Updated: Jan 11, 2021
This is for the science heads out there who would like to understand a little bit more about the crazy artistic process I use to create my handmade copper pieces.
It is called Electroforming, and it's essentially a thick copper plating process, involving electricity running through an acid bath, and a lot of patience!
I came to Electroforming after being introduced to it by a close friend. I fell in love with the organic look of the pieces and the endless possibilities to experiment. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue, and so in January 2018 I went to visit my friend and she taught me her process. This is how it's done...
I build my pieces with an epoxy paste and then I paint them with conductive paint where I want the copper to go.
They are then submerged in a Copper Sulphate solution, hanging from a piece of conductive wire with the negative cable of my battery attached to it. The positive cable is attached to a copper sheet (anode) placed in the small bath.
The Copper Sulphate solution simultaneously conducts electricity and 'dissolves' the copper sheet into tiny invisible particles. These tiny particles follow the electric current, where along the way they bump into the submerged jewellery pieces. As the electricity continues -through the conductive paint on the surface of the jewellery, along the wire the pieces are suspended from, and back into the battery-, the psychical (yet invisible) copper particles can't go any further than the piece they've bumped into.
Where there is conductive paint, there forms a nice thick layer of copper.
Each piece stays in the bath for at least 24 hours, often longer, whilst the copper forms on the surface. It then has to be polished and treated with patina.
As you may be able to tell by my unusual description, I am not a scientist! For me, this can be a very temperamental process, with lots of experimentation and lots of up and downs, even after doing it for such a long time.
It's not unusual for things to go wrong, for example the copper doesn't form as I expected or hoped, and pieces have to be re-bathed. It's also the case that the bath has to be cleaned and filtered regularly. You can see that the bath in the above photo has a lot of debris in it, which means it needs filtering soon. This happened because I used a copper anode without a bag around it, so lots of sludge formed in the tank. Sometimes the acid is over-saturated with (invisible!) copper particles, resulting in pieces not forming properly, and it can take a lot of messing around to get it back to optimum levels. It's a constant experiment.
The unique results of this uncommon craft are worth it for me. I love creating unusual and curious pieces, complete one-offs, for people to treasure.
If you have any questions about Electoforming, or any other parts of my process, please don't hesitate to get in touch!