A number of years ago I started making jewelry in the form of a variety of creatures, mostly using copper and mixed metal designs and coloring the copper with heat. A lot of these designs are pin/pendants. I've always been fond of frogs so some of my first designs were those.
I've probably made 20 to 30 frogs in a variety of sizes and patterns over the last 25 to 30 years.
Turtles seemed like an interesting form also so a few of them made an appearance also. Perhaps a half a dozen or so.
A few of the frogs I made in more complex designs like this frog on a leaf. I made one as a bola tie also.
I've probably made as many fish as I have frogs, this design I called my swirly fish. It has a pearl eye, silver swirls and gold balls and discs.
I've made 4 or 5 snail forms at times that I was infatuated with spiral forms.
Insects have always fascinated me also , I've taken hundreds of close up pictures of them with my digital cameras. Many of them seem like little moving jewels to me. I've also done a great many leaf forms like this copper one. When I lived in Nevada City 25 years ago, on one fall day I was walking through my back yard which bordered a creek and had huge oak trees and there were piles of leaves on the ground. As my feet pushed them around I thought to myself -they look like copper-. That rang a bell in my head and I started playing with making them out of copper that I colored with heat.
This is a more abstract bug form that I did a couple of years ago.
A few years ago my daughter Akeesa asked me to make a dragonfly pendant for her and that got me into creating a series of dragonflies, all a little different. This one is silver with a few gold elements and freshwater pearl eyes.
Maybe 20 years ago I made my first lizard form based on a series of drawings I was doing at the time. I've done perhaps 6 to 8 in this series, each a little different in texture and metal mixtures.
I have a really good customer in the San Francisco bay area that sometimes rescues abandoned iguanas. She has been asking me for about 5 or 6 years to make her an iguana pendant, even sending me large photographs of some of the iguanas she has had. I don't do very many special orders any more but wanted to do this one for her but it took a long time for the finished piece to be born. I finally got it done this spring and we were both happy with the finished piece. I do wish I had taken more time to get a better picture of it though. Oh well.
For a number of years I've been making bead forms and running a chain through them for them to be worn as pendants. A few years ago a customer who had bought some of those asked me if I could put a bead form on a bail for her. To the right is what I did. I have made a number of variations on this form.
Since I love making the beads so much I'm always looking for different ways to use them. To the left are two of what I call hanger beads. The pendant forms in the middle swing freely from the upper bead form. I've done quite a few of these.
Another form are kind of like towers like the ones to the right. Carlie and I have both done a number of these. Her's is the one on the left.
To the left are two more of Carlie's bead tower pendants.
To the right are two one of a kind pendants incorporating bead forms within the compositions. More to come, many more.
Although currently we are in a time of making more smaller jewels, in the past we have made some fairly large pieces.
The two necklaces on the right were 6 to 7 1/2 inches long.
The taste of jewelry buyers changes and goes in cycles.
Currently we are in a cycle of smaller pieces being the ones
that sell the best so we are in a cycle of exploring making
smaller pieces that please us and our customers. Not that
large pieces would never sell but not with frequency. The
top two necklaces to the right were collaborative pieces
that we both worked on together although Carlie did the
majority of the construction on both. Jima polished some
of the stones and did the top pieces on them and the bead
forms on the chain. Both are constructed using silver, copper & 14k gold. The top piece has fresh water pearls, a piece of
scenic jaspar and an Orissa garnet. The bottom one has a
black onyx, a piece of holly blue agate from Oregon and a
an agate tear drop.
In earlier times we made even larger pieces, especially Jima who sometimes got carried away, making things like 5 inch in diameter medallions with 8 inches of dangling metal pieces
and earrings that brushed the wearers shoulders when the
head was turned and rings that came inches back over the
To the left is another collaborative piece, Jima made the medallion and Carlie incorporated it into her necklace. This was one of a series of necklaces that started with Carlie making some with interesting antique buttons where the medallion shape is in this one. It was a very interesting series.
Another collaborative piece although most of the work is Carlie's. This was made for a customer/friend in Chico, California, an area where we have done art shows for over 40 years. The multi stone piece in the bracelet has the birthstones of our friend's children. Jima polished one of the stones and did the sun piece.
We haven't been doing much collaborative work recently but will again. We collaborative at the idea level constantly, throwing ideas and techniques back and forth between our side by side workbenches.
