use some stones) but nothing I tried was working.
A London based stone dealer Marcia and her team make a trip up to the Quarter a few times a year to sell to students in the university (where I first encountered her) and, more recently, to the general public in Cookson‘s foyer. The nicest thing about her visits is that you get time and space to fully inspect the stock, sorting through the jumble of lovely things that she and her team bring with her.
I was idling through the selection when I came by this:
A kind of fossilised coral. Isn’t it beautiful?
Each piece is different, with faint coral textures and an abstract shape all it’s own. It’s going to be just perfect for a big, new press formed piece!
I planned it all out and made the dies today so tomorrow I’ll set to work on it …
Obviously I do a lot of etching but, sometimes, I think simple forms look great just with simple textures. I really love a good higgh polished finish but, now that I’m working with Britannia silver I worry that the hard, high polish won’t last when the piece is worn and anyway, there’s nothing like shiny silver for showing fingerprints.
So, in an experimental mood, I popped out of the workshop to Walshes and bought one of these babies:
A frosting wheel.
Honestly, it looks utterly terrifying mounted on my pendant motor – the spines are very fine steel wire and when they’re spinning they look pretty vicious – but I’m assured that it’s fine so long as you’re careful.
I got one of my spare copper samples out and set to it, initially it looks like you’re ruining the surface that you just spent ages sanding but, once you build up the texture, it’s quite lovely:
It grows into a nice, soft sheen that has a soft sparkle and is ever so slightly rough to touch.
– it’s a lot like Sterling silver but while the Sterling stuff is 925 parts per thousand pure silver (the rest being an alloy of copper etc) Britannia is 958 parts per thousand pure silver.
This means that Britannia is a little softer than Sterling and much more suggestable. It stretches where Sterling might have cracked and is more cooperative for things like ambitious silversmithing and spinning.
So Britannia seemed just the thing when I was struggling to move my pressforming from beautiful, stretchy copper into unyielding sterling silver …
In terms of cutting, annealing and polishing I really can’t tell the difference between the two alloys but for overall stretchiness Britannia wins hands down.
Here’s how I got on with it:
It’s my first silver piece on the new press forms and I’m really pleased with how well it’s come out, now I just need to make some etching/finish decisions and I might have a range ready for the spring!