Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Pet Bracelets

I have been exploring bracelet construction for about a month now and happened upon the sculpture booklets by Katherine Dewey. She had some ideas for animal cuffs in one of her manuals and it occurred to me that lizards and salamanders would adapt themselves very well to a bracelet that swirls around the arm since these animals like to climb.

My first pet bracelet was a translucent green gecko with mokume gane strips for the skin overlay and seed beads for the suction cups on his toes. I loved the way he turned out, except that his armature was memory wire and I was afraid that someone might bend his tail too far back and accidentally break him, so the search was on for a less flexible armature.

I decided to visit the hardware store to see what kind of wire was available there, thinking that I might pay less than I would at a craft store. You should have seen the face of the man in the electrical section when I explained to him what I planned to do with the wire! "Oh, I'm looking for some wire to use in some bracelets that I'm making!" I need to take the bracelets back to show him some day.

I decided on aluminum clad electrical wiring and brought a box of it home. It is about 1/4 inch in diameter. I decided that this would make a nice backbone. I had planned to remove the wire and just use the aluminum cladding but it is too flexible without the wire so I replaced the wire and worried a little about the plastic coating on the wire, but not too much. So far, cooking at 275 degrees I have not smelled any burning or noticed any other ill effects and this does make a nice semi-rigid armature with just enough give for a bracelet cuff. Of course, the resulting lizard is quite a bit bigger! This second lizard was modeled on a day gecko. Their skin ranges from green at the head to blue at the tail so I made a Skinner blend of sea green and ultramarine blue Premo, mixed with some Pearl and Translucent Clay--33% Pearl, 33% Translucent and 33% color, because I like the metallic effect and the depth that adding the translucent gives the clay.

I used vintage glass foil beads for the eyes and mixed up a mokume gane bullseye cane using multicolored metal leaf in the translucent to wrap the skinner blend to use as scales down the back of the gecko. One photo above shows both lizards so that you can compare their sizes and construction.

The third lizard used the same aluminum clad armature but this time I used the Northern Red Salamander as inspiration. I was surprised to find out that these salamanders have four toes in the front and five in the back. Isn't nature amazing in its variety? I used a mix of neon pink and a red and gold clay mixture with a lot of translucent for the skin to try to capture that wet, translucent look that salamanders have and I made up some tiny bullseye canes with inner cores of skinner blend going from brown to gold wrapped in some of the red gold clay with a final wrap in translucent with metal leaf just for a little added sparkle.

I received lots of compliments on all three lizards, but several people said that they really liked the smallest of the three because they would never wear "big" jewelry. So I began exploring other possibilities for the armature. I visited an art gallery and the manager there was very helpful and suggested that I look for moldable pvc at the art supply store. I found some very nice round tubes about the same circumference as coffee stirrers, but about 12 1/2 or 13 inches long. The man at the art gallery suggested that I use a heat gun to work with them and I tried this, but I think I misunderstood. The tubes are flexible so I had already bent the tube in to shape and when I applied the heat they straightened right back out as if I had never touched them!

This was a good lesson, though, because now I knew that I would need to find a way to secure them in a curved position while baking the clay. Luckily I had some very thin copper wire covered in silver plate that I had been unable to use for jewelry making and it was perfect! I thread the wire through the curved armature and twist the wire together, leaving about 1/2 inch of free wire on each side before the twist. This means that when the bracelet is complete, I can remove the wire--it slides right out! It does leave two tiny holes in the clay at the mouth and the tail but these are easy to patch with a tiny dab of clay and you can sand away any telltale signs of the addition.

I suppose you could leave the holes in place if you wanted a lizard that drinks and wets--just kidding! There were some very successful baby dolls with this feature when I was growing up. Anyway, my latest attempt is the baby dragon bracelet that I made using this method. I decided to make her skin and wings out of some kaleidoscope canes that I have been learning to make since she is a fantasy creature and I named her "Mariposa" which is butterfly in Spanish, because her wings remind me of a butterfly.
These bracelets and more like them are available at my Etsy shop:

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