The first time I became aware of Patricia Weikersheimer’s interest in using food with metal clay was when she posted a picture of a finished piece of jewelry online with the cryptic note, “Not Food.” What? I thought, of course it’s not food, it’s jewelry.

Gradually, I began to catch on that Patricia sees textures where the rest of us just see lunch. In the Tim McCreight/Celie Fago DVD, Push Play for PMC, Tim shows how to make an RTV mold of orange peel. Cool, I thought at the time, but I never actually tried it.

Using an artist’s eye to see a sliced onion, Patricia recently made this RTV silicone mold.

And here’s the finished pendant:

But the connection isn’t always so clear.

You mold things I would never think of molding — like the frost on a window. What got you started on making molds?

I started by molding leaves—I hadn’t yet learned that one is supposed to painstakingly apply 12 layers of slip to a leaf to capture its texture. Now I wonder why more folks don’t use the mold method. Once you’ve made the mold, you can use it in so many ways, not merely to stamp out replicas of whatever you captured.

The frost texture was a happy accident. A few years ago on a below-zero day in winter, magnificent ice crystals had formed on our garage window. I almost didn’t try to capture the texture, because I was aware that anyone who saw me would see a woman carefully pressing a large wad of blue gum onto the window, which, well, would be hard to make sense of. But I did it. When I checked on the compound 10 minutes later, it hadn’t cured. Rather than removing it, I left it. The next morning, the crystals had thawed, but not before the molding compound had taken an exquisitely detailed impression of them.

What’s your favorite brand of RTV mold making material?

My preference for Cool Tools MegaMold is fierce. With it, I pull details that I didn’t know were there—until I see them on enlarged images of my pieces.

Another of your innovations is letting the food item dry out a bit to make a better impression, how did you happen on that?

Serendipity. I had cut a pumelo (which is like a grapefruit) and left half on the counter, where it sat for days. I noticed that as the cut surface dried, the texture was heightened. I’m figuring that the moisture between the vesicles—I think that’s what those tiny juice sacs are called—evaporated, leaving the structural elements, such as the membranes separating the sections of fruit, more apparent.

Tell us about your jewelry when you’re not using molds of food! What else in inspires you?

I’m drawn to organic forms that have elements of irregularity and surprise, and I like to play with wire and beads. In my work as a science writer/editor for Argonne National Laboratory, I come across images, especially in biology and the nanosciences, that are breathtaking and lead me to furtively sketch ideas on sticky notes.

About the artist
Patricia Weikersheimer is the chair of the Windy City Chapter of the PMC Guild. In 2009, her metal clay work took first place at the 54th Annual Park Forest Art Fair. Her mother says that, even as a child, Patricia was better at playing with food than eating it.

On June 13, Patricia will be teaching a class on capturing textures in metal clay at TLD Design Center in Westmont, IL.

All jewelry and photographs are (c) Patricia Weikersheimer 2009-2010 All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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