So, I’m working more with my hand forged gold lately, and thought I’d take a moment to explain what that process is and how I’ve done it the old fashioned way (aka “the hard way”). It goes like this:
- After collecting broken pieces of gold jewelry, chains and the like, until I have enough to use (maybe a troy ounce or so), I melt it in a long handled crucible using a large torch. Once it turns red hot and liquid, it’s carefully aimed and poured into an ingot mold.
- There the gold cools, after placing the mold in a cool water bath. If aimed right (not as easy as it sounds), this results in a nice gold ingot about the size of my thumb. I’ve done this maybe three times over the years. Because I was only taking weekly 3 hour classes in my teacher’s studios, the processing of the ingot into workable metal was an especially lengthy one.
- After a bath in “pickle” (cleaning in an acid bath), the hammering (forging) begins. This involves a repetitive process of annealing (heating to a dark red color to soften), naturally air cooling (without water bath), pickling, and then hammering a bit…and repeat — really A LOT of times — to get the metal thin enough to work with. After only brief hammering to stretch metal, it hardens again, hence the need for frequent annealing. My ingots used to take as long as 3 years in class to form into workable metal, and then even more time turning them into pieces of wearable art. During one class, I could get maybe 4-5 rounds of this process in if I was lucky, while in between always working on a few other pieces between the long waits during the cooling and pickling process.
- As the ingot flattens and stretches, I use a rolling mill to continue to stretch and smooth it — another slow process, but easier on the fingers, which by then will have taken a few mis-hit hammer blows! And that’s it — a slow, patiently repetitive process until it’s formed into a 1″ x 4-5″ long sheet of about 22 gauge.
Some of you already own a piece or two made with my forged yellow gold, mainly earrings shown at my private sales. All of them were from my hand forging. Maybe you have something decorated with some ‘chips’ off the ingot’s edges (byproducts of my impatience!?) These appear as “horizons” and “aprons” in several earrings and pendants over the last 2-3 years, as in the “Tree of Life” series. I often appliqué small pieces to create layers, or depth, on a piece. Nothing goes to waste here! You’ll be seeing more of these pieces as time goes on.
I also want to share our first “Sweat Equity” project/adventure here. With the help of my friends (mostly former ‘ACT’resses!) I’m weaving silk scraps into joyfully vibrant fabric to create jackets like these. Like hand forging gold, this is painstakingly labor intensive, and results in otherwise rather expensive garments, were it not for “a little help from my friends” who want a piece of the action — or, um, fabric! So, whether we’re scouting silk garments from closets and thrift stores, cutting them into strips in our spare time (I watched a whole season of Game of Thrones while cutting the garments for this jacket) or helping with cutting/piecing/sewing the finished pieces, our “Sweat Equity Team” is about to complete the second of FIVE we’ll make together. It’s been great fun so far, and we’re always looking for richly toned/patterned/colored silk items for our chosen “color-ways” for the next three jackets.
Got any unwanted or old silk garments in your closets? Seeking ROYGBIV colored silk in patterns and solids! We’ll share more photos as we go along, so stay tuned on this project!