Metalsmith Adventure

I’ve done something this week that I haven’t in a long time, and something else that I had been talking/thinking about for a few years now. The two things coincided nicely in the second half of this week.

 

One: Having a solo adventure. It’s been awhile since I did any sort of small trip alone. Traveling with Grant, my partner, and/or  Derek, my son, is really fun. I look forward to when we go new places, kid-friendly, romantic, both, whichever! But traveling alone does have it’s own appeal. Stay where you want, eat where you want, stop for rest breaks whenever you want, fill the days with your own agenda.

And with Grant doing his own travel adventure to Baltimore this week, the timing was perfect. My son is with his dad for a few days in the middle of each week, and so the days and road were open… so I went to Bend, Oregon to visit my friend Jim.

Several years ago I met this guy sitting in a bar on the east side of Portland, just a gathering of friends of a friend of mine that I went to. I was just starting my glass journey, and he was a full-on metalsmith, making high end rings for couples and clients. We talked a little, and stayed in touch. He used to have his studio in Portland, and I visited a few times. The bench block and chasing hammer that I own were gifts from him that I still use.

Anyway, a few years ago, when my divorce was final and the coparenting relationship had settled into the new, amicable reality that  was the way our days went, Jim and I were talking, and he mentioned he had taken old jewelry of his and melted it into something new. I wasn’t ready at the time, both emotionally and from a knowledge perspective, but I kept the idea in my head.

And finally, that’s what my agenda is on this metalsmithing journey, both literally and figuratively. I’ve brought some rings, more than just my wedding ring, an old gold ring that housed the diamond that my wedding ring had in it, a gift from my Mom who didn’t wear the ring anymore. Together, with the diamond, which has been freed from its setting, and a couple new stones, something new will be created from something old. I hope that the piece honors its past, the relationship it came from, and brings the material into the hopeful, optimistic future, which now contains the most precious thing I have ever created in my life, which was only possible with that relationship: my son.

I melted the platinum yesterday, which was intense. Silver needs relatively low temps to melt, platinum must be taken to over 3000 degrees F.  Three Thousand.

After that, Jim showed me how to use his rolling mill with a motor, something new for me, to start turning it into raw stock wire. Today work will continue and I will get as much done as I can, before going home tomorrow. My hope is to get things at least to the point that I can finish them properly in my own studio at home, with my own experience.

Jim helped me think and take my ideas I had been mulling over for several weeks. A few choice comments and questions helped, as well as his prescribed walk along the Deschutes River, which I did for about an hour, thinking, feeling, being present. This project is exciting but it is intense. It’s hard to let go of things, let them have a new shape. It requires looking straight at what dream failed, and acknowledging once again one’s own shortcomings and failures, even when doing the best one can, sometimes it isn’t enough to make a hope hold. But that’s life, and if you are always trying, that is all you can do. But it still was an intense moment taking that torch to the ring.

And now it’s a lovely wire, that is a start of something new, freeing it to have new life instead of sitting in a drawer for decades. I’m making something new, and learning things, and so grateful to Jim for his time, his knowledge and his willingness to take me in for a day and a half and guide me on this.

Right now I am at my Airbnb, which had a wonderful coffee machine as a selling point, and yes, it’s amazing coffee. I’ve got my wire to hold and ponder, and the idea is pretty solid in my mind for the piece. In a couple hours work will be begin, and we will see how far I get today.

 

Here’s a video about Jim, and shots inside his wonderful, cozy, creative studio where I will be today, overlooking the Deschutes River.