Collaboration with renowned New Zealand Artist, Helen Casey

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Turning Original Designs into Embossed Metal Artworks

I had the great priviledge and honor to collaborate with renowned New Zealand artist, Helen Casey. Helen graciously granted me permission to turn her beautiful Tui illustration onto an embossed metal artwork

Tui design by New Zealand artist, Helen Casey

Helen is currently based in Makara Beach in Wellington, New Zealand.

She was born on the island of Cyprus; then spent her early years in the Western Isles of Scotland. New Zealand is the largest island where she has made her home.

Helen Casey Artist Bio

Helen’s complex and intricately detailed graphite drawings, often combined with acrylics, pastels and colour pencils, provoke the viewer to decipher their visual narrative.

Inspired by the natural world around her she has developed a distinctive style influenced by Maori, Aboriginal and her own Celtic visual culture.

She often attempts to stimulate the viewer to ponder life beyond the natural to the transcendent, with birds, fish and whales serving as metaphors in a visual conversation.

After many years working as an illustrator, she has realised a long-held dream by opening her own art gallery. There on the wild and beautiful coast at Wellington’s Makara Beach, she exhibits her work to the public.

Turning Helen’s Design into an Embossed Metal artwork

1) Transferring the image to the metal

Transferring Helen Casey’s original design to metal

I started this project on Easter Sunday, during the Covid-19 lockdown, and as it was such a beautiful autumn day in Tauranga, I sat on the deck admiring our beautiful view over the Kaimai ranges.

With a glass of wine on hand and wondering aromas emerging from my husband’s BBQ, it was the perfect time to transfer this design onto a sheet of metal.

2) Outlining the Tui in low relief

Outlining the design in low relief


 The first step is to flip the metal design face down onto a soft surface and push out the bird’s outline from the back with a stylus tool. It is then flipped face-up again onto a hard surface to define the line.

3) Adding design details

Adding design detail

After outlining the bird, the next step is to add design detail, and deciding which lines to raise, and which ones to engrave. You can read more about the key metal embossing techniques in this post: http://blog.nkmetalembossingacademy.co.nz/what-exactly-is-metal-embossing-and-pewter-art/

4) Adding the next bird to the design

Adding the next bird to the design

Once the 1st bird’s design detail is complete, its time to move on to the next bird. Repeat the process of adding detail in low relief and engraving.

5) Start raising the design

In order to raise the bird’s into a 3-Dimensional bird, the metal is flipped face down onto a soft surface and gently pushed out with a paper tortillion /paper stump to raise it.

Once the designs are raised sufficiently, it is time to fill them with melted beeswax to prevent damage to the design.

6) Adding background detail

As soon as the wax is set, it is time to move onto the last part of the embossing process. We can now add background detail. I chose to engrave certain parts of the design, and raised the trees in the background using the high relief technique.

Because the trees were raised as well, I had to fill them with wax too to ensure the design is sufficiently supported and won’t bend or damage.

7) Adding Patina

After the patina process

Patina is the process of ageing metal and giving it an antique, aged look. This process adds depth and interest to your design as the patina lies in the recesses of your design and makes it black, which highlights the design.

It is essential to polish the design after applying patina to remove most of the dark colour and to give a nice shine to your project.

8) To paint or not to paint…

My final decision after the embossing part was complete, was to decide whether to paint it or not…

The first picture is left as is.

Unpainted design

Trees painted Bronze

In the last picture, I added a bit of bronze to the trees to make them stand out more. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of personal preference.

What do you think? Do you prefer the original one or the painted one? Please let me know in the comments below!

To learn more about metal embossing as an artform, you can read the other articles on this blog , or sign up for your FREE Basic Metal Embossing Techniques PDF here

To learn more about New Zealand Artist, Helen Casey, please visit her website at www.helencasey.co.nz or follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/helencaseygallery/

You can also her at the Helen Casey Makara Art Gallery 1087 Makara Road Makara Beach Wellington 6972 New Zealand. m: 022 3637057 e: helen@helencasey.co.nz

Please reach out if you have any questions.

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