Often when people see my cast honeycomb pieces they say "Wow! I've never seen anything like this before!". That is not meant to sound arrogant rather I think it speaks to the difficulty in casting honeycomb. Today I want to give you a peak behind the scenes of casting and Bee Amour jewelry production.
Lost Wax Casting
Lost wax casting is type of casting dating back almost 6000 years that is still used by jewelers around the world today. You can find plenty of sites that give very detailed descriptions of the process but here is a quick overview.
1. Begin with a prototype that you've created in wax, ceramics or something that will burn under hot temperatures. I use actual honeycomb from my bees that I've modified to look the way I want. Many artists spend hours hand carving unique pieces in wax to cast.
2. Take that wax piece and submerge it in plaster contained in a metal flask. Let the plaster harden.
3. Put the flask into a kiln and melt away the original piece- hence the term Lost Wax.
4. At this point you have hardened plaster with a cavity of the original piece. You then melt metal and pour it into the cavity which will make a metal version of your original prototype.
5. From there you dissolve the plaster around the prototype and clean up the metal to be a finished piece. Voila!
For every successful piece of cast honeycomb I usually have at least 3-4 failures. One of the things you have to come to terms with in Lost Wax Casting is that there are no guarantees so don't get too attached!
It just so happens that honeycomb is not only an extremely delicate medium to work in it is also very thin. Many times I have accidentally crushed my prototype before even getting the chance to cast it simply because it is soft and frail. Moving slowly and lightly is a must!
It's imperative that the honeycomb is thickened. I suppose there are many methods for bolstering the prototype however what I have done mostly is paint the piece with nail polish or sometimes glue. I paint it many times, over and over again, until the walls of each individual cell are thickened. It's tedious work!
Once the piece is thick enough (which feels like never) I try to cast it using the process described above. If I am lucky then I get something I can work with even if it isn't exactly what I planned on. If I am not lucky then I get to start over and reimagine something new which has it's own silver lining.
Being a jewelry designer and going through the process of imagining, designing and creating a piece from start to finish has given me a much greater appreciation for the time and energy that goes into quality hand made goods. Please keep this in mind the next time you see some jewelry that you like. It may appear to be a simple thing one could just whip up but in all likelihood someone spent hours and hours creating it. Shop local and support your local artisans!