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The Creative Process


© Cynthia Schlemlein: Zoë Hanukkah Lamp
The object pictured includes metalsmithing nomenclature found defined in the Glossary.

Dimensions are: 13¾" tall x 7¼" wide x 5½" deep.
Cynthia recalls the birth of "Zoë": Construction began with the wings. First I considered the width of each wing, along with the fact that I did not want light to show through the feathers, and the fact that planning ahead is a minimal process with me, I decided to create an inner structure in the basic shape of the wings. I fabricated these triangular structures out of 20-gauge (.032") sterling. Then, each feather was cut out and chased individually, formed, and then soldered onto the interior structure. The first layer of feathers is 16-gauge (.050"), which forms the single back row. 18-gauge (.040") sheet was used for the next few layers, and the front row of feathers is 20-gauge. As the layers increased, the soldering became more difficult.

The large wing structure needed a great deal of heat in order to solder on small individual feathers. The feathers that had already been layered, quickly became hot at the tips, as did the feathers being soldered on. I had to use a glass fiber welding cloth to help protect the feathers from melting near where I was soldering. Two torches had to be used at once: one with a large bushy flame for heating the body of the piece, and an oxyacetylene torch with a small tip for soldering. The base was cut out of 18-gauge sheet, formed and fitted to the base of the wings; then it was soldered to the wings, one at a time.

I had to build a platform on which to strap the piece for support, one that would also allow me to get under it with the torch in order to heat from below. I used two torches for this process as well, as described above. After the first wing was soldered on, I had to clean up the solder seam before soldering the second wing. When both were soldered, I cleaned and polished the base. At the same time that the wings were being built, the bowl, which is the oil receptacle at the top of the piece, was raised. I calculated how many hours the oil should burn and how much oil would be needed. This gave me an idea as to how large the bowl should be. After raising and planishing the bowl, I cut and soldered the tubing for the wicks inside the rim. The bowl was polished before soldering it to the feathers, making it much easier to give the pieces a final polish afterwards. Once the wings were soldered to the base, and the bowl was complete, I fitted and soldered the bowl to the top feathers. After cleaning up the solder seams, I silver-plated the wings. Then, I polished the bowl again, which was the last step in an approximately eight-month project. Photo: Douglas Yaple

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