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Spirit Series
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

Picasso Stones have moved to the top of my favorite list for drop dead, gorgeous stones. There is something classy & elegant about black/brown/white hues for me. Picasso Stones remind me of trees. And my Dad was a landscaper by trade and he taught me about the beauty trees have; respect them, nurture them. They have an innate strength.

I fell in love with these stones the minute I saw them at Gary B. Wilson’s booth this April when he and his wife, Kathy, and one of their daughters returned to Denver. I have a number of Picasso Stone beauties, but these, well, they would be mine.

Lately I have been thinking about my line of Art Jewelry. It is important to me that my jewelry convey an inner strength for its wearer. I don’t make dainty pieces. I like to think they reflect that bold, strong spirit of a woman who knows herself, what she wants from life, and she isn’t afraid to do what it takes to achieve her goals. Perhaps I’m revealing a bit of my inner self here.

These earrings symbolize Strength to me.  The courage to be an individual.  And you know what is great?  My husband loves and appreciates the qualities strong women possess.  How awesome is that?  Because I am one of those strong women.  And my closest friends are women who know themselves.  Fear is something to be conquered and pushed aside.  There’s no place in life for fear because it is the most destructive of emotions.  At least that is what I think and believe.

So I have taken these beautiful stones and done my best to showcase their beauty, their strength.  They are set in Sterling Silver.  I have added a bit of texture to let their tree like lines extend into the surface of the setting.  For the top, I’ve added a touch of 14kt Keum Boo as a compliment to the markings in the stone.  They have become part of my personal collection.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.  I am!

The Journey Begins
Soul Searching Series
Photo credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

At one point, I thought my Soul Searching Series was drawing to an end….yet as I continue to develop new art jewelry designs, I find that there will always be pieces that belong in that series. These earrings definitely belong. Another beautiful Jasper set from Gary B Wilson. I’m convinced that Jasper stones will remain at the top of my favorite stones list. As with so many jaspers, I can see a scene…as if it is somewhere I’ve been or would like to visit. This one reminds me of embarking on a new path, a new direction if you will. So I give you The Journey Begins.

These are the largest earrings I have made to date.  The nice thing is that they are not that heavy, although I did use sterling silver posts, rather than french hooks, to provide additional support when these are worn.  The stones are set in sterling silver and I have textured the settings.  24kt Keum Boo accents were added to the top portion as complimentary accents to the images in the stones.

Why call these The Journey Begins?  Don’t you look forward to the excitement of a new adventure? What awaits as we travel the path? Change is a natural part of life, as is growth I believe. Without those elements, doesn’t life become a bit boring? I embrace change. I look forward to it.  Currently I feel like I am embarking on a new life journey, artistically that is, and so The Journey Begins for me.  What wonders will happen along the way? May they be joyous.

Care to share your thoughts and experiences about your life journeys?  Please feel free to do so, I’d enjoy hearing what you have encountered.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person, I am.

Sky Tree
Tribute to Pandora Series
Photograph ~ Daniel Krucoff

Another pair of Sterling Silver textured earrings with 24kt gold Keum Boo applied.  These represent Sky Tree from the movie Avatar and are part of my Tribute to Pandora Series.

I find myself doodling with shapes more these days.  The shape of these earrings evolved from one of those doodles.  This one seems to have a bit of an Oriental sense to it too…or at least it does for me.  And the application of the Keum Boo, really had the look I wanted for a representation of Sky Tree.  The texture came from one of my favorite Fretz hammers, designed to create what they call a silk effect.  I did add a light touch of oxidation to help emphasize the texture and the Keum Boo.

These earrings are light and free flowing.  I think they have a graceful femininity to them.  They are a little over 1″ long.

I hope all of you are having a wonderful Easter holiday weekend.  It is extremely windy where we live in Colorado, but that is fairly normal for this time of year.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.  I am.

Defining Moment

Spirit Series
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.

