Tag Archives: enamel

New Year…New Classes!

Happy New Year!

As the new year unfolds we start looking ahead to see what we want to accomplish and what the year has to offer. Which is also an excellent time to see what new classes we have to offer at Danaca Design. Our winter schedule is out and we have a wide variety of classes this quarter from a week long intensive to one day “quickie” classes.

For you long range planners we also have two guest artists coming to teach in 2017 – Victoria Landsford and Deb Karash!

Here are some of the highlights but our whole schedule and more information can be found on our website www.danacadesign.com:

Student ring from this summer's Beginning Immersion class

Student ring from this summer’s Beginning Immersion class

Total Immersion: Beginning Jewelry Making
January 16-20, Monday – Friday, 10am-5pm
Class Fee: $595|Basic Materials Included

Spend a week getting totally immersed in learning to make jewelry! This week long class is all three of our Beginners Jewelry Workshops rolled into one class. Each night you’ll go home dreaming of what you’ll create the next day, designing in your sleep! Absolutely no experience needed.

With cold connections you can add kinetic elements to your jewelry

With cold connections you can add kinetic elements to your jewelry

Cold Connections Beyond Rivets with Kirk Lang
January 28-29, Sat-Sun, 10:30am-5:00pm
Class Fee: $295|Basic Materials Included

Learn some new ways to join two pieces of metal together without soldering. This workshop will teach you how to create an exciting variety of rivets, use micro tap and dies to create custom nuts and bolts, and utilize small tabs to fold over and attach one piece of metal to another. Learn to marry form and function while designing a piece of jewelry or other articulated object with these techniques. Basic jewelry making skills helpful, soldering not necessary.

Micro mosaic by Cynthia Toops

Micro mosaic by Cynthia Toops

Polymer Micro Mosaics for Jewelry with Cynthia Toops
February 25-26, Sat-Sun, 10:00am-5:00pm
Class Fee: $285|Some materials included

Cynthia Toops is widely recognized for her remarkable artistry in polymer clay, most especially for her polymer clay mosaics. In this workshop students will learn her tricks and create incredible micro-mosaics of their own to use like gems in pendants, brooches, and/or rings. No previous polymer clay or metal working experiance is necessary for this exciting workshop.

Winter Class “Quickies”!

enamel bracelet

enamel bracelet

Low Tech Enameling with Allan Thorne
February 13, Monday, 6pm-9pm
Class Fee: $85|Basic Materials Included

Using a torch and a few simple tools, students will learn the basics of enameling in this exciting three-hour workshop. This is a great opportunity to learn how to add vibrant color to your copper and fine silver jewelry. Moderate comfort level with a jeweler’s torch is helpful.

This reticulated silver is ready to be made into jewelry!

This reticulated silver is ready to be made into jewelry!

Silver Reticulation with Juan Reyes
February 19, Sunday, 10:30 – 3:30
Class Fee: $95 | $25 Materials fee payable to instructor

First developed in Russia by Czarist jewelers such as Fabergé, reticulated silver will add exciting and unique 3-dimensional texture to your work. By carefully preparing the surface of the metal and heating with a focused yet delicate torch, this specialized technique reveals a mysterious lunar-like landscape within every piece of silver!

Keum-boo being added to the silver surface.

Keum-boo being added to the silver surface

Keum-Boo: Surface Treatment with Gold with Suz O’Dell
March 19, Sunday, 10:30 – 1:30
Class Fee: $75 | Materials Fee: $35 Payable to instructor, Materials list
In this workshop students will learn to add the luster of gold to their jewelry by applying 24K gold foil to fine silver. The result is dramatic, creating rich color and beautiful textural possibilities with minimal expense. All levels

But that’s just a sample of what we have going on for the next three months. Go check out our website at www.danacadesign.com for our full schedule!

