Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Musical Sweep Pin

I have forgotten just how much fun designing pins and broaches can be. The broach designer doesn't have nearly the functional restrictions that the ring designer has. I guess one could nearly do “anything” and then put a pin back finding on it and call it a broach.

This piece was a commissioned by a gentleman in Port Townsend, Washington. He had found this very singular piece of “turtle back rock” while beach combing. The way the matrix fades from top to bottom really fascinated him. He asked me to make a broach for his wife using textured sterling and maybe some moonstone pebbles. I added a dot of blue topaz to help “punch” up the blue in the moonstone. The “sweep” that the moonstone is mounted onto is made of classical sterling while the rest of the piece is made of argentium sterling. The classical sterling takes a dark patina much more dramatically than the argentium and I needed the darkness to make the “play of color” come out in the moonstone.

I'm afraid that I my training in art school was a bit formal and as such nearly all my pieces start as a drawing. As my undergraduate professor C.James Meyer put so bluntly many a time, the most valuable tool any artist has is the ability to draw.

And I have to confess that through the years...knowing where you are trying to go... is a big advantage to bumping along in the dark. Here to the right are some of the final sketchs I made before starting this project in metal.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"and water cuts rock revisited"

This is the latest in the “and water cuts rock” series. It features a beach pebble that the people in Joyce, Washington call the “chrysanthemum rock”. I like the way the baroque pearls set off the irregularity of the beach rocks. This series has a special meaning for me (see older posts) and I am always thrilled when I see a rock tumbling along in the surf that seems a good candidate.

I do remember the moment I found this particular piece. I was so busy chasing it as it scurried back towards the surf in the receding wave that I broke a cardinal rule of walking in the surf zone. Never turn your back on the ocean. The next wave cut my feet out from under me and I took a good spill into the swirling icy foam. By the time I regained my footing Mama Pacific had reclaimed my bucket, sunglasses, walking stick and a good measure of dignity.

As I picked myself up and took stock of what had just happened I realized that I still had that little piece of “chrysanthemum rock” clutched in my fist. I slowly backed away towards dry land with the chuckling sound of the ocean slowly being replaced by the chorus of laughter from my friends on the warm sandy beach. Pat, Debbie and my buddy Ed said it was one of the funniest stunts I had pulled off yet…a one half turn with a nose plant finish.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Who is "Solarsally"?

I have a 1957 Chevy pickup that my two boys Matt and Chris and myself have worked on for about 18 years now. There is always one thing or another to be done on the old girl but she just keeps on “keeping on”. We have spent many a night sleeping in her bed starring up at the stars with hot rocks from the fire wrapped in an old army blanket at our feet. We visited oh so many subjects talking about one thing or another, as the nights would wear on.

Originally she was called “Sally Greene”. The truck was from Eagle Rock, MO and was a deep powdery forest green. Sally was my grandmother’s name and the truck was green. We decided to use the extra “e” because…well…we could. Our fishing trips were often recorded in her flanks with one dent or another. Then the weekend after would be one of repair and repaint. Layer after layer the summers would wear on. Then one day came the inevitable…the engine rebuild.

Sally Greene had her engine rebuilt during a solar eclipse and that was not an "event slash coincidence" to go un-noted. So after she came back out of the shop…we repainted her and started treating her slightly better. Now she sports a flashy (almost tawdry) turquoise color and a very shiny finish, but make no mistake, this is still a lady o' the woods. She continued to made all of our fishing trips…but now we tried to find a kinder way to get her to the water’s edge. She became “Solarsally”, a true lady of the back roads and byways of Arkansas and Tennessee.

Today Solarsally lives in Washington State and this was her day to get a new rebuilt starter. She had a new clutch, pressure plate, throw out bearing, and re-surfaced flywheel last week. I tossed in a set of new rear view mirrors and sound deadening pads. Oh sweet joy…she is purring like a kitten in warm arms. Albeit I have the busted knuckles to testify to the events I still love every moment I’m in this old truck.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

" Wave Length " A new piece.

This is a new piece that I just finished yesterday for the Sequim Arts Small Art Show. To qualify as small art the piece had to be 8” by 10” or smaller. I used an 8” X 8” square format turned as a diamond. I have recently been doing some research into the South Seas Stick Charts used by some Polynesian sailors. You can see some of that influence here in this piece I have named “Wave Length”.

I have used fir for the wooden parts. I severely stressed the soft summer grain with a sand blaster in the first “wave”. The second wave of wood has been gold leafed with a pine colored sizing in the background. While the third wave is a sheet of raised copper with a bit of the sawdust sprinkled onto the patina while it was still wet. This third wave is set with a “Tri-arc” broach with a black beach rock. The broach is removed and borrowed for your personal adornment and then returned to it’s “home” after you are through wearing it.

