Archive for 2010


Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I have some new stuff coming soon.. In the meantime, here’s a photo of a ring that I found last night while browsing the internets and which I think is about the raddest thing ever:

Kevin Coates, Yseult

God I love it. The quality of the fabric rendered in gold is awesome and I love the light patina the gold has——makes the wrap look like soft and unbleached like raw linen. The artist is Kevin Coates, and the piece is titled Yseult (Isolde of Tristan and Isolde fame). Here’s what he had to say about it,

A few years ago, I received one of those intriguing little boxes in the post which usually celebrate the remote cutting of a wedding-cake. Upon opening it, the box, bereft of nuptial crumbs, cradled instead a lonely baroque pearl, shyly featuring not one, but two, ‘nipples’. The charming accompanying note from a fellow jeweller, well-known for her wonderful work with pearls, said that she thought that I may be able to think of something to do with it. It remained fallow, but not forgotten, for some time, until the idea for this ring about Yseult (for Wagnerians: Isolde) occurred.

I bisected the orphan gem in order to liberate the two wanton nipples, and although the refractory qualities of mother-of-pearl differ from the superficial aspects of pearls themselves, I managed to find a good colour and nacre-density match from which to carve the segment of face.

The power of drapery to conceal and reveal, to reserve and to promote, is immense – here I also wanted it to stifle and restrict, to reflect Yseult’s fatal love for Tristan. That was a passion destined never to be celebrated with its wedding cake… SOURCE

I really want to start expanding my carving to include other substances rather than casting wax. Unfortunately, I fear change and much of my hesitance is due to stress over not knowing what tools to use, what to try to carve first… All dumb stuff I can probably solve in three minutes with google.

In the meantime, I’ll just continue idolizing other awesome carvers out there and dream of trying my hand someday. Soon, I think.

quinn’s ring

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

14K carved ginkgo leaf and sapphire eternity band

Wide ginkgo band with multi-color blue sapphires. Lovely lovely lovely.


Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

18K poppy eternity ring and peacock feather ring (with blue diamond)

[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.

Carved poppy and diamond eternity ring in 18K gold

Carved poppy and diamond eternity ring in 18K gold

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.

Carved peacock feather ring with blue diamond in 18K gold

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.

Carved peacock feather ring with blue diamond in 18K gold

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.

Carved peacock feather ring with blue diamond in 18K gold

I don’t want to take it off.


Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Japanese Ama, Photo by Fosco Maraini

[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.

Japanese Ama, Photo by Fosco Maraini

[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 Pearl Divers

[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

[Harvesting Seaweed, 1956, by Iwase Yoshiyuki. For more amazing photos by this guy, go here.]

ama diving in loincloth

[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.”

I took the quote from here—an interesting read—but I can’t actually find the original author. Here’s a brief and very good article about ama.

Around the Fire, 1931, by Iwase Yoshiyuki

[“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.

ghezal’s ring

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Two-tone 14K, diamond, Japanese Akoya pearl, art deco inspired ring

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.

Two-tone 14K, diamond, Japanese Akoya pearl, art deco inspired ring

Two-tone 14K, diamond, Japanese Akoya pearl, art deco inspired ring

Two-tone 14K, diamond, Japanese Akoya pearl, art deco inspired ring

I love how this ring turned out.

ghezal’s pendant

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

14K gold, sterling silver, diamond and lapis rose pendant

[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.

14K gold, sterling silver, diamond and lapis rose pendant

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.

"watercolor and pencil rendering: 14K, silver, diamond, lapis pendant

thank you everyone!

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I’ve just finished up my last convo of the evening and I just wanted to plant a wet beery kiss upon everyone who took time out of their lives to not only look at my work, but send me messages telling me how much they liked it! I’m totally overcome, I tell ya. Anyway, thank you all so much. You all seriously made my last couple of days!

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about: dude. My moment of fame.)

etsy featured seller: ME!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

This is so freaking exciting! My two days to shine are happening as we speak and I’m on Etsy’s front page with a featured seller photo (dork!), shop links, and interview and everything.

Of course, I spent hours and days obsessing over my interview questions and then suddenly the deadline was upon me and I freaked, quickly made sure I didn’t have any grotesque spelling errors, and just sent it in. Now I’m all, ohmygod: I forgot to say this, I should have said that, and I totally sound like a spazz!

Anyway, I’m very excited and also a bit nervous. Will anyone even read it? Will people actually go look at the things I make because of this? I have no idea what to expect.

ps – I would have put a pretty picture at the top if my computer hard drive didn’t die. And Joshua’s computer’s power supply not give out. Or my studio computer’s monitor go bad. All in this past week. I’m running linux now off a bootable disk. Anyway, you’ll have to be content with some krazee kapital letters and excitable punctuation in the header.

mimi’s ring

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

18 white gold and diamond hand-carved ring

[18K white gold and diamond ring.]

My grandmother “Mimi” died a number of years ago and though we never lived geographically close, we were close in the way that grandmothers and their granddaughters are. I idolized her and thought everything about her was mysterious and magical.

