Part 2: The Tree of Tolerance by Trish Jeffers-Zeh

Part 2: The Tree of Tolerance by Trish Jeffers-Zeh

NOTE: *Click on photos with the black frame for a detailed slideshow of steps*
All images enlarge when clicked on.

Step 10: Tree Details.

It’s Tree time again! Using only the syringe with the 14ga/olive green and 18ga/light green tips I began to add layer upon layer blending each one to create my tree relief. This took some time, which is no issue to me since I’m very process oriented.  With each added layer I used both number 4 and 1 paint brushes as my sculpting tools.  I kept adding to achieve the look I wanted the tree to have.  This was one of my most favorite steps of the project as each layer the tree came more and more to life.  In watching the video you’ll see little tips on how to maneuver the brush to sculpt. Before I add more branches I proceed to set the stone.  In doing so this will give me a visual on how much more I want to build up the branches of my tree.

Step 11: Setting the Stones.
Setting the stones first step for putting it into place had already been accomplished when I placed a concave dome in the doughnut center and drilled the hole. I wanted the stone recessed, however I still wanted to raise it up a smidge so I made a seat for it. First dampening the area I would be laying a syringe line around the cleaned up opening.  Using the 14ga/olive green syringe tip I extruded my line around the perimeter of the hole and used the fine tip brush with water to clean it up and blend the fresh clay.

STEP 12: Check Stone.
To make sure the stone is securely set I used the 14ga syringe tip to lay four lines within the concave area, north, south, east and west. It’s important that the amount of water used to blend them into the base clay be minimized or you may compromise the strength of the concave form.  Once blended in allow it to dry for approximately five minutes or until the clay no longer shimmers, but is more firm.  Put your stone in place and use a tool that is similar in size to press the stone gently into place {I used the end of my x-acto knife}.  To confirm that the table of the stone is level I hold it at eye level and check it from every angle, adjusting as needed.  Let this completely dry without disturbing the stone placement.  Once dry I used the syringe with the 14ga tip to add prongs around the gem in the same locations I had placed the coils underneath the stone.  When adding the top prong I continued the extrusion of clay to blend with the mid-section vein of the leaf.  This maintained the leaf tip as a prominent part of the design, which was my goal. 

I blended and sculpted the syringe work so that the prongs looked like branches holding the stone in place. 



Step 13: Cleaning and Carving details.
In cleaning up around the stone I used a few different tools and techniques. I used two different gauges of needle tools, fine and medium to get started.  These worked well on the stone with no issue of scratching as long as I gently applied pressure.  For carving the prongs into shape I used my x-acto knife and finished off with the Dockyard Micro Carving tool, Skew Chisel 1.5mm.



Step 14: Finishing. *VIDEO click image to play
With the stone in place I was on to doing more wet work to refine the tree branches. I used the 18ga syringe tip to add beef to the existing limbs and added more depth. At this point, as always it’s important to blend the added clay nicely with the base.  While I was at it I did some wet sanding to smooth out areas and do touch ups before the next step.

Sanding, carving and refining are important parts of the process in bringing this tree to full glory. Starting with a flexible clean up abrasive stick, double-sided mini file with medium/280 and fine/400grit, I worked on the highest areas. My favorite tools besides the cleanup sticks for refining are the x-acto knife,  Kemper Lady Finger Tool Set {fine and medium tips}, two gauges of needle tools, Dockyards Micro Carving tools 1.5{V cut and Skew Chisel}, and the half round steel mini file.  For more insight to how I used the tools along with some tips.



Step 15: Besides the syringe, Overlay Paste is also under appreciated. It’s one of my most versatile tools when it comes to adding strength, securing connections, doing Sgrafitto and adding extra sparkle to my work. On the Tree Of Tolerance I used a watered down slip the consistency of buttermilk and generously painted all the raised areas.  Tipping the jar and using the lid as a holder offers a more convenient access to your slurry. The front has already been coated with Overlay. Before starting on the reverse side I cleaned the exposed bisque bead with a paper towel and isopropyl alcohol.  I repeated the process of slip trailing on all the syringed areas, the edges of the bail and pendant.

