Chasing and Repoussé

Chasing and Repousse - Rose Brooch The technique of Chasing and Repoussé dates from antiquity and was used throughout many cultures renowned for their metalwork, though it may have originated in the middle east. One set of tools is used for both processes, which is why they are typically referred to as one technique. Chasing refers to the working of the metal from the front, while repoussé is worked from the back. In combination these processes can be used to create detailed relief patterns in metal.

I’ve always drawn and painted, and so working in chasing and repoussé feels like a natural translation of this onto metal. I start a design on paper typically, and then finish the design on the computer using vector illustration software.

Once the design is complete, it is transferred to the metal. My method of transferring is to paste the drawing to the metal with rubber cement, and then to use an exacto knife to trace my chasing outline. Using the exacto knife gives the tool a little bit of a groove to follow as I work, which helps keep the tools from slipping.

With the paper design removed, the metal is embedded in pitch. I keep my pitch in cast iron pans and soften it with a torch, then press the metal into the softened pitch to hold it in place. Then I chase.

after the first chasing is complete, the metal is removed, cleaned, and placed face down in the pitch. Then I begin the repoussé.

The process of chasing followed by repoussé is repeated several times until the relief is complete. In between the metal might harden and need to be annealed (heated with a torch until soft).

After the chasing and repoussé is complete the piece is cut out and formed, and additional metalworking techniques are used to finish the piece. The exception is in working on a vessel, when the forming has to be done first, because the hammering involved would destroy the design.