Sunday, February 28, 2010


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing. Now I'll upload a little post entry with text whenever I upload a picture - or at lest that's how I understood it. We'll see :-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looking over the shoulders of the tattooing artists

I admit it: I watch LA Ink. I’m fascinated by this show! I don’t have a tattoo, and even though I want one and will also have it made at some point, I could never go to the extremes that these people do. But that is also why I’m so fascinated by them. They take it to the max, and then some. These people make a living by their own creativity and are a fantastic combination of artists and craftsmen/women.
When I saw their sketching technique I was immediately intrigued: First they draw a very loose sketch with many lines, correcting themselves over and over with a colored pencil. And then they put tissue paper over it and make the “real” sketch, which of cause comes out way neater. But actually I like the combination. The moment where you see both versions lined up – the rough, very alive and growing sketch and the finished drawing that picks up all the best lines and details and crystallizes them into the best possible version.
I want that too! I said to myself, and took it as an excuse to visit my favorite paper/pen/architecture-model-material shop and went wild buying different green pens (yup, you guessed it – green is my favorite color ;-) plus a fresh black one.
The next day, I had got a custom order for a ring featuring an amazing deeply green tourmaline, set in gold and a few white sapphires. What a perfect opportunity to test my new technique! So, here we are: the many versions of the ring she wanted:

We settled on the two with the crosses. That is, she gave me free hands to decide the last details as I went along, since sometimes the pieces develop differently when you actually create it. Now I just need to order the gold to get started – I can’t wait :-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Keum boo-hoo

I love the deep and warm luster of gold. Especially high carat gold is so wonderful! I don't however like the price of it. So, what to do, when you want the warmth and sumptuousness of gold and don't have the bucks to pay for it? You gold-plate. But I don't like that. To me it's fake. It's turning silver (or brass for that matter) into something that is designed to look as if it's gold and I really dislike fakes. Leather, stone, wood, metal -whatever, just be the real thing and don't hide what you are. Plastic is a honest material, as long as it doesn't try to look as if it's something else.

But I'm ranting. I was talking about gold. My solution to the thoughts above is to either introduce limited amounts of gold in balls or wires or to partly gild the silver. usually you would use gold leaf and glue it on, but here I again dislike the notion. I want my jewelry to last. Sure it will acquire patina and a few scratches, but II hate the idea of gluing on something, that might come off again a tad too quickly. The solution was keum boo.

Keum boo is a gilding technique said to be invented in Korea, but used through out asia to decorate metallic objects. Here is the recipe:

1) Depleat silver until the surface consistst of only fine silver by repeatedly heating and quenching.
2) heat up the item to be gilded
3) Apply the gold while pressuring it down with a burnisher

Okaythen, I thought. How hard can this be? So I bought some gold leaf (most references said gold foil, but hey -isn't that roughly the same?) and got a small hot plate and I was ready and threw myself into creating a lovely flower for a pendant and "depleated" it thoroughly (most joints re-opened as I heated the piece thoroughly to almost orange). And off to applying, using my torch to heat it up.

Well, first of all, gold leaf is horrible to work with! It's so lightweight and thin, that you can barely breathe when working with it. The heat from the piece made it virtually impossible to force the leaf down onto the surface! I swore and remembered to have heard that some ancient japanese nobles committed suicide by inhaling flakes of gold leaf, which attached itself to the inside of the lungs, hence suffocating the rich man to death -so much more neat and luxurious a death than seppuku, if you feel inclined to go that way...

Anyways - the gold didn't stick very well at all (perhaps I shouldn't have made a coarse surface either) and after 4 layers, I thought that it was okay.

Then I realized I had to make another joint and soldered -bye-bye gold! It almost vanished! Argh!

So I applied another 2 layers, by now quite tired of the whole thing, and when it  still didn't work, I ended up gluing it on. Damn. Not what I wanted. The pendant came out nicely, but i didn't like to put it on sale because of the involved glue.

So, back to research. I now found a number of more specific articles online, the best being the one from the Jewelry Artist

What I learned was:
1) Gold FOIL is necessary! You have to be able to actually cut it with a knife or scissors. So  found a supplier and ordered 10x10 cm of 24 carat gold foil
2) When depleating, it's only necessary to heat until the piece turns dark before quenching and brushing with a brass brush. When the piece doesn't turn dark anymore, it's ready.
3) Have every part cut beforehand
4) Use a hot plate and put the item to be gilded on a sheet of brass or copper and then on the hot plate

So, here we go again, this time a bit simpler: a pair of FLAT earrings!

