Friday, July 29, 2011

Working with: Made By Survivors

A special thanks to Dianna Badalament, the International Jewelry Program Director of Made By Survivors for writing about her experience working with The Made By Survivors Organization, in India. 

In February 2009, my life changed forever.  After opening my small jewelry business,  I received an email from a old friend saying a not-for-profit organization whose work she followed on Facebook, was looking for a metalsmith to teach a metalsmithing class to survivors of human trafficking in Kolkata, India.  I contacted the organization, Made By Survivors (MBS), to learn more about the opportunity and in a month shipped out to Kolkata, India, for two weeks in April to teach survivors at a shelter named Child Care Home operated by our partner Women's Interlink Foundation.

Although April 2009 was the hottest April on record (and not a dry heat), the survivors and the MBS Team in India persevered through blackouts, labor strikes, stifling pollution, the survivors' own psychological (and sometimes physical) trauma, to teach the survivors basic metalsmithing skills. My originally scheduled two weeks, quickly turned into a month long stay. The survivor girls were so incredibly inspirational and dedicated, I felt I couldn't leave until I was done instructing through a certain level of metalsmithing.

Upon my return to the USA, I constantly stayed involved with MBS consulting on everything jewelry and managing jewelry tool drives. Then, I decided to return to India to get a new jewelry studio open and ready for production at a new partner shelter home at Rescue Foundation (RF) near Mumbai. This trip included check-ins with the Kolkata program which was wonderful because you could see the progress, the love, the happiness and the positive evolution of attitude in just a couple of months. 

While at RF I lived at the shelter home and really had an opportunity to spend quality time with the survivors, learn some Hindi, Bengali and Gujrati, explore Mumbai's jewelry district (which recently was the location of a horrible terrorist attack) and purchase tools for the program, as well as get to know the Rescue Foundation staff and learn about the amazing work they do rescuing and providing shelter for young women freed from brothels all over India.

By the end of the trip, over 50 survivors were trained in classical metalsmithing techniques. When I wasn't teaching metalsmithing, I taught beading to another five survivors suffering from HIV/AIDS in the hospital Rescue Foundation location on-site. About ten percent of the girls rescued by Rescue Foundation suffer from HIV/AIDS. In the evenings, I couldn't resist coaching volleyball on the rocky court out during the athletics program. I played in high school and a little in college and never really thought it would come in handy but it truly did. It taught teamwork, healthy competition (something the girls really never experienced) amongst other things.

Ultimately, the most amazing part of the whole experience is to watch a teenage girl in survival mode, firing on all primal notions for shelter, for food, completely transform into a hopeful girl playing in the garden and picking flowers.  It is inspirational to see how learning to metalsmith plays a part in their therapy, in addition to, being their employment, the key to their future.  Lastly, it feels great being a part of a compassionate organization that helps offset the heinous wrong that is "human trafficking", and the name for it doesn't come close to saying enough about this tragic human rights violation.

MBS' philosophy is to overcome slavery and empower slavery survivors through education, opportunity, employment and compassion.  Their programs are located in such places like Cambodia, India and Nepal and are very successful. All proceeds from the products made by the survivors go right back to supporting the survivors. MBS also sponsors children for school, helps improve conditions for the survivors at the homes and organizes bi-annual trips for volunteers to spend two weeks in Kolkata paying visits to WIF's homes and hosting activities for the survivors.

Presently, we just began our Third Jewelry Tool Drive. If you'd like to like to donate jewelry tools to the drive there is more information located here.  We hope to supply the tools for our third studio, opening within the next six months to train survivors at a shelter home in northern West Bengal. 

At this point, I can't wait to go back and see the survivors from the CCH and RF Studios (amongst other great girls at the shelter, not in our program AND the great staff in India working for Made By Survivors whom I adore). I also look forward to meeting and training the new survivors and getting more young women in to the therapeutic fold. Lastly, I find it comforting that every survivor trained chips away at the global blight of slavery. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sophia Georgiopoulou – Artist Interview

Hello, and welcome! We have another artist interview this week, with the lovely Sophia Georgiopoulou. Please have a read! thanks so much for sharing today with us Sophia!