To register for classes call us at 206-524-0916
stop by our location at 5619 University Way NE, Seattle WA

Summer Class Highlights

Summer is here and so is the new summer schedule at Danaca Design! We’ve got a full spectrum of classes on the schedule this summer with something for beginners to more advanced students. You can even turn your kids on to metal in our Jewelry Summer Camp for Kids (July 18-22, 9-2)! Here are just a few highlights on our summer schedule but stop by our website to find out more details on all of our classes: www.danacadesign.com

Beginner Classes

Real beginners might consider learning to make a Basic Band Ring (July 9, 10-4) or Rivets (August 20, 10-4). Or if you really want to dive in spend a week learning the fundamentals of metalsmithing in our Total Immersion: Beginning Jewelry Making class:


BEGI 2009 Summer Intensive Kristi

Pendant made in Summer Intensive by Kristi

Total Immersion: Beginning Jewelry Making (July 11-15, 10:30-5)

The Total Immersion: Beginning Jewelry Making is the equivalent to taking all three of our Beginning Jewelry Making series workshops. Learn the fundamentals of working with precious metal: sawing, disc cutting and dapping, hammer texturing, roll printing, basic forming and finishing, as well as bezel setting stones. In this beginning silversmithing class students will make individualized jewelry pieces including a pin, pendent, ring and a simple linked project. Each night you’ll go home dreaming of what to create the next day, designing in your sleep. This class is an ideal opportunity to explore a range of techniques, in a condensed time, while creating several projects.


Beginning and Intermediate Classes

Beginning and intermediate students can pick-up new skills like Gravity Casting (August 3 & 10, 6:30-9), Anticlastic Forming (July 29-31, 10:30-5), Filigree (September 18-19, 10:30-5) or Chasing and Repousse with Nancy Megan Corwin (August 5-7, 10-5). Or explore new processes such as:

Flora II by Cynthia Toop

Flora II by Cynthia Toop

Cynthia Toops’ Seven Bead Bracelet (September 24-25, 10:00-5)

Explore the wide variety of possibilities in polymer clay for jewelry while focusing on seven unusual beads for a comprehensive sampler bracelet. In this intensive weekend workshop students will investigate various bead shapes, explore hollow and foil cores, surface decoration with simple and complex canes, as well as carving, drawing, onlay, mokumegane and mosaic work. Cynthia is masterful with polymer clay, bringing a creative edge to everything she does. 

Charles Lewton Brain’s Patination of Metals workshop (Aug 26, 9-5)

Patina is the final touch, the icing on the cake, the surface that sets one apart from the crowd; it can add both depth and texture transforming our metal, often unpredictably, into an unimaginably beautiful thing. On metal, patina refers to a thin coating of various chemical compounds such as oxides or sulfates formed on the surface during exposure to atmospheric elements, a common example is rust or the warm brown color of the penny in your pocket. Charles will present safe, easy patination methods for metals that involve easily obtainable (think kitchen chemicals) to produce a wide range of blues, greens, browns, blacks, greys and reddish tones on most metals including precious. Application methods and control of pattern and surface will be described and addressed as a compositional system.


Advanced Classes

Experienced students can build skills in Stacking Rings with Gemstones (July 23, 10-4), Unique Settings for Stones and Found Objects (September 10-11, 10-5), Advanced Wax Working (September 21,28, October 5,12,19, November 2, 6:30-9:30) or try your hand at enameling on steel:



Enameling on steel with Melissa Cameron

Enameling Recycled Steel (July 16-17, 9-2) with Melissa Cameron. 

Are there bits of magnetic metal in your studio that you’ve tucked away, swearing that one day you’ll clean them up to make a masterpiece? Enameling is a great way to protect jewelry made from mild steel and is so easy to master. Bring your rusty recycled bits and bobs to Danaca Design in Seattle to learn the skills to turn these into beautiful and unique jewels. Some jewelry making and enameling experience helpful.


