The photoetched copper bangle I’ve been making at my class at Leeds College of Art is finished.
Its taken a while and the processes have been quite involved – its not perfect (don’t look too closely at the finish on the inside, which shows up very much in the photos!) but as an experimental piece its taught me a huge amount.
The bangle began as a strip of copper, 19cm long and 3 cm wide. The first job was to scrub it with a scouring pad and Vim to get any grease and oxidation off. After a photoetching film had been applied and dried, it was then put into a massive light box in the printing department with the peacock feather design, which had been transferred onto acetate.
The light catalyses a chemical reaction in the film, which transfers the pattern to the copper. Its then treated with acid and washed in alkaline solutions.
The raw product has the pattern etched into the metal, giving it a really interesting texture.
The whole sheet is then pickled to remove the worse of the oxidation and debris and then the polishing and finishing stage begins. I learned more about this during the class this week – start with a coarse file and work down to a file file for the edges, rounding off the corners to give the bangle a smooth edge. Then start on the sandpaper on the sides and the back, going from 240 grit right the way up to 1200, the finest.
Then into the flame to anneal the metal making it more pliable to bend round the bangle mandrel to give it an oval shape. More finishing with sandpaper and then the main option was to oxidise it with liver of sulphur or a solution used in photography and then finish the front with the finest sandpaper. This brings up the copper finish but leaves the etching in tact. It would be heartbreaking to remove the detail in the peacock feathers after all that work!
I’d been looking on Pinterest and had seen some examples of etching copper and finishing with alcohol inks, so when I got home last Thursday, I decided to go for it. I dropped different colours of ink over the etched surface of the bangle, producing an abstract colouration and left it to dry for 24 hours. Last night I finished it with a decoupage glaze to protect the surface.
I really need to work on the inner surface a bit more but I have learned for next time that I need to do that better before the bangle is shaped. Its comfortable to wear and I will enjoy it anyway – noone can see the inside when its on!