My latest drawings are becoming more dream-like. Maybe it's because the more I draw, the more I let myself explore, and I reach deeper levels of awareness. As well as drawing as often as I can, I've also been writing three unedited pages of anything that crosses my mind, every morning for over a year. I learnt about this exercise in Julia Cameron's The Artist Way, a powerful book on creativity that I read years ago. The result is that I am discovering what I really think, feel and want. My guess is that when you get rid of superficial babble, you get back to the unconditioned person that you really are.
Moose comes to shore.
A basket full of honey.
A few years ago, a group of women came by my jewelry studio to see me at work. As I sat at my workbench and showed them how I forge and solder a silver ring, they observed distracted, chatting among themselves. When my demonstration was over, I decided to bring out my collection of semi-precious stones, which I keep in a box. As soon as I opened the lid and the colorful candy-like gems appeared, all the women exclaimed, Ohhhh! and leaned in closer to have a look. They were silent for the first time that day.
Whenever I feel like connecting on a deeper level with existence, I too gravitate towards my box of gemstones. I find it magical to hold in my hand a gift of nature that was formed by millions of years of random changes in temperature, pressure, space, and chemical reactions.
Because they are already perfect, I decided to mount these small gems in a simple chiseled setting, and use a wide ring band to make them feel royal.
Sterling silver and labradorite.
Sterling silver and obsidian rainbow.
Sterling silver and hawk's eye.
Sterling silver and chalcedony.
Sterling silver and carnelian.
Sterling silver and tourmaline quartz.
Sterling silver and prehenite.
Sterling silver and moonstone.
The Candy rings are now in my Etsy shop.
After working on my jewelry for most of the day, I find it relaxing to draw in the evenings. On weekends, I love visiting bookstores and drawing anything that catches my eye from the books I find.
Rather than just sketching ideas for jewelry, I notice that lately my drawings are becoming more elaborate and storied. There is something physical and primal about making marks with a pen, and I find my mind quickly becomes attentive to each line as it appears on the surface of the paper.
I always carry a notebook wherever I go. I never know when an idea will come, and if I don't catch it when it arrives, it will go find someone else who will.
A friend of mine came by my studio the other day and excitedly said, show me the machine you make your jewelry with! The machine? I asked, puzzled. You mean these? I replied, and showed her my hands. Her visit made me realize that in sharing my process, I have been guilty of the curse of knowledge. In their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, authors Chip and Dan Heath describe this curse by saying that the more you know about a specific subject, the harder it is to explain it to someone who knows nothing about it.
Since I too enjoy learning how others do what they do, I decided to document each step of my jewelry making process for those of you who have never seen it before. My method for making a ring is simple and probably medieval, but I love how immediate it is, and how anyone who wants to learn to make jewelry can do it with simple tools and a small investment.
I begin by drawing the outline of a ring pattern I previously made on a sheet of 100% recycled sterling silver. To discourage toxic mining, I only use silver that is extracted from photographic proceses.
After I cut the basic outline with metal shears, I saw the final shape of the ring using a blade that is so thin, it usually breaks. You can see the delicate broken blades to the right of the adjustable saw frame. As I saw, I pass the blade through candle wax to ease cutting.
I use my hammer to give texture to the silver sheet, and to stamp my logo and sterling silver mark in the center, using custom steel punches.
I smooth the rough edges of the cut-out ring using files and sand paper. I then re-heat it with my torch, to make it maleable enough to wrap around a cone-shaped metal tool, called a ring mandrel. I use a rawhide mallet to help me hammer and shape the ring without damaging its surface.
The ring mandrel has measurements that help me determine the ring size.
Once the ring is fully formed, I continue to work on the design elements that will be soldered on the front of the ring.
To heat silver, I use a small butane torch like the one used by Chefs to make crème brûlée. Sterling silver always fuses into a ball whenever you heat it long enough. I use scraps of sterling silver sheet to make small balls which I will then individually solder onto the ring band.
I flatten each silver ball with a hammer. Then I use tiny bits of solder (a silver and copper alloy that melts at a lower temperature than sterling silver) to fuse each silver ball to the surface of the ring, using my torch.
To complete my design, I cut two strips of sterling silver wire that I will solder alongside the central row of silver balls.
I place the ring band on a heat resistant firebrick surface, and carefully solder each ball and length of wire using my torch.
The soldered ring, before I give it its final patina.
To darken or oxidize the ring, I soak it in liver of sulphur diluted in hot water. This smells like rotten egg, and is my boyfriend's least favorite part of my work, since my studio is inside our apartment.
I rinse the darkened ring in cold water mixed with sodium bicarbonate to stop the oxidation process.
To finish the ring, I polish the raised design with fine steel wool and a file board. I leave the rest of the ring dark. With wear, the ring band will eventually abrade and lighten, but the recessed areas will always remain dark.
The ring is now complete.
I am Jennifer Musi, the jewelry artist behind MUSIBATTY, and this is my blog archive.
Here you can find posts from December 2013, to May, 2016.
I will no longer update this site. Please click on the link below to see my recent work.
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I made this blog to share my work with you. I believe in generosity and I want to live in a world where we all inspire each other.
All of my designs and photographs are copyrighted. If you would like to reproduce them in any way, please email me first.