The idea of making a special environment for some of these jewelry pieces came from watching an individual literally throw jewelry into a cigar box when she was finished wearing a piece. Having spent a great deal of time and effort into conceiving and building the pieces, I found myself becoming increasingly annoyed at this on-going activity. So the idea of expanding the jewelry into a larger physical unit came into being.

I love the opportunity to continue an idea into a larger format and still keep some of the classical definition and criteria of the jewelry intact. Anyway…it was fun and quick exercise.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New earrings this week

It was a fun week in the studio. The hands and the ideas were playing well together and there were no big problems to get in the way. Well... the portable hand wash station keeps leaking all over the studio floor but we can simply unplug that and it will wait for another day.

I have had these two pieces of turtle back rock material for several months now (see the image on the left). I was going to make another "and water cuts rock" pendant from them but I used a piece of chrysanthemum rock instead. I wanted to juxtapose some baroque pearls with the turtle back material to set off the "bumps". The idea of a pair of earrings gave me the opportunity to use twice as many pearls and the concept flew onto the sketchbook and things just took off on their own after that initial representation. Sometimes drawing an idea before it as had time to jell is like talking about a dream. The act of visualizing it changes it to the point that it is nowhere near what it was in your head. In this case nothing got in the way. It just went from an idea to a drawing and then into a piece.

The black basalt and red jasper earrings on the right are what I call "fifties streamline". I feel it harkens back to the look of a fifties corvette. It is what "streamline" was before the science of aerodynamics redefined the word. These earrings were a treat to put together. The mat surface of the basalt adds a purity and starkness to the overall design. They are now with their new owner at home in La Conner, Washington.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunland Garden Party

We all had a very grand time getting to know each other in spite of the garden party being forced inside. There may have been an early dampening of the spirit outside but things inside were warm and hospitable indeed.

There was a lot of chatter over the new pearl and black beach rock pieces. It has turned out to be a stunning combination. I think the baroque freshwater pearls add a wonderful contrast to the weathered beach rocks. The luster of the Argentium sterling silver brings everything together.

A big “thank you” to Gin Friess and Karen Bulkeley for their help in making this delightful event possible. And a thank you to all that attended. We sincerely enjoyed meeting all of you. Next year we promise to have it earlier in the year so the “garden” part can actually happen.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A visit to Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis has always been a special place for us to visit for a number of reasons. You will find the dining is great as Memphis has the best bar-b-q pork in the world...sorry Texas...sorry St. Louis...but there is excellent bar-b-q every couple of blocks here. We have had many favorites but Mrs. Paine’s on Lamar Avenue in down town and the ever-popular Central bar-b-q on Central Avenue in mid-town have got to be at the top of our list.

This trip was particularly neat because after over six years of missing him one way or another...we finally got Kim Roberts number one guy, Steve to do a portrait of us. He is a very gifted photographer that has been in the area for years. He has had the opportunity to make images of many a musician. You need but pick up a copy of RSVP magazine to see his work. I think he brought out the very best in Pat and I. It was a bit of insanity that made me strike a poise for the “Hemmingway” look in the image on the right. Oh well...I guess it was one of those things that I just had to do at least once. Please visit his website and seek him out if you ever find yourself in his hometown. http://www.steverobertsphoto.com/biography/index.php

And as always...The National Ornamental Metals Museum is a must see on any trip that gets near Memphis. Tucked away under the "Old Bridge" is a small collection of buildings from an old Veteran's Army hospital. These were set aside and restored to house a very special collection of people, talents and metals arts. Although the main focus is on heavier ornamental forged and cast metal pieces the grounds feature a wide and constantly changing array of metal sculptures. With the mighty Mississippi River rolling on just down the embankment as a backdrop, it is hard to find a more beautiful and spectacular setting at sunset.

The second week in October has always been "Repair Days" at the Metals Museum a moment (okay…it’s really a three day weekend that often gets stretched into four days) each year when metal artisans come from all over the country to “camp out” on the campus and repair items that the general public brings in. This rag tag army of volunteers works to the mantra that they will fix anything at all “but cats...cars and broken hearts”.

