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The Creative Process


© Henry Spencer: Pill Box Cover
The object pictured includes metalsmithing nomenclature found defined in the Glossary.

Completed Sterling Silver Nuthatch with leaves, 2 inch diameter, pickled finish.


Completed Sterling silver Nuthatch with leaves, 2 inch diameter, patinated.


These photos start out about half way through the work on this piece. It started out as a sheet of .040", 18-gauge, stock 2¼ inches in diameter. It is my hope to shoot another piece earlier in the process

This represents then end of the beginning. Everything is in place, there is nothing wrong that can't be fixed, but the contour of the piece is significantly out of kilter. The branch has at least three separate contours of its own and needs serious work, the lower leaf does not look like it springs from behind the branch, and it should, etc.


Showing detail of beak: This area represents considerable skill. There are 5 separate planes in this piece: the bird's shoulder, the bird's beak and tail, the branch, 3 set of leaves and the background plane. The beak, occupying its own level, intersects the background plane and the nexus of 2 levels of leaves. And the tip of the beak is only a quarter inch from the edge of the piece. The detail below shows this area. To deal with this kind of situation you need constantly carry forward and control early detail as later details increase volume and surface area. One needs to, from the very first steps, constantly prepare for the time when this area has to be finished and blend in with everything else. I feel it would be conservative to say that over the course of the piece this one area was worked over more than seventy five to a hundred times, and was one of the last areas perfected.


Another example of nexus of planes. The worry is not getting a foreground detail to sit on top of numerous receding levels;  it is getting the background plane to run under the foreground details, in this case the tip if the tail and the edge of the branch. Making that little slot of background plane that runs between the branch and the tail match and integrate with the rest of the background plane really does represent the most technical accomplishment in this piece.


Showing sharp distinction of level separation at junction of tail, body and branch with the background level.


It should be mentioned that this piece made very little use of repousse techniques. Once the original cartoon of the bird on the branch and the overall contour of the piece were set repousse was used only to touch up a spot or two. Giving myself so much volume by working off such a highly domed piece allowed significant use of pushing a level back down to 'apparently' lift the level next to it. The foliage was established almost entirely in this way.

Detail of previous photo. It should be noted that most of the primary interior lines forming the head, shoulder and wings of the bird were begun many steps back. This is not a case where details were added on after; yes they are refined at this point but the patina of reflective surfaces and edges of the detail areas as they blend in with adjacent details has been built up through many passes with chasing tools.


This picture represents the finished piece:  The only significant difference between this image and the previous one is a significant amount of volume and couture work on the branch the bird is sitting on. The final step being cutting away the working edge using chasing tools: not a saw, and then oxidation.


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