Silver + Heat

In my small world there’s nothing quite as beautiful as organic texture; like the chunky rough planes of a mountain rock face cut in light and shadow, or the layered hide of a tree trunk, gnarled by decades. I find it difficult capturing those surfaces on a piece of metal though. Yes, I’ve carved a replica of a natural texture in wax and although I’ve not tried it I could make a rubber mold of an organic object and cast it. Or there’s sand and surface casting that make some great textures too.

Pink Wax Texture Experiment
Blue Wax Carving

Sand Casting of Coral

But is there a way to transform a smooth piece of sterling silver wire or sheet into chaotic gorgeousness without all that fuss and equipment? If you own a propane or acetylene torch and a ceramic brick then the answer is yes…because sterling silver + heat = texture.

It’s good to know (especially if you’re new to jewellery making) that sterling silver is made up of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (added to increase hardness). As you heat it with a gentle to medium flame it begins to glow dark red. At that moment the piece is annealed…previously disorganized molecules become more organized. With continued heating molecules of copper in the piece which have a higher melting point than the silver begin to migrate to the surface. You’ll know this because the surface will turn from silver to black.

Copper (AKA Fire-scale) on Sterling Silver Wire

If you quench the piece (in water) and pickle it (in an acid solution which removes the fire-scale) and repeat that heat/quench/pickle cycle 10-15 times, a layer of pure silver will gradually accumulate at the surface while the copper beneath (remember it has a higher melting point) will begin to ripple with the silver flowing over it. And that’s where the weird wavy patterns on the surface become apparent. The process is called reticulation and you can read more about it here. I love the randomness of it and am playing with my heat level and the surface I’m melting on – ceramic brick, charcoal etc. So many variables and so much fun.

Below is my latest sampling of textured bits and pieces; 2 twigs that I sand casted, a large (6 gauge) link (bottom left), a twist of brass wire I fused with sterling silver (top centre) and some molten silver plops that formed when I heated them on my brick. And it’s those plops that have me all excited about trying to make larger pieces. It’s that particular gritty texture that I’m looking for. It’s not a mountain cliff or a tree trunk but it’s getting close. 🙂

Cheers.

Reticulated Samples

Mary Pratt

Is it just me or are we a nation looking outward when it comes to artistic talent? Or is it that I’m just waaaay out of the loop when it comes to Canadian Art? Probably. I don’t remember when or where I first came across the astounding work of realist painter Mary Pratt but I do remember feeling drawn to it; domestic scenes painted in luscious colours. And that light that made you believe you just had to reach through the canvas to feel the sun’s warmth in a scene or run your fingers along the plastic wrap, paper and tinfoil she rendered so well.

Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1935, young Mary (West) grew up in a prosperous household. Her dad, a lawyer (who would go on to became Attorney-General of the province) and her mom (who seems to have had no career other than housewife…not that there’s anything wrong with that) encouraged her early artistic nature. At 18 she attended Mount Allison University just 2 hours down the road to study Fine Art. There she met and would later marry her first husband, painter Christopher Pratt. They would have 4 children together and despite the challenges of raising them Mary was somehow able to find the time to paint during those years. Now, I don’t know about you but I’d find it tough getting the time and energy to paint with even one child around. And if that wasn’t enough, then her ability to beautifully capture the most minute details of her everyday subject matter was astounding.

Salmon on Saran, 1974

It seems that subject matter had the Canadian art scene confounded though. Was that salmon a metaphor for simple domesticity or was it whispering something much more unsettling, something feminist? Oh my! Was she just a wife and mom painting pretty pictures, “the visual poet of the kitchen” as a Globe and Mail critic called her? Or was she making a statement about the wretched place of women in society? She definitely existed in another era…where people grew fruits and vegetables and preserved them and where their caught food was cleaned and prepared. Was it so terrible that those simple subjects captivated her? It’s said that she jumped up one day at the dinner table ready to paint the scene in front of her and that when her husband told her the light in the room was changing too fast he quickly got his camera and took a photograph of the table. Later with the developed slide Pratt was able to capture the scene as she’d intended, amazing light falling across a seemingly mundane subject. Her decision to use photographic slides to paint from after that was of course frowned upon by others and this criticism hurt her so much that she stopped painting for a time in 1970. Tisk tisk. Such a shame.