It rained this year…it always does…but you couldn't have found a more heart-warming group of people if you tried. On Saturday night after a hardy meal and toasts to the ones that were not there, the restraints came off and spirit of the weekend came to a crescendo during the live auction. Holly Fisher of Smartshop Metal Arts Center, Kalamazoo, MI was the main auctioneer you can see her as the “iron queen” in this image. She is always a big hit and can easily whip the audience into a frenzy with her quirky nature and sharp wit. She seems to always have just the "right" thing to say about each item. But even this seasoned crowd was temporarily taken back...you see the bidding had slumped for a moment and the tempo needed to be recaptured...Holly off-handedly suggested that “Logan” take off his shirt to model a stunning hand woven silver necklace that was on the block. Well he

did…and the necklace received a very nice bid…but it took a few moments for some of us to…shall I say…catch our breath. I must say after all these many years of attending "Repair Days" I am still not totally prepared for the goings on. Later there was what has got to be one of the largest preparations of the dessert “bananas foster” that I have ever seen to top of the formal offerings for the evening. That by no means that anyone "camped" on the grounds really retires. The party just breaks down into many smaller groupings. So as the crackle and snaps of the several impromptu campfires send columns of “stars” into the night sky another “Repair Days” began to wind down. Did I mention it was a weekend like this about fifteen years ago that made me realize that I needed to learn more about blacksmiths and the iron arts? Jewelry by itself was never going to be enough again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wing on Wing

These earrings and matching pendent are my tribute to the sailing maneuver often referred to as “wing on wing”. It is a down wind set that is both beautifully symmetric and deceptively calming and still as the vessel glides thru to seas at very nearly the same speed as the wind. It is ironically also one of the more tense sets for the captain. The slightest change in the wind can cause the boom to “sweep the deck” as it snaps to the opposite side. Only the keenest eye and constant vigilance by the captain to the wind and sail can avoid a mishap.

Both the earrings and pendent have been “roller printed” with fine brass screening to bring out the canvas detailing in the 18 karat green gold sail. The other sails and the rest of the pieces are hand constructed of argentium sterling silver. The “mast” in this series is solid metal that has been turned to create the round tapers you see here.

“Wing on Wing” is also available in all argentium sterling silver both as earrings and pendent.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival 2009

Always a delight to attend, the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival was held this last weekend in absolutely beautiful weather. My wife Pat and I helped host an exhibit by Michael Berman at the Pope Building waterside of the harbor. This exhibit, which also included "Transatlantic Passage", was called “Wooden Boats and the Sea”.

Michael Berman is a talented marine photographer with an uncanny knack for capturing those quintessential moments in a sailboats’ run. His exquisite images frame some of the West Coasts finest wooden boats with the magnificent coastline of Washington. On occasions I have been fortunate enough to pilot the craft he uses as his photographic platform. This leaves him free to bound from side to side, fore and aft taking images as he calls out piloting instructions. It is no easy task to be in the right place at the right time among these canvas and wooden behemoths of the seas.

I sailed a “day sailor” many years ago and love the science, math and engineering involved in sailing. Piloting Michael’s craft and seeing these wondrous schooners from his point of view has rekindled my interest in sail power. The pureness of form and the romance of the sea together with the regal ness of these grand old dames of the maritime are emotional investments that demand a revisit by me. I look forward to what new pieces of jewelry these new references will inspire.

Monday, August 17, 2009

the beach rocks garden art..."beach stacks" hose guards

the beach rocks garden art..."beach stacks"...these are the hose guards that we make to keep the garden hose out of your plantings when you move the hose from place to place. They make the cutest little squeak when they spin. I will be posting more about how these are made as well as additional images in a few days. The “beach stacks” are our little tributes to those cairns that you often see people building at the beach. But, in this case we have drilled a hole through the middle of each rock so it will spin on a long secure stake when the hose touches it. This causes the hose to glide by, accompanied by a chorus of squeaks and avoid the garden. We have topped each stack with what we call an “improbable”. That’s because it is very improbable that you could get a rock to stand like this without some serious help. As always, the beach rocks are collected from various places on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"and water cuts rock"

This Saturday’s Port Townsend Market was of particular interest to me. I was able to introduce a piece I call “and water cuts rock”. It is a bit of a play on words as many of my titles are these days. It recalls the old game of “paper, rock, scissors” but it is a tribute to the fact that given enough time…a river of water will cut through a mountain of rock. This simple geological fact still fascinates me.

The argentium sterling silver in these pieces has a texture called coining. The highlights from this texture remind me of the shimmer of sunlight on the surface of rapids. The beach rocks have been cut in to two pieces then tilted and separated by a wedged shaped space. The pieces are reassembled using the “post and pad” method. This means that both side of the beach rock has been drilled to receive a post of argentium and it is also attached on a pad. This is the preferred method for securely attaching fine pearls to findings and it seems appropriate here as well.

