Thursday 5 August 2021

Pigeon Greetings Cards

So many people draw cats, dogs, foxes and hares (as have I) but very few people do pigeons on cards, so I took up the challenge.  I have five pigeon cards in my shop now, all collage and mixed media. 

Here are a couple of them - a pigeon on a Penny Farthing, and a pigeon having a nice cup of tea at the end of a long day...

I will do more. 

Friday 28 May 2021

New Sketchook and Collage

 I decided to have a sketchbook with me at all times so I can collage on the go. 

(We'll see how that works out).

This collage was made with bits from that sketchbook - the subject was fox cubs. 

'Out at Night' Collage by Tania Covo

Saturday 22 May 2021

New Collage - Goldcrests

 My latest collage is of Goldcrest birds in trees on a golden day in May. This one took ages, as each and every bird was done full size, but then made tiny in photoshop so you can hardly see the details...

Here is one of the birds - I'll try and put up more of them later. 

This is the one sitting on a top left hand branch. 

The one below is the laughing one in the middle....


Wednesday 28 April 2021

Large Blue Butterfly - Colour Change

I received my first batch of  Large Blue butterflies back from the printers, and sadly the vibrancy of the one on the screen didn't translate well onto paper. I had my suspicions, and indeed they were justified. 

So - I had to go back to the file and change colours around so they will print better. This version is more subtle, probably nearer the real thing. 

Large Blue Butterfly, Somerset

Sunday 25 April 2021

Somerset Wildlife - The Great White Egret

I finished the Great Blue butterfly collage a few days ago. Today I finished this one - The Great White Egret. 

The idea based on the collage I made on day 75 of my challenge, but I changed most things including the birds and background.

I kept the fish :-) 

Great White Egret, Somerset

New Collage - Large Blue Butterfly

So after 18 months I finally got round to making a new collage. 

I decided to explore making collages of my local wildlife, and started with the Large Blue butterfly.
It nearly became extinct in the wild, but was reintroduced to an area near Glastonbury and is apparently doing well. I hope to go and spot one myself this summer.

I was rather out of practice, but after many hours of work, I finally called it done.

Large Blue Butterfly, Somerset

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Spiral Earrings Pair Seven

This is really the last pair in this series. I love the colours, but will need to explore other ones as well.

These a a smaller pair (1.5 cm in diameter).

I did all the steps in the correct order (two layers of counter enamel before starting the top) etc. 

Technically these are fine, there is some clouding in the blue on one of the earrings (left side) which I can't explain, but overall I had no disasters, and the colours came out the way I intended, so that's good. 

I want to do some colour samples of other enamels next.

Picture is darker as there is no natural light today.

Pair Seven - it's been a long week!

Monday 23 November 2020

Spiral Earrings Pairs Five and Six

 Ok - I think I'm done with this exercise for the moment... 

With these two pairs I decided to try and rectify the obvious colour mistake from pair #4 - and made the spiral more visible with the enamel colour choices and blending. 

Pair Five - 
I started out with dark blue, and ended up with a different dark blue. The second dark blue wasn't meant to be quite as dark, but it turned out nearly identical to the blue in the middle of the spiral.
Not terrible but not quite the look I was after.

Technically they came out OK, no serious issues, I even ground out a speck of dust with a diamond drill bit, filled it back in with enamel and re-fired - seemed to work fine. 

Probably my best attempt to date

Pair Six:

Finally got the colour scheme I was after.
'But there is no pair - there is only one!' I hear you say. 
Well - on the final 'fire polish' firing - the enamel popped off the second earring. 
It didn't exactly pop off - more like it peeled away from the edges and blobbed in the middle of the cloisonnes.

I suspect I ground the enamel down too thin. Can't think of a different explanation. 

Obviously I was very disappointed, because otherwise it had seemed to go well. 

I will be more careful in future and not grind so enthusiastically.

Pair Six in progress


What I have learned so far from making all these earrings:

  1. Enamelling is very labour intensive.
  2. There are no shortcuts. 
  3. You have to do things in the correct order.
  4. Keep workspace clean and tidy. 
  5. Improvising only works sometimes.
  6. Keep notes - you won't remember which colours you used if you don't write things down.
Cloisonne is good for practicing because it is direct - you don't need to plan that much in advance (as in etch the silver first for basse-taille for example) so I will probably continue but I'll probably do different designs next week.

