Friday, March 27, 2009

Hammered Rings

Haven't quite finish all of them yet, but here's a sneak peak of the rings I've been working on. I'm really excited about how they all turn out.
I started off with very heavy gauge, uniform straight sterling wire. Each of the wire piece was then hammered into these different shapes. Due to the designs, you can make slight adjustments to these rings when needed.

I can leave the hammered texture, which has it's own appeal, or I can sand it smooth and give it a matte finish, or I can bring it to a high polish finish. The high polish finished interior gives these rings a luxurious feel when slipping them onto the fingers.
Each is made to order. More designs to come - watch for them as I post them to my store.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shaolin Temple Day

It was such an exciting weekend where I was reconnected to my gongfu, or more commonly known as kungfu, past by the visit of Venerable Abbot Shi Yongxin from the legendary China Songshan Shaolin Temple. (The abbot is the leading monk who makes the final decisions in important issues at the temple.) Shaolin Temple USA is an official school directly connected to China’s Shaolin Temple that was established in 495 AD and is renowned for their martial arts. These exercises were first developed to promote blood circulation after long periods of meditation.

The Abbot arrived at SFO from Beijing on March 18 and I joined the welcoming party. The two times I went to China’s Shaolin Temple, I didn’t get a chance to meet him. So I felt so honored meeting him up close in person. He is not that tall and has gentle demeanor, unlike the superhuman impression when reading about those legendary warrior monks in the gongfu novels. Although it is not a requirement to the most skilled in gongfu to become an abbot, I would imagine that Abbot Shi Yongxin is highly trained underneath that modest appearance.

On the next day, March 19, there was a Grand Opening celebration at the San Francisco Shaolin Culture Center. There were two parts to this traditional celebration. First portion was the Buddhist ceremony where the eyes of the three new Buddha statues were symbolically dotted. In the light of their eyes, we can feel the presence of the Buddha. During the ceremony, there were recitals of Buddhist sutras, blessing all the visitors with health, peace and happiness. Comparing to Jewish synagogue services where we get to sit and stand during the entire event, the Buddhist services seemed rather “punishing” where we had to stand during the entire ceremony. My recovering ankle was really protesting towards the end. The second portion was the unveiling of the entrance door plaque, marking the official opening of the cultural center.

The Abbot stated the mission of Shaolin Temple USA that in the past 30 years, Shaolin Temple was visited by millions of friends from many different countries, and that he felt obligated to reach out to the world to spread Buddhist teachings, much like when Budhidharma traveled from India to China Songshan in 517 AD and started Chan Buddhism. The Abbot emphasized that the Shaolin Temple is not just about gongfu/martial arts, instead it is a way of life. The cultural centers offer places for people to study Buddhism, to meditate, and to stay healthy by eating well, to exercise their bodies, and to build communities.

Saturday, March 21, was Shaolin Temple Day celebrated at Union Square, SF. There were numerous booths with information on the origin and history of the Temple, a photo gallery meandered on the public square, a display of monastic attire, free books on Buddhist philosophies, video viewing and sales (where I volunteered), vegetarian food sale, weaponry display, T-shirt and magazine sales (by Tiger Claw). The major attraction was the performance stage where the Abbot prayed for peace and harmony for the US and the world, dignitaries gave their speeches, the students and Shaolin monks demonstrated their skills, and free lessons given by the monks. Like many people, I took advantage and tried out the super-easy qi gong (or Chi Kung) form, Baduanjin (sometimes translated as Eight Section Brocade). It is a simplified set of breathing and stretching exercises based on the famous Yijinjing.

Sunday, March 22, was the theater performance, Magnificent Shaolin. The monks displayed their prowess, strength, and flexibility, all choreographed into beautiful sequence of artful, gravity-defying moves. We saw hard chi gong, single and double weapon forms, fist forms, animal techniques (tiger, dragon, snake, eagle, toad, mantis, monkey), drunken forms, bare hands and weapon sparring. Students performed during the intermission. What I really want to learn is their taichi form (which has some similarities to Chen style tai chi YiLou form) and RouQuan, a soft and fluid fist form that combines soft and hard explosive powers. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed so I can’t post any pictures to share.

Now I just wish they will open up another center near me so I can join the fun. Currently, there are only 4 official schools in the US – San Francisco, Fremont, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Each of schools is run by direct disciples of the Abbot. Be sure to go and check them out if you live in those areas because it will be a lot less expensive than going to China to see them. Otherwise, you can see some incredible action photos on their website, or some awe-inspiring videos on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aik Chien's Posts on Giveaways

Check out Aik Chien's blog. Her blog has lots of information on product giveaways. Be sure to follow her so you can claim your freebies from some very generous artists.

Aik lives in beautiful Malaysia, which is on my list of Must-Go Places. She is quite an accomplished musician and photographer. Following bloggers from other countries really expand your understanding of their culture and their country. Aik's Chinese posts will let me keep current with my language, even though I'll struggle a bit with the Simplified characters because I was taught the Traditional characters only.