Here's the gold foil

Here I've cut it out through protective paper

Here they are on the copper sheet ready to be heated

Success! The stuff sticks! A bit hard not to scratch it with the burnisher though, but it's nice!

I engraved some patterns AFTER the keum boo process

After oxydization and finishing, this is what they look like:

More pictures here. I'm happy. It was a tough ride and I was very frustrated, but now I know (roughly) how to work with this technique and will definitely do it again!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feeling blue isn't all that bad

I recently purchased a wonderfull swiz blue topaz. It has a diameter 8 mm, weighs 1.95 ct and is a VVS stone (Very Very Small inclusions = so small you need a microscope to see them. In other words allmost perfect) from Brazil. I have been admiring it for a while and finally got around to give it a worthy setting.

I will do a tutorial on how I do a tapered bezel setting using a bezel block later, hence I won't go into details about that part. In any case I of cause created a tapered bezel to set this stone in -I just find this shape very elegant.

Then I did a fairly simple ringshank (no split and bent parts this time, just the uneven, almost biomorph or grown look that I love so much) and fitted those two parts together (lots of filing and adjusting here)

Now it's a ring – could be used as it is, once the stone is set, but noooo -I want way more details! Details are for instance tiny facet cut stones in tube settings. I had a bunch of white sapphires, chose 3 of slightly different sizes and created tube settings for them all.

And here we are – the ensemble is allmost perfect. Now I only need the curl (no Phantasteria-piece without a curl!) and the golden balls to create a warm contrast to the cool blue of the topaz.

Shaping the wire to create the curl is not especially easy or quick. I run it up in one end and then set out to curl it around the bezel and then into the other direction to make it fit snugly over the ring. Pliers, testing, pliers, testing, pliers -you get the drift. BUT once it's soldered in place, it's finally time to add all the dingly danglies that makes this piece come alive. I have to be carefull though, because they are many and tiny and fall off easily, so patience and a calm hand is needed. First I load one side, glueing it all together with lots of borax flux and plenty of solder in between. Here I'm ready to heat the borax into the glazy state that will enable me to move the ring without the details falling off again.

Which I did here – moved it that is. The other side is ready to be loaded

All the soldering is done and now it's cleanup time, which especially means smoothing out the inside of the ring. I like to otherwise keep a rather coarse look and only polish highlights.

Now onto the final stage of creation: Setting the stones. It's both my favourite part (this is when it truly comes together) but also the most dreaded. All jewellers have all broken stones while learning to set them, and it's still something I fear every time. But that doesn't change the fact that we are talking about metal, which needs a minimum of force to bend to my will. However, this time the disaster wasn't a broken stone when the setting punch slipped. No,  I cut my thumb on one of the (by then) razor sharp tube settings, waiting to recieve their sappires. OUCH! It hurt like hell and bled even more. But I was stubborn and WANTED it done, now! So I carried on and so the ring got temporarily decorated with a splah of red.

Once all was set (and I was properly bandaged) it was off to a little bit of LOS oxydization and some extra thorough cleaning. Two jumps into the ultrasonic cleaner and three vigolous brushings with a antiseptic soap later I was finally satisfied and buffed it up to this:

I imediately got a notion of a warm summerday at the seaside and so babtized it the Seaside Ring, to be bought (until it's gone) here.

Creating jewelry means being tool-inventive

Anyone who has worked for a while in a workshop will know, that you ever so often find yourself in a situation where you need something to help you finish a job and you don't have that wonder-tool around. Sometimes it's because you just don't own one, sometimes because it doesn't exist. In any case, the solution is to create one or find a substitute in order to proceed. I often giggle a bit by myself when I see how I go about it and am thinking ”good thing my customers don't get to see this – they'd never take me or my jewelry serious!”
But then again – we humans would have never evolved to whatever (more or less brilliant) stage we are at currently, if it hadn't been for our creative minds and so I'm okay with it. If it gets the job done, I'm peachy.
So, here are 3 of my latest twists to the toolbox, free for everyone to copy or laugh at ;-)

Roll it baby!
Recently I created a bracelet for the first time in many years and needed a mandrel to support it, while setting the stone. In the wonderful forum on Etsy that I attend with some fantastically skilled and very nice jewelry smiths, it was suggested to use an old baseball bat, if you didn't have a proper bracelet mandrel lying around. Well, I live in Denmark, and the national sport here is soccer and hence, old used baseball bats isn't something more or less everybody can get their hands on. And an air-filled leather ball just won’t cut it I'm afraid, so I had to get inventive and find something else, fast. So here we are. May I present the stone-rolling-pin-come-mandrel? Maybe not the most charming setup, but it worked. Ha!

