We all love a behind the scenes tour, right? Here's a little peek into my metal smithing studio where I make all the jewelry and allll the messes.
Let's start off with the tidiest corner of my studio; this is wear I do all the heavy hammering as well as shaping and forming. See that silver stepped mandrel in the vise on the bottom right? I hammer metal wire around that to form bracelets in different sizes. You can also see some various cutting and shaping tools on the peg board. The large machine on the left is my buffing wheel where I polish all the jewelry. I hate polishing, but I love this machine-it makes the process of removing scratches and shining the piece up so much quicker.
(Yes, owning an anvil definitely does make me feel like a bad ass.)
Here is a much less exciting, but still important area - the finishing station!
I use chemicals to naturally speed up the oxidation process on the metal to give it that nice antiqued look. It is a messy and smelly process, but the results are always so satisfying! You can also see my tumbler here - those two little black barrels with the blue stripes off to the right. I tumble jewelry inside those barrels with two different medias, steel shot to harden the metal and make it shiny, or plastic media to give it a nice even satin finish. This process takes HOURS, but fortunately it is a hands off process so I can be working on fabricating other pieces while the tumbler does it's thing.
Now the exciting/fiery part!!
The soldering station! Pretty glamorous, huh? That dirty looking white square is where every piece of jewelry I make gets soldered, then quenched in water to cool it down, and then put in a crock pot full of hot acid to clean off the residue and flame marks. A humble little setup, but it gets the job done. You can also see the most important piece of equipment I own in this pic, my air filter! It's the shop vac looking thing on the right with the long hose, and it basically IS a fancy shop vac but with a specialty filter to clean up nasty fumes. I also wear my respirator any time I solder, or sand, or polish, or do anything that kicks up particles or fumes because SAFETY FIRST Y'ALL!
And THIS is where I spend most of the day, at my messy, beautiful bench. It's a type of work bench specifically designed for jewelers with lots of little features to suit the type of work we do. For example, that little chunk of wood sticking out from the center of the bench in the bottom middle of the pic, that is my bench pin and it's where I do 95% of the actual fabrication work besides soldering! The surface of the bench is really just there to hold my tools and my mess ;) I did consider cleaning up a bit before I took these pics, but decided to keep things authentic.
It's tough to give you a good over all view of the place because it's pretty small, about 10' x 10'. Which is just about perfect, any bigger and I would just make bigger messes!
If you follow me on Instagram, you may already know that my studio is inside of Gnarware Workshop, a community ceramics studio in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago (or maybe you didn't know that and wondered why I am always posting about ceramics classes!). I love this place and I'm grateful that I get to be part of a community of so many talented artists (and one adorable pooch). If you are ever interested in taking a class, I can't recommend it enough. There are options for all skill levels, weekly classes, one day workshops, and even Zoom classes so you can work from home. Being here has rekindled my love of working with clay, this place is truly inspiring!
(I took so many pics trying to get a decent shot, selfies are not one of my strengths)
So there you have it, my home away from home! I hope you enjoyed getting to see this side of the business. Feel free to get in touch with any questions, I'd love to share more about my space or my process if you're curious.