Friday, October 31, 2008

Raven Spoke

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), American poet, critic, short story writer, and author

"Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven,
wandering from the nightly shore.
Tell me what thy lordly name is
on the Night's Plutonian shore. "
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

First published in 1845 in the New York Mirror, the poem 'The Raven' by Edgar Allan Poe tells the story of the lost Lenore, the rare and radiant maiden.

Rev. George Gilfillan, a contemporary literateur of Rev. Rufus Griswald, Poe's literary executor, declared Poe hastened his wife's death to write the poem. The Reverends and Poe waged bitter war with politeness, justice, and truth on the side of Poe.

The first publication of "The Raven" on January 29, 1845, in the New York Evening Mirror made Poe widely popular in his lifetime. The poem was soon reprinted, parodied, and illustrated. Though some critics disagree about the value of the poem, it remains one of the most famous ever written.

Poe is now considered the father of the modern detective story and highly lauded as a poet.

No aspect of his life has so fascinated Poe's fans and detractors as his death. Unfortunately, there is also no greater example of how badly Poe's biography has been handled. Shrouded in opinion and contradiction, the essential details of Poe's final days leave us with more questions than answers. In the end we must accept that the few tantalizing facts we have lead to no certain conclusion. Poe's death must, probably, remain a mystery -- but the puzzle still teases and entices us. It is easy to find ourselves reviewing the stories again in hopes of finding something new, to settle the question once and for all.

Adding to the mystery surrounding Poe's death, an unknown visitor affectionately referred to as the "Poe Toaster" has paid homage to Poe's grave every year since 1949. As the tradition has been carried on for more than 50 years, it is likely that the "Poe Toaster" is actually several individuals; however, the tribute is always the same. Every January 19, in the early hours of the morning, the man makes a toast of cognac to Poe's original grave marker and leaves three roses.

Members of the Edgar Allan Poe Society in Baltimore have helped in protecting this tradition for decades.

"Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore — Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Talismans and Talents

Art, Anthrology, Travel and Craft

This is another in the ongoing series of posts about Legendary Jewelrymakers, focused on inspirational designers and creative minds who work in jewelry and physical adornment.

Photo: Gum San Journey, 1996, Silver, copper, gold, antique porcelain and leather

Ron Ho was born in Hawaii in 1936. and raised in the traditions of China by his parents, while immersed in the American contemporary lifestyle. You can see the influences of both on his art. He began making jewelry using dominos and bottlecaps, and now works in elegant shapes of silver and carved jade. He uses trinkets, artifacts, antiques and fabric to inspire thoughts of exotic locations and memories of places and times long past.

Right Photo: Dim Sum at the On-On Tea Room
Left Photo: African Safari

His jewelry was featured in Art Jewelry magazine in July 2007, where I first saw his work. I was interested in his style, and later learned that he studied under Ramona Solberg who helped him make the choice to switch from painting to jewelry in his artistic expression. He creates jewelry as storyteller, a wearable narrative, an idea I find enchanting.

Left Photo: Xian - Return to Silk Route, 2005, Carved chinese jade and fabricated beads
Right Photo: Return to Rafasthan, In Memory of Ramona Solberg, 2005, Indian jewels and gems

Ron Ho has a visual vocabulary of ethnic items but using the everyday items like chairs, birds and buttons, to express a cultural message. His first jewelry piece, 'All Fall Down' created in 1969, strongly reflects an influence of Ramona Solberg's found object jewelry. He creates tiny sculptures, wearable as jewelry.

The effects of extensive travels in Thailand, Vietname, Nepal, Indonesia and Afghanistan are apparent in his work, with a definite tribal or ethnic feeling combined with a sense of whimsey. Now located and based in the Northwest, you detect the region's influence in the eskimo ivory fishing harpoons and other icons from that culture. He incorporates items from his travels into his designs to create a story of his experiences, mixed with myth, mystery and history. The idea of artist as shaman or alchemist.