Supper Table, 1969. Oil on canvas, 61cm x 91.4cm
Smears of Jam, Lights of Jelly, 2007. Oil on canvas 40.6 x 50.8 cm

I have to say I love her paintings and I don’t want to pigeon hole them as feminist or otherwise. I guess they’re capable of saying many things. But if she took a position about her life as a woman then she said it best herself when she began painting nudes…

“I really didn’t think that women should paint nudes. I thought that if you didn’t have an erotic reaction to a nude, you probably shouldn’t paint it, because wasn’t that what it was all about?…then, I began to think about it, and thought, “How ridiculous. If anybody has the right to paint the naked female, it’s another woman. It’s not a man at all.” And when I looked through the canon of naked women painted by men, there they were, these voluptuous beauties ready to say, “Well, climb aboard!” and I thought, “That’s not what women are like. We are not like that.” And so I changed my mind.” {Mary Pratt quote from exhibition wall text} via slingshotsandarrows wordpress

Girl in a Wicker Chair, 1978
Eggs in an Eggcrate, 1975

Service Station, 1978

Bags, 1971 Oil on masonite 45.7 x 63.5 cm 

Karen Vanmol

Let’s be honest here…who likes laminate; the low budget, plastic and ugly imposter of natural materials like stone or wood that’s used for furniture and countertops? How about laminate as a material for jewellery? And how about jewellery that doesn’t rely solely on the intensive mining of gemstones and precious metals? Welcome to the world of maker Karen Vanmol.

Inspired by architecture and nature Vanmol designs using traditional techniques like hinging, threading and sawing to create her graphically bold pieces. And she’s fascinated with paradolia – the psychological phenomenon that describes how we humans try to make sense of random stimuli or patterns – if you’ve ever gazed at a cloud in the sky and decided it looks like a horse or a flower or whatever, or seen a face when you look at the moon, then you’ve experienced paradolia.

Necklace: AKA#ISEEFACES, 2018. Wood, Laminate, Blackened Silver, Cotton Thread

She describes some of her process here…

‘Protecting or imitating nature, the use of natural materials in architecture, the restoring of a road surface, accidental strong shapes on a construction site, these things I find very interesting.

On my way through town, I hunt and collect. I always encounter interesting images that I use as an inspiration. In addition, there is a certain choice of materials and colours, these are strongly influenced by memories. For example the necklaces, furniture in different colours, certain constructions. I have my story and the viewer projects its own story on top of mine.

I always start from my sources of inspiration, with these eyes I look around me. Next to that I make jewellery and I like to use my tools and try out how materials reacts to them. Eventually I work with materials, and that provides an additional factor. I find out the properties they possess and how I can edit them and this will count in the final result. Some techniques I use are common and you can find them in your house’. (via Klimt02)

I’m loving the intensity of her pieces, the colours, the shapes, the clean lines AND the fact that she’s able to use a material like laminate (so it stays off countertops). You can find out more about Karen on her website or Instagram.

Earrings : Koloro Gemo Collection
2 Finger Ring
Necklace : AKA#ISEEFACES, 2017. Wood, Laminate, Patinated Silver
Necklace : Fading Landscapes, 2011. Wood, Paint, Gold Leaf, Brass, Cotton

Ring : Under Construction, 2010. Wood, Concrete, Paint, Cotton, Silver

Jorge Manilla

3 Oscure Sacrifices, 2015. Necklace, Leather, Tumbag

I wonder how many parents (with the best intentions) redirect their children from a career in art. And how many children grow up and eventually find their way back to it anyway. As a teenager Jorge Manilla wanted to be an artist like his father and grandfather (both were traditionally trained goldsmiths and engravers). But when the 15 year old told his mother he wanted to become a sculptor she threatened to kick him out of the house if he didn’t focus on a real career…like boxing (a prestigious national sport in his native Mexico).

