This is going to be a long entry, as it will involve construction notes and the like. If such things make your eyes glaze over, feel free to look at the pretty (and not so pretty pictures) and skip the text. :)
This is The Beast in question:
I got a wild hair to do something totally creative and artistic and frivolous, so I thought "well hey, let's learn enamelling!". I bought an enamel kit and with the aid of my trusty PMC kilns, got down to work. This is, of course, when everything went South...
The first cock-up: Do not try any fancy-schmancy folding tricks with PMC.
I had originally intended to roll out a thin sheet and fold it, accordion-style, to create a neat rippled backdrop for the back of the piece. DO NOT DO THIS. This creates air pockets in the PMC that come out later as huge gaping holes in the piece, when the silver shrinks. D'oh.
I ended up camouflaging my mistake with lines scribed in the back, but it did not stop the aforementioned Grand Canyons of Fail from showing up. Hmmm. This necessitated enamelling the back of the piece as well, to fill the holes, something I had not intended to do.
The second cock-up: Enamelling the back of a huge piece of silver that was not intended to be enamelled is bad news bears.
Ping! Ping! Ping! If I never hear that sound again for the rest of my life I will be a happy woman. See, for those among the enamelling unitiated, enamel likes to crack. It will crack if there are impurities in your water or dust in your enamel, and it will crack if the working surface is not an ideal shape for enamelling onto (domed), and it will crack if the piece is cooled too quickly. I sifted. I fired. It cracked. I cleaned. I sifted. I fired. It cracked. I cleaned. Ad nauseum.
In fact, I full-cover sifted the back of the piece no less than eighteen times. Eighteen times! Finally, I gave up. At least the PMC Holes of Badness were filled, right? Oy. So the lesson here is that some things really don't want to be enamelled, particularly if they are the wrong shape and thickness.
This is how the back ended up:
Parts stayed enamelled. Parts didn't. It all got fired. Holes got filled. I ended up stoning the enamel down so it looked like beach glass. Not too shabby, all things considered.
I fired the ever loving heck of it at the end, which resulted in the fine silver of the PMC actually boiling up over the shibuichi coral... which brings me to the next part:
The third cock-up: Shibuichi does not like to be fired with fine silver.
I had cast the shibuichi (the pink-silver stuff at the bottom) myself, and it came out in this lovely coral shape, so I used that as a platform to work from. I cleaned and set the coral into the wet PMC and fired the whole thing. So far, so good, right? I did notice, though, that during the first firing the PMC really wanted to "creep" along the surface of the shibuichi in a fine skin. I figured I could take it off later. Um. Not so much.
After firing and firing and firing some more, especially the high temperatures of the flash at the end, the fine silver caught on the surface of the shibuichi actually balled itself into shot... tiny, tiny nodules of shot that fused hard. Um. It's a good thing this was a creative, freeform, underwater piece or I would have cried.
In the end, I actually like how the nodules look, definitely like coral! I'm not sure I could duplicate it if I tried. You can see the nodule effect, and the enamelling I floated throughout the front of the piece, here:
Everything else was more or less not cock-up worthy. I bought a vintage coral necklace (I can not, ethically, support the harvesting of new coral at the expense of the reefs... so I purchase old stuff) and reamed out the tiny holes with a diamond bit.
I strung everything on 20g steel wire, to hold its shape. Oh! I guess there is another cock-up...
The fourth cock-up: 20g steel wire does not wire-wrap in any kind of pretty or decorative way, unless you are The Hulk.
So I used to bitch and moan about sterling silver being tough to wire-wrap. Ha! Double ha! A breeze by comparison. Wrapping the ends of this wire was an exercise in bruises, blood and frustration. In the end I did the best I could, but it's ugly (were this a piece for sale, I would cover the shitty wire-wrapping with an assortment of pretty jump rings for camouflage).
I had a piece of cuttlefish doodad lying around from my last run of Lovecraft jewellery, so I used that as a simple clasp:
It's actually good and secure, given how heavy the necklace is and how stiff the wire is.
So anyway, this was it: Seascape 1, sterling and fine silver, peg-set cultured pearl, modified gypsy-set moonstone, enamel, coral, steel.
In 10 years, when I have more buff skills, I am going to make another one. :D In the meantime, I have the necklace to remind me of all the lessons this piece taught me... and an even more permanent souvenir:
Just in case anybody wondered how hot kilns get... I didn't even feel that. It burned right down before I could say boo.