How would you describe what you do as an artist?
I am a goldsmith who makes precious adornments in gold, silver, pearls and gemstones. I am fascinated by the way metal, especially gold, transforms itself through the use of traditional fabrication techniques and the skills of the goldsmith into an object of art, delight and beauty.
Incrementi Brooch ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

What inspires your designs?
My designs are primarily inspired by the Roman, Hellenistic and Byzantine past of the Near East, adapted to a more modern aesthetic. Since my classicist education has always drawn me to the ornate, intricately wrought gold jewelry that prevailed for centuries in the Mediterranean basin and the Near East, my work focuses on a reinterpretation of these timeless forms. My work seeks to create a bridge between the beauty of the ancient cultural heritage in this area of the world and modern life.

Occasionally, I will be haunted by a shape from the world of nature, a found object, a play of light or a word that will need to be transformed and expressed into a piece of jewelry. Sometimes I do a detailed drawing of the piece I want to fabricate, at others I take the gemstone or pearl and build around it.
Alexandria Gold Earrings ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Leaf Gold Earrings ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

How long have you been involved in this type of making?
Until 2004, “making” jewelry (assembling elements together) was just one of my hobbies together with painting, drawing and embroidering. In 2004, I decided that I needed to learn how to fabricate clasps because the ready-made ones I used in my creations were not very interesting. In October 2004, I took my first metals class and I have never looked back. I became attracted to fabrication straight from the raw materials and I am still trying to hone my skills in that area. I left my job as a college professor and apprenticed for five years next to a wonderful goldsmith, teacher and mentor. In November 2010, I opened my website:
Amaseia Flower Ring ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Where are you located?
I live in Athens, Greece, surrounded by monuments that are the remnants of the great civilizations of the Mediterranean basin. The city is full of museums that contain wonderful treasures of sculpture, painting, metal, jewelry, pottery, glass and fabrics. The monuments and the treasures in the museums are marvelous sources of inspiration for every artist, and especially a goldsmith.
In November 2011, I will relocate permanently to Seattle, Washington.
Constantinople Rings ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Do you have a website or etsy store?
Yes, I do!
Kosmimata Website:
Etsy Shop:
Nicaea Gold and Silver Star Brooches ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

What other ways do you market your work?
Currently I only sell online and by commission.
Raised Cross Earrings ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Do you teach? 

I do not teach yet, although in my past career as a college professor I taught for 18 consecutive years right after graduate school. Perhaps in the future, when I have mastered the techniques I am interested in exploring, I will consider it. I think imparting traditional skills to the younger generations of goldsmiths is as important as fashioning an integral body of work that reflects one’s vision of adornment.
Scimitar Pearl Earrings ©Sophia Georgiopoulou
Scimitar Pearl Pendant ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Any sage advice for newcomers that you would like to share?
It would be beneficial for newcomers in the field to envision themselves as links in the chain of the jewelry-making tradition. If they are about to reshape tradition in the name of innovation, they should be well-versed in the very thing they will be reshaping. The constant refinement of their traditional jewelry skills, the development of their creative impulses,  the shunning of the lures of the innovation-for-the-sake-of-innovation muse and the formulation of their individual artistic voices should be the focus of their endeavors early on.

Jewelry made with knowledge, skill and imagination is not only an inextricable part of the artist who creates it; it is also a small, strong link in the chain of the jewelry-making tradition. This chain links the individual work to both time past and  time future and strongly defines it; at the same time, through the work’s differences/similarities to the other links in the chain, its artistic autonomy is enhanced.
Calyx II Ring ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Where do you envision your work going in the next year?
I believe that jewelry, even in the commercialized production world of today, is best made by the human hand without the interference of elaborate technological aids. The simple tool of the jeweler on the metal and the deep knowledge of the traditional, timeless jewelry techniques are capable of creating pieces of unparalleled beauty that last through the ages.

In the next year, I want to complete the two collections I am currently working on;  they will represent my explorations in metal and the technique of granulation.
Florilegium Brooch ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Anything Else you'd like to share?
yes - New work by Kosmimata can be found online at:

Etsy Shop:

Byzantine Rosette Brooch ©Sophia Georgiopoulou
Byzantine Rosette Brooch ©Sophia Georgiopoulou

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Story of Diamonds: Cuts through the Ages - Old Mine Cut

A special thanks to Andrea Robinson, who had provided us with this article on The Story of Diamonds, which was originally written and published at 

The next metamorphosis in diamond cutting proved even more brilliant than the last.  By tripling the number of facets, diamond cutters released more brilliance and fire from the depths of their diamonds than ever before.  It also preserved a good deal of the weight of the original crystal.

