I have no explanation. I had a roll of this material. I made a couple of things with it. Then I had the idea (brilliant or not) to see what I could do with this stuff. Remember that I really had two elements I used for the 100 Day Challenge – the liquid clay veneers and the mesh grid. This post is just addressing how I used the mesh grid in this challenge.
So what is it?? I kept referring to it as industrial mesh grid, clear as mud, right?? The label wasn’t much better. But a little research revealed that this is a ‘steel galvanized hardware cloth’, clearer? The base metal is steel. It is galvanized to reduce corrosion. That means it is coated in zinc. I used two different sizes, one was a 19 gauge wire in a ½-inch square grid and the other was a 24 gauge wire in a ¼-inch square grid. I ended up using the larger grid for most of my work because it was more substantial.
This product is a fairly soft metal and can be bent and formed easily. I needed a good pair of wire cutters, a set of jewelry pliers and a set of files. Once pieces were cut and ready for use, I made sure all the edges were filed down. They could be remarkably sharp.
I came up with two different questions that helped me approach using the grid. 1 – How can I use this material structurally and 2 – how can I change the look of this material.
Structural Use of Grid
Structurally I was able to use this material in more ways than I expected. And many times I was combining the uses in the final piece. I have tried to keep track and categorize these uses in the following groups:
Armatures was an easy idea for this material and started off as flat then three-dimensional. The purpose was to provide a form to work over and strength to the clay.
Bails were typically created by extending the grid beyond the clay and providing a point where jump rings or chain could be connected (Days 1, 22 and 31). And yes, I was also using the grid as an armature. In one example, I did use a separate piece of the grid and created a pinch bail (Day 27). I also used the extended grid to create loops for jump rings (Day 63).
Decoration on the surface of the pendants using pieces of the grid in different ways. Initially I bent and colored a piece of the grid and baked it into place (Day 16). It was covered with liquid clay so it should adhere nicely. Then I create a little ladder (Day 19). On Day 37 I used a one unit piece of grid that had pongs for legs. I wrapped it in a thin wire and then covered it with liquid clay for a decorative element.
Prongs and spokes were single pieces of the wire that were used to hold beads above, to the side or around the perimeter of the pendant. This evolved during the challenge as I went from thinking in two dimensions to three dimensions. For Day 32 a single prong in the middle of the grid came up through the base of the pendant to hold an additional clay element floating over the surface. Day 70 I was working radially with the grid and added prongs. The later on Day 93 I was thinking in more three dimensions and added prongs. I did like how the prongs could add such a nice element.
Cages to hold elements were used twice, once for a little heart that was on a chain and could be slid out of the cage. Then again a cage was used to hold balls that could move around as the pendant moved. These were completely separate grid pieces that were added to the surface of the polymer pendant.
Prong settings for capturing and holding polymer elements was next. Again I began by thinking flat two dimensionally, then flat radially and finally radially in three dimensions! At this point I feel like I finally found rhythm in the challenge.
Loops for dangles was an obvious thing to do, not sure why it took me so long to figure out. It was just a spoke or prong that I created a loop on. I love the movement that they added to the pendants.
Loops for connections, rather that just dangles, was one of the ideas I only used once. But I was really pleased with the way they worked in the bracelet with links on one side and a clasp on the other.
So I am pretty excited about the various ways I was able to use the grid structurally. It took me some time to get into a creative zone but once there . . . . . . I had some fun! Was everything a hit, no. Are there better or easier ways to do things? Absolutely. But the inexpensive grid allowed me to experiment, try things, and play with abandon.
Changing the Look
Changing the look of the mesh grid was primarily changing the color of it, so it didn’t look like an unfinished metal. I started by painting it with liquid clay. Since exploring liquid clays was one of my main efforts in this 100 Day Project that seemed like a good fit. However, about half way into the project I realized this approach was not a viable one for the long term. The liquid clay layer would easily scratch off. Duh!! In a few cases, this was not an issue if the grid was protected by the clay. For example, Days 55, 66, and 72 should wear fairly well. The only area of wear would be the bails or loops where jump rings connect. But Day 83 leaves most of the grid exposed. In addition, that was the fidget pendant, that was meant to be played with because of all the movement, so I would expect more wear and tear.
So what else could I use to color the grid. I tried embossing powders. I had a stash, so why not. Yup, they scratched off easily also. They also looked worse, clumpy and uneven. I then tried the various patinas I had available. These were fairly unsuccessful. While I could get a black surface on the grid, it was powdery and would wipe off. This might have been due to the zinc coating on the grid not ‘playing’ nice with the patinas I had available. I tried enamel spray paint (for outdoor furniture). Better look and smooth finish, readily available product, but would also scratch off, not quite as easily, but still. I decided this was an acceptable coating only if the grid was being protected by the clay.
But then I put on my thinking cap and stumbled upon the idea of powder coating. Powder coating uses finely ground particles of pigment and resin that is sprayed onto electrically charge metal then baked at about 400 degrees F to create a protective finish. So I watched a few videos. And yes, I bought a kit from Harbor Freight. It was about $100 for the powder coating gun and two colors of powders (black and white). And I was off to experiment.
All of my experiments were done using traditional powder coating methods (there are some variations). And because of my background in enameling, it was somewhat familiar. The fact that I had most of the supporting tools allowed me to give it a try at a lower cost point (yes, I have an air compressor and a toaster oven, or two). Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!!
Beware! I have only dipped my toes into the powder coating pool. More playing is necessary and I will share those results when I get them. But my initial reaction is that powder coating is a rabbit hole of possibilities!! And the range of colors for powder coating is like going into a bead, paper or fabric store. You know, the pitter-pattering of your heart as you look at all the colors. You have the need to own them all. You have been warned. I formally relinquish all responsibility. Have fun!!