Custom adventures

29 Mar

Every once in a while custom work can be a nightmare, but usually it is incredibly rewarding and fun.

It’s nightmarish when clients are insistently unrealistic (“What I’d REALLY like is to replace the sapphire in this design with a petrified emu egg, and the gold with moonbeams and fairy dust.  And I’d like to be able to wear this ring as a pair of pants, too.”); when they are insistent upon something which is not technically or financially possible, or something I know will not turn out as they think it will.   This is frustrating for both parties, and I hate how that feels.  I’m getting better at recognizing the red flags which precede these situations, and clarifying what is possible in custom work.  When everyone understands limits and possibilities, then we have a working relationship primed for success.

And then there are the dream clients.  The ones who like my work, arrive with basic  ideas, and are excited to collaborate with me.   And that is G, for whom I’m finishing up a pendant, today.  G has purchased pieces from me before, and asked if I could now use a 14k rose gold necklace as material for a new pendant.  The necklace was a gift from her Grandmother, and while it had emotional value for her, she wasn’t wearing it because it was not her style.  G sent me several images of things she liked, with notes clarifying: like this but no stone, about this big,  domed, and quite thin.  Maybe a neat texture?

I took it from there, and made a quick mock-up for her.

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My notes to her:  Size will depend upon how much we get when we melt down your necklace, your piece will have a more developed texture, and how about a deeply shined finish?

Her notes to me:  How about an uneven edge (she likes the edge of my turquoise pendant), and she wasn’t sure about the shine.

We left the shine up in the air, and I got started.

Previously, I had researched working with rose gold.  I’ve never worked with it before, and was a bit scared by what I read.  My biggest concern was ruining her gold, and from what I had read, TERRIBLE things could happen.  If you don’t get the temperature just right, and quench at just the right moment, rose gold can mutate, rise up, and kill you in your sleep (oh my.  I’d like to avoid that).   Additionally,  even those goldsmiths who loved working with rose gold advised only using solder on invisible seams, and not to bother buying rose gold solder unless you just can’t avoid a face seam.  It doesn’t behave well and flow smoothly when melted,  and usually doesn’t match your metal.  I had this in mind when designing the mock-up, and the only joint is on the back of the piece.

I was thrilled that the rose gold had let me live through the night, and even happier when I walked into my studio today and saw the  morning sun hitting G’s partially finished pendant.  Now I understand why people fall in love with rose gold.  Wow.  The piece, not even polished, glowed with an incredibly feminine warmth,  both delicate and strong in color.

Let me show you what I’ve done:

I've melted and milled the gold.  It's a bit thicker than the final piece will be, and this allows for more work to be done texturing and raising the dome.

I've melted and milled the gold. It's a bit thicker than the final piece will be, and this allows for more work to be done texturing and raising the dome.

I've cut the basic shape with shears, and the extra will be remelted and used as the bail.

I've cut the basic shape with shears, and the extra will be remelted and used as the bail.

Texturing, working, raising. I anneal and work, anneal and work.  To produce the depth of character I like in my pieces, working and reworking is necessary.  It's similar to how the layers in paintings produce depth.

Texturing, working, raising. I anneal and work, anneal and work. To produce the depth of character I like in my pieces, working and reworking is necessary. It's similar to how the layers in paintings produce depth.

This is the scrap I removed earlier.  I've pickled and cleaned it, and now will melt it into a workable shape.  The black you see is compressed charcoal, and it reflects and holds the heat, making melt temperature possible.  I've hollowed out a channel, and it serves both as a melting vessel and a mold for the melted gold.

This is the scrap I removed earlier. I've pickled and cleaned it, and now will melt it into a workable shape. The black you see is compressed charcoal, and it reflects and holds the heat, making melt temperature possible. I've hollowed out a channel, and it serves both as a melting vessel and a mold for the melted gold.

And...melted into a nice workable shape.

And...melted into a nice workable shape.

This morning.  Look at that gold!  Isn't it just gorgeous?  And it isn't even polished....

This morning. Look at that gold! Isn't it just gorgeous? And it isn't even polished....

I’ll finish this today, and show the images to G.  We’ll make any necessary adjustments, and I’ll ship it.

Clients like G are a joy.   This kind of collaboration is so exciting and rewarding, and it’s a happy challenge to try and come up with something she will just love.

Upcoming custom:  A couple whose emails almost make me cry; they are like a little window into a beautiful, deep love.  I’ll be designing an engagement ring.  They want it to tell a story and have a secret, and be a unique symbol of the beginning of the life they are creating for themselves.  I want them to have everything they want. This is a privilege, and I can’t wait.

www.vakadesign.com

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One Response to “Custom adventures”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Custom, continued « Vaka Design - March 31, 2009

    […] G’s almost- finished pendant.  It measures 2.6 mm across, and 3.2 mm from top to bottom.  […]

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