Thursday, December 30, 2010

A big ring came to life

All has been about the Gallery lately and I have barely had time to actually work with creating jewelry. However, this week I took out a few hours and decided to start doing again what this is all about. I sat down a created one of my signature “big rings” of silver and 14 carat gold. Its focal point is a green amethyst set in gold and flanked by 3 white diamonds set in some of the golden balls.

I like working with a design like this because I get to explore layers and depths. This ring is extremely 3-dimensional and reveals itself as something new whenever you change the angle. This is a piece to get lost in…

Monday, December 27, 2010

Almost there

My jewelry gallery is almost a reality now. I have fought illness and a lot of delays (largely due to being a time optimist) but now it’s only the last details which lack. And so I boldly venture into inviting you, everyone and their grandmother to a festive opening reception on the 14th of January – which also happens to be my birthday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Next step: Bigger is better

It’s been half a year in my cozy little workshop close to Nyboder. I have loved the room and working there, but realized, that as a shop it sucked big time. Not only is it situated in a street that has no other shops. It’s in a basement and in order to reach me, you have to go through the (work) shop of the ceramics artist who owns the place. To top it all off: the whole thing doesn’t have a proper sign. There is a small one glued to the inside of the window, but that’s it. In other words “come in here and buy nice stuff” is in the best case scenario whispered, and that just isn’t good enough.

So, I have for a while been looking for a “real” shop. Okay, maybe still in a basement – they are the cheapest ones – but at least in a street with other (good) shops and especially: all mine. That’s expensive, I found out. Well, no hurry, I was just scanning the market in order to be prepared for next summer, when I was planning to go pro and fulltime, after my current part-time temp ended.

However, all of a sudden the perfect shop emerged: 25 m2 of shop with apr. 10 m2 in the back, situated in a very nice street with no less than three bridal shops, three spa/wellness shops plus a number of nice restaurants, galleries etc. The shop used to house the Ohanas – a pair of goldsmiths who are very talented and amongst others had specialized in Kabbalah jewelry. They had done well for themselves here and hence were able to move to an even better (and more expensive) address in another part of the town.

The brilliant part of exactly this shop was the fact that it was fitted for the trade, meaning all security, also beyond what is necessary for my current level of mostly silver jewelry, was in place. As an extra bonus, they had closed off a small section of the very back in order to create a room for polishing, hence avoiding too much dust and grime in the shop itself!

It was perfect. And it was quite above what I was even dreaming of to pay in spite of being a very good deal in itself. So, I went back to thinking the whole thing over. In order to make this happen, what would it take? First of all: it’s way bigger than what I have now, so I needed something to fill it out. The solution: I’ll take in commissions. That would also mean extra income for me. To the hell of it – I’ll make a whole gallery, now I’m at it! Galley Castens, no less! The second challenge was the fact that until summer, when my temp ends, I won’t be able to be in the shop more than Friday and Saturday. The solution: I’ll create and rent out two benches for fellow jewelry smiths. They will help pay the rent, be able to keep the shop open a bit more and hopefully be a couple of nice colleagues I to share the mutual passion for stones and tools with.

So… I did it. I borrowed the substantial amount of money it cost (though as I said: given the circumstances it was a very good offer) and started working on the room. With not only a little, but a lot of help from my friends, BF and family! I am so touched by how much time they have sacrificed in order to make this dream come true and humbled by having such wonderful people surrounding me. However, it took a bit longer than originally anticipated. I thought, that if we move quickly, i might get a bit of the Christmas sale, but because both I and most of my friends got ill, I had to let go of that hope. But I wanted it to happen NOW and therefore was of cause stubborn and went to work anyways, which obviously took a huge toll:

But Claus was there and helped me remove the old (and actually rather nice) wallpaper – in a very artistic way

And Vinni and Carsten, who are very skilled painters, helped me turning the rooms clean bright and green.

My BF helped almost every day after work and Michael, who is my co-mastermind, helped me make the logistics happen when I lost all overview in pure stress and built all the stuff that needed building.

So, what will it look like now? Well, I’m not entirely done yet, but for starters: It’s green – of cause. The floor is very old, charming and uneven, made of dark wood. I decided to put in a slightly raised floor in the workshop-section, partly to make it a bit more stable (it sucks when you have just lined up for a complicated soldering job, and then everything falls apart because someone walks by on the bouncy floor planks), partly to be able to retrieve tiny diamonds and small scraps of gold when dropped on the floor. A trick the Ohanas told me about and which I promptly copied. We built a half-high wall around my workbench, which I’ll supplement with some bar stools. Here my customers and friends will be able to sit and chat while I work, which I have enjoyed a lot in my old workshop, where I had a window bench for the same purpose.