The girdle profile still mimics the squared shape of the crystals these were fashioned from.  You can see, also, the form of the single-cut before it was embellished with extra facets.  In the diagram below, I have colored the new facets pink.

The proportions are different, but this cut possesses all of the facets of the modern round brilliant as shown in this diagram:

The Old Mine cut is deep with a small table and often squarish in shape.  The depth allows light to leak out of the gem, so they are less bright than modern stones.  The facet arrangement and small table, however, encourages a good deal of dispersion which is the breaking up of light into spectral colors.  You might call this fire.

A couple more things worth noting about antique diamonds: because these were fashioned from well formed octahedrons, the clarity is often quite good.  The Old Mine is also the precursor to modern cushion cuts.

The Starving Jewelry Artists do not endorse the Three Graces in any way, the website just happen to have a lovely collection of fascinating specimens.  You may click on the images to visit their website for more information on these antique jewels.

Edwardian earrings set with blue moonstone and old mine cut diamonds:

Edwardian pendant set with old mine and old European cut diamonds and a pearl:

A very unusual piece - portrait diamond surrounded by old mine cut diamonds and emeralds:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Steve Shelby - Artist Interview

Hello, and welcome - we have another artist interview this week - with Steve Shelby! 
Thanks for sharing your amazing work with us Steve!  
Steve Shelby

1. How would you describe what you do as an artist?
I take metal sheet (mostly brass, copper, or bronze) and hammer it into three dimensional forms that are hopefully aesthetically pleasing, and, in some cases, useful.

2. What inspires your designs?
Nature. Curvy things.

Tea Wrex © Steve Shelby

3. How long have you been involved in this type of making?
I took a jewelry class in 1970, and decided this was my medium. Soon after college, I got a job as a metal craftman (not an artist), and forgot about art until about 2002, when I started doing what I do now. I owe this re-awakening partly to the urgings of my mother, and partly to the realization that the internet would allow me to get my work out to the public in ways never dreamed of before.

Big Urn © Steve Shelby

4. Where are you located?
I live near South Whitley, Indiana, one of the most ordinary places anywhere. It's in NE Indiana about 20 miles west of Fort Wayne. I'm surrounded by farm fields. There are a lot of Amish farmers in the area, which makes it a little more interesting than it would be otherwise. Living in a place where everything is ordinary makes one have more appreciation for anything even slightly out of the ordinary.

Dog © Steve Shelby

5. Do you have a website or etsy/artfire/1000market etc store?

6. What other ways do you market your work?
Exhibitions, locally and nationally; Galleries; museum store.

 Bronze Vase © Steve Shelby

7. Do you teach? if so, where?
No, never have taught, but I have posted many detailed tutorials on my blog, which seem to be quite popular. I have also had many people tell me I should do workshops or demonstrations, but so far, nothing like that has materialized.

8. Any sage advice for newcomers that you would like to share?
Don't be afraid to fail. We learn and grow from our failures. Don't be afraid to try your own way of doing things. You may discover techniques that are actually better than the way you were taught. You don't need a lot of expensive, fancy tools to make great art. There are work-arounds for nearly everything. Museums are full of fabulous art from the past made with the most primitive tools.

Pod © Steve Shelby

9. Where do you envision your work going in the next year?
These days my creative energy goes into exhibition pieces. I have some ideas for kinetic and interactive pieces that I want to get working on, if I get the time.

10. Anything else you would like to share?
Recent TV interview:

© Steve Shelby

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Update: the Art of personal Adornment with Kathleen Krucoff

In this post we are re-visiting one of our previously interviewed Metalsmiths Unite! members,  Kathleen Krucoff.  Enjoy!
To see her original interview please click here.

© Kathleen Krucoff

When asked about her current inspirations Metalsmiths Unite member Kathleen Krucoff responds:
"My goal is to create something you won't find anywhere else.  It has to be as individual as the person who will ultimately wear it.  I've recently changed my tag line on my website to support the feeling that I have about my work "The Art of Personal Adornment".  With each piece, I make it as if I was making it for me.  If I like it, I know it will 'speak' to its rightful owner.  I want to make true art jewelry.

