heirloom-inspired lasercut jewelry

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my daughter Olivia, sporting my prototype

This summer, I took “Laser Cut Jewelry Design” with Heidi Dale Allen (Arboreal Jewelry), my second class at Makerhaus, Seattle’s finest design-centric fablab in Freemont. It was the perfect opportunity to create some prototypes for a necklace that I’ve been wanting to make. The inspiration came, not surprisingly, from a beaded glass yolk necklace my mother wore often. I wanted to see if I could adapt the silhouette to make a more modern version using a 21st Century tool…the laser cutter.
jane.gen.visi.05This is what I did: Took picture of the necklace —> brought image in Photoshop and made into high contrast graphic —> Imported image into Illustrator —> Use auto trace filter to create vector —> Adjust sizing to fit neckline —> and save as EPS file. Viol-la!…ready to hand off to your friendly Makerhaus laser cutter operator! If you have PhotoShop and Illustrator under your belt, it’s pretty simple process.
mom's glass beaded yolk

mom’s glass beaded yolk

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lasercut yolk (1)

lasercut yolk (2)

lasercut yolk (2)

The material they provided in the class was this industrial felt, wood veneer, acrylic polymer. Thought the felt would work best, but still curious about what those other materials would do, given this design. I still have yet to add metal hardware/clasp to my yolks. My next step will be to create a small run of these in different materials…leather for sure. Let me know if you want one!

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silver box rings

Mariko and I took another metalsmithing class at Pratt with Sarah Gasciogne. This one was focused on building soldering skills and we got to make box rings. I dared to use silver this time. My gal Checha Sokolovic (Studio Checha) gave me the small block of steel that I set inside the second ring that I made. Thanks, Mariko, for your help with ring #2! I still have some filing to do on the inside, as you can see.

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treasures in turkey

ann-gen-3Last summer in 2014, I went to Istanbul to attend The Third International Conference on Cloud and Molecular Aesthetics. It was an amazing gathering of artists, curators, scientists and theorists…convening to explore intersections of art, science and culture. I was there for a week…so had time to kick around the city, take photographs, shop for spices and hunt for treasures. My conference buddy (& keynote speaker!) Anne Balsamo and I visited the Spice and Antique Markets one day. We stumbled upon a unique dealer who had had his shop in the market for 50+ years. It was 3/4 shop and 1/4 workshop…as he makes chandeliers and light fixtures from old parts and pieces he collects. GOLDMINE!

gen.turkey.treasuresI spent a full hour with him…looking through his ‘1/4 workshop’ and finding odds and ends that I wanted to use to make jewelry. He told me many of the pieces were very old…as in Ancient Rome, old. I was in heaven. I think altogether my pile of little pieces amounted to about $75. When I got home, I spread all the pieces out on my bed and marveled. Not sure what prompted me to look up the legalities of exporting such things…but I did. And I found the Turkish Antiquities Warning site that strongly warned against trying to bring “antiquities” out of the country. The law is there for more large scale export issues…but it got me rattled. I had a few more days to ruminate on getting my Turkish booty out of the country. I researched some of the individual pieces…and found I had some true Roman Empire rings and other ancient chain & medallions. I wore as many of the pieces I could for my remaining days, still not sure what I would bring home. Finally…my risk averse nature got the best of me. I bundled up all of the questionable pieces, put them in a sack and left them on my bedside table in my hotel room when I left for the airport. WP_20140627_110

I did bring a fair amount of unquestionably non-Roman antiquity pieces…and vowed to make some special pieces with them to remember my Istanbul adventure. These 2 pieces are the necklaces I made for my inspiring friend and mentor, Anne Balsamo, who I had the great fortune of getting to know throughout the conference. She was just in Seattle last week for her Distinguished University of Washington Katz Lecture…and when I met with her, she was wearing them both!

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Turkish pendant #1

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Turkish pendant #2

graduation amulet for mariko

mariko.grad.2012In 2012, my goddaughter Mariko, graduated with a BFA degree in Industrial Design at the California College of Art (my junior year alma mater).  I wanted to make her something very special for her graduation, as I had just started taking metalsmithing classes at Pratt. Mariko had studied metals at Pratt and later at CCA. I later learned that her Hopi grandmother was also a jewelry designer and metalsmith.

mariko.ammuletWhen she was back on break, she shared some of her grandmother’s metalwork with me. Some of things that she made were molds from pine cones. She gave me some of materials in her grandmothers tool chest as well as some molded silver pieces. I made this amulet using a bullet casing, glass and lava rock bead and her grandmother’s silver pine cone.

I flew down to the Bay Area for her graduation. She showed me around the much expanded campus of CCA. So impressive…3D printing, laser cutting shop, gallery spaces, design studios. The ceremony was incredible…think it was their largest graduating class ever. Was so honored to be there to watch Mariko receive her diploma. Am SO proud of that girl!

steambot drops

Steambot Drops (vintage radio vacuum tubes, brass, copper, vintage beads, leather)

Steambot Drops (vintage radio vacuum tubes, brass, copper, vintage beads, leather)

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Steambot Drops (vintage radio vacuum tubes, brass, copper, vintage beads, leather)

In 2010, I co-curated Steambot with Cable Griffith. It was an exhibition at the Kirkland Art Center featuring artwork that combined both current and Industrial Age technologies. With generous funding from 4Culture, Steambot became an incubator, a collaboratory, a fablab, an heritage archives and a virtual community hub. Through a juried process, 5 artists (Rusty Oliver, Pat Gallagher, Rebecca Cummins, Randy Moss and Simon Winder) were chosen and the seven of us spent the better part of a year working together  exploring ideas around industrial heritage, technological advances, craftsmanship and collective authorship. The result…a steam engine generating powerful, poignant and whimsical site specific works of art that speak to place, partnership and possibility.

