Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ethical Jewelry- let the debate begin!

The following is a comment I posted to a blog posting created on AdChop - divining the moment regarding the their opinion of Silpada and Lia Sophia, companies that sell jewelry through women who hold jewelry parties (think Tupperware) in their home.


I am a woman jeweler who designs and creates jewelry entirely myself. I do not assemble mass produced parts (except the occasional chain, earring posts or necklace catches) or use beads made in 3rd world countries and try to dupe my customers into thinking it is 'handmade'. I believe it would be unethical to conduct business this way plus the market is flooded with this Silpada-type crap it destroys America's true innovative and creative entrepreneurs.

Look I'm all about 'Gurl Power' and women taking charge of their lives this is part of the reason why I make and sell my own jewellery. BUT my question is has anyone even bothered to ask where this mass produced jewelry is 'handmade' and is it made by little hands and/or underpaid workers in 3rd a world country? I bet it is, most everything imported into this country is. The 1st world is spoiled and needs to stop this cycle.

Shop local, support businesses that are trying their best to source things locally or at least within America, start discussions with your friends and protest that women earn less then men in this country and are being exploited, start a consumer group and demand poor women just like those in the US or who are maybe even worse off, are earning even less than you get better working conditions and pay. Ask yourself " do I need this bracelet in 99 colors that is cheap and will likely break in 6 months from somewhere like target or Silpada? Why not invest in one really nice piece of jewelry that is actually handmade locally, is one-of-a-kind and is something our sons and daughters will want to pass on generation after generation.

Encourage discussion, fair wages, creativity and obliterate exploitation!

Please visit: "

To read AdChop's 1st blog posting follow this link
To read AdChop's 2nd blog posting visit this link


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

BANG BANG Commissioned Jewelry - for jenny Reed

Sterling silver necklace and cufflinks featuring reclaimed 38 + 22 caliber bullet shells

Why bullets? Well I have a love for machines and mechanisms of all types and guns fall into these categories. While growing up in America it is sort of hard not to be a bit curious about guns whether you are for or against owning one. I have always been fascinated by gun design especially hand-crafted guns like the rifles made by James Purdy and Sons of London.

I have made the cufflinks for a couple of friends who are into hunting and shooting and the necklace was a commission from John Reed of Exportaid UK for his daughter's 21st birthday. John asked me to make something his daughter could wear anywhere but also make an edgy statement as she really likes things that are outside the norm. So I thought it would be interesting to make a kind of traditional looking necklace modeled after diamond and pearl drop necklaces but replace the precious elements with the ends of the bullet shells. This necklace also makes quite a good statement about the violence and greed behind fine jewelry from jewelry heists to conflict diamonds.

Give a shout!

photos by HSkowood

Monday, February 25, 2008

Commissioned Jewelry - for Tara Kirkpatrick

This one-of-a-kind brooch is a variation on my limited-production jewelry range called the Fluff Collection. The Fluff Collection, like a lot of my other jewelry is dominated by the use of metal with the fluff or other material becoming secondary which seems to be trying to escape. I think the Fluff won in this brooch and really dominates the piece. It was a very surprising and satisfying thing to see develop in my jewelry. Tara was especially excited to this is too and has been a very proud owner of this brooch!

Tara is also a jeweller + creates beautifully made contemporary jewellery from her shop Clarity in Knutsford, England. Her work can also be viewed at her website .


photo by HSkowood

Friday, February 22, 2008

Teaching Jewelry Making

These photos were taken during a one day recycled sculptural jewelry workshop I did with students of West Houghton High School in Manchester, England through the Artists-in-Schools program. 

Prior to the workshop the students collected and brought in materials from home that were going to be thrown away such as thread spools, bits of foam packaging, egg cartons, yoghurt containers, elastic bands, wrappers and all sorts. The day of our workshop I brought in examples of my more sculptural exhibition work and books on art jewelry such as '1000 Rings', 'Unclasped' and 'New Directions in Jewellery' These examples offered students the chance to see examples of art jewelry and show them there is more to jewelry than the traditional jewelry you see on the high street. For the rest of the afternoon there was an explosion of constant activity from the boys as well as the girls! It was soooo exciting to watch them come up with all sorts of amazing boundary breaking ideas and dance around the room in their creations. There was everything from rings, necklaces, hats, shoes and even some interesting adornments for your legs in various styles! In the end their teachers and I were so pleased to see them completely absorbed in a new way of thinking and making.

