Saturday, October 5, 2013

Results from the Ladysmiths Etching Workshop

Last week the Ladysmiths, a group of local female metalsmiths, came to my house for an etching workshop. You can see a brief report here:

And above, are the earrings I made with some of my etchings!

I have been having the best luck lately using my laminator rather than an iron to stick my PNP (press and peel) paper to the metal. I like using copyright-free images and print out a whole page of images, some I use, and others up for grabs. Once printed onto PNP paper with my laser printer, I tape each image onto a sheet of silver with a small piece of tape. I used a piece of paper to 'catch' the silver sheet as it comes out of the laminator, because it is hot!! This technique does not seem to work well with smaller pieces- the piece can get stuck in the machine, and it doesn't trap and keep the heat long enough to effectively melt the toner. But large pieces of silver with a bunch of images positioned on it seemed to work great for me and for others. I put it through the laminator about 8 times or so. A good guideline is when you can see the image become higher-contrast through the back of the blue plastic.

The PNP paper transferred great and I then cover up the remainder of the silver sheet with nail polish so it won't etch. Whatever isn't covered with PNP blue paper is painted. If I was using words, I'd have to mirror image them so that when they transferred, they read the correct way. I also reverse the black and white because as you can see, whatever is black is protecting the silver from being etched, so it's always a good rule of thumb to do this. I use plastic duct tape on the back to protect it from being etched- it's more cost effective than nail polish!

I wrote an article a while back for Art Jewelry magazine on Nail Stamp Etching. It's a great way to use already-etched plates to create patterns for etching- no PNP paper.  You can read about this way of etching in this blog:

I soaked my sheet in used (blue) nitric acid for 10 minutes, checking it every so often. If you start to see PNP paper floating up from the silver- TAKE IT OUT! This can happen if the acid is too strong. I use nail polish remover for the polish and sandpaper to rub off the PNP.

I sawed out each of the flowers and annealed them a few times with my torch to bring up a layer of fine silver to the surface. This is called depletion-gilding and it's necessary with sterling silver in order to apply keum boo (fused gold) to the surface.

You can see from above that my goal was to gild the interior of each flower.

And here I'm thinking I need to add some opals!!

So I create 12 bezels and solder them onto a base sheet, then cut them out roughly. This will be for 2 pairs of earrings. I like the difference in scale between the swoop of the flower and the small gems. This is important for visual interest. A variety of colors, textures, patterns and scales keeps your eye moving and your brain reads that as dynamic. A lot better than boring!!

So after the gold is applied, I oxidize/buff each piece for a little contrast and slightly dome each piece. You can also see above I created the tops for the 7-petal flower pair. 

Above is that pair just before I set the stones. Because I oxidized the piece and it was hard to clean out the little 4mm commercial bezel cups, I used a hole punch to create little white circles of paper that sat beneath each stone. Because the citrine and iolite are transparent, the dark silver background would've dulled their color, so this seemed like a good thing to do. It certainly did brighten them up!

Here are the other pairs before I set the stones and bent the earwires.

And above are the finished pair of 7-petal flower earrings! I used citrine to pick up the gold color, and iolite because it's a great complimentary color to the yellow. They have great movement because the lower part dangles. The leaves were created by cutting out leaf-shapes, using a ball peen hammer to hammer the edges, then using a chasing tool with a sharp line to create the veins. The upper assembly was soldered onto a piece of flat wire, and then the earwire was soldered on the back side. A hole was drilled in the flat wire to receive the wire loop soldered on the back side of the flower. I like how the slight dome gives the flowers some nice dimension.

And here is the other pair. After filing and sanding the edges of the top portions, I soldered a wire on the back- the top was folded down to create the earwire, and the bottom portion was looped through the hole in the flower dangle.

I made 2 similar pairs because I'm listing one in my Etsy shop and one I'm using in the JCC show the Ladysmiths are participating later in the month. If they don't sell, maybe I'll keep a pair!


  1. I'm sure they will sell they are lovely! Lot's of texture, colour and interest.
    I recently etched some silver using your nail art stamp technique as a guide with great results, many thanks!

  2. Thank you!!!! Glad to hear you got good results!!!

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