Monday, January 21, 2008

New Website

At long last, I have a completely new website. It features mostly my gold collection and newest work. Have a look!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Revisiting an excellent article

I recently re-read an article that was written about me last year in JCK Luxury magazine, which is a jewelry trade magazine. It was such a good article that I think I should put it here. The author is Jennifer Heebner, and the photographer (the photo is above), is Erik Ekroth.


Commonalities between Nepal-­think Kathmandu, Mount Everest, Hinduism-and Natasha Wozniak's hometown of Racine, Wis., are few. So when a National Geographic article about the country and its art (rich in spiritual tales) surfaced during her college years, Wozniak was fascinated. Nepal's allure was sointense that when her school, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started offering yearlong exchanges to the South Asian nation, Wozniak secured one.

As a metalsmith student, her goal was to learn traditional Nepalese Buddhist statuary technique and style through 3-D wax carving and casting. To do so, she bunked in a sleeping bag on the floor of a room housing several other members of a Newar-a tiny Nepalese ethnicity known for sophisticated artwork-family. While privacy in the dwelling was rare, skill proficiency wasabundant, and the family assisted Wozniak with self-designed projects (she didn't work far them).She cast a bronze bell, and made myriad traditi­onal oil lamps like ones found in temples. These were cast from an alloy of 95 percent copper and 5 percent bronze-she thinks. "If they had old faucets lying around, they'd toss those in too,"she recalls about the primitive casting.

A year after graduation, she returned to Nepal and her family of advisors as a Fulbright scholar to "increase mutual understanding ... through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills," according to the mission statement of the government-run program. Her portfolio this time comprised a nine-piece collection of sculpture, all stylized Nepalese objects-rock formations from a valley leading into Tibet, trees because of their importance in Hindu spirituality, and lotus flowers and water in ref­erence to the deity Manjushri and the geogra­phy of the Kathmandu Valley. The pieces met program requirements, and moved Wozniak closer to fulfilling a personal goal: creating a signature style using favorite aspects of conven­tional Asian design.

Now as a seven-year jewelry design veteran, Nepalese influences are obvious in the Wozniak "look"-a curve, a stylized curl cast in sterling or 18k yellow gold with a silky-looking patina. Sinuous and leafy necklaces from the Flourish collection resemble foliage from temple facades, with jasmine and jeweled leaves punctuating junctions much like blossoms do on the vine. Amulet boxes-spiritual vessels made to protect contents-inspire Foliage lockets, in design and ability to house precious possessions. Pear-­cut stones mimic the shape of petals. Even the simplest designs feature subtly twisted shanks that reinforce Wozniak's aesthetic: organic, and influenced by Nepal. "I focus on small details of Asian ornamentation," she says."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The new gold reality

Lions and Tigers and 900 gold, oh my!

It is sure that the runup in gold has reached the ears of most people by now. For those of us in the business of making our work in gold and silver, the recent runup in the precious metals market has given us a deep sinking feeling. Unlike the so-called "goldbugs", who are using a buy, hold, sell approach to gold as an investment, jewelers are much better off when the price is more stable.

Basically, we have to raise prices to keep pace with the market, and that means that just in the past month, that is a 10% increase. Believe me, we don't use this as an excuse to extract more from customers. It is necessary just to keep ourselves from becoming insolvent. If we sell something at an outdated price, we wouldn't be able to replace it with another piece because the amount taken in is less than the cost of making a new one.

Not only is it gold, but silver and platinum as well. I expect that in this year, a great number of jewelry designers and makers will be making very petite designs. The challenge will be to get a more substantial look without a substantial use of metals. I am sure that people involved in jewelry making in the early 80's have some insight into this.

As for myself, I am working on a very new collection of work. I will most likely be recycling some heavy gold pieces into work that has gold accents with silver. Trying to use this challenge to stretch my design skills seems to be the best approach.

For anyone with old gold or platinum jewelry that is not worn or is broken, etc, it would be a really good time to think about selling it off for the precious metal value. Keeping in mind, of course, that gains from small amounts are offset by the refining fee.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hit the ground running

Here I am, just a few days into the new year and I am already running up against sleep deprivation. Well, not that I didn't know it would happen. As most of my work is found in galleries and stores, I participate in two shows in February that cater to stores and galleries that feature handmade work. So, on February 13th, at the crack of dawn, I am off to Philadelphia to show my work. On the 18th, that show ends at 3Pm and I have to be in Baltimore by 8PM, ready to do it again. I am still waiting to see if I will get into the retail portion of the Baltimore show, which would mean 11 straight days in my booth, with the last 3 being open to the public.

I also got a call from the organizers of the Germantown Show, also in Philadelphia, that I have gotten into he show, off of the wait list. That will be the weekend after Baltimore. Then, the following weekend....the SNAG conference! What a month I will have.

I might have bit off more than I can chew, but I am going to be showing almost all new work at the show, as well as a completely redesigned booth. In the meantime, I am working on a new website, which will reflect the new work that I have been doing. My last website is from 2002, and while the photos have been updated, I don't feel that the overall site has kept pace with what I am doing.

So, the blog will be maintained to the best of my ability. I will try to post some sneak peaks at the new work.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Michael Sturlin

Michael at work
While in Arizona, I made a trip to Scottsdale to visit Michael Sturlin in his home studio. He is known for using crochet gold combined with hand-fabricated settings in his pieces. His approach usually begins with alloying and milling out his own stock. Although it is time-consuming compared to buying stock from a refiner, it is possible to understand the characteristics of various metals and alloys through these processes.
melting the gold in the crucible

I have been having some trouble with cracking as I tried to make gold sheet out of scrap, so Michael kindly gave me an ingot pouring demonstration. Even though it is possible to read about and understand this procedure on without a demonstration, sometimes it is little details that you can pick up while watching that make all the difference.

The classroom

Michael is currently focused mostly on conducting classes and workshops, as well as giving private lessons and consultations. He was in the middle of preparing some samples, using forging as a main technique to form rings and bracelets. He also had forged components that he has students create, encouraging them to think about how they can combine and transform some simple forms and make them into an entire line of jewelry.

forged bracelet samples

forged ring samples, the traditional way to make ring mounts for a solitaire ring

Michael has a strong affinity to Thailand, as his wife is from that country, but also preceeding their relationship Some of the techniques he uses have been influenced by his work with Thai goldsmiths. In THailand, Ganesha is considered to be the patron god of the arts, which is different than the Indian idea of Ganesha as the remover of obstacles. In his studio, Michael has a nice collection of Ganesha statues.