Saturday, October 19, 2013

Made in Canada Series: The Pipes Are Calling

The original tube necklaces
My father was a welder before he retired and my brothers are pipefitters so it’s not surprising that I’m overly drawn to items from the plumbing section in the hardware store. I’ve always had a fondness for industrial looking pieces, whether in art, design or jewellery. I’ve been using copper pipe to make tube necklaces for many years now, starting with a more bohemian look and gradually morphing into a cleaner more modern style. But of course the little wheels in my head are always turning and recently I decided I wanted to expand my use of pipes into other areas.
The original tube necklaces
The current tube necklace
Close up of regular vase - look at that colour!

The idea of bud vases had been floating around in my brain for a while but I knew I needed a stable base for them. I considered wood and glass but for those options I had to find pre-made bases or rely on someone else to make them for me. Fitting the bases could be tricky as well since I use a LOT of enamel layers so enamelled pieces often end up a much different size than the original bare pipe. But I happened to see an article on making concrete candle holders and voila, the light bulb went on! 
The pipes before they are enamelled
Firing a large vase - I hold my breath when I put it in and take it out of the kiln!
Bud vase
 So now I had my mission, to make concrete bases that would work for my new bud vases. When I mentioned the idea to Karen and Jelena of Freedom they said that candle holders were also very popular, so of course I had to add those to my repertoire as well. I realized I already had the perfect mold in my used enamel containers. I am a full time enamelist and I also teach classes so I go through a lot of enamel. And that means a lot of empty containers.
Candle Holders
 Armed with my empty enamel containers I attempted my first trial batch of concrete. I’m a tad on the impatient side and not always the best at following directions so the first result was less than perfect. I added too much water because I thought the mix was too dry and then proceeded to poke at them and try to get them out of the mold before they were properly cured. But even with my meddling they were beautiful. I like the concrete so much I’m also using it with plain copper and brass pipe as well as my enamel pieces. And soon you’ll be able to find them all at Freedom Clothing Collective along with my enamel tube necklaces and my myriad of other jewellery.

Regular vase
 And on a non-pipe related tangent, I’m also making new miniature decorative enamel panels. For the moment I’m putting them on some gorgeous wood blocks that were custom made for me by The Woodlot but I think I may try those with a concrete base as well.

Decorative enamel piece with wood block by The Woodlot
from Torched Studio