Cuttlefish Cast Sterling Silver Pendant or Brooch 7 x 3.8cm, $335
One of nature’s most challenging subjects, the awe-inspiring Leafy Sea Dragon captured the eye of Australian silver jewellery artist, Fred Peters, early on. This tiny, yet iconic creature of the sea has brought many a man or woman to the shores of Kangaroo Island over the years. For some it has been a journey of pure scientific discovery, for others a pilgrimage spurred by a purely visceral need to see the curious creature up close.
Fred utilised a number of images in his research to create this iconic “Leafy Sea Dragon” cuttlefish cast necklace. One of those he discovered is a very special image captured by marine biologist Richard Wylie for Marine Science Today.
After countless hours of study and preparation, Fred says he came to the conclusion the leafy sea dragon is “stupidly complex”. He made one at first with leaves on both sides of the body, but felt it looked “very busy”. After much more refinement, the piece is now stylised to show left or just right side of the leaves.
The cuttlefish casting process itself is painstaking, and begins as you might guess, with Fred Peters scouring the island’s beaches for the perfect piece of cuttlebone. While it is easy to find cuttlebone on just about any Kangaroo Island beach, for casting it must be totally free of cracks and completely dry.
The unique grain of the cuttlebone can be seen in the finished piece, and so each is carefully selected and faced to suit the intended carving. After sketching and creating a template, then transferring it to the prepared surfaces of the cuttlebone, metal tools are used to carefully carve the shape in relief, and in reverse. Double sided pieces are carved into both faces and perfectly matched using accurate reference lines.
Imagine the hundreds of patient hours spent at this stage, the agonising wait to achieve the perfect mould. And still, there is so much to do before casting can actually occur. A ‘sprue’ or funnel is carved into the bone, as well as any ‘airs’ or tiny chimneys required to ensure a perfect cast. Now potential leaks can be identified, the bones are wired tightly together, and finally the mould is ready for pouring. The chosen metal can be melted and poured into the ‘sprue’.
While any metal suitable for casting may be used, it is now Fred must face the heartbreaking reality of his artistry – only pewter casting will allow reuse of the mould! When casting Gold, Copper, Brass, Bronze, Aluminium, or Fred’s favourite Sterling Silver, the original mould is generally destroyed in the process. When cool the mould is broken open and the rough casting removed.
One might be forgiven for thinking just how perfectly this process seems to reflect its “stupidly complex”, yet undeniably beautiful subject.