Techniques and Methods
Short overview of how L'reign designs come about, favourite techniques, skills required, and some favourite links to those who have inspired new exploration.
My design background started as a child when my mother, a fashion designer, tailor and theatre costume designer discovered the best way to keep me occupied was not with dolls but with pencils, crayons, paint-brushes and something to draw on, including walls which were covered with wallpaper (yes she was cross).
After high-school there was no doubt in my mind that a career in art was inevitable. My formal education on the path to my career began at what is now called the Sydney Design Centre, that was my springboard to a lofty 25+ years career as a Creative Director in Advertising. Success followed success until one day I simply woke up one morning and thought "I don't want to do this anymore". Like a lightening bolt I was suddenly struck with an overwhelming need to take a new life path - Jewellery and Object Design.
How very privileged I was to study under some of the most inspiring, gifted, renowned metalsmiths, jewellery and object designers and artists in the country - Robin Blau, Ragnar Hansen, Ernst Pfenninger, Cinnamon Lee, Merilyn Bailey, all generous in their enthusiasm to share their experience and knowledge.
Metal Fabrication Every design begins with a humble sketch. Truthfully I'm often far to keen to get started so my sketches can look like a doctor's prescription, impossible to read, however there are times I just have to consider the entire solution which includes how the heck I'm going to make the piece.
Coconut Ice - fabricated in 925 Sterling Silver
Working with precious, and other, metals is where my formal training and skill base began.
As my skills grew so did my admiration for the masters who dedicate at the very least a decade to nothing other than the process of metal fabrication.
Specialisation however was not for me, my jewellery magnet was, and remains to be, experimentation, mixing materials and working with 'anything' from fabric to resin, polymer to paper, threads to glass. To work exclusively in precious materials and gems also narrows your client base - not everyone can afford, nore desires a treasure chest of fine jewels and that reality continually inspires me to create interesting work so that almost everyone can afford to indulge themselves, as we should - we all deserve a treat now and then, I know I do.
Lost Wax and Casting
One way that enables me to supply 'limited edition' designs in precious metals is the 'Lost Wax (carving) and casting process. Wax carving is almost meditative, it breaks down the barriers of hard edge lines achieved with cutting and forming sheet metal or rod. The wax is seductive to a designer as it yields total organic freedom. While some do their own casting I prefer to leave that process to the experts. It's always a total thrill collecting your final castings superbly produced from the lovingly created masters. Naturally there is still work to be done cleaning them up, deburring and polishing but the results never fail to put a smile on my face and delight my patrons.
PMC (precious metal clay) is yet another method of creation that I am currently exploring and am delighted with the results. While a designer could achieve the same with wax carving followed by casting, PMC is instant gratification. The textures, the versatility, the finishes are limitless. The purity of the fine silver with no firescale issues renders the most beautiful lustre that cannot be achieved any other way. And it's perfect for enamel embellishment.
Imagine the world without colour? It has it's own language that most of us take for granted but for me it's a companion to my psyche that I find difficult to create anything void of colour. To satisfy that need last year I went in search of a solution to this yearning. GLASS.
Enameling was a major subject at college yet after leaving I didn't pursue it, perhaps because you have to be a special sort of person to perfect it. Dashes of enamel are wonderful (see my Bells design) but to do it justice layers of skill, talent, dedication is the recipe. Glass bead making on the other hand allows you to 'go with the flow' literally. When the glass runs like molten honey and you're sitting behind a fire-breathing dragon of a torch there is no time to contemplate so it teaches you to have a very clear idea of what you want the end result to be BEFORE you light your torch. It's so organic it's almost orgasmic. Learning how to work with glass to create focal or feature elements to my designs is a new skill I'm working on ... and I can see why some become consumed by it's process. When you open the kiln after many hours it's like opening Aladdin's Cave. My first attempts were 'tragic' little blobs and I know without an instructor like Tracy A Brown I would have given up. Support and faith are critical ingredients in getting over the humps (bumps, or 'hairy warts' I produced at first). Mastering glass is a truly rewarding experience because nothing compares to the magic of what you can create with it. Just take a look at this magician's work, Anastasia is a constant inspiration, I visit her site at least once a month to see what treasures she has created. Glass combined with precious metals requires the same skills as setting precious stones but on a much larger and more dramatic scale such as my "Candles-In-the-Rain" series. This collection was inspired on a tropical Queensland night while watching rain drops collect and trickle down the sides of my vanilla scented candles without managing to extinguish the flame.
What does one do on those cold winter nights and you don't want to leave the warmth of the fireplace, nothing on the tele of worth and no book title is doing it for you? You rediscover an old-school craft but apply a contemporary twist known as 'micro macrame'. You think you'll create one masterpiece a night only to discover each one consumes as much as a full week (including design) - don't even think about counting the knots, there are hundreds, if not thousands, in a single piece (depending on size). Half way through every piece you feel like Michelangelo - "when will it finish?" yet you can't wait to start the next one - it's mesmerising and addictive. I fabricate the sterling silver findings for my creations and am currently developing a unique range of findings to use for anyone interested in creating their own designs and colours. Hopefully they will be available in the next few weeks. The inspiration for this wearable art started by stumbling on Joan Babcock's website and my favourite threads come from Marion Hunziker-Larsen.
There are so many possibilities with felt. One of my peers makes the most superb felt wraps however she doesn't have a web site to link to. I on the other hand work on a much smaller scale and use it from time to time (usually winter) to make mostly lariat style neck pieces. My interest in felt began when I had a few glass beads I had made and wanted to do something other than string them on a chain, braid, cord. Again, online I stumbled on a web site of a truly gifted artist Gail Crosman Moore. One look at her