 Nature is my biggest inspiration.  The design possibilities it offers is infinite.  My dad did a lot of landscape work and would take me along with him on the various jobs he did in the evening.  I was fascinated by the way he would sculpt evergreens and manicure the grounds of the various homes in the city where we lived.  As I became immersed in metalwork, I realized that he was a true landscape artist.  I know his love of nature has influenced me.

Music is a key component in my work too.  It really depends on my mood when I'm in the studio.  If I need to focus, classical is a must - Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Hayden.  Other times it just varies Jazz, Rock & Roll, New Age, even Electronic Synthpop like Daft Punk...go figure!  Music keeps me moving with work and design ideas."

 Sky Tree
© Kathleen Krucoff

How long have you been involved in this type of making? (how did you start?)
I've been working with metal for a little over 4 years now, started with wire wrapping the glass cabochons I made.  Then, I really became immersed in metalsmithing a little over 2 years ago when I took my first metalsmithing weekend workshop from Lexi Erickson.  She said she would help me take my work to a whole new level and she did.  I was hooked, I think because being a metalsmith is intellectually stimulating for me.  You have to plan out the fabrication process.  I like feeling "the wheels turn in my mind" as I work through a piece.

Climb Every Mountain
© Kathleen Krucoff

Where are you located?
I  live in city of Black Forest, Colorado just northeast of Colorado Springs.  It's considered to be part of the front range of the Rocky Mountains.  I love seeing the mountains every day, when the weather cooperates.  It still amuses me that you can see snow on Pikes Peak even in the summer months!  Of course, I've incorporated mountain shapes in my works too and this year created a new line, “Mountainesque.”  My husband & I share our home with three basset hounds on almost 7 acres.  Since we live in the less tree-d area of the Black Forest,  I love the open space that surrounds us and provides a great view of those beautiful Rocky Mountains.

 Safe Passage
© Kathleen Krucoff

Advice for newcomers that you would like to share?
Practice every day.  Whether it's drawing designs, cutting out some metal, soldering, just get in your studio/workspace and work with your craft every day.  Practice, practice, practice.  That's invaluable.

 Where do you envision your work going in the next year? (artistic direction)
 I see more clean and simple metal works.  A real focus, emphasis on the metal, incorporating brass and maybe bronze, along with the copper & sterling silver I use right now.  Pure shapes and textures.  Course, that is what I think today, it seems like my thoughts ebb and flow, so things could go in a completely different direction than I expect.

With a home studio, I am never without the companionship of one of our three basset hounds.  I love that.  When I need a break, it's great to stroke a pet that is a true studio mascot.  And I'm a firm believer in frequent breaks.  Otherwise your body and mind will become too tired and you can and will start making mistakes or risk an injury.  Be good to yourself.

I'm a swimmer and cyclist; along with doing yoga.  I need that feeling of zen after a workout.  I get some of my best designs when I'm working out.  You never know when your next design idea will pop into your head.

Mountain Valley
© Kathleen Krucoff

Kathleen's Links-

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Andes Cruz ~ Artist Interview

 Today's Blog is an artist interview with Metalsmiths Unite! member Andes Cruz - Enjoy!

How would you describe what you do as an artist? 
I am a Metalsmith. I specifically say Metalsmith, not “jeweler”, or “silversmith”.... I don’t want to be confined, and I want to work with everything.

© Andes Cruz Designs

What inspires your designs?
My designs come from Whatever inspires me in the moment. I don’t <yet> have a “defined” signature style, that is Ever Present in my work. My designs continue to change and grow all the time - influenced by what it going on in my life at the time.... Though, there is a mix with underlying themes that have been present in my creative process for many years.

It might be a feeling from a movie;  a feeling present in my life, or a walk in the forest, a beautiful day skiing, reading an article, looking thru a book, or something as simple- and more likely - as just seeing what I have in front of me <stones> and letting them tell me what they want to become. My work flows from within. A lot of the time, I may have no idea (specifically), what I want to create. So I pull out the stone box, rifling thru it until I find the ones speaking to me… and then allow what they may be to speak - rings, pendants, combinations I want to put together... I build work up from there~ as it allows me to create in a spontaneous way. I find, most of the work I am most pleased with is created in this way of allowing it to happen. Instead of confining it to a fixed idea or outcome. I just let it flow. Some days I know I want to make “rings”. (I love making rings the most, incidentally) And so I start with the idea “rings”. and go from there.
© Andes Cruz Designs

How long have you been involved in this type of making?
I took my first Jewelry courses in the summer of 1994 in New Mexico, taking art classes at the Taos Institute of Art. Though I also took photography, and pottery; the metalsmithing courses immediately had me hook line and sinker. I have been hooked and creating ever since. 