I sometimes feel that way, when I'm mixing chemicals or applying heat to metal and watching it change color and shape. It's magical. I enjoy the idea of having jewelry tell a story, or provide the first lines for the wearer to complete the story with their own ending.

Photo: Ivory Encounter, 1975, Ivory carvings with forged and fabricated silver

The article 'Tales of Migration: The Jewelry of Ron Ho' written by S. Beal, was published in the journal American Craft Vol 67, 2007, and he is included in 'Craft in America' as one of the metal artists.

He's a member of the SNAG, Society of North American Goldsmiths, and designs intricate and beautiful works using precious metals, jade, ivory and porcelain, antiques and folk art pieces.

For more information about him, check out these articles and gallery reviews at Craft in America, or the Bellevue Art Museum.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prices and Dices


Feeling Lucky

I went through both shops, dusted off some of the items and reduced some prices. I have some new ideas to try out and I need to make room in the shop. I don't like to have a lot of things stacking up in the shop, just a nice variety.

So if there's something you've had your eye on, and you want to snap it up - run on over to the Etsy shops. The gifting season is coming up and you could stash away something for someone!

And watch that space, I have some new designs on the drawing table, they will be unveiled in the near future.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I've done another interview with a jewelry designer, for the Art Bead Scene blog. Not sure when it will run over there, so I won't give away the surprise. But I think you will like it and enjoy the artist's work, so keep an eye out for that. When it runs, I'll put a link from here to it, so you can find it.

The winner of the giveaway for posting on my blog-iversary post will be pulled from a hat on Saturday, so there's still time if you want to put a reply on the post, to get your name in the drawing. The giveaway item is a surprise, I'll show it when I give the name of the random winner.

I've had both shops, the art bead and the jewelry shop, in an Etsy showcase. One was yesterday, and the other is running today. I'm always curious to see if the Main Showcase at Etsy does me any good. I'd like to think it shows my shops to some folks who might not otherwise find me, but I'm not sure. So if you buy something from the shop and mention 'SNIPPETS' in the comments to seller today, you'll get FREE shipping and a 10% discount. That way I'll know this blog post sent you, it'll be our little secret!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Swapping and Charming

A quick update - we who are in the charm / clasp / bead swap are preparing our goodies to send in, for photographs and distribution! I'm putting together the packages as soon as they come in, and slipping in some extras and some special treats. More about it soon.

In the meantime, I went ahead and broke my book diet and got the book 'A Charming Exchange' and I just love it. It's impressively full of good stuff, and very inspiring. I did interviews for the Art Bead Scene blog for both Catherine Witherell and Deryn Mentock, who were participants in the swaps that led to the projects featured and showcased in the book.
Here are some links to check out reviews - both good - of the book and get your interest going.
Ruth Rae has a blog, and so does Kelly Snelling. Pop over and check those out, too. Have fun!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Clear Depths and Twists of Fate

If you wonder sometimes how my wandering mind and hands come up with some of the crazy, impossible invented objects and faux-tiques that I make, this is an exercise in how it all happens, a little like magic and a lot of luck.

I posted the necklace to Etsy today, there are more photos over there, and here's the story behind how it was made.

I wish I could say that I do extensive research, many rough sketches and prototypes before I create the finished piece, but it rarely (how about almost never!) happens that way.

I might have been walking around with an idea in my head and an image of something vague in my mind, but most of the time it happens more organically than systematically.

I've had this image transfer in my workbox for quite a long time, several months. I wanted to use it for something special, because I really liked the way the image came across.

The three figures look like a father, grandfather and daughter. The girl looks too young to be a wife, and the standing man could be an older brother I guess. The mother is apparently missing from the photo. It made me puzzle about the people in the photo, what were their relationships to each other, what was their story?

Every so often I would pick it out of the workbox and try to think what I could do with it.

Yesterday I etched a bunch of copper to make shallow shadowbox bezels with. I made the shadowboxes various sizes, just kind of random.

