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Copper Leaf

October 2, 2011

This summer, having some spare time and being near a properly-sized anvil, I decided to try shaping something out of a copper sheet… being in the countryside, I decided to make a leaf: it would have been just a matter of cutting, shaping and chiseling (I thought). Knowing _nothing_ about chiseling and Repoussé, I experimented a bit and, after some effort, I came out with this object. Despite my errors (which I’ll discuss later), it came out a nice pendant.

After I finished this piece, I started looking at some online videos about chiseling and repoussè and discovered that… I should have watched them _before_ starting, instead. In the process I followed, I made some mistakes, making everything more difficult and less precise. So, this time, I will not recommend following my steps, but to look at this post just as an experiment. I will try later on to do other chiseled/repoussè pieces as they are supposed to be made. Anyway… here is what I did….

I started from a copper sheet, and hardened it with a hard  plastic hammer (my first mistake, it is better to start from soft metal, which would naturally harden when worked). Using a real leaf as a template, I roughly cut the metal sheet with shears. Using small files, I then refined the shape.

I then hammered the leaf on the curved edge and corner of the anvil to give it a round, organic shape. Then, using a hard point (a steel nail) I outlined the leaf nervatures. Using a small chisel (I had this rock chisel, with a flat head of around 4mm in size, lying around for years… not really sure who or why bought it), I chiseled the nervatures, following the scratched outline. However, doing so, flattened the leaf a bit and I had to re-shape its roundness. This was my other mistake… From what I saw from the videos, in the standard process, the artisans would have firstly chiseled the nervatures on the front, then repoussè the round shape from behind, then re-shaped the nervatures and the other details from the front.

To finish the piece, I used the sandpaper to smooth the surface, taking care to follow the natural shape of the leaf: on each side, I moved the sandpaper from the central nervature towards the outside, with the same angle of the outer nervatures. In this way, the reflections on the surface follows the leaf shape. I then used a layer of Judaic Bitumen to darken the nervatures. I attached to the stem a bead from a crystal chandelier (I bought some spare elements at a flea market, they are wonderful to craft decorative objects), just to make it more “complete” (a tree with copper leafs and crystal fruits….wow).


From → Jewelry, Project

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