Again, a giant thanks to Aik for featuring my work.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Meet My Friend at Ardent Designs

Joelyn Welch of Ardent Designs creates top quality hand made fashion jewelry from only the highest quality materials, including solid gold, silver, semi precious stones and custom made fused glass.

Ardent Designs is a supporter of independent artisans every where. If you are not already aware, there are millions of independent artists that create unique one of a kind items that are of superior quality than anything you can find at a big box store and typically it is priced competitively. Find out more about independent artisans and the hand made craze on the Ardent Designs blog or visit Joelyn’s online store on Etsy.

Joelyn started out in 1998 with a passion to bead jewelry. Practicality, along with a unique elegance, are the priorities that guide Ardent Designs. Joelyn enjoys using natural stones, crystals and glass. She also loves to work with contrasting metals and colors.
Joelyn has always had a fascination with glass and in 2008 she added fused glass creations to her collection. She is excited to be expanding her techniques with warm glass and look forward to creating wonderful and stunning pieces in this new medium. Find out all the most recent news about Ardent Designs and other indy artists on her blog.

Joelyn is located in Michigan, with her husband, daughter and their puppy. Her husband’s wonderful birdhouses can be found at their Etsy store as well. Now that is a truly talented family. Bet you’ll be seeing some of their daughter’s work real soon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Confetti Cuff - The Making

This is my latest bracelet listed in my etsy store. I'm using the photos to send with an application for a show in October. My friend, Jodi, bless her sweet heart, took photographs of the creation process:
Materials I used - bronze sheet, sterling wire

I use my AutoCAD software to plan out my design and figure out the amount of materials I need to cut. This creates a template for tracing onto the metal sheet, as well as keeping a record of my designs. I only use the computer for some of my pieces, not all of them.
Here, I transfer the design from a heavier paper stock template onto the metal sheet.

I saw cut the bronze insert part out from the sheet material.

Filing the edges smooth. Then I cut enough sterling wire to frame around the bronze insert.

Soldering the 2 materials together. Then I release Jodi so she can go home and get ready for work. Sorry, no pictures of me with the hammers, dust mask and eye protection.

The bracelet is bent into an oval shape. Now comes the FUN part (eyes rolling) - sanding and finishing.
The finished product. I could have skip the silver edging, which would save a ton of time. But here with the two-tone look, it seems to add so much to it. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Goldsmith's Workshop, AD 1576

Etienne Delaune, Goldsmith's Workshop, an engraving showing the interior of a goldsmith's workshop in France, AD 1576

This pair of signed and dated engravings by Delaune (1519-1583) document the practice of sixteenth-century goldsmithing. The walls of the workshop are lined with the tools of the craft: pliers, files, drills, gravers, and hammers. The boy turning the winch on the left appears to be drawing wire. The worktable is placed perpendicular to the large window, in order to provide maximum natural light to the craftsmen. On the right a youth holds a pair of tongs in a small forge, with a bellows and an anvil by his side. Each workman sits with a leather apron tucked into his belt and attached to the table to catch filings of precious metal.

The second print shows the older man with spectacles serving a client through the window. He is possibly a self-portrait by Delaune. A display of chains and pendants hangs from the ceiling in full view of the street but out of reach of passers-by.

Delaune is recorded working as a goldsmith in Paris in 1546 and briefly in the royal mint six years later. His first dated prints were made when he was 42 years old. As a Calvinist, he left Paris at the time of the St Bartholomew's Eve massacre in 1572, and moved first to Strasbourg and later, according to the inscription on this print, to Augsburg.

Medieval Craftsman: Goldsmiths

"The goldsmith should have a furnace with a hole at the top so that the smoke can get out. One hand should govern the bellows with light pressure and with the greatest care so that the air pressed through the nozzle may blow upon the coals and feed the fire. Let him have an anvil of extreme hardness on which the iron or gold may be laid and softened and may take the required form. They can be stretched and pulled with the tongs and the hammer. There should also be a hammer for making gold leaf, as well as sheets of silver, tin, brass, iron, or copper. The goldsmith must have a very sharp chisel with which he can engrave figures of many kinds on amber, hard stone, marble, emerald, sapphire or pearl. He should have a touchstone for testing, and one for distinguishing steel from iron. He must also have a rabbit's foot for smoothing, polishing and wiping the surface of gold and silver. The small particles of metal should be collected in a leather apron. He must have small pottery vessels and cruets, and a toothed saw and file for gold as well as gold and silver wire with which broken objects can be mended or properly constructed. He must also be as skilled in engraving as well as in bas relief, in casting as well as in hammering. His apprentice must have a waxed table, or one covered with clay, for portraying little flowers and drawing in various ways. He must know how to distinguish pure gold from latten and copper, lest he buy latten for pure gold. For it is difficult to escape the wiliness of the fraudulent merchant."

Alexander of Neckham, 12th century
(quoted in Medieval Craftsmen: Goldsmiths)