I cut the copper based mostly on how the etching came out, so that the best images and the pretty visuals would show up in good locations on the shadowboxes.

And then I noticed that the image transfer was the same width as the box I was making. The back side of the box has an old, floral vintage design etched into it, and there was a stripe of bright copper on the inside of the box. When I put the photo transfer into the box, something went 'POP' in my head.

I didn't want the image all the way down laying at the bottom of the copper box, so I elevated it about halfway up. Before I put it in in permanently I glued on the front of the photo a clipping from the old shabby book I've been cutting apart that said 'one of the old-timers' because it seemed to fit the photo somehow.

I mixed up the resin and poured in two pours, to make sure the bubbles were under control. Once it started setting up last night, I covered it with a box to keep dust out, and let it cure all night. It's the only way to keep myself from messing it up by touching it before it's ready. I don't have a lot of patience - it's the same way with the fused glass in the kiln. Best put in before bedtime, so it's ready in the morning for a surprise viewing.

I drilled the three holes this morning. I had to find the right drill bit to fit the eyelets I wanted to use so I could string wire through to hang the piece. I polished the copper up, and lightly sanded the resin so it wasn't so very glossy. Then I started thinking about what kind of a necklace this could be when it was all assembled.

Sometimes I will post the bead and someone else can create the necklace. But this time I wanted to pull everything together, as the photo had been in process for so very long.

I used both steel darkened annealed wire and brass wire for the wirework, along with the copper in the box.

I decided to use as many of my handmade components on this necklace as I could. I had some fused glass beads that look like little gears, wheels and mechanical items, so I wire-wrapped those into the chain. And the polymer clay beads with red-and-black marbleized colors, I wire-wrapped them into the chain. And some hand dyed costume pearls and faux metallic beads.

I've spent most of the day on this necklace. I don't know why I'm so slow. But I finally finished it.

The necklace chain has an adjustable length, just by hooking the hammered brass clasp hook into one of the links of the brass chain. The dazzler at the bottom of the chain has a glass bead in the shape of a black cat - for some reason it made me think of fireworks. The necklace hangs very long when extended all the way out, but it's very fun and different.

Here's a photo of another of the resin pieces I made last night, it's a little brass bevel charm, with a replica clock face on it and some fun glass beads to turn it into a dangle.

I'm enjoying working with the resin, along with the etched metal and fused glass. I like combining all different components together to create the finished piece.

Drilling the holes was very fun, I used my dremel. The big drill came out of storage too, in case it was needed.

What's your creative process like? Are you a serious planner? Or do you reach into your bowl of beads and pull out what's on top and work around that?

I'd love to know what you think about these pieces, and whether you have a different way of creating that works for you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Breaths of Fresh Air

I have some new pieces down in Studio B today, finishing their curing.

Yes, like so many, I have been lured into trying the use of resin in my jewelry.

I etched some metal and made box bezels, then lined with designs and filled with resin. I have them covered now, to protect against dust while they cure.

Tomorrow I'll drill some holes so I can wire wrap them. I hope they turn out well, they looked good when I took my last little peek.

I found this tutorial on different ways to use two-part resin. I've been etching metal and knew I wanted to make some shallow shadowboxes to put images into.

It was the perfect day to do it, because the etching and the resin both make smelly fumes. The weather was mild so I could open the windows and turn the ventillation fans on high speed to clear out the smell and fumes.

I also made a little seashell charm with resin, using one of my own molds. I added it as an accent to this little pendant with images of seashells on both sides under glass. I like the clear glowing effect of the resin charm.

I got some good news yesterday, I found out that an article with a proposed submission to Belle Armoire Jewelry magazine was accepted. The article will come out in the Spring 2009 issue, the working title is "Riveting and Writing" - and it's about making the little bevel boxes I was working on today.

Tomorrow I need to spend some time in the basement studio soldering some pieces I made earlier, especially the dichroic fused glass. It is so pretty, I need to get it finished so it's wearable.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Year Ago


A year ago, and it seems like just yesterday.

