The year after I turned sixty I had a talk with my wife Suzi regarding the fact that I had not had a studio to work in for almost ten years and that I truly missed being able to do my art work. The diamond tool business had been a true blessing and had allowed us to do things that we never dreamed of but it all boiled down to the fact that I had an empty spot in my heart that could only be filled with my being in the position once again to make "Things too nice to throw away". We both agreed that this was a great idea and decided that the only way to make this happen was get to work.
I fired up my 3D software in mid 2009 and started playing with my new building. As my old studio was a ten wall nearly round building that worked so well I for sure had to have another one. The design I came up with was 30 feet from wall to wall rather than the 24 feet the old studio was. I played with the designs until I had pretty much all the kinks worked out and then set the wheels in motion, we poured the slab in February 2010 and decided to wait until spring to start the building . If you have an interest in seeing it as it went up go to this link. studio
Once the studio was done I started calling it the "Blue Mushroom" and then went to work building all of the necessary benches and such. The nice thing about having an empty building and having the past experience with all of my old shops,I had good insight as to what it would take to have the ideal set up for all that I do. This in mind I built benches that were suited to me for comfort and usability. I finally got to work on my first piece in the new studio in August 2011the first thing I made was a hammer set bracelet for Suzi which can be seen below.
As I needed a way for people in the future to have a way of dating my work and because I was calling the new studio the Blue Mushroom I made a small mushroom stamp and will be using it on all metal work that is produced from 2011 forward.
First Piece from the "Blue Mushroom" Suzi's bracelet
As Suzi has been wearing this bracelet for nearly two years and I was too lazy to completely re-polish it the images you see below are not of the pristine just finished piece.
This is one of what I call a hammer set piece as all of the stone in the bracelet is hammered in place and there is no glue used in its construction. I came up with this technique after studying many images of old Dynastic Egyptian jewelry, I could see that more than likely they were not using an adhesive and the only conclusion I could come up with was that they had hammered the metal over the edge of the stones.
The metal used is sterling silver the stone is high grade Lapis Lazuli, Lemon Chrysoprase (Citron Magnesite) and what I call Green Gem Silica.
Back in the early days 1980 Suzi and I were in Sonoma California for about five or six months while we regrouped after leaving Colorado. I had a small shop at a place that was renting out converted Chinchilla sheds to various craftspeople. Suzi's brother Jim also had a shop there as he was a wood sculptor.
Jim had been the bosuns mate while in the Navy and he still had his bosuns whistle, needless to say I thought it was super cool. It had been hand made for him in the Philippines in the late sixties, because I liked it so much he gave it to me. After this I have always kept it sitting on my smithing bench.
Jim's Bosuns whistle about six inches in length.
My granddaughter Tanna always thought the bosuns whistle was wonderful and shortly after getting the new studio up and running "Grandpa will you make me a whistle" was asked. I told her yes I would but did not say when. Her ninth birthday was coming up in May and I thought it would be a great gift to give her as she would never guess what Grandpa was going to give her.
Just prior to Tanna's birthday I figured I'd best get started so I scrounged through my smithing box where there are leftovers from prior projects. Eureka I found two hemispheres that were left over from some Bolo tie tips I had made years ago and they would work prefect for the body of the whistle.
Many times in my silver work I go for an "antique or old look" not a super shiny new look and I used this technique on Tanna's whistle. When doing this technique it helps to not do a lot of clean up on the silver prior to polishing it as the little nicks and dents lend themselves to the final look. After you polish and oxidize the piece you then lightly go over it with 0000 steel wool to achieve the "old look".
I gave Tanna the whistle for her birthday and suggested that she not take it to school to share with her friends, well she did and immediately lost it. Fortunately for her the school is rural with about fifty or so students so the person that found it knew who it belonged to and she got it back. Has yet to take it to school again.
The hole in the whistle makes the tone change when open or covered
As my new studio approached completion I started playing with some of the latest 3D software that was on the market. I had been using Design Cad 3D for about fifteen years and had designed the new studio with it but it left a lot to be desired when it came to designing jewelry.
I checked out the latest and greatest jewelry design software and found it very lacking for the jeweler that went beyond the normal rings pendents bracelets and such. I then found one that seemed like it might just be the software that I was looking for, they offered it as a free trial download, I downloaded it and started to play with it, I immediately learned that I would have 25 saves in the trial version. I played with it long enough to see that it was exactly what I was after.
