International Women’s Day

It’s a beautiful Saturday out in TO today, I hope that you’re able to take advantage of it!

I’m a bit late to the party, since International Women’s Day was earlier this week, but I’m still thinking about it, so this week’s post is in honour of (and a bit about) a couple of women that have inspired me over the years.

One of the earlier people to inspire me was my grade 10 biology teacher (sadly, her name escapes me, lost to the sands time, unfortunately!). She just loved biology so much, and she was always very free with her time and knowledge. Along that same theme, for a long time, Marie Curie was my hero (are you sensing a theme yet?). Best known for her work on radioactivity, and early cancer treatment, she was a female scientist in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, in a field that was (as you might guess), almost entirely male dominated.

Nobel Prize portrait of Marie Curie

photo credit: wikimedia

A little more recent, and closer to jewellery, is Wendy Ramshaw, a British ceramicist, jeweller and sculptor. I’ve talked more about here before here. Apart from finding her jewellery inspiring and amazing, what I most admire is the sheer breadth of her expertise across different mediums and at completely different scales.

gates at Hyde Park (London) by Wendy Ramshaw

photo credit: wikimedia

Closer to home, are the awesome women that I get to work with at the Jewel Envy studio. (Just to be clear, I love working with all my colleagues at the studio, but since it’s a theme, I’ve focused on the women!) Their differences, skills and creativity continue to blow me away! I don’t know if you caught it, but there was a very nice instagram post about the ladies of the studio. If you didn’t catch it, why not head over to the @jewelenvy account and peruse the posts?

There are lots of other women that I could name, but I’m going to leave you with that today. Hopefully it has encouraged you to think about women that you admire, or are inspired by!

In any case, stay safe, and enjoy the lovely Saturday while you can.

-Robin

House of Cassady

The Process of Re-Shanking a Ring

Over time the metal on your rings is worn away by daily wear. Over several decades this can lead to a very thin ring (or shank as they are known)! Sometimes rings get caught on things and break, or are damaged in other ways necessitating what we call a re-shanking.

Recently we had a ring come in which needed a Full Shank done. The old broken shank was removed, and the new metal was gathered in preparation for repair.

The new shank was formed and soldered onto the original head of the ring, thought at this stage it is much to wide and needs refinement.

Using files, sanding discs, and emery paper, the dimensions are refined and made to match the existing portion of the original ring. These are blended together before polishing.

Finally the ring is polished and everything checked to make sure the match is identical! And voila, a ring reborn!

work in progress…

a silver seashell pendant

Here’s a little peak at something I’ve been working on.

This gives you an idea of the processes involved when turning a beach find into a precious metal wearable object via the lost wax casting method, which is a method of casting that has been used for millennia. It’s like a delicious thread connecting us back to the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, and beyond.

I found this wonderful little shell on my last trip to Nova Scotia, which inevitably involves a wander on a beach at some point every day, or I haven’t done it right.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of it before making the silicon mold *slap on the hand* , but you get the idea…

Once you make a silicon mold, you have to cut through the whole thing with a sharp blade, which, if it is delicate, usually means the object gets destroyed in the process. More often than not, so do parts of your fingers.

Once you have multiples in wax, you make a WAX TREE! You set this wax tree in a steel flask, mix up a special plaster, pour that carefully over your wax tree, and VOILA, you have a plaster mold.

That plaster mold is left to cure overnight, and once it’s cured the wax positives are melted out in what’s called a BURNOUT (that’s the professional term). Then the plaster mold is placed in a kiln and brought up to about 900 degrees F, so the molten metal doesn’t get “shocked”, or contract because of the temperature difference, and ruin your cast in one foul swoop.

Once the mold is hot enough, the flask/mold is fitted into place on the casting arm in the centrifugal casting machine, while the metal grain is being heated in the crucible. Once the metal is molten (for silver we’re talking about 1700 degrees F), the lock is released and the metal is shot into the mold as the casting arm spins away, and you send a prayer to the Divine Ones for a successful cast (but really it’s the culmination of all that damn fine effort and care you put into it, step by step, to get to this point).

When the flask/mold has cooled enough so the silver is no longer a hot red, it gets quenched in a bucket of water, and the plaster just FALLS AWAY – like magic! After a quick clean, this is what you have.

After a quick dip in a sweet sweet acid bath, baby girl gets to sparkling and shining.

A snip here, a *kiss* of a file there, maybe a brush with a hot flame, and what you have is something close to a pendant, and a few more decisions, like what stones am I going to set in those barnacles, and should they SPARKLE or just wink?

This post has been brought to you by Karyn Houston, with heavy doses of Cherry Bomb Coffee, and the Free Nationals.

Recent camera roll pics

I am avoiding doing some emerying and since I’ve already done the studio cleaning, gonna do some blogging! Wanted to share some recent camera roll pics (maybe mostly to show off my eye shadow game) to try and sneak in some interesting links. – Alexis

My silver hairs seem to be reproducing exponentially lately… although gotta say love that I’m am growing a badass streak!
Been thinking about, sketching, and fussing about with some new spinels.
Found this progress shot before combining my Tuca and Bertie into a necklace. I have been very exacting about chain placement; it is still waiting to be finished.
When you test drive a new pair of earrings by Alex Kinsley then get to keep them. Makes deciding on shadow colours easier ;o)
Something that is actually finished!! Ruby Ironwork earrings. I had some process pics of recent custom pieces, but because they are on their way to customers I want to wait to show them off!

