Personal Entries

And now for some new pretties

But, before we get to the pretties, I suppose I need to tie up loose ends. Ready? 


OK. We good? Alright then, do you want to see the new pretties?  I’ve tried to keep things simple while I let my hands and brain remember their jobs.  I’ve also made some SILVER pieces!  I should get a sticker for being such a good sport and making a new friend of silver. 







Starting over is scary and happy and exciting.  Well, it was more scary than exciting until I sold that ruby ring within a week of listing it.  Now it is much less scary.  

I was foolish when I stopped working 2+ years ago, and shut down the Etsy site.  Sadly, I couldn’t get the name back.  You’ll find me under Vakastudio on Etsy, and these will soon be listed on my regular site:

And now I must stop uploading images and go make dinner. 

Cinderelly, Cinderelly!

Make the jewelry, Cinderelly!

Feed the children, Cinderelly!


Custom adventures

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.


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.


New Earrings

Just finished these and one other pair of earrings, and will be listing them later this afternoon.  These are 14k with citrine, and the others are a very cool sterling/gold mix. 

Citrine in Gold Rectangles
Citrine in Gold Rectangles

I know my collection is short on earrings, but I’ve been having a lovefest with rings lately.  Now I have some earring ideas beginning to percolate, and I’ll go with them.  I find that forcing myself in a direction I’m not eager to go yields lesser quality work.

Seeing my pieces photographed often leads me to make further adjustments to them, and I originally had these earrings with little pearls instead of citrine.  Now I see I’ve left a bit of polish on the right side of the top earring, and I’ll need to clean that up a bit and reshoot.  I don’t like to clean up details like that in photoshop, because it doesn’t feel honest; I want the customer to see exactly what they are getting.  I don’t have any qualms, however, about cleaning up the red paint mark on the rock background.  I think anything reminiscent of blood in my photos is probably not a good idea.



Yesterday I hurt myself , and I blame it on the silver.  Which I know is ridiculous.  While working with gold I’ve burned my tongue, soldering  (do not ask), burned my hair with my torch (now I have bangs), and made myself sick on fumes when I’ve forgotten to turn on the fans.  But I’ve never been scared, and today I’m a bit scared.

I was using a polishing wheel on a Dremel tool to polish the inside of a new silver ring, and hurt myself so badly I feinted.  I have no idea what happened, but the polishing wheel was bent to a 90 degree angle.  I was pretty scared to look at my finger, and considering that the Dremel spins at 20,000 rotations per minute, I think I’m lucky to have a finger.

I will admit that I’ve never taken safety in the studio as seriously as I should.  I point my brushes in my mouth, without any thought.  I use my hands as paint brushes.  When working with metals I often forget ventilation, and my  lackadaisical use of eye protection would make an optometrist weep.  But, barring an eye injury, all these hazards pose long term health dangers, and because of that are easy to ignore.   Sure, California says the solder fumes make rats grow a second head, but that’s California, and soon I’ll get serious about consistent safety.

Yesterday was different because, this time, I WAS being as safe as I could.  And as I looked at my hand and braced for the worst,  I realized that I really didn’t want to walk around with part of my finger missing for the rest of my life.

I’ve known, and known of,  more than one artist who has developed health issues.  Artists often work with caustic or carcinogenic materials, high heat, or dangerous tools.  And while there are safety precautions to take,  what about those injuries and accidents which occur with safety precautions in place?   And what about the creative heights which do take a bit of foolhardiness?   The things that are just a little stupid?  Maybe I should have had gloves on, but let me tell you, there is no way I could get my pieces finished as well with gloves on.  And it’s  important to me to get them finished the way they are.

Someone once said to me, “I guess you love painting.”   No.  Sometimes I hate it.  The same for metal.  Sometimes it makes me cry and curse, but I’m compelled to create things, and I can’t explain it any better than that.  I don’t want to do anything else, and I’m willing to give up quite a bit to be good at what I do.

I have my finger, and I am really happy about that.  My hands aren’t the prettiest, but I’m very fond of each of my fingers. Yesterday made me question what I want, and what I’m willing to give.  If I could be the best, would I be happy to be the best with 9 fingers?  What about just really, really good?

I don’t know for sure, but I do know that I’m heading back into my studio, just a little shaky.


The Suck

Last week I promised I would post pictures of my successes and failures with silver, didn’t I?  And I’ve only posted one picture, and that was of a successful piece.  I would post pictures of failed pieces, but I don’t have anything left that could even be loosely described as a “piece” at all.  I have mangled bits of metal which resemble the fragments of satellites, burned up beyond recognition as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and fall to the ground.  But nothing remotely jewelry-like.

In metalsmithing, the technical term for what I have come up with is “suck,” or if you want to get fancy, “suckage.”  And I want to get fancy.  The F in my BFA is for “fancy terminology,” and I spent almost a whole extra year in school to get that F, so you can trust me when I tell you this is a technical term.  What have I come up with this week, someone might ask?  Suckage!  And you may use that term, too.  It doesn’t just apply to the studio arts.  You’re welcome.

And after the silver and gold ring the other day I was getting excited about blending silver and gold within the same design.  I wasn’t ready to go full-monty sterling yet, but the blending?  I thought I was good with the blending.  I’d be polymetalic, and use them both at the same time.  That sounds racy, doesn’t it?  Well, it would be the only racy thing about me, as I’m a complete nerd.  Blogosphere, I do squats while I brush my teeth, and I find if you have that in your repertoire, it really brings down the bar on cool.

