I am selling some of my silver work now. I started lost wax silver casting in September 2013 It is apparent that after two years I cannot keep up with demand. My business teaching tells me I should then raise my prices! Ha! No, that is not a good move at this point for me.
My problem is I am presently working with producing only one off wax originals for every piece. What I need is a wax duplication ability. CNC helps duplicate some pieces but I make a lot of hand carved pieces too. As far as I can tell, my customers are not concerned that every piece is unique from scratch. They like the design and if it is already sold, they want me to make another one. So that signals a duplication system to me.
I am not (yet) a famous metalsmith so I feel I can’t expect custom designer prices for my simple but good looking one-off silver work. I am ready to take the next move of production into wax injection molding of my pieces so I can produce multiple copies without starting from scratch.
Rubber molds are a process unto themselves. I have studied the process for many years and have made a few rubber RTV molds for casting of pewter. I have some actual experience.
There are two major methods. One is vulcanization of rubber with heat and a pressure press. The second is RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanization) using a chemical liquid mix and pouring into a mold cavity. RTV is broken into several varieties of curing so there are many paths to consider.
The end result is a master piece encased in rubber that is cut out with a scalpel. The empty rubber is then put back together and used as a mold into which hot wax is injected. (I am keeping the explanation simple.) The injected wax hardens in a few minutes and is then used in the lost wax casting process, just like the hand carved wax. The cooled injected wax, if done properly, is nearly perfect since it was created from a fully finished master and needs very little preparation for casting a duplicate. A tremendous time saver, except for all the time required to produce the rubber mold.
Today’s rubber molds can last and be used for as high as twenty years. So that is the benefit of doing it once and forever making duplicate waxes for casting another piece. This escalation in the Lost Wax process is inevitable so I have decided it is time I prepare.
The molding system is essential, but The process also requires a method of injection of the hot wax. Usually a temperature controlled pressure pot and a special nozzle. There is a bunch of options with injection equipment. I saw one fellow using what looked like a large hot glue gun or in the jewelry trade, a Matt Wax gun. It worked for small pieces. Too small for my needs.
I have decided that 2016 will be the year to take the next step with wax injection molding. I am not intending a commercial production, but large enough that I can build some inventory or at least be able to reproduce some of my pieces on demand. As long as I enjoy the challenge and I think it’s fun, I’ll expand the production. All it has to do is make me think I am doing something of worth. Worth is not always defined in dollars but dollars do keep the process going. Ha!
I do my art work for my own enjoyment and feeling of accomplishment. My skill is constantly improving in my own estimation, but then improvement is always the goal of work such as this. My grandfather, whose artistic talent was in oils and watercolor, taught me that he was never completely satisfied with his own work and that the true measure was from those who admired his work.
There is always a bit of insecurity when I move to call a work finished as there is always a thought I could have done it a bit better or changed something here or there. There is also a concern that I could also go too far and spoil what I already have and like. That is all why I like what I do. I have a hundred options and I get to make the choice of what direction and how far to go.
What keeps my sanity is moving on to newer and always better projects without remorse about what was marked “finished” in the past. I think anyone who makes things and gives or sells them to others have the same thoughts. Being the creator, we know there are faults that can be fixed on the next attempt.
My wife creates beautiful quilts and I am sure she knows where every stich is a bit off or where perhaps a different color could have been used. To me they always look wonderful and there are no such concerns about the details. They are truly invisible flaws or not flaws at all.
What the artist feels is the work is a reflection of our skill and judgements. We have a lot of our personal standards on display. Some may call them abilities. So we leave a bit of ourselves in the work we do. Everyone adds that part of ourselves to everything we do whether we realize it or not. To that standard we are all artists displaying out talents. The key word is talent.
The word talent is well used in most human vocabularies. It’s meaning is measurement but It is not a precise measurement except for perhaps biblical currency. Talent can refer to aptitude or even a theatrical cast of actors.
We can know we have a talent or actually consider ourselves talented, but it is the comparison and judgement of peers and others beside ourselves that awards the title. We may be born with an aptitude but we have to display the talent. A great cook develops a talent for creating excellent meals.
I believe talent can be, but is actually seldom a gift. It is usually earned through study, effort and practice. The key is that the target or goal must be something we are motivated to achieve. It should not be a decision made by others. I know that is sometimes the case.
I currently do my work for myself but I am not narcissistic. I consider how others will judge my work and talent and I want it to always express my best effort to date. If I like what I make, I am pleased with myself. If it is “liked” by others I am extremely pleased, and encouraged to do more.
I have discovered a new comfort in producing and selling tangible things I like to make. I can call it an art or a craft item and it doesn’t really matter to me. Personally everything I make is a form of art. I consider the feel of a tool in my hand or a machine on the bench and even a messy workshop as artful. The beauty and art of the creation process. It’s all a personal experience. That’s the key word; experience
But the comfort in the enjoyment of tangible art is I don’t have to teach anyone how enjoy it. True art does not need a complex set of instructions. It’s often a first impression or an emotion. That impression reflects back to the creator, whether natural or manmade.
