Owl jewelry design : wax carving for lost wax metal casting in silver and pewter

As mentioned in my previous post  I love creating unique pewter jewellery items by casting them from my original wax carvings, using the lost wax process. Here, I’m going to outline the basic process I use for carving a wax piece, in this case, an owl. I have already made an owl for my jewellery range, but that was an experiment in using precious metal silver clay for the first time, and the result was not exactly what I was looking for, though a sweet design, I wanted something more precise which is what jeweller’s carving wax is perfect for.

wax carving 1

The wax I use is the green modeler’s’s wax which can be bought online through any metal casting & jewelry supply store. It is extremely hard, and gives very fine detail; it can be sanded, melted, scraped and even machine worked with a hand tool / Drummel. First, I draw the design – I trace over the lines with a ball point pen in order to transfer the impressions of these lines onto the wax underneath.

wax carving 2

 Then, I cut this out and glue it over a piece of the green wax with normal school type stick glue. I then cut around the wax to get the basic shape of the design – initially I use a little hand saw, then linocut or woodcarving tools to do this. Now it is basically a process of copying my drawn design on the wax using sculpture techniques – more relief than actual 3-D sculpture.

wax carving 3

It’s important to work in layers, and not to make the wax too thin or else when it comes to casting the metal it may not work well. The techniques I use depend on what I am creating. I love to just use a basic craft or surgical knife to slowly scrape and sculpt the form as well as different grades of sandpaper to smooth and sculpt the model further.

wax carving 4

I have not melted any wax for this design, as I did for my Tree of Life design, where for the fruit I melted blobs of the green wax, which is fun to do – best to do with with a very hot flame as you would get from a little hand-held butane torch.

wax carving 5

Wax carving is a technique which is best learned with at least one session taught by a professional, as one needs to understand how to fuse wax together if something breaks, how to avoid air bubbles so that the metal casting does not get ruined, and other techniques that are quirks of the trade. I am by no means a skilled wax carver, but I was lucky enough to spend a few hours learning from one so that I do understand the basics and I kind of just follow my creative intuition and feel for the lovely wax medium.

wax carving 6

It is also important that the wax model has been smoothly sanded and cleaned before it is sent to be cast. I sand the model as I work in conjunction with the sculpting knife. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine what the finished piece will look like cast in shiny metal, with a lovely dark patina applied to pick out the details….

wax carving 7

I am actually going to try to cast this at home, not with the lost wax method, but I am going to make a silicone mold from the wax carving, and then gravity cast with pewter just to see how it turns out. Eventually, I will send this wax carving to a professional investment casting company that specialises in lost wax casting in silver. After I have the silver master copy,I can further touch it up until I’m completely happy with the design, then get it cast in lead-free pewter in multiple molds using spin / centrifugal casting, again with a professional who specialises in this method of casting.

owl wax carvingThanks for visiting, I hope you enjoyed reading about this wonderful process – please feel free to post any comments or questions you may have !

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Cat Dreaming : Stunning cat beaded necklace, with birds and fish

Today is National Cat Day !!

This is my “Cat Dreaming” necklace I made inspired by my love of Cats.

I have used a selection of gorgeous Czech glass beads, as well as Turquoise gemstones, to compliment the little silver tones bird and fish charms. I wonder what this cat is dreaming about….!?

I have also created some adorable little bird earrings to match with turquoise beads. I have been making a lot of very unique jewellery pieces lately for the local galleries here in Iowa and Wisconsin, along the beautiful Mississippi Valley where I live. These items feature my unique pewter original castings, from my hand carved designs. I carve the designs from a hard jeweller’s wax – you can read more about the process on my website here.

blue bird earrings

Both are available in my Etsy shop here.