I have been teaching high school, university and continuing education level jewelry making for 16+ years and have worked in settings such as West Houghton High School where we had no equipment as well as fully equipped jewelry studios at university and art centers. Every class setting is different and brings new challenges and refreshing experiences. I LOVE sharing my knowledge and passion for jewelry making and it rocks my world to see all the new and exciting interpretations each student discovers within themselves. 

In 2008 I will be offering jewelry making classes at the Lexington Arts and Craft Society and Metalwerx in Massachusetts. I also hope to start doing private instruction form my new studio in Worcester, Massachusetts later in the year. I'll keep you posted on that.

If you are in the area I hope to meet you in one of my classes!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

In honor of the total eclipse of La Luna last night...

I hope that many of you had the opportunity to view the total eclipse of the full moon last night, especially since it won't happen again for another 3 years. Well it was my first time and as usual La Luna had me hypnotized by her magic. It was really great how as the shadow of the earth came over her and she became a bit more red, full of her femininity.

Well in honor of this spectacular event I thought I would write a little about a jewelry suite that I made a little while back called, 'La Joyeria de La Luna' that I made for my first ever exhibition in Manchester, England. The exhibition titled, 'Commission Me' featured 10 Northwest England jewellers exploring the relationship between client and maker by choosing their ideal client weather alive, dead, personal or political.

I chose to approach this project from a fictional perspective and decided my client would be Itzamna the Mayan moon god who would visit me in a dream voicing his request that an elaborate piece(s) be made for his wife Ix Chel the moon goddess In the dream he requests that I make something in silver (the metal of the moon) to commemorate her through an exquisite design reflecting contemporary ideas of sculpture, architecture, and ritual; ideas he also appreciates from the Classic Mayan Period He also explains that it should be worn by a woman who is of strong female character like Ix Chel.

I have always been drawn to the moon and to Meso-American Art since I was a young girl so it seemed like a great theme to explore for this exhibition. I had so much fun making this sterling silver nose ornament which was inspired by nose ornaments worn by the Maya and the accompanying neckpiece that when worn tilts the head upwards to view the moon. 

My now friend and fellow exhibitor Colette Hazelwood who also curated this exhibition created a gobstopper for George W Bush for this exhibition. Colette has some great contemporary jewellery ideas you should check her out!


photo by Jon Cotton

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Architectonics: Foundations in Jewellery

'Architectonics: Foundations in Jewellery' is an exhibition of jewellery by 10 jewellers that I curated with the Manchester Jewellers Network for the UK's 2006 Architecture Week. The exhibition was originally shown in England at Manchester's Urbis 'an exhibition centre focusing on city life' then travelled to Liverpool to be presented at the Royal Institute of British Architects and in 2007 went on to Velvet da Vinci gallery in San Francisco.

Through the talent of 10 Manchester jewellers the exhibition celebrates Manchester's Victorian and Industrial era architecture as well as the architectural boom that Manchester has been experiencing since the IRA bombed the city center in 1996.

For the exhibition I chose to create a sterling silver knuckleduster based on the radial design of Strangeways Prison. (See photos above too) I chose Strangeways for multiple personal connections as well as social commentary. No, I was never in the joint but I am very aware of the HUGE business of incarceration and in the injustices in America, my home country. I also once worked as a historic tour guide at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia which was also built on this same radial design. The title of this piece 'Strangeways We Have Arrived' is taken from the title of my favorite Manchester band The Smith's Album, "Strangeways Here We Come'. To read my full artist statement and view the entire online version of the exhibition visit

To read the lecture I gave at Urbis on the exhibition visit Klimt02


Architectural Computer Rendering by Will 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hey! Hey! The Carrotbox Blog

Today I want to give a long overdue shout out to the Carrotbox Blog. This lovely blog/site is seriously dedicated to RINGS of all types! Which coincidentally is my favorite type of jewelry to make. Also the person behind this site was kind enough to give my Fluff Ring Collection props on their blog back on 3 April 2006. So if you love rings this is your place to droul, enjoy and don't forget to wipe your chin/keyboard! 


Monday, February 18, 2008

Commissioned Jewelry - Jim Farr

Sterling silver brooch with Big Dipper/Alaskan flag motif
for Jim Farr, Massachusetts - USA, 2007

This brooch was commissioned by Jim Farr for his sister with whom he took a trip to Alaska with. He requested a sterling silver brooch be made for her using the Alaskan Flag which features the Big Dipper.

The brooch is made entirely by hand by cutting and shaping two ovals out of silver sheet then doming and soldiering them together. The stars are hand cut out of the sheet before soldering and the North Star was cut out from a separate slightly thicker sheet and then soldier to the surface of the oval.

