Lately I’ve been thinking that there’s a fair bit of truth to the old proverb “if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.” You see, mokume gane is killing me. I might well be talking about a murderous anime character, but I’m actually referring to an ancient (and fiendishly difficult) technique developed by Japanese sword makers to impart dazzling wood grain patterns to the surfaces of their blades. Mildly insane goldsmiths – that would be me – have adopted this technique to create stunning works of jewellery. All it takes is endless hours of pounding and soldering layers of metal into billets which are then cut, twisted, filed, or otherwise tortured into exposing the beautiful patterns within.
Mokume gane is hard to learn: a few extra seconds of heat and you end up with a pile of lousy and expensive junk. It’s also taking a toll on my body, as the endless pounding of silver, copper, gold, or platinum sheets leaves my hands throbbing and my ears ringing.
Mokume gane is hard to master. But I’m harder.
Young Kyoung Ko