The move to this new city in the midwest was complete and I had settled into the new location, the studio was mostly set up. There was nothing holding me back.

I decided I wanted to stop waiting and postponing.

I wanted to start doing the things I enjoyed, and do them on a regular basis. I wanted to begin sharing them with others, to learn from them and to give to others what I was learning.

So a year ago I took the plunge.

A year ago I submitted the first proposed article to Belle Armoire Jewelry (and to my delight, it was accepted).

A year ago I opened the first Etsy shop.

A year ago I started this blog, just 12 short months and 260+ posts to this blog ago.

(it was more posts, but some of the first ones were not that great, and some were no longer timely, so I've cleaned those up, you'll never miss them)

I've tried to be consistent in posting, to add new things regularly and to share subjects and topics that I thought were interesting.

I still try to bring new ideas, spotlight new creativity and highlight those creative adventurers who were before me in the 'Legendary JewelrymMakers' series.

To provide tutorials on fusing silver, and etching metal.

To provide a spotlight and focus on studio safety and health concerns in the process of being creative.

To provide a glimpse into my 'studio' and creative spaces.

And to identify and celebrate new talent, people who are forging new ways of expression and bringing new ideas into reality.

I'm grateful to those of you who have come along with me on the blog.

Mostly I'm grateful for the connections to people and ideas that this has given me, and the feeling of being part of a larger community. An opening door to people and opportunities to share.

A generous and enclosing circle of friends and internet neighbors that I wouldn't have enjoyed, if I hadn't made that first post to the blog, a year ago today.

So many new friends, so much change and growth. In just one year. I can't wait to see what the next year brings. And thanks! to all of you who have been on this journey with me so far.

Who knows what the future holds.

If this blog has given you something to think about, a new project to try or a new idea you hadn't thought of, post and let me know.

Put a comment on this post, I'll pick a random number and there'll be a giveaway - it's a surprise gift for my blog-iversary! Celebrate with me!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Little Women

Tiny Faces in Portrait

Do you remember the book 'Little Women' about the four sisters and the mother during the Civil War? Pretty Meg, tomboy Jo, silly Amy and little Beth with her doll collection, and Marmee the mother, brought to life by Louisa May Alcott. Louisa's father, Bronson Alcott, was a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Louisa based the story 'Little Women' in their family home called Orchard House, written in 1868. For more information about Louisa May Alcott, there's a Wikipedia link with her biography.

This little pendant reminds me of that for some reason. Like one of those miniature portraits that were so popular in victorian times before photography became available.

They painted a likeness on a porcelain blank, with very fine detail using miniscule brushes in glaze, but so very tiny. During a time when there were few ways to preserve a likeness of a person, those hand painted miniatures were legacy jewelry that was passed from generation to generation. Sometimes worn as a brooch, other times as a charm or watch fob, or inside the heart of a cameo or locket pendant.

This little pendant is made in that spirit of an antique from the victorian age, a likeness of a lovely lady with her hair up. It slightly resembles the photograph of Louisa May shown up above, but it's not her portrait.

If you are interested in more information about miniatures and the beginnings of portrait photography there is a blog with a lot more information.

I want to make more of these with different style hangers, and with black and white images as well as color. Little faux antiques, daggerotype replicas and imitation porcelain portraits.

I have a fondness for these antique-looking pendants. And I want to combine them with a cover that opens, to make lockets.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Baby Blue Sweet Cheeks

Several artists whose work I admire have recently been creating some beautiful designs, using doll heads and bodies that have been rescued from a German doll factory. They are rejected porcelain doll parts, apparently buried near the factory, but being uncovered now. Some lovely pieces of jewelry have been created around those recovered faces, bodies and other parts.

I wanted to make something in that spirit, but different enough to have a unique look and feeling.

