Monday, March 7, 2011
EXCITING!!! Right at the end of December, I stumbled upon the possibility that you can Raku copper metal! I LOVE Raku, you can imagine my excitement at this discovery. So, here's my silly story. . . I was taking a metals class this past semester as part of my minor, and the last project of the semester had to somehow incorporate enamel. Well, I have never used enamel, but found that it is quite similar to glazing and firing a pot. I occasionally have an obsessive personality, especially when I am learning some new technique. Therefore, instead of doing one piece in enamel, I decided I would make a sculpture that would incorporate about 40 copper pieces. I actually posted a picture of this sculpture in an earlier post--it's the picture of a face with a bunch of pieces protruding from the neck and forehead. If you have never enameled before, once you have adhered the powdered enamel onto your metal surface you put it into a preheated kiln at about 1500 degrees F. for one to five minutes checking continually until the enamel is to the point you want it to be. One thing that is really interesting is that you can fire your metal and build up layers of enamel and keep re-firing until you get the desired effect. Also, there are three specific enamel surfaces other than simply opaque or translucent. If you fire it quickly and take your piece out of the kiln before the enamel has matured, it has a rough colorful surface that looks like crystalized sugar, hence the name sugar enamel. The second looks much like an orange peel glaze, so it's called orange peel enamel. This is done by letting the enamel just start to mature and removing it before it has fully melted. The last, obviously, is simply letting the enamel fully melt and mature in the kiln for a smooth glossy surface. So, for my 40 pieces I couldn't possibly just enamel once. I had to do each piece twice. My first layer was fully matured enamel, then, in doing the second layer, I found the magic Raku Copper. I decided that each little piece needed to have a sugar coating fading out from the base where they are attached to the sculpture. Ok, so here's the magic--I ended up taking so many pieces in and out of the kiln at a constant pace, that I accidentally laid a few hot pieces just out of the kiln on some dry paper towels. When I realized what I had done and lifted the piece off, I noticed, with great excitement, that I had a RAKU surface on my copper!! So I re-fired all of my pieces AGAIN to obtain a similar surface. This is certainly something I would love to explore more at some point. If you are going to try this, I have a few suggestions to start. First, I found that if the piece is over-efired, the results will not be as noticeable. Next, I found that using a transparent enamel seems to work better than the opaque, and the sugar coating has the best results. I have not tried this with silver. I believe the copper is playing a role in this process much like in the ceramic Raku process. The more I experiment, the more I will share my discoveries with you all. Until then, happy hunting for those new exciting "Oh wow" moments.