For full class descriptions, prices, and material lists visit our website: www.danacadesign.com

To register give us a call at 206-524-0916 or stop by our location at

5619 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Quickies in August

Can’t commit to a multi day class or workshop? Well in August we have several one day classes available. All the fun of our weekend classes just quicker! For more information about our other classes currently being offered go to www.danacadesign.com for a complete listing.


enamel bracelet

enamel bracelet

Low Tech Enameling

Instructor: Allan Thorne

August 7, Friday, 10:00 – 1:00

Using a torch and a few simple tools, students will learn the basics of enameling in this exciting three-hour workshop. Students will explore the potential of this fascinating medium, sample a variety of colors, and work with both flat and three-dimensional forms. This is a great opportunity to learn how to add vibrant color to your copper and fine silver jewelry. Moderate comfort level with a jeweler’s torch is helpful.

Etching WO Acid 2

Etching Metal

Instructor: Jessie Wylie

August 8, Saturday, 9:30-3:30

See an image or pattern come to life in brass and copper through the acid etching process! This technique is excellent for creating exclusive textures on copper and brass sheet which can be cut and incorporated into jewelry, enameled or used as rolling mill templates to emboss precious metals and even paper.  Patterns can be hand drawn directly on the sheet metal or photo transferred. Physical properties of different acids and metals, resist techniques and studio safety will be explored. The end result will yield several etched plates for use in future jewelry/design projects!  Follow up this workshop with Enameling Basics II, our beginning transparent enamels class. This workshop is appropriate for beginners, however experienced jewelry artists may find it very exciting as well.

Bock, bock, bock

Bock, bock, bock

Kiln Fire Enameling Basics II

Instructor: Linnie Kendrick

August 9, Sunday, 10:30-5:00

Refine your basic enameling skills and explore exciting new possibilities by adding transparent enamels, special effects with glass shards and beads, and rubber stamp images to your palette.  More thoroughly investigate how firing time and temperature affect final results and discover the quick beauty of liquid enamels.  Designed to give students more tools and confidence with the process, part two of our Enameling Basics Series is not to be missed.  Students are encouraged to bring their own pre-cut copper shapes, stencils, rubber stamps, and lead free enamels to experiment with in class. Take the etching class the day before and come prepared with shapes cut from your etched copper sheets.   Prerequisite: Kiln Fire Enameling Basics I or equivalent.

Basic BAND

Basic Band Ring

Instructor: Dana Cassara

August 15, Saturday, 10:00 – 4:00

The construction of a basic band ring is simple yet challenging. The ring must fit, be comfortable and of course beautiful! This quick ring class will focus on the construction of a basic fabricated band ring. We will cover measuring, cutting, chasing and embossing for texture, as well as basic soldering and some forming techniques.  Each student will leave class with a simple yet well-made and lovely ring to show off.  No experience necessary.

Stacking rings

Stacking Rings with Gemstones

Instructor: Dana Cassara

August 16, Sunday, 10:00-5:00

Stacking rings are all the rage. They are fun to mix and match and super easy to make! This class will focus on creating your own delicate stacking rings with sparkling gemstones.  Students will learn to size and solder the bands, create and add a simple but very functional tube setting for a round faceted stone, and set the stones!  Everyone will make several rings gaining them the opportunity to practice the process and leave with a finger full of beautiful rings made from brass, sterling silver and gold fill. Very basic metal working skills required.


Image Transfer on Polymer

Instructor: Sarah Wilbanks

August 29, Saturday, 9:30-3:30

If you are interested in incorporating photographs, texture or color into your work, image transfers on polymer clay is a fun and easy solution with infinite possibilities.  Creating clear photographic transfers as well as altering the images to conjure unusual textures and rich color will be demonstrated.  Ideas for incorporating surface embellishments will also be introduced along with a variety of ways to use transfers in your work including cutting, setting and different options for protecting the surface. This class will cover primarily one type of transfer using a transfer paper and Sculpey Premo. Other techniques will be discussed and time permitting students will have the option to try other systems. We will also discuss the equipment needed should you choose to pursue this simple and affordable method in your home studio.   A basic understanding of working with polymer clay is helpful.