I was so lucky to keep all the light fittings, including this lovely neo-classical chandelier, which is currently still covered in dust-repelling plastic. Suspended like this in the green room, it looks like a huge and exotic jellyfish silently floating through the oceans.

I love my backroom. The shop itself is what the customers see and hence it has to look good and work well. But in order to do the latter, the backroom – where the big tools and all the materials are stored, needs to work great as well. To me that means a lot of storage space plus a good table. However, the backroom has served as storage during renovation of the shop hand therefore looked like a total mess for the most of the time:

This is what it looks like now, with most of the shelved in place:

I must admit – at the mess stage I was ready to give up. Everything was in complete disorder and I just seemed to shift things around. To be frank – this is what it looked inside my head at this stage as well. Too many things to do at once. However, now everything is starting to come together. Here is what the main room itself looked like yesterday afternoon:

And yesterday evening it was time to move in! I was strangely nervous and slept badly last night. This is it. Things are coming together now: I still need to sort all my stuff out, hang cabinets, more shelves, pictures, lamps etc., have a sign created, create a homepage and other marketing stuff, but at least the main thing, the jewelry, is starting to be ready.

The first 3 commissioners have delivered their pieces to me and I’m having at least 2 more coming in. So far the sure ones are Monbo, Louise Degn, Ossip Frolov and Signe Njust. I also have a few artists who will contribute with small sculptures. Amongst these some very cute dragons from Panik Keramik.

BUT I haven’t had any response on the add I put out for the two free benches – I truly hope they will soon arrive! Does anyone know of some happy people looking for a cozy and well-equipped spot? If so, please mail me at

My next update here will hopefully feature pictures of a finished gallery – a place to seek and admire jewelry that caters for a soft and feminine taste with a healthy dose of fairy dust. Or as I have started to express it: “For the shameless romantics”

What a breathless journey this has been and I’m not quite there yet. I didn’t intend it to happen just now, but I felt obliged to act, when the offer presented itself. I have been lucky enough to have an amazing support from my entire network and am looking forward to working inside these new and amazing frames, while relishing John Lennons saying: “Life is what happens while you are busy doing other plans” ;-)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reforging wedding rings

Sometimes a piece of jewelry does not fit the bearer – style wise that is. It happens, no biggie, but downright annoying when it’s your wedding bands. Now, here’s the story of our heroes: Once upon a time, Ann Karina and Jesper, the founders of the trading site decided to look for more interesting wedding rings than the ones they hastily had purchased, when they -at the spur of the moment- decided to get married . The result was a great marriage, but boring rings, which so did not match these two interesting personalities.

So, they went online on a search for new wedding rings and of cause found Etsy. Many ooohs and aaaahs were heard in front of their computer, as they browsed though the many amazing shops here – and as they realized what a great concept this was. “Let’s build one for Danes in Denmark” they thought and so they did. was the result and it opened this summer. However, the two simple 8 carat golden bands were still nesteled around their fingers – looking just as boring as always.

When I joined Amio, we got to know each other and I have later been told, that they rather quickly decided that I was going to be the one to reforge their rings into their true shape. And hence, some weeks ago we met and discussed the many possibilities - which to me was great for clarifying what exactly they wanted. We ended up with two very different rings. Jespers was going to be a coarse and dark oxidized silver band, lined with the gold from his original ring. Ann Karina wanted her original ring to be changed into a round band, that turned around a more chunky and somewhat oxidized silver ring. And so I boldly (though also somewhat awed by the task) went onto the quest:

First, I created a basic shape of two component modeling clays. Massively clumsy, but with the rings to be hidden inside, waiting to be freed.

Then I started carving out Jespers silver ring to fit snugly around the original version. I had filed the outer surface of it absolutely flat, in order for it to slip easily into the silver cover.

After casting and renovating the silver version, I fused the golden ring into the silver ring and then filed the silver ring until it exposed the golden lining on the sides. The oxidization created the final touch and a very stark contrast to the warm gold.

Ann Karinas ring was a tad more complicated. Creating the shape was easy enough

-But in order to sand cast it, I had to split it in two, cast each of the halves individually and then solder them back together.

