Japanese alloys

My Japanese Obsession

I have a bit of an obsession with the ancient Japanese alloys shakudo (4 % gold in copper) and shibuichi (10-25 % silver in copper) and here I have combined these metals with fold-forming. This pod necklace started as a flat shakudo/sterling silver sheet which was fold-formed into a pod shape, patinated to achieve the deep dark purple characteristic of shakudo, and tumbled for 3 days. The pod is filled with freshwater pearls and hand-made shakudo, silver, shibuichi and mixed-metal beads. I have made the beads from metal clay. I make my own shibuichi and shakudo clay from commercially available silver, copper and gold metal clays and created simple round beads as well as mixed metal beads with mokume gane (Japanese for woodgrain) patterns

Fold-forming is my favourite metalsmithing technique, because it is does not require any expensive tools or materials, and because it allows metal to move the way it naturally wants to move, creating wonderful, three-dimensional structures. The technique was invented by English-born goldsmith Charles Lewton-Brain in the 1980s. With the exception of metalworking techniques that resulted from the Industrial Revolution, fold-forming is the first newly invented major metal techniques for thousands of years.

You start with a flat sheet of metal, which you fold, anneal and forge with along an edge, or edges, with a forging or bordering hammer. The forging and annealing is repeated many times and the metal will naturally start to curve more and more with each cycle. The end result is highly variable and depends on the initial shape of the metal sheet, the number of annealing/forging cycles, and whether you choose to forge on the open or the closed side. When you unfold the sheet, it will have taken on a dramatic, three-dimensional form similar to objects found in nature, such as leaves, sea creatures or seed pods. I am a neuroscientist and I often discover that my fold forms also resemble structures found in the human body. The fold-form will also have a natural patina resulting from the repeated heating and cooling. I often choose to keep this patina but occasionally I pickle and the fold-form and apply a specific patina or enamel the piece. I work primarily with copper, but also with brass, sterling silver, fine silver, or with my favourite ancient Japanese alloys, shakudo and shibuichi.

I am particularly obsessed with creating seed pod-like shapes, which I fill with vibrant, iridescent freshwater pearls, sparkly gemstones or beads that I have made from metal clay. Metal clay is my other passion; I use all sorts of clays such as fine/sterling silver, copper, bronze and steel, and also make my own shakudo and shibuichi clays which I use to make intricate Mokume-Gane designs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s