Honey Bee Brooch
I first fell in love with Wendy’s work when I saw it in an ad showing her Saul Bell Design Award necklace in 2010. Her necklace had so many interesting parts and it told a story. Over the years Wendy’s work has evolved and become more sophisticated. Her necklace (shown above) “Thorn Bird” was a finalist piece in 2017. Wendy created a companion brooch and is sharing her process with us. This project is presented by PMC Connection.
Project Materials and Supplies
Inside core: cork clay or Delight, artist preference of burnout material.
Work surface (I use thick sheet of tempered glass)
Artist’s preferred tools such as awl, texture tools, clay shapers, lino carver, dowels, small brush, q – tip, etc.
Sobo (or any good white glue)
Roller, playing cards
Liver of sulphur (I use the liquid form)
Pin back (I used a cold connection pin back by Thomas Mann) or any type of one’s preferred pin back components.
If using cold connections: micro nuts and bolts (I used Rio’s cold connection nut and bolts 1/4” 1.1mm set, driver, rivet materials, 20 g wire, etc.
18 gauge fine silver wire.
Optional: torch to ball the wire. (or buy headpins that have balls at ends)
Pliers: round nose, flat nose, flush wire cutters.
For eyes: I used 8 x 6 oval drusy cabochons and 8 x 6 oval fine silver bezels… bezel setters and burnishers. You can also use any size or shape you want as long as you have a bezel that matches stone size.
For wings: I just highlighted with liver of sulphur. Or, you can use resin or polymer to fill in texture, tinted, stones, glitter are also options.
To fill bee options: actual honey comb and citrine stones (what I used, or polymer for texture e.g. polymer “grass” etc. with assorted stones or photo and resin, etc. etc. etc.)
Sanding and polishing papers, burnishers.
Also optional: citrine briolette for honey “drop”. Sterling silver, 20 gauge.
1) Roll out ball of burnout core material (to preferred size of eventual brooch.) My brooch ended up 2 1/4” long (not including antennae) x 2 1/2” from wings to tips of legs. It’s pretty big and heavy. ( Remember to allow for metal clay shrinkage for your pin back size.) I used “Delight” air dry modeling compound (available at Rio). I also like cork clay. Be aware: both are problematic with fumes and burnout issues. *******Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before proceeding. There are safety issues with burnouts! “Delight” has fumes (I fire outside). Cork clay needs to be ramped up slowly and both need to dry for at least a day (consider your climate temperatures and humidity levels).
2) Make a croissant like shape with your burnout material. Slightly flatten the back for your pin back. Indent for the “eye” bezel with the shape you’ll be using. I use the end of a small paint brush, dowel,or chopstick. Make indentations along the form to shape and define bee “stripes”. Let dry for a least a few days (let your individual climate and humidity guide you).
3) When form is dried, coat with white glue and let dry for a few minutes. This will give you some tackiness for the metal clay to adhere to your burnout form with more ease and workability.
Make your wire forms, use 18 gauge fine silver wire. Figure out your desired length of antennae and cut 2, allowing for about 3/16” to be inserted into form. Also figure out your desired length for the legs. Double the length of the legs and cut 2 lengths of wire (the doubled length long), fold in half and insert the 2 sets of legs after you have wrapped with metal clay for a total of “4” legs. This is optional. You might not want to fuss with legs. Another option: torch the ends for balled ends. Or buy balled headpins if you don’t have torch.
4) Before wrapping, make sure you have your legs and antennae ready to go. Water, olive oil, roller, texture tools, etc. Also have your bezel ready to inlay. I use a 2 card thickness to roll my metal clay. I put olive oil on my work surface, roll out the metal clay between the cards. Some people, depending on experience and/or light touch might prefer to use a 3 card thickness.
Begin wrapping around form. I try to gauge the correct amount to cover in one sheet. Texture, smooth, refine, as necessary. I like my work to be more organic and slightly rough. Some people will prefer sanding and burnishing before firing. Insert bezel. I used slip in the depression and then added “fur” texture around the bezel. Make sure you have enough bezel lip for shrinkage and setting the stone later. Insert the antennae and legs. I used more metal clay around the legs for strength and textured with tiny “snakes” for more bee “fur”.
5) Wings: for texture, you can use a stamp or mold for the veins if you want. I made my own mold. To make mold: Roll out a pad of polymer clay. I used the thickest setting on my pasta machine which is about 1/8” thick. You can roll out a little thicker for more forgiveness. Then cure the polymer clay as per manufacturer’s instructions. I recommend Premo or Fimo for strength. The I drew a wing shape. (remember it will be opposite design). Carve the design with a lino cutter and a fine v-tip. Cut the outside deeper…. don’t cut deep the first time. Make several passes around your design. The interior lines can be more delicate. Coat the polymer mold lightly with olive oil. Roll a 2 card thickness slab of metal clay. Put over mold. Press and roll the clay into the depression. You can also texture the backs of the wings. Carefully lift your clay off of the mold. Examine it for clarity of detail. If you don’t like, mush up the clay and do it again! Sometimes takes a few tries. Make 2 wings. Trim when clay is slightly more firm. Let your bee form and wings dry.
6) When dry, check for cracks, etc. Repair and slip, add more details, sand, and refine….Add wings with slip and strengthen on back with a bit more clay. Let dry.
7) Fire according to clay manufacturer’s instructions. I use a Paragon kiln and use it’s slow fire program. I strongly recommend slow ramping for burnouts. With burnouts, I fire outside, just to be safe from any fumes. We live on several forested acres so fumes are not a problem.
8) When firing is complete and your form is cooled down, the fun starts. Brass brush with dish soap (lubricant) to burnish in running sink water. I use my studio deep basin working sink.
Burnish as desired.
9) Patina if desired. I use liquid liver of sulphur for with a dispensable small brush for detail and hue control. Use good ventilation. Pour a tiny amount of the liver of sulphur into a glass container of hot water. Heat the form and when the liver of sulphur is ready, dip your form or use brush to “paint” it. Run under cold water to set.
11) Set your “eye” stone into bezel. First push with bezel pusher and then use burnisher to set your stone. I used a black, oval drusy. Don’t set yet if you are torching, enameling the interior. You can add a citrine briolette to your bee’s “tail” if desired. I drilled a small hole at tip. Then inserted a head pin (to anchor) through the bee’s body and wire wrapped the stone.
12) Time to fill your bee. It can also be left hollow if you desire. If you want to fill the inside, again, coat a q-tip with white glue and swish around inside. Let dry for a few minutes for slight tackiness.
I filled my bee with a piece of real honeycomb and glued in a few citrine gemstone rondelles. You could also use crystals in a honey color. Honeycomb is fragile by it’s nature so this might need to be replaced later. I’ve tried coating with resin, but the resin heats up when curing and melts the honey into a big mess.
You can also inlay a polymer clay layer like grass or make faux honeycomb (I used translucent Pardo clay mixed with a tiny bit of Premo gold) and set stones into it (see bird example) or you can enamel the inside if you have the knowledge and materials… a beautiful luster gold would be gorgeous….