Friday, December 30, 2016

(Up)Setting the Stone: 2016 We Are SNAG Exhibition

I am very pleased to announce that one of my recent works was selected for the 2016 We Are Snag online exhibition "(Up)Setting the Stone". The exhibition was juried by George Sawyer and Laura Wood, and focuses on the concept of the setting in traditional jewelry as a technical process, conceptual idea, and abstraction to be manipulated and utilized in different ways within the field of contemporary jewelry and metalsmithing. I am truly humbled and honored to be included in such an amazingly talented and diverse group of artists and makers. I am grateful to the jurors for including me in this strong exhibition, check it out at SNAG/SPACE, the online exhibition space for the Society of North American Goldsmiths:

Monday, December 19, 2016

2017 Regional Artist Project Grant Recipient

I am very honored and excited to announce that I have been awarded a 2017 North Carolina Regional Artist Project Grant, through the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte, NC and the Union County Community Arts Council. My grant request was for the funds to purchase an oxygen/acetylene torch setup to be able braze and cast my sculptural forms and units for use in my jewelry and sculptural works. This was my first grant-writing experience, and the process was highly informative and rewarding, and allowed me to better understand and articulate my own thoughts about my work, creative practice, and artistic vision.

I will post more about the process in January once I receive the grant, get the equipment set up, and begin creating a series of 5 brand-new sculptural jewelry pieces and one outdoor sculpture. I look forward to documenting and writing about my creative process and studio practice as I create my first new series of lost-wax castings in over 5 years.

The Arts and Science Council received nearly 100 grant requests from the counties of Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Rutherford, Stanley, Union, and York (SC). In the end, 32 grant proposals were approved and funded. I am honored to be included in such a diverse and talented group of literary, performing, and visual artists. Check out the full list of artists and grants at:

This project was made possible by the N.C. Arts council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, the Blumenthal Endowment and the Union County Community Arts Council.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Found Object Spoon Necklaces

Chrome-Plated Bronze
9.5"H x 7.25"W x .5"D

This set of sculptural chrome-plated bronze necklaces is made from the re-purposed handles of vintage Dirilyte flatware. Dirilyte, (formerly known as Dirigold) was the trade name for a proprietary aluminum bronze alloy created in Sweden in 1914 by Carl Molin for flatware and serving pieces. It was designed to mimic the look of gold without resorting to plating or other coatings that would wear away with time. In 1935 the FTC filed a suit against the company alleging that the name "Dirigold" was misleading the public into believing there was actual gold content in the metal. The company changed both their name and the name of their product to Dirilyte, and operated independently in the United States till they were bought out in 1971.

When I first found out about Dirilyte and Dirigold flatware, I was excited to get my hand on it and see what I could do with the material, as bronze is one of my favorite materials to work with. I acquired several different pattern sets from resale shops and flea markets, and began experimenting with the flatware to see how it responded to annealing, forging, fabrication, and soldering. After playing around for some time, I came upon a simple but elegant use for the handles of one particular spoon and fork pattern. The bronze handles were deconstructed, forged, and ground into the desired links, and connected with soldered U-hinges that were fitted into counter-sunk holes drilled into the bronze for structural support. The larger necklace is a continuous loop that can can be put on over one's head, while the smaller necklace has a hook clasp hand-carved from the bronze material itself. I did an initial test piece for the clasp mechanism by manipulating a single spoon from the set, resulting in an interesting craft/art object that get utilized for further creative purposes in the future.

Detail of Sample Clasp Mechanism

Original Spoon, Clasp Test-Piece, and Forged/Manipulated Links

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

38th Annual Tri-State Iron Pour Molds and Castings

For the 38th Annual Tri-State Sculptors Conference Iron pour, I made 2 reaction molds in my shop to take to the pour. Normally a mold for iron-casting would be made of resin-bonded sand or ceramic shell, as traditional plaster and investment molds react poorly to the molten iron resulting in poor quality castings. Reaction molds, however, are specifically designed to react with the molten iron and create a brilliant display of sparks and flames. Usually constructed of wood elements, they can be incorporated with other mold methods such as resin-bonded sand to provide structure and strength to the mold, as wood behaves very differently when in contact with molten iron. It has instantly shrink, expand, crack, and break down in unexpected ways, resulting in a rupture of the mold that allows the metal to run out. If one can manage to construct a wooden mold in such a way as to withstand the heat of the iron long enough to allow it to begin to solidify and cool, some very interesting textures and effects can be created.

