Sunday, January 15, 2012

Designing a Dragon Wristband – Finding the Perfect Resin

Finding the right resin for my dragon wristband was a long process. The problem was information overload. Too many resins to choose from, each with it’s own set of technical specifications. I spent weeks sifting through pages of tech data sheets and calling supplies with numerous questions. Tensile Strength, Modulus, Tear Strength, Elongation and Shrinkage are just some of the physical properties that can make or break a design. Then there are the obvious choices of color, shore hardness and viscosity. Just how hard is this stuff going to be to work with? How many minutes of working time do you have before it kicks? Is it compatible with my mold material? Does it require any special mold release? Does the material require vacuum degassing or higher than normal pressures during casting? What is the cure time, cure temperature and post-curing requirements? How long is the shelf life? Is it UV resistant? Are there any special storage or hazardous material requirements to consider?

I find that narrowing down the choices, is made easier by compiling all the technical data into spreadsheets. By process of elimination, I finally arrived at half a dozen resins that might fit my needs. I ordered small quantities of each and started my testing. This is where I switch into what my Honey-Do calls my “Mad Scientist” mode. The testing part is always fun. I make numerous sample castings, and then stretch them, bend them, try to break them. I lay them out in the sun to test for color fade and UV degradation. I test for pigment compatibility. I test for post processes, like drilling and sanding, painting and gluing. Then there are the ambiguous properties. How does it look, how does it feel against the skin, how well does it “wear”? Working with a new material always requires a learning curve. All my testing, helps shorten this learning curve and always sparks new design ideas.

You are probably bored to tears by now, by all of this technical mumbo jumbo, right? Sorry, sometimes the anal engineer in me, gets carried away. I love all this stuff. But, even my Honey-Do’s eyes glaze over when I start to talk about resins. So show a photo of the dragon bracelet, already! I will post photos soon. My prototype is finished. But, due to a design change, I had to order longer rivets and they are still in the mail.

I have to admit that this dragon bracelet has been one of the longest, most challenging, of my jewelry designs to date. I love taking a jewelry design from idea to completion. To take an idea from conception, to sculpture, to molds, to finished product requires constant learning, careful planning and attention to details. And even then, mistakes can be made and disastrous results can ruin weeks of work. But, when a design works, when you hold the finished product in your hand and then try it on your wrist, and it sings that siren’s song of beauty. You know, that you can’t wait to tackle the next new idea.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Designing a Dragon Wristband – Dragon Wings

All summer my poor dragon sat, wingless.

The summers here in Colorado provide wonderful weather for working outdoors. So I take the opportunity to sculpt outside of my studio. These sculptures are mostly 3 foot and larger, that will not fit through the door and are too messy to work on inside. I sculpt with a modified concrete mix and wire. Totally different material and scale from my jewelry. I have found that switching mediums gives my creativity a boost.

One day, the answer to my dragon wings problem dawned on me. Duh! I was stuck in a rut! I had gotten so used to designing for my standard material, urethane resin, that I could not find a solution for my wings. The wings were not the problem. The problem was my material.

And so my hunt for the perfect new resin began.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Designing a Dragon Wristband

About a year ago, I started sculpting a 3-D dragon wristband. The dragon’s body went smoothly. Then my Honey-Do suggested that the dragon needed wings. “He needs to be a Medieval style dragon, not a wingless, Oriental style dragon.”

Wings! I agreed, wings would be fantastic, but, how could I add wings, without creating a design nightmare? Wings would stick up and get caught on everything. How could they be attached? If I made them small enough to not protrude, they would look out of scale with the rest of the dragon. This one small detail, could throw a wrench into the whole design process.

And it did. All last summer, my dragon sat in a box, waiting for me to finish him. He looked fantastic, but wingless. I knew in time, that the answer to the wing dilemma would come to me, but, this answer was taking way too long.

So many design details to work out. I needed a clasp, and not just a standard jewelry style clasp. It need to be in scale with the dragon. The clasp needed to be rugged and secure, but small enough to not intrude into the design dimensions. I wanted to surround the dragon with rocks. Not glittery rhinestones, but masculine, realistic rocks. I dug through my rock collection for inspiration, and found a handful of shiny quartz crystals. Perfect! The base for the dragon and his rocks need to look rough and natural. I wanted the look of cooled lava. All these details were finally worked out, but the wings answer still eluded me.