Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Solveig's Song

 Solveig was a unique and amazing woman whom I was fortunate to meet through my wife's family. She, like they, was Norwegian and lived in Montreal, where she had a beautiful apartment downtown and a rural chalet in St. Sauveur that was straight out of the mountains of her home country. She was an impressive woman in many ways, having married five times and standing at least 6 feet tall with a truly striking appearance- in other words, she looked like a modern Viking.

But Solveig had another side. While very wealthy, she valued and enjoyed simple things and she especially admired intelligence and determination- two traits she had in spades.

In Montreal, there was an entity known as the Norwegian Seamans' Church and while ostensibly a church, it became the hub for all things Norwegian in Montreal, including the many Norwegian sailors who visited the port. At that time, many Norwegians were emigrating to Canada and my father-in-law, Thorleif, was one of them. He arrived in Montreal with little besides a dream, having left his wife and small daughter, Wencke behind until he could afford to bring them over. And that's where Solveig came into their life. She was an active benefactor of the church and tried to help get people established. She helped Thorleif and when his family arrived, showed them much kindness as well. 

She took great interest in Wencke and even helped pay for her McGill tuition. She and her husband Larry shared Wencke's love of reading and especially science. And Solveig and Wencke both loved art and became accomplished artists. They shared another thing. Both had Norwegian names that Canadians found hard to pronounce so Wencke became (my wife) Vickie and Solveig became Silvia.

Solveig was an extremely accomplished artist and sculptor and it's a shame she didn't get to see Vickie's talent or this piece I created but I just know she would have loved it- both for its beauty and the fact that someone she knew had acquired the skills to make it. So I give you Solveig's Song.

 The necklace is made from a copper Viking Chain that I wove from 24 gauge copper wire and drew through a series of draw plates until it was 3 times as long. Then, in honour of this modern Viking, I hung a Viking axe charm framed by copper beads and spacers.

Finally, I finished it by adding lengths of metallic copper, premium leather cord (for comfort) and finished it with a hand made clasp. I can actually see Solveig wearing this and treasuring it as much as her diamonds and jewels because that is who she was.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

My Creative Process

 Many have asked how I come up with the ideas for my pieces so here goes.

First, I should make a few things clear. There are NO absolutely unique creative ideas. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Secondly, I am very fortunate to be married to an extremely talented mixed media artist. That helps in many ways, one of which is that she has squirreled away one of EVERYTHING so I have a vast array of materials at my disposal.

I'll explain my process by going through the development of my latest effort which started when I saw a piece of Vickie's jewelry- a pewter pendant from Denmark.

I loved the fact that it was so mobile but there were a few problems. I wanted to make it in copper, which is lighter in the thickness I use. I also didn't know how I was going to duplicate the patterning without a mold. The first effort lacked any real eye appeal 

but as is often the case, over coffee one morning, the REAL artist offered a solution to both problems. First, she suggested using a double plate- the back being new, flat copper plate and the front being my beat up reclaimed copper

She then offered to beat the daylights out of it to create an interesting texture. This actually solved another problem because it got a lot of pent up aggression out of her system that might otherwise have been directed at me at some point! So after I cut and filed and sanded the edges, she used several different hammers on the raw unsanded surface to create some amazing texture which I then highlighted by burnishing the "tips".

The next question was what to hang on the end of the paddles I had fabricated. Here I have to interject another fact. Remember when I said that Vickie has one of EVERYTHING? Well, that includes beads! I love the fabrication process but readily admit I do NOT have the Artist's Eye. Fortunately, she does- in spades. So after much coaxing and a promise to cut open a lot of the rock she has amassed, she agreed to choose material from her endless "stash". As usual, her choice was awesome.

She selected beautiful agate balls that she funky wrapped onto the paddles. I then finished it off by hanging it on a beautiful leather cord and using a beautiful clasp technique which the REAL artist taught to me.

So by now you should know that I am a fabricator with the good fortune of being married to a true designer. Sure, every once in a while I have an idea on my own. Here's one.

But even here I tend to be more "functional". The micro bolt at the top is  not really a design element but needed to keep the stone in place.

So there you have it. My ideas start with some amazing materials including local stone, beads and metal plate. I have an idea of something I'd like to create. The REAL artist then tells me what I REALLY want to create and I then use the skill set she has taught me to do the fabrication.

Thank you to those of you who have offered so much encouragement. We will be reopening the shop this summer and hope that, at some point, you can visit. But until then, you can see our efforts at our on line venture- the Seawall Emporium (www.seawallemporium.com ). I'm in The Lap of Lapidary while the REAL artist shows her work at Seawall Art.

Stay safe and sane. Hope to see you soon!

Monday, 15 March 2021

Anatomy of an Agate Pendant

 It starts, as it always does, with a stone. In this case it was a nice hunk of peach coloured agate that "She With The Agate Eye" brought back to the shop. As she is want to do, she insisted that I should cut it because there was treasure inside- she just knew it. Over the last 50+ years, I have learned to go with her hunches so I cut and by pure chance, cut right through a crystal druzy pocket not visible on the surface. I cut a slice and then cut a shape and after grinding and polishing on my Cab King this was the result.

It is a really beautiful stone but it lacked "pop" against any light background so I decided to try a copper backing. Now all my copper is reclaimed and upcycled. I have several sheets (thanks Dan) and it starts out looking like this.

It would be a stretch to get someone to wear copper like that so here's my process. First, I have to come up with some ideas and I was fortunate to have two other talented artists "in residence" at the time. Here are some of the ideas we considered.

The one on top was very interesting but not workable (sorry Sandra) so we eventually settled on the one in the lower left. From that, I made a pattern 

and then I cut a rough version of the shape from the copper plate. After a lot of filing and sanding, I had an exact fit to the pattern and now it was time to make the copper beautiful. To do this, I first flattened it by running it through a rolling mill and then started sanding the surface. I could use a Dremel but prefer to do it by hand and after starting with 100 grit, I keep working it through 12,000 grit. That takes time but the results are just what I want- a burnished piece of copper that retains the vestiges of it's previous life.

As you can see, backed by the copper, the stone takes on an amazingly warm hue and the druzy really stands out because of the spot of burnished copper that shows through. I now drilled holes in the bottom of the plate to hold a copper chain from which we suspended a nice matching Swarovski crystal and after rolling the "tongue" to create a bail for the neck cord. this is the result.

My objective is always to showcase the stone as best I possibly can and I'm pretty happy with this result. As usual, feedback is greatly appreciated and this piece will be available for purchase either through my "virtual store"- The Seawall Emporium (www.seawallemporium.com )- the Lap of Lapidary- or at the real store- The Artist's Mark- on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia. Hope to see you this summer!