Mostly I have all those homey odd memories about her that I collected over my childhood. She had curly white hair and wore enormous bifocals. Her house always looked exactly the same, year after year. Her bathroom was all porcelain and tile and felt wonderful on your feet as you walked in off the carpeting. She was a master knitter and all her knit things (we always got something hand-knit for Christmas) smelled a certain way—Woolite, my mother told me it was, which she hand-washed all her knits in. Her cooking was heavy on the baked goods (as a grandmother’s should be); she made these wonderful cookies every Christmas (Mexican wedding cookies) that were always just OUT on a table for anyone to snack on throughout the holiday but they contained nuts and as desperate as I was to eat them all, I actually disliked walnuts so much that I only ever managed to get through one or two. She lived in Tucson, AZ, and drove a car that had over the years all but disintegrated from the UV exposure. She loved the song by Stevie Wonder that went, “I just called, to say, I love you. I just called, to say how much I care…” and when I was in sixth grade it played on the radio all the time. We’d turn it up in the car and she’d sing along in her warbly voice.

It’s funny how when you are a child, you have no concept of other people ever having been young. Or that they once had a different life other than the role you know them in, namely, “grandmother.” I always thought it odd that my mother was so testy around her.

I only know snippets of her life now. She was born in a town in the midwest and spoke only German; she didn’t learn English until she was sent to school. She worked as a nanny when she was very young. She married an abusive alcoholic (my grandfather, a man I never knew, but who was a very well-respected lawyer) who was much older than she was. She never had a job after marrying until after he died, when she suddenly had, like, four—and she did a lot of volunteer work. And her hair was actually not naturally curly; she had it permed.

After she died, my mother (the only daughter) was given her wedding ring. It was old and worn and bent so she sent it to me to make something with, using the diamond.

Berdina Beerman-Bowden

This was a photo of her from her first communion, I think it was. Anyway, I had never seen a photo of her in her youth. Old photos are always so interesting—the people with their rigid expressions and fantastic outfits. When they are of your own grandmother in her early teens, well, I was pretty fascinated.

The whole feeling of that old photo of her inspired my design for this ring, from the ruffles of her dress and the off-tint color, to the art deco era. My mother now wears Mimi’s ring.

Berdina Beerman-Bowden

Now I understand it was only a small piece of her that I knew. A fragment. I don’t find it sad or think it’s a bad thing though; her life was her own and I’m grateful to have participated in the parts that I did.


Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Mostly I do rings. But, I have a soft spot for necklaces. And pearls. Pearls and necks make a great combination.

Chinese freshwater stick pearl necklace (peruvian opal clasp)

This is a strand of Chinese freshwater stick pearls knotted on silk; it has a hand-made box-style clasp with a Peruvian opal set into it. Stick pearls are just about the awesomest thing ever. They are so intensely iridescent because they are made entirely of nacre (The Shiny). They are created by inserting a bit of mantle tissue into a freshwater mussel. The mussel begins to coat the irritating invader with nacre in an attempt to neutralize it. The mantle tissue breaks down entirely but the mollusk continues to layer and layer bright shiny nacre over what is now a long skinny pearl. They make the coolest sound when they clink together, a bright watery sound.

Chinese freshwater pink pearl necklace (knotted on silk)

I love Chinese freshwater pearls. Not only are the mussels prolific (and thereby delightfully affordable–you can nucleate a single freshwater mussel with upwards of 30 bits of mantle tissue, thereby creating 30 pearls), but they have a wide range of amazing colors and shapes. Ivory white to pinks are particularly beautiful. The strand above is a range of pinks, from bright orangy coral to dusty rose, and all natural color.

Chinese freshwater "potato" pearl necklace (knotted on silk)

More Chinese freshwater pearls, this time “potato” pearls, so-called because of their oval shape.

Black spinel, coral, and freshwater chinese keshi pearl necklace

This is a double strand (meant to loop twice about the neck at choker length, or be worn long) with Chinese freshwater keshi, faceted black spinel (a naturally occurring color), and tiny faceted pieces of coral. I find the black, red, and white colors striking and intense.

Keshi is interesting in that it is a pearl formed without nucleation. It is about as close to a so-called “natural” pearl that there is nowadays. However, there is a big difference in that instead of Joe Diver happening upon an oyster in the wild, popping it open and LO! a beautiful pearl, they are created in cultivated oysters. Usually, once a freshwater mussel has had all its cultured pearls removed (created by the insertion of mantle tissue), it is popped back in the water. Because the spots in its mantle are still very irritated after having the pearls removed, it continues to produce nacre and in most instances, this nacre sticks together to begin yet another pearl–this time solid nacre. They are beautiful.

It probably goes without saying: Pearls are probably not for vegans or anyone politically vegetarian.

Tourmaline, aquamarine, and freshwater chinese keshi pearl necklace

This is the same style necklace as above but using faceted multi-colored tourmaline and aquamarines with the freshwater keshi. The icy blues and greens really set off the iridescent colors of the pearls.

Chinese freshwater irradiated (bronze) pearl three-strand necklace

These are also Chinese freshwater pearls, but they are not a natural color. Originally, they were probably an undesirable brownish or grayish color, so they irradiated them. Now they are intensely black/bronze with serious iridescence. I think they are awesome. I strung them on sterling silver that has been patinaed a deep steely gray and sprinkled a couple of champagne-colored Austrian crystals here and there.

Chinese turquoise and silver long wrap necklace

Okay, we’re done with pearls for now. Here are a couple of super long strands made from sterling silver and gorgeous Chinese turquoises. This strand can be worn long, wrapped around the neck once or twice or three times, in a long Y-style, etc.

Square Chinese turquoise and silver long wrap necklace

Another super long strand, this time using square turquoise pieces. This can also be looped once or more times about the neck.

I’m working on getting the rest of my photos in order for all of the above pieces. I plan to list these (and a couple of others) in my Etsy shop in the next week or two.