As I composed the first two paragraphs, I thought about and liked the phrase “tangible art” for what I was trying to express. So I started searching the internet to see how other artists may have used the phrase. I discovered the URL: http://tangibleart.org was available and it now links to this website. I continued searching for other links.
The following is what I discovered, written by:
An artist based in Portland Oregon. Cedar paints vivid, dramatic landscapes, colorful flowers, and portraits by commission.
Cedar's website: ArtByCedar.com
Cedar's blog: ArtByCedar.com/blog
As far as I am concerned, Cedar has expressed my thoughts better than I could. Published here with permission:
The Meaning of Art
When I refer to “art” here, I am referring specifically to visual art, and more specifically to painting because that’s what I do. But I’m sure it applies to other forms of art as well.
Art can have very concrete, literal meaning to it—the more representational a work of art is, the easier it is to attribute a meaning to it. Everyone understands realistic representations of things from real life—for example, paintings of trees—when looking at one, you can say, “It’s a painting of trees, and trees are lovely to look at—that’s the obvious purpose of this art; no mystery there.”
This is why purely abstract art tends to appeal to a smaller audience. It is common to want to know what you are looking at so you can place a literal meaning on it. But art, even art that is fairly straightforward in its subject matter, has a larger and deeper meaning that goes beyond the literal.
This larger and deeper meaning is not intellectual in nature—it is emotional. All you need in order to “get” art is to look at it and become fascinated, motivated, influenced, impressed, inspired, or otherwise stimulated by it. All you need is to feel a connection to the art.
Most people do feel a connection when looking at art (not all art, of course, but the art that particularly appeals to them personally.) Putting this feeling into words can sometimes be difficult, but just because you can’t always explain it in concrete terms does not mean it’s not real or important, and it does not mean you are missing anything. If you look at a piece of art and feel nothing, all it means is that particular piece of art is not meant for you. If you look at enough art, you will learn what you like and what has the most meaning for you.
The artist has the job of living, feeling, and processing her unique experience and then finding a way to express that to others. The viewer may or may not get the same feelings that the artist meant to express—and that is okay. One of the fun things about art is how different people interpret it differently. Art is the physical manifestation of a mysterious human force: imagination. If it sparks your imagination or puts you in a certain mood, then you “get it.”
And that’s nice…But how does all of this apply to real life? What is the point of art—what is its use? Well here’s where choice comes in. Once you look at enough art to realize what you like, what you connect to, you get to make the choice to surround yourself with those things that inspire you and help you in your life.
The trick is to figure out what you really, really love—when you find it you will know. If you realize that a certain shade of red makes you happy and energized, making the conscious choice to put something of that color in your living room so you see it every day will, in theory, make you a more happy and energized person. When your spirit feels heavy and sad, art can help lift you out of that. When you feel bogged down by apathy or lost in painful frustration, looking at art can bring you back to yourself and help you keep going. Deliberately creating a mood in your immediate surroundings can help you to create the life that you want, in a very tangible way.
This interpretation of art’s meaning is obviously the result of my optimistic, existential outlook on life. I try to apply my energy—mental, emotional, physical and spiritual, towards personal transformation and growth.
But art has a myriad of uses: it is used as a tool for psychological healing, a symbol in spiritual rituals, an impetus for political or social change, an expression of inquiry, a form of entertainment, evidence of status or identity, a reminder of what’s important, and most commonly, a simple celebration of beauty.
You can decide what meaning art may have in your own life. It’s up to you! So, what does art mean to you? How will you choose to use it?
I searched some Celtic illustrations looking for something I could CNC carve into a pendent for a necklace. This horse looking creature caught my eye. It looks part horse, part sea monster, and part Celtic with its typical Celtic knots look. Further research reveals it is a water horse, hippocamp or more friendly Scottish (Gaelic) or Celtic name, a Kelpie. So Kelpie it is... I thought I just had to put some work into the design.
My hands and eyes are not good enough to do this just with hand tools. I use Vectric Aspire to build the design digitally. The design took about two days of computer work and created around a quarter million lines of code.
The result is the wax carving shown in green wax that took 1:45 to run on my wax carving mill. That wax was used in lost wax casting to create the pendent shown in Sterling SIlver. That is a post-it note for the background and the Kelpie is under two inches wide.
I also made the wedding style band which was carved entirely by hand from a 3/16" (0.1875") thin, flat, square, wax blank . I always like to have several items when I am going to expend the energy to heat the kiln to 1350 degrees for several hours. Total kiln time is usually 10-12 hours per heat.
You can find the construction information here in Ramblin' Dan's Workshop. This is a series of logo v-carvings I made last week as a surprise to my son-in-law. He is into making home-brew beer and I am into carving things in wood. So this worked out well for both of us. This demonstrates the repeat ability of CNC v-carving.