The Mold:

I constructed 2 wood molds, of which the main mold is shown above in 2 pieces prior to assembly. The double layers of plywood are staggered to prevent iron from leaking out of the mold as the wood burns and expands. After assembly all seams and joints were sealed with 3000 degree refractory cement for added security.


Once the molds were poured, the wooden forms burned away completely over the course of the next hour or so.

The Aftermath:


The Results:

The resulting main casting turned out fantastic, with an amazing texture and surface that I did not expect. It turned out far heavier than I anticipated, at least 80lbs, as once the wooden mold began to burn when in contact with the molten iron, the interior space increased and as a result, so did the overall mass.

The voice you can hear on the videos talking about iron casting and the process is that of James "Dudders" Dudley, a fellow artist, maker, and ECU alum. Thank you for the unintentional narration, sir. Check out an awesome podcast he is involved with along with a host of other highly talented and creative individuals, Damn Art Majors.

Friday, October 14, 2016

4th Annual World Championship Belt Buckle Competition Honorable Mention!

I am very pleased to have my recent sculptural jewelry piece, "Crypt of Wonton Riches" awarded an Honorable Mention in the 4th Annual World Championship Belt Buckle Competition. The competition drew submissions from 40 artists in 4 countries, with 21 finalists being selected for the online exhibition, from which 1st-3rd place and 4 Honorable Mentions were awarded. I am honored to have my work included in such a strong grouping of talented makers, artisans, colleagues, and teachers.

"Crypt of Wonton Riches"
Bronze, Brass, Sterling Silver, Yellow Sapphires, Cognac Diamonds

My sincerest thanks go out to Bryan Peterson and Nash Quinn for all their hard work and efforts to organize, coordinate, jury, and present such an excellent exhibition. Check out all the finalists, award winners, and honorable mentions on the Gallery page of the World Championship Belt Buckle Competition website:

Monday, October 10, 2016

2016 Tr-State Sculptors Conference Iron Pour

This past weekend I attended the 38th Annual Tri-State Sculptors Conference in Seagrove, Asheboro, and Star, NC. The conference was a collection of excellent presentations, gallery openings, lectures, and demonstrations. The conference concluded on Saturday night with an iron pour put on by Liberty Arts from Durham, NC, which I participated in.

Iron pours require days of preparation and planning to execute, from making molds to weighing out and sorting the iron and fuel needed, and running the cupola furnace, which is a team effort and requires careful attention to detail and teamwork.

The molds I created for the iron pour and the resulting castings that were created will be featured in a later post. Below are some images of the actual iron-casting process as I (on the right in the fireman's protective helmet and jacket) poured my two reaction molds with my former sculpture professor from East Carolina University, Carl Billingsley (on the left wearing leather protective gear), and the rest of the excellent pour team guiding us and protecting us from excess heat and flare-ups with shovels.

Check out Tri-State Sculptors and Liberty Arts:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

“Irrational Insecurity Module”

Irrational Insecurity Module”
Bronze, Garnets
15”H x 2”W x 1”D

This new art jewelry necklace features a cast-bronze bat with bead-set 3.5mm faceted garnet eyes on a 24"chain fabricated from cast-bronze scale model units and bronze findings. This piece began its journey several years ago while still in grad school when the bat casting was first conceived and executed. The dead bat was found dried up and perfectly preserved in an attic, and was sealed with acrylic spray and the thin and delicate structures supported and built up with wax to ensure a successful casting. During the investment process, it appears that the acrylic spray did not completely seal the fur and skin of the dead bat, resulting in investment getting inside the bat. The unintentional consequence of this accident was that much of the skeletal structure of the bat became viable in the final bronze casting upon de-vesting and cleaning, in particular the shoulder-blades, spine, and pelvic bones. Once again, I only had one such bat casting, and the indecision of how to properly utilize such a unique piece prevented me from doing anything at all.