I found it gratifying that about 25% of the visitors went to these pieces first. Both pieces are on they way to a new home in Tacoma, Washington. I have several other beach rocks already prepared for this same treatment, one of which is a turtle back rock. I can hardly wait to see how they turn out.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"the beach rocks" Argentium sterling silver rings

I have started making a line of straight forward “the beach rocks” rings. They all have a round wire shank and a fully closed back made of argentium sterling silver. The bezel is made of fine silver. I have gone to great effort to make the finish on the pieces as fine as possible. The result is that people that handle them often use the word “buttery” to describe them. These rings feature beach rocks found along the Olympic Peninsula here in Washington State. The backs of these beach rocks have been ground flat to make them much more stable in the mounting. But other than that, they are just the way the ocean offered them up on the shore.

The ring in the middle of the above photograph is set with what the people on the “West End” of the peninsula call a “turtle back jade”. It is a relatively rare find to see one this size, as they are usually found much larger. It is well to note that this beach rock has little to do with the gemstone “jade” apart from the color.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

2009 Sequim Arts Artist Tour/Lavender Festival

Wow what an intense three days. Lavender Festival 2009 was a huge success for us in spite of the festival coinciding with this year’s second biggest and longest windstorm. We had four days of 15mph plus winds all day long with Saturday’s winds gusting to 28 mph. Oh well.

At least nothing serious was damaged and …well it didn’t rain. An early bit of good news was that because I got up so very early each morning to get ready…I eliminated two of my garden gophers. Those fellow gardeners out there will quickly realize how gratifying a morning that can turn out to be.

The rest of the good news is that we were blessed with a steady, constant and inquisitive group of visitors. The Sequim Arts Artist Tour is all about allowing visitors an opportunity to visit a working artist’s studio and see the environment in which the art is conceived and produced. Many of the artists had demonstrations and all had open studios.

Ours, Dungeness Studios introduced a new group of pieces we called the “Coin Series”. This new group features very heavy texturing on various areas of the earrings. I have always heard of this type of texturing referred to as coining. It is often seen on the side of metal money pieces to detect if anyone has attempted to “shave” any material off the coin. We have modified the technique to bring out some sparkle. It reminds me of the play of sunlight over moving water. This series of earrings also includes colored gemstones like “Madeira citrine, peridot, tiger eye and rhodolite garnet.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I first went to art school to be a furniture designer. I dearly loved the warm sensual look of carefully oiled and hand rubbed wood and the idea of creating an object that interacted so closely with the human experience intrigued me.

Things seem to be going along fairly well and although I still had not found my “voice” by any means at all…I was still slowly evolving into a look of my own. I had devolved a small fledging vocabulary of lines. I was just beginning to see the lay of the land before me when I started to notice a disturbing common physical trait among the instructors and visiting artists I was studying under. They all seemed to have bits and pieces of their hands missing. Nothing really horrific but the end of a digit here and a long scar along a finger there but it was a definite common thread among these individuals. They would belly laugh and joke amongst them selves about how they almost lost a hand in the 12 inch planner or how the grinder had “snatched” the wood chisel out of their hand and impaled it into their chest. Well those images along with the incessant high-pitched scream of the power tools had me looking for other artistic avenues to express myself. Wood working for it time honored image of being an extremely laid-back art form was way to fast lane for the likes of me.

After my wood working experience I had a brief but extremely intense sojourn into the world of one off glass blowing. Glasswork is still the most “romantic” art form I have ever encountered. I wanted to be drinking red wine, eating cheese, hard breads and fruit from a red and white checked bandana the whole time I was in the furnace room waiting my turn at the dance before the oven. Working with hot glass those days meant having someone that cared about you showing up every few days to make sure you were still okay and to refill that bandana. I’d still be there to this day but for President Jimmy Carter getting into a “pissing match” with the Soviet Union over us selling them wheat and who was going to sent teams to the Olympics games in Moscow. This international conflict resulted in a dramatic spike in natural gas prices. The sky rocketing cost of fuel had the university shutting down the ovens in just a few days. By the time six months had gone by and the price of glass melting fuels got back to normal I had found my way into the jewelry studios. Which at that time were called the metals labs.

the beach rocks

the beach rocks
Although I have been lucky enough to receive many accolades and awards during my professional career as a jewelry designer, I was nearly always fulfilling a commission and therefore the aesthetical concerns of my client. Now that I have relocated to the great NorthWest I am pursuing my own images for the first time since graduate school…and loving my craft with a renewed spirit.

deep currents

deep currents
This was inspired by the way the river's currents swirl around the rocks that sit on the bed of the river.

in the kelp bed

in the kelp bed
At times I let my mind wander to what is happening below...in the depths of the kelp beds. I image how the cold waters waft and drift along. I like to think about the serenity of life in the kelp beds.

two six rings

two six rings
We called these rings "six ring" because when you see then from the side...in profile...they reminded us of the number six.