Jim and I were very happy with the brooch in the end as it is a very clean and simple design that will allow his sister to wear it anytime.


photo by HSkwoood

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Commissioned Jewelry - for Naomi Anderson

18K white gold engagement ring with diamonds and pink tourmaline
for Naomi Anderson, Birmingham - UK, 2005

This has to be my favorite engagement ring commission! Naomi approached me with the wonderful news that she was getting engaged and her fiance had given her his mother's cluster ring with a center stone surrounded by prong set diamonds. A lovely ring indeed but Naomi wanted something a bit more contemporary looking.

So after discussing with Naomi that she wanted something substantial in look and weight  plus for it to look a bit more contemporary we agreed to the above design. The pink tourmaline is set low (so not to catch on things as she works) in a bezel setting (framed in metal not set with prongs or claws) with the diamonds flush-set down the side of the ring and an extra diamond set on the side of the ring for a unique detail.

The result is a custom made ring tailored to Naomi's style and functional tastes with the added sentimental value of incorporating the stones of her mother-in-law's ring. 

Watch out later in 2008 I'll be making their wedding bands. 


photo by HSkowood

Jewellery vs Jewelry

Throughout this blog and on my website you may notice the spellings 'jewellery' and 'jewelry'. This is not a mistake but the UK and US spellings my favorite topic. I use both spellings because I will often offer information about both American and European jewelry. I also might slip from time to time since my heart often lies on both side of The Pond after living in Manchester, England for 5 years. Forgive me. 


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Introducing...Commissioned Jewelry - for Sarah Nelson

Sterling silver pendant on chain with 'Berry Bead' + citron bullet stone 
for Sarah Nelson - jeweler + collector, Massachusetts, USA

Commissioned jewelry is different from mass produced jewelry you buy from a shop in that it usually reflects your own personal ideas about self-expression and/or involves incorporating objects of sentimental value that you hold dear. People have commissioned me to make engagement rings, wedding bands, birthday gifts and graduation presents for themselves or the ones they love to show they went that extra step to make the gift more personal and something to really cherish for years to come. 

The process of commissioning jewelry requires both customer and jeweler to communicate their personal and creative input into the jewelry design which results in a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry that no one else in the world has. 

For example, I was asked to make the pendant pictured above for Sarah Nelson of Massachusetts who is a maker and collector of jewelry. She wanted to treat herself with a new piece of jewelry and asked me to incorporate a handmade glass bead she had brought from LilianaBead and a small bezel-set citron bullet-shaped stone she had purchased at a gem show which perfectly matched in color.  We talked about several options on how to assemble the bead and stone together in a way that was unique which is how we arrived at hanging the bead vertical and connecting the stone via the silver architectural elements.  The result is a nice contrast of hard and soft looking elements that flow together really well.

The next several posts here on my blog will be on a variety of commissions I have taken on over the last few years for customers in the US and the UK. I hope you find them inspirational and I welcome any comments or questions you may have.


photo by HSkowood

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thank you for visiting, now let me explain...


Thanx for being curious and viewing my blog! I've set this lil' diddy up to invite you to join me in an exploration of handmade contemporary jewelry. 

I am a self proclaimed Metal Goddess and Firestarter who has been designing and making jewelry since 1991. I have worked as a commercial bench jeweler doing repairs and custom jewelry work in platinum, gold and diamonds and have also been running my own business designing, making, selling and exhibiting my own jewelry designs at and at Moore Art Shop in Philadelphia, Velvet da Vinci in San Francisco, Alea in Barcelona- Spain,  St Botolphs Church in London and various galleries in Manchester - England. 

Out of my love of teaching jewelry making which I have been doing for 16+ years I decided to create this blog to share my passion for wearing, coveting, exhibiting, designing and making contemporary jewelry.

Here at my lil' blogspot I promise to share with you some ideas that will hopefully shed some light on all the different ideas out there about self-expression through body adornment which we call jewelry. Jewelry means a lot of different things to a lot of different people from Hip-Hop jewelry, the Queen of England's Crown Jewels, the found object jewelry being made and worn by kids on the streets of Tokyo known as 'Fruits', Victorian Mourning Jewelry to wearable and non-wearable conceptual jewelry art.  

Expect to find posts here about handmade vd mass produced jewelry (which I hope you will create some noise about), a tutorial with photos on how jewelry is made to shed some light on why handmade jewelry costs what it does (it takes a bit of time and patience believe me!), some examples of custom work I make for customers as well as lil' bits I find to inspire me to make these wonderful objects to adorn your body with!

Don't be shy give me a shout!