Welcome, 2015 - new beginnings.

Jan 01 2015

First blog for 2015.   2014 was a year best forgotten.   I am going the high tech route this year for I'm finally ready to learn to use CAD, try out 3-D printing, and I have been learning to use a laser welder.   It takes some getting used to a laser welder, and the binocular scope is the hardest part for me to adjust to.   I've been able to successfully welded sterling and have been practicing when I can.   I have been teaming up with Jamie Cook at Tates Gallery.  I've been doing benchwork, and taking some of the repairs/custom work jobs off his plate so he can catch up on his work and custom jobs.   He's been coaching me on the laser welder, and silver is actually the hardest metal to work with, so by the time I get to gold, it's going to be easier.   I used to work for Jamie's father, Fran Cook 20 years ago, so I have a long history with the Cook family.   Funny how I worked for his father, and now for Jamie.  We've been learning from each other - I'm showing him new tricks and tools and he's showing me laser welding and advancing my prong setting skills.  I admit I let my prong setting skills slide, for I never really liked prongs, but many people love them.

Since I have been at a crossroads in my life and career, and I was stuck in a deep rut, feeling worn out, feeling like I had nothing to give or to look forward to, plus fighting teaching burn-out.   Now that Jamie is pushing me to go the high-tech route, it's given me a new purpose, and a chance to learn critical new skills. Once I really conquer the laser welder, it's going to be interesting to see what work I will design and what I can make that truly takes advantage of the laser welder.   I know I want to go back to working with gold, since I used to do that a lot years ago, but stopped when the gold market skyrocketed and the recession us like a sack of potatoes.   I've forgot how easily gold cleans up  and polishes while silver takes more effort to clean/polished.  Guess I was working with silver too long.  It's still my favorite metal and nothing can really replace it, but just the fact gold cleans up/polishes better is a boon.  Gold also welds like a dream.

Jamie has been talking about investing in an induction casting machine, which is a whole new ballgame.  What I know of casting is lost wax casting and how time-consuming the process is.  I am not a good wax carver - I can do geometric shapes and rings, but not delicate carving.  I'm a silversmith and forger ( hammering, not forging money - two different terms, to be perfectly clear), not a delicate carver.  These are two completely different processes and requires two different mindsets.    As we say in the carving business, there's an additive way and a substractive way.   Most sculptors working in stone are carving away from a big block, so that's substractive.  I don't work well that way.   Additive is when you start from nothing and you build up and that's how I work.  Having to figure out a piece of jewelry from a block of wax is exasperating, to say the least and drives me bonkers.  Also, a lot of the tools that were commonly used in wax carving doesn't always work well, and can be too big, bulky or not quite what you need.  No wonder Kate Wolf, wax carver extraordinare designed and created a line of specialized wax carving tools that work better.  I haven't tried them, but it's been so long since I carved wax.  I hate the whole process of lost wax casting, all the toxic fumes from burnout, the dangers of melting metal and using older style dangerous equipment like the centrifugal casting machine which always scares the bejees out of me.  Imagine pouring molten metal into a crucible, release the pin, and watch the centifugal go flying at a really high speed, and sometimes hot metal goes flying.  Not fun.

Anyways, if I design on CAD, 3-D print them, I can cast my prototypes and see how I can go with it.  I have lots of odd-shaped faceted stones that I am going to try making jewelry using them on CAD.  It'll save me a lot of frustrating in creating custom-made settings.

So yes, I'm finally feeling excited about something and I can go on a new path this year.  Nothing will really replace my hand skills but I will be adding a new dimension to them, so I'm expanding myself.   I even am upgrading some of my tools like an oxy/propane torch, and using a graver block to do more of my work, while previously, I struggled to hold things to hammer.    2015 is going to be a truly new year for me.

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