And now I have hunks of metal resembling melted satellite suck, when I thought I was on the way to having something racy to say on dates when the topic of what I do for a living comes up.  I could have leaned in, lowered my eyelids a bit and said in a breathy voice, “I’m polymetalic.  That’s right. Both metals.  At the same time.  Who’s a little badass? That would be me.”

Now I don’t feel badass at all.

The problem is the soldering.  When soldering gold to silver, you use silver solder, and I’m ending up with a mess.   To be honest, the whole thing just takes practice, and I’m not being patient with myself.   As my beautiful sister would tell me, I am putting negative  energy out into the universe, and I must stop that. And she’s right.

So.  Deep breath, put aside the suckage and the self-pity, wrap myself in badass, and back into the studio I go.


Gold and Silver Orbit Ring

Orbit ring

Silver and I have decided to date, but it’s not serious.  I’m totally seeing other metals.

What I came up with:  A wide silver band, flared top and bottom to form a shallow concave channel which holds a  gold ring with five gold granules.  I tried finishing the silver several different ways before resting on this finish.  First white and heavily sanded, then satin, then polished, but none of those provided a nice contrast for the gold. I oxidized, and liked the gold against the dark backing the best.  I burnished the darkened silver to a high sheen, and I fell in love with that.

I think I will go ahead and list this ring for sale, and I like the idea of listing it with the option of more or less gold granules.   The granules strike me as a lovely metaphor for members of a family, or group.

Next up:  I’m in the middle of another wide silver ring.  This time with a white sanded finish, and lovely rectangular amethyst bezeled in gold.


Silver, again.

Actually, I’m going to talk about gold, too.  But, my goodness, all I had to do was say the word “silver,” and everyone had a jewelry orgasm on the spot, now didn’t you?  I think you’re better than that.

OK. I hear you. Do you have any idea how many hits that last post had, and for heaven’s sake it was just called “Silver?”  It had more hits than the “Cat Sex” post, and that is quite an accomplishment.  So the blogosphere likes silver.  I’m going to wait a while and then put up a post called “gold” just to see how the two compare, and I will be very disappointed in you if gold does not at least tie cat sex.

Why?  Why this love of silver?  Not to malign silver, but did you not notice that silver is gold’s bastard sibling?  Gold is the cousin who grows up to be the nicest of the bunch, the extended family member who didn’t get noticed growing up because the grandparents favored another child, someone showier.  But the favorite grandchild was, in reality, a bit of an early bloomer and a slut and has come to nothing in the end.  And all the other cousins could have told you this was going to happen, because we all knew.  We had to share a room with her at family holidays and, oh boy, the stories would have curled your toes.  Gold is not that cousin.  Gold is the other one, who’s just a really nice girl who was under the family’s radar, and has grown up to be gorgeous and awesome and nice.  Not that the flashy grandchild was a bad person.  She was just not all that and a bag of chips.  Gold is all that and a bag of chips.

Gold has fallen out of American favor, and I think it is because we have become such a casual nation.  We don’t Dress the way we used to.  Dress with a capital D. Much of the rest of the world has become less formal in their dress, too, but in a relaxed way, not necessarily a casual way.  It’s different.  Americans are casual, and for the most part gold is not.  When you say “gold jewelry,”  the images which come to mind are of department store jewelry.  Generically structured, mass-produced, can’t tell-one-piece from another,  hasn’t-changed-since-the-eighties jewelry.

But take gold and put it into the casual, artisan designs we have come to associate with silver, and you have something really beautiful.  Relaxed, but with a depth and warmth that silver can’t provide.  The kind of thing you might not see worn with jeans and sneakers, but which you’d see on a woman dressed just one step up from that: relaxed chic.  When we work gold into those kinds of handmade jewelry designs, we rediscover why wars have been fought for this metal, why it was considered a thing of the Gods.

And price has a lot to do with it, doesn’t it?  The casual silver designs which have worked their way into our wardrobes tend to be bigger, and to duplicate the size and weight of those pieces in gold would make the piece prohibitively expensive.  But there are other options, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  The goldsmith can go thinner, and heat treat that thinner piece to add strength.  It will still be more expensive than the silver, but it will be in the range of affordable.

And now, my ducklings, I’m going to get off my high-horse and get back in my studio, where I have begun to build a tentative friendship with silver.  I’ll post photos in a few hours.


Sapphire Empress Ring


Sapphires can be cheeky little monkeys.  That gorgeous, vivid blue requires a lot of light to look its best, and without enough light it deadens to a dark navy.  Which isn’t a bad color, but letting the sapphire go to navy defeats the purpose of having a sapphire in the first place!  So, the less metal surrounding the stone and blocking the light, the better.  That was an important consideration in creating this piece.

This sapphire is a strong, rich stone,  and in designing the ring I wanted to create a rich but strong and clean setting.  Roman and Byzantine jewelry has those attributes, and the granulation is a nod to that era’s jewelry.  To allow plenty of light for the sapphire to play with, I’ve kept the bezel as low as it could go and still hold the 1.77 ct sapphire securely.  Because it is lower, I’ve made it a heavier gauge than I normally would.  Just by a bit.  The floor of the setting is open to allow some light from underneath, and the band elevates the setting for this reason.  I love the swoop of the band as it curves up to hold the platform, and I think it makes clear that while this is a stong ring, it’s a feminine one as well.  I’ve repeated the gold granules on the side, making the profile an integrated part of the design.

I’ll have this posted on my sale site in just a bit.  I need to go see if Jill From Texas has time to model it for me!

To see some really neat Roman jewelry, check this out.