Thursday, September 29, 2011

Maureen BZ- interview update!

 This is a short update to the original interview ( )with Maureen Brusa Zappellini- (Metalsmiths Unite founder) with a little bit of background on the formation of the Metalsmiths Unite group....

What inspired you start Metalsmiths Unite?
You know when you go to a conference and you get that feeling like you aren't connected at all with the community? You feel like an outsider- and it's that outsider feeling that was the catalyst for my starting the Metalsmiths Unite group in the first place. I Created the very first Metalsmiths Unite group the week after I got back from the SNAG conference in Savannah (08) .

Most conferences/professional gatherings are really hard on the independent - Most of the attendees are from some school or professional group: they already have a framework within their community. As an independent artist (many years out of school) I noticed that there were a lot of us "indies" around, mostly feeling disconnected from the group experience as a whole.
2nd annual Metalsmiths Unite "Chill Lounge" gathering Tucson AZ, February2011

I saw a need for an independent forum for ALL LEVELS of metalsmithing and metalsmithing enthusiasts, so I patched together a group, stuck the name Metalsmiths Unite on it and the rest is history.
Metalsmiths Unite has become my main community- It is full of a collection of independent artists and teachers from all levels of our craft- from super newbie beginner to professional craftspeople whose work is collected by collectors, museums and yes, even royalty.  I know I can go to Metalsmiths Unite 2.0 at any time of day to get responses for technical questions, show new images of my work, and find information about what is current in our metalsmithing world. In short- it is a community of individuals- with a passion for metalsmithing as a common axis.

I think that it has helped many people make connections that otherwise they may not have been able to make, so I'm happy with the result.

powdercoated bronze and silver earrings
 I never thought it would grow so big either- I envisioned 30-40 friends talking about technique and materials and occasionally showing a picture of work that they have done. It soon became clear that it was going to be a bit bigger than that- and by the end of the year I had to take it more seriously, write a mission statement and create posting guidelines. My little baby had grown.

When did you found the group?
I founded the group in the spring of 2008, just after coming home from the Savannah SNAG conference- I felt a need to be in communication with other metalsmiths- especially those of us who weren’t connected to any formal group (those of us out of school and independently working in our studios)

What is your vision for it?
Hmm, my vision is that MU continues to grow and becomes a favorite resource for it’s members. I think we are on the right track.

Where can all it’s parts it be found?
pewter container- "Bella Fiorentina 2011"
Metalsmiths Unite started on another page, as simply “Metalsmiths Unite”- it still exists, but I’ve shut down the wall to comments because I cannot manage both groups at once- However, there is a lot of information there about artists and resources, plus hundreds of photos and even a few videos.
The MAIN page that is used daily is at Metalsmiths Unite 2.0, here:!/groups/metalsmithsunite/
then we have this blog, a Flickr Group (at ) a Twitter account that I have let lapse into oblivion (not enough hours in the day)
and we just recently added a very informal etsy team ( )

Anything else you want to tell us about the group?
I think it’s a great group of creatives, and I’ve met some really wonderful people through the 3 years since I started it. I look forward to greeting my fellow ‘smiths every day, and seeing the works that we are merrily creating in our studios. I think Metalsmiths Unite stays fresh because it is constantly evolving- every day there are new topics being shared, in real time - with hundreds of dedicated craftspeople from all around the wold.

What can the members do, to help make it successful?
 Don't be shy- participate and keep posting your metalsmithing related posts! Volunteer to write a blog post or two (you can even use one of your own blog posts on your personal blog if you think it is interesting to the metalsmithing community)
Give encouragement to newbies, continue to add your metalsmithing friends to the group, let the group know what it is that YOU want out of the group.

strap "slide bead" bracelets 2011 (compare to painting below)
Metalsmiths Unite's success is created by active participation -
Above ALL- continue the groups mission to be open to all levels and disciplines in our craft - including everyone from museum level artists to hobbyists and enthusiasts. That we continue our community in the spirit of sharing and open dialogue, with respect for our differences and the creation of bridges of understanding.

MBZ, What is your background?
Silk painting with stitching 1998
I’ve earned a studio diploma (concentrating in painting)  from School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA) and a BFA from Tufts University. I studied metalsmithing as an apprentice for the summers home from college (6 days a week, silversmithing, mostly forging and soldering)
In my previous incarnation as a painter I was the recipient of a 10 week scholarship at Skowhegan school of painting and sculpture (1989).
I’ve worked for production metalsmiths in Providence RI (my mother lives there). I studied and taught metalsmithing in Florence Italy (my husband’s home town, where we lived from 97-2000)
I’ve taught here in Tucson, I continue to give demos and workshops (metalsmithing and pewter work).
 President of Arizona Designer Craftsmen (southern chapter) 2006/7 .
Fall 2011 postcard for my jewelry line "Cosmo's Moon"- "

2007-2009 goldsmith for a custom ring designer ( , where I was making a lot of mokume inlay bands)
I currently work for myself , designing and creating a line of jewelry for online sales in my etsy shops ( ) and I also do goldsmithing for a private opal company here in Tucson.

