Metalsmithing Artistry: Create Textures on Metal by Fusing with Marne Ryan’s 5 Tips
We’re honored to have metal jewelry artist and metalsmithing instructor Marne Ryan as our guest today. Since 1976, Marne’s work has focused on making textures using heat, by fusing together thin layers of metal to form organic “fabrics of metal.” She uses the resulting metal sheets to create vessels and jewelry. Forming the “fabric” into cuffs and bangles, rings, earrings, and other types of jewelry. Here’s a little about her process and five tips for creating unique metalsmithing textures like she does.
Fusing Metal: It’s All in the Process with Marne Ryan
By Marne Ryan
Fusing metal is the part of my life that I have the most control over. This has not always been true. I practically wrote the book of melting metals and cutting fingers. Then I turned around to write it again. It has taken me 40 years to perfect my skills of metal fusing, and it’s still not perfect. But I ask myself, is there really, truly a level of perfection in the art of fusing metal? I believe that working with metal is all about the process, all about the journey of learning personal style all while creating the skills necessary to express it.
This journey is the very reason that I created my Organic Metals DVD set. I want to share with you my process of creating and working with metals, so that you, too, can enjoy the process as much as I do. In the DVD set, you’ll learn that this enjoyment and satisfaction is matched with the same level of grit and hard work. Let me be the first to tell you that it will take many tries to get it right. This balance, the yin and the yang, is what makes the art of metal fusing so beautiful. There’s nothing more real than that physical manifestation of your commitment, of your hard-earned work and sweat, of the minute movement of your fingers, and the unique detail that it creates.
From my Organic Metals DVD set, I hope that you find a level of joy and excitement. The same joy I have, from creating new textures and patterns in metal, and a new outlet in which to express yourself. Below, I outline five tips that will help in the beginning stages of the process of fusing sterling silver together. These metalsmithing tips are just the beginning, and are discussed in more detail in the DVDs. I may not have all the answers, but I can certainly take you on the journey. After all, that’s what life is all about, right?
All You Need is Good Hug
Tip #1: Before fusing your pieces together, you need to align them. This will ensure there is direct contact between the different pieces of sterling silver; a step that will help streamline your fusing process. Remember that the closer the contact between the sterling, the easier it is to fuse. Think of it as a good hug.
Fusing and Focus
Tip #2: Breathe. It takes awhile for the sterling to come up to fusing temperature. It’s important to stay patient and make sure that you heat the entire sheet of metal before focusing your flame on a specific area. Wait until the entire piece turns a red-orangey color, and then go back and focus your flame.
Mistakes Can Be Your Favorites!
Tip #3: Give yourself the gift of curiosity and don’t be afraid to try new textures and patterns. If you make a “mistake,” go back and try to make it again. After all, maybe you just made your new favorite texture.
Embossed to Perfection
Tip #4: Make sure that fusing is complete by checking the embossment and reflection of the texture on the back of the piece. Repeat the fusing process in areas that do not have the embossment.
Squeaky Clean Metal
Tip #5: In cleaning the finished product, make sure to rinse the piece off with Palmolive dish detergent. Dawn dish detergent can leave a residue.
I hope these tips help you and provide some sort of inspiration in your journey of metal fusing. My DVD set will go into more detail about the process. It includes a variety of how-tos on textures to create and projects for honing your skills. —Marne
In her six DVD set, Marne demonstrates how to make over 30 unique textures in metal by fusing, and then you’ll learn 15 complete metalsmithing jewelry projects. You’ll learn to turn wire and scrap metal into Marne’s unique metal “fabric,” which can be used in a variety of techniques and projects. Because of the nature of recycling metal and fusing pieces together, the results are interesting and organic. Get Marne’s six-DVD set Organic Metals and learn to create truly one-of-a-kind metal jewelry.
About Marne Ryan
Marne earned a BFA from Moore College of Art and an MFA from the University of Delaware. Her metalsmithing work is featured in JCK Jeweler’s Circular Keystone, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, Ornament, National Jeweler, and other magazines. She has received awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, DeBeers, and various national and international craft awards. She teaches metalsmithing workshops all over the country, and her work can be found in a dozen galleries nationwide as well as in Australia and the British West Indies. Learn more about Marne’s work and her process at MarneRyan.com.