Why silversmithing?

April 22, 2012

People often ask how I started making jewelry.  I can't remember a time when I wasn't making something. My mother is incredibly skilled in the needle arts, and my sister and I grew up knitting, sewing, needlepointing...and of course the ever-popular-in-the-70s, cross-stitching. Macrame was quite snazzy then too, and I loved making bracelets and necklaces. Next came the preppy barrettes in the 80s with alligator buttons on them then came ribbon-woven  headbands and belts. In college, I started making button bracelets, bending wire, and hoarding beads (still a current activity).

During graduate school in Community Psychology, gorgeous, faceted beads drew me into their allure. I loved finding unique, exquisite beads and met many of the vendors in NYC and Chicago from whom I still buy stones.  I loved creating complicated beading designs and began metalworking.  Bending wire, hammering it, simple drilling, and forging metal became my tools. Here are the Gladiator earrings on which I used tools and wire (and gorgeous beads).  But then, everyone and her sister began beading. I needed a way to keep my jewelry original and different. Other jewelry artists kept encouraging me to learn to silversmith. What is silversmithing? It is taking an acetylene (or oxygen) torch to silver and soldering it together.

 Gladiator earrings (Did you see the movie? Very inspirational jewelry in it).

But The Torch seemed like such a scary venture! 1) The tank could explode. 2) I could get burned. 3) Did I mention the tank could explode? However, the design possibilities were endless. I knew I just had to take a deep breath and learn to solder. I began taking classes with renowned artists like Helen Blythe-Hart. The photo of green earrings show early soldering designs and hammering and texturing techniques. 

   Early silversmithing designs 

Here is a photo of the design that really drew me to silversmithing. I wanted to make this organic, flowing shape and fill it with an aqueous resin.  My hope was that it would look a bit like coral. Many piles of melted silver later, I learned to make bezels, work with different metals, and set stones (I couldn’t get that far away from gorgeous semi-precious stones!)

Today, a wonderful day is spent in the studio forming metal, soldering it into new shapes, and creating shimmering earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. Collection after collection live in my mind- I just need more time to bring them to life! It is a fun and creative challenge to develop a shape and then round out an entire collection from it.  The torch is no longer a scary tool to me. In fact, I love that I share a craft with blacksmiths and Paul Revere (that may be a bit of a stretch…)!

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