The alchemy that is electroforming...
I'm sure you are wondering, what on earth is electroforming?! I thought the same thing when I first came across this medium. All I knew was I loved the style of jewelry it created, and I needed to learn more of this art form. To put it simply, electroforming is the combination of art and science. It incorporates alchemy into the creative process and allows the artist to grow and to build up a copper deposit on the pieces being created. Essentially, you get to become a mad scientist and work with just about any material imaginable, even organics.
Electroforming is defined as the intricate process of chemically controlling a metal deposit (i.e. copper) onto a conductive surface. This is a process that takes anywhere from 1-30 hours, pending whatever medium being used. Since I am focusing on creating jewelry, I do at least 12 hours to ensure my pieces are sturdy. Considering this is a science, you might think it would be a rather predictable medium to work with, but like any art form, it has it's vulnerabilities. The basic ingredients include a sulfuric acid solution, electricity (cathodes/anodes), conductive paint, copper and whichever organic/inorganic materials you prefer. Right now, I have been using stones and crystals, but I do plan to start incorporating more fragile materials like leaves, lace, twigs, acorns, etc.
Next, take your non-metal material to create a form and paint over it with a conductive paint to create a metallic surface. Then, plate the desired metal over the painted surface, using the cathode/anode and sulfuric acid solution. If an organic material were used, the non-metal material is removed, typically by burning the material out, leaving a metal shell in the form of the organic matter. Due to all the variables, this process typically never results in the same piece twice (for me anyway). Pieces can grow texture or stay entirely smooth, and they constantly need check throughout their "formation" to ensure quality control.
Once the piece has built up an appropriate layer of copper, it is removed from the bath and neutralized with baking soda. It gets polished by hand with a Dremel. Pending the outcome, such as texture builds up, it may be oxidized with a layer of sulfur to give it a darker patina, followed by more neutralizer.
Finally, it's time for my least favorite part--sealing. The piece gets wiped completely clean with denatured alcohol to remove any and all residues. A layer of Protectaclear is then painted on with a sponge brush. It will need to sit for a day before applying a second layer, followed by a 4-5 day curing period. Typically, I only use sealant on rings and pieces susceptible to causing the dreaded "green" finger. Its important to note this will eventually wear off, but if taken care of properly (i.e. avoid water), it can last for years.
On another note, my pendants are not sealed unless they are designed specifically for a choker necklace to allow them to naturally oxidize, while giving you the health benefits of copper. Thats another blog post for another time!
As you can see, this is quite a process, and each piece takes weeks from start to finish. I did not get into the preparation of a piece, but it also takes multiple days to prepare a piece for electroforming. This medium takes a lot of patience to work with, but it is absolutely worth it. These one of a kind pieces are truly natural art forms. It has been a dream of mine for years to create my own pendants and rings. To finally be at this point is honestly, surreal.
Thank you so much for your interest in my art. I hope this fosters an understanding about how intricately my art forms are crafted, as well as, how much time goes into each piece resulting in a one-of-a-kind, artisan crafted, piece of jewelry made just for you!