Then I recast her old ring into a very thick wire and drew it down to roughly 2 mm thick, before shaping the outer ring. Soldering that one in place without soldering it all together was… an interesting challenge ;-) I succeeded however, and today I was able to hand over the rings to the two owners:

Ann Karinas is soft and feminine, with the warmth of her spirit lively moving around. Jespers is coarse and masculine, almost hiding the warmth of his golden center. In time, he will wear some of the oxidization off, thereby marking his ring with his own lived life.

It was a pleasure to create – and a true pleasure to finish the beautiful story of their rings. They have now returned to their owners – but now in their true shape…

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall break

I am so blessed: Currently my good friend Claus is ”working” in my workshop, as a sort of internship. He is helping me out with a lot of things that I haven’t had time to do – such as sorting and more importantly – pricing my jewelry and stones plus moving my pieces from my Phantasteria shop to my Castens shop. More about that in another post. Yesterday he got a go at sand casting with moderate success. But it’s I messed up the first (and second and third) time too, so he’s doing great by that standard!

Claus is good company as he is, but when I call him a blessing, I am referring to the fact that I had become quite stressed. With my day job, regular household chores plus being a good mother/girlfriend, my Castens company with way too many ambitions and ideas was taking a huge toll on me. I figured out that I had a working week of between 60 and 70 hours and so no wonder I was starting to fall apart! Claus is helping me getting structure and system into the whole project which is the base for being at ease and working freely.

Lucky, lucky me…

However, I am still in due need of a holiday. Brain has stopped functioning, as Claus so vividly illustrated a few days ago.

So tomorrow I’m flying to Finland with my daughter to meet with my boyfriend at his father’s house in the woods. We will be taking long walks in said woods, go to the sauna and relax with capital R until I return Sunday the 24th in the evening to resume my busy life.

So: happy fall vacation to those others who take a break too!

A girls best friend…

Yup, am talking about diamonds of cause! It started with creating this ring from a bunch of outdated rings.

They featured a lot of timy diamonds and I didn't know what to do with them. However, after finally learning to flush set (see earlier post), I have started to embed them in a number of different designs. It just looks so lovely! Only downside: Don’t want to use white sapphires anymore – they just don’t have the same flash to them as the real thing! And don’t want to use zirconias either. Oh dear… will I have to upgrade and start buying diamonds often? I guess the answer is yes *grin*

Here are some examples of my latest work. This one with the moonstone I have claimed for myself, but I have more moonstones. Perhaps I’ll make another one…

And here we have a true beauty, which I have fallen completely in love with!

I have created the ring from 2 mm silver wire and have set a facet cut imperial champagne topaz in a 14 carat bezel.

A number of golden balls lighten the design and the biggest holds a reclaimed Top Wesselton diamond. Finally I have roughened up the surface and polished the golden balls to create structural contrast.

The colors are subtle and elegant and just so very delicious… I’ll put it on Etsy soon, promise!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pricing jewelry -oh dear!

I love creating my jewelry. Every piece has a bit of heart blood in it and quite a chunk of my soul. They are created with a lot of love and happiness, but when I get to the point of pricing, things start to become difficult. So many hidden factors apart from materials and hourly wages go into this equation. Please read this very illustrative blog post from my very talented colleague Jess from Rosie Revolver in order to get an insight into what your money for one piece of amazing jewelry actually pays: 

Also two of my other very talented coleagues have written good thoughts on this:

So, most of us have this inner fight of the business person VS the I’m-just-so-happy-you-even-like-what-I-made-person. On Etsy, it’s my impression that the latter often wins. Granted, I have to take rather high prices because expenses in general are extremely high here in Denmark, but still… So often I have seen gorgeous pieces which I’m thinking are in the same league as mine and cringe when I see the all-too-low price tag. If any customer has seen THIS piece and then mine, they will find my prices downright insane.

And yet I’m even not pricing my pieces high enough to pay the rent of the shop I want (and hence don’t have yet)!

So, what to do?

Well, so far I’m once in a while posting articles here in my blog where I in detail describe the process of creating my often rather elaborate (and hence time consuming) pieces. I’m proud of my skills as a jewelry smith and have no problem giving the "behind the scene" tour. But I'm wondering if a customer -you, dear reader? - will feel the reaction I'm hoping for: understanding the chosen price and realizing the handicraft that went into it. And of cause enjoying to see how a piece is created.

Again: What to do?

How to align?

DO I want to align?

Should I just put any price tag on it which feels right (high enough) to me and trust that someone will buy it at that price?

Thoughts and ideas are very welcome!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sumptuous be thy name

I have created a big, fat ring from recycled 14 carat gold, featuring a large and amazing facet cut prasiolite, a facet cut emerald and a diamond.  It’m allowed to boast because this ring is truly very, very special!

