Sunday, February 8, 2009


I have had a new idea for a pendant kicking around my brain for months now, but I was nervous about trying something new. I wanted to make a necklace with a big gold heart in the center. There is a product I discovered for adding 24k gold accents to sterling silver, but it's $55/gram. I couldn't really visualize how much a gram of gold paint would be, but I knew it wouldn't be much.

I decided to take the plunge and buy some gold. The actual pendant went fine, but I was trying to make it absolutely perfect. Every edge was even and pleasingly round. The simple engraving of the word "Breathe" looked great (for once.) After drying for 2 days, I fired it successfully. It tumbled to a gleaming shine for another day. Then it was was time to apply the gold. No turning back.

The gold arrived in a tiny plastic pot, which was shrink wrapped. Upon a close examination I noticed that there was a layer of gold powder between the pot and the plastic and estimated that that was probably about $23 worth. I opened the shrink wrap over paper so I could gather my $23 and pour it back in the pot. I carefully unscrewed the lid, not wanting to waste any more, and I expected to find the container half full, at least. But there was hardly enough to cover the bottom. I had to mix in the liquid medium to turn it from powder to paint, but the two substances were immiscible- they would not mix. The best I could do was tiny grains of gold suspended in the liquid, not at all like the paint I was expecting. I suppose it was ridiculous of me to think that the metal would dissolve.

I stuck my paint brush in the gold slurry and was horrified to watch it slurp up at least $30 worth. I tried to brush it onto the heart, but it was like pushing the last few cheerios around the bowl. I couldn't get an even layer. I knew I just needed to start again because globs of gold were in all the wrong places, but I didn't want to waste a drop of it so I collected them all and tried to return them to the pot.

When I was nearly satisfied that there was not a grain out of place, I set the piece on the kiln lid to dry. The shelf had to be preheated which meant I couldn't lower the piece into the 1650 degree kiln on the shelf- I had to use tiny tweezers, but I implemented my beefy welding gloves to get it done.

First firing- Apparently there was a little liquid medium left that didn't dry and then boiled, sending my carefully placed grains of gold flying.

Second firing- Pretty good coverage, but there were a few holes in the middle and the gold did not stick to the side.

Third firing- Finally covered the holes and the sides.

I buffed it to a pleasing shine. I textured the silver. I polished the gold I put in the lettering. It was just about perfect. I decided to polish the gold one more time and noticed that it was lifting up a little. It would probably be fine, but in a pursuit of perfection I decided to fire it one more time.

Fourth firing- The kiln was really hot but I figured that maybe my previous firings had been too cool, and that's why the gold wasn't sticking. I put the piece in and set my timer for 7 minutes. I started to panic as Lander and I played Purple Haze on Guitar Hero. The drum part was quite boring, so I had a lot of time to think about the kiln. I went to check on it even though there was still 2 minutes left. All I found was a red hot puddle in the middle of the shelf. With a broken heart, and fighting back swells of inadequacy and self pity, I but my gloves and eye protection on and tried to lift the shelf out of kiln. It tipped slightly and the puddle separated into tiny balls that rolled off and splattered all over the bottom. If only my kiln had a cleaning cycle.


Bliss & Gary said...

So Sorry to read this story. But each time you fail means that you are closer to success, i guess. Keep trying, I can't wait to see the finished product!

Somer Love said...

:( So bummed about that! Sorry Liss