Desert Jewels

I have always been fascinated by the jewelry of the African continent.  Each region (I hesitate to say country because those are mostly artificial creations of colonization) has its own style and these are broken down further depending on the tribe or ethnic group.

Some of my favorite designs come from North Africa, so I jumped at the chance to see  the Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last year. If one word describes North Africa Jewelry, it’s flamboyant.  These massive jewelry pieces blend design  traditions (Moorish and Jewish for example) and materials that could be local or that could have traveled thousands of miles on the back of a camel.   Most of the jewelry is meant to be worn every day; some is ceremonial.   It’s not uncommon for a piece to be taken apart and  refashioned into another design.  Gold is rare and most of the materials are not precious.    I was surprised to see the Star of David motif on so much of the jewelry, even though the Jews have long been a presence in Morocco.  And the jewelry is stunning.

The photographs in the exhibition gave me the opportunity to see some jewelry as it was worn and and to catch some glimpses of this exotic part of the world portrayed as even more exotic and mysterious for the Western audiences, sometimes by staged scenes or the use of fake back drops.

The Exhibition was put together by the Museum for African Art.   I highly recommend the  exhibition book.  If you buy it directly from the museum, you will help to support local African artisans and museum programs.


More Collage Jewelry

I am doing a demonstration on making collage jewelry for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild this Sunday.  You can have a lot of fun making little assemblages, pendants, and memory pieces.  Press here for some how-to information and tool suggestions, and here for books I have found to be helpful and inspiring.

More Ideas for Making Jewelry Tools

Even though I have posted articles on making simple jewelry tools, there is always something more to learn.  Here are some of my recent efforts: You can make texturing hammers  out of cheap ball peen hammers. I filed the faces of the hammers  and used grinding tools on my flex shaft (you can also use a rotary tool) to get some interesting textures.  I didn’t have any instructions; I just made it up as I went.   If you try this, however,   wear safety goggles,  because  they hug your head with no gaps for tiny metal fragments to fly through.  When sanding and finishing metal, I also wear a dust mask because you can breathe in tiny metal particles.  You might want to go a step further and use a respirator.

You can also file and grind metal punches and chisels to get great texturing effects.

Here are examples of textures I achieved on annealed copper with the tools I made.  The upper left was made with the altered chisel.  The other three were made with the altered hammers.  I worked on a metal block.

Another tool I love is a gizmo to hold jump rings while you saw them.  I first saw a picture of this tool in Robert Dancik’s book Amulets and Talismans. He didn’t give any directions, but  it looked so simple to make and such a great idea that I made my own.  You can buy one at John Lewis’ Etsy Shop, and  you can find directions on how to use it on Barbara Lewis’ blog, Painting with Fire. If you want to try making one yourself, Art Jewelry Magazine published and article by Howard Siegel that subscribers can download here.

My V block tool.  Not pretty, but it gets  the job done.

It wasn’t until I saw Shailyn Miller’s DVD Rings of Beauty, that I realized how useful a ring mandrel holder could be.  I built a home made version from a wood box that held a bottle of wine.  If you are handy with hole saws or and spade drill bits, you could make one easily and clamp it to your table when you work on wire rings.

 

 

Last in my bag of tricks is a makeshift clamp for small jewelry pieces.  If you are trying to saw a small piece on your bench pin and can’t hold it still, try using a large metal binder clip with a piece of craft felt or other sturdy fabric.   Your piece won’t move and you can saw or file to your heart’s content.

 

New Ideas for Making Jewelry from Spoons

A couple of years ago, I posted a tutorial on making a bracelet from old spoons that proved to be quite popular.  Here are examples of more types of jewelry you can make from old spoons.

Here’s a torch enameled spoon bowl pendant that I drilled  for a jump ring before enameling.   The copper ring is a big jump ring soldered shut, hammered flat and textured.  When my friend Terri saw it, she remarked that she would have used the concave part of the spoon bowl instead of the convex side as I did.  Which opens up a bunch of new design possibilities that I plan to explore.

Here are two pairs of earrings made from different parts of the spoon handle.  First, I cut the pieces to the proper length and filed them smooth.  I filed a gentle curve on the top pair because I think it looks more attractive than a straight edge.  Then I drilled holes and filed off the burs.  I patinated them in liver of sulfur,  and made ear wires from fine silver on which I had previously balled the ends.  After inserting the wires through the holes in the earrings I gently hammered fhe balls flat so the  wire would stay in place and the earrings would hang  properly.  Finally, I smoothed the  other end of the wires with a cup bur in a rotary tool.