“That was the moment of one of the biggest decisions in my life, and with it I decided to go completely into boxing and work for a sculptor. And this saved my life in every way. Boxing gave me discipline and structure and a clear mind to decide the next step in my life.” (via: Oslo National Academy of Arts)

Several years later and in need of extra cash Manilla was thinking of leaving boxing and began doing modelling for drawing classes at the San Carlos Art Academy in Mexico City. It was there that he decided to study drawing and sculpture (1994-1997) and later jewellery and silversmithing at the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), Mexico City, Mexico (1998-2002). He would go on to obtain a Bachelors degree in Sculpture (2002-2003) at the Royal Academy of Arts in Ghent, Belgium and a Masters in Jewellery and Silversmithing (2003-2006) from St Lucas University College of Art and Design in Antwerp. He moved to Belgium in 2003 lives and is currently working on his PhD at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

As a non-expert in the field of jewellery I experience an underlying uneasiness when I look at Manilla’s work, something that both disturbs and invites at the same time. Blackened, bulging and mammalian in a weird way, but oh sooo tactile. But he explains what that’s about…

My central themes are human feelings, death and life. Each piece is like a small altar – physiological, emotional and religious. I like to translate this into materials. Mexicans are very bodily – we say hello, kiss, hug and touch hands. To me, touching is very important, and I am really into natural material, like leather, wood, stones and human bones, because they are related to my cultural past, and the materials have tactility, temperature and heaviness.”  (via: Oslo National Academy of Arts)

I highly recommend checking out Manilla’s website here where you’ll see the full breadth of his work and get a peak into why he does what he does. Pretty amazing.

Without Title, 2008. Necklace. Cardboard, Silver, Cotton Thread
Polvo de Amor Quebrado, 2011. ‘Please Do Not Take My Heart’. Necklace. Leather, Wood, Cotton Thread, Copper

4 Oscure Sacrifices. Necklace. Leather, Wood, Acryl Hars, Steel
Impossible to Imagine II, 2015. Leather, Steel, Wood, Silver
Bled, Jorge Manilla Navarrete, Schmuck, 2017


Detail: Bled, Jorge Manilla Navarrete, Schmuck, 2017
There Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of, 2016. ‘Some Moments To Remember’ Brooch. Wood, Casted Acrylic Gypsum, Brass

Miriam Verbeek

It’s a sunny 5 degrees outside today so no wonder I’m drawn to the warm softness of artist and teacher Miriam Verbeek’s jewellery and objects. Wool, for life and death, is felted along with fibre and fabric at her home studio using traditional techniques of water, soap and friction to create beautiful, comforting tactile forms.

‘Nature is astonishing, moved, changed, destroyed and an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Miriam. Also things that present themselves in her personal life and events that touch her like the changing landscape play a role in her work.’

You can find out more about this maker on her website here.

Kantate. Wool, Silk
Ice Flow, 2015. Wool, Silk



Farewell Cocoon, Merino Wool
Mourning Ring, 1993. Silver, Silk, Utility
Seeds, 2009. Jewellery Object, Wool, Silk, Linen
Pearl Necklace, 2003. Wool, Rubber

Ariel Lavian

There’s something almost post-apocalyptic about Ariel Lavian’s work, a suggestion that nature, left to it’s own devices will eventually break down any memory left by humans. Very intriguing.

‘My design is influenced by the raw materials surrounding me. I create new worlds from the limited resources and finds tremendous wealth in the soil, the rotting logs, wasp’s nest, branches of the trees, broken objects, old plastic bags, it can be anything. I refer to the material and not to the object, study it, understand its properties and use it to create small but complete scenes of staged nature, ex-wild. I believe that through design – as a tool – I can make a change, make a difference, affect people.’

Lavian obtained a B.F.A. at the Academy of Art and Design in Fashion and Jewellery at Bezalel (2008-2012) and a Masters Degree in Industrial Design at the Academy of Art and Design there (2014-2016).

Check out his website here or his Instagram here.

Brooch – Deformation as an Object – between a straight and a rounded line, 2018. Copper, Various Patinas


Neckpiece – Hansen Disease. Deformation as an Object, 2016. Copper, Various Patinas


Brooch – Plasdeath Tree, 2018. branches, Plastic Bag, Mockingjay Skull, Spider, Sand

Paul Cocksedge Studio

Being somewhat of a bender of silver I find things made of metal eye-catching. That might explain why I found this image from Paul Cocksedge Studio so captivating. It shows a gently curving thousand pounds of rolled steel balanced, like a sheet of paper captured the moment it touches a horizontal plane and just before it slides out of reach (if you still use paper you’ll know how it can sometimes get away from you…if you’ve ever dropped a sheet I mean) ). So how does unyielding steel bend like that? According to Cocksedge ‘Poised’ is the result of ‘intensive series of calculations regarding gravity, mass, and equilibrium’. I bet it took some heat too.