It started with Lisbeth approaching me with some old gold rings. She didn’t wear them anymore and would like something new made of the precious metal and the stones. “But surely” was my answer, and hence we designed a ring based on the big prasiolite that one of her rings, a very old fashioned 70’s model, held .

I used a model which I had previously made for another ring, ensuring that it was the approximate size. Gold doesn’t shrink as much as silver does, at least that is my experience, so the size must be relatively correct. So, here we are, with all the rings of 14 carat, a small one of 8 carat, my gold scraps from previous projects and a bit of 22 carat wire to balance out the 8 carat. Higher carat = nicer color.

This is the setup with the mould still open plus the model  after having being removed from the mould.

Point of no return has been passed here – we have a nice, softly moving glob of molten gold. The trick is to heat it for a while longer after it has molten in order to bring up the temperature to a good flow – and in order to stirr together the different carats by lightly tapping the melting bowl onto the surface.

When the metal has been poured, the oily sand gives of a soft fume – fairly decorative IMO.

And now the moment of truth: Did it flow as it should? Do we have a solid ring? Yes we do!

After rinsing of the sand, this is what it looks like. Not overly charming to be sure…

However, removing the casting cone and filing it smooth improves the ring a lot! This is beautiful in its own right. Perhaps with a flush set stone or three… 

But that was not what this project was about, and hence I created a cone-shaped bezel setting for the stone (which is bright and well-cut enough to bear this kind of dark setting), sawed out a piece of the ring shank and soldered it all together. 

I attached a thick piece of tube for the 3 mm emerald and then for the curl. Always a bit tricky to solder it on exactly as I want it, and so I used two self locking tweezers to hold it in place. It’s my experience that it’s easier to work with the curl by attaching one end first and then bringing it around to a good finish – instead of fiddling around forever with tweezers to make it fit.

I soldered the other end of the curl and then the ball to hold the diamond.

Here we are – all the soldering and pickling over and ready for finishing polish/surface treatment and setting. Note that I have already cut the seat for the prasiolite.

The end result… stunning! At least I think so!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Artistic insomnia

I’m not the only one lying sleepless at night because ideas keep on manifesting themselves in the overly tired brain. I know. But at 3 AM in the morning, after 4 hours of patchy sleep, the world is a big, dark and quiet place and so thoughts do tend to take up a lot of space and I do feel a bit alone. But… who hasn’t been fighting inner ghosts in the middle of the night?

Luckily, these days I’m mostly awake because my brain refuses to shut down, when it’s just having a juicy new idea to warp, bend and shape. Very good, but I do need sleep and hence I have tried different strategies:
  1. Getting up and drawing the damn thing (over and over) to get it out of my head. It helps, but sometimes it just sparks new ideas and then I’m back to square one
  2. Taking a shower. Kind of resets everything. Works quite well too, unless it’s too late in the night/early in the morning – then I’m just even more awake
  3. Have my boyfriend “teddy” me (he cuddles me thoroughly, which is very comforting)
  4. Earplugs (I’m a very light sleep and wake up at any noise, but I also find them quite uncomfortable)

I am sharing this tendency of insomnia with my aunt Barbara, who is currently visiting me from South Jutland. We both love Art Nouveau and most definitely have the same artistic blood running in our veins. Barbara has for decades been creating the most amazing pieces of decorative artwork, painting large hat boxes, smaller wooden boxes and very pretty oval brooches and I admire her work immensely. I have given her the key to my workshop, enabling her to go there and work when I’m at my other daytime work and she has made herself a very nice corner, working partly at the table and partly on the window seat.

 It’s so cozy to work in the same room as her. Mostly we are quiet, deeply concentrating on our respective work and listening to some quiet classical music. Once in a while we take a break and share our development and other thoughts.

Barbara surely "developes" her work at top speed, now she's in a working frenzy. And what beautiful work! This is how far she got yesterday, being very productive indeed. I’m expecting her to finish up most of these today.

So what will it look like when it’s done? Much more layered and detailed. Here is some of her previous work, including an amazing hat box which she made especially for me. Perhaps we’ll open an Etsy shop selling her pieces. Do you think she would succeed?

I am writing this in the morning. It’s 7:30 AM and both of us have been awake for some time, ideas churning. My aunt is up and about to leave the home to go to the workshop and I’ll meet her there in the afternoon. Oh what bliss to share the passion for creating beauty with someone so close to my heart!