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Introduction to Copper Tooling Techniques: Cuff Jewelry

0:09   Intro to Repoussé/Chasing
0:37   Cuff structure
1:12   Nature objects as reference
1:56   Value of tangible references
2:46   Paper cuff pattern
4:24   Customizing a cuff
4:35   Cutting a pattern
5:12   Sketching the design

6:45   Cutting the copper
8:18   Wooden Stylus
8:36   Smoothing sharp edges
9:52   Safety concerns: cuts
10:19   Sketching w/ sharpie marker
11:05   Repoussé/chasing on copper
13:26   Remove sharpie lines : alcohol
14:04   Wooden skewer: details/pressure

14:25   Forming into a cuff
17:43   Intro to patina process
19:13   Liver of sulphur process
21:05   Alternate uses for copper
21:29   Sanding the patina
22:47   Reforming the cuff
23:16   Simple jewelry techniques

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Use repoussé, chasing, and embossing techniques to create a design on a copper cuff.

Core Ideas

Relief, form, negative space, composition.

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Materials provided by Amaco

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Art Supplies: Copy Paper
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Art Supplies: Almost Boiling Water
Art Supplies: Pad of Paper
Art Supplies: Toilet Paper


Lailah Croom

“Until this project, I had never worked with a medium where the whole piece was created by indentations and impressions. Since this was super new to me, I had to figure everything out for myself.

This piece really taught me how long it takes to make something so small, and how I need to be patient throughout my art process to get an outcome that I want. For my copper cuff, I wanted to have a really complex design that extruded significantly in certain areas and was indented in others.

Choosing to fill the whole piece with major embossing turned out to be extremely difficult since when I created the impressions, my piece was flat on a table, and when it was time to make it into a cylindrical shape, it was very difficult to get it to move out of its initially flat condition without creating creases and shapes that I didn’t want there.

I actually ended up having to work on the piece while it was cylindrical to try to smooth out some areas out and make the indentations more prominent. Overall, I feel like my piece was a good exploration and first attempt at creating jewelry. I hope to create more wearable art in the future!”

Elsa Hillis

“This project was interesting to try because I’ve never made jewelry or worked with metal before. I chose to base my copper cuff off of some plants that I’ve always thought had interesting textures, mainly china berry (the plant with the yellow fruit). I think these were decent choices, although I found it difficult to get more than two or three layers of depth with the copper without warping the shape of the cuff.

Of course, you could embrace this and go in a totally different direction with this project: in fact, I think the best part about this project is the versatility of the cuff. I experimented with cutting parts out of mine with an x-acto knife, but I think if I were to make another cuff, I would try altering the whole shape.

I would also maybe try adding and sanding off paint from the surface to create an effect similar to the patina. For whatever reason, the liver of sulphur mixture didn’t seem to affect my copper cuff much at all. I’m guessing my problem had to do with the temperature of my water or the liver of sulphur not dissolving, so I would recommend double-checking those. Also, do watch out for paper cuts: I got a few without realizing it!”

Sofie Levin

Sofie Levin

“I have never worked with copper before and I was very excited with the opportunity. Surprisingly, the copper was very flexible and soft which made it hard for it to keep its shape around my forearm. The project was a learning process as I didn’t know how hard I needed to press on the copper in order to make a crisp impression on the other side.

This project really showed me how much work it takes to create simple pieces of jewelry. I wanted to create a simple design in order to get my bearings on how the medium worked, as I feaedr that if I did a complex, fine detailed design, I would be biting off more than I could chew. It took me a couple tries to get the fine lines of the veins of the leaves.

I realized how copper was really forgiving; if I messed up a line as I could flip the copper over and flattened that part out. I traced my design on the copper over a notepad as the notepad was soft enough to absorb the details but hard enough that I had good control when I was tracing. I also never used liver of sulphur before to stain the copper which I thought was a very interesting process. The liver of sulphur was able to add a rustic touch to the piece, making the cuff look more worn in.

The final product didn’t look exactly as I imagined it and I wish I did more detail designs on it. However, it was a fun learning experience and I enjoyed going out of my comfort zone and creating a piece of that I can wear.”

