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Decisions in Copper and Gold

Luckily the weather is a bit warmer this week, encouraging me to get in my shed and get on with the sun mosaic that I wrote about in the last post.  I let it slip a bit as the cold was biting into my fingers during the last few weeks, and I wasn’t brave enough to sit in my workshed!  Going for a run and sitting in front of the microwave  experimenting with my newly acquired microwave kiln was all I could muster! But that’s ok, sometimes you have to  slow down…

I was thinking about the leaves in my design and how to make them in large pieces of copper. So I bought a sheet of  copper, sandwiched it between two pieces of glass, and  fused it in the microwave kiln. It turned a lovely red russet, and although could be good for autumn leaves, I really wanted copper. So I talked with Robert on the phone, (he is the support glass technician from Pearsons glass, which is where I bought the kiln).

He said I have to clean the copper really well with brasso and try to eliminate any air in the copper sandwich. So I cleaned it…

cleaning the copper
Cleaning the copper

but eliminating the air wasn’t so easy, this is one of the tiles …

fused copper tile

You can see the copper colour coming through in the centre but the air has got around the edges and oxidised the copper making it that lovely rusty red colour. Nice though isn’t it?  I think I probably need some glue to tack it together and eliminate the air.

I’ll come back to the leaves in a mo, but next I’ll show you what I have decided to use for the sun. If you remember the sun from my design (see last post) it is orange. That evening I watched the sun go down it was a deep transparent orange. Looking through my supplies I found a transparent red smalti, but no orange. Rather than going through the laborious and expensive process of ordering more smalti from Venice, I decided to use the red. I thought I might be able to make it more orange by laying it onto a yellow background. I did a little experimentation, and fixed the smalti onto

1. a white adhesive,

2. a coloured yellow adhesive,

3. yellow plastic

4. gold foil

(from top left to bottom right) transparent smalti onto white adhesive, yellow adhesive, yellow plastic, gold foil

The gold foil was the most successful as it let in a golden light through the glass. Here it is again…

transparent red smalti on gold foil

Sun sorted, I moved onto the materials for the trees. That was easy, I have a big box of thick black matt ceramic tiles.

And the sky would be made of opaque smalti, probably piastrina, which is a more regular shaped smalti.

So… back to the leaves… I tried the materials together…

The fused copper tile wasn’t right, not only is the colour too close to the transparent smalti of the sky but it is also too glassy. I wanted the leaves to be more like dry coppery leaves.

I make my own gold metal leaf glass and recently I made some copper and silver leaf glass. This is the copper and the gold…

Kate's hand-made metal leaf glass

After laying the metal leaf under the glass, I paint it with a red oxide paint to stop the metal from rusting and tarnishing too much, although as you can see this doesn’t always work and the copper has already tarnished, that and the red oxide paint coming through some of the fine cracks in the metal leaf  I think looks really autumn leafy don’t you?

So here are the final materials I am using…

final materials

Come back soon and see more progress on my sun mosaic!


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  1. Love the idea of making your own metallics, what are you using for the adhesive? Is it weather proof?

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