Historically, pewter has been used since ancient Roman times. The years 1700-1850 earmarked the “golden age” of pewter in America especially for the making of everyday utensils. Eventually pewter became less popular in favor of other materials. Today, pewter is gaining in popularity once again. Many people have a hobby of collecting pewter objects and consequently have acquired many of our designs.
In our handmade pewter creations, we use Britannia Metal, another name for lead-free pewter. Pewter is actually an alloy made up of tin, antimony, copper and some silver. It is a low-temperature metal, meaning it can be melted and poured at around 550 degrees F.
Nature is important to us and consequently, this has been the emphasis in our pewter designs. All our leaf designs are uniquely ours, and we are involved with every step of the processes from the design work, to the foundry work, and finally to the finished creation. No other people are involved with our craft.
Making one of our finished designs involves many steps. First we create the leaf design usually using clay to sculpt and design the pattern. From there the pattern is used to make an impression in a mold. One of the materials we use is a silicon- based rubber for the molds.
The pewter (which is lead-free) is melted in a small furnace we have in our garage. We incorporate a special spin caster which we made ourselves. The molten metal is carefully poured into the mold as it revolves around the spin caster. After cooling, the newly formed leaf is ready for the finishing process. At times we also use another process called gravity casting.
Each individual piece’s excess metal, called sprues, is trimmed. Then each leaf is cleaned and finally polished to a satin luster. Gold leaves, which we also use in our designs, are actually the solid pewter pieces that have a gold patina air-brushed onto them.
After casting a wide variety of leaves in many different sizes, we are now able to use our imagination to create unique one-of-a-kind conglomerations involving the cast leaves. These designs are then mounted and framed. With the framing, we cut all the aluminum frames and glass ourselves. We also make all our own double-mats in our studio.
People ask many times about how long it takes to make one of our pewter designs. The most honest answer we can give is that we don’t know. We work in stages throughout the year. Most of our designing is done in the fall. Usually we do the casting in the winter. (It’s a bit cooler.) The mat work and assembling is done later as we get ready for the art shows.