OK- I think that's enough info for now- Please let me know if you have any questions about Metalsmiths Unite- I will do my best to answer them-
in the mean time- may the flux be with you, and your striker be forever sparky
ciao-Maureen BZ
my personal sites:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Story of Diamonds: Cutting a Round Brilliant

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 

First, the planner starts with a diamond crystal.  The planner decides what is going to happen with the crystal.  One stone, two, three, what shape?

The marker then marks where the diamond needs to be sawn or cleaved.

If the diamond is to be cleaved, a kerf (small groove) is cut into the crystal with a laser.  Then, some extremely skilled person gets to whack it with a mallet.

The crystal is more likely to be sawn, these days.

The next step is bruting which rounds out the stones and gives the initial cone shape to the pavilions.  In this step, two diamonds are used to shape each other.  This can be done by hand or machine.

Next, the diamond is blocked.  The table plane is cut, and the pavilion mains and crown facets are placed.  The brillianteers then add the remaining facets and do the final polishing.

This video shows most of the process:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wendy Van Camp ~ Artist Interview

Welcome to our weekly artist interview series - this week we are featuring Wendy Van Camp.  Thanks so much for sharing today Wendy!
Wendy Van Camp
How would you describe what you do as an artist? 
I am a designer of women's jewelry.  Most of my work is wirewrapped forms featuring small gauge wire and semi-precious stones.  I usually use sterling silver in my work, but lately I've been featuring pieces made of copper wire or a mix of silver and copper. Unusual stones are the focus  in my work, ones with lots of interesting textures or colors.

What inspires your designs?
I am half Scottish.  I use my heritage to give my contemporary jewelry a Celtic inspiration.  Tree of Life pendants are a specialty.

© Wendy Van Camp ~ Freeform Tree of Life
How long have you been involved in this type of making?
I was a television producer/director by night and a high school teacher by day.  Then I met my husband. Suddenly, my personal life became more important than pursuing the next television gig. I had a great desire to slow down my life and to spend more time with my husband and perhaps start a family. To save money on our wedding, I made my own bridal veil and discovered bead jewelry making for the first time.  It was relaxing as well as creative, very much opposite from my previous hectic life.  I quit teaching and scaled back my television production work to part-time in order to begin a small jewelry business.  That was 16 years ago.  I love being an artist and working for myself on my own terms.  Jewelry is my main line of business.  However, I recently have become a certified gemologist and a freelance writer.  I am beginning to write part-time in addition to my jewelry business.  It's all good.

Where are you located?
Anaheim Hills is the hilly, upscale, part of Anaheim, CA. Close enough to the beach to enjoy, but far enough away that we don't have to deal with tourists.  My house is near the Nixon Presidential Library and Disneyland. We often enjoy the fireworks from the park in our backyard. There are hubs of historic small towns that are still thriving nearby and provide quaint places to visit and shop.  My favorite writing spot is a coffeehouse that used to be the building of a local newspaper in one of these old town hubs.  The heritage society has preserved the original facade of the building and inside it is paneled in old-fashioned wood.  It makes for a great writing atmosphere.

© Wendy Van Camp ~ earrings
Do you have a website or online store?
I do not have an online store and have no real plans to open one for my jewelry.  I find that people like to see and touch my pieces before they buy. I have sold online in the past, but I've discovered that the additional paperwork, photography and taxes involved has made it cost and time prohibitive.

I maintain a website for my work.  It is a gallery to display my jewelry and for customers to keep track of where I will be at shows.  I use the website mainly to display my jewelry to promoters when I'm jurying into a new venue and to link to articles that I write in the jewelry or gemological field.

© Wendy Van Camp ~ Garnet Byzantine

What other ways do you market your work?
I have an established venue circuit where I sell my work.  Juried Fine Art/Craft shows that are held in conjunction with music festivals, Scottish Highland Games and Science Fiction Conventions.  I love working outside in my booth.  Where else can you make a living under the trees on a beautiful day?  Word of mouth has done me well. I have many repeat customers at these events.

Do you teach? if so, where?
I am often approached to teach by studios or by individuals, but somehow the right venue has not opened for me.  I tend to be rather busy between my shows and writing.  One day I would not mind teaching, but for now it is on the back burner.

Any sage advice for newcomers that you would like to share?
Be honest with yourself.  Do you have the self discipline to set your own hours and do the work required to have a successful business? Have you focused not only on the artistic side of this profession, but also on gaining the business and marketing skills necessary to promote your work as an artist?  Metalsmithing is a physical and demanding professional with long hours and much risk. Setting up a studio with equipment is costly as are paying for booth fees to sell your work. You will not have many of the perks that people who work for others take for granted. If that does not scare you, then welcome!  There is a certain amount of freedom in working for yourself that can not be matched anywhere else. Also, the joy of seeing another person love your work enough that they wish to purchase it and make it their own is a wonderful feeling.  For me, this has made all the difference.

