Friday, July 2, 2010

What to do when disaster strikes contributed by Linda Reynolds, BellaLinda

I know you can all relate: you spend hours and hours on a piece, then – something really, really bad happens…you drop it on its way to the kiln; run out of wire just as you’re finishing, the stone you were setting flies out of your hand and is lost somewhere on your studio floor,you bump it during a critical soldering stage; you roll over it with your studio chair; – I’m sure you can all think of countless examples yourselves.

After working on a copper enameled piece of birch tree trunks against a sky blue sky for MONTHS, I unpacked it from our move to Tennessee and beheld a DISASTER, large segments of the enamel had been so badly damaged that it broke away entirely, exposing the copper firing base. I was heart-broken. As those of you who work in enamel know, each firing to the front of the piece requires an equal firing on the back of the piece, building layers of flux on the back to match the layers of colored enamel on the front so the piece doesn’t warp out of shape. This piece went through approximately 50 firings, building layers, adding the white enamel, painting on with the tiniest brush the black outlines and markings on the birch tree trunks. SO, I couldn’t just let it be ruined, now could I?

The picture below shows the piece damaged, with the first part of the “fix” began…see the 16g copper wire that’s been threaded through those two holes in the piece? Can you guess what I’m going to do?

After puzzling and puzzling until my puzzler was sore, (to quote Dr. Seuss) I came up with the idea to use copper birch tree leaves, in clusters, to cover up the damaged areas. Since this piece was designed as a decorative, not functional, object to be mounted and hung on the wall or in a table-top easel, the “fix” could be somewhat delicate and not need to stand up to wear and tear.

So, this is what I did:

I carefully drilled two holes, into the piece, through the enamel layer in the back, to allow for a 16g copper “anchor” wire to be placed through to the front.

I then stabilized the holes (remember we have cracked glass / enamel bits on the back now) with two-part clear epoxy resin.

After drying, I threaded a work-hardened piece of 16g copper wire through both holes, curving the front ends of it to make the base for the leaf clusters I was going to attach. THIS IS THE POINT AT WHICH I TOOK THE PHOTO, ABOVE.

I purchased some craft scissors. at JoAnns for around #4.00, with a jagged edge and some copper foil. I believe foil is approximately 30g, very, very thin.

Then, off to the computer to see what birch tree leaves look like exactly. Once I had a variety of pictures of the shape textures of the leaves, I spread them on my workbench and started making leaves.

Tracing a cut-out from one of my print-outs, I used a ball-point pen to make an outline of the correct shape leaf and then started cutting with the jagged edge scissors. I cut out about 30 leaves, varying the sizes and shapes slightly each time for a more natural look.

Near the top, center of each leaf, I punched a hole using the same ball point pen.
Turning each leaf over so that the smooth side of the punched hole is facing down, jagged edge up, I started “drawing” with the same pen the center veins and side veins of each leaf, again being careful to not be too precise and varying each leaf a little bit.

Now you have textured leaves with holes in the top and can proceed.
I laid the leaves out on the enameled piece so I would be sure and have enough to cover both the bare copper areas. Once I had enough, I took some 26g copper wire and started “stringing” the leaves onto the base 16g copper wire, going through the hole at the top and then wrapping a couple of times around the base wire before going onto the next leaf, careful not to pull too hard as the copper foil is delicate and will tear.

NOTE: this takes a little planning, start from the bottom up, using larger leaves at the bottom and smaller ones as you get to the top.

After both areas were covered with leaves, I chose a few key places to put a little dab of two-part epoxy to hold a few of the leaves in place, pretty much at the bottom, middle and top of each leaf cluster, for extra security.
After the epoxy dried, I carefully bent and curled each leaf to get this look:

I haven’t decided if I will patina the leaves (I’m leaning toward a blue/green patina), then I plan to mount the piece on black, and frame is in an embossed copper frame I’m working on right now.

There now, I feel so much better! What before was useless and broken has a new life!
How do you think it turned out?


  1. Wow! What a nice save! I love how you finished it and no one would even know it wasn't intended to be if you didn't tell them! Very lovely piece!

  2. Looks great! I'll be sure to look at a mishap as an opportunity in the future!