The process that I use to hand fabricate my pieces, includes three primary steps:
· Making the lampwork glass beads and cabochons
· Creating the mandala patterns used in the silver etching and milling process
· Fabricating the final piece of jewelry by combining the glass and silver
Let’s look at each step ...
Lampwork glass, or glass bead making, dates back over 3,000 years. I fell in love with it in 2006 finding the process of manipulating molten glass over a steel rod to be fascinating and mesmerizing. Using a mix of oxygen and propane, I melt rods of glass with a torch to create both small and large beads.
The goal is to maintain the perfect temperature. Too “hot” and the glass will run and droop. Too “cold” and the glass can crack before it is complete (or sometimes, just as it is completed). I also use very thin rods of glass to “paint” on different designs and patterns.
Up until 2014, I only worked with glass beads and focused on creating florals. This process takes layers of glass to create the background, then using thin multicolored stringers of glass, I paint on the floral designs. I really enjoy duplicating scenes from nature and making them come alive in glass. Since then, I have been developing my skills at making cabochons and using symmetric designs and organic patterns. I have also been experimenting with different combinations of glass including those that react when exposed to oxygen or propane creating beautiful iridescent colors.
The Mandala Designs
When I learned how to make glass cabochons, I knew I needed to learn to fabricate jewelry, so I could use the cabs. After taking a few local classes and watching a lot of YouTube, I was able to set the cabs with some basic silversmithing techniques. I wanted to add more to my pieces and soon learned how to etch metals. My plan was to work primarily in sterling silver and after some research was able to copy patterns onto transfer paper and etch them onto the silver using ferric nitrate. The challenge at that point was that I wasn’t using my own patterns to etch the silver.
I had been doing some doodling from time to time and thought, “Why can’t I draw my own patterns?” So I began drawing and using my own spiritual mandala patterns in my work. This allowed me to put more of my own voice into each piece and I love it! I draw a full-size pattern, then use a printer to scan and shrink it to the size I need.
I am also making negative brass plates of my designs, to imprint the same pattern on the additional pieces in my collection with the use of a rolling mill.
Fabricating the final piece
The last step is combining my original designs into unique pieces of jewelry with all hand-fabricated pieces. As each piece comes together I add fine silver and sterling silver elements for balance, texture and interest.
Lately I have been working to put together specific collections, grouping glass beads and cabochons with mandala patterns to tie the collection together. It makes the process more challenging and creative. I love every step of the process.
Blending my patterns, design and color, I believe each piece I
create should delight the wearer every time they put it on.