I've been making mandala forms in jewelry for a long time, probably over 45 years. And before that I drew and painted them starting in high school on the edge of notebook paper in classes I found boring. That was in the late 1950's. At one point I got into creating bigger ones, the biggest being on the side of a building in which I had some of my jewelry for sale in Ventura, California in 1970. It was about 8 feet in diameter and painted with house paint. I wish I had taken a picture of it but I wasn't into photography at that time and I don't think I even had a camera. I still make metal ones now and draw one occasionally. Recently I've been playing with doing collage work in mandala form with images harvested from books and magazines and sometimes with drawn elements.
Much of the jewelry I make is part of a series that develops and changes as the series progresses. Sometimes there are dozens of pieces in a series and in a few instances hundreds. Each series is like a group of cousins, each a little different. The timeline for a series can stretch into many years, I normally only make one at a time and when that one finds a home make the next. The game being that the new one has to be different but related. Different size, different combinations of metals and stones, different textures and so forth.
The first and third pictures to the left are of a flower mandala series that I started about 3 years ago and have made 6 of I think. They start with the top smooth and polished silver piece, then a different silver underlay that is either oxidized black or etched or textured. The copper dots around the edge are the rivets that hold the two silver pieces together. the flower shape is copper and the disc in the center is 14k gold. The bail at the top swivels and has a gold disc on the front.
The other two pieces pictured are mixed metal mandalas but distant cousins. The top is brass over copper that has been roller printed then heat colored in some areas and mechanically etched in others. The copper domes are the tops of rivets. It's set with a piece of paua shell, a specie of abalone that live in New Zealand. The bottom one is silver over heat colored and etched copper set with a peach colored moonstone.
We started making asymmetrical earrings a few years ago and have gotten a great response to them, each pair selling fairly rapidly. Each earring of a pair is different but they have a relationship and there is a balance. We plan to continue to develop this series of creations. Part of what keeps us interested in making jewelry after doing it for 50 years is being able to play and try new ideas. It's good for business too since a very high percentage of our sales are to customers who have bought other jewels from us, often for many years.
Shortly after I moved to the Mendocino Coast I started making these bead form pendants. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the beginning ideas came from but I do remember that my wife Carlie was making some soldered beadlike pendant forms that I liked, that was probably part of the original inspiration. We pass ideas and thoughts back and forth between our jewelry benches, we have been working side by side for about 40 years or so. Somehow I started making these discs and domes out of sheet metal and texturing, notching and doming them. After all of the parts are made and polished, textured and colored, I put a piece of annealed 3/16 inch tubing through the holes each has at it's center and then hammer and flare the ends until the entire assembly is frozen in place. The first beads
I made were much simpler than these, just two domes on the sides and a disc in the center, but I became fascinated with them and the process. When I first started I became somewhat obsessed and for 6 weeks or so didn't make any other jewelry forms. I carried a chain around with me that had 6 to 8 beads on it and would stop and show it to anyone who look. I worried at first that I would run out of ideas but have found that not to be true. I'm still making some 20 years later (although not as many) and new ways of doing them still occur. I have also incorporated them
into bracelets, rings, pendants, pins and earrings.
I've made hundreds of them now and have some collectors that have as many as a dozen of them. When I was teaching at the Mendocino Art Center I taught mixed metal bead making classes several times and always really enjoyed watching someone get really excited when they made their first bead. One of the things I liked about teaching was what I learned from watching others use their own unique thoughts and design skills to make jewels. I often learned really useful things from absolute beginners who didn't have preconceived notions of how things could or should be done and would try anything.
Jima started making jewelry around 1969, Carlie a few years later, but it wasn't until about 2005 that either of us created a heart jewel. We didn't think about it and reject the idea, it just didn't come up. And then we got into a show at the San Jose Convention center in 2005 that happened on Valentine's weekend, we had never before done a fair in February. And, of course, the thought occurred to us that it was Valentine's and that meant hearts and we should make some and we did. Each of us made several for the fair and we rapidly found out two things. Hearts jewels sell well at all times of the year and we discovered that the range of possible designs using that basic motif was pretty much unlimited and that made it very much fun for us since we like to play and do lots of different designs in mixed metals. Hearts became an integral part of our jewel inventory from that time on and still are. As I look back through my picture files I'll add a continuing selection of some of the designs we've created over the years (and still are).