Friday, 27 December 2013

On the 3rd Day of Christmas...

...this blogger gave to thee...

...three granulations...
...two bits of wood...
...and a calendar made of tea.

What is granulation? Something I love.

Granulation is a 5,000 year old goldsmithing technique and something beautifully simple to make in jewellery. And when something goes wrong when using your blowtorch, inevitably you end up with an unintended granulation forming on your block. In order to make one, you take small pieces of fine silver/gold wire and place them on a tilted soldering block (charcoal or asbestos) and heat until they form a little ball of molten metal, which will then roll off the block into a container of water.
3rd Day | [Ganoksin] Jewelry Making - Some Notes On Granulation
That's the best way, and the sensible way if you're making hundreds of these tiny balls. I've seen alternative ways, one involves dropping blobs of molten metal over a charcoal surface and allowing them to splash into varying sizes of granules, but I only ever make a few. So I have adulterated my charcoal block, taken a small burr and created a rounded hollow or two, I then sit my piece of wire in the dimples, heat until they become molten and then allow them to cool. If I'm very lucky most of them stay where I intended and don't create a hazard on the workshop floor.

Each tiny metal ball, is a granule, which you then solder onto your surface. Which is where the granulation process becomes more difficult.

Belgian Silversmith, David Huycke, has taken granulation to the extreme, creating for his 2010 exhibition 'Re-thinking Granulation', 40 pieces of work mastering the ancient art of granulation.

'Fractal Piece' (2007)

Consisting of over 10,000 silver granules, Huycke's objects rely on creating their own structural support, unlike traditional granulation work, where the granules are soldered to a preformed surface. 

'Kissing Sphere #3' (2006)
It is a labour intensive process, each granulated bowl or sphere must be fused together 100 granules at a time, but first the identical granules must be copper plated. Copper plating the granules negates the need for solder to be used as, the thin coating has a lower melting point that the core of the granule, so as it is heated, the external surface melts, fusing to the neighbouring elements and creating a solid surface. This leaves the objects blackened, which in silversmithing is often thought of as dirty and unfinished, however Huycke uses this to make his objects appear more sculptural and highlight the fact that they are not functional. When pickled (placed in a mild acid bath) the blackened copper oxide is stripped from the object and a clean white silver surface revealed, which the designer uses for other pieces of his work.

'Order & Chaos #1' (2008)
Huycke's exploration into this ancient technique takes a decorative surface texture and puts it at the forefront of these enlarged structures. They're tactile and somehow chaotic and uniform all at once. Spheres made of thousands of tiny spheres, bonded together, then bound to their larger hollowware counterparts. Like fractals constantly repeating and growing outwards.

Some jewellers find a source of inspiration. Flowers, architecture, literature, and others find a technique which leads them to creating their own individual style and infinite ideas to be realised. Huycke found granulation through a call for artists to contribute to an exhibition about the technique, a call given by the German Association for Goldsmiths Arts. He was intrigued enough by the technique and trying to find a non-ornamental way of using granules with little previous experience of them that he entered and it became a turning point in his career as a metalsmith.

 That's what I'm still looking for.

Link | Some Notes On Granulation via Ganoksin
Link | David Huycke at Galerie Sofie Lachaert via Design Boom
Link | David Huycke's Granulation Series via Sight Unseen

Merry Christmas! Part four tomorrow...
Listening: 2,000 Miles - Coldplay

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