Sunday, January 31, 2016

Its Magic. Really!!

Almost all artists keep sketchbooks. They are often day-by-day chronicles of the artist’s thoughts and inspirations. They are also the place where the artist works through the various concept, design and fabrication issues associated with the process of taking an abstract idea and making it into a concrete object.

Frequently, the process of making hides from the viewer of the finished object. And “process” is the very essence of the expression, “art makes the difficult seem easy.” We prefer “Art is Magic”, but we may be biased.

Behind the process is years of study and practice developing skills with tools and materials. The effect is that everything falls magically into place as if nature intended it that way.  Trust us when we say, making something almost NEVER happens like that.

So, how does it happen? 

A recently completed necklace commissions will provide a quick overview of our processes.

Our process starts with sketches. These can be one-offs to help solidify the idea or a series of concept and engineering sketches to work out the composition and mechanical issues.

Once we are clear about what we want to make, we assess the materials and methods, and who will perform each task.  A staging table is set up to hold components that are complete.

The manufacture and sub-assembly of parts often incorporate a considerable range of techniques and materials.

As we work out joining and how the various parts will hang and interact, fittings are made for each component.

The process continues as shapes, colors, textures are compared and fitted as the piece begins to take shape.

The project called for a custom display case to house the piece. Once the piece progresses to a point where we can determine precise physical dimensions, we begin constructing the case.
In this instance, we wanted to create a stylized forest floor as an environment for the piece. This aspect of the project required considerable trial and error. We spent time exploring and photographing details of local forest floors, including collecting a variety of leaves to be used as models later in the process.
Research complete, the next step was a series of technical exercises to express the environments we had seen. We selected polymer for its creative flexibility as the best-suited medium for the job.

The next step is when all the parts come together, and final assembly and fit takes place. The fitting includes the piece itself, but also the piece within its environment.

The final step is photography of the finished item.  As you can see above, we are also documenting the entire process as it happens.  While process photography is often fast and informal, final photography requires much more time and careful attention to complete.

The finished piece in its custom case.

The project took two people ten weeks to complete start to finish.
The materials incorporated in the piece include:
Acrylic paint
Bonksia Pod
Colored pencil
Gold leaf
Oil Paint
Polymer Clay
Sterling Silver
Tagua Nut
Various kinds of Wood

Various pigments and dies

Take a peek at the sketch books of some of our Etsymetal friends:
Cynthia Del Giudice:
Beth Cyr:

Monday, January 4, 2016

The FUTURE!!!! W-h-a-t-e-v-e-r.

Welcome to the first Blog Carnival of the year.  In a completely unexpected twist of dramatic artifice, this month’s theme asks “What are you planning for 2016”!?

Previous year’s plans included world domination and loosing weight. Both proved elusive.  World weight loss may actually be more achievable AND with less involvement on our part, so that’s on the list.

We’re traveling this year, and avoiding death as part of the experience is in our plans. This starts with researching which airlines have the lowest embolism ratings for seating conditions. Getting there is no longer half the fun, its half the risk.

There will be shows and exhibitions this year too. Lots and lots of shows and exhibitions, each of which will charge us $49 for the privilege of being told that our work is inadequate.
On second thought, our plans have changed. We’re starting lots and lots of shows and exhibitions this year. They will be fantastic! They will make America Great Again™. Send us $49. to enter. No need to wait on pins and needles for a decision – your work is inadequate. But thank you for the $49.

We’re starting a new web site for selling real handmade craft for 2016. It will feature great work by talented craftspeople who are passionate about what they do. We plan to be out of business in nine months.

As much as we’ve been avoiding any plans for a colonoscopy, it looks like this year our number’s up. The last time we did this we though it would be cute to make it a “couple” activity. In retrospect, matching t-shirts proclaiming “We had a colonoscopy with Dr. Feldstein” would have been a better idea.
If you have not had the pleasure of a colonoscopy before, they want you to clean house before the event. To facilitate this we were both issued bottles of prescription strength laxatives in preparation for our movie debut in the morning. Arriving home we cheerfully downed the contents of both bottles like New Year’s eve champagne, albeit the worst champagne, like, ever.   Within 30 minutes it became dreadfully apparent that we only have one bathroom in our house. What ensued was a situation probably not dissimilar to passengers on the Titanic trying to get onto the only lifeboat. There are going to be winners and losers.

My dog, Bob, is very sensitive to my moods and actions. As I squatted in the back yard, Bob approached and squatted too, sensing that this was a bonding opportunity. What started as a shared experience quickly turned competitive, accompanied by growling and other noises meant to distract the opponent.  This all seemed normal enough until the neighbor’s ball came flying over the fence – followed by the neighbors. They looked a me, at Bob, back at me, and in that moment the inadequacy of saying, “its not what it looks like” was apparent.  What did cross my mind was, what explanation might one offer in this moment that will diminish the odds of being arrested. The neighbors were not waiting around to find out.

Thankfully, the neighbors have not mentioned the incident since, but then, they don’t speak much to me at all these days. 