The Grand Tetons

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.

Her soldering a portion of my bracelet will add that special place in my heart for it (and her of course).  Thank you my dear friend and mentor!

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.

Binary Sunshine
Tribute to Pandora Series
Photograph by Daniel Krucoff

Available ~ $90 + shipping

Some of you know how taken I am with the James Cameron movie, Avatar.  The artwork and technology behind the movie has fascinated me.  As a result, I felt it’s only natural that I have a new series of Art Jewelry, that I am calling my Tribute to Pandora Series.  How appropriate is it that the first in this series is called Binary Sunshine….now there is a mix of technology and nature for you!

These earrings are made of Sterling Silver with 24kt gold Keum Boo.  The design created by the Keum Boo represents one of the plants on Pandora that are known as Binary Sunshine.  I textured the sterling using a couple of different hammers to create the effect I wanted.  Once the metal was prepared, I fused the Keum Boo to the surface and then added a light oxidation to emphasize the gold and the texture of the sterling.  The ear wires are made of silver.  They are approximately 1 3/4″ long x 1/2″ wide.  I have several other earring designs in this new series, but I thought I would unveil the series with this pair.

I hope you like them and that they remind you just a bit of the beauty one can find in that mythical planet, Pandora.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Finding My Way ~ Soul Searching Series
Photo Credit — Daniel Krucoff

Available ~ $225 without chain

The stone is Casessite Jasper, purchased from Gary B Wilson at the Denver Gem & Mineral Show last September.  I think I fell in love with Jaspers at that show.  They seem to have such lovely naturescapes….or at least I see nature vistas in them.  This particular stone has some lovely warm rust shades with a nice compliment of muted ambers and soft tans.  The scene I see in this stone is a couple of large trees, bending as if trying to show the right direction.  It evokes a calming sense for me and I feel like I’m finding my way with this one…hence its title.

As each of us grow, working with our respective mediums, don’t you find that our work changes as we are finding our way? Sometimes the growth is slow, other times it’s like skiing down a mountain and it is exhilarating because of that controlled speed.  Well, I hope it is a controlled speed for each of you!  This piece was one of several that I worked on as a group.  I would cut out the basic designs for each and then I had to stop and work on an individual piece, giving it my full attention.  As I completed one piece, that fed an idea for the next in the queue.  Things evolved from piece to piece.  In Peaceful Surroundings, I added Keum Boo and then that confirmed I needed Keum Boo added to this piece too.  For Finding My Way, the Keum Boo at the top is meant to carry the bending shapes of those tree trunks I see in the Casessite Jasper.  I’ve extended the lines from the stone into the setting and the top piece that has the Keum Boo (24kt gold).  The setting is Sterling Silver and I went with a more subtle oxidation this time as I wanted a gentle background for this beautiful stone.

My mentor, Lexi Erickson, reviews my work at my request and recently she has challenged me to take what I do even further.  I love a challenge and I think I have a bit of an internal battle going on with myself to see what I can do to expand my style.  In addition to being a good friend, Lexi is such a great teacher as she knows when a student is ready for that next stretch.  I’m working on it Lexi!  Thank you.  By the way, those of you who live in the Denver area, Lexi is going to teach beginning metalworking at the Highlands Ranch Recreation Center starting in March.  I’d highly recommend investing in yourself and take one of her classes.

A number of you have inquired about these Soul Searching pieces.  As a result, I will now add to my posts about the new pieces, if they are available and their price.  That is why you see the price under the photograph for this one.  The dimensions for Finding My Way are approximately 2″ long and 1 1/2″ at its widest point.

Of course, I think Dan’s photograph of this one has showcased the piece perfectly.  As a matter of fact, his photographs of my work have helped me to be accepted into some upcoming shows and a book publication!  More details on the book in another post. 😉

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts with me.  Your generosity in leaving comments helps me to grow as an artist and I appreciate it.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Peaceful Surroundings
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

Another pendant in my Soul Searching Series, this one I call “Peaceful Surroundings“.  I have been able to complete a number of art jewelry pieces over the holiday break and it’s nice to reveal this one at the beginning of 2010.  I feel it represents many of the good things to come in this new year.

