Jewelry by Kaia

An (art) Jeweler's Journey

A Slow 2020

May 16, 2021

2020. We survived. We were luckier than most. Shows and events cancelled, I was adrift artistically. With the weight of worry and saddness compressing my creativity, I forced myself to get in the studio, but did not produce much.

Given my love of the Japanese Aesthetic, I was always intrigued by Mokume Gane. With the unexpected downtime that 2020 afforded, my husband and I decided to give it a try.

We bought a small firebrick forge and an Acetelyne torch, studied every book, article and youtube video we could find. Our first attempts with copper and silver were a success. I thought, 'this wasn't that hard!'

Famous last words.

Once a billet (many layers of alternating metals fused together) is created, it is forged/rolled and carved repetitiously to make a pattern. That, as it turns out, was the easy part. What I didn't expect was how hard it was to work with the resulting Mokume Gane sheet.

Just one distracted wave of a flame over the mokume gane sheet could cause an unholy melted mess. And soldering it? I felt like a beginner, with pools of solder left in the wake; that is, if I didn't melt the whole thing to begin with. It didn't like to bend. Ring forms needed to be bound in brutal fashion lest they spring open at just the wrong time. In short, I started to hate the beautiful but spiteful Mokume sheet.

I'd like to say that I perservered, but the truth is, I put Mokume down for many months. Fortunately, I was drawn back to the sensuous patterns that Mokume Gane affords. And I read more. And we tried again, this time concentrating on Shibuichi and Argentuim™ Sterling.

While my husband became expert at pouring Shibuichi ingots, I tried to understand Mokume more, working with its strengths rather than trying to force my will (read: my designs) onto it.

And, with this harmonious truce, I think we've found something pretty special.


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