Materials and Techniques

Color and imagery are both very important to my work. The colors of the images as well as the surrounding decorative elements allow the viewer to better understand my reference to the Post WWII era of graphics and ideals. Certain colors are also stereotypically associated with different genders, allowing me to express a feeling of domesticity without needing to literally represent it with graphics. Three different techniques make it possible for me to include color in a variety of ways on the pieces that I create. The three processes which are an important part of my research are enameling, powder coating, and the inclusion of tin.

The materials I choose to use when creating an object or piece of jewelry, directly reference the time period that I am critiquing. I use enamels in these pieces because I can reproduce colors that are similar to those used in the romance comics that my mother read as a child. Enameling is essentially a process of applying color to metal by fusing glass to its surface. Different ways of applying the glass enamel have been used since ancient times. The technique that I use is called champlevé. Linda Darty defines this specific way of enameling in her book, The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration, stating that “the term champlevé comes from the two French words “champ,” a field, and “levé,” raised. In this technique raised fields, or areas of metal, are incorporated into the finished design and the enamel is inlayed into the recessed compartments” (114). To create the recessed areas, a resist (usually nail polish) is applied to the metal in the areas that I want raised and place the whole piece in an acid bath of ferric chloride. By doing this, the exposed metal is etched away and the resulting piece is comprised of raised lines and recessed compartments. Using colors reminiscent of romance comics, I fill the recessed areas with the powdered glass and place it in a kiln set at 1500°F until it is fully fused. After letting the piece cool, the enamel is ground flush with the metal, making a smooth even surface. I repeat filling any recesses and grinding until the surface is completely uniform and smooth. Lastly, a glass etching cream is applied to matte the surface. Utilizing the technique of enameling, I am able to create images with blocks of color and bold black lines, similar to comic book imagery.

Powder coating is another way of applying color to metal that directly correlates to the time period and the setting of the pieces that I am creating. Powder coat has been used in industry for decades on such things as stoves, kitchen appliances, and automobiles. Powder coating is achieved by applying a pigmented powdered epoxy resin or plastic to an object using an electrostatic charge. Since both the powder and the object have an electrostatic charge, the powder coats the back of the piece as well as the front in a relatively even layer. After the object is coated it is placed in an oven to set and then cure. The final product is vivid in color and more durable than enamel in that it cannot crack if dropped.

Tin is incorporated into every piece as a lightweight alternative to enamel and a way to include color and enhance the narrative. Bobby Hannson tells a brief history of tin in his book The Fine Art of the Tin Can: Techniques and Inspirations;The old British term “tinned can,” derived from the term “tinned canister,” is more accurate than our common term “tin can.” Tin cans are made of tinned steel- steel plated with tin. The steel provides strength and economy, and the tin resists rust and corrosion. The process of tinning iron was invented in Bohemia at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The earliest tin cans were made from thinned iron so thick and strong that soldiers often resorted to bayonets and hammers to open them. The can opener wasn’t invented for another 50 years, by which time cans were made of slimmer stuff.  (12) In each piece, the tin is chosen for its graphic qualities and nostalgic feel. A majority of the tin used in this body of work is acquired from vintage tin dollhouses, lunchboxes and cookie tins. The sources are associated with traditionally feminine activities; playing with dolls, cooking, and baking. Integrating these specific pieces of tin helps me to reinforce the ideals of traditional gender roles and domesticity.

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