Mocha the Big Cat with Many Skills
To non animal lovers, a cat is a cat, it’s really just another cat. But to pet owners (the responsible ones, not those who treat them like a toy), that “another cat” is their best friend, their therapist, their light, their family member and much more, and they are absolutely special in their very own ways.
My friend Vivian lost her special one Mocha, and let me tell you a little bit about her.
Mocha was adopted in December 2005 when she was 3 years old. She was a Siamese with piercing blue eyes. She was a very vocal kitty and she could do tricks many thought only a dog could- she understood how to “sit” and how to “down”, she would roll over and even do high five, that was, of course, with a little yummy bribe. She was a mellow girl, very sweet and cuddly. But she also knew what she liked and did not like, because she was always able to find the tiny pieces of crushed calcium pill from her bowl, and delivered it to Vivian’s bedroom. “Here mom, you take your calcium crap.” How hilarious was that? Mocha was a chubby 18 lbs hugger, and her favorite snack was cricket.
To honor Mocha, the big cat with so much character, I’ve created a memorial bracelet made out of sterling silver, blue topaz, and a dash of Mocha’s ash.
Etching Mocha onto the metal piece was a challenge because she was dark in color on her face. The lack of contrast made it quite difficult to make her feature visible. A good amount of time was spent to fine tune the photo before I was confident that it would work. I was delighted to see the outcome after I worked on the patina finish after the piece was formed.
As requested, I have included Mocha’s name onto the back of the piece, and a dangling piece of blue topaz to remind Vivian of Mocha’s beautiful blue eyes. The most precious element, however, was undoubtedly incorporating Mocha’s ash into the piece. The blue gem looking piece on Mocha’s collar was made out of resin and her ash.
I have work with resin on metal quite a bit but since it was the first time I work with ash, I decided to still make a tester to make sure that it would cure as normal, and it did! It did not show very well in the picture but in person, Mocha’s white ash actually appeared to be sparkly! Combining that with a touch of light blue dry pastel into the resin, Mocha is now immortalized and transformed into a piece of heirloom jewelry.
This one of a kind bracelet will not replace Mocha’s voice, her many cool tricks or her warm hug, but I sincerely hope that it will at the very least bring Vivian some comfort, and remind her of the 13 years of joyful moments they have shared together. She will be missed.
Jeff the Skater Dad with Spiky Hair
Sometimes I consider myself a metalsmithing journalist, and a very blessed one.
Through mostly word of mouth over the years, I have been asked by different people to make memorial jewelry to honor their loved ones. I've come across a lot of stories, and created what I hope to be meaningful heirlooms that fulfill more than just aesthetic contentment. Each of the stories broke my heart a little, but then also regenerated it because through loss, we can look at what is left behind as our gains.
A new friend of mine, Deaven, unfortunately lost her beloved dad, Jeff, about two and a half years ago. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Jeff, but here is how she remembers him,
"As a youngin my dad always supported me in anything I had my heart set on. I loved watching him skate around on his skateboard and show me all the different decks he had since he was a kid! He gave me my passion for riding and taught me everything I know. He allowed me to have the mindset of doing what I love no matter how tough it is to achieve, how frightening the fall might be, but just to keep pushing and never give up. Till this day anytime I grab my board to go out for a cruise I make sure to take one lap around the block on his beloved Pool Boy (skateboard) in his memory."
Although things got hostile as she grew older, as her parents were going through their divorce, her dad's influence on her values stayed closely with her.
As Deaven requested, I made two minimalistic style rings with her dad's signature smiley face etched on them. One for her, and the other for her little sister. The small strokes on top of the eyes were apparently Jeff's spiky hair. How cute is that?
After forming the rings to the right size, I applied an even coat of black paint on the surface and carefully scraped off the spiky smileys. They were then immersed into the etching bath for an hour and a half. Cleaned and then darkened with patina, these happy faces are completed.
“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
Grieving to me is the most abstract and personal thing. It hits us in different forms, at different times, with absolutely no warning. One second we cry ourselves a river because we miss our loved one unbearably, then we want to smash every possession in the house, and then we smile because we thought of something fun we've experienced together. However Deaven and her sister are going to experience theirs, I hope these little smiley faces on their fingers will give them strength, courage, and unlimited good vibes. Just like what Jeff would say, "Keep pushing and never give up!"
In Loving Memory of Bun Bun the Black Cat with a Chipped Ear
Meet Bun Bun, the mysterious black cat with a sweet and loving soul.
She came to my friend Petrina's life about 5 years ago. For all you animal-loving friends out there, it's not hard to understand how much fuller your life gets with the four-legged buddies rubbing their fluffy heads against yours. Unfortunately, also because of that, it is incredibly difficult when they leave you for good. However, pet owners wouldn't have it any other way, because it is worth it.
So she might have left the world physically, but spiritually Bun Bun sure is still tagging along. I am honored to have the opportunity to create two pieces for Petrina, reminding her that as brief as it was, Bun Bun had a great time leaving little paw prints all around her house, and ultimately, in her heart.
Piece #1: Sterling Silver Anklet
The first piece I made was a simple sterling silver anklet, outlining her elegant silhouette. Cats steal our hearts effortlessly with that. I've layered the metal on two of her legs and one of her ears, to give a sense of dimension to the piece. Some light forging was also added to create a non-laser-cut look.
Her name was stamped on and a dark patina was applied within the grooves.
Bun Bun is now walking with Petrina wherever she goes.
Piece #2: Sterling Silver & Copper Pendant with Fire Opal
The inspiration of the second piece came from this precious trick Bun Bun did. Apparently this talented little lady used to carry a basketball toy (among others) to Petrina in order to get attention. No, I did not make that up. Just watch the video!
