Monday, July 12, 2010

Drawing in the countryside

I just came home from a few days of vacation on the lovely island Fur in the northern part of Denmark. Danish countryside means agriculture and a few forests plus a lot of coastline and beaches. It’s an old country and hence many buildings are rather old too. – A lovely feature when you want to relax a bit by drawing.

We had set out, the entire family (myself, my 6 year old daughter and my parents) to find a good spot for drawing and ended up at an old farm. It’s a traditional square with a yard covered by cobbled stones and a large tree in the middle (a “protection tree”). Originally it was constructed in 1600-and-something, which shows by the wooden structure of the gate – later the roof of this part was covered with sheet metal unlike the main living part which is thatched like our summerhouse:

Okay, back to the farm. Grandfather, mother and daughter sat down and started drawing the same motif – the gate leading into the farm. The result was quite stunning. We were sitting a bit apart, and so the angel to the motif was slightly different, but it’s quite clear that we drew (or in my father case: painted) the same motif. Each of us chose different features to bring into the picture. Johanne of cause drew the swing and the weather vane, while I was concentrating on the inner woodwork of the gate. My father painted the building in its surroundings.

This is the first time that we had Johanne out on one of our traditional vacation-drawing trips and she loved it, working very concentrated. Not the last time I take her, she has a real talent to be nurtured!

To me it was just nice to draw something else than jewelry for a change and I think necessary in order to keep your drawing skills intact. Maybe I should draw a few more humans again – perhaps even coquis? It’s been a few years and that is one of the best drawing exercises available!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Devilish wrapping rings turning heavenly beautiful

Two customers came to me. They were friends and had been to Sri Lanka together. There, they had bought a number of beautiful faceted stones and now they wanted them set in each their wrapping ring. One had seven stones and wanted them set in a wrapping ring made of 14 carat gold, the other had five stones and a redundant wedding ring of 14 carat gold that she wanted incorporated, but the rest made of silver.

We had a long chat and made a number of drawings. They wanted wrapping rings, but not identical rings and actually had each their style. The one with the seven stones wanted a curved design, possibly with some balls too, while the one with the five stones wanted a more minimalistic and simple design.

Very well – I started working. It took quite a while to create all those settings – most of them were slightly irregular, and so nothing premade could be used at all. Then I removed the writing from the inside of the wedding ring, cut it open and milled it a bit thinner before closing it to a ring again – now absolutely plain and simple.

Creating a wrapping ring is principally very simple. You take a length of wire (I find 1,3 mm the best gauge), wrap it around a ring mandrel where you know it would fit, and solder it all together. However, it’s of cause not that simple. Thing is, it has to be wrapped in a way, that leaves no crossings of the wire at the sides of the ring, which would be very annoying when worn. And then of cause you need to wrap it in a way that can accommodate all the settings you are planning for. The more stones, the more complicated. Needless to say, that the one with the seven stones presented quite a challenge! 14 carat gold is also not that easy to work with. Yes, pure gold is very soft, but 14 carat gold is half copper/silver and other metals, which makes the alloy a lot harder to work than sterling silver. A lot of swearing words were heard in my studio while manipulating (and annealing) the wire until I was satisfied.

Then I asked my customers in for a fitting. Not only was it important to find out if the ring actually fit. If you create a wide wrapping ring, it very much depends on how the finger is created. Me, I have what appears as moderately slender fingers, but they are rather fleshy at the base. That means that a wide band very quickly feels too small, even though it has the “right” size. My customers however, did not have that issue, and so the rings fit – phew! Then we started playing around with the settings. I had of cause a suggestion, but we ended moving the stones around quite a lot before we were all satisfied. I took pictures to remember for my further work:

Actually, I ended up changing the settings of the golden ring once again, but that is how it is – when you work with it, you often find out that another solution is the better one. Luckily my customer and I agreed on a new version.

Assembling the silver/gold ring version was fairly easy. With “only” five settings we were on friendly terms.

The big golden ring with the seven settings however, was a stubborn lady and I soldered, re-soldered and then again eight times before I was satisfied, all the settings and all the balls were in place. Setting the stones of cause also was a challenge, due to the hard-alloy-issue, but I propped the ring on my mandrel, fixated it in the vice and used a punch and hammer to tap the settings over the stones.

Once I was done renovating and polishing I leaned back and looked at them. I might have been very annoyed at a point or two in that process, but I must say… the result was absolutely stunning! The silver/gold version was elegant, colorful and absolutely perfect for my customer. The golden was sumptuous like an Indian Bollywood movie, very feminine and alive with all the balls carefully placed to balance the stones in order to create a overall harmonic design. “Wow” I though “just… wow!” -and ended the day being rather proud of my work.