March 16, 2009

New Work, New Material

I am getting ready for a show this weekend (the Bead Bonanza in Southfield, YAY!) so I have been very busy working on a few new things. New carvings are some of the items I have been doing, I am excited to say! I have 4 new carvings, all large round pendants, which I am looking forward to showing you this week. I haven't wanted to show them too early, because it takes a long time between the point where I finish carving, to the point where I have a finished object to sell. After the carving is done, I have to fire it, and then make a clay mold of it, and fire it, and then press the actual item, fire it, glaze it, and fire it again! So that can take me up to a month, depending on how much I am driven to get the firings done. Ceramics is certainly not an instant gratification sort of process, at least not the way I do it.

Anyway, I have recently discovered, with the help of my metalsmith friend, that the ceramic molds that I make for my porcelain beads also work really well for casting pewter in. Oh, this will get me in much trouble, I think. *grinning craftily* We had cast some very basic tests, to see how the molds hold up, and they work really well. So after testing in some old molds I had, I designed a gear specifically for casting in pewter (well, I will use it for clay too, but I made it with pewter in mind) It is a pretty crude and rustic casting style so far, just melting the pewter and pouring it into the one part ceramic mold. The result is a flat backed stone, which can be drilled, although I enjoyed simply setting it into a brass setting, just like I would a porcelain stone.

We cast the piece above in my studio, with a propane torch, and minimal equipment. I am looking forward to heading to the metalsmithing supply store soon to get more pewter and things to cast on my own.


  1. I hope you're using a lead/nickel free pewter! You don't want to get the brain-damage time.

  2. Andrew, thanks for your comment. Yes lead and nickel free. THe ingot i got is marked Tin/Antimony/Copper (I forget the percentages but I think its 91.75%/8%/.25%)

    do not want brain damage time either!

  3. Uhmmm, you might want to reconsider working with a pewter mixture with antimony in it.

    Health effects of antimony

    Especially people that work with antimony can suffer the effects of exposure by breathing in antimony dusts. Human exposure to antimony can take place by breathing air, drinking water and eating foods that contain it, but also by skin contact with soil, water and other substances that contain it. Breathing in antimony that is bond to hydrogen in the gaseous phase, is what mainly causes the health effects.
    Exposure to relatively high concentrations of antimony (9 mg/m3 of air) for a longer period of time can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and lungs.
    As the exposure continues more serious health effects may occur, such as lung diseases, heart problems, diarrhea, severe vomiting and stomach ulcers.
    It is not known whether antimony can cause cancer or reproductive failure.
    Antimony is used as a medine for parasital infections, but people who have had too much of the medicine or were sensitive to it have experienced health effects in the past. These health effects have made us more aware of the dangers of exposure to antimony.

    It's more expensive and not the easiest to find, but you might want to check in on Fine Pewter. Instead of nickel, lead, or antimony, they use fine silver. This is what we use at Green Girl Studios.

    Don't get the brain damage time or any other bad health times!

  4. Andrew,
    Thank you, I really do appreciate your guidance. I will look out for pewter made with fine silver, that sounds like a really good alloy. I know RIO has some alloys, so I will look into that. This is mostly a fun experiment, but I do want to be careful with what I am playing with.

    Many thanks again!