In the trial version I worked on a gold box that I had been working on in my head for years that was never built because I could not afford to build it on speculation. Below is a screen shot of the design to the point that I decided this was the software that I was after. This design was made in November 2010 using Rhinoceros 4 or Rhino 4 the latest version is Rhino 5, if your serious and comfortable with 3D software I recommend this software above all that I have researched.
My reason for the header Rae Bead Series is that a friend named Rae helped me get this software at a good price and the first thing I designed on it was the bead below. I named the saved file Rae bead thus the name for the series.
In the next section below I will show the detailed work involved to make the finished silver work for this series
Rae Bead Series Main Bead Body Silver Work
Once I had a basic design for the bead it was up to me to make it into a reality, much easer said than done as most of my major projects are.
The first thing that needed to be done was hand make the twelve separate pieces needed for the main bead. As I wanted this bead to be as near perfect as possible it took some time to make the forty eight pieces for this four bead series. Below you see the twelve components required for one bead.
My machinist background prior to becoming a lapidary and jeweler helped immensely in the process of making the various pieces and with the aid of my jewelers lathe and my rebuilt 1972 Southbend 10K lathe. I ended up with exactly what was needed and I knew that when it came to soldering the pieces together all should come out as perfect as possible. Below are images of each step in order of construction.
Step one solder tube in ring for side channel spacer
Step two solder tube and ring into main channel edge.
Looking inside the three pieces that were just soldered. Notice I have already machined the area needed to fit the large center tube for soldering.
Had to drill the hole to fit the tubing that would be in the center of the bead, needed to be drilled very close to the size of the tubing so that it would solder into the complete bead with little effort. Notice the piece of wood clothespin next to the solder pad.
Solder the hemisphere onto the three pieces that were already done.
Solder the four piece end cap onto the large central silver tube.
Solder the other four piece end cap onto the large central silver tube. Now have the main body for the finished bead
Solder center tube and one 18 gage wire ring.
Note the hole on the inside of the center tubing, if this weren't there the bead would explode when heated, I had this happen many years ago and never forgot.
Last 18 gage wire ring in place and all of the silver work is complete. All that is needed now is final clean up.
Four finished beads of the series ready for stone work. Next the first of the series as a finished piece of jewelry.
This bead is the first in the series of four that is complete.
I have a friend Adam that is a "Green Freak" and when I first started this bead being mainly Maw Sit Sit (predominately Jadeite) I called it Adam's bead and whether or not Adam ends up owning it, it will still retain the name.
I am sorry I did not do more images of this piece as the stone work was done but that's the way it goes.
As I started working on this bead I decided that I wanted it to hang horizontally or vertically, something I could figure out after the stone work was done on the main bead.
Many times when I make something I do not want it to be static, this said when this bead swivels you get at least four different looks as seen below.
Finished size of bead 1.47 inch 37.35 mm long 1.062 inch 27 mm diameter
Now that the bead was done I had to figure out how to make a hanger that could be removed when you wanted to wear the bead horizontal. Sounded easy but I had to do plenty of head scratching before I came up with what you see below.
Above are the components for a spring loaded removable bail for hanging the bead when worn vertically. These are the basis of the bail but there were still other pieces that had to be made.
Central removeable post finished now I need the swinging bail, you can see the gap left for this with the post in the bead.
Total pieces of silver in post 11.
Now to Make The Bail
The loop part of the bail is made from a piece of 18 gage that was bent into the U and then basically hand carved into the shape it is. The center a disc that would just fit the tube of the removable center and two tiny wires soldered to this. When finished the U just snapped in place so it would swing out of the way when putting it on the bead.
Assembled center post and bail.
Finished bead. Now what to hang it on?
When I started on this bead my first thought for what I wanted to hang it on was a hand made knitted silver chain. As I had not done this type chain for years I can tell you that I used to have much more tenacity than I do now, I made about six inches when the dead soft 26 gage wire I had purchased broke. Problem here this type chain is made from one continuos wire and could not be soldered. I put that idea aside to give it some thought.
