From Mistake to Favourite Ring

Have you ever made something with your art that you later wished you hadn’t? I have. This is a story of spending time with your mistakes, persevering and reworking an idea if you can.

I made this ring last year but when I got it back from the caster I wasn’t happy with it. The casting itself was imperfect (bubbles and cavities that weren’t part of the wax model) and the texture boring (an experiment using a piece of cotton gauze dabbed into the molten wax). I thought I could jazz it up by oxidizing it but in the end it was relegated to a shelf in my workroom to gather dust.

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Booorrr…ring 

Months later I came across it and without much thought tossed it into my crucible for an upcoming sand casting attempt. It was a mistake I could simply melt away. I don’t know why but several days later when I got around to the sand casting project I noticed it in amongst all the other bits and pieces in the crucible and took it out. I might’ve stared at it for a few seconds before deciding to put the sand casting aside because I HAD to hit that boring texture with some heat to see what would happen. 

So much fun! The heat from the propane torch softened out the original texture and as parts of the surface of the ring began to flow I had a brilliant idea…why not solder on a tiny ball of 9k gold. Oooh la la! So I positioned the band in my 3rd hand tool and placed the gold ball carefully on a chip of solder and slowly added some heat again.

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Heat + Time + Gold = Fun?

Now, if you’ve ever heated silver with a torch you’ll understand something of metallurgy, that there’s a precise moment when a millisecond more heat is a millisecond too much. You can be thrilled one second and totally defeated the next. And I was defeated when I saw that .35 gms of gold disappear into the molten flow of solder and silver just as I pulled the torch away. Damn it!! I was left with a silver ring that had only the faintest hint of a pale gold tinge along its surface. Such a drag! I kept the ring like that for a couple of days before deciding to add some more heat, secretly hoping that the gold would somehow find it’s way back to the surface. As if.

The more I heated the band though the more interesting it became. It was morphing into a moonscape with parts of the surface that held the original casting flaws deepening and pitting as others bubbled and moved. I kind of lost interest in the gold at that point because I was so excited about this new texture. I wore this new version for several more days before deciding it needed oxidizing…

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When in doubt…add more heat
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Left ring  – oxidized and posing with other rings

I would’ve left it at that but the more I looked at it the more I wanted to try setting a stone into it, somewhere inside the pitted area that would become a focal point. I chose the spot for the stone and drilled out a seat for a 2mm garnet I had kicking around in my jewel box. I’d planned to do a bead setting but soon realized another fact regarding metallurgy – continual heating of .925% silver brings the .075% alloys to the surface causing the remaining silver to become brittle. Damn it again. Out with the beading tool and plan B was to solder on 4 silver beads around the seat that would act as prongs. Out came the 3rd hand tool again with the solder chips placed ever so carefully underneath the 4 silver beads.

Now, if you’re like me, soldering is both exciting and terrifying because again, heat + time needs to be precise – especially when you’re trying to solder on a thinner area of the band. Everything was going great, the solder was beginning to set down where it should and the silver beads were all in place. I was queen of jewellery making in that moment. That was until one of the beads suddenly jumped off the ring and 2 others decided to coalesce. DAMMNN IT! After some fiddling I was able to set the stone securely and added some texture to the surface. Voila!

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The final version

In the end I decided this was where I wanted to leave the ring and I have to say from start to finish I learned a lot about re-working a piece, transforming it from a mistake for melting in a crucible to my favourite ring of all time. Amen,

Jenny Anderson

Anderson studied fashion design prior to obtaining a bachelors degree in metalsmithing/silversmithing and is currently attending technical college to obtain a certificate in engineering. Wow! I think it’s so cool that she sets precious metals and stones against blackened steel, paint and gorgeous found objects, always with a keen eye on form, volume and craft.
Now, this is a tiny sampling of her work below, so please do yourself a favour and check out her Instagram feed here which is more current than her website, because, you know, who has time to keep a website up to date when you can just post to Instagram. I’m with you on that point Jenny 🙂

 

U Shape ring. Steel
Interactive box ring. Sterling silver
Chain earrings. Sterling silver
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Black steel bangles

 

 

Olivier Van Herpt – 3D Printing Ceramics

Have you ever wandered the aisles of a big box store searching for a particular something, a simple utilitarian household object that shouldn’t be hard to find (soap dispensers come to my mind for some reason)? And have you ever been amazed at the lack of variety on those shelves and secretly wished you could design and produce your own household object? Well then, meet Olivier Van Herpt (Design Academy Eindhoven, 2015), the Dutch industrial designer whose work examines the typical top down relationship between manufacturer and consumer using 3D printing.

