Wide ginkgo band with multi-color blue sapphires. Lovely lovely lovely.
Archive for July, 2010
[This is what my hand looks like this morning; I feel very decadent when I do this.]
I have a couple of new pieces to show off today: the Poppy Eternity Ring and the Peacock Ring! I’m quite excited about the two pieces and have been wearing them (one, the other, and now this morning: both!) nonstop this past weekend.
First, we have the Poppy. I carved this actually a long time ago as a wedding set for some friends. I only now decided to re-work it to offer in the shop. I decided it might be cool with a few diamonds and so I re-did the poppy buds to hold little 2.5mm diamonds.
I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s now listed in my Etsy shop.
The other ring I just finished is the Peacock Ring. I LOVE it.
This probably looks familiar.. I carved a similar more petite version for Caty’s wedding ring. Carving her ring inspired me to dig out my old peacock ring wax (started years ago but never got very far) and give it another go. The design was a little different though in that I had the peacock’s body on one side, the feather (pretty much like it is now) on the other. It is a lot wider than Caty’s ring but narrow at the base for comfort; I also left the bottom of the ring bare and uncarved. I picked and scratched at it a little and finally decided to cut out the bird altogether, which was just looking a little too scrappy and messing with my clean lines. I recarved it wider on top and made it domed slightly (it’s hollowed out lightly underneath). I’m pretty pleased with the result.
I agonized over whether to put the blue diamond in or a more traditional white one and in the end, I decided that the blue diamond is just so peacocky and cool and used it. It’s 2.5mm—fairly understated but still packs a lot of sparkle.
I don’t want to take it off.
[Underwater Photograph by Fosco Maraini from his book, Hekura, The Diving Girl’s Island.]
I’ve had pearls on the brain lately and it got me to thinking about the ocean, diving, books and movies with diving scenes… specifically, the traditional Japanese women divers, called ‘ama.’
The scene I recall most vividly from a movie is the one from Tampopo. The gangster is at the seaside in his stylin’ cream suit where he sees a young ama, cold and dripping, climbing up onto the rocks with her basket of oysters. She offers him one, he cuts his lip…
I love the last bit where you see the other amas watching from the waves. (Incidentally, if you have never seen this film, you really should—and not just for the oyster porn.)
In another movie scene that comes to mind, the ama are treacherous. The hero dives into the water and encounters a group of them. They surround him and pull away his mask (ama dive without air). There is a strange gang-mentality/siren/dumb-playful group of seals sort of thing going on; they are not specifically trying to kill him but rather just messing with him. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what movie this was. A Bond movie? I know that Kissy Suzuki was supposed to be an ama but I didn’t think I had seen that one.
[Photo by Fosco Maraini.]
Ama traditionally are free divers, almost exclusively women, who dove for seaweed and shellfish (like sea snails, abalone, lobster, oysters). Occasionally the oysters they dove for contained pearls but this was not their goal. Interestingly, it wasn’t until Mikimoto was trying to promote his pearls did he hire ama to “dive” for pearls as a propaganda stunt. Actual be-loinclothed women were a bit too shocking for his upper-crust clientèle, and yet, the image of naked young women wrapped in semi-sheer white fabric free diving into the cold tumultuous ocean to capture the very pearl you wear upon your breast was a compelling one. Mikimoto was a total fucking genius.
[Japanese Ama as realized by Mikimoto. I have to say though, I’m liking the loincloth with the big-ass knife/pry-stick look better.]
Up until the middle 50s-60s, they dove only in loincloths. Then they wore the head-to-knee white outfits you see popularized by Mikimoto. Nowadays real working ama are interested in wearing whatever makes them most visible to boats, which usually is bright orange. Other than that, ama still dive for shellfish and seaweed as they have for 2000 years, with no air and no wetsuits. Obviously, diving with full scuba gear would allow them to stay down all day but they choose not to go this route. Depleting the shellfish population so rapidly would be harmful not only to the environment, but to their own livelihoods. They have struck a rare balance that has endured throughout the centuries and into modernity.
[Harvesting Seaweed, 1956, by Iwase Yoshiyuki. For more amazing photos by this guy, go here.]
[Seriously, my ass is getting kicked just sitting here looking at this photo. Photo by Fosco Maraini.]
“Water temperatures on the Onjuku coast are bearable only between June and September. Large harvests were impossible to haul up in strong currents, so tides had to be favourable, limiting diving days to about 20 per year. Ama dive in three sessions a day, requiring extensive eating and warming at the fireside between runs. A good daily harvest required 60 to 80 dives of up to two minutes each, so ama had to develop and maintain substantial body fat to guard against hypothermia. With such rigors and risks, ama were paid enormous salaries, often making more in the short season than the village men made the whole year. In the late 1920s there were around 200 ama active in Onjuku and the seven harbours of the region (Kohaduki, Ohaduki, Futamata, Konado, Tajiri, Koura and Nagahama). By the late 1960s, they had disappeared.”
[“Around the Fire,” 1931, by Iwase Yoshiyuki. Ama warm up between dives by a fire on the beach.]
I find it intriguing that free diving in cold water is something that most men simply cannot do; generally speaking, women’s bodies can handle cold water stress and mild hypothermia better than men’s. It was, and is, intense, dangerous, and backbreaking work, yet these women love to dive. They are real-life mermaids, every bit as mysterious and powerful and otherworldly as the mythical ones.
This ring came into being when Ghezal sent me a pair of stud earrings she never wore. The pearls were petite Japanese akoyas, and too small for the pearl ring designs I had (I typically use Tahitian and South Sea pearls, which are from a much larger oyster).
I dinked around with some ideas and even carved something that seemed good in my mind, but actualized in purple wax, it was kind of ugly. Then Ghezal said she wanted diamonds too and sent me an old diamond cluster cocktail ring to disassemble. Nothing like a passel of diamonds to sparkle up one’s imagination, and I reworked the design into more of an art deco inspired piece. She also casually mentioned she wanted it two-tone: white gold where the diamonds are and yellow gold for the band part, which at first freaked me out but it turned out to be not as hard as I thought it would be and of course, it’s pretty much awesome.
I love how this ring turned out.
[14K gold, sterling silver, diamond, and lapis rose-motif pendant.]
My sister in law’s family is from Afghanistan, a part of the world renowned for its intense blue lapis. Her father gave her some pieces that he had carried over from the old country (there’s more to the story than that, but maybe she can tell it sometime) and she had me make a few pieces. This is a pendant using a stunning tablet-shaped piece, about 17x23mm. The diamonds are recycled out of an old froofy pom-pom of a cocktail ring.
This piece was a challenge for me, not so much technically but mentally. I had never worked constructing gold before, nor had I done gold AND silver together. I have always been too nervous to construct using gold because of the waste; gold is just too expensive these days. But I got over myself and actually with this piece, I managed to be creative and had very little waste. Also it turns out that soldering gold is a dream come true, especially if you are accustomed to soldering silver.
Here was my design rendering.