Sunday, 31 May 2015

Behind the Scenes - Acid Etching

With the help of my intern, Katie Watt, I've put together a post explaining a couple of the different ways I use the process of etching to add pattern and texture to my work.


Photo-etching is a process that uses light and acid to cut the design I’ve drawn into the silver.

By scanning my drawings and doing a little editing and tidying on Photoshop I can print my image on to acetate. The print quality will effect the final outcome so it’s always worth checking the black is super black and there are no marks on the acetate that shouldn’t be there.

Transferring the image from the acetate to the silver is made possible with light sensitive film. This film is attached to the silver - but beware - it’s got to be in a dark room under a “safe” red light otherwise the magic happens before we’re ready. The freshly prepared silver/film combination now has to be left to dry somewhere TOTALLY dark overnight - which means it’s onwards and upwards with some other project, time for a beer, or if I’m doing this at 2am (which is not uncommon) it’s time for bed!

How my workspace is set up for photo-etching.

In the morning I’m ready for stage two. The acetate goes on top of the silver/film and then that goes upside down on a light box where it’s blasted with the UV light. The film hardens when it is exposed to light but - and here is the key - the black ink protects the film from hardening. Therefore where the image was on the acetate the film will be soft and everywhere else will have hardened. Putting it in a soapy solution and giving it a little scrub with a toothbrush brushes off the unhardened film, exposing the silver so it’s ready for the acid.

The hardened film will now protect the silver from the acid so that only where the film has been washed away will the acid cut the silver. Read further on to find out a bit about how the acid works with the silver. For now I’ll just say the silver is submerged in the acid for the right amount of time and then the silver is left in caustic soda and water until the remaining film disintegrates.

The silver is ready to be etched as the blue film has hardened. 2. Going into the acid. 3. After it has been in the acid it goes into caustic soda and water which disintegrates the film.

Then I need to cut of the shape, maybe do some soldering, polish it up and what-not ….. And voila!! What was recently an idea in my head and a drawing in my sketchbook is now etched into the silver, creating a beautiful piece of handmade bespoke jewellery.

The finished Hare Pendant with a diamond set in the eye.

Traditional Etching

Kenmore and Niseach Kilt Pins - both traditionally etched.

Photo-etching gives you the opportunity to create designs digitally or by scanning drawings which can be edited with Photoshop if required. Another method that gives a more organic, hand drawn design is a more traditional method of etching. After coming up with a design I get the silver and completely cover it in black furniture polish. Once it is dry I use a scribe (a pointy metal tool) to scratch away the black polish as I freehand draw the design. The areas where I have scratched away the black polish are now unprotected and when I put the silver in the acid it will be these areas that will be cut into.

Oxidisation is a good way to really show off the etching as it gives a stark contrast in colour which reveals the interesting textures and helps them to stand out.

Acid Antics 

The acid reacts differently for many reasons. Of course the length of time the piece is in the acid is going to have a big effect. Temperature, the age of the acid, the position of the silver in acid and different types of acid all effect the way the acid behaves and need to be monitored to ensure the desired result is achieved.

The text on this Kilt Pin stands out as the area around it has been bitten away by acid. This was done using the traditional method of etching. The textured effect comes from the organic freehand scratching away of the black polish combined with the acid cutting unevenly due to the angle at which it sat in the acid pot.

Examples of each method :

The Oak Leaf Kilt Pin is a good example of how photo-etching can be really efficient. The pattern can be drawn by hand and then digitally expanded. Using digital software means that the pattern can be edited and perfected before being printed and etched. Someone else's handwriting can be replicated using photo-etching too. The music written on this Kilt Pin was hand written by the client’s bagpipe teacher - photo etching allows me to transfer this directly to the Kilt Pin making it even more special.

Photo-etching was used for the Hare as you can see here with the hand drawing transferred to a digital drawing. The Kenmore design was more suited to traditional etching as a rougher more textured organic pattern was desired.

So which way is best? It is important to choose the right method for each individual project which is usually based to the aesthetic of the finished product. There are loads of things to experiment with when etching - I’m always up for testing different things and seeing what works and I’m sure I’ll still be discovering new tips and tricks long into the future.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Birthday Blog

It's Islay Spalding Contemporary Jewellery Design's 6th birthday today! (and the actual me's 31st birthday tomorrow...eeek!) So I thought I'd better give you all a wee update of what's been going on.