3D printing has been used to produce widgets and gadgets for all sorts of applications for a number of years, everything from plastic auto parts to surgically implanted replacement parts in the human body. The evolution of this ‘additive manufacturing’ technology can be traced to the early 1980’s and even further (the 1900’s!) and involves a material, guided by a computer added onto itself to create a component. Van Herpt wanted to test the limits of a typical desktop 3D printer to produce his own functional, large scale piece of ceramics and began to experiment.olivier-vanherpt-3d-printing-ceramics-1-800x533

Initially he wasn’t content with the results. The printer could only produce small objects and these weren’t heat resistant or food safe. So he adapted the machine by designing and making his own clay extruder and experimented with different types of clay mixed with water. Adding water would’ve made sense to me because the process itself is about the extrusion of a material from a nozzle onto a horizontal plane. I’d have assumed that a diluted material would flow better than a dense one. But it didn’t work (I’d have given up right there). Continuing to work on the problem his eureka moment occurred 2 years later when he redesigned the extruder and used hard clay that dripped from the nozzle instead of being expelled in the conventional cord-like fashion and this allowed him to make larger pieces with more surface definition as well as random human-like imperfections. So amazing!

If that’s not enough amazingness for you, then consider that his adaptations to 3D printer technology are open source on the ol’ internet which means we can all print ourselves some gorgeous ceramics and I may one day make my own soap dispenser.

Now feast your eyes on these and tell me whether or not Van Herpt has redesigned mass production for the better. You can also find more about him and his ongoing collaborative explorations into the manufacturing process here. Or check out his Instagram page here.

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Judy Nygren

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a vegetarian or not but I love still life paintings of fruit and or vegetables. And I love the paintings of Judy Nygren who, among other subjects, paints the most beautiful cabbages I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t have a website though so all I can tell you is that she has a studio in Fort Langley, BC., that she went to the University of Victoria, BC and that over the years she took numerous painting classes with the Federation of Canadian Artists in Vancouver. She says she loves to ‘capture the light as it falls on a subject to create a focal point and high contrast.  I cannot resist a subject that is “back lit”  where the intense light shines through a leaf or flower’. She does it so well!

You can find Judy in her studio in the Flatiron Building on Billy Brown Road, Fort Langley.

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Anna Vlahos

Call it personal bias but I’ve always loved jewellery with a rough hand-hewn look rather than machine-made exactness. There’s something intrinsically human about meandering lines, imperfect forms and surface flaws that I relate to. Where machine jewellery is about uniformity and industrial scale production I hear the maker’s story in a handmade piece. That brings me to the work of Anna Vlahos whose distinctive aesthetic tells the story of place; Australia where she grew up and Greece where she now lives.

MIRACULASS 2015
MIRACULASS, 2015

Before moving to Greece, Vlahos obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) at the School of Visual Arts, Cowan University in Perth, Australia majoring in printmaking (1999-2001) with Honours there (2002). In 2004 she obtained a Certificate IV in Jewellery Design and Production from Central TAFE in Fremantle (2004).

Regarding her work and it’s unique style she says…

Ancient artisans broke down the natural world around them into patterns and motifs. The jewellery and art objects they created come out of the ground as though they grow down there.  Living in Athens, these become my replacement for the natural world I left behind in Australia. I take these simple pattern elements, borrowing from vase and amphora and rhyton .and replicate them infinitely. Using these pattern puzzle pieces, I can build a nature of my own, drawing on the flora of my memories and my home, but built using the visual language of those artisans’. (via klimt02.net)