Years later, I was able to fabricate a bronze chain from other bronze cast elements I previously made, and went looking for a unit or element that would properly complement its aesthetic. The bat casting was finally brought out, properly finished and turned into a pendant, and was mounted onto the chain, which was then polished and given a dark patinea with hand-rubbed bronze highlights. The piece existed in this state for several weeks, as I would pick it up, inspect it, and put it back down, never quite sure what exactly kept bringing me back to it. Finally it occurred to me that the piece, while successful in form and structure, was missing some visual and contextual element of detail that would bring all the elements together and make the piece more interesting to the viewer and wearer. 

This led to the setting of 2 3.5mm round brilliant-cut garnets into the empty eye sockets of the bat casting, which was a surprisingly difficult and tricky procedure due to the angles and geometry of the setting. What would ordinarily be a simple procedure to use a setting bur to cut the seats for the stones became challenging due to the presence and location of the bat's ears and forearm structures. After struggling a good deal to make level, smooth, even bearings for the garnets, the stones were press-fit into place, a round graver was used to push burs of metal over the girdles of the stones, and a properly-sized beading tool was used to form the curls and bulges of metal into proper beads.

And with that, another successful piece properly considered and completed. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Belt Buckle

"Crypt of Wanton Riches"

"Crypt of Wanton Riches" - Detail with open gates.

"Crypt of Wanton Riches" - Rear of piece.

This sculptural belt buck features a cast bronze archway with functional hinged sterling silver gates. The gates open to reveal 27 bead-set natural yellow sapphires and 10 bead-set cognac diamonds scattered among the chaotic bronze forms. This piece was an absolute joy to work on, as I was able to implement my expanding stone-setting capabilities gained through working for years as a traditional bench jeweler in service of my own creative and artistic vision. Also, I was finally able to utilize a bronze belt buckle casting from several years ago that was never properly finished, with the sprues still evident from the casting process and the back not properly ground down and polished. The sterling silver gates were cast from scale architectural model parts several years ago, and the result was an incomplete casting due to the thin nature of the vertical bar elements. This left me in the strange position of absolutely loving the imperfections within the castings, but being creatively paralyzed about how best to use the castings in a piece knowing full well that I likely could not achieve such a delicate balance of imperfection again even if I tried. Once again, time and experience has proven to be the greatest mediator of technical skill and creative vision.

Friday, September 16, 2016

New Sculpture

"Closures #2"

15"H x 12"W x 4"D
Steel, Cast Iron, Bronze, Copper, Aluminum, Brass

This companion piece to "Closures #1" is an interpretation of the complex thought processes and logic structures found within one's unconscious mental landscape as methods of control within both society and the physical space on encounters.

This piece was started many years ago along with it's matching wall-piece "Closures #1", but was never completed. I had cast the main circular iron forms during an iron pour at RIT, probably around 2007 or 2008, and welded up the main steel structures in the spring of 2008, in the last few weeks of my senior year. The idea behind the pair of wall-mounted sculptures was there, but they always seemed lacking an additional element or component, and thus were never completed. Then, while in grad school at ECU several years later, the aluminum hatch or seal structures were found in a junk shop near the North Carolina coast. The idea crystallized in my mind to have the units bolted somehow to the steel panels and have some objects of significance suspended on the brass chains. Fast forward a few years to the present, and the critical eye and attention to detail that I was forced to hone as part of my responsibilities as a full-time bench jeweler allowed me to finally approach and complete the pieces. Finishing a piece correctly and thoroughly, with thought given to the proper means of patinea, preservation, and display has always been a weakness of my creative production, but with time and maturity I have finally put that demon to bed. I am very pleased with how this piece and it's companion turned out, and look forward to displaying them together.