What a special kitty cat. To honor that, I've set a 10mm fire opal in a copper bezel cup for the basketball. For the unbearably adorable face, I used one of my favorite techniques- photo etching with PnP Blue. (Now obviously there are many variations of etching method, but if you're curious enough, Professor Arh's demonstration will give you a good idea.) Great details were transformed onto the sterling silver piece that I hand-pierced out afterwards.
I've also used a traditional technique called Repoussé to create a gentle suggestion of the facial structure. Then, another detail is also added to make her eyes more alive- I've pierced out her eyes from etch piece #1, (along with a little bit of surrounding areas for extra material I needed to form tiny curved bowls for the eyeballs) and soldered them from the back, onto the pierced etch piece #2. After all, eyes are the window to the soul they say. The extra miles are well deserved.
I couldn't be happier with how these two pieces came out, aesthetically and symbolically. I never had the pleasure of meeting Bun Bun in person, but through this project I really feel like she's become my buddy too. Hey buddy, the special place you have in your mama's heart is forever irreplaceable. I know that much.
If this post makes your heart sing, please feel free to share. And don't hesitate to send me a message if you are interested in immortalizing your beloved furry buddies.
Sterling Silver Soccer Ball Ring with Blue Sapphire Birthstone and Dreamcatcher Detail in Back
Allyson and I work together, and when she found out through the almighty Facebook that I have another (not so secret) identity outside of work, she approached me with a custom request for her daughter Natalia as a graduation gift.
Not knowing exactly what kind of jewelry she wanted me to make, I asked her a bunch of random questions--- What's her daughter's fashion style like? What is she into other than soccer? Is she more of a ring person or a necklace person? Favorite colors... etc. When I could somewhat paint a picture of how Natalia was like, I tailored this piece just for her.
Combining her devotion to the soccer practices, her birthday (what's more memorable than the day of the precious baby's arrival?), and a little dreamcatcher detail as a surprise in the back, this sterling silver soccer ring hit the goal- the goal of putting a smile on faces (...which include the faces of the mom, the lucky baby girl, and apparently a few of her close friends). After all, the most important thing is this loving soccer mom's desire of telling her daughter just how proud she is as her guardian, mentor, BFF and more.
Congratulation on Natalia's graduation! It sure deserves recognizing and celebrating!
Sterling Silver Moon Pendant with Pink Ruby Birthstone and Hand-stamped Names Charms
Jason has three very special ladies that he treasures the most--- Araceli the wife, Ruby the first baby girl, and Luna the second baby girl a.k.a. the newest member of the family. For Valentine's Day, he wanted to show just how glad he was to have them in his life, so he asked if I could create something special.
Araceli likes longer necklaces, and her style is more simple and elegant. I therefore incorporated the daughters' beautiful names into this sterling silver pendant--- Luna the smiling moon and Ruby the sparkling star, unbearably cute just like the little ladies.
On the clasp in the back, where an extension chain hangs, I added a personal touch, the surprise element, this time with hand-stamped names charms.
I was happy to learn that this sterling silver moon necklace, in honor of the two adorable princesses, made the beautiful queen smile. Hats off to you, Mr. Sweet Hubby!
Sterling Silver Viking Wolf Band Ring with Personal Hidden Message
This Sterling Silver Viking Wolf Ring is created for a returning client, Chia. Her husband Ian has Norwegian heritage and is a collector of all things Viking. After commissioning a piece of housewarming wall art I made for her home sweet home, she came back and asked if I could make a band ring for him. Rough, rustic, and slightly darkened with patina, the etched silver wolf ring also serves as a messenger. An Algiz symbol of protection, along with a personal message are etched on the inside of the band. I have never met Ian, but I imagine that other than a very unique ring, this could also be a handy stress-relief device at work. Just slide it off for a second, breathe in, breathe out, and smile for having an awesome wife.
A thought of that makes the maker smile too :)
Copper and Fine Silver Wisdom Teeth Reliquary Necklace
My dear friend, who also might as well be my #1 fan Cherry, enjoys the quirkiness of my work and took it to another level. Knowing that I love working with mixed-media, she had me create the most one-of-a-kind reliquary for her own wisdom teeth, which are freakishly clean by the way. I drew an iconic silhouette of a tooth, freehanded on a piece of copper, did some texturing using the reticulation technic on a piece of fine silver, and just let my imagination flow with the material. This is the beauty of making something for a close friend, there is so much trust between us that the time I would have spent on digging out information in order to do a good job, is spent entirely on developing the piece. She loves it and wears it all the time. And I had so much fun making it, it was almost a spiritual experience. Cheers for preserving youth and wisdom, and a truly supportive friend!
Aluminum and Leather Bow Tie Necklace
My childhood buddy Ken, whose aunt also happened to marry my uncle, found the love of his love Jen and they took the lovers' vow a few years ago. For the special occasion, he had me create a one-of-a-kind metal bow tie to match with his unstoppable smile. Unfortunately I could not attend the wedding, so I designed the bow tie with aluminum for its lightweight quality, with the consideration that he could dance his heart out on my behalf on the big day!
The bare aluminum strips were wire-brushed for a satin look, they are accented by two black patterned strips in between for a fun detail. In the center, I inverted the two colors, but with a piece of leather for a extra shot of subtle texture. Hidden bail in the back was made relatively large for interchangeable chains.
Sterling Silver, Resin and Computer Chip Promise Rings
Matthew and his girlfriend started their romance through the almighty digital world, it made perfect sense to cooperate computer chips into wearable pieces. After some conversation and sketches, I made these sterling and resin promise rings for the young lovebirds. Double band for the man for a chunkier and masculine look, and delicate single band for the lady (who wasn't a single lady any more). I also added two little silver balls detail to make hers more adorable.