I start at the beginning with silver and gold - wire, sheet, tubing, and clay. And maybe a few special stones for a punch of color.
I hand-sculpt all the tiny flowers, leaves and creatures that will populate my jewelry. It's a fussy process using just my fingers and a few simple tools. I prefer each tiny bit to be one-of-a-kind like they are in nature. Once I pop the components into the kiln at 1650ºF for a few hours, they will shrink even more. I sort them into small containers, ready for use when the muse strikes.
I frequently sketch ideas for jewelry to get a starting point. Then I allow each piece to speak to me as it comes to life and tell me how it should look.
Once a frame is built in sheet and wire, I pull out the boxes of components and start experimenting. It may be a treetop scene of a bird on a branch, or a hummer floating below a dangling fuchsia, or a simple sprig of leaves and berries. The exact position of each element is critical to the overall emotion of the finished work.
Then comes the technical part - I tack and fuse everything together, using accumulated hours of practice to bring the temperature of the metal up to near (but not too near) the melting point. I pull out my saw or shears and delicately trim away the extra metal, then file and sand the edges to perfectly match that original frame.
Then comes the backside, just as important to me as the front. If there's room, I'll often put in extra details on the reverse. It's a bit of hidden fun and meaning for the owner, who may share or not with others. I love adding meaningful quotes.
Sanding and polishing begin, through ever finer grit after grit. I add dark patina to bring out the details. The piece gets a special heat treatment to induce the extra resistance to tarnish that Argentium silver is known for. I carefully set stones and add finishing details like chains or ear wires. Finally, I engrave my signature. Voila!
So that the world outside my studio can see the finished work, I find the light tent and camera and take photos to share.