Cuttlefish Bone Casting: Beyond Texture

Instructor: Jennifer Stenhouse

August 30, Sunday, 10:30 – 5:00

Cuttlefish bone casting is an ancient means of creating a cast object. If you have tried it before you might be surprised by the versatility that is possible with a few good tricks.  Create rings with stone settings, findings, and finished work without all the equipment needed for lost wax casting. Its low cost and convenience make it great for the small studio and those on a budget. It is fun, fast and affordable!  Until the invention of vulcanized rubber for lost wax, the expert carving of cuttlebone was an excellent way to reproduce designs. Participants will discover the immediacy of casting with cuttlefish bone, the texture it can create, and how to use it to create multiples by making simple models. Demonstrations will include how to create a multiple part mold for the 3-dimensional casting of a ring with a stone setting, links, and an ingot mold for blanks as well as prong, bezel, and tube stone settings. Students may bring any sterling silver scrap to recycle by casting. All levels.


To register for these or any of our other classes either stop by our location or call us at 206-524-0916

Cloisonné Enameling

Cloisonné flower created in class

Cloisonné flower created in class

June 27th and 28th we will be having a class on cloisonné enameling. The vivid color and unique beauty of enameling has been prized for centuries. Cloisonné, with fine lines of precious metal delineating patterns and images, it is appreciated around the world.

But what is cloisonné?

Cloisonné being ground back

Cloisonné being ground back

Cloisonné is a technique for decorating metal that has been around since ancient times. It is achieved by bending very fine wires into a design, multiple layers of enamel are applied and fused in the kiln. Finally the surface is ground and flash-fired. The result is a gemlike image that will last and last.

Finished cloisonné can be set into a necklace, brooch, or any number of jewelry designs.

Finished cloisonné can be set into a necklace, brooch, or any number of jewelry designs.

Come join us at Danaca Design to learn this versatile and beautiful technique. To register for class either call us at 206-524-0916 or stop by our store at 5619 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Meet Jean Shaffer!

Shaffer-2015-In My Studio1

Jean Shaffer

Jean Shaffer is a new artist in our gallery at Danaca Design and we are happy to have her work! She has some beautiful one of a kind enamel items in our gallery right now and recently I got to ask her about her work and herself as an artist.


How long have you been making jewelry and what got you started?

I started making beaded jewelry in the early 1990s, replicating the trade bead necklaces that my Chinook Indian ancestors wore. I was gifted with a trade bead necklace that had belonged to my cousin’s grandmother, the daughter of Chief Taholah, dating from the 1850s. Later I began rockhounding along Washington and Oregon beaches finding fabulous agates, petrified wood, jade, and more. I wanted to make these treasures into jewelry, so I signed up for a Continuing Education class at North Seattle College in 2002 to learn how to set stones. Dana Cassara was my first instructor. After one class I was hopelessly hooked. I kept taking night classes and workshops for years until I retired from my first career in 2011 and entered the credit program at North Seattle College. I earned my Certificate in Jewelry Design last December.


Shaffer-Danaca-2013-Two Turtles rattle

Two Turtles rattle

What is your background? Is it in art or something else?

As a youth I was drawn to art, especially painting. I used to paint the wild landscapes that I imagined when reading my favorite science fiction novels. But in high school and college I made (what I thought were) more pragmatic choices. I earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Geography from the University of Washington, and had a lengthy career with local governments as a planner, program evaluator, and program and project manager.   I worked for the cities of Kirkland, Seattle, and Bellevue and Snohomish County.

Even though I enjoyed career success, I felt a growing urge to return to making art. That set me on the path I described above.

Moonlit Sage brooch

Moonlit Sage brooch

Is there anything in particular that you like about jewelry as a medium?

So many things to love about jewelry…. It is portable art that is in intimate contact with the owner. It gains added meaning from how it is acquire and from whom, where and when it is worn. It can become a part of family heritage passed down generations. And jewelry is communication from the maker and the wearer to the outside world wherever it is worn.

Feathered Fringe brooch

Feathered Fringe brooch

What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?