Nice blob of molten fine silver

Sunday 22 November 2020

Spiral Earrings Numbers Three and Four

Today I made two pairs of spiral earrings, one larger, one smaller, with differing results. 

 As I (still) don't have any thick fine silver sheet, I made my own in the rolling mill by melting fine silver scraps and rolling them out. 

I textured the base of both pairs with a scribe, fused the frames on, added jump rings of course, and cleaned them well with a glass brush and ultrasonic cleaner.

I was going to use different colours, but ended up deciding to use the same ones because I want to get these right. Eventually.

I adjusted the design by doing a loose spiral, and having it start at the bottom. I used thin cloisonne wires not the thicker wires I used on the last pair. Not sure why as I prefer the thicker wire...

It all worked beautifully on the first pair - but disaster struck as the first colour I used went cloudy after the second firing. There are two reasons this might have happened. 

  1. I used recycled fine silver, and there may have been some solder or other impurity in the metal that reacted with the enamel.
  2. Using Blue Gum glue to stick on the cloisonne wires. Although I doubt that as it would have affected all the colours, not just the pale blue I think...

What I should have done, and I just thought of it now, was to put some fine silver foil over the cloudy mess and it would have fixed it. What I DID do was continue as normal adding layers of the bad colour, thinking it may just sort it self out in the kiln. It didn't.

One day I might grind out that horrible mess and try and fix them, but here they are. Very nice apart from that bad colour right in the middle.

Pair #3

I was very careful not to use that colour on the second, smaller pair. 

I also enamelled and fired both earrings at the same time to save time and to make them a bit more similar to each other. All in all they worked out much better, my only complaint is that the colours are layed out a bit wrong - the pale blue is very similar in tone to the silver so the spiral is not very visible, and I should have thought about that.

Pair #4

Note to self - grind down the edges before enamelling in future!!!
(I did them after and things got a bit uneven.)

Here are all of this series so far, and a work in progress shot of one of the third pair, before the disaster.

Many hours of work!

If only that lovely middle colour hadn't spoilt... 

Saturday 21 November 2020

Third Attempt at Spiral Earring

 This is the pair of the earring I did in the last post.

I made the spiral a lot looser, so that the gradient of colours is more visible than the metal. I prefer this one. I added a touch of yellow that looks golden in the light. 

You can see tiny air bubbles that are trapped inside - something I need to work on. 

Overall I felt I had more control over the process with this one, so that's good I think.

It is counter enamelled so no cracks on the surface - also good. 

I might continue making this earring design until I get it right :-) 

Two layers of the  green but it still went a bit too dark. 
I like that you can see the scratches I made on the silver through the enamel.

Friday 20 November 2020

Second Attempt at Spiral Earring

 This time I soldered on a sterling silver edge as I don't have any fine silver handy. I just wanted to see if I could get the wires to stay in place this time, and have another go. I also soldered on earwires but lower down so they don't get in the way when I grind down the enamel.

I didn't do a layer of clear first, just put the wires straight in and started filling the cells. Probably not the correct way of going about things but - it worked ok. I used quite thick fine silver wire (not cloisonne wire) as I like the look of the metal against the glass. 

However in this case I think t he spiral was too tight, and gets in the way of the blending of the colours. So I didn't do the second earring - I will reduce the spiral and try it that way maybe tomorrow. 

I didn't counter enamel this one yet either, and I suspect this is why there is some cracking in the enamel.

More work to be done on this then, I'll take photos after as well to see how another firing has changed the colours, and maybe fixed the cracking.

I only did three colours in this one. One the first pair I used about five different colours that I had lying around, but they got used up.

Thursday 19 November 2020

Another Cloisonne Project - "Simple" Earrings

 Another few hours of learning - I decided to make a pair of earrings from a tutorial by Sandra MeEwen.
It was so I could learn her techniques without worrying about design - I pretty much just followed her sample.

A pair of simple round cloisonne spirals, in blue and green. 

I tried fusing fine silver for the first time, using some fusing solution made from Copper Acetate and Klyr Fire (instructions on YouTube). First attempt went wrong as I forgot you are meant to do the fusing from below, but the second time (after re-making the components I had melted) it worked just fine. 

In the tutorial the earrings were made with holes for the ear wires. I decided to make things difficult for myself and soldered on jump rings. This made the grinding much trickier, and eventually brought about the demise of one of the earrings. 

