Aug 20, 2008

Patina Play

I love patinas. I guess it takes me back to my art school days when I learned my eraser had as much value as my charcoal pencils. Maybe I simply need more practice at only causing the metal patination where I want it – but I love changing the whole hunk of metal and bringing back the shine to only the desire spots. I love playing with patinas.

Part of my admiration of patina comes from the philosophy that it is what the metal wants to naturally do. And part of my fascination comes from the mad scientist in me – playing with the metal, the chemicals, the heat, the timing – all in an effort to get the right patina shade. I love the Webster definition of patina: “the sheen on the surface of an old object, caused by age and much handling” – ah... much handling; I guess it is the mad scientist in me after all!

Simply put – a patina is what most would call “tarnish.” It’s the color the metal will turn in time by being exposed to the elements (air/light), it’s the change you see when the metal “oxidizes.” This can and will occur naturally but artists can also use the patination process to create depth and interest. You can create a patina on metal with chemicals (like liver of sulfur) or with natural substances (like egg yolks). A patina can give a piece character, a personal stamp, and individuality.

I mentioned four items I work with in the patination process:
  • the metal
  • the chemicals
  • the heat
  • the timing
The metal: Silver will take on a greyish-black look when it oxidizes (has a patina), copper and bronze turn a green color (verdigris) when it oxidizes and brass can become darkened or more red/pink looking.

The chemicals: Liver of Sulfur is the most common chemical for creating a patina on silver; there are specific chemicals for brass and other metals too. You can also place a silver piece in a closed bag of egg yolks to create a patina.

The heat: If you are using a chemical to create a patina – you either need to heat the metal or heat the chemical to achieve optimal results.

The timing: Never leave an item unattended (excessive chemicals can damage/pit the surface)! I have had pieces turn black in a matter of seconds and others requiring many patina sessions – patina colors can begin as a goldish color, move to reds/pinks, move to greens/blues and finally to grey/black.

I found this explanation about timing from the website
1. Heat of the solution speeds up the process.
2. Saturation or concentration of solution speeds up the process.
3. Time in the solution determines the colors rendered

With these three points in mind, to stop the patina at a particular point of color means altering one or all of the above.”

Below are some pieces with patinas from the eSMArts team:

Kari Bryde, Novel Approach


Anna Lee said...

Great info Kari on such a fun topic!

I toasted my last microwave reheating liver of sulphur solution (which apparently carries metallic particulate once used - who knew? LOL).

Wonderful examples in your pics from our very talented eSMArts members...

Kari Bryde said...

Oh dear - I heat my LOS in my microwave all the time... guess I'll switch to putting the bowl in a second bowl of very hot water. Good to know! ~Kari

ChezChani said...

Interesting and informative reading. I don't do this now but I recall in my brief jewelry making phase many years ago I'd stick my chain into a little container of something from the bead store and it would tarnish it (I might even still have that somewhere). I liked it much better that way. It smelled funny, maybe it was liver of suphpur. Who knew sulphur had a liver.

A Beaded Affair said...

Ok, Ok, you conviced me, it's time to start playing with chemicals and patinas. Yikes!

Barbara Merwin said...

Very well done Kari. I learned a lot about what can happen to metals we use. Ken Merwin

Auggie said...

Love your work... or rather your "play"! You are very gifted! Take care, Auggie

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