Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tutorial Tuesday – In Focus, Using Optic Lenses in Jewelry Design by Karen McGovern

Howdy all! I almost missed this post. I fell into a black hole….decided to binge watch the first two seasons of True Blood! Guilty pleasure admission—when that show came out I fell in love with it, but didn’t catch the first two seasons. Read all the books, hilarious! So, basically, I’ve been doing nothing but lying in bed with super-sized bags of assorted snack products shouting at the TV. Eric getting his hair highlighted while torturing Lafayette in the basement?!?!? LOLS for days. Endless episodes featuring Sam Merlotte’s bare butt? YES, PLEASE. Haven’t gotten to Alcide yet—OMG. Anyhoooo…..


Before my vampire binge, last week I finished a pendant design that I’d been imagining for a while. A tribute to Frida Kahlo (who would have loved True Blood, I bet). I got the idea when I heard about all the love letters that had come to light written by Frida to Diego Rivera, her lover, partner and sometimes adversary. I wanted to feature a bit of one of her love letters in a pendant, and decided to use an optic lens to do so. Optic lenses are great to work with, and have been around the jewelry world for a long time now. Wildly popular and readily available in reproductions by several jewelry finding lines. I started collecting them a couple years ago and am lucky enough to have actual vintage and antique lenses, many dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Found these beauties at antique fairs. True vintage lenses are not as easy to find these days, but you can find them if you dig deep enough on the Internet.

AMOR. My tribute to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

So, today I’ll show you how to easily create a pendant to hold a memory (letter, photo, favorite page from a book, dried flowers, insect wings—whatever) using an optic lens, copper, bits of this and that, and micro screws. All cold connected, no soldering involved.

Vintage lens I grabbed from an antique show.

First, lay your optic lens on a sheet of 24 gauge copper and trace a shape around it for the pendant base. I like shield shapes, they fit the optic lens nicely and allow the “handle” of the lens to become an attachment point to the base at the bottom. Allow enough room around the lens to add other items you will use as attachment points for the lens and as embellishments for the design itself. I used layers of brass flowers, enamel copper and assorted beads for the Kahlo design referencing the elaborate floral designs she often wore in her hair. You need at least three strong attachment points for the lens to hold it firmly and permanently in place on the copper. Cut or saw out the copper, sand the edges smooth, then lay out your design roughly so you can mark where your attachment points will be. I usually create a nice, larger embellishment right on the top of the lens that will also be the point where I attach a pendant bail…we’ll talk about that later. Anything with a hole big enough to accept a micro screw can be used as embellishments and attachments for the lens. Brass flowers and leaves are great here, end caps you flare or flatten, buttons, discs--the possibilities are endless. Choose items that play a part in the overall design or memory you want to create!



Once you have the design laid out to your liking, mark where you need to punch or drill holes for the micro screws using a fine line Sharpie. Punch or drill the holes and clean the holes with a needle file. At this point you can texture the copper if you like, etch a design on the back for added interest, patina, whatever you like. Seal any colored metal with clear acrylic specific for metals.

Now the fun part—putting it all together. If using an image or papers under the optic lens, cut them to size and glue them in place on the copper using something like Modge Podge, which is a glue/sealer designed specifically for papers. You can coat and seal the papers first with Modge Podge if you want to—I just glued the paper in place for the Kahlo design (printed the text off of an image of an actual letter she wrote that I downloaded from the mighty InterWebs). I also glued a butterfly wing fragment on top of the letter, then topped it with the lens. Once you have all the goodies in place under the lens, begin adding your embellishments to hold it in place using micro screws. The handle of the optic lens usually comes with a hole in it already.  I began here, adding a brass rose with a silver bead. I inserted the screw front to back through the design, attaching the nut on the back just finger tight. I wait until all embellishments and screws are in place before a final super-tightening in case I have to tweak or remove/add something. Layers are fun here. I especially like the enamel copper discs I used on top, courtesy of MaryAnn Carroll, layered with the brass flowers. To attach a bail, you can create one from a length of rolled copper, aluminum or silver (with a hole punched or drilled on the end), or use a pre-made bail or attachment that works in size and design. The silver hoop you see on the Kahlo pendant is actually the hoop from a toggle clasp set. A super easy bail is simply to take a length of 12 or 14 gauge copper, hammer and flare the ends, drill holes in each end, double it over on itself and thread on the micro screw. If you don’t want a centered bail, drill or punch two holes on the top “corners” of the pendant as attach points for jump rings and chain. Whatever you like!

For this pendant I am going for a bird motif. Will drill
a hole in each wing tip to attach jump rings, and will
drill a hole through the center to attach to the copper back
plate, overlapping the lens for stability.
Once everything is in place and to your liking, tighten the nuts on the micro screws as tight as you can. Be careful tightening the screws that hold elements directly on the glass of the lens, you don’t want to crack it! Just make sure the lens is held firmly in place, cannot move side to side, etc.  Then, snip the excess screw material from the back, file the end of the screw and add a dab of strong metal glue to hold the nut in place. I used Gorilla Glue, and also flared the end of the screw whenever possible by placing the pendant face down on a bench block and hammering the end of the screw flush with the nut. This may or may not work depending on your embellishments and placement. You don’t want to hammer anywhere near the glass of the lens!!!

You can add more details outside of the attachment points to continue the story of your design. For Frida, I added two silver skulls below the lens to represent Frida and Diego, together for all eternity. I also drilled a hole below the lens handle rose attachment so I could suspend an anatomical heart charm (real love) and a sterling silver cast hummingbird skull (hummingbirds represent spirits and love).





I’ve made several optic lens designs over the years. This one is a favorite, along with a pendant I made using a photograph of my Grandfather holding my Dad when he was a baby. These mean a lot to me, they both tell a true story that has meaning and beauty to me.

My Grandfather holding my father.

Some of the other designs I have made are representations of a short story or poem I wrote, or imaginings inspired by the tin types I also collect. There are so many designs you can create here!!! I love jewelry that tells a story, and optic lenses are perfect for focusing attention (see what I did there???) on an amazing bit of memory, real or imagined.


So, do you have a story to tell? Create it in a jewelry design and send us a picture! We’d love to share with you….Now, GO MAKE SOMETHING AMAZING!

4 comments:

sandysewin said...

Great pendant and thanks for the assembly tips!

Also, thanks for the yummy True Blood photos. That Joe.... mmmmmm. Loved the show in the beginning, but was glad to see it end as it had gotten beyond bizarre and SO far from the books. Maybe it's time to reread the series.

Happy day and happy creating!

Barry said...

Hi K - love the creative recycling here. B

Staci Smith said...

I love peeking into your process. All the items you use have meaning......and that shines through in your work!

Staci Smith said...

I love peeking into your process. All the items you use have meaning......and that shines through in your work!

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