Creating the ‘Searching for You’ collection
To begin ‘Search for You’, I had the main theme of a leaping hare which I used to become the focal point for all the pieces – rings, necklaces, cufflinks, pendants and bangles. I needed a ‘repeatable’ leaping hare figure and decided to create this using the lost wax casting process. This method allows the shape to be cast in multiples, in a mixture of gold, silver and platinum.
Starting with a sketch and final outline drawing, I transferred the outline onto some jeweller’s carving wax. I then cut around this with a piercing saw. From this point onwards, all normal jewellery making processes disappear! Jewellery making in precious metals is about creating a ‘foundation structure’ from the metal, then adding decorative or ornamental parts to it. With wax-casting the reverse is true. The piece is created by carefully removing material from a large block to reveal the shape required, rather like a sculptor carving stone or wood.
There are several different types of carving wax available to work from. Some are hard and brittle and others more flexible. There are useful profiles such as tube shapes (from which you can carve rings), sheets for cutting out relief shapes, bigger blocks and thin wax ‘wire’. A scalpel, files and small bladed tools are used to carefully scrape away the wax. It is quite a meditation! Over time, a layer of fine wax dust and chippings cover the work and the worker, so soft brushes are needed to keep everything clean!
I am a ‘free carver’; I have the 3D shape in my head and work into the wax to reveal it. Because I am working to my own designs, I can afford to take some chances with dimensions etc. Others work from detailed sketches with measurements which is critical when working at the request of another, or fulfilling a specific design brief.
Making the mold
Once the wax is finished, a silver or gold version can be made from it. The tiny wax figurine is given a wax stalk or ‘sprue’ and carefully melted onto a ‘tree’ of other tiny waxes. The tree is then put (main trunk facing upwards) into a flask and liquid plaster of Paris is poured around it. When the plaster has set, the flask is tipped up the other way and heated. The wax melts and pours down and away, leaving cavities in the shapes it was in. The flask can then be tipped upside down again and molten metal poured into it to fill the areas where the wax was.
The resulting tiny silver hare from this process became my ‘master’ to make a durable rubber mould from which numerous wax hares can be formed. This is done by injecting liquid wax into the mould, opening the mould to remove it and repeating. These identical wax hares can then make up wax ‘trees’ and be cast in multiples.
The Hare has not only inspired my jewellery, but my art as well. Here are some of the hare pieces I’ve created in the past.
This was written and published as part of the ‘Hidden Gems’ series of articles by Erica Sharpe for the Western Daily Press.