Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ring remodel

This ring request has a great back story.  I don't actually know the people involved so I'm going to cut through all of the descriptions and just make it simple: when a guy asked a a girl to marry him, he gave her a token ring with the intent that she help pick out her own engagement ring. She wanted to preserve the placeholder ring and asked if I could remodel the ring in sterling silver.

The placeholder was somewhat flimsy; it was adjustable and I'm pretty sure it was made from aluminum.  She asked if I could take out the 9mm bullet casing and set it in silver.  I'm always a little nervous about things like this because if I'm not sure what the metal is or how the setting is attached, I could end up destroying the ring trying to get it apart.  I gave the usual warnings but she wanted me to try it anyway.

It was actually no big deal to get the setting out...I just pried it out.

I made the new ring with sterling silver half round wire and 24 gauge sheet.  I love how it turned out!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ukrainian trident pendant

After many (many!!!) attempts to make this pendant, I finally sent it out this week.  Piercing isn't something I do a whole lot so it's painstakingly slow and figuring out the right gauge metal to use doesn't always happen on the first try.

I made this for my brother in law.  The trident is a national symbol of pride and the shape makes out the letters ВОЛЯ, meaning "freedom."  Sometimes it appears on the flag, although not in an official sense. The symbol is yellow and the background blue like the colors of the flag, so I tried to mimic that the best I could by heavily oxidizing the silver and using copper for the symbol. 

ВОЛЯ: "В" on the left side, "O" in the middle, "Л" (in cursive this looks like a cursive "L" in English) is the top part of the middle, and "Я" (backwards R) on the right side. 

Here are some process pictures of the pendant coming together...see the other one in the background?  I eventually melted that one.  Others fell victim to piercing or sanding issues.

I'm incredibly happy with how this came out - I love being able to make meaningful things for people I care about. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Roman coins

A couple weeks ago I saw a coworker wearing a gold ring with an old coin set in the center.  The contrast between the shiny metal and the rustic, weathered coin instantly caught my attention so I asked about the history.  

The setting holds a Roman coin. He had lots of the old coins but the details were lost in layers of dirt and maybe rust.  He had tried to clean some with a wire brush and eventually brought out some of the detail but it took so long that the effort wasn't really worth the outcome.  I offered to try tumbling some for him to see if that would reveal some of the coin underneath but instead he insisted on bringing some for me to keep and use in my artwork (I tried to decline but only half-heartedly - what a fantastic opportunity!).  

All of the coins looked pretty much like this when I got them:

I tumbled them with stainless steel shot for about 30 hours and it really did get a lot of the muck off - here are the results:

I sent him pictures of how they came out and he sent a reply with more information:  They are from around 300 A.D. and the coins with the words "spes rei publicae" ("hope of the republic") probably date from the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine and his second wife, Fausta. They are copper. Constantine was the first emperor to convert to Christianity after he had a vision of Jesus. The coins often also carry the words "salus publicae"  ("salvation of the people") so there is a strong religious connection.

I love the way they came out and now just have to decide how to use them...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Beer bottles in a barrel

It's been a really long time since I've gone all out on cake decoration, but the idea of letting April Fool's Day pass without doing something is too much to bear for someone like me.  So I decided to make a cake that didn't look so much like cake - that's about as far as I take any April Fool's celebration (so many of the jokes seem really stupid and just...mean).

Now that I'm on the other side of it, I can say that it probably wasn't the best idea to make it in the middle of the week.  It just took so much time! I knew it would take several hours, but somehow it's still a surprise to me just how long it really takes.  Also, it's oddly warm for this time of year so the fondant isn't going to hold up through the day.  I'm hoping someone will cut it and have some before 10 am - then it can completely fall apart and everyone will think that was the catalyst.

I started prepping three days ago with the wood panels for the side of the cake.  This is just fondant with tylose powder added to it to help it stiffen up.  I drew light lines in the panels to give it some wood grain detail and then painted the pieces with food coloring mixed with vodka.

Then I made the sugar ice using this recipe and technique. And two partial sugar beer bottles using a silicone mold I made forever ago - that thing has really worked out for me!  I've used it a lot more than I thought I would. 

I went ahead and dragged out the airbrush machine once I got the panels attached to give the barrel a more uniform look.  As messy as that is, it really changes the way the cake looks in a good way.

So all of the components were made ahead of time and all I had to do this morning was put it together.