For our part, we’re not planning on doing couples colonoscopies again anytime soon.

Meanwhile our Etsymetal teammates are making plans of their own. See what they have to say:
Andrea Ring:
Victoria Takahashi/Experimetal:

Monday, November 30, 2015

47 amazing secrets for putting the ass in aspirational

1.    providing or showing creative or spiritual inspiration.
"the team's inspirational captain."

On a fairly regular basis, every artist gets asked, “what was your inspiration for doing THAT”. The expected answer is typically some lofty, noble, family friendly, gushy, tree hugging, bodhisattva-like connect the cosmic dots epiphany of universal Truth. Most artists will confess that it works exactly like that – except when it doesn’t, which is most of the time.

But, because people want to know these things, this month’s Blog Carnival goes poking about underneath our intellectual rocks to see what crawls out.  Technically, the theme is “What inspires you and how has it influenced your work”.  Just remember, you started this.

But we digress. Where were we….? Oh yes, lofty, noble, blah, blah, blah.
For us “inspiration” is a game of imaginomic roulette. The wheel never stops. The dots keep flooding in. Layers of connections and associations build. The problem is not turning it on. The problem is turning off the tsunami of ideas, associations and inspiration long enough actually to get some work done.

We find that inspiration comes just as much from negative as positive. Things that invoke our darker emotions are just as likely to motivate us toward creation as kittens and long walks on the beach at sunset (something we never do).
Case in point was a visit to an art exhibition a few years ago that featured some pieces taking obligatory swipes at the Catholic Church. Our favorite being the practical and irreverent, “Our Lady of Guadalupe” waffle Iron. But then there was a piece like this:

What struck us was the wholesale unoriginality of the piece. Another guns cum crucifix “statement” almost identical to the three dozen or more that we have seen in art exhibitions over the last four decades. How did this find its way into a contemporary art exhibition?  Never mind that the Crusades were, like, so last millennium. It was the apparent absence of knowledge of art history on the part of the artist AND curator of the exhibition.

Our connect-the-dots brains immediately jumped into hyperdrive like some cosmic pinball machine. Catholic church…art history…artists protesting institution of church…church greatest patron of the arts in history…artists biting the hand that has traditionally fed them…what does the opposite look like? 

Now, none of that may make any sense to you at all, and you may not agree with any of it. That’s OK. You get to connect the dots any way you like – or not at all. It's art – we don’t need no stinking rules.

For us, the dots lead to creating a piece that addressed the idea of “faith” or belief.  The result of all that looks like this:

Article of Faith, 2Roses, Sterling Silver, Rutile, Paper, Brass
We chose the iconography of birth over death.  The design draws deeply on traditional references from Catholic ritual objects.  It has never been a goal to produce art with religious or spiritual intent. This is simply where the path led us - cause and effect. But that was so, like, 15 minutes ago. There have been a thousand other inspirations in the meantime.

See what inspires our Etsymetal teammates.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Peek Into Our Drawers

This month’s Blog Carnival theme is the ever-interesting “Studio Tour”. Peeking into each other’s studios is as close to hard-core porn for artists as it gets.  We’ve shown our studio several times on these pages, so this time around we’re going to dive in a little deeper and show you some of the nooks and crannies. We didn’t know you were coming over so we didn’t clean anything up (as if we would). Showing large pics of the studio rooms often generate questions like  “what’s that thing in the corner’, or  “what’s in all those drawers”. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Not discussed very often is the investment artists have made in the tools and equipment for their studios. Jewelry artists, in particular, get questioned all the time about the cost of the items they make. Part of the answer is that there is usually a small fortune in specialized tools used to make that little gem you are holding.  

Bench Tools

Speaking of which, here is a corner of one of our fabrication benches. This photo shows a small selection of the pliers, cutters and other specialized tools used for up close and personal work. Many of the tools shown here have been modified in one way or another to suit our personal working preferences. Customizing tools is common practice among jewelers and metalsmiths when we don’t make our tools outright.  

Tool storage is a major consideration in every studio. As a result, we have made pegboard into a religion. It covers every square inch of practicable studio surface. Anything that can be hung on a peg is.

Peg Boards

The Holy Grail in a studio is bench space. The goal is to get as much stuff off the bench top as possible, leaving room for working space and the larger pieces of equipment. Drill presses, machine tools, and grinders eat up bench space.

Larger floor equipment poses a challenge related to power supply, ventilation and safety issues, such as this metal cutting band saw. For our metalsmith friends, this is wood band saw that has been re-geared for metal cutting. It has some other pimped out features that make it a metal cutting workhorse. We’ll do a future blog post on how to make one of your own.


Sometimes the challenge is simply floor space for the equipment and workspace around it for practical use.  This stake set and wire rack are good examples.
Stake set

Wire Rack

Now, what’s in all those drawers?  A lot.  We could easily fill several blog posts on just the drawers. Here are three at random.

Disc cutting tools


Dapping, Swaging, Punching

We hope you’ve enjoyed a closer look at our studio. Now if you’ll excuse us were going to go nose around in the studios of a few of our Etsymetal friends.