I have been carving wax designs and casting these in lead-free pewter for about 10 years now. I am largely self taught, having gone to a 4 hour workshop at a music festival in Australia to learn the basics, I really took to it with a passion and developed my style from there – and I am still learning! It is a process I love and my original pieces of jewellery are becoming increasingly popular, as they are exclusive, hand made and entirely original. They include cats, a dragonfly, moth, lizard, butterfly, tree of life, pixie, owl and mermaid jewellery designs in lead-free semi precious pewter.

I get a master caster to create and cast the molds in South Africa, where pewter casting and design is very popular, from items such a cutlery, to jewellery and giftware…Below are some more creations I have been working on which feature my exclusive pewter designs and carvings, all of which you can find in my shop:

A Silver Cat picture, and a little Dog portrait

I have completed two new works for an exhibition titled “It’s Raining Cats, Dogs and Cows”

at my wonderful local art gallery The McGregor Marquette Centre for the Arts.

silver cat“Silver Cat”

This is Pewter Repousse or embossing, a lovely form of art which I learned in my home country of South Africa. It is a very popular craft there, and I immediately took to it, as I love working with pewter in any form. I have made many jewellery pieces  cast in pewter from my original wax carvings, it is considered a semi-precious metal, and it very mouldable, shiny and has a gorgeous feel to it.

This piece measures about 9 x 7 inches, and it’s basically a form of relief modelling with this soft metal, pushing out from the back as well as the front to give shape and detail.

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Dachshund painting“Simon”

This is the completed Dachshund watercolor and ink painting shown in my earlier post. It is available for sale as an archival giclee print here.

I loved to use gentle line work in the sky reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night” , with naive art style motifs to match the gorgeous frame I found especially for it. Both of these original framed pieces are for sale – please contact me if you are interested!

simon framed

Cat and Moth new Choker style necklaces from my original designs

These necklaces have just been cast in beautiful shiny lead-free pewter right here in South Africa, from designs and wax carvings that I had made a few years ago. I loved the idea of turning my little cat into an unusual necklace, and the moth, or butterfly, was inspired  by the bold designs of the Art Deco era.

The whole process of carving an original design from jeweller’s wax, then casting it with the lost wax process and centrifugal casting is an amazing process and one which I have learned over the last 5 years. I hope to be able to make many more unique and soulful design in the near future…!

The choker style necklaces are really stunning, and are adjustable in length. You can see more of my own jewellery designs: Necklaces, Brooches and even Keyrings here on my online shop.            Or view my exclusive range on the menu bar to the left!

New Art Deco Butterfly Brooch

well !

I have been plundering my collection of glorious Art Deco books and have designed a new brooch. It is cast in lead-free pewter right here in South Africa from my original design which is based on a butterfly-moth combination. You can purchase it internationally by clicking on my online Shop.

butterfly-brooch

Here are some examples of this amazingly versatile art movement which was prevalent for some decades after the end of the First World War. It lent itself imaginatively to many areas of every day life and if I had my way I would lead a resurgence of both this and the Art nouveau movement in contemporary art & design – things are just not as lovingly and originally crafted as they were in these times….!

art-deco-1

a beautifully bold chocolate wrapper


art-deco-motif

an exuberantly colourful painted tile


Tree Jewelry Design for Necklace & Brooch

I have finally finished the Tree design – the master copy has been cast from my wax carving.

I had previously posted the initial wax carving and sketch – see Jewelry Designs to the left – and here is the final piece cast in solid silver after the wax carving was finished. I used the hard green carving wax and filled in details with pink relief wax – wax is such a wonderful medium to work with. The finished piece or master copy is used to create a silicone mold to be cast centrifugally in pewter, and the design will be a brooch, a choker, a keyring and a pendant. Exciting!

I love depicting trees in all forms; their sinuous trunks and branches are perfect for translation into Art Nouveau style designs, and trees have powerful symbolism in their soulful beauty.

I decided to put two little birds in the branches of this tree so it would have company….

Tree Necklace and Tree Brooch
Tree Necklace and Tree Brooch Design