Anyway - it all went quite well and I was especially  happy learning Sandra's finishing techniques, which will be very useful. 

My main mistake though was that I used silver that was too thin, so when I ground down the excess enamel and wires, the remaining enamel was very thin. She used 0.8 mm sheet, I only had 0.5 mm. 

The first earring came out reasonably ok apart from being too thin. 

The second earring was ok until the jump ring fell off, and I tried to solder it back on. That made most of the enamel turn black... 

Lovely. Not.

The other lesson I learned was that I need to use gum to stick the cloisonne wires in place before putting in the kiln, as they moved out of place when I set them down. I did a 'creative workaround' with the design (on the second, doomed earring) but that shouldn't have happend. 

I might try again, this time with the correct thickness of silver, and see if I get a better result. 

The better one on the left

Close-up of the better sample

Close-up of the doomed sample

Saturday 7 November 2020

Second Cloisonne

 Since I had some colours already washed and prepared, I decided to do another cloisonne with them, but in a different pattern.

Then I decided to try and give both a satin finish, which caused some problems. 

I had to refire the first one a few more times, which caused some banding in the reds (probably overfired).

I did manage to get a lovely tactile satin finish on both, but at the cost of transparency - not sure that's a good thing.

The one of the left is my second attempt. I learned that using clear underneath grey isn't good, when I stoned down the enamel I was left with a bit of a cloudy mess where the layers were uneven. 

I might not do much more cloisonne, I prefer champleve and basse taille.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

First Attempt at Cloisonne on Silver

Sadly lockdown is looming and my enamel classes have cancelled for the time being.
This means I will have to continue working on my own,

I saw a tweet a couple of days ago that caught my attention. It said:

You'll never be good at anything if you're not willing to be bad at it first. 

This is very true - so I'm taking this to heart and giving myself permission to make mistakes and ugly pieces. I will still hopefully learn something in the process.

Cloisonne isn't really my thing, but I wanted to try - it involves making cells from very thin wire, then filling the cells with enamel. 

This piece is 2cm in diameter and I have used two different wires,  thicker and thinner.

The colours are orange, hematite and yellow. Fired at 810C.

I have learned from this that the design was wrong - it was near impossible to get enamel into the tiny triangle spaces at the the bottom of the yellow circles. I should have made the circles smaller and left more space around them.
Also - orange is very dark in three layers but yellow is better.
I'll try and take another photo in the winter morning light tomorrow. 

Here is a close up of the piece, on the tip of my finger (it's not a big piece).

There is some cracking in the red (orange), not sure why that is. 

Sunday 25 October 2020

Anglo Saxon Inspired Pendant

 I felt brave today so I decided to enamel my etched Anglo Saxon inspired pendant. 

I did two layers of SOJE 239 Light Turquoise. It needs another layer but the colour is deep enough and I don't want to make the same mistake as on the hamsa earrings, so I will need to add a last layer of clear. 

The clear (flux) scares me a little so I will wait for my lesson and do that under the supervision of my tutor. 

1st layer of enamel applied and ready for the kiln

1st firing - nice and shiny pattern

After two layers of enamel, and silver cleaned up.

Friday 23 October 2020

My Hamsa Earrings - Finished!

These pieces of etched silver were soaked in glass etching solution for two weeks and brushed twice daily with a glass brush, to get rid of the first attempt at enamel that I didn't like.

Yesterday I had another go - I chose a beautiful deep turquoise (Celeste). The colour came out a bit too deep in my opinion, and looks a bit greenish - but I prefer them to my first attempt, and I'm not going to de-enamel them again, so I am calling these done.

The etching is quite deep so 3 layers of turquoise was just a bit much - I probably should have used some clear enamel instead of the third layer of color.
Live and learn.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Anglo Saxon Inspired Disc for Enameling

This is what I prepared for enameling at today's lesson. 
It is an Anglo Saxon inspired disc, which - if successful - will be a pendant. 

Years ago I did an engraving course, and the tutor said that if you want to see what the engraving will look like with enamel on - pour on some washing up liquid. 

So here is the piece with some Fairy Liquid to simulate enamel poured on top. Nice colour!
I wonder if I have something similar in my enamel collection?

Test Samples for Shades of Grey

 Yesterday, at last, I made test samples for all (18) of my shades of grey enamel.

