Creative Process: Handmade from Beginning to End
1. Ideation & Intention:
I brainstorm ideas of what I want to make or the outline discussed for a custom order. I have a rough idea of what I will make before I open my spicy little sketchbook and lay pen (or pencil) to paper. If I am creating a piece or line of jewelry for The Heart Department, I am most often influenced by the shape of a stone I have on hand or trying to stay in line with forms I’ve already created. Nature, my mother’s designs, and my desire to create a studied blend of sophisticated sensuality and laid-back luxury all fuel my designs. I strive to bring stylish and elegant boho chic with a little bit of edge into an otherwise hippy look stereotypical of crystal healing.
Sometimes, I’ll draw just to draw and beautiful ideas have been generated, but generally, I have an idea of what I want to draw. As I create the design, my mind is also engineering how it will function as a piece of jewelry. It has to be wearable and I have to know how to make it so! Drawing first before I try creating it in three dimensions ensures I know what I’ll be doing. Metal is expensive, so I don’t want to mindlessly attempt to create something without first having a blue print.
In addition to the theoretical and practical aspects of the piece, I am creating a story of imagery in my mind that breathes life and purpose into the piece. I set an intention for how this piece will function: filled with love, peace and light and tying into the crystal healing attributes of the stones used or the characteristics of the wearer. These intentions help shape the piece and radiate from the piece once completed.
If I am sketching for a client, I will often render a proper 2-d image with shading and scale to aid the approval process. It can be difficult to imagine without a visual aid and I understand this.
3. Brainstorm the Production Steps:
To remove any guessing from my production, I brainstorm everything involved with creating the piece before I begin and write them down. This way, I visualize the entire creation of the piece before I even begin, so I know what I am supposed to do. Things don’t always pan out exactly how I envision, and those mistakes often inspire creativity to make it work. It is in these planning stages that I make sure I have all the raw materials, tools, and supplies to complete the project. I write these steps near the drawing of the design and make bland-space labels to remind myself to weigh the piece, the stones and other details that need to be done along the way that can’t be done accurately once the item is finished.
4. Begin Shaping the Piece:
Once I’m clear on my process, I know what medium of metal is best to use for the look I want to achieve: sheet metal or wire. Before I begin and throughout fabrication of the piece (depending on how much I work the metal), I have to anneal the metal. Annealing means to heat the metal to a certain temperature to align the molecules in order to make the metal more flexible or easier to work with. For the sheet, I create a template of my drawing in copper or cardboard and plot the design directly onto the sheet of metal with a permanent marker (that can be removed with alcohol or sweat on my hands). Then, I pierce the design out with a jeweler’s saw. For the wire, I may use the drawing itself as a template or create a copper template. Using the template, I shape the metal wire to the curves with my bare hands and perhaps pliers depending on the angles. As needed for the piece, I create jump rings using pliers and round wire and a saw, and settings using wire and files to fit and notch the wires into the appropriate shape.
If stones are involved, I’ll plot out the area to fit the stone size and shape the setting to hold the stone(s).
Depending on the design, I may continue to forge the metal with a hammer or pliers, or I’ll file and sand the piece first.<br /> I use 10x magnification while fabricating to see precise detail that I may miss with an unaided eye.
5. Filing & Sanding:
To create precise solder joints, nice lines, and attain a high polish, filing and sanding are required. I file concave/convex and dovetail-like joints into my work to create a strong solder joint. Progressing through finer grades of files and sandpapers delivers a soft, level surface free of tool marks.
Solder is essentially the same metal (sterling silver, gold, etc.) being used in the piece, except with a lower melting point. Solder is used to adjoin separate pieces of metal and make them one continuous piece. I use a handheld torch fueled by a mix of propane and oxygen to heat the metal of the piece to accept the solder.
Continued from step 4 above, further shaping of the piece may come after soldering. My tools of choice are hammers and pliers.
Depending on the design, I may repeat steps 4-7 above many times over for different parts of the piece. For example, I may forge a piece of metal with a ball & peen hammer to widen or lengthen the metal and then file and solder it to another piece of metal that I then hammer again. Before I polish, I have to resand the piece to unify the surface of the metal.
9. Polish & Burnish
Once I have sanded the metal, I polish it to a high luster with a mirror-like finish using small cotton buffs or rubber bristles with my hand-held flex-shaft for small detail areas and large muslin, cotton or felt buffing wheels on a large stationary polishing wheel for relatively larger areas. Using these tools, I progress with polishing compound with finer grits to achieve the desired finish. This is may be my favorite step because it takes the raw, rough sanded metal to bling status. It’s like everything I’ve done up to this point is suddenly unveiled. Once polished, I may return to a prior step such as hammering to give a hammered texture on the polished metal, or use burs with diamond grit to add a star-dust finish. Unless, the goal with the jewel is to have a soft-sanded matte finish, then I always polish.
After polishing, I’ll burnish any straight edges on the piece to make them twinkle. Ladies, it’s a bit like adding lighter eye-shadow to your brow bone and inner corners of the eye: it’s a small detail that makes an impact.
10. Set Stones
I’ll set stones into the jewelry after polishing so that the stone is resting in a reflective nest, be it prongs, flush setting, or dangling via wire wrapping.
To complete the piece, I do the final step of polishing with the finest grit again.
12. Write Stories
I love to write, and I create thoughtful, purposeful jewelry with meaning that can be used as a tool to improve your life. But, you can’t use this tool if you don’t know what it means. Therefore, I put my stories of imagery (affirmations, if you will) on paper in beautiful typesetting to connect you to the piece. These stories are instant visuals that stick with you. Every time you wear the piece, whether you put it on, take it off, or see or feel it on yourself, you instantly relive the affirmative words. You save time by making it a part of your daily subconscious ritual that happens naturally and feeding the Law of Attraction. In addition, you are wearing something meaningful to you. Our bodies truly are a temple and should be treated as such both with what we eat and our external appearance. I don’t know about you, but when I (think) I look good, I feel good.
13. Create Packaging
I custom package each piece of jewelry for the recipient. I love crafts and this is just one more way for me to have fun and bring you happiness too. I may opt to hand-write calligraphy, decorate with stickers or stamps, or bows or a combination of them. I want the outside gift to be just as thoughtful as the inside gift.
I do my own photography using (swallow) my iPhone 4s, a 10x jewelers loupe, a light box and natural daylight or incandescent light.
As an accountant, I provide a printed detailed receipt of your purchase with a digital image of the piece.