This little focal bead is meant to replicate the look of an italian ceramic piece, possibly from a wall mosaic or in the stairway of a chapel. You know how old things that are touched by generations of hands or feet get a certain patina, hand rubbed?

I remember during the trip to Ireland during a tour of one of the restored castles, how the treads of the stairs had an indention in the middle of the stone step. That was caused by generations of feet going up and down those circular stairs, until after so much time and use the steps were worn away.

I wanted this little faux ceramic replica to look as though many hands had touched it, shoulders had rubbed it over the ages. With crackled edges and an almost verdigris patina to it.

Remember some weeks ago - all those posts about my challenge in getting a nice blue or blue-green color? I'm very pleased with these results on the bird's egg blue on this bead.

It would be fun to combine this bead with some turquoise beads, or some hand dyed blue green costume pearls rosary wrapped with darkened wire.

It reminds me of a little cherub or angel face, with a chantilly lace head scarf wrapped around it.

I didn't want to be too close in copying the vintage german porcelain dolls, and I think I managed to do something quite different but with the same feeling.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Words and Music

I decided to etch some metal yesterday. I had some thoughts and words in mind, and putting them into brass and copper seemed like a good way to fasten them down.

I am keeping one square of copper for myself, to use to make a box. The others are in the Etsy shop, they would be great on the front of a bookbinding project, or to divide to make charms.

They have words - 'HOPE' - 'FLY' - 'WINGS' - 'LAUGH' - etched and buffed into them.They look like a collage of images, with astronomical designs, leaves and vines. I was trying to make them look very vintage and antique, as though they came from an old metal tin found in the attic. As though they were in a cigar box, stored and saved to be used in a collage or assemblage art project.

There's a hint of a skeleton key outline, some sheet music behind the Eiffel Tower on the brass piece, and lots of victorian scroll designs. The words 'LAUGH'-'JOURNEY'-LOVE' - on the one copper piece would make a great front for a travel journal. All of them have etching on the back, too, but it's very faint and rustic looking similar designs on the copper. The reverse side of the brass piece is leaves, vines and scrolls, but very well-worn looking.

I got a lot of detail in the etching this time. It's unpredictable, sometimes it is very faint and other times all the complex lines show up perfectly. I don't know if it's the weather, the metal, or what makes the difference. I really wish I did know.

The brass kept its golden glow under the patina, and the copper is a warm ruddy color. Both have been polished and sealed, so the shiny and darkened parts will stay. I can think of several ways I'd like to use them, but I'm going to add them to the shop instead. I can make some more for myself later.

If you are interested in etching metal using muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide instead of the formula used for etching copper circuit boards, be sure to read my safety tips on the sidebar on the left. It's so important to wear gloves, a heavy apron, safety glasses and closed toe shoes. And have good ventillation because the fumes are no fun, besides being not good for you to breathe.

I think I'll make a box of out the one I'm keeping, and put a patinaed skeleton key I got from Patina Queen in it, and possibly coat it all with resin. I also got some cool little Eiffel Tower brass charms from her that would work well with these. We'll see how it works out!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Glass Blast

Got some fused dichroic cabs out of the kiln last weekend, haven't shaped it yet, but isn't it shiny?

I must be part magpie, I love the glow and ripple beauty of the shiny glass. At first it's cool to the touch, and then it takes the heat of your hand and warms.

Like little molten fireworks in a glass case world. Or like those snow globes that you shake, only these hold sparkles of light instead of fake snow, flying from the light into your vision.

I wear a small engraved glass droplet on a ball chain, it holds the warmth from skin and reminds me what I do, when I'm somewhere else doing something else.

Which seems like most of the time.

But wherever I am, if you could see inside my head you'd know, I'm really thinking about glass and how to make it sparkle like magic gazing stones.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eye Candy

If you are interested in historical and symbolic art, you may enjoy looking at pieces by Theresa Martin.

Some collage has a way of seeming repetitive. You see a lot of imagery used until it becomes common.

