I am often asked how I make things - so as I had an order for one of my Moon Bear cuffs this week, I thought I'd photograph the process. One day (when I grow an extra hand) I'll video it (or maybe I could ask Mumma Iceni to video for me, because the chances of growing an extra hand are quite low I think).
Cut out the copper cuff. I work primarily from flat sheet copper. Most of my cuffs have a thickness of about 0.9-1.1mm, and I cut it out using a jeweller's saw. The blade on the jeweller's saw is a bit like a cheese wire - but thinner and far more prone to breaking! The red frame in the picture is the saw. I love this saw :)
Cut the bear out of sterling silver. I draw the image out on a sticky label and place the label on the sheet silver as a template. You can see I'd already cut out a pair of earrings and a Tokyn charm from this piece.
Cut out the 'snowy ground' with the jeweller's saw. The 'snowy ground' is created by melting silver over the copper - so I need to work out the copper part first, making sure the bear's feet fit nicely on to the 'snow' so he doesn't look like he's floating in the air on the final piece. I always do this bit freehand, so every cuff has its own unique quirks.
I then cut the crescent moon out of brass. I quite like working with brass - it's a more forgiving metal I find and gives lovely curves!
Creating the snow effect. I love this effect; it gives the piece a bit of texture. I use fine silver (purer than sterling silver) for this as it gives a nicer, smoother finish. I cut tiny pieces of the silver up and place it on the copper, then heat furiously with a flame gun. I have three flame guns. My middle-of-the-road jeweller's torch, my great big plumbers torch (for tough jobs - gives me a nice strong flame) and my little cook's torch (the type you use in the kitchen) this lets me do smaller more intricate jobs. There are specific jeweller's torches that will do all three, but I'm happy with my three guns! This part of the process needs my middle-of-the-road torch.
After a pickle and a bit of a polish it looks like this:
Quite 'groundy' I think :)
Now I've got all the pieces.
Marking up the cuff. I need to centre all the pieces so when the cuff is worn the bear sits up top! I use a standard Sharpie marker to do this.
Once I've figured out where the ground needs to be - I mark where the stars are going to go.
And then stamp in the stars, like so!
Now it's time to solder it all together and totally ruin the piece!
Not really! For the soldering I use the big-boy plumber's torch as the copper loves heat and sucks it up more than the silver (the silver melts at a lower temperature than the copper) - this bit is tricky, as I want to get the copper hot enough for the solder to flow and have to pull the flame away as soon as the solder's flowed otherwise I'm going to melt the bear - and noone wants a melted bear do they!
The whole piece then goes into the pickle. Pickle is an acidic solution that takes all that black firescale off. Once I've got the firescale off, I shape the cuff using a mandrel (which is a long piece of oval shaped steel) I totally forgot to take a picture of that bit as I needed two hands to actually shape it!
Then I give it its first polish (featuring an Isle of Wight charm pendant and pair of earrings in the background!).
It then gets a second and third polish before I give it a good scrub with a toothebrush to take off any polishing compound residue and to prepare it for the oxidising (aging) process.
The oxidising process ruins it all again!
Not really! What it does is blacken the whole piece, allowing me to create depth to the piece, bringing out the highlights and giving definition to the stars. I paint the oxidiser on, and then wire wool it off again. Once I've achieved the aged look I'm going for. I put the whole cuff in the tumbler for its final polish. The tumbler is a barrel of stainless steel 'shot' that burnishes the metal, giving it a nice sheen - the tumbling takes around an hour.
Then it's done! Ready to pack up and head off to its new home!