First of all, big one ups and thanks to jewellery student Kendal Dewar and textile designer Jen Heilbronn for helping out in the workshop this summer. Kendal has been working with me on the Oddgon and Angular Collection, cutting, filing, wet&drying and helping form a collection of pieces which are now available to buy in the Tayberry Gallery. Whilst Jen has taken the Thritty Pings to a new level, turning 12 of my original drawings into 97 different colours and styles of brooches and over 200 different earrings......stay tuned for where to buy (the next task!)

Thritty Pings and Oddgons & Angulars

Another ongoing joint project has been with my workshop buddy Louise Forbes - the Man Pin! These are pins for men, designed to be worn on a lapel, or a kilt...but equally good on a bag or hat, or indeed a woman :) The first series is made from different combinations of four tropical hardwoods: Kambala, Padauk, Ovangkol and Bubinga, and blue, turquoise and lilac resins.  We're working on the rest of our first collection now and sorting some sexy looking backing boards for the pins to be displayed on.

Man Pins

We previewed all the above pieces at the recent Dundee Jewellery Trail, part of Scottish Jewellery Week, an event started this year and driven by the fantastic Kate Pickering. In two months the idea was conceived, planned and carried out, culminating in the Vanilla Ink End of Year Exhibition, '15 Years' an exhibition of 29 Scottish graduate jewellers works, a one day symposium hosted in collaboration with The Incorporation of Goldsmiths of presentations, panel talks, ‘Meet and Make’ networking lunch and, the Jewellery Trail! - a two day open studio event.  I'm looking forward to seeing and being part of making this week grow year by year...go Kate! And the rest of the Dundee Jewellery Massive!

The Workshop

I decided to do something special to mark the occasion so I spent the two days designing and making a kilt pin inspired by my friend Jamie Craig's photo of Dundee.  He takes brilliant photo's around Dundee along with a couple of his friends, you can find their work here - Bonnie Dundee Photography

I just need to get it hallmarked now though.....hallmarking's great and all but it sure is annoying that you can't just finish a piece properly in a weekend! Once hallmarked (waiting for my next batch of commissions to be ready for the same package) it will be available to buy in my online shop....that's right, my ONLINE SHOP! Whoop! There's finally some products in it...kinda the classics just now, some Biomorphs and a wee range of Ready to Wear Kilt Pins.  Got my friend Jody Mitchell, aka PixiJo, to help me out with some photo's of my jewellery on actual people, something I've not quite got round to doing before......thanks once again to the fabulous Jen and Kendal, thrust into my clothes and jewellery and made to stand around garages and doorways for a sunny and fun day!  Used some to make these promo images for the shop - otherwise known as From The Workshop - look out for them and give them a like and share on Facebook later today, would be mighty helpful :)

visit FROM THE WORKSHOP here >>>>

There's been some interesting commissions this summer too -

Silver Kilt Belt Buckle

Columbine Kilt Pin and Cufflinks

Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired Kilt Pin with Initials

Edinburgh Skyline and Cat Tail Kilt Pin and Cufflinks with Date Notches

Hare Pendant with Diamond Eye

Bowls Bracelet

Granulated Platinum Engagement Ring with Diamonds and Pearl

Rod of Asclepius Lapel Pin with Ebony

Arran and Dundee Shooting Kilt Pin

Skull and Drumsticks Kilt Pin with Ruby and Diamond Eyes, Initials and Date Notches

The Four Friends

Got sucked into hills, islands, rocks, beaches, scenery and the beautiful beautiful stillness, wildness and emptiness of North Uist in July visiting friends. Just saw kilt pins and jewellery everywhere.....and the colours! An inspiring time.

Also been having a bit of fun over on Society6 recently, playing about turning Oddgon & Angular drawings into t-shirts, i-phone covers and all manner of things! 

The other exciting thing this summer has been playing with the Mackenzie Caledonian Pipe Band, we've had our best results in a long time this year getting 2nd in the Europeans and 5th in the Worlds and are now gearing up for a recording in November (don't worry, I'll tell you all where you can buy the CD ;) ) and a concert in the Gardyne Theatre in Dundee on February 27th next year.  Check us oot wi' all oor trophies :)

That's all for now, sorry about the massive blog, should really remember the little and often trick.... ah well.... to the workshop!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Kilt Pins, Plaid Brooch and Cufflinks

A few of the Kilt Pins I've recently been making.

A Plaid Brooch and a wee pair of Cufflinks too.

 Anchor Kilt Pin
Designed for someone in the Merchant Navy.

 Thistle and Shamrock Plaid Brooch with the initials C and G

 Lambton Worm Kilt Pin with Sapphire Eye
Based on the legendery creature that arose from the River Wear and was slain by Sir John Lambton.

