The process and journey of a small jewelry company
When I started making my jewelry full time I felt that I didn’t really have a direction of where my style was. Or at least I didn’t think so. I was in my basement apartment looking out on the Deschutes River and feeling like I had a world of possibility and opportunity in front of me and yet I didn’t know where to go.
So while I was worried about all the things to be worried about, my work took shape and grew into the foundation of my company. The beautiful thing is that I am still using the same materials I started out using. I have always created my work with sterling silver, and gold, with my process of adding texture. I didn’t hold myself back from these techniques to be on trend, but to make the pieces I wanted to exist in the world. This has allowed me to continue to make the work I love.
I love gold. Gold allows me to add vibrant contrast to my work and highlight lines, shapes and texture that I really want you to pay attention to. I can add a dark liver of sulfer patina to the pieces that turn the silver a dark black, while the gold stays sharp yellow. I continue to be fascinated that I can use just two materials over and over again the possibilities for what I can make stretch on.
The main type of gold I like to use is 24 karat gold. It comes in a thin sheet, that can be torn into smaller pieces to use in my work. A lot of people think that I add the gold by plating, painting, glueing, and possibly some other way I have yet to hear. However the process is much more delicate and traditional that all of that.
The method I use to add the gold is called Keum Boo. This is an ancient Korean technique of applying the 24k gold to silver. Charles Lewton-Brain gives a pretty clear and in depth talk about this here if you want to know even more.
My method of adding it to my pieces is to make sure that it is the last step I accomplish before the piece is finished. Since sterling silver is fine silver and copper alloyed together, I need to first depletion guild my silver by heating the silver up to a certain temperature and then dropping it in an acid solution at least four to five times to bring the fine silver to the surface of the metal. After this is done the silver will look chalky white and this is a sign to me to now add the gold.
I use a hot plate as a tool to lay my silver pieces on to bring them back up to the temperature required to fuse the gold to the silver. I have done Keum Boo enough that I can feel when the temperature is just right to start adding the gold. However some jewelers will use a temperature guage. When the silver is up to the right heat I will take the small pieces of gold sheet and “burnish” the gold to the silver. Burnishing is using a smooth steel or agate tool to add pressure to the surface of the metal fusing the two together. One this is done the gold is fused and the piece is ready for patina or a brush to shine it up and it’s ready to wear!
I like Keum Boo because I can add the gold anywhere I want on my pieces. It gives me the control I want to add just a small amount in a hammered line or to cover the entire piece and then sand it back to reveal a texture. It can make a duckling yellow, or enhance the lines within a stone.
To me this contrast of colors and lines is what has defined my work over the years, and I am happy that it is my process and what I am known for now. Because it is all about the process to me and knowing that I can create what I am called to make without boundaries.