Partial Video Transcript

Annelise: “We’re gonna be doing some chasing and repoussé It’s more like pseudo chasing and repoussé, and a little bit of embossing.”

Prof Lieu: “So what’s the difference– you are calling it pseudo repoussé– what’s real repoussé and what’s our pseudo repoussé?”

Annelise: “Okay, real repousséis when you have hammers and little steel tools that you use to push from the back of the metal. So you’re pushing the metal out whereas chasing you’re working from the other side: you’re pushing the metal back in. You kind of use the same together.

We’re basically doing that but we’re not going to be using hammers and steel tools. We’re going be using more embossing tools. We’re going to make a cuff, and I really like the cuff as a platform because it has, it provides, a lot of space for making designs and it’s very big and it’s a statement piece, and I love statement pieces.”

Prof Lieu: “So is the cuff like a bracelet basically?”

Annelise: “It’s similar to a bracelet and that it’s worn around the wrist, but it doesn’t actually connect all the way around like a bracelet; there’s a little opening and you just slip it onto your wrist instead of over your hand.”

Prof Lieu: “Could you make a cuff that’s like up here?”

Annelise: “Totally.”

Prof Lieu: “So it could be like any part of your arm basically?”

Annelise: “Yeah, you could even make a ankle cuff.”

Prof Lieu: “Oh that’s awesome!”

Annelise: “Yeah!”

Prof Lieu: “So cool!”

Annelise: “For my cuff, I’m going to choose a source of inspiration or reference image and I have some options: I have this branch which has a lot of texture, it’s very big. This branch too– I like the leaves and the variation with the berries.”

Prof Lieu: “So why these branches? Why don’t you pick like an apple or something like that?”

Annelise: “Well the cuff is longer so you need something that’s gonna fill up the whole space and not be condensed to one thing like an apple and I also like that these have variation in the form, so you’re not just making one round bulbous thing.”

Prof Lieu: “Got it, okay.”

Annelise: “For today, I’m actually gonna use this octopus. It’s kind of fun and it’s got a lot of texture, a lot of volume, a lot of dimension so you can really work with the metal and create something very interesting.”

Prof Lieu: “My question is– why did you bother to go to the market and get an actual octopus tentacle? Why not just Google octopus tentacle and then you have an image that you can just draw from?”

Annelise: “I mean you can do that, but I prefer to have the actual shape, especially when I’m working in 3D, because I really want to knowwhy the shadows are there, why this form is how it is, how it’s actually turning around in itself, so I’m not just making it up in my head.”

Prof Lieu: “And I guess, also, you can turn it around and look at which parts are interesting like that arch; I like how this suction cup is large and these are small, these are even smaller, and even just getting to touch it.”

Annelise: “Yeah I don’t know if I want to.”

Prof Lieu: “Well anyway, it’s squishy. Since you’re not going to touch it and you would just never have that sensory experience if you were looking at photographs.”

Annelise: “Exactly. We’re gonna begin our cuffs with a pattern, and I like to make a pattern so I know exactly what size the metal is gonna be and how it’s gonna form around my hand. So first, I’m going to cut my little printer paper so it’s a little bit thinner. I find that it gets a little difficult if you are using a larger piece to form it around your hand. You can go smaller than this if you want, or maybe a little bit bigger; it’s up to you. You are the artist.”

Prof Lieu: “ I mean, is there such a thing as too small?”

Annelise: “I think it could get hard to actually fit a design on there.”

Prof Lieu: “Oh right, because you don’t have as much area to draw something.”

Annelise: “And that’s why I’m choosing this size. I really have a lot of room to fill it up with my octopus tentacle. The first thing I’m going to do is wrap this piece of paper around my wrist, mark this side, and then if you could mark the other side.”

Prof Lieu: “Mark where?”

Annelise: “Probably right here.”

Prof Lieu: “So I’m making a triangle?”

Annelise: “Yup.”

Prof Lieu: “Like that, but how did you know how to mark this side?”

Annelise: “Well I’m basing it on how much distance I want between the cuff.”

Prof Lieu: “Oh! So, wait a second, this goes here and you’re looking at– so there’s a gap here. Okay, so this is there and then this is
here, I see, okay.”

Annelise: “And I might actually adjust it a little bit more so the angles are a little bit more even.”

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