Wizardry Dragon Pendant

STEP 1 - The Design

The design is based on my favorite computer game of all- Wizardry!  It was a dungeon crawl game that I played on the Apple II many years ago.  I've always wanted to make that iconic dragon from the first game box.  The design was a little tricky though- I wanted to capture the motion of the dragon, but not box it in with just a square or circular design.  So I superimposed it on a circle and then had the dragon "break out" into the silver parts of the necklace.  There was a lot of extra black space, so I figured I would set a stone there to balance out the piece.

I used Illustrator to figure out the design.  I drew it on paper, then scanned it in and converted it to vector art so it would be easy to resize and adjust.

STEP 2 - Bending the Wires

My jewelry microscope was essential for this step.  These wires are so tiny and to get them just right, I needed that extra 30X magnification.  I used fine silver wires, with the tiny exception of his eyeball, which was 24K gold.  I know it's just a small detail, but I like to go all in.  Rest assured, it took many hours to bend these wires...

I use a little double-stick tape on a piece of paper to hold the wires in place while I am working on them.  So many little pieces of wire!

STEP 3 - Fabricating the Base

The silver base is created by fusing two sheets of silver together- this gives me the area to inlay my enamels into.  I actually cut out the top piece before bending the wires because of the "overflow" design with the silver, so I needed it as a reference while doing the wires.  

I cut out the top sheet of silver so I could use it as a reference while bending my wires.  (20 gauge fine silver)

To finish the base, I cut another larger sheet of fine silver and fused the top sheet to it.  I'm afraid I don't have any images of the fusing of this piece, but you can see in the picture below left the before fusing.  (I like to work on many things at once, so you can see some other things I was working on.  Basically I use a torch and heat the metal until it melts together.  (That's a whole tutorial for another day!)  On the right, you can see the finished silver base.  I've already drilled a hole where I'm going to insert the stone later.

The scales were way too small to make with wires, so I used a small punch to add a scale texture to the silver base.

To make the silver base, I will fuse the top sheet to the bottom sheet, then saw off the extra...

I added the scale texture using a small hammer and punches...

STEP 4 - Setting the Wires into the Silver Base

This is always the most agonizing step!  It's like playing "Operation" on nightmare level.  To prep the base for the wires, I added two coats of counter enamel to the back of the piece and sifted a coat of pale green enamel on the front.  The glass will hold everything together, so it's important to always have a layer of glass between all the pieces of silver.  After placing the wires, I sifted more enamel on top and fired them in place.  I fired them in three stages- starting with the head and working my way downward...

STEP 5 - Adding the Colored Enamels

I started with the green enamels because I wanted to be sure that the opaque black enamel wasn't going to seep under the wires.  On the left picture below, you can see the first layer of green enamel being added.  The enamels are basically just ground up glass, and I mix them with water to get a smooth coat, then (after drying) I fire them at 1450 degrees.  I did two solid coats of green before starting on the black enamel, and then alternated between the transparents and opaque colors to prevent any cross contamination.    I can't quite remember, but all told, it took about 7 coats of enamel to reach the top of the wires.

The first coat of enamel.  The left image is before firing, and the right image is after being fired in the kiln at 1450 degrees.

The left image has 2 coats of green and 2 coats of black enamel.  In the right image, I've achieved the right shade of green, so I've switched to clear enamels (hence the sugary appearance) and will continue with clear enamel until I've reached the tops of the wires.

STEP 6 - Grinding and Polishing

Now it's just a matter of removing all the excess enamel and polishing it to a brilliant shine!  I start with the "big grind"- I use an electric grinder to remove the enamel overflow and obtain a perfectly smooth surface.  Then I hand polish with papers until the silver is without any scratches or blemishes.  Finally, I put the whole piece back in the kiln to remelt all the glass and achieve a high polish.  Finally, I used very fine polishing papers and polishing compounds to give it a final luster, and after a quick stint in the tumbler, I added the little tube set ruby.  (I had originally thought a fire opal would be nice, but it was too orange- the ruby was the perfect foil for all that green, so I switched stones at the last minute).  

