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  • Laura Blackledge

A Little of What You Fancy...

One of the most daunting aspects of my 4th year project was all the new processes and techniques I would need to learn in order to produce all the pieces that I proposed to make up the collection.

Out of these, investment or "lost wax" casting for silver was probably the most complicated, and with the most different techniques to get to grips with as part of the process, but it is definitely the one I am most excited about taking further and developing in the future.

In this case I was lucky to be able to take advantage of the equipment available, and the expertise and help of the staff at Gray's in order to translate my original idea into a piece of solid, sterling silver jewellery.

From my original drawings and measurements a 3 dimensional model was worked up in Rhino, then 3D printed in SLA resin.

Once the resin is cured and the support structures removed, the master model can be cleaned up and cast in clear silicone in order to make a mould for casting multiple, identical copies of the original.

Once the silicone is set it can be carefully cut along the seams of the object to create the new mould. Hot liquid wax can then be injected at pressure into the mould, and peeled out once set to create as many copies of the piece as needed.

These copies can then be sprued up into a "tree" with additional sticks of jewellers wax, ready for making an investment casting mould.

Next comes the REALLY scary part (and forever thanks to for everything she did here and in all the preceding steps!). Grain silver is heated to melting point at 961.8 degrees C, then poured into the heated plaster mould that the wax castings have been evaporated out of.

Now the real magic happens, and someone very brave (thanks again, Cara) lowers the filled mould into a waiting bucket of cold water, where it hisses and steams and bubbles like mad, and the plaster of the investment cast dissolves and melts away, revealing whether you have successfully cast your shapes...

Then, when you've finished celebrating, you can begin the process of sawing off and cleaning up the individual pieces (sawing off sprues, filing, sanding, and polishing every surface, nook, and cranny) to prepare them for assembling into the final pieces.

(It helps if the sun is shining and you have a lovely view of the garden while you do this)

Then you can begin cutting and grinding your glass test-tubes down to your desired size in preparation for turning into a small vial to fill with absinthe to make up one of the essential accessories that come with each Hysteria Girl doll.

And the Girls themselves, and their other accessories? More on them next week...

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