But there's something different about her images that looks fantastical and yet historical. She makes reliquaries, shrine-like and resembling altars.

Do you enjoy looking at other artists' work - do you find it inspirational?

I've been thinking about ATC cards. I want to make some collages and create some Artists' Trading Cards.

I've found a new tool, they were inexpensive at the craft store, called Brush Markers. I want to combine with tea-stained papers, black and white images and text. Sounds like fun!

Here are some sites to check out if you are interested in Artist Trading Cards, to tickle your fancy and get your creative ideas flowing.
Art e-Zine site - lots of good links to various artists here.
Want to see some really cool stenciled collage art check out this site, and there's a tutorial here on making stencils to use in ATC and collage work.

If I come up with any interesting collages or Trading Cards, I'll post them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Silver Stones and Dulcet Tones

Art Bead Scene Interview - Catherine Witherell

Pop on over to the Art Bead Scene blog and check out the interview with jewelry designer and beadmaker Catherine Witherell. I was fortunate to catch a few minutes with her and get to help tell her creativity story. She does wonderfully beautiful work - go check it out. She's teaching next spring at Artfest 2009.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Signs and Markers

When they take you on the tour of the library at Trinity College, where the famous Book of Kells is preserved and displayed, there is no photography allowed, to protect the images and calligraphy in the book. Only a few pages at a time are visible.

You peer through the protective glass covering and view the parchment vellum pages, decorated and illustrated so many ages ago, and try to imagine what life was like at that time using goose feather quills and having to make your own ink from oak gall.

This photo is two pages from my sketchbook for that trip. Because no photography was allowed I would sketch as quickly as I could while the guide conducted the tour, adding the color later from memory.

The little glass charms I've been making remind me of the images and antiquity of those books in the library in Dublin, and especially that book under glass. Especially the one with the word 'VISIONS' clipped from a shabby vintage book. The reverse side has a celtic knot pattern symbolising an animal from one of the texts.

I wanted them to look aged and old, as though they came from an ancient scholar's book satchel, carried on horseback through the isles and roadways of an older time.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Touchstone Silver

History, Purity, Clarity, Simplicity

A naturally occurring mineral helped create civilization as we now know it.

There is so much in the news right now about the monetary system, commerce, banking and the economy. But stepping back to the time when barter was the method of exchange of goods, before coinage and metal coins with specific value were used, there was a change that altered the ancient world.

Coins were minted by governments from precious metal, with the weight and value of the metal insured by the emblem stamped or minted onto the coin.

Coins could be made using an alloy instead of the pure precious metal, and the test for purity involved smelting the metal to separate the metals. Not a convenient way to establish value. Without it, though, the purity and value of a coin or bullion block was suspect.

But the discovery that a touchstone could easily determine if a coin or bullion block of metal was pure, by testing the metal to estimate the amount of pure gold or silver, led to security that the metal was worth its face value. And from there to the use of metal coins with a determined value for commerce, instead of the use of bartering for exchange.

A touchstone is a hard black stone, often jasper, hornblende or dark basalt, that the metal could be rubbed against to create a streak of color. When the streak from the unknown metal is compared with a streak left on the stone by one with a standard alloy or pure metal, the value could be easily confirmed. By treating the rubbing with aqua regina, a type of acid, the impurities would be dissolved out and the quantities of pure silver and gold could be verified.

Sterling silver is called the queen of metals, it is an alloy, a combination of silver with copper. A new sterling silver alloy, developed in 1990 by Peter Johns at the School of Art and Design in Middlesex University, is argentium silver, using some germanium in the alloy instead of part of the copper, to reduce the tendency of sterling to tarnish caused by oxidization of the copper in the alloy.

Sterling silver is guaranteed to be at least 92.5 percent pure silver. An alloy is used to strengthen the silver because pure silver is a soft metal and the addition of 7.5% copper makes it sturdier. Sterling silver doesn't have nickel in it, so it's useful for people who have allergies to nickel as it won't trigger an allergic reaction.

