Part two: Artist Project Series Liz Sabol
File, sand and polish to desired finish. Set any stones (unless you are using vitreous enamel).
Sometimes after firing, there is some warping. I tap the piece on a steel block to flatten any warping, and to compress surface porosity. I like the look of a slightly domed pendant, but the way I form the clay with two sides, I can’t dome it on a form in the wet clay stage. I use a hardwood doming block to shape it after firing. I also like a mirror finish on my pieces. That is hard to do without first removing the grainy texture on the fired clay. My favorite new tool to remove the clay texture is the super-fine 3M Unitized wheels. I have a large one on my buffing arbor, and small ones on the flex-shaft. They save so much time over filing and sanding, and easier on the hands! Since I will be painting and applying resin, I only put the final polish on the back, and just level and do some preliminary smoothing on the rest. The wheels create some heat, which I want to avoid once the color and resin is applied. In the past, I put the mirror finish on the entire piece at this point, but I ended up messing it up during coloring and resin, and needed to re-do the finish. I set the stones during this step, so I don’t risk scratching the paint or resin while setting. I use Jett Sett™, a thermoplastic, to secure the piece while setting. The Jett Sett™ needs to be softened in hot water – 160F – also to be avoided once the paint and resin are applied. When I test-fit the stones, I discovered that the seats had shrunk slightly, even with the investment, so I cleaned them up with the setting bits. After the stones are secure, it goes back in the hot water, to remove the Jett Sett™.
Apply desired color to the recessed areas. Clean excess off of the top. Dry, cure, or fire per the color requirements.
I paint the recesses with oil paint, and sometimes gilders paste and colored pencils. I use really tiny brushes, and they don’t last very long. Getting the paint into all the corners is hard on the brushes. I periodically wipe the top to remove excess paint before it dries. It was really enjoyable to paint this silver clay. The gritty texture at the bottom of the recesses held the paint really well with excellent coverage, and no lifting with additional coats. After the paint is dry, I use an orange stick and burnisher to highlight the tiny details at the bottom.
If required, apply sealant to protect color. I recommend testing compatibility between color and sealant prior to applying to the final piece.
I use the Rio Grande Durenamel epoxy resin for its glass-like hardness and finish. My least favorite part of the entire project is mixing the resin. It is so difficult to mix without creating bubbles! I apply the resin with a toothpick or syringe. This particular resin needs to be oven-cured at 130F for three hours, but there are other resins that can air-cure, if you don’t have access to an oven that can run at that temperature. Because the pendant is domed, the resin runs down towards the edges. Several resin applications are often needed to build up the resin to the top, so it will be flush when ground down. On flat pieces, resin can be filled just below the surface, if you don’t plan to grind the resin.
Grind/ Final Polish
For a flush finish with enamels or hard resins, grind down flush with metal walls. Proceed through grits, coarse to finer. Final buffing and polishing.
I grind down the resin with snap-on sanding discs on the flex-shaft. It is time consuming! I start with and 80 grit, and progress up to 1200 grit or finer before buffing. Often, this is where I discover tiny bubbles that I missed, and need to fill the holes with new resin, cure, and re-grind. After I have a smooth finish with the sanding discs, I run through several compounds on the buffing wheels, alternating between metal polish compounds, and special compounds for acrylics. Then, lastly, attach the bail and enjoy!
Liz Sabol studied Chemical Engineering and Art & Design at West Virginia University. She continued her education at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in Communication Arts & Illustration. Though a relative newcomer to the jewelry world, she is a veteran in design and graphic arts.
The eldest of seven children, Liz grew up on a dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania where she cultivated a lifelong love of nature, art, and design. She nurtured that sensibility through the study of concert piano, chemical engineering, fine art, design, and technology.
After a successful 25-year career in branding and corporate marketing, she found herself restless and sought new ways to express her artistic vision. In 2011, she experimented with intricate bead work, transitioned to the hypnotic experience of lampworking glass, and then began an exploration into metal in 2013. That journey led to a discovery and harmony she has achieved with a combination of technology and her signature organic forms. Inspired by fairy tales, fantasy and mysticism, each Champlevé piece is hand-painted and protected by resin, and hints at her love of oil painting.
By combining metal with media and techniques not traditionally used in jewelry, Liz brings a different and unique perspective to metal.