Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Make do & mend the Bronze Age way

Regular readers know how it is with the Historical Sew Fortnightly.   In my case it sometimes ends up being the Historical Sculpt Fortnightly,  and when that happens I blog about the results.  This fortnight's theme is "make do and mend", for which I've made European Bronze Age jewelry using common items from around the house.


Photographed with a ruler for scale.


Clockwise from left: an Italic spectacle fibula from 800-600 BCE, a central European pendant from 1000-700 BCE, and a central European ring also from 1000-700 BCE.

These items embody the spirit of "make do and mend" in two ways.  Firstly, they're not made from hammered bronze, but from copper electrical wire and galvanized tie wire coated with bronze Sculpt Nouveau.  Secondly, the patina was achieved using household cleaning products.

It's possible to buy ready-mixed patinas that you simply spray on the metal surface, but you would not believe the trouble I had trying to get hold of that stuff.  There's nothing exotic about patina, most artists who work with metal use it.  In fact, stores in other countries stock dozens of different kinds of the stuff, but it's made from pretty nasty chemicals and international shipping is therefore a problem.  But here in New Zealand, no one seems to have even heard of it.  Even the specialist art supplies stores here don't carry it.  In the end I did some research and found that the main ingredients for a blue-green patina are salt, vinegar and ammonia.  I'd been looking all over town when I should have been looking under the kitchen sink all along.  The process I used is very simple:

Mix 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts ammonia and saturate some cotton wool with this mixture.  Sprinkle the piece of metal with salt and wrap it in the damp cotton wool, then put it in a sealed container for around 48 hours or however long it takes to get the effect you want.  It's important to use a sealed container because it's mainly the ammonia fumes that do the work, and those fumes are vile.  I suppose I ought to mention that for safety reasons you should wear gloves and work in a well ventillated area, but in fact I did neither of those things and I don't want to be a hypocrite.