THE SILVER TRACERY EFFECT
By James Smircich
NOTICE: Silver fuming will be discussed in this paper. Silver fuming can be hazardous to your HEALTH! The use of proper ventilation and/or a proper respirator is mandatory for SAFE fuming of metals!
Those of you who do not know much about fuming should get proper instruction before attempting this project. Fuming of metals without proper ventilation can be very dangerous to the health!
This work involves two important design elements. The first is something I call a fingerprint stringer. The second design aspect is silver fuming that forms a metallic tracery along the fine pattern laid down by the fingerprint stringer.
Here is the overview of this project. We will make a stringer of tiny intense black dots on a gather of transparent uranium yellow (clear can also be used.). When pulled, this stringer will have many separate black lines. When this stringer is applied to a base bead of transparent uranium yellow (I have also provided a photo of a black base bead with a uranium stringer), the effect is that the black lines look like fingerprints because they are so tiny and close to each other. When these lines are fumed, the silver gravitates to the lines! The colors of the silver fume can then be affected by various adjustments of a reducing flame. It should be noted here that a pure silver mirror reflectance is not the effect we are looking for. As attractive as the mirror finish would be, I have not been able to achieve good results. However, using reduction settings, you can achieve colors in the blue and yellow/green ranges.
We will start with the fingerprint stringer. I did not invent this type of stringer. It has been in use in flower petal, stem and vine techniques for centuries. We will use transparent uranium yellow and intense black for this work. There are three ways to achieve this stringer. First, we can apply tiny dots of intense black to a gather and pull into a stringer. Second, we can use fine frit (coarse pepper size). Lastly, we can pull threads of intense black and break them into tiny pieces to use like frit.
For this project will make a fingerprint stringer by placing tiny dots of intense black directly on a gather and pulling . Be sure to keep the dots small (coarse pepper).
To make a thread type stringer, pull about 10 threads (medium size sewing thread) from an intense black rod to a length of about 12 inches. Bundle these threads and break 1/8-inch pieces off the end of the bundle until you have broken the entire length of the thread bundle. This should produce about a teaspoon full of broken thread. Next, spread the broken thread or the frit out in a thin layer on a carbon graphite pad and roll the gather over them to pick one layer of intense black thread or frit. Only pick up one layer so there will be spaces between each piece of black. For those bead makers out side of the USA, I believe you&#8217;ll have to purchase intense black form a supplier here in the US.
As you go to the flame, you may see many ends of thread standing off the gather. Do not boil them! Melt them down slowly and you will see that the effect will be tiny dots of black all over the gather. Next, heat and pull the gather into a stringer that is 3/32 inch in diameter (mandrel size).
Next, you will make a blank bead of any color (however, colors that are affected by a reducing flame will ADD another metallic effect to the overall mix of colors. Also, some colors scorch in a reducing flame). I like to use transparent uranium yellow for the base bead and the stringer. When the bead is formed, apply the stringer. You can do any type of design (dots, meander lines, or pattern work). Melt the applied stringer design down slowly. If you melt them too hot, you will see the lines break up as in the lace effect with intense black. This sometimes looks just fine but you should learn to get both looks at will. You can also comb the stringer design.
Next, silver fume the bead in a medium REDUCING FLAME. Use a Boro rod that has two leaves of pure silver applied to the end of the rod (do not use anything but fine/pure silver). I must say here that silver fuming is not easy to control. Sometimes you get a lot of silver on the bead and at other times you will have trouble getting anything to happen. Everything depends on the heat in the bead when you fume. If the bead is too hot, the fume is likely not to stick. If it is too cold, the bead may shatter in the flame or the fume may appear to stick but rub off after annealing.
If you get too much fume on the bead and it looks muddy, go to an oxidizing flame and burn off the excess while being sure to protect the shape of your base bead. You may think that you have burned off ALL the silver, but NO! When you return to a reducing flame, you are likely to get a RE-BLOOM of the silver effects (if not, you can fume again). If you are out at the end of the flame, you are likely to get blue highlights. If you are in the middle of the flame you are likely to get yellow tones. The amount of the reduction setting also effects the outcome of the entire process. The first few effects you see may be faint but beautiful. You&#8217;ll need to develop an eye for the proper amount or color of the fume to suit your own tastes. Sometimes you will get effects that you may never be able to get again. I love the elusiveness of the adventure.
The payoff here is that the silver tends to gravitate to the lines. This gives you a fingerprint-like pattern in blue and yellow tones! I believe the silver fume is attracted to the gross amount of metallic oxides already present in the intense black formula. When metal oxides are on the surface of hot glass, they tend to puddle.
I am posting some photos of beads with THE SILVER TRACERY EFFECT here in this article. More examples of this work and my other papers on glass effects are on my web site, www.smircich.com.
Also please share your findings about this process with our readers here at here at this venue so we can all benefit from the collective science. Have fun with it, and stay on center, Smircich