‘Poised’, 2013. Paul Cocksedge Studio / Friedman Benda Gallery

To explore these and other projects check out Paul Cocksedge Studio. You can also find them on Instagram here.

‘Compression Sofa’, 2016. For Moooi – Milan Design Week
Rhythm Shelf, 2015. For Greenstein Lab Library, Seattle



Rhythm Shelf, 2015. For Greenstein Lab Library, Seattle

Maker Break

Merry Christmas (if you happen to celebrate it) from me to you. I hope you’re able to spend it with the people you hold dear in your life and that the world wakes up in 2019 with fresh hope. I’ll be taking a break from MAKERS until then, returning in January with new posts about amazing people and the art they make.

All the best,

Barbara 

Some baubles at my house

Katherine Bowman

My visit to Katherine Bowman’s Melbourne studio last month was a pilgrimage of sorts. Emails organizing the where and when of our meeting had been exchanged weeks in advance but when the day finally arrived I have to say I felt excited and just a tad nervous about it at the same time. Such was the buildup to being face to face with one of my instagram idols and a real practicing gold and silversmith.

Bowman’s studio/home is well hidden on a quiet street in one of Melbourne’s inner city suburbs. My husband and I and our two friends had taken a train and a tram and then walked several blocks to find it using my phone’s GPS. When we arrived at the location there was no signage indicating that a thriving jewellery business operated beyond the unassuming shop front with its metal flywire door and sandblast film window.

Beyond that flywire screen door Katherine and her sweet little dog Kiki welcomed me into the all white consultation area with its dining-sized wooden table and a simple up-cycled metal cabinet displaying her unique ceramic sculptures. The space was filled with soft music and and the scent of incense and I felt more at ease thanks to Katherine’s gentle manner and an almost spiritual approach to her work. She’s interested in ‘how we imbue an object with meaning and the consequent relationship the object has with the body it adorns’. So where I simply make pieces, Katherine gives anything she crafts a name and a purpose.

Let’s just say that my heart started to beat faster when she placed 3 black velvet sample cases in front of me. Kind of like the proverbial kid in a candy store scenario. Oh my! I wanted ALL of her rings and ALL of the gorgeous Australian stones she uses but after some discussion I commissioned a ring which she was able to have ready 2 weeks later before our flight back to Canada…sterling silver with a 3mm Australian parti sapphire called a ‘Journey Keepsake Protection’ ring which I’m thrilled with…

Bead-set Australian Parti Sapphire with Feather Engraved Band

Now, abit about Katherine who obtained a Bachelor of Arts with a Double Major in Fine Art History from the University of Melbourne (1988 -1991) and a degree with Honours in Gold and Silversmithing at RMIT (2001). She was given an Australian Post Graduate Award and completed a Master of Arts through RMIT as well. She’s also been teaching goldsmithing and silversmithing there since 2011 and is a founding member of Northcity4 which supports the Australian contemporary jewellery community (which would be cool if I lived in Melbourne). 

You can find out more about Katherine Bowman on her website and also on Instagram here. And now, some of her gorgeous work…

Ballad Ring


Ring Set With Austalian Sapphires
Lucky Ring Stack
Nomad Ring

Hidden Details on a Peacock Ring 
Large Emerald Ring

 

 

Winter Vacation

It’s always a weird experience trundling down the jet bridge toward a plane, trying to catch a last glimpse before you leave a place, even if it’s just the trees in the distance that line the massive expanse of airport tarmac. It’s even more weird to sit in the dimmed lighting of that plane for 15 hours knowing that you’re hurtling across the planet over deep black oceans and that when it finally touches down you’ll arrive on the same day you left. Such was my experience of a recent trip to Australia.

So as I dust off my tools, refill my dusty quench bowl and consider my next projects in the workroom, let me share some of my many memories of that beautiful country…

p.s. coming soon, some amazing Australian makers

 

 



A family of kangaroos in the early morning, Yarra Glen
Garden plant at M & R’s, Yarra Glen
Sorrento back beach
Koala resting on the road between Corowa and Beechworth
Redwood plantation near Warburton in Victoria