I usually seek highly abstract patterns to render in my jewelry. From the natural world it could be plants like cactus, pods, roots, sea creatures, sand dunes, desert playa, waveforms, glacial crevasses, constellations, novae or infinitely more. In the developed world it might be maps, cityscapes, street layouts, or window patterns. Sometimes it just starts with a geometric form that I become obsessed with for a while. My Chinook Indian heritage also influences some of my work such as My Spirit Box and Two Turtles Rattle that are currently on display at the Seattle Metals Guild’s Biennial Exhibition.

I have some favorite jewelry techniques that I come back to regularly. Firstly, I am always on the lookout for unique cabochons such as picture jasper and plume agate that can inspire my designs. Larry Osler and West Coast Mining are my favorite sources of great stones with interesting shapes. Secondly, I love drawing abstract images and transferring them to metal by acid-etching. The etching process creates remarkably precise renderings that can be enhanced in the jewelry fabrication process. Thirdly, I love vitreous enameling, especially on hydraulically pressed metal that gives the pieces form and depth.


Hexagons pendant

Hexagons pendant

Your work mostly features beautiful enamel work. What is it you like about working with enamel?

Enameling is a traditional method of adding a wide range of colors to metal. Enameling techniques date back to antiquity, but are also fresh with contemporary innovation and vision. I like blending colors, adding glass beads and glass frit. The possibilities are limitless. I combine two of my favorite techniques by applying champlevé enameling to acid-etched metal. Some of my pieces at Danaca Studio were made that way.



abstract brooch

What is your favorite type of jewelry to make and why?

I love making brooches more than any other form. To me, they are stand-alone works of art and clothing becomes the matt and frame. Recognizing that brooches don’t work for everybody, I also make a lot of pendants and necklaces. Usually when I make a brooch, I add a hidden loop or bale so it can be worn as a pendant if desired.


Do you have a website or where else can we see your work?

I have a maker profile on the Society of North American Goldsmith’s website that can be found at: http://www.snagmetalsmith.org/members/JeanShaffer


Thanks Jean! We love having your work in our gallery and look forward to watching your jewelry making continue to grow. Want to see more of Jean Shaffer’s work? We have a selection of Jean’s jewelry in our gallery at Danaca Design. We are open Monday – Friday from 11am-6pm and Saturday 10am-6pm

Mother’s Day is May 10th!


Is there a mother in your life you’d like to recognize? She may be your own mother, the mother of your kids, or a friend’s mother who’s special to you?

Our gallery is full of great work right now and we just might have the perfect gift for the mother in your life. 

Use promo code MOMROCKS to get 10% off your gallery gift purchase until May 10th. 

For moms who would rather make than wear, we also have gift certificates which can be used towards any of our classes or tools.

Gift Certificate

The gallery is open Monday-Friday 11-6, and Saturday 10-6. Come visit and see if anything grabs your eye!

5619 University Way NE




Learning More About Harlan Butt


We’re fortunate to have Harlan Butt coming to the studio next month to teach Cloisonné Enameling in the Round. We wanted to share a bit about him with you, so please read on to learn more. 


Harlan will be teaching Cloisonné Enameling in the Round will be on November 8, 9, and 10 from 10am-5pm. We do still have a couple open spaces, so if you’re interested give us a call. 

Now on to Harlan!

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Harlan W. Butt is an artist working in metal and enamel who specializes in vessel making. Many of his vessels feature cloisonné patterns inspired by the natural environment. Harlan is a Regents Professor of Art at the University of North Texas where he has taught since 1976. He is past President of the Enamelist Society, past President of the Society of North American Goldsmiths and a Fellow of the American Crafts Council. His work has been exhibited internationally and is represented in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Art & Design in New York City, the Mint Museum of Art & Craft in Charlotte, NC, the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, the Wichita Center for the Arts in Kansas, the National Gallery of Australia, the Cloisonné Enamelware Fureai Museum in Ama City, Japan, the Glass Furnace in Istanbul, Turkey and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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What got you into teaching jewelry making/ metals?

As a graduate student I was a Teaching Fellow and taught a beginning class. I liked sharing what I knew with students. After grad school I applied for teaching jobs but didn’t receive an offer for one for about a year and a half, at San Diego State University in 1975. I’ve been teaching since then.