After a bit of elbow grease!

The Finished Pendant:

So, only six steps!  I know this tutorial has been pretty abbreviated, so if you'd like more information, please check out my video tutorials on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC0gCgDmbgS0IoQArbQxVQw

All done!

Empress Theodora Necklace

Theodora started out life as a circus performer but became one of the most influential and powerful empresses of the Byzantine Empire.   I wanted to make a necklace that represented both sides of her story- the whimsy and the grandeur all rolled into one crazy necklace.

I used a hydraulic press to create the domed fine silver bases, and then hand scribed designs in the fine silver.  In keeping with the Byzantine theme, I used 24K gold cloisonné wire.  (I roll my own wires- I like to be able to control the width and depth of the wires.  It's so much nicer.

It was a painstaking procedure to attach all the wires to the domed base- I first laid down a layer of clear enamel, and then fired the wires in place in several stages. There are about 10 thin layers of enamel color, which help preserve the translucency and create a nice shading effect.

After the colored enamels were finished, I used a diamond stick and polishing papers to grind off the excess enamel, and give the piece a smooth finish.  A final fire in the kiln resulted in a gemstone like finish.

And now, onto the setting.  I made a special texture plate for the back of the piece that complemented the front design.  I coated a piece of copper with asphaltum, and used a scribe to make the designs.

After a nice soak in the acid bath, I had myself a nice texture plate.  In hindsight, I should have used brass, but I only had copper on hand, and you know what? It worked out just fine.   (But I've already switched to brass for future projects, it's takes a lot more wear and tear...)

I used the textured silver as the backing, and 18K gold bezel wire.  I didn't want to see the silver on the sides, so I fitted the bezel wire around the pre-shaped backing plate.  

Checking to make sure I have a good fit for the bezel setting.

I made a chain of 18K gold wires.  Always make more links than you think you need.  It always happens to me- I either melt one, or don't have enough to make it a comfortable length.  In this case, I made two extra and used both of them.  Even if you don't end up using them, you can save them in case the person buying the necklace wants it to be longer.  

Wedding Jewelry!

Here are the first batch of photos from the photo-shoot we did last week.  Thanks to Cara at  F8photostudios for doing such a good job!

Pretty Blue Cloisonne Hair Comb w/ Blue Topaz

Roman Style Necklace with Peridot

"Bright Wing" Tiara

"Moonlight" Tiara

"Violetta" Necklace with Earrings

Dragon Necklace.  (I Love this pic!!!)

"Bright Wing Tiara"

This is my very first tiara.  I can't believe it took me this long to make a tiara, and now that I've made one, there will be many more to follow...

My design was fairly simple, just pretty angel wings with a heart shaped filigree centerpiece.

I used fine silver wires, but added 24k gold wire circle accents.  Just for fun!

My color palate was shades of baby blues and opal whites.

After the first firing.  These are still hot- you can tell because the colors are green instead of blue.  As they cool, they settle into the proper color.

Why make just one?  I'm making a whole wedding party!

Here's my filigree wire laid out on paper.  I used some double stick tape to hold things in place.

I started out putting the solder carefully on each joint...

But by the end, I was winging solder left and right like a pro and just using my pick to keep things in place.  

Here's the final product.  Perfect for weddings and crime fighting!

Three Musicians

I made this enamel piece for the cover of James Olin Oden's upcoming album.  The concept behind the piece was three good friends playing music around a campfire in the evening.  There was some talk of a nice forest, and maybe some wagons, but in the end I choose to focus on the three figures.

Here's the sketch I came up with.  Although it looks like a lot of different colors, I tried to keep the palette pretty restrained (for me anyway).  It's mostly browns, oranges, and blues.  Originally, I was going to do a cobalt blue sky, but I felt that take the punch away from the browns and oranges, so I went with a clean opaque black for the sky.  That would allow the other colors to really pop.

Next, I made my wires.  I decided to use 24K gold wire for the fire and environmental elements and silver wire for the figures.

