Process

The processes I use to construct my work are considered and chosen for each piece, yet themes across works and series can be tracked. This page serves to demonstrate a few of the traditional and non traditional metals processes I use in my work.

To stay up to date with what is hot off the bench, and see what I am making / how, follow me on Instagram: rachelsuzannemetals

 

Most series start with sketches or photographs of imagery (flora) that I notice/am drawn to at the time. Many sketches never become works, but serve as a database.

I also sketch gestural representation of potential adornments that I am drawn to, or areas of the body to highlight. These again become a database.

 

The next step is to collage the sketches and photographs of the inspiration, using the gestural adornment sketches as a guide for scale and format. By using vector drawing, I can quickly highlight areas of importance in a flower or leaf, and then arrange each in countless ways.

Depending on the series, works may highlight a specific plant, or a specific type of adornment. Below is an example of Stiff Gentian and Chicory in various formats to create a neck ruff, wall pieces, brooches, and necklace.

sneezeweed [Converted]

 

Scale and function of the final piece help me choose my next set of processes.

My large scale aluminum is laser cut or waterjet cut with the help of local industry. Large works in aluminum are advantageous because they can be light to wear, yet maintain a pleasing edge and thickness that provide visual weight. The vector drawings can be sent out for a quote. Living in the “Rust Belt” has its perks, and I have enjoyed working with a number of machine shops and metal suppliers for this. Below are works I had cut at AW Metals in Barberton- they just got a waterjet cutter and are AWESOME to work with. No way could I cut out work to this scale by hand.

Large scale steel is laser cut or CNC plasma cut. This can be done at a show with the equipment to do so. Kent State’s Architecture program has a CNC Plasma Cutter which can cut steel (experiments with aluminum did not go as well, due to the low melting point) and is pictured below. Steel is inexpensive and can withstand more pressure than aluminum, but has some weight to it, making it harder to use for wearable works.

Smaller scale works and less complicated works can be cut with a jeweler’s hand saw. The vector drawing is still key to this process. Using a vinyl cutter or flatbed plotter, I create stencils which I can saw around, allowing for greater accuracy and complexity in my designs. Below is an example of me using the flatbed plotter with both adhesive vinyl (yellow) and with pen and paper to create stencils. The image on the far right shows my hand cutting progress.

 

Once I have collected my raw cut materials, I begin using more traditional jewelry hand skills; sanding, filing, forming, riveting, etc. Taking the forms from a 2D to 3D volumetric piece immediately activates the work in new ways. Below are images of works during this state of forming process, to better illustrate how each piece is made.

Powder coat is my number one way of adding color to metal. It cures at a low enough temperature for aluminum, is flexible and more forgiving than enamel, it protects the metal and feels good on the wearer’s skin, and there are enough cool sites out there offering great colors that you can have a lot more fun with your colors than you expect from industrial applications of powder coat (think downspouts and lawn chairs).  Below are powder colors from Powder Buy The Pound. Also pictured is Kristina Malcom, silversmith, assisting me with loading the large upright kiln for an oversized powder firing /cure. Note: the spray booth used has powder/particle filters! Do your research/contact me for information before you powdercoat! Safe practices! 

Many of the larger works I make are planned based on the gestural drawings of adornment that occur as a part of step one. The offshoots and smaller works of the series are often unplanned and come together either during the forming stage, or during the addition of color. During this time, I use collage and jewelry design techniques to create the final works. Below, you can see some of that process. It can get messy, and sometimes takes years for me to figure out how to use a cut-out.

 

Chain making, findings, pin backs, fabricated elements, stone settings… the rest of my decision making processes stem from the final plan created individually for each piece.

 

Thank you for dropping in! For more questions, or if you would like to schedule a demo I can be reached at:

rachel.suzanne.metals@gmail.com

@rachelsuzannemetals