I might’ve been daydreaming during social studies class and missed the lecture on amphoras and rhytons so I had to look them up… antiquity people made vessels, usually out of clay, to transport things like olive oil and wine.These were often painted and that strange pointy base meant they could be stood upright in soft soil or sand or held in wooden racks on ships for transporting. A rhyton was also a container. It was a horn shaped cup that held wine and it often had animal forms and motifs on it. It would’ve been used everyday and in special ceremonies

 

 

Growing up in Australia Vlahos would’ve been familiar with trees like this…

 

 

Now, tell me if you see those influences in this maker’s beautiful work…

 

 

Ophir, 2012. Sterling silver, copper, paint 6x2cm
Ophir, 2012. Sterling silver, copper, paint
Amphor black, 2016. Sterling silver 10 x 7 x 5.5 cm
Vessel: Amphor Black, 2016. Sterling silver, 10x7x5.5cm
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From exhibition : Mutation
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Basic rings, dark
Brooch: Miracualss, 2015. Sterling silver, 24kt gold 12x5x3.5cm
Brooch: Miraculass, 2015. Sterling silver, 24kt gold 12x5x3.5cm

You can find out more about this Anna Vlahos here or on Instagram here.

Evan Eisman – Brooklyn Blast Studio

If you’ve ever toiled at removing decades-old paint or varnish from a piece of furniture or annoying bubbles and scratches from a ring shank (me! me!) you understand how sandpaper abrades a surface. Imagine then what a high velocity stream of sand directed onto a surface can do. And imagine that stream directed by an artist.

Evan Eisman opened Brooklyn Blast Studio in 1998 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard 7 years after obtaining a degree in painting from Pratt Institute. He and his team use ‘blast technology’ to create everything from amazing subtle textures to precise engravings on glass, stone, wood, metal and even wool felt and paper. Prittay cool if you ask me.

Check out their website here or find them on instagram here.

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Ailsa Morrant – A Handshake

I sometimes wonder about the usefulness or relevance of the bits and pieces of jewellery that I make. I enjoy the making and sometimes enjoy the end result but I don’t delve much deeper than my own ego. Clearly I’ve never contemplated what Ailsa Morrant has contemplated. Graduating this year with 1st class BA (Honours) in silversmithing and jewellery design from the Glasgow School of Art, I think I understand what drives her to create, to express what words can’t. And a simple handshake has led her in her explorations. As she explains…

“I like catching everyday moments: the fleeting, instinctive, subconscious ones that are connections with ourselves and with others.

They are the gap between us being and becoming.

The bit that is so difficult to grasp because we often rush past it.

Over before we are even aware it was happening.

Vital moments.

Both good and bad moments.
The ones that make us think, muse and connect”.

In ‘Handshake (Dexiosis): organs of society’ Morrant captures the space between 2 people in a handshake and freezes that fleeting connection between them (btw dexiosis means to give (someone) the (right) hand). Like fingerprints then, each cast becomes a unique record of the hands that made it. She says these pieces have the appearance of small internal organs about them and that they invite the wearer to touch their surfaces. I can understand why; there’s something uniquely human she’s making here, something we all share and on a gut level understand. What do you think?

You can find out more about this maker here and on instagram here.

Casting process of the handshake
Casting process of the handshake

 

 

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From Handshake (dexiosis): organs of society
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From Handshake (dexiosis): organs of society

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Ring- Maritial Material, 2018 Brass porcelain, silver, glass, gold leaf
Ring: Marital Material, 2018. Brass, porcelain, silver, glass, gold leaf

Friedmann Buehler

I don’t think of Friedemann Buehler as just another wood turner like the sellers you might’ve seen at your local famers market. Don’t get me wrong, I love what those makers do with wood but this guy takes the skill to another level.

Carefully selecting sections from felled oak or ash trees, preferably from the forests of Holenlohe near Stuttgart in Germany, Buehler first removes his chosen blanks (the raw log sections) using a chainsaw and axe. Later in his studio these blanks are soaked in water and then shaped while wet on a lathe (and here’s me thinking all wood turning involved seasoned dry wood). The process is time consuming (some pieces can take years!) but the amazing organic forms he achieves are enhanced as the wood dries and sometimes cracks. And that beautiful stubbly grain is achieved through various brushing and sandblasting techniques before each piece is dyed. These ain’t your grampa’s wood turned bowls.

