Over the past couple of months, I have been working on a secret project for Melanie Card. (If you haven’t read her works you should do so.)
The project was to help turn a religious symbol from her Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer series into a real, physical object to coincide with the release of the fourth book in the series, Ward Against Destruction.
It’s done. On time. And it didn’t suck. Phew.
One of the great things about being an artist is working with other artists.
There’s a chain that starts to form when you show your work and meet other creative sorts. Artists collect other artists like trading cards, “I’ll trade you a rookie graphic designer for a vintage woodworker.” That weird web is almost inevitable if you allow yourself to leave your house with art in tow.
This project is the result of a web like that. Melanie wrote some books. In those books she talked about a Goddess eye, a religious symbol. She asked another artist, Snow Conrad to design it for her so she could use it in promotional materials. She then asked me to take that design and make a pendant. We all met through theater. This makes sense in the art world.
Projects like this are very flattering. It’s means a lot when someone trusts your skill enough to leave their creation in your hands. It is also somewhat terrifying.
I’ve never had to work on this scale before, and never for something as precious as this. Imperfections, mistakes and failures wouldn’t reflect badly on me, they’d land on Melanie. I couldn’t own them if I wanted to, this would be attached to her brand.
It was stressful, but super rewarding.
This is how I did it:
What I had to start with was the image by Snow. It was bright and gold and delicate and intricate (she did not know when she was designing it that I would need to translate it into metal).
I used a thin wire armature to get the basic shape and then started to build up layers of two-part epoxy clay (often called “green stuff”), adding more detail with each layer. It took a lot of patience because I needed to leave the clay to set overnight after each tiny layer was added.
Once the template piece was finished, I used the same process as I did for my Hyrule buttons, creating a two-part flexible mold into which I could cast pewter.
The final piece I artificially aged by dunking it in some nasty pewter blackening chemicals and then brushing the whole thing up with steel wool.
Here’s a giffy visual summary.
That picture is about 3x actual size. It was small enough that I discovered I needed glasses while working on it. Seriously, that happened. I have real glasses now.