Photograph ~ Daniel Krucoff
My Personal Collection
During the month of January, my mentor, Lexi Erickson, gave me an assignment. It was a true challenge and she knew it, as I did, but little did I comprehend at the time what a challenge it was. She wanted me to create a bracelet of stones. It was up to me to pick the stones, what colors, stones, shapes would go well together. Decide how I was to join the set stones together, how I would finish the piece, what the toggle/clasp would be…all the details, my decision. Hmmmm. BIG Challenge.
Lexi’s friend, Nancy Blair, makes these drop dead gorgeous bracelets. Lexi has one. She told me it had soul. I get that now.
Here’s a photo I took of Lexi’s bracelet…it doesn’t do it justice, but I’d like to share so you can see hers.
How was my piece going to have soul? My piece took its first breath last night. This piece has touched me deeply. It has humbled me and I take pride in this accomplishment, yet it will always keep me humble every time I look at it.
Giving this bracelet a name was difficult because of my journey with it. There were times I called it @!#$%&*!. I knew with each step backward or at times steps backward, I just knew I could do it. So as I thought of a name, I thought… Sheer Will and Determination, No Guts No Glory, Blood Sweat & Tears (although I really didn’t cry during its construction and my disappointments), Strong Will and then, this morning, it hit me….. Defining Moment. Yes! That was it! This piece is one of those wonderful defining moments in my life. I hope you have had them as they are refreshing, encouraging, and provide that wonderful feeling of hope. This is my Defining Moment as a metalsmith.
I have a lot I would like to share about this piece and I hope you will enjoy reading about it. I would like this to provide encouragement to all of you with your struggles and remember to never, never give up because the end result is well worth all the pain of stretching you endure in the journey.
Creating this piece of art jewelry has taught me so much, it humbled me, it lifted me, it challenged me.
I feel compelled to share the following as it all ties together. My mother insisted that I learn how to sew and so, the summer after 8th grade I began my lessons. When I started to sew, with each project, I tried to learn a new technique. My defining moment with sewing was when I made my first coat. After I did that I knew I could sew anything.
With stained glass, I didn’t have my defining moment until I finished the 3′ circular window of the Grand Tetons that hangs in the front of our home. It showed me that I could draw, design, use glass to create the effects I want.
With fused glass, I think Winter became my defining moment. I could finally see my style…the thing we constantly hear about as artists. I acknowledge that I have lots to learn about fused glass, but I know what my style is.
I certainly realize I have a long way to go, learn, and grow as a metalsmith, BUT this bracelet has shown me that I can create what I envision in my mind. When I suffer from those moments of self-doubt, all I need to do is look at this bracelet and realize that I can do it….time, perseverance, strong will, sheer determination….if I put my mind to it, I can do it. I’ve done that my entire life.
The first time I realized I could do whatever I put my mind to do was in 9th grade. Until then I had never been a particularly strong student, but Mr. Martin’s Algebra class awakened a thirst for knowledge and a joy in learning. He challenged our class and I truly believe each of us had a blast. That was the first year I earned straight A’s. I learned some valuable life lessons then and I continue to apply them today.
All that being said, would you like to see where this idea started and how it brought me to the finished piece? I hope you’ve said yes.
I knew this bracelet was going to be mine, not something I would offer for sale. You know that first time you do something and all the ‘incidents’ that happen. So I thought, why not make something with all the purple stones I have. I do have lots of Tiffany Stones and I toyed around with designs. The one pictured above was too long and just didn’t feel right. It actually had too many stones in it.
Here’s another variation on Tiffany Stones. Just didn’t look right. Plus, I knew Lexi was headed to Tuscon and I came up with a drawing of several bracelet designs….if I only had the stones. Lexi being Lexi was more than willing to come to my aid. I started to think of other stone choices. I love Picasso Stone, Chinese Writing Stones. I had some, but not exactly what I thought was the right mix. Matte finished black onyx would be a great accent. Petrified Palm Wood? Maybe. So as many of you know, Lexi became my eyes and ears when she went to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show.
So these were my designs. Looking at them now, I know I still had too many stones and was still focusing on symmetry instead of just letting go. However, Lexi took these and scowered the show looking for stones for me. I truly owe her a debt of gratitude.
She came back with some wonderful stone selections for me. From the groups pictured above, a few were from my existing inventory, but a number of them were Lexi finds for me from Tucson. You can see I was still obsessing with symmetry here. But you can also see that the final stone selections were in this group.
Ta Da! I finally managed to par it down to the final stone selections. From left to right, petrified palm wood, red jasper, picasso stone (Lexi’s birthday gift to me! Yay Lexi and THANKS again… I love this stone), red creek jasper, and green tiger eye. Whew. I knew I wanted to extend the stones textures to the edges of the metal. I even added Keum Boo accents to the setting for the green tiger eye.
I thought I was close here. I had melted more bezels than ever before…more than I care to think about even now, but I overcame that and now I had beautiful bezels that were ready to provide cozy shelters for these lovely stones. I had used 16 gauge rings, soldered to the backs of each of the settings. They would provide stability. I thought I had it sized correctly, but no. When I tried it on, the bracelet had grown with the large rings I used…that whole spacing issue. The roller coaster ride had just begun. I had to remove all of the rings I had soldered to the backs. Time to get creative. I had some 18 gauge square wire that I formed into rectangle shapes using the handle of one of my files to form the rectangles.
At this point, I had taken so many steps backward that I stopped taking progression photographs. I had been heartbroken at times and it was becoming too painful for me to document the progression or lack thereof. The reason I needed rectangle shapes for the joining rings was to allow sufficient space for the jump rings. I used 3 jump rings per join and the round rings just couldn’t accommodate them and allow the bracelet to be the correct size for my narrow wrist.
I re-did all of the rings. In the process, I soldered rings together, at one point turned the entire bracelet copper because of pins that got stuck during the soldering process and I put the piece in the pickle (acid solution to clean the metal) so the chemical reaction cause it to turn copper! Argh, the pins were supposed to prevent things from being soldered together. It became very frustrating. Yet I could still envision this beautiful end result.
Last night, Thursday the 25th of March, I went to Lexi’s with my bracelet. I had 2 jump rings that needed to be soldered and I had painstakingly cleaned, filed, sanded the bracelet. Lexi felt my pain. She knew she had given me a BIG CHALLENGE. And in that 11th hour if you will, she complimented my work and I am honored to say that she soldered those two final joining rings on my bracelet.
Last night I had my Homer Simpson moment of “DOH” when Lexi changed torch heads to the small one. Oh…that’s what I had forgotten to do when I was soldering all the joins of my jump rings! No wonder I had so much trouble. Too much heat, too large of a flame….oh the humanity!!!! I can assure you I will never forget to use the small head on my torch in the future for those tasks. Boy did we laugh about that one.
I finished setting the stones, the bezels….again another stone or two benefited from Lexi’s touch in its setting and I learned yet another couple of techniques. Clean up, followed by oxidation and I wore my bracelet home!
It’s a journey I will enthusiastically embark on again! For now, this one will remain in my private collection and I imagine I will wear it on a daily basis. It truly is my Defining Moment as a metalsmith.
Didn’t Dan do a great job photographing the bracelet? He captured it oh so well.
Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person. I am.