Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inspired by Ceramics; the Exploration of "Organically Grown" Metal

I have admired Keirsten Giles' work for a long time, her sense of wonder, and the desire to explore and play. So I was super excited when she agreed to occasionally guest blog for you, our wonderful AJE readers. Enjoy! -Jen

Every few months I get kind of bored with the jewelry I’m doing and so I change it up a little. I often will be inspired by another artist’s work that has a slightly different vibe than mine, and I’ll start heading a little in that direction to see what happens. 

Lately I’ve been wowed by really archeological and natural-looking pieces with a wild, primitive feeling, and dark, moody metals. I started collecting beads and focals with more of this primitive, rustic feel, preparing myself to take a little side-turn when inspiration struck. Robyn and Rey of Ragged Robyn and Grey Bird Studio, respectively, have really knocked my socks off with both their imagination and their uncanny ability to create objects that feel authentically ancient or natural. I picked up a couple little things from their shops:

Porcelain pods from Grey Bird Studio (mine!)

Tapered pod relics by Ragged Robyn (mine!)

Absolutely fabulous—it isn’t easy to mimic nature, or true agedness, like this. My hat is off to these hypertalented women! I could sit for hours just looking through their Etsy shops.

I don’t work in ceramics but rather metal, so I have been mentally exploring ways to make a piece of metal seem organically grown, or naturally aged/distressed. Lately I have been looking at pictures of ancient pottery shards on the Internet, and thought, “Why not try to fake up my own broken pottery shards, but with metal? It’ll be fun!!” And off I went.

I thought I’d make different sizes I could use for pendants, bracelet clasps, necklace connectors, etc. I had too much trouble trying to draw faux-broken edges, so I just sketched the basic shape and then let my saw wander where it might.

My freshly cut metal “shards”

It was way harder than I expected to create random edges! But I will say I overcame my loathing of the saw—it was actually kind of relaxing. Especially once I was using the right gauge saw for my metal. And nothing beats a fresh blade and some beeswax!

My plan was to etch them, so after filing and sanding the edges, I applied my designs using digital files printed onto PressnPeel sheets, using a household iron.

Shards ready to etch

Freshly etched shards

After etching them, I tube riveted most of the holes (I have an aversion to plain holes in metal components, and I also feel a little more secure using them with linen cording if there’s a tube rivet—fewer sharp edges to cut through the cording during the normal wear and tear.)

Tube-riveted shards

Then I blackened them to have a nice dark base to apply my patina over:

Shards nice and black from the LOS bath

I thought for this first batch, I would try to suggest the idea of old glazed pottery, so I used dye oxide patinas on them rather than leaving them as bare metal. I wasn’t totally thrilled with the results—I have a hard time getting a pattern to stand out using these patinas—so I applied a whisper of gilder’s paste over the top of the finished patinas to highlight the patterns a bit:

Finished shards ready for sealant

I couldn’t help leaving a couple of them bare metal (I love the color of copper! In retrospect, I think I would have preferred to leave them all bare copper, just adding other small patinaed elements to them.)

Bare copper necklace connectors

I just got a pile of really rustic recycled glass beads from Happy Mango Beads, which I think will work nicely with my “shards,” and I still have my hoard of Petra Carpreau treasures, plus my new earth relics from Rey and Robyn—I’m all set, so stay tuned. I should have some new jewelry to show in about six months, haha!

Keirsten’s Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/lunedesigns
Keirsten’s Flickr photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunestudio/


  1. These are just fabulous Keirsten and so distinctive. I like them plain and patinated...particularly the rust tones ones they look really authentic. Can wait to see how they combine with they Rey and Robyn's pieces - I m a fan of theirs too. Thanks for guesting with us and providing such a great read and visual feast.

  2. Awesome to have you guest post here Keirsten! I love your inspiration and what you've created so far. I'll be patiently waiting 6 months to see what comes of them all, I know they will be worth the wait!! :)

  3. Oh, I do love these! I like the un-colored metal ones the best!

  4. WOW I am thrilled that you did this guest post!! I have to tell you I am really attracted to your designs but the coolest part is your riveted holes. As a beadweaver sharp holes are a challenge and I can see that these would be less of a challenge for sure!!!

  5. Love the way these turned out, Keirsten!

  6. These are amazing, Keirsten! You know I love your work :)

  7. Love these and the magic you create with copper. I agree, I like the colors, but there is something about that lovely copper au naturel. The rivet holes - the large ones - how?
    Thanks for always sharing!

    1. Hi Sandi! I made the holes with my Beadsmith Mighty Punch, and then I used 6mm copper tubing from Rio Grande to cut some tubes and made the tube rivets with them. http://www.riogrande.com/Product/Copper-Seamless-Tubing-Hard/132530?Pos=1

  8. She is one of my very favorite designers. Always pushing not everyone else's boundaries but her own. I admire the way she works and lets the materials speak to her. She is a fabulous addition to your crew! Welcome, Miss Keirsten! Enjoy the day. Erin

  9. oh, oh, oh....I so LOVE the three in purple...I would buy those just as they are to bead with......hope to see them for sale. Awesome work!

  10. Gorgeous work (as usual)! I love the dye oxide patina(s) on the copper, but I'm like you and prefer the gorgeous natural color of copper. You really made them look like old pottery shards though and that was not an easy task. Hats off to you Keirsten! You are always inspiring :)

  11. I love these very much, both the colored and the bare metal. Nice work!

  12. Keirsten's work is ALWAYS amazing and inspiring - not just her work with metal, but the beads she selects are always a perfect fit!

  13. Great to have you here Keirsten,

    I love copper and your designs just make it all the more gorgeous! Looking forward to seeing what they become!

  14. Stunning work and wonderful inspiration. When we are inspired in our work, it is not a matter of taking a concept and replaying it. Rather it is infusing it with your own creative breath. Your design is amazing and uniquely YOU. Love it!

  15. So very very nice and you are so generous to share in such great detail your methods. The colors on these are stunners. I would never have thought to use gilders paste to bring out the highlights. Thank you so much I think my head is spinning with ideas.

  16. Your shards are beautiful, Keirsten, and I think they'll be amazing fun to design with! Thanks so much for sharing all these details about your process. I too have been drawn to the organic and earthy work of Robyn and Rey (and Petra and Jana...), and I'm loving what you're doing here. <3

  17. So innovative Keirsten, as usual. Those big tube rivets really make it look like pottery, especially after the color is on them.

  18. Enjoy this journey with you. Thank you for sharing!


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