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Steambots: R. Moss, S. Winder, R. Cummins, Pat Gallagher, R. Oliver,  C. Griffith and G. Tremblay

First Steambot meeting at the Hazard Factory, 2010

In the spirit of Steambot and Steampunk, I created special necklaces for each of us to wear on opening night of the exhibition. Simon had some small, vintage radio vacuum tubes he let me use and I created each piece with the aesthetic of each artist in mind. We wore them to the opening and needless to say, were easily identified as the Steambots.  Here they are…made from all kinds of found industrial materials…brass, copper chain, vintage beads, glass, leather, etc…

silver leafed botdrops (in process)The exhibit was a success…but the real success was in spending creative time and collaborative energy with such an amazing group of thoughtful makers. I’m still in touch with all the Steambots, who are each onto more amazing feats. Simon tagged up with me a few weeks ago to share his cool new iPad app he developed called Treecrafter…(check it out!). I asked him to bring along some more vacuum tubes so  I could make more “bot drops”.

Here is one of my favorite shots from the opening…exhibit attendees playing with “Velotrope”, a piece by Rebecca Cummins and Rusty Oliver.

Velotrope, by Rebecca Cummins/Rusty Oliver, 2010

Velotrope, by Rebecca Cummins/Rusty Oliver, 2010

rubber tubing = glass

jewelry.fauxglassReinforced rubber tubing! Who knew? This stuff is cheap, easy to use…and can even pass for latticed glass, from a distance. I got a couple feet of this clear tubing from Hardwicks and fit it with brass findings and beads. This industrial material has lots of potential. 220px-Series_of_Tubes

tatted lace textured silver band

25 (9)This was one of my first silver rings I made at Pratt. My mother in law, Irene, gave me some pieces of tatting (lace) made by her mother and grandmother. I used it to make pattern impression on the silver by running it through the metal press, then hammered some larger divots into the ring after I had formed it and soldered the seam.

‘goodwill glitter’ girlz

glitter.girlsThe Annual Goodwill Glitter Sale has become somewhat of a tradition for me and my bestie, Veronica…and many other Seattlites. It is not for the faint of hear..it is an entire day adventure. Veronica has it down to a science…so I follow her lead.

This year, we got there at 8:00 to take our place in line to get our entry number. Because you stand in line for so long, they have various “personalities” working the waiting line. The Rat City Roller Girls were there this year…as was this very friendly drag queen…who’s name is escaping me right now. She makes her own glitter bell bottoms!

Equipped with our entry bracelet, we walked to International District for some Dim Sum until we got the alert text that our number is up. Once we were back, we entered the main sale. Because it is mayhem inside, once you get it, I find that it is easiest to pick a focus. Aside from the jewelry…I stick to handbags. No one else is looking at them, for the most part. And they bring out some exquisite vintage bags, hand beaded purses…all priced very reasonably. Entry into the jewerly section doesn’t happen until a few hours later. Once you gain entry to that section, you are given a personal GoodWill salesperson…and have 30 minutes to peruse and buy what you want.

jewelry.h.locketOnce we got into the jewelry section, I found a few pieces. This vintage pin with an “H” engraved on it was a find. I simply attached it to a modern two toned gold/black chain and added a black vintage bead.

silver napkin ring = cuff & pendant

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When we were younger, my mom had her sterling silver napkin rings made into silver cuffs for my sisters and me. She had our names engraved in them. I still wear mine often.

my engraved napkin ring cuff

my engraved napkin ring cuff 

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my Mercer Island Thrift shop napkin ring cuff

So, when I found 2 silver napkin rings at Mercer Island Thrift store, I scooped them up. I tested the metal to see if it was solid or plated…and since it was plated, I know I could only cold work the metal. So, I cut a small 2.5″ piece out to create a cuff bracelet…and filed the edges. Then I took the piece I cut out and made a pendant with an antique crystal drop.

a medal of honor for lorett


a little medal of honor for my brave sister Lorett...xoxoxo!My big sister Lorett was a beautiful, warm-hearted and generous soul.  She fought a long, difficult battle with Leukemia and died in 2012. She was a talented singer and musician who loved Bluegrass music, adored her cats and enjoyed a long and successful career as a crackerjack legal secretary.

While she was in the hospital I made her a necklace using this vintage ‘expert typist’ pin that I found in an antique shop. Seemed like the perfect centerpiece for a ‘medal of honor’. She kept it with her at the hospital in her bedside table…and I have it now.

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parting gifts in memory of my mom

mommy09About a year after my mom’s passing, my sister and I invited several of my mother’s dearest friends to a small luncheon in her honor. I was not able to travel back to DC for it, as it turned out. But my sister Megan flew back for this lovely luncheon.

I wanted to make each of her friends a keepsake that would remind them of Jane. So, I used some of her sparkly costume buttons and earrings and made these pendants as parting gifts. I have a picture of the ladies wearing their that day…(somewhere) and will post it when I find it. I so wished I could have been there to give them their gift in honor of Jane…and hear their remebrances and stories about her.

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