Copper in the Arts

November 2012

Slow and Steady: Nancy Worden’s Electroformed Jewelry

By Michael Cervin

Copper necklace Copper necklace design by Nancy Worden.

Photograph courtesy of Nancy Worden

The creative path for Seattle-based copper jewelry artist Carolyn Worden began when she was very young.

“I started making things as a child,” she recalls. “I had the good fortune that my grandparents lived on a farm and you had to entertain yourself.”

Today she is one of the few copper artists who works with electroforming, a scientific, intuitive and time-consuming process, which has provided her with many benefits.

Worden uses copper electroforming to cover a non-metallic surface, employing wax to the original shape in a similar process to the lost wax method of creating a sculpture. Using a conductive spray to cover the areas the metal forms on, her jewelry piece is placed in her 10 gallon tank of copper electroforming solution which is connected to the negative lead from the rectifier. She then places a 16 gauge copper anode in the tank, which is connected to the positive lead. A low voltage charge is passed through the materials to create a relief, which allows her to create thicker copper structures or to make lighter, more hollow works. The piece is allowed to build-up on average of two to eight hours or until the proper thickness is achieved. After the copper is finished, Worden often plates over the copper with nickel then puts copper plate on top of that to receive the patina.

Luddite's lament necklace Luddite's Lament, Copper necklace by Nancy Worden.

Photograph courtesy of Nancy Worden

But copper electroforming wasn’t her first interest---she originally studied as a metalsmith.

“I was casting my jewelry pieces and they were getting bigger and heavier,”  she recalls. She entered a competition and received grant money from the City of Seattle, which she then used to learn electroforming. “This gave me a three dimensional form that was hollow, so the copper became a way to work large without the weight. I put my jewelry on a weight loss program and I did it using copper electroforming.”

Though she was freed from weight restrictions, the electroforming also helped to give her work an aged look.

“Everyone else is making shiny pieces, but I’m trying to get texture, distortion,” she says.

Even with specific calculations electroforming is not an exact science, it’s an additive technique. She uses Technic, Inc. of Rhode Island to source her copper alloy. “Copper has a warmth to it - it’s fun to work with because you can heat it up, hammer it. It’s friendly, it has a personality,” she says. “Copper is one of the original elements, and has been worked in so many cultures, it has a long human history.”

Resources:

Nancy Worden Jewelry, Seattle, WA, (206) 725-1915

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