My wife Suzi took up Kumihimo about a year prior to my finishing this bead. Kumihimo is a Japanese form of braid-making. Kumi himo is Japanese for "gathered threads"
Well as Suzi had a very large pallet of color in silk thread we sat down and picked three colors
that would work well with the bead. Suzi used sixteen separate threads to make me the perfect cord for the bead. The resulting braid with its wonderful spiral of the two complimentary colors would work much better than my original idea. In reality the thread she used was three ply so the fact is there are 48 threads in the cord.
Now figure out the clasp.
As I needed the braid to fit through the hole of the bead I had to design a clasp that was under 4 mm in diameter. I have been making my signature clasp for bead strands for about 30 years and thought I could alter it a bit for the braid. The alteration worked perfect as you can see below.
9 pieces of silver
Lets put the finished piece together.
32 total pieces of silver 25 pieces of stone
Art Seymour and Danny Lopacki
I have a dear friend Art Seymour whom in my opinion is one of the best living glass artists. His speciality is and has been glass beads for at least thirty years and the beads he is most famous for are his chevron beads. I think Art is the best chevron bead maker to ever live but expect that there would be those that would disagree.
Sometime 2012 I got a call from Art to let me know that one of his early chevrons was on Ebay and the seller did not know what they had. I got the item number and went to have a look, the bead was larger than I expected and I found it very interesting, I put a watch on it and waited until the end of the auction, placed my bid and got the bead.
I had the bead in the studio for awhile just to study it, it had a somewhat weird white outer band on it which Art explained as a conflict in the glass from heat (I think) and I thought I might be able to re-work it into something more pleasing.
One day when I went out to the studio I decided it was time to play with Art's bead, below you will see the results of my playing, I think I ended up with a much more pleasing bead and so did Art.
I have only done two or three collaboration pieces in all the years I've been at this and I feel very blessed that I got to work on a piece that Art started and I finalized.
FINISHED BEAD SIZE 2.5 inch 63.6 mm long 1.36 inch 34.5 mm in diameter
SERIES STONE BEADS
Danny made his first stone bead in 1979 mainly because he needed to hang a pendent and did not want it want to put the pendent on a mere chain. Over the years Danny's reputation as a bead maker has risen and at this time he is recognized as one of the top stone bead makers in the world. In these last 36 years Danny has made literally tens of thousands stone beads and continues making them to this day. Unfortunately most of the stone beads Danny has made were not documented in photographs so there has never been a bead page on the website.
At this time Danny is experimenting with new shapes many inspired by ancient beads some of the beads being as old as 5000 years old. His new beads have been a hit and has energized him to pursue this new love and continue trying new designs with hopes that the designs live up to his strict standards.
Because many of the ancient beads that are inspiring Danny are Bactrian so he decided to name this new series "LOPACKTRIAN". Many other cultures have also made truly unbelievable beads mainly cultures from the Indus valley and the beads inspired by these other cultures will be included under this "LOPACKTRIAN" series name.
This first bead was inspired by a Bactrian/Indus valley bead that Danny has a small collection of. It is made from agate and is the most delicate bead he has made to date.
FINISHED BEAD SIZE 1.4 inch 35.5 mm long .38 inch 9.7mm in diameter
Inspired by a Bactrian/Indus valley beads.
Bead made of Arizona petrified wood.
FINISHED BEAD SIZE 1.6 inch 40.5 mm long .45 inch 11.5 mm in diameter
Inspired by a Bactrian/Indus valley beads.
Bead made of Polar Jade "Nephrite".
FINISHED BEAD SIZE 2.11 inch 53.5 mm long .48 inch 12.1 mm in diameter
Block of jade as purchased but cut in half.
Half block measures 14mm X 16mm 55mm long.
Block of jade with 5mm hole.
Rough ground to bicone shape. Notice the witness marks on both sides this shows how well centered the hole was drilled.
Notice the thickness of the wall around the hole at this time.
Shaped to taper and radiused bicone shape.
When I had the bead to this point I took all the measurements and drew it in Rhino5 3D software
I then made the cut for the radius in the bead and saw that I thought it would work out very well
all of this without having to make a single cut in the actual bead.
Center radius cut.
Starting weight of rough piece 36.6 grams Finished bead weight 6.1 grams
Finished bead in hand.
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