Every now and again someone will ask which books we recommend to help the new metalsmith continue their education and be a good reference at the bench. These are the top four books that every metalsmith should own.
The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight should be on every jewelry students work bench. Packed full of information on every aspect of metalsmithing without drowning you in details. Great for even experienced metalsmith as a quick reference book. Hardback with a spiral binding means it is durable enough to toss in your tool box and will lay flat making it easy to use while working.
When you want to get past the basics of bezel setting and commercial mountings for faceted stones this book it for. This book explores how to understand and create unique setting at the bench for unusual gems. Any jeweler interested in making their own unique stone settings or wants to get a better understanding of stone setting should get this book.
More than 20 years ago Charles Lewton-Brain developed a new way develop forms in sheet metal. Since then many metalsmiths explored and expanded on his techniques. This book provides step by step instruction on this exploration and is good for metalsmiths of all skill levels.
At some point most metalsmiths need to know how to make hinges and clasps. Whether you want to make a locket, a hinged bracelet, or small box this book will give you all the information you could ever need. Geared toward the intermediate metalsmith with clear instruction and over 100 color photos in no time you will be creating your own boxes, hinges, and catches.
These are just some of the books we carry at Danaca Design. Come see the complete collection at:
Kirk Lang is a Seattle based Designer, Jeweler, Metalsmith, Machinist, Sculptor and Amateur Astronomer. Recurring themes in his work include time and space in the form of mechanical interactive objects. His work can be seen in such publications as MJSA Journal, 500 Metal Vessels, 500 Necklaces, 1000 Rings and Metalsmith Magazine. He is a master craftsman no matter the subject or material. We have also discovered he’s a fabulous instructor. Kirk will be teaching two workshops this fall. On the first Monday evening of each month he’ll open the studio for a Stone Setting Clinic designed to help improve and expand your stone setting skills and in mid-November he will offer an exciting Cold Connections workshop with a focus on kinetics. I had the rare and unique experience to ask Kirk all the questions that I wish I could ask every artist after I see how incredible their work is and, lucky for all of you, I have his answers right here.
What got you into teaching jewelry making/ metals?
Basically I have an insatiable curiosity to learn and acquire as much knowledge as I can when it comes to metalworking theories and techniques. At some point over the last 15+ years, I realized I had compiled a significant amount of experience and information…information that could potentially save others a lot of experimentation and frustration learning specific techniques. I am also someone who believes in empowering others, so if I can offer a skill that an individual doesn’t already know, I am happy to help.
What are your favorite materials to work with and why?
All metals. No…truly, I’m not joking! It intrigues me that every metal has its own set of properties and the ability to be used in certain distinct ways. I find it incredibly exciting working with materials in ways that haven’t yet been thoroughly explored. If you want me to be more specific, I like these materials for the following processes…
For stone setting and traditional jewelry making, high karat yellow gold all the way. For machining, there is no better material than C360 (free cutting) brass…it is the baseline standard in which all other metals are compared. I seldom raise vessels anymore but if I do, copper is ideal. Forging, I like steel. Soldering, sterling silver…that feeling of seeing a long seam flow all at once, instantaneously, is something every metalsmith should experience at least once in their life. For welding, titanium is king…as long as you have argon. For stretching a ring up in size, fully annealed niobium is unmatched. To be honest, I could go on and on!
Can you tell us about any memorable teachers from your past who have influenced what you’re doing today, as an instructor or as an artist?
Well…I feel obligated to first mention my mother since she created me and also happens to be an art teacher (who I did in fact have for two years in elementary school). It goes without saying, that experience was little awkward. She has been supportive since day one.
In college at the Cleveland Institute of Art, I had the most ideal experience anyone could ask for. I had three instructors who helped shape me as an artist. I call them the big three…Matthew Hollern, Kathy Buszkiewicz and Richard Fiorelli. Matthew exposed me to technology very early on (he studied under Stanley Lechtzin at Tyler) which has become an integral part of my creative process. Kathy Buszkiewicz is the most thorough instructor I have ever met and possesses an incredible amount of refinement in her craftsmanship…which has been inspirational. Richard Fiorelli taught me the beauty and functionality of design, and how it connects to others. He is one of the most intense and passionate instructors I’ve ever had.
Aside from the skills outlined in your classes, what do you hope to bring to your students?
Understanding, confidence and the ability to problem solve. I make an effort to present information in a way where it is fundamentally clear and relatable through drawings and discussions so that students have a foundation to build off of. The ultimate goal for me is to provide students with enough understanding that they are eventually able to be autonomous, and use the knowledge they’ve gained in their own unique way.
What inspired your Metal Museum exhibit?
So many things, but if I had to be specific…primarily a combination of topics including time, astronomy (I own two telescopes) and personal mythology. I am someone who thinks about ideas for a long time and if an idea sticks with me one year or more, I make it. If I don’t, I can’t stop thinking about it and my desire to visualize what I’m thinking intensifies, to the point where I sometimes wonder if it is even healthy for me!
Formally, the idea for this particular body of work crystallized after researching and stumbling upon Nicolas Louis de Lacaille’s catalogue, Coelum Australe Stelliferum (the interweb is a fantastic place). A catalogue in which he identifies a series of constellations found in the southern hemisphere. The constellations are uncharacteristically named after inanimate objects, many of which are analogous to tools and instruments found in the metalsmith’s studio. These tools and instruments then became the subject matter for each of the kinetic sculptures I created. There is a whole lot more but for simplicities sake, I will leave it at that.
I am really excited to be in the studio these days. It is the first time I readily see aspects from all of my previous experimentations in a fresh body of work. My vision is clear and it feels as if I’m not making decisions anymore. I’m just listening to my gut, creating and then processing what I’ve produced later. Then, applying that information to the next piece I create.
What does “Art Jewelry” mean to you?
A conceptually realized wearable that is first and foremost Art, and jewelry second.
Do you consider yourself primarily a sculptor or a jeweler?
I would lean towards sculptor, simply because by definition it implies the negotiating of material within three-dimensional space. Since that description can also be applied to jewelry, it too can be considered sculpture in some sense.
In what kind of environment do you work best?
The perfect environment for me is a clean and well organized space. There is something serene and calming about that for me. In terms of atmosphere throughout the day, I prefer things to be quiet in the morning. I usually don’t listen to any music and just let my thoughts meander. I have a tendency to think more clearly and concisely in the morning so I usually do more writing, idea generating or complex tasks (a difficult stone setting for example). After lunch, I usually listen to talk radio, podcasts or music…I still like to keep things pretty mellow. In the evening, if I am still working (which is often the case), I will likely crank up the music and power through whatever I’m doing. Right now, that would be a steady flow of post punk, indie and experimental electronic music.
More information and photos can be found on Kirk’s website: http://www.kirklang.com/
Kirk is a huge asset to our community at Danaca Design and we love sharing him with you! Don’t forget Kirk has two classes coming up this fall quarter the Stone Setting Clinic and a Cold Connections class. Visit our website www.danacadesign.com for more information. You can sign up for classes by calling in at 206-524-0916. We’re here Tues-Fri 11-6, and 10-6 on Saturdays.