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Tour the Studio

Designs for me have always started with a single thing: A GREAT QUOTE.

I have been inspired by quotes going back to high school which is when I endured some of my most trying times. They would prove to bring great solace through so many more difficult times as life wore on. They were always a steadying reminder that life really IS good.

Beautiful words….Always there. Always stable. Always carrying me through to the other side.

And so, in the years to come, when I transitioned from bead work into metal-smithing I began to honor those words in my jewelry in the hopes of creating pieces that also inspired, emboldened, helped to heal, and brought peace within loss for others like they did for me.

I find quotes everywhere. From the obvious in books at hand to far reaching places like a bar wall in Mexico. It’s fascinating to me how I’ve been doing this for almost 30 yrs now and I feel as if I will never stop discovering words of wisdom. Unfortunately, a great quote does not always make for a great piece as most quotes are not likely to fit on a small piece of a metal circle.

This is where the math comes in. Yes, the math that I struggled with as a kid and thought I wouldn’t very much need as I was planning my creative path. There is a lot of measuring involved as well as timing out the lines. The placement of each word is very important to me because the quotation needs to keep its flow. When it is a famous author, I try extra hard to make them proud that I am merging their talent with mine to make something that their fans can wear happily and proudly. Besides that there is shape and design to consider within that math problem. I sketch a lot randomly so often times I will flip through my book to find an idea or pattern that feels fitting. Or I will create something around that quote specifically. This is where it starts to get fun. I draw the design free-hand on the silver with a fine sharpie and cover it with clear tape to protect it from my fingers when I saw it later. I always use a jeweler’s hand saw with a very fine blade. I try to fit the pieces as close to one another as possible to avoid silver loss. By this time I know if the idea needs assistance with regard to etching which gives us the recessed parts of the design. Or I can build up by doing more cutting of metal parts and solder on top of that original part to give it dimension. Usually there is some elemental bit that needs to be soldered as well. 

When I work on the component that holds the quotation, I use an extremely fine leaded pencil to make the lines across that guide me. I always need to make sure I leave space when measuring for things like holes to connect the item to a jump ring and chain when the necklace or bracelet is completed. Also, I take into consideration the sides, top, and bottom so that the letters do not feel crowded and I have the room and freedom to stamp. At 1/32 of an inch and without visibility for what I am actually stamping, there is a whole lot of squeezing my eyes, praying to my metal working family members that have come before me, and leaning on over 25 years of being friends with the same set of stamps. 

As a result, I know that I need to stamp the L to the upper right while I need to stamp the S down to the lower left for them to line up with the other letters. No stamp set is perfect. Nor is any human. That’s why you see a letter here and there that isn’t quite in beat with the others. There is always a sigh of relief when that last letter is stamped. You know how they say most car accidents happen close to home? Well, that’s usually when I manage to stamp a J sideways. Focus is everything which can come as a challenge for this ADD girl. If there is an author I will pay tribute on the back if there is room as well as stamp my logo and mark it if it is sterling. Afterwards, I buff it on a scotch brite wheel to finish it. 

Then the master is packaged up, kissed goodbye, and mailed to my beloved and talented mold maker. He creates the mold from vulcanized rubber. He then supplies that to my caster. They inject the molds with hot wax and then after cooling, they affix them all to a tree shape. Depending on the size of the design, they can actually attach a lot of them. That way I am able to do multiples. The tops (typically) are cast in bronze and the bottoms are sterling. After they have finished casting them there is much work to still be done in the cleaning of each piece. First the sprue that connected them to the tree is sawed off and then sanded down to be smooth and unnoticeable. They are then oxidized if need be and tumbled in different media to not only remove the black tarnishing material but to soften any metal edges. Sometimes we choose different finishes for different pieces. It is usually decided by me in the beginning of my process during the designing phase. We mainly do a matte finish on most of our items. That way the words are much easier to read. But here and there you will happen upon some high polished finishes if I feel it suits that particular piece. At that point they are ready for assembly and all of the finishing touches.

In the end it is a very rewarding process and I am grateful to have the opportunity to share it with you. I couldn’t be more thankful for realizing a dream come true.

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