Each piece is one-of-a-kind. Although similar elements may be repeated in different works, each piece is unique. The techniques employed for the fabrication are similar to those of a jeweler. In fact, because of the small scale, they have been referred to as wall jewelry. Each element is hammered, filed and polished. After the form is constructed, enamel is applied to the surface in a method similar to a painter. Layers of color create value, texture and contrast.
The creation of each piece takes many steps. The initial design is inspired by something in the environment. Particularly intriguing are covered objects breaking through a surface. There is a series called “Road Pieces” inspired by rocks pushing through old macadam on the road. Overripe seed pods bursting open at the seams or dried mud formations are also fascinating.
Although the pieces may resemble some recognizable object, they are never meant to directly copy nature. A a line, form or a gesture, color scheme or lighting effect attracts attention. In the studio the metal is forged and combined with linear elements and color to create an abstract expression of that inspiration. All of the various parts are fabricated and (sometimes) enameled separately. The separate pieces are then welded together and given a final firing.
The enameling process consists of sifting enamel (ground glass) onto the copper surface. Enamel is basically glass-on-metal. The piece is placed into a kiln at 1450 F. It stays in the kiln about three - five minutes. This process is repeated numerous times until the desired color effect is achieved.
The multiple firings cause the glass to run into crevices and pool in interesting effects. Since it is glass and not paint it cannot be “blended.” By layering opaques and transparents over each other, various hues and shadings can be achieved. Glass densities are different and during the many firings of these layers, some colors will sink into each other. This creates particularly unique effects. Manipulating this characteristic of glass gives depth, texture and movement to the surfaces. Many of the pieces are given a final firing at over 1500 F. degrees to push this melding technique.
Red is the most difficult and fragile color to work with. It can “burn out” after many firings and turn brown-black. For this reason, pieces with red in them are more carefully fired. The under-colors are built up and high fired repeatedly. When the piece is near completion, the red layers will be applied and fired at normal temperatures (1450 F).