Can you tell us about any memorable teachers from your past who influence what you’re doing today, as an instructor or as an artist?

I have to give credit to my forth grade teacher Ms. Newell, who helped me have confidence in myself and my high school art teacher Mr. Steitzin, who encouraged me to develop what talent he thought I had. Professor Stanley Lechtzin at Tyler School of Art gave me a great foundation in technique and the desire to be the best I could be. Brent Kington at Southern Illinois University was the ideal example of an artist/metalsmith who was passionate about his work and who cared about his students.


Aside from the skills outlined in your class, what do you hope to bring to your students?

I hope to express passion I have for what I do and how I think it can give your life meaning and purpose. I believe technique and craftsmanship are the vehicles we use to express ourselves as artists. You can’t do it without them but they are the means not the ends.


Your artwork often appears rooted in inspiration from the natural world, has it always been this way? When did this passion begin?

I have had an interest in knowing about and understanding nature, both as real phenomena and as metaphor for what and who we are since I was a child. It has been the subject of my work as an artist since the beginning.

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In what kind of environment do you work best?

Until recently I would have said that I work best alone in my studio. But in the past few years I have had students working with me in my studio a few days each week. This has been rewarding for me and I have learned a lot from them.


Many of your pieces employ cloisonné enameling technique, what makes this technique one of your favorites?

I have produced over 450 pieces and many of them do not employ cloisonné, in fact many early pieces had no enamel. Its true that most of my work since about 1985 includes some cloisonné. The technique allows me to draw with lines and to create patterns with hard edges, unlike some of the other enameling processes. But I have also used champlevé, basse taille, stencil, silk screen, ceramic pencils and painting enamels on my work.


If you could only embark one piece of information to your students that they will remember for the rest of their lives, what would that advice be?

Wow! I’m not a sage and I don’t know if anything I could say would be that memorable, especially for someone’s entire life. I’ve found that different information and various knowledge can have a critical impact on someone at the time a person is ready for it and not be so significant at other times. But to believe in yourself, to be disciplined but open, to avoid attachments that are unimportant or unhealthy and to pursue a passion in something and not let anyone or anytime keep you from doing it. That’s about the best I can come up with.


Besides cloisonné, what is your favorite technique to teach?


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Thank you Harlan! 

We’re really looking forward to having him in the studio next month. If you’d like to register for Cloisonné Enameling in the Round give us a call at 206-524-0916. We’re here Tues-Fri 11-6, and Saturday 10-6.


You can see more of Harlan’s work on his website: http://harlanwbutt.com





The Newest Thing in Plique a Jour – Epoxy!

Plique a Jour is an amazing and challenging enameling technique. Like cloisonné enamel it relies on making sections of enamel using thin silver or copper wire. Plique a Jour however has the added complication of having no back, allowing you to see through the enamel, no wonder Plique a Jour means Letting in daylight in french! The technique is beautiful in its affect but challenging in the process. It take lots of time and has a high failure rate.

A dragonfly Broach with Plique a Jour on the wings  Cira 1900

A dragonfly Broach with Plique a Jour on the wings
Cira 1900

Fortunately for us starting in September Nanz Aalund will be teaching a class that uses colored resin and epoxy to achieve an effect very much like Plique a Jour!

a Pair of Nanz Aalund earring showing off the Plique a Jour epoxy technique

a Pair of Nanz Aalund earrings showing off the Plique a Jour epoxy technique

Plique a Jour Epoxy

Instructor: Nanz Aalund

September 8, 15, 22, 29, 4 Monday nights, 6:30 – 9:30
Class Fee: $265 | Material fee: $25 payable to instructor


Learn the secrets of creating open bezels for resin in multiple geometric, organic, and freeform shapes. In this intermediate level workshop a variety of tools and techniques to maximize the potential of epoxy resin will be demonstrated and explored. *Students enrolled in multiple week classes are eligible and encouraged to work outside of class on class projects during Practice Hours. Independent soldering skills required.