The word 'sterling' to refer to the silver alloy comes from England in the 13th century from the 'pound sterling' used as currency in England from the 12th century. Britainnia silver is an alloy of silver containing 95.84% silver introduced in England to replace sterling silver in 1697 as part of the recoinage to limit the clipping and melting of sterling silver and keep the coin of the realm out of the melting pot.

Silver is the most reflective metal, even more shiny than gold, and its white color is flattering to wear against the skin. For more history on silver and sterling there's an article on Wikipedia.

The photos are of pure silver charms I made and fired yesterday, from precious metal silver clay. Silver clay is not an alloy, it's pure silver, combined with an organic binder that allows it to be shaped by hand like a clay, but forms a pure 100% silver from firing to 1650 degrees F in the kiln to burn off the binder leaving only the pure silver. The earwires and headpins are handmade from sterling silver wire, to complement the look of the silver charms.

Because they shrink slightly as the binder burns off, any detail of the design in the clay is preserved in fantastic detail, and becomes smaller in scale without losing any of its visual and textural visibility and interest.

I tumbled these pieces to harden them and make them more reflective, since they are almost pure white when they first come out of the kiln. I have only slightly patinaed these to help the designs show up in the brilliant silvery reflections. Some others I made I will more deeply patinaed later today.

These will be great to use as charms, or on sterling silver earwires for earring drops. The patterns in the silver are vintage scroll and victorian script designs. Even though they are tiny charms, the detail from the silver metal clay is amazing. And they are not an alloy, they are pure silver or .999 percent rather than .925 of sterling.

There are pendants, disks, pairs of drops, charms and a toggle, all made from the empress of metals - pure silver.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another Wire Legend

Alexander Calder's Jewelry in Wire on Exhibit

If you are in New York, anywhere near the Metropolitan Musuem, between Dec. 9, 2008 and March 1, 2009, you've got to check out the exhibit of Calder wire jewelry.

Alexander Calder is best known for his outdoor sculptures in bright colors, called 'stabiles'. And his kinetic, hanging metal work that he called 'mobiles' - large public art pieces.

But he also created intimate, personal pieces of jewelry for family and friends, from wire and all unique and made by hand. Over his lifetime he created more than 1,800 jewelry pieces, never mass produced, from copper, silver and brass wire. His wife Louisa inspired many pieces he gave to her as gifts, and she turned her bureau into a decorated and mysterious repository of his art gifts of jewelry to her.

He was born July 22, 1898 in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. His family was artistic and his creatvity was encouraged. He started making jewelry as a very young boy, and in Paris in 1928 he started making jewelry for the bohemians of Paris and New York.

Calder's use of wire to create the lines of jewelry inspired many other legendary jewelry artists including Lynne Merchant. He created boxes for storing his jewelry, and during the war he allowed friends to sell his jewelry for him, to help support him. Playful yet sophisticated, his jewelry was owned and worn by Georgia O'Keeffe and the wife of Joan Miro, among many others.

He didn't use solder or heat in forming his jewelry, using instead cold connections with rivets and strategically designed wire wrapping techniques. He used found objects, glass and metal, to create his inventive jewelry designs.

To learn more about him and his art there is an Oral History Interview from 1971 at the archive of the Smithsonian Institution, what better way to learn more about this iconic designer than reading his own words. He died November 11, 1976 in New York. The exhibit of his jewelry designs is side by side with a book with new photographs and examples of his drawings and the jewelry owned and worn by his notable patrons, family and other artists.

He created pins called fibulas based from ancient Roman designs, but gave them a modern new twist and an updated look. Even though the jewelry was designed and created beginning in the 1930's, it looks amazingly contemporary and sophisticated even today.

Still desired and highly sought after by collectors and museums, most of his jewelry is owned by descendants of the original recipients of the gifts because they don't easily part with them.

And the originality and creativity of the wirework continues to inspire new work by current jewelry maker artists.