This posting is a little different. It’s not about a technique as much as it is about making sure that a piece done on commission meets the client’s needs.
I recently had a client who had lost an extremely beloved cat approach me. She wanted jewelry to commemorate her cat, and to give as a gift to a friend who had helped her in the cat’s final days.
After some discussion, it was determined that she wanted two pairs of (as close as you can come with handmade items) identical earrings and a pendant. Then, I discussed materials. She thought that silver looked ‘cold’, and wanted the memories of her cat to be ‘warm’. That suggested bronze or copper. I showed her some bronze work and some copper work, and she preferred bronze. The metal was now chosen.
Next, I looked at the earrings she often wore. Many of them were fairly large. Circles were a common motif. That suggests putting a cat on a circular earring. The cat she lost was black, and often walked with ‘parade tail’ (tail held erect). That suggests putting an image of a cat with tail erect on the earring. I chose to make the cat image a half millimeter thicker than the backing, and to texture it, to make it stand out. I chose to dome to earrings so they would have more three-dimensionality, as she wanted the memories of her pet to be fully three dimensional. Now I was ready to move ahead.
The earrings, as they came out of the kiln, looked like this:
That reflects the cat, but it does not reflect the color of the cat, nor the true warmth of the bronze. I tumbled and polished the earrings, making them quite shiny. Then I applied Max Black ™ (very carefully) to darken the cat, but leave the background shiny. The result:
Just what the client wanted (the coin is for scale). Now I moved on to the pendant. The cat had moderate fur length, not too long and not too short. I searched until I found a mold that resembled the cat and used that to make the central image. The cat had a tendency to stare out of partial concealment (as many cats do). That suggested to me the idea of making a pendant of a cat that seemed to be looking out from under a curtain. That was the direction to go in! I chose to use an invisible bale, so it would not distract from the image. The work that came out of the kiln looked like:
Now it was time to give it some life. Again, I tumbled and polished it. Again, I used Black Max ™ to darken the cat. I then polished the cat to give it a touch of ‘life’. The final product looked like:
Again, the coin is for scale. Just what the client wanted!
So there you have it. When making a piece on commission in which the client only gives you vague guidelines, try to determine what they actually want. Sometimes, subtle symbolism (like bronze for warmth) matters. Ask the right questions, and have a happy client!