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Jewelry Work

It has been a very long time, probably about 6 years, but I am finally getting back to making art jewelry and sculptural jewelry forms. Below is the first of the two new pieces I have just finished, with a bit of the process and journey behind it's creation.

Volatile Emotional Response Array”
Sterling Silver, Pine, Wax
11.5”H x 6”W x 1”D (Main Pendant) – On 27” Chain

This piece began its long journey to completion in 2008 or 2009, during one of the first mid-semester critiques for my first sculpture studio course in graduate school. Those who were in that critique may recall my reaction to the experience. Suffice it to say, I experienced a range of emotions during the discussion of ideas and artistic concepts that followed, and not all of them were pleasant or conciliatory. One thing led to another, and I found myself whittling a strip of scrap wood I had found on the floor of the sculpture studio classroom with my pocket knife into a variety of knives, shanks, and other sharpened instruments. Towards the end of the critique I found a length steel binding wire laying on a table, a leftover from another student's pursuit of the artistic dream. After a few careful twists of my knife, the carved forms had holes bored through their handles, the wire was fashioned into a loop, the objects were strung and secured with a few twists of the wire ends, and an honestly crafted art object was born. 

This key-ring or bundle of shanks has hung prominently in every studio, office, and work space I have used ever since, and most often was displayed alongside another one of my most favored objects, a heavy card-stock radioactive waste tag, a memento of my time many years ago working as a lab assistant in a bio-medical laboratory. With its bold black lettering and an understated yet still striking red radioactive symbol contrasting strongly with the bright yellow background of the tag, it always seemed the perfect complement to the ring of shanks, and the two were intrinsically linked in my mind for years.

Now, in 2016, I found myself looking back at all the objects I have collected, the parts and units I have disassembled, modified, and altered, and the pieces I had begun to work on but never fully finished. One of the main challenges I have experienced in the past with completing a work of art, be it jewelry or sculpture, is the gravity and power I give to each object in my mind and my fear of being so in love with a form or unit that I cannot resolve the best solution to use it in a piece.This is particularly true for very unique pieces that I found or created by chance or luck. The pressure to choose the Right way to use an element, with the knowledge that I may never be able to find, acquire, or make another one like it ever again, prevents me from using it at all.When one is so wrapped up in the possibility of a piece and the myriad ways to resolve the visual, technical, or aesthetic problem at hand, it can be paralyzing. 

It is a gratifying experience to revisit a piece or object from ones past that had heretofore proven stubborn, difficult, and elusive, only to now find the answer clear and the resolution manifest. I could never make the ring of shanks a finished piece because I could never figure out how to display the radioactive waste tag with the ring without the composition being muddled or taking away from the visual and emotive strength of either object. The moment of clarity occurred when I realized that it was not the physical tag itself that was permanently linked to the ring of shanks, but rather the idea or concept that the tag implied, that of some unseen entity or power, no longer visible to the viewer yet still powerful and potentially damaging long after the initial danger had subsided, a lurking dread in the darkened corners of ones mind. With the judicious application of a blowtorch, some paste wax, and a fabricated sterling silver ring with a stationary heavy-link chain attached to loops, the piece was completed. And so it goes.

"A moment of complete happiness never occurs in the creation of a work of art. The promise of it is felt in the act of creation but disappears towards the completion of the work. For it is then that the painter realizes that it is only a picture he is painting. Until then he had almost dared to hope that the picture might spring to life. Were it not for this, the perfect painting might be painted, on the completion of which the painter could retire. It is this great insufficiency which drives him on. Thus the process of creation becomes necessary to the painter perhaps more than is the picture. The process in fact is quite habit-forming."

- Lucian Freud, "Some Thoughts on Painting", 1954

Monday, August 29, 2016

DaDa Soiree: An Absurd Art Show Opening

I am very pleased to announce that 2 of my sculptures were accepted into the "DaDa Soiree: An Absurd Art Show", held at C3 Lab, a co-working, artist, and maker-space here in Charlotte, NC. The exhibition, created and organized by artists April Marten and Amanda Medina, will feature the work of 60 artists, including visual artists, installation-based works, and performance art, all in the spirit of the DaDa art movement and the Avant-Garde.