Perched on a peg soldering
When creating rings like I do with a lot of tiny doo-dads resting on and around the focal stone (and other places), it's impossible to just stack it on and solder it. You have to have some kind of support, mimicking the way the finger eventually will carry the ring. Yes, you can buy lovely soldering pegs for just that purpose, but I just never got around to do that. Instead I ended up sawing and filing a piece of soldering mat so it would roughly fit the curve of the ring -and using another piece to wedge the ring tight so it doesn't move. Some day I'm gonna get a professional one, but this version works reasonably well and I am happy with the end result.

Soothing vanilla saw blades
KLING -another saw blade broke. Argh! Bile is rising and you feel like throwing the piece you are working on through the room and yell something obscene. Grumbling and with a deep soon-to-meet-Botox crease in your forehead you reach out for the batch of yet unbroken saw blades. And all of a sudden, the soothing scent of vanilla, bringing happy memories of ice cream on the beach and that lovely sunset to your mind hits your nostrils. How? Because I am keeping my saw blades in one of those test-tubes that you can buy real vanilla pods in. Once you have scraped out the seeds and used those for something delicious and have blended the left-over and now empty pods with sugar to create luxuriously rich vanilla sugar, you are left with a nice and still very fragrant test tube with lid. Botox has moved a tad further into the future, thanks to using it as a saw blade container :-)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Inspiration or theft?

The cynics claim that everything has already been made at least once. There are no truly new designs and so all of us somehow copy each other. I’m not sure that is the case, but fact is, that we of cause are influenced by many things in our surroundings and work from there. Quite often we see something and go “hmmm… great idea, but if I were to make this I would have….” Now, if you venture into that version of designing –are you a thief or do you actually create something new?
These are the thoughts I have battled as I worked on my newest pair of earrings. I saw this gorgeous pair by the very talented jewelry designer Hikarujewels (I don’t know her real name, but that is the name of her shop at Etsy)

See how gracefully the chains somehow make the wings move? I loved the idea, but wanted to make it even more fairytalish with curls (of cause) and more stones. So I created these:

As you can see, those two pairs are quite close.  Sure the wings have a different design, chains are placed a tad differently and there are way more stones, but still –basically my earrings are the same as Hikarus. So am I a copy cat or do I just humbly honor Hikaru by elaboration on her design?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Uniform individuals

We love jewelry and how it shows off our personal and very individual taste. Currently, we are facing a new generation, who are even more focused on individuality than before. According to Mazlows hierarchy of need, we need to have a lot of basics covered before we can venture into self-realization like we do now, here in the western world. I guess it says something about how spoiled we basically are, that so many of us have reached that top of the pyramid. We all shout “I am unique” just like Monty Pythons “Life of Brian”

So what has all that to do with jewelry? Well, of cause we could all only wear OOAK (one of a kind) jewelry, perhaps even custom made, just for us. But few do that in spite of the fact that it isn't as expensive as many might think - as the items in mine and other Etsyans shops shows. Most just buy whatever they find in the shops, and that jewelry is, for good reasons, mass-produced.

But wait… mass-produced and individuality doesn’t rhyme, right? Right. So the solution is obvious and quite few companies have delved into it: create something consisting of a basic piece of jewelry, that can be mixed and matched with new details or other pieces within the same series. The Danish company Pandora is the champion of this discipline and hence very copied. But also others like Spinning, who create stackable rings have seen the light. The principle with the rings is so simple and obvious, that many have copied the idea. So if you want a handmade version, artists like DonnaOdendesigns (rings), Shopelegante (bracelets) or Avinot  (earrings) have taken up the glove of that battle.

And so have I of cause. I have two versions. One small one  which I designed almost 10 years ago (before Pandora did the same thing –damn, should have gone big then) and a set of large, curly ones, that I love a lot. THESE ones I am the only one doing so far (I think at least…)

No matter what: I too like the versatility of being able to wear my favorite piece with whatever matches my outfit. So I stand up in the crowd and shout along “I’m an individual” ;-)