Nanz Aalund has taught jewelry and metals classes at the University of Washington under Mary Lee Hu and at the Art Institute in Seattle. She has served as a fine jewelry designer and consultant for Nordstrom, Rudolf Erdel, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffany & Co. and as the associate editor for Art Jewelry Magazine. Some of Aalund’s many professional jewelry design awards include: 2009 Jewelry Arts Awards, an AGTA Spectrum Award, two Platinum Guild International Awards, and two DeBeers Diamond’s Today Awards.

If you’d like to sign up for this class give us a call at 206-524-0916.

We’re here 11-6 Tuesday-Friday and 10-6 on Saturday.

You can get more information on classes and what we do over at our website www.danacadesign.com

Melissa Cameron’s Pierced Steel


Melissa Cameron, Parallel Planes (RGB rings)

Melissa Cameron is one of our gallery artists here at Danaca Design. She brought us some lovely steel and enamel pieces recently. I have a pair of her steel and cable earrings and I really enjoy them! I’m looking forward to seeing her next batch of work. 

Here’s Melissa’s artist bio, from her website:

Melissa is an Australian-born artist jeweller who lives and works in Seattle, WA. She holds a MFA in jewellery and metalsmithing from Monash University and BA with honours in interior architecture from Curtin University. Her works are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra), the Cheongju City Collection (South Korea) as well as the Arts Centre Melbourne (Australia), and her pieces have featured in the publications Jewel Book, Art Jewellery Today 3 andLark Books’ 500 Silver Jewelry Designs.

I asked her some questions as well. I loved reading through her thoughtful responses, and getting to peek into her history and process. 

How long have you been making Jewelry?

So I have two answers to that question, since I’ve only really been brave enough to call myself a jewellery artist after I went full-time upon graduating from my MFA program in 2009. But I began making jewellery in high school, (we don’t have middle school in Australia) so when I was in year 8 – or around 12 to 13 years old. We had a jewellery program there, that offered two courses in the basics; sawing, soldering, filing, roll printing, cleanup, polishing – I remember watching my friends sitting on the steps to the building, hands busy with wet-and-dry sandpaper. I also remember that I was really good at filing to ensure my rings looked seamless, and I liked a high polish on my work. Now not so much. So if you go with the high-school date, almost 25 years, off and on. But seriously? Five, or eight years including study, tops.

What’s your background? Is it in art, or something else?

I studied interior architecture at university, and I worked as a designer in commercial/retail design for the first years of my professional career. That’s where I became proficient at ArchiCAD and AutoCad, and that also gave me the free time and income to begin (or perhaps recommence) dabbling in making jewellery in my mid-twenties. I consequently don’t have an undergraduate degree in jewellery or metalsmithing, which effects how I work with materials, and indeed what materials I choose to work with.

Is there anything in particular that you like about jewelry as a medium?

It’s wearable and it’s in object form. I always find myself drawn to objects and space, things that are not available to the ‘flatter’ art forms. Jewellery works are required to be robust enough to wear, so just in terms of the structural requirements, jewellery has a lot of crossover with the design disciplines and architecture, which similarly have issues with human use and habitation, as well as external loads and forces like gravity.

This structural characteristic means that a jewellery work will generally outlive the owner, which to me is an appealing notion. While we might think we own it, we can only ever be the temporary custodian of a work, since jewellery is one of the few kinds of objects that is universally passed down. It makes me think hard about what it is that sparks the wearer’s – and a viewers – interest in a piece. What will be the most eye catching form for a work, and how long can and will an eye need to travel around it, in order to fully comprehend what it is, what it does and how it does it.

I realize that these thoughts lie outside the notions of sentimentality and preciousness – which I think often lie outside the purview of the maker in any case. We jewellery makers are artists, designers, general creative types, and our drive is to create because we are good at it and to that end we have been trained to take neophyte ideas and develop them and bring them into reality. We can make literally anything, so it’s worth considering what it really is we want to make, especially given the potential for the jewel to have a longer lifespan than the original owner/wearer. I think it’s important to consider what else the work speaks to (aside from jewellery concerns of beauty and adornment.) For example, what will the person who inherits think of it, and what will it say to them?