© Wendy Van Camp ~ Sterling Rhodonite Tree

Where do you envision your work going in the next year?
With the rising cost of metals, I am wondering how much longer I will be able to work in sterling silver.  I'm exploring more ways to use copper both in jewelry and as wall art.  I'm growing more focused on writing and working as a gemologist and hope to expand my presence in these areas over the next few years.

Anything else you would like to share?
Please feel free to visit my website and follow my blog:
Like my Facebook Business Page:
Follow me at Twitter:

Friday, September 2, 2011


A few weekends ago we took a trip to Arcosanti Arizona. Arcosanti is a remarkable living laboratory project that was conceived by Italian architect and sculptor Paolo Soleri (b 1919). In this blog post I will give a short review of our stay and point anyone interested to the Arcosanti website for information about this inspiring project.

A view of the main building holding the Bakery, Cafe, Gallery and Reception area

The most simple way to describe Arcosanti would be that it is an experimental city being constructed by volunteers from around the world (most often architects, artists and free thinkers). It is currently housing between 20-100 residents, who live and work there year round as volunteers and students of the philosophies of Arcology .The Website for Arcosanti will also tell you about their beautiful silt cast bells and has a detailed schedule of their exciting performances and events .

a selection of bronze silt cast bells available in the shop

A short history:
 "In 1970, the Cosanti Foundation began building Arcosanti, an experimental town in the high desert of Arizona, 70 miles north of metropolitan Phoenix. When complete, Arcosanti will house 5000 people, demonstrating ways to improve urban conditions and lessen our destructive impact on the earth. Its large, compact structures and large-scale solar greenhouses will occupy only 25 acres of a 4060 acre land preserve, keeping the natural countryside in close proximity to urban dwellers." (from the Arcosanti Website

We decided to visit Arcosanti after hearing about the incredible performances that are held there on a regular basis.Not being a huge fan of crowds I thought it would be interesting to go there during a "down time"- in the heat of the summer- to simply experience the setting (and to "cambiare aria" (change air) before settling into our school routine for the year. )

Daisy by the pool. Note the "pod like" artist studio with circle windows in the distance

I think it was a good choice, because we had a peaceful few days, however, the heat was quite oppressive so I'm thinking that we would not go in August again. I really have a hard time dealing with extreme heat (though I live in Arizona) so I did more reading than hiking. (Cosmo and his Dad hiked in the early mornings). 

There is also a pool on site that we very much enjoyed at the end of the long hot days. I look forward to going back in the cooler months to experience the trails and landscape more completely. I could even see going by myself for a few days in order to retreat and work on a project.
MBZ in the "vaults" - the largest performance/meeting space at Arcosanti

One idea I have is for interested participants of next year's SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) conference to take a field trip to Arcosanti to observe their foundry and daily silt cast bell production. At the very least, I would recommend a visit to the Cosanti foundation (closer to the conference, in Scottsdale) which is Paolo Soleri's home and sculpture studio. (Cosanti is also open to the public and has daily tours.)

Arcosanti Arizona is located about 35 miles east of Prescott and a little over an hour north of Phoenix. (It took us about 3 1/2 hours to drive there from Tucson) For more information see
and you can also find the Arcosanti project on Facebook at

A Story of Diamonds: Marcel Tolkowsky and the Modern Brilliant

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 Modern Brilliant was born in 1919 from the mathematical calculations of Marcel Tolkowsky.  As a member of a family of Belgian diamond cutters he had a certain interest in making beautiful diamonds.  As an engineer, he studied the way light behaves within a diamond and determined the combinations of angles, facet sizes and shapes needed to maximize both the fire and brilliance that a diamond displays.

Fire is the term applied to the spectral colors reflected out of the heart of a diamond.  Brilliance is the amount of light returned to the viewer.  Sparkle, or scintillation, refers to the combination of these two factors.
He determined that if a diamond is cut too deep or too shallow, light will leak out and the diamond will not be as bright or fiery as it could be.  Moreover, the shape and size of each facet is important to the amount of light returned to the viewer.
The Modern Brilliant cut consists of 58 facets, or 57 if the culet is excluded: 33 facets on the crown and 25 (or 24) on the pavilion.  Contemporary diamonds are usually cut without a culet.

Tolkowsky's model is the basis of every new round brilliant cut.  Over the years, advances in science have allowed us to refine these guidelines into spectacularly sparkly diamonds.  Some, like the Hearts and Arrows cut, rely on exacting specifications regarding pavilion and crown angles, table size, girdle thickness, facet sizes, and alignment.  Alignment refers to how well the crown and pavilion line up.  Perfect alignment is when, at the girdle, the points of the kite and crown facets match up with the pavilion mains and lower girdle facets.
You can see in this next image that the precise cutting is somewhat visible in the finished stone without the special viewer.  The red viewer images show that the cut is not exactly perfect, as the hearts are not uniform and the arrows are a little off.
This fancy vivid yellow is a stunning example of excellent cutting by Eight Star, the company that pioneered the Hearts and Arrows cut.
Next time, we see how a round brilliant diamond is made.