**Pay special attention to the stone pre-firing. To insure no silver or oils have adhered use isopropyl alcohol to clean them, front and back.

Step 16: Firing.
The Tree Of Tolerance was placed in the kiln and programed to ramp 200 degrees per hour and hold for five hours to make sure it was completely dry. Then full ramp to 1650 degrees for a hold of two hours. It’s extremely important that you insure that the bisque bead is thoroughly dry.  If any dampness is within the clay body it will explode in the kiln.  Most, but not all Cubic Zirconium’s will fire at this high of temperature.  Just in case I did a dry firing test using the schedule of a full ramp to 1650 with a hold of two hours.  I did this before having set the stone and the CZ had survived beautifully. Once the kiln has cooled to room temperature the pendant was ready for the next step.

Step 17: Polishing
I have listed all the alternative methods of polishing that I suggest you use in the opening of my article. To begin first use a brass brush with soapy water. If any of the silver flakes off while brushing you’ll need to review your next step.  Some flaking of silver can be expected if the surface to surface connection or the construction techniques were not done properly.  Repairs can be made and the bead re-fired.  If there was not a significant amount of flaking off then I suggest you use a gentler method of polishing.  That would be using 3M Imperial polishing paper assortment 400-1,000 grit sandpaper.   If you want another method to shine your piece you can use burnishing tools.  However, while I don’t recommend you do this I tumbled my piece.  It had held up very well to my vigorous brash brushing and I like to test the sturdiness of my work.  My pendant held up very well!  I checked every hour it was in the tumbler for flaking or any silver detachment.  After six hours it had passed my strength test.

Step 18: Patina
For extra contrast on the piece I mixed up a special patina solution of 1/3 cup water, 1 TBL. Sea salt, 1 TBL. Yellow ammonia and two drops of Cool Tools Patina Gel. My aim was to achieve bolder colors. I placed the pendant in the freezer; with the liver of sulfur solution very hot and the piece cold, I used a paintbrush to apply the solution, giving me more control in achieving rich gold and purple tones.  I was extremely pleased with how the patina came out.  This process is not always predictable.  In order to neutralize the patina to keep the colors place the pendant in a bowl of cool water and a TBL spoon of baking soda.   Using the pro polishing pad only I removed the patina from all the high surfaces, edges of the bail and the perimeter of the doughnut.  The Overlay Paste helped give extra shine to the tree.  As a sealant to protect the beautiful colors of the patina I applied   Use masking tape on the front of your stone to avoid spraying it.  I used fine tip tweezers to stuff Kleenex to protect the back of the stone.  For more information on how to use the sealant here is a link to Cool Tools ProtectaClear.

I choose a multi strand gold wire choker to both compliment the colors of the pendant while not competing with the piece. This project has been a work of passion and boy did I learn a lot about tolerance that I wasn’t expecting. I can’t wait to start manifesting other projects spinning in my head on new techniques mixing ceramics and fine silver metal clay.

Inspiration:   I strongly encourage you to create your own designs that truly represent your unique story.








FRONT and BACK of finished piece:


Trish Jeffers-Zeh I’m a Tom-boy at heart who has been blessed with a wonderful husband, three children, seven grandchildren {with one on the way!} and a life living out in the country that I never dreamed I would have.  Art has always been my saving grace to release pain, anxiety and express my feelings as prayers or meditations, for idle hands leave too much room for overthinking.  Even as a child my dream was to create work that was significant to others as “Accessories for Grace” for hope and inspiration.  My passion for teaching comes from my desire to serve others in their own need to create for release and peace.  I like to nurture others’ faith in themselves.  It’s a better world when “We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends”!

Find Trish online:
FaceBook- The Ohio Metal Clay & Artisans Guild