What are your favorite materials to work with, and why? 

I enjoy using recycled materials for what they can add to the narrative of a work, but in terms of the materials that suit my hands and working methods best, I think steel is a great material. I use miles of steel cable and I like saw piercing mild steel, and the clean grey sandblasted surface that stainless steel takes on. It’s a great material to work with enamel on too, and you can solder and weld it. And because it’s not too precious, you know your hard labored artwork is unlikely to be sold for the metal price 😉

I find that jewelers tend to have one part of the process they love best, for some it’s sawing, for others it’s soldering. Do you have a favorite part of the jewelry process?

I love saw piercing. I could do that for ever. But I have to drill so many holes in order to do it, and that bit I could do without! I also enjoy the research and design process in my work – seeing a good drawing print out ready to work from can be as rewarding as finally taking a saw blade to the line-work.

What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?

The imagery and motifs depend on the inspiration, though the incorporation of pattern is pretty constant. There was a lot of architecturally inspired early work that used the quatrefoil motif heavily, but I moved out of that phase as I tackled other themes. My works are becoming more narrative driven, and these narratives are gradually taking on subtle political themes, like feminism and the want of empathy that I am seeing in society – it seems that we have become more knowledgeable about one another, yet less caring. So the works are serving a narrative in the motifs they are using (to the point of becoming less pattern-based and more representational), and in the pattern structure – significant numbers in a narrative influence pattern iterations and their internal organisation.

I use a lot of exploded forms as they work well with the steel-cable facilitated layers that I like to build into the works. I enjoy crisp lines and strict geometry – especially symmetry and radial patterns – and while that effects the aesthetic, it’s not a theme. I can work without them too. They’re not a crutch, honest!


RayPowder Compact Radial Pattern + Powder Compact Void Pattern Clouds - One Design

Thank you Melissa!

We have some of Melissa’s work in the gallery right now. Come check it out!



Keith Lewis is Coming to Town!

Keith Lewis will be teaching an enameling class here next month. The class is already full, but we wanted to share a little more info about Keith. We’re really excited to have him here!

Keith sent me his artist bio. It’s short and sweet, and I love the description of his favorite tool.

“Keith Lewis was born in the wilds of Pennsylvania, but now lives in the wilds of Eastern Washington, where he teaches jewelry at Central Washington University.

His favorite tool is a Craftsman brand machinist’s reamer that belonged to his father. As an object it is completely beautiful: tapered, fluted, sharp and poised. It is also singularly specific in its usefulness. It makes holes bigger and is good for nothing else.

His favorite fruit is jaboticaba.”

I asked some questions as well…

What got you into teaching jewelry making/ metals?

I went to grad school rather late (at 30) knowing that the kind of jewelry that I wanted to make had more of a home in academe than in the marketplace. I suspected that I also wanted to teach and was lucky enough to be given a chance to teach in grad school. I found that I really liked it and was lucky enough to be invited to teach at UW for six months and then moved over into a full-time position at CWU.

What are your favorite materials to work with and why?

I just love sterling silver. The color, the workability, the sense of being precious enough but not OMG Gold! And I am in love with enamel, because it never, ever cooperates. It appeals to the codependent in me.

Can you tell us about any memorable teachers from your past who influence what you’re doing today, as an instructor or as an artist?

I was lucky enough to spend a year studying with Bruce Metcalf before he stopped teaching. I still am inspired by the clarity and seriousness of his thoughts on craft and humbled by the discipline and facility of his work.

Aside from the skills outlined in your class, what do you hope to bring to your students?

I hate disengagement. My partner says that I am hopelessly frustrating because I can get excited about anything! It’s true. Everything is worth exploring and I always hope that my students walk away excited to dig deeper!

Do you have a personal website related to your work or your teaching?

I don’t. I’m lazy and old-fashioned.

Thanks Keith!

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of his upcoming Enameling Oddities class here in the studio. And, hoping he’ll teach here again sometime so I can be a student!


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