P.S. check out his work on Instagram here.

 

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Frieda Dörfer – Guilloché

Frieda Dörfer studied gold smithing, watchmaking and jewellery design for 10 years before branching out on her own in 2014. I came across one of her unique pieces the other day and assumed she’d hand-engraved its surface and, being totally inept at using a graver in my own work, I was impressed with her accuracy. It turns out she’d engraved those precise lines using a 17th century contraption known as a guilloché machine.

So what exactly is a guilloché (pronounced gee-oh-shay) machine? Even if you don’t know what it is you’ve probably seen what it can do…

 

Yes, it engraves patterns of lines onto metal or in some cases currency paper, faberge eggs, fountain pens and antique cigarette cases. Also known as a rose engine, geometric lathe or engine turning machine it was invented when someone modified a wood lathe, replacing the standard blades that cut away wood material with 2 polished burs that removed a thin line of material from a metal surface. It became a popular look on metal long before the invention of plastic everything and it took great skill to execute, something Dörfer has learned with practice and patience. She operates the guilloché using both hands, one to turn the hand crank and the other to apply even, steady pressure onto the metal surface. To create evenly spaced lines that are equal in depth and without shadow she has to know when and how much pressure to apply, no easy task. If you’d like to see more of her captivating and unique pieces check out her website here.

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India Flint – Eucalyptus Ecoprinting

I bought a pair jeans recently that I can safely say we’re dyed using industrial strength chemicals, some of which are considered poisonous, hormone disruptive and carcinogenic. So I want to travel down a lesser known road of makers today into the world of ecoprinting (an ecologically sustainable contact print that transfers leaf dyes to cloth, clay, wood, stone or paper ;  now widely adopted by makers in almost every country”. Welcome to the “whirled” as she calls it, of India Flint.

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Destiny seems to have led this woman to begin printing leaves and other organic materials onto textiles. As a child she watched and learned from both her mother and maternal grandmother about the wonders of stitching, knitting and embroidery. She recalls her grandmother soaking pieces of clothing in various combinations of tea leaves, onion skins and calendulas (marigolds) to enrich their faded colours, maybe as much for practicality as artistic motive. She remembers her own chance discovery of felting when she happened to rub collected clumps of wool from her family’s grazing sheep on the barbed wire that fenced their property. Much later, living on her own farm in South Australia she might’ve had a deja vu moment when she looked into the nest of one of her broody hens and noticed a leaf image had been transferred onto one of the eggs there…

“By the grace of the broody hen, whose eggs had been laid in a rain-dampened nest of sun-toasted eucalyptus windfalls, and bore evidence of leaf prints after three days warmed by her body in that damp environment;  I decided to bundle eucalyptus leaves in silk cloth, and discovered pure magic…washfast leaf prints of incredible detail, no mordant required (in case you’re wondering as I was, a mordant is a substance added to a dye that fixes the dye to the fabric).7SyCyCLlTG620ToG8MwDvQ

Now a mother and grandmother, India describes herself as a botanical alchemist, dreamer, writer + author of the eucalyptus ecoprint, dyeing for a living in the Great Southland :: and on the nomad trail. She coined the word hapazome which she gave to “the process of beating fresh leaf matter into cloth, after four days of doing exactly that, on the floor of the Green Room at the Yamaguchi Centre for Performing Arts in 2006, creating a 6 x 6 metre floorcloth that was to “resemble a forest floor” for the production ‘Wanderlust’ by Leigh Warren + Dancers in collaboration with the late and marvellous dancer/choreographer UnoMan. And she adds – Hilariously, this “kitchen-Japanese” is now regularly cited by academics as in “the ancient Japanese technique of Hapazome. Which it is not.”

Flint shares her knowledge about ecoprinting by researching and lecturing at the South Australian School of Art. She offers workshops and writes books on textile dyeing and when she’s not doing all that she finds time to play tenor saxophone and of course run her farm which happens to be the source for most of the plants and materials she uses for printing. Now, feast your eyes on the luscious hues, textures and designs of her stunning work…

P.S. I highly recommend following her on instagram  @prophet_of_bloom. Her images and words are magic.TheShibusaWay

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silkshawl

An example of India's work