Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rethinking My Process: A New Composite Material

During my graduate time at RISD, I have found myself making my own material without realizing I was creating a composite material by fusing metal into fabric. I have been fascinated by this idea quite a bit, as I understood the method of electroforming.

Electroplating is the process of creating a metal coating over an object by controlling the electro-deposit of metal passing through an electric solution. A metal layer is built up on a metal surface, or on any surface that has been given an electro-conductive coating by the application of a paint that contains metal particles.

RISD’s Jewelery and Metals department has a small room with several liquid copper baths for students to experiment and make jewelry with. However, what can place inside a bath is strictly monitored. Only synthetic materials can be plated such as some plastics, glass, and wax. The use of organic substrates, will contaminated and unbalances the chemistry of the bath resulting of abnormal surface plating.  

Through rigorous experimentation and learning I started by wrapping nylon around wire forms and let the copper grow through he fabric. As I discovered I could use this method to fuse the fabric with the metal in a natural way as opposed to gluing the two together.  This process allowed me to further investigate how I could further fuse metal with fabric without having to use wire. Instead I added conductive paint to the fabric, which I subsequently plated.

A new material was formed enhancing the properties of the fabric that otherwise on its own could not have. I was able to give structure to the fabric by bending and shaping it around the metal construction. Because I was using fabric, this allowed to make large but light jewelry still being three-dimensional. This new composite material made me question how the integration of metal and fabric could change or impact the way we see jewelry and apparel. Further Interest grew on how I could use this to create jewelry. Or was it jewelry that I was trying to do?

            Inspired by the technical aspect of this process and knowing more about composite materials, I have questioned the life cycle of this medium.  Can I reuse the raw materials that I had once used? How bad is my process for the environment? How is RISD being responsible about this technology?  It made me happy to find out that I could refine the copper even though many industries do not process alloyed metals. As for the fabric goes, It is a poly organza material tha

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