The Chatelaine

Another Saturday, another musing from me!  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes I have ideas that roll around my brain for years.  Lately I’ve been thinking about Chatelaines.  What’s that, you say?  A chatelaine was traditionally a way to cart around everyday useful items, like keys, scissors, etc. without weighing down a pocket.  They could be quite decorative, and they were usually attached to a pocket or a belt. They were worn by both men and women, but I most often think of them worn by women, as they were frequently worn by the woman of the house, or a housekeeper. You can read a bit more about them here.

My fascination with them began a number of years ago, when I saw this one:

I love the intricate details, it was amazing to view in person.

In fact, it’s been so long that I had to look it up to figure out if it was from the Victoria and Albert Museum (UK) or one of the other UK museums I’ve visited many times.  It was the Victoria and Albert. In fact, you can view many other examples from their archive here

So, I’ve been thinking about what a more modern chatelaine might carry.  Not surprisingly, probably not that many differences to what you can see in historical examples for everyday use.  How about as a goldsmith?  That’s a bit of an interesting question… for me, maybe a notebook and pencil (for when inspiration strikes), keys, a scribe (a kind of pen for metal), small files, scissors, tweezers, all things that are handy for a goldsmith, but still all kind of pedestrian  really.

No, what I’ve really been thinking about is what the modern immunologist’s chatelaine would look like, which is more conceptual really (and fits in with my background and some of my interests).  So, scissors (what aren’t those useful for???), but my scissors might be molecular scissorsT cells, B cells and macrophages would be a must, antibodies and plasmids are always useful too!  Not sure what else, I shall have to think some more.

Yes, my skills at doodling are nothing to write home about, but anyway, here’s a quick impression of what MY chatelaine might look like in my brain!

If you were making your own chatelaine, what would you put on it? 

Happy Saturday from the Blue House in Roncy!

-Robin

House of Cassady

Outdoor applications

I am not sure about whether or not this year’s Toronto Outdoor Art Fair will actually be outdoors and in person, but I am still excited to be applying to it this year in the hopes that I can be interacting with people (I may or may not have to practice first though). If the Art Fair is not an in person event they will once again be holding the Fair online and be featuring artists on their site starting July 2, 2021. You can check out my 2020 Gallery.

Just below are a few of the images that I applied with for this year’s upcoming Fair. Wish me luck on my application and I will be updating info about the fair starting in the spring.

Garden Quartz Ironwork Pendants. Sterling silver and garden quartz.
Rose Ring. Sterling silver and 14 kt rose gold.

I am still trying to navigate shifting my sales and connecting with people online and last years Toronto Outdoor (Online) Art Fair had me setting up for online sales for the first time (outside of trying Etsy just before 2010). I am struggling to try and make that connection as building my confidence for in person sales took several years of customer interactions to learn from and making the shift to online is a social skill that I frankly do not have. I am always striving to make a connection and I suppose that online sales feels very much to me like standing on a corner talking to yourself about your business in hopes that someone is within earshot (or is this just me?) I am definitely overthinking this at the moment and just need to push past this feeling and remind you that if you have read this far let us know what you miss about seeing us in the studio – Alexis

Workshops and class joy

I really enjoy teaching, it’s great to share knowledge, and to see how excited people get when they’re making things, and that spark and drive to carry on.  There are lots of different aspects that I enjoy, but I really like the thought that I’ve facilitated development of skills that will carry a student into the future, and nurtured their creativity/passion.  I used to apply this to my students as a research biologist, and when I changed careers to focus more on my goldsmithing, one of things I looked forward to doing was to carry on teaching. 

As you may know, we teach workshops and classes at the Jewel Envy studio. One of my goals for last year was to start teaching…..in March….. so you can guess what happened!  I managed to get in a small workshop as part of the Stakt market Christmas events in December 2019, where we did these fun bookmarks.  There was lots of hammering fun!

So, back to March 2020, and everything was closed, so I was denied!  Then things started to open up again and I got my chance to experience my first eight week Intro to Fabrication class, with a smaller class size, masks all around (well, we actually wear them quite a bit anyway), and all the other safe measures we could take.  We managed to get the classes in before things shut down again, and we managed to get the students through the basics, and still have fun.  They made some awesome pieces, with lots of variety within the set of beginner skills that we teach them.  Here’s a collage of some of the projects the students completed:

Sadly, we’re still unable to start up the classes we were hoping to start running again, but we’re all prepared to sail ahead when it’s safe to do so again.  If you’re interested in any specific classes, make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter, or send us an email to say what course you’re specifically interested in!

Stay safe, and we hope and look forward to welcoming you back to classes in the not-so-distant future!

-Robin Cassady-Cain

House of Cassady

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