 Then I created the base using 20 gauge fine silver.  I cut out the top, then fused it to another sheet of silver:

Before any wires get fired into place, I counter enamel the reverse and put a nice coat of clear enamel on the front.

Then I fire the wires in place.  I do this in several stages.  I put down some 24K gold leaf where the fire was going to be.  Just for some added sparkle...

Finally time to add some color!  I did a couple of layers of the foreground and the figures before adding any of the opaque black.  I didn't want the black to seep in under the wires or contaminate the adjacent cells, so I waited until later to add it.  It's easier to clean up bits of black specs from the top layers of enamel.

After many layers of color, I did the first grind.  It's so easy to accidentally grind off all the enamel because you want it to all be smooth.  I could see that this was going to need some filling in with more enamel, so I resisted the urge to overdo it.

I actually did several coats of enamel to finish building it up to the edges.  You can see that I've added some more opaque black in the sky and clear enamel over the fire and the figures.  It always looks like a mess at this stage...

Ready for the final polish!

I had already soldered a loop on the back so it could be worn as a pendant, but I wanted to fabricate a setting for it so it could also be worn as a pin.  I used sterling silver and cut out some moon and stars.  Reminds me of a spaceship...

Then I just attached it to the back using the four prongs I created:

And here's the final piece.  I'm taking it to get photographed this week, so check back soon for the glamour shot!

Serbian Enamel Pin

 I finally got around to making the setting for my Serbian kilt pin.  My goal for 2013 is to really work on getting my silversmithing skills up to a decent level.

The setting is a combination of sterling and fine silver.  I had thought I might want to try fusing those little swirls in place, but after trying some samples, figured it would be easiest to just solder everything in place.  I started with the scalloped bezel wire using hard solder, then did the square outline frame using medium.  It's far from perfectly even, so I made the swirls to fit afterwards, and used medium solder again.

The matching cuff-links used the same scalloped bezel wire, but they were so large already, I didn't want to fuss them up with swirls.  I think they match pretty well...

24K Gold Wire

Man, if I could afford it, I would do all my wires in 24K gold.  It's like working with pure magic.  Seriously, this is $300 worth of gold in my hand.... 

 So I warmed up with a pair of earrings.  These will be ruby red...

Then moved on to a large Griffon Necklace. 

Then, as my gold finale, I made this.  It's going be a present for my friend Jovan and will ultimately be a kilt pin.  He's got the McEwen tartan, but I'm honoring his Serbian heritage here with the crest.  The little fleur-de-lis will be matching cufflinks.  It's going to be a surprise, so don't tell him!

I've got some silver wire to bend tom morrow,  but hopefully I'll be able to start enameling these this weekend. 

Hi everyone!  

I've got a tutorial in this month's issue of Art Jewelry Magazine!

If you are looking to purchase the "Blue Fuse" fusing liquid I described in the tutorial, here's the link:

Happy Enameling!

New studio space!

I've recently moved into my new studio at Artspace, located in downtown Raleigh. The space is enormous! I've got plenty of room and the light is perfect. My studio is open to the public from Wednesday through Saturday, so stop by and visit!

201 E Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
Studio 105

The Dragon is finished!

Just in time for the American Craft Show in Baltimore!

Here's the Roman Wreath necklace.  It's very flattering to wear as well...


Red enamel can be tricky.  I probably have 20 different shades of red, but I only trust 3 of them not to be a disaster.  I'm taking a bit of a risk with this new shade, but it's so ruby red and delicious I thought it was worth the extra trouble.  I'm still a little nervous about it so I'm going to get the color down as fast as possible and get some clear on there to try to minimize the danger of the red reacting to the silver or getting splotchy.

The first layer went down fine, so I'm feeling a bit better.  I'm mixing the deep ruby red with some lighter shades of red, plus some yellow oranges for the belly and wings.

I'm also making another large necklace that was inspired from an Etruscan painted portrait I saw a while back.  It's simple, but I like the shapes, and the colors will be a nice gradient of green.  It's a refreshing offset to all that irksome red!  Anyway, here it is: