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Casting silk fabric into silver object


#1

I’m interested in casting silk fabric into a silver object.

Is there any specific information on this subject?

For example: Is the silk fabric applied to the carved wax in some way or is the silk fabric backed by applying wax to it?

For example: if the object is to be a ring, how would the fabric be attached to the wax or how would the wax be attached to the silk? I’ve experimented a bit with applying wax with a wax pen to a “round band of silk fabric”–it’s difficult to keep a round form since the fabric isn’t stiff enough to begin with.

Does the silk fabric burn out completely? or, being an organic material, does it burn out unevenly?

What is the casting procedure once the material is attached to the wax?

I appreciate any information and suggestions.

Thank you,

Nina Mann


#2

Hi Nina,

You might try embedding hot wax into your fabric and make sure that you remove all excess wax by blotting when it’s “wet”. I’ve played with fabrics and used a small melting hand tool to allow the hot wax to migrate and saturate the fabric. The silk fibers are porous, so if you skip the wax saturation step, you can get surface flaws because of vacuum process which will deposit investment into the surface texture.

You could take a suitable thickness of sheet wax to create your band - slightly oversized. On some sort of non stock media take a roller or brayer to press the fabric into the sheet wax. Then create your basic shape you cast. It could be flat, a horseshoe shape with sprues at each end to anneal and fabricate later or ring. Because the wax is soft and the fibers are strong, i would cast and them do all edge finishing afterwards. You’ll get alot of troublesome distortion otherwise. Generally, vegetable and animal fibers burns out very similar to an injected wax. Synthetics like nylon are a whole other ball of wax. They have resiny ash residue. You have to consult material data info on melt (flow) and burn temperatures to get the best burnouts. You also might need to change investment.

The attached was a ring cast with an open weave burlap. The surface texture was fabulous because all excess wax was removed. I constructed the edge with square section blue wire wax, filing and polishing after casting.

Have fun. Post images of your process and results, please.

Eileen


#3

Eileen,
Thank you for sharing! I’m

Looking forward to doing a casting by next week, still playing around with softened sheet wax pressed into silk. I think the best and

most efficient way to do this would be just as you suggest- create the piece in wax and then “burnish” in the fabric. I’ve done a lot of casting using unorthodox methods and materials, with pretty interesting and even successful results. By far the most

interesting was casting some old and dried out prickly pear cactus flowers into segments for a neckpiece. (Clue: the more dried out it is, the less prickers there are, which, btw, I found out the hard way!

I definitely will post photos.

Thank you again,

Nina Mann


#4

Nina, casting is not the only way to achieve the texture and drape of the silk fabric. If you have a digitally-controlled kiln (as you might if you are doing burn-outs) you can fire metal clay. There are several methods to use metal clay to achieve the results you’re aiming for. 1. Form ring shape with the fabric, gluing ends together. Apply metal clay Slip/Paste to the fabric. Allow to dry. Apply several (can apply 5-10) layers more, drying between layers. Dry completely, fire. 2. Apply a light coating of Gel Medium on the fabric, just enough to stiffen it. Roll a 3-4 mm (depends on the thickness you want for the shank) sheet of metal clay on the stiffened fabric. Remove the metal clay from the fabric. Trim to the length and width desired for the ring shank. (keeping in mind that mc shrinks in the firing/sintering process). Drape the mc sheet around a dowel the correct size and join the ends using mc Slip. There are many youtube vids and books that cover making rings with mc that you can consult for more detail.


#5

I’ve never played with metal clay, but it sure can make some things easier: no investment, casting, sprue design.

Eileen


#6

Yes, Eileen, there quite a few pluses re: metal clay. There is a learning curve, as with learning any new skill, but it’s not quite as steep as casting, for example. It’s really all about learning to work with a soft material, as opposed to metal sheet or even wax.


#7

Hi Linda,

Thank you for the information.

I’ve never used PMC, despite having been tempted to several times. When I originally began my career in the arts, it was in painting and drawing; then I took a metals class, and that was it!

There are several different aspects of metals I’d like to work in someday, mostly sculpture, large sculpture - something where I don’t have to worry about the weight, as one does with jewelry.

Thank you again,

Nina Mann


#8

Hi Nina,

I have been experimenting with cast fabric rings for some time now. My first question is, why silk? I am most interested in cast fabrics because of the strong textures. I’m not sure how the texture of silk fabric would translate into a metal piece. I would encourage you to experiment for sure but if you are going to saturate the fabric with wax first, you will likely lose most, if not all of the subtle textures of this fine fabric.

If you are more interested in the delicate folds and creases and ‘drapery’ effect that silk can give you, I might experiment using very thin wax sheet. Slightly warmed up, this could be a more workable substitute for silk and you would have no issues with burnout.

I follow an artist named Louise Billgren on Instagram, who works in thin wax and creates some very cool pieces with thin wax sheet that look like silk to me. Here are a few of my fabric ring experiments,

Mit


#9

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your reply and helpful information, and actual images of your work. Very interesting, and I see what you mean about the different type of silk.

I probably should have clarified the silk as raw silk, which has a lot of fibers of uneven density, slubs, raw edges, etc. That is the texture I want to achieve. If you look at my work, there is a lot of texture in the metal. Lately I’ve been amalgamating my own metal - so, a lot of repeated torch work and rolling along with the addition of karat golds to achieve a patterned layered effect.

I would saturate the back of the fabric, just to hold the fabric to the sheet wax (metal), which would be the foundation, thus leaving the raw silk to burn out, perhaps unevenly as organic materials often tend to do. At least that’s what I’m thinking now. It’ll require some experimentation.

I hadn’t thought about the drippiness of finer silk, and that only encourages more ideas!

Thanks again,

Nina


#10

I don’t do lost wax casting or fabric casting, so I probably don’t know what I am talking about. But, why can’t the fabric be soaked in starch, glue, resin or some binder that, along with the fabric, will burn out. You form the soaked fabric into whatever shape you want and support it in some way until it cures, invest, burn and cast. Just a thought. Richard, here is your chance to use one of your casting arms…Rob


#11

Re raw silk texture, another approach might be Frizter’s (spelling?) hammers. He has a hammer with the raw silk surface, which I wish I needed enough to buy one. Rio carries it.


#12

Rob,

I’ve received numerous replies and suggestions on this subject. Some sound more plausible than others, but I welcome them all.

Meanwhile, my brain is busy thinking things through, imagining the process. I have several tentative ideas and am looking forward to casting within a few weeks.

Thanks for your input.

Nina


#13

Yes, I treated myself to one of his hammers - it creates a great surface, but I’m more interested in getting the clubs and variations of the actual raw silk fabric.

Noralie, on your next birthday, buy yourself a gift!

Nina


#14

And to further complicate the discussion … you can imprint silk using a rolling mill easily. If you are looking for a band with a silk texture … its pretty straightforward … that is if you have a rolling mill.


#15

Brent,
Thank you for your suggestion. Yes, I’ve done that. I’m looking for more than just the imprint. When something organic is cast, often not all of it burns out, leaving interesting patterns and spaces. Today I purchased several strips of raw silk fabric which I’ll either coat with wax or otherwise adhere it to the wax, maybe soften a strip of wax enough so the fabric will “stick” to it, then form it into a ring to be cast.

Stay tuned!

Nina