Since that summer, I have continued to learn and grow as an craftsperson, and have spent as much time as I can creating with metal.

I have had the opportunity over the years to spend bits of time working under and with several very talented Master Silversmiths and Goldsmiths; and have completed the “Bench Technician” Course at Revere Academy. 

© Andes Cruz Designs

Where are you located?
Currently I live in Southern BC, Canada; in a small Mountain community called Rossland. I have been resident to this area for about 5 years now. The community is nestled in the high mountains, with access to skiing, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, fresh air and endless forest. It is located 7 miles north of the USA boarder, north Spokane, Washington. It’s quiet, remote, and unpopulated. A bit of a desert from the Arts community, but the internet keeps me in constant communication with metalsmithing peers worldwide.
© Andes Cruz Designs

Do you have a website or etsy store?
Yes - of course :) 

© Andes Cruz Designs

What other ways do you market your work?
I do at times show in galleries; but currently only show & sell my work online. I am open to the right locations. However, I have found the internet to be a fabulous gallery lately, with it’s worldwide audience.
© Andes Cruz Designs

Do you teach?
I do not currently teach (I have been an assistant in the past) Though, it is definitely in my future plans.
© Andes Cruz Designs

Any sage advice for newcomers that you would like to share?
Technique technique technique.  Work on honing, improving, and expanding your skills ALL the time. With a quiver of good solid skills you can create anything.

You can do a lot , with only a few tools. It may take longer, but it’s possible, so don’t be discouraged by not having a studio with everything in it. Be creative.  There are great books - Like “Cheap Thrills in The Tool Shop”, by Charles Lewton-Brain.

There are two points here I really want to stress - One is not “copying”; the second is that with all the Metalsmiths there are today; having an excellent skill set will set you apart from the crowd.

When you’re beginning really, truly focus on finding “Your Voice”. That which makes you unique. Your creative edge. The thing that makes the work Yours. It’s easy to look thru books and online pages to draw inspiration, and with it comes the strong desire to replicate what you see.... but please don’t. It’s very important to respect these designs as the Original Artist’s work. Instead,  choose to filter what inspires you thru your very own creative lenses, let it flow thru your hand, and become uniquely yours. 

Finding your unique Voice will set you apart. Trust that, when you create what really is within you, it creates a special Alchemy within your works, and shines out to your audience. You will set yourself apart in the sea of many; and trust that this is a very good thing. There will be people who will Love your work; specifically because it is unique, and different, and is a true piece of art within itself. It carries your essence in it. I feel; if you are uninspired in your creations, people will intristically feel this. So work to find your place of inspiration, and make your creations Your Own. Find your Voice. And do it with the best skills you can execute, always. Don’t cut corners, or skimp on supplies. Take your time, do it right. Always.
Where do you envision your work going in the next year?
I see new collaborations with my partner; Master Silversmith Rick Montano; more inclusion of colours (in new ways aside from stones); new designs and styles; even expanding materials and new techniques....Lots of new directions!  We will see, but I think it is going to be very exciting.

© Andes Cruz Designs

Anything else you would like to share? 
I like to go play outside and stay active, as I am sure you guessed. It’s no accident I live where I do..… And, I do it all! 

I currently work full time doing Computer Aided Design and Drafting.
I do Website design in a small scale way. 
I’m learning to play banjo, and fiddle. 
I like to do photography stuff.  
I’m always learning new skills in the workshop.
I enjoy blogging and Writing.
Hangin’ with my Felines. 
I like to garden too, but sadly, I live in an apartment right now.

© Andes Cruz Designs

Disclaimer* I co-administer the blog for Metalsmith’s Unite, where you are reading this. (June 2011)

© Andes Cruz Designs

How you can find Andes Cruz online:
Andes Cruz Designs Website:
Montano Jewelry Website:
Andes Cruz Designs FB Fan Page:

Pawtracks Blog (about my felines):

© Andes Cruz Designs