The opening night and reception is this Friday, September 2nd, from 7:00-10:30PM. The exhibition runs through September 16th, during normal Gallery C3 hours, which are 9:00AM - 5:00PM weekdays, and weekends by appointment. 

The Gallery is located at 2525 Distribution Street, Charlotte, NC, 28203

Monday, August 8, 2016

Edwardian Brooch Repair

During the course of my daily work as a bench jeweler and goldsmith, I do a lot of basic repairs such as ring sizing, clasp replacement, earring modification, and general refinishing and refurbishment. I tend to work on a lot of basic, mass-produced jewelry and common everyday jewelry pieces, which is uninspiring and not mentally stimulating, but is good for keeping my hand skills and problem-solving capabilities well honed and sharp.

Every once in a while, however, a piece comes across my bench that is absolutely world-class and stunning, either due to its value, the materials it is made from, who made it, or the time-period from which it originates. These are the pieces worth taking the time to stop and appreciate, study their construction, and marvel at the technical and design challenges the original maker or makers had to overcome to create such a beautiful work of artistry. Then, of course, comes the challenging and rewarding task of completing the requested repair work or modification with a high enough degree of precision and skill to preserve the piece structurally and aesthetically, regardless of how simple or basic the required task may be.

This piece is an Edwardian gold brooch with 1 4.35mm Old European-Cut diamond,  82 1.1-2mm OEC diamonds, blue transparent leaded-enamel, and 14 2mm pearls, with an approximate declared value of $13,000. The Edwardian period spans from 1901-1915, and is defined by the reign of the king of England, Edward VII (1901-1910), and was the final jewelry period to be defined by a British monarch. Jewelers who rejected the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts styles took their inspiration from traditional 18th-century jewelry, often using the guirlande form, or decorative hanging ornament such as a wreathe or bouquet of flowers. It was purchased in England as an estate piece, but the client never wore it due to it being a heavy brooch and very delicate. The client brought in a gold fashion chain that she owned and requested that the pin-stem and catch be removed and the brooch converted into a pendant that could be removed from the chain so that the chain could be worn by itself if the client so desired.

 Edwardian Brooch (Front)

Edwardian Brooch (Back)

This is a very straightforward and easy repair, being that the shop I work in has a laser welder, which is perfect for welding on 2 14k yellow gold necklace slide bars onto the back of the brooch. The pin stem was carefully removed and the resulting rough areas were smoothed out and lightly polished by hand to blend in with the rest of the brooch. Attachment points for the bars were chosen based on the strongest points on the brooch based on how it was constructed and the size needed to allow the widest portion of the necklace and the thicker clasp ends to pass through. Once this was determined, the bars were made from 16 gauge wire and welded into place, the joints were burnished and shined up with a fine wire wheel, and the piece was cleaned lightly, with no ultrasonic or steamer being used to protect the fragile enamel, which was already broken and cracked in several places.

Chain Slide Bars Installed

Brooch on Chain

The completed Repair

Friday, July 29, 2016

Metalwork For Craftsmen

"The constructive use of leisure time is a necessary balance for a life of work, and planning for leisure hours is fast becoming a fundamental factor in our educational practices. To contrive a quiet place in heart and mind, to widen a life until it spreads beyond all human fear and fever, that is to touch the source of eternal peace." 
- Excerpt from the Preface to "Metalwork for Craftsmen"

The first jewelry or metalsmithing book I ever purchased was a 1972 Dover Publications reprint of Emil F Kronquist's book "Art Metalwork" originally published in 1942. I was probably in 4th or 5th grade, and found it in the clearance section of Barnes and Noble. While some of the information, in particular the sections on soldering and brazing, were outdated and relied on tools and technology no longer in use, it was still a solid introduction to basic metalworking processes. I particularly enjoy the simplicity of the illustrated panels, as they convey the processes beautifully without text or extraneous details.