 Murdoch Family Crest Kilt Pin

 Italy and Scotland Cufflinks

 Sword Kilt Pin with initials and Aquamarine

Thistle and Shamrock 2014 Kilt Pin

I've now opened an online shop! Hooray! As well as being able to buy kilt pins online you can now buy my jewellery too :) Having a bit of a soft launch to make sure it's working properly so click here to have a sneaky peek.

Still a lot more products to be added and extra photos of the ones available already, but please go check it out, any comments are greatly appreciated, thank you!


Friday, 18 April 2014

10 mins before band...

Oh what a beautiful day! Just cycled up the road from my workshop and now I'm sitting by my window in my flat overlooking sunny Dundee and the Tay...meant to be getting drum music ready to give to the kids at pipe band practice soon but thought I'd grab 10 minutes to write this as I've just done what I've done so many times and written a blog post in my thought I'd better get it down quick!

I write a lot of blog posts in my head, I used to do the same with diary entries.  I kept a journal style diary when I was a young teenager (the best time of life to do this I'd say!), stories of so many first times and happy memories, I'm glad I wrote them down!

It's not always the actual stories though, but seeing the pages and reading the words can jog the brain into new memories. I've always liked memories, and I've always been pretty good at remembering things from my childhood and how I felt as a child and growing up...I think it's important as an adult to remember these feelings and experiences, it's a thing none of us should ever lose.  But then as I started to grow up I wrote less often and used photographs instead, I have a couple of excellent photo albums (yes real photos!!) from my student days, all organised, and even a few VHS tapes of our silly times!

But now it's all online! It's what I love about the internet and social media, especially in my line of work, I feel so integrated with my work and everything I do feeds into inspiring what I'll make next, which then feeds out again into memory joggers of what I was doing/how I was feeling at the time. I record so much of my work, what inspires me or makes me happy on facebook or instagram that now it's like my diary.  A lot of people would say social media is an edited version of ourselves but of course it is, we edit ourselves as people for different situations all the time, always have done! A negative feeling might slip through on my personal facebook page now and again, maybe even on instagram, but the positive stuff is what I want to remember, I'll learn from the negatives.

Can't really remember the point I was trying to make, and I need to go and get ready now, but anyway I think it was something about I should write in this blog more :) I used to write a bit more personal stuff but I feel the last wee while has all been photos of kilt pins, mind you that is this and this is that anyway. I think it's just the sunshine making me feel all contemplatey (no time to find the correct word or sentence structure there)

Here's a photo of my lovely view :) .....must dash!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Last of the 2013 Kilt Pins

Well, I guess it's Happy New Year....wee bit late but there we go! Thought I'd share a selection of some of the bespoke Kilt Pins I worked on before Christmas with you before rambling on about what else I've been up to, so here you go!

Celtic Spanner 

Doon Pearl Kilt Pins
Outlines of the Rivers Ayr and Doon with the customers Doon Pearl halved.

Mustang Cobra Kilt Pin and Cufflinks
Silver and resin, inspired by the Mustang Cobra and the customers initials: CAM.

New Zealand Fern Kilt Pin, Brooch and Cufflinks
Fern done three ways!

New Zealand Kilt Pin with Koru

Twit Twoo!

Maori Tattoo Kilt Pin
Designed to match the clients tattoo.

Polynesian Turtle Kilt Pin

Bit of a theme running through a few of those designs, just coincidence! Isn't it strange how things turn out?  

Every now and then I get the chance to make things in other metals too! Below is an 18ct Gold pendant, made with the customers own chain and diamond.

So things have been busy in the workshop so far this year, and not too cold. (think that still might be to come....although so long as there's snow to ski on I'm happy!)

Been working on some wood and silver kilt pins with my workshop buddy Louise, something I've been wanting to get started on for a while so that feels great! She's been making an excellent selection of 'Man Pins' too, kilt pins/brooches from hardwoods...they are so beautiful! There's been a few photos from the workshop been posted on Instagram, follow @islayspalding and @louisecforbes for a peek at what's going on.

As well as some interesting Kilt Pin commissions, I'm working on an unusual engagement ring, getting to play with more metals by making platinum and palladium weddings rings, making bits and pieces of my new jewellery collection and finishing up a great big silver belt buckle!

Also got an interesting side project on the go creating some illustrations for an ebook, something a bit different! I love drawing so it's been fun but it made me realise it's been a while since I drew 'real' things, that aren't kilt pins and pieces of jewellery of course, looking forward to seeing it all come together, I'll let you know when it does! Meanwhile here's a sneaky peek - 
Time to stop procrastinating and head out in the rain, doing some big solders in the workshop this afternoon and got a cushion sale to visit later before band practice......have a good one!