video by Berlian Arts
The marks left by different processes fascinate me. I like to treat these 'fingerprints of the process' like ornamentation or texture, and often design pieces to show off the unique textures a particular process creates. Most of the pieces I make are cast or include cast elements. I use two different casting processes; sand casting and lost wax casting.
Sand casting is a common industrial process. It is how car motors, cast iron pans, and iron pipe fittings are made. Put simply, a specially mixed sand is packed around a master model called a 'pattern'. The pattern is then carefully removed and molten metal is poured into the resulting cavity. I make my patterns from wood, wax, plastic or metal.
Sand casting leaves a rich surface texture and makes for a lot of variation piece to piece. It is well suited for simple forms which will showcase this variation. I pour my own sand castings, and regularly teach workshops on the process.
Lost Wax Casting
Lost wax casting is a common jewelry casting technique. In this process a master model is used to make a mold from rubber. Molten wax is injected into this mold. After a bunch of wax parts have been injected they are then affixed to a central wax shaft. This assembly is called a ‘sprue tree’, because each individual wax sticks out like a branch. The sprue tree is then encased in a special plaster to make the final mold. Once the mold sets it is put in a kiln to melt out the wax and fully set the plaster. Molten metal is then poured in.
Lost wax casting can create smaller & more complicated pieces than sand casting. I use lost wax casting for more sculpted designs & for clasps. Though I have the skills to lost wax cast, I choose to have these castings poured by a company in Rhode Island; it makes more sense financially and gives me more time to focus on design. I make the master, they mold it and cast multiples in metal, then I do the clean up work in-house.
Many of my necklaces and bracelets also involve cord of some kind, all of which I treat in some way. Different pieces will come on cord that is Machine Braided, Cotton, or Hand Braided.
Machine Braided Cords
These cords are very tough, and suitable for 24/7 wear. They are fine to wear in the water; shower, swimming, walking in the rain, etc..
I use machine braided cord on brass necklaces and bracelets. This cord I purchase by the spool from a marine supply company. It is very consistent & tremendously strong. To give it more character I treat the cord with wax, using a machine I built for the purpose. The waxing makes a huge mess, so I usually do a whole lot of cord at once. For the brown, dark, and grey cords I hand dye them before waxing.
The finished cord is slick but not sticky, and slightly stiff, becoming more supple with wear. The tan colored cord will lose it’s slight pinkness over time, eventually fading to a grey color. The particular shade of grey is dependent on your lifestyle and body chemistry. I have been wearing a Token Necklace 1 on tan cord for the last 6+ years. It has faded to a grey best described as ‘Mad Max chique’, but structurally is still tough as hell. Machine braided cords are knotted to the clasps using a modified blood knot.
Cotton cord is also tough, but not as strong as the synthetics. Technically cotton will break down faster if you wear it in the water, but I honestly don't worry about it. Replacements are available if you are able to wear through yours.
I purchase 3-strand 100% cotton cord from a company in Tennessee. For some pieces I have it dyed with live indigo by Port Fiber, a local fiber arts shop here in Portland. For other pieces I treat it with beeswax, like the machine braided cords. Cotton cords are not as strong as nylon or polyester cords, but still last a good long time. I have been wearing a Sister clasp necklace on indigo dyed cotton cord 24/7 for going on two years now. It is looking pretty mangy (which I love), but still nice and strong.
Hand Braided Cords
These cords I hand braid from waxed polyester. They are very tough, and suitable for 24/7 wear. They are fine to wear in the water; shower, swimming, walking in the rain, etc..
I use hand braided cord on my shibuichi & sterling silver pieces, or on brass pieces as a special order. Hand braiding is done using a kumihimo loom called a marudai. Think ‘donut on a tripod’. Each strand of the braid is on a weighted bobbin, and all the stands are attached to a counterweight. The counterweight goes through the middle of the donut & the bobbins hang around the outside. By moving the bobbins around in a pattern the braid is created. The counterweight and the weight of the bobbins maintain the tension as you go. The process requires focus but is very relaxing. I do some of the braiding and some of it is done by talented friends.
I used waxed polyester for most braids. I buy it by the spool from a company based here in Maine The colored options fade very little with wear. They start out stiff but soften quickly, especially if worn in the shower. The tan hand braided cord fades grey in a similar way to the tan machine braided option described above. The hand braided cords are very tough. To date I have had ONE wear out on a customer. They wore it 24/7 for 5+ years working carpentry, rock climbing, welding etc. I have a friend who has been wearing a pelican clip on hand braided cord for 10+ years, and her's is still going strong.
You do NOT want to wear leather in the water. Leather is very strong but it will break down faster if it regularly gets wet. If you are someone who sweats a lot it is not a bad idea to treat your leather pieces with a bit of oil. There are numerous oils and waxes available for making leather more water resistant. Use whatever you can get your hands on.
Most of my pieces are available in brass, shibuichi, and sterling silver. Gold is available by special order. I generally use machine braided cordage on the brass pieces but can make them on hand braided cord as a special order. Shibuichi, silver, and gold pieces are available strictly on hand braided cord.
An alloy of copper and zinc. Brass has a lemony-yellow color. Over time brass with develop a warm matte surface, with shine on the high spots. In low areas it may go dark, or even green, depending on how often you wear it and your particular body chemistry. Brass can be chemically patinated to a very dark black/brown, which will wear through on the high spots. If you would like your piece to be patinated I can do so for a small fee. Please contact me before ordering.
Shibuichi is an alloy of copper and pure silver. Copper is rather soft, and fiendishly difficult to cast because it cools very quickly from molten to solid. Adding a bit of silver (~15%) to the melt increases the fluid range and makes casting process more manageable and increases the metal's durability.
Shibuichi has a beautiful rosy color, and takes a dark eggplant-color patina. Over time this patina will wear away on the high spots and the rose of the base metal will show through. If you stop wearing your piece for a while the dark patina will come back, only to wear away again with more wear. Shibuichi can also be etched, creating a functionally silver-plated surface, which will wear through to reveal the raw metal over time. If you would like your piece to be silver plated I can do so for a moderate fee. Please contact me to discuss before ordering. Shibuichi is a bit more expensive than brass or bronze.
An alloy of fine silver and a tiny splash of copper. Pure silver is very soft, and not strong enough for most jewelry applications. The addition of copper (~7%) greatly increases its strength.
Sterling silver has a silvery color like the surface of a mirror. Over time it will patina somewhat in the low spots and the high spots will buff to a warm luster. Sterling silver can be chemically patinated to a rich black, which will wear through on the high spots over time. If you would like your piece to be patinated I can do so for a small fee. Please contact me before ordering.
I do not keep much gold (if any) in stock, but I can make most of my pieces in gold as special orders. Please contact me using the link at the top to discuss.