Grey is one of my favourite colours, and a few years ago, on my first enamel spree, I bought samples of many different shades of grey, as they all (mostly) sounded so beautiful (Mouse Grey?).

They were all fired directly on scraps of sterling silver - just so I could see what kind of colour to expect when I use them.

I did the firing for most of them at 810C, then at 820C for some of the harder shades (ones that have a higher firing temperature).

These were my favourite colours:

And this is Mouse Grey - quite similar to Turquoise Grey... Perhaps a touch warmer.

Doming Metal for Enamel

Giving some shape to metal before you enamel it makes it stronger.
I learned how to shape copper pieces, then tried to enamel them. 

The enameling was done by sifting, so it didn't stick well enough to the edges.
Putting the Klyr-Fire into a spray bottle (instead of applying with a brush) helped, but my technique needs some more work. 

I wasn't trying to make finished pieces of jewellery here - I just wanted to see how the enamel looked on the various shapes. 

Then there was the pig. I like the pig.

The copper sheet I used was 0.5mm - so quite thin. I haven't really tried this with silver or thicker metal. 

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Enamel Again

Once a year it seems, I get an urge to try something new. 

Last year (time flies, even in a ''pandemic'') it was all about collages.
This year - I'm back to my old love - enamel.
I have found a teacher that will help me try out my ideas, and hopefully get some good results.

First project - a revisit of the 'hamsa' I made a long time ago. This time I wanted to make a pair of earrings.
I learned a new method of etching on silver which is less messy and annoying than the way I had previously been taught. The etching went well. The enamelling - not so much. 

But - never let a crisis go to waste! I learned that one can remove bad enamel by soaking the pieces in matting salts. It took two whole weeks (brushing off the etched layer with a glass brush twice a day) but finally - it has all disolved, and I can try again.

The video was taken before the enamelling mishap.

Friday 25 October 2019

Collage a Day - The Grand Finale - Day 100

Mixed feelings! On one hand I'm absolutely exhausted, and my brain seems to have been wrung dry. On the other hand - it was lots of fun, I learned tons, and I have certainly improved my collage and Photoshop skills.

Some days the images just flowed effortlessly out of my hands, other days I struggled, but persisted until I was happy enough, or falling asleep.

I will probably take a short break from collaging and go back to making jewellery, but I do want to continue making art, and hopefully I will!

So - here is the total of many, many hours of painting papers, cutting, sticking, scanning, moving things around and changing sizes and colours in Photoshop...

Me and my strange collection of googly eyed creatures, in a group photo, taken in one of my favourite collages - the one I did on day 91.

Thursday 24 October 2019

Collage a Day - Day 99/100

Not that much time today, also had to dismantle my collage corner as I need the space for something else (only temporarily, it will be back) so a modest collage made on the coffee table in the living room.
This was an idea I had to try - since it's soon Halloween and all that.


Wednesday 23 October 2019

Collage a Day - Day 98/100

Today I tried to collage Madox my cat. I already know that it is very hard (for me) to capture the full character - but I had a good try.

At least it looks like a cat :-)

Madox with Oxalis Triangularis

And with alternative tablecloth...

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Collage a Day - Day 97/100

Today and ice-skating pigeon.
There are two backgrounds for the pigeon, and can't decide which I prefer.

I did the top one first, then felt sorry for him having to skate on the roof of a gloomy inner city building.

So I moved him to a frozen lake in Somerset, where he seems happy enough.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Collage a Day - Day 95/100

Today I was trying to work out how to do robins. Quite tricky - it got easier as I did more.
Here is a selection:

And of course with some snow...

Collage a Day - Day 94/100

I have done a few animals in woods, which is fun - but this one was a special request (snow rabbit). I did silver birch trees for a change.

Saturday 19 October 2019

Collage a Day - Day 93/100

Today I followed a prompt from the Daily Creating Group 'Edward Gorey'.
It reminded me I had a photograph, taken last November in Wells, of a dead crow. The scene of the dead crow on the grass looked just like it had appeared out of a Gorey illustration.

I added the feet which were somehow missing on the original poor creature, and had most fun painting the grass and brick backgrounds.

Of course it had to be in black and white as well... Below is the photo I took, just outside the Bishop's Palace Gardens, Wells.

This version has a shadow and some leaves...

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