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Building a Ring: Lark Crafts’s Jewelry Design Challenge

July 25, 2011

Yesterday I picked up my three pieces that were included in the recent Seattle Metals Guild Biennial show, which was up at the WA State Convention Center, and just closed this month. Of course I spaced out the first pick up date, so my awesome friend Molly, who is an amazing metalsmith and teacher at Danaca Design, and who was coordinating this second pickup for forgetful slackers like me, had to text me to remind me not to miss this one!

I’m glad I didn’t, because it gave me the chance to reunite with three pieces I hadn’t seen in a while, including this ring, below.

I made this ring for a book called Jewelry Design Challenge that I was invited to be in last year by Lark Crafts, publisher of all kinds of cool books on art and craft including needle arts, jewelry, woodworking, ceramics, papercraft and all kinds of other disciplines. I’ve been in a few Lark publications over the years including Modern Jewelry From Modular Parts and several of the 500 Series Books– 500 Pendants and Lockets, 500 Earrings, 500 Necklaces and 500 Enameled Objects, but this one was different because participation was by invitation, and not by jury.

The premise was very cool.  From the book’s introduction, “What If?”:

Curiosity. That’s where this book started. What would happen if we asked a group of top jewelry designers to trade in their usual jewelry supplies–fine gold and precious gemstones–for basic materials like copper sheet and washers?

Our curiosity led us to action and this simple concept: we’d assemble a box of nine basic jewelry materials, send identical boxes to 30 artists, invite each person to add a wildcard element to the mix, and let the creativity take off.

Each artist was sent a box of materials–18 gauge sterling sheet, 18 gauge copper sheet, sterling tubing, six pearls, 15 copper washers, 20 gauge sterling wire, fine silver mesh, leather cord, and 20 gauge copper wire. We could use all or some of those items, and then add one “wild card” item of our own choosing. We had a set amount of time to create a piece and then write up instructions for the book so that readers can reproduce the piece if they want.

Of course each of the 30 artists created pieces that were remarkably different from the other artists’ pieces, and had their own stamp on them, in spite of the fact that we all started with the same basic parts.

My piece is a huge flower ring that stands on its own. Of the materials given, I used copper sheet, sterling sheet, sterling tubing, sterling wire, and one of the copper washers. My wild card item was a gorgeous 12mm faceted prehnite that I had been saving for some special project. I created a prong setting using the copper washer and some sterling wire. The shank of my ring is made with sterling sheet, and the stand and the petals are made from copper sheet, which I have to admit I have not worked with since I was in art school, having moved on quite faithfully to silver and gold since then. Copper is kind of tricky! It likes to get dirty and stay dirty, and solder doesn’t like to flow on dirty metal. So I find it harder to work with than silver and gold, despite the fact that it is what most of us learned how to solder on.

Before I made my final piece, I made a mock up in copper. Here are some photos I took of that piece along the way (sorry, most of them are pretty blurry, as I was just trying to document, not artfully photograph):

mock up ring shank– soldered together and “stem” soldered in

soldering the prongs into the copper washer

four prongs soldered in and ends balled

upside down — flowing lots of solder to attach the petals to the middle washer

inside view

petals soldered on, ring upright and ready to be soldered to a stand

stone set, ready for clean up and patina

After finishing our pieces, we sent them to Lark, who photographed them beautifully and included them in the gorgeous publication which is chock full of photos, quotes from the artists, and step-by-step instructions on how to create the pieces yourself.

Here’s a preview of my layout in the book, in a screen shot from my website:

The Lark photos look much more beautiful than mine!

You can see more publications I’ve been in here, and learn more about the book here.

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