The stone in this setting is Dendrites in Limestone that I purchased from Gary B. Wilson at the Gem & Mineral Show in Denver this past September.  I textured the metal to carry the dendrite markings from the stone into the surrounding setting.  This is set in Sterling Silver and I added 24kt Keum Boo to the top piece.  I thought the gold was a nice touch to sort of extend the rich color of the limestone into the top piece.  I oxidized the sterling with a liver of sulfur and as I worked with it, I wanted to emphasize the texture I had added to represent the dendrite extensions into the metal.

I find that the name for a piece is an interesting process for me.  Sometime it comes to me as I start the design.  In other cases, nothing manifests until it is complete.  This time, it was the latter.  As I looked at the completed pendant, I saw some of the gentle grasses that line the hiking trails in the Tetons.  I always feel at peace when I’m in the Tetons and there was my title, Peaceful Surroundings.

Wishing all of you a healthy, happy, and peaceful 2010.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

NewGrowthNew Growth

Earrings from my Soul Searching series, these represent my new growth as a metalsmith.

Lots of different techniques here.  My first venture into Keum Boo. Keum Boo is a seriously cool technique that involves bonding very thin, 24 kt gold, to the surface of your metal.  The link I’ve given is to Wikipedia’s explanation and I think they’ve provided a good description of Keum Boo.

I kept the design pretty simple again.  I’m using Sterling Silver for the background and the ear wires.  The texture I created on the sterling was done with the use of my Pepe rolling mill and a piece of fabric.  I am so into creating textures on metal.  Looking at mesh for screen, lamp shades, artificial flowers, well…I look for pieces I can use to texture metal just about anywhere!

Once I had the texture in place, then I filed the edges so they would be smooth.  I added a line to represent the branch for the leaves.  The lines were created with a very tiny diamond coated bit and my new Foredom.

The sterling needs to be annealed several times to bring the pure silver to the surface.  This provides the adhesion layer necessary for the Keum Boo to bond completely.

Time for the placement of the leaves, which are the Keum Boo part of these.  I traced the leaf design on the paper to use as a guide for cutting them.  Using my Joyce Chen Scissors, I was able to cut out these very small leaves.  If you have need for an ultra sharp pair of scissors, get some Joyce Chens.  They will cut chicken bones and you have to be VERY careful when you use them as they don’t distinguish between bone, fingers, or metal.  I can’t speak from personal experience on the injury front, but I have been instructed to be careful with them (thanks Lexi 🙂 ) and I want to pass that information on to anyone who hasn’t used them.

Now we’re ready to bond the leaves to the surface.  Truly an interesting process.  Lexi is demonstrating how this is done and I’m watching, completely fascinated.  Now it’s my turn.  Wow.  She has one of those glass cook tops and that was our surface for heating the metal and then using a burnisher to gently rub the Keum Boo as it’s bonding to the surface of the silver.  Who would have thought!  Of course, as with anything, there is more than one way to do this.  I just never expected to put metal on a stove top and that would bond two layers of metal together!

Once the bonding is complete, we decided to add a patina to really have the gold stand out.  Well, after all, it is gold and no matter how small, one should be able to see it.

Another technique Lexi showed me was how to create those cute little balls on the end of the ear wires.  I did have fun doing this on my own and will be incorporating this into more of my work.  I added patina to the ear wires (also sterling silver) so they would match the earrings.

Ever since my Creative Block break through, I have been literally consumed with trying new things and variations on techniques I already know.  Metalwork is truly fascinating to me.  These earrings do symbolize my New Growth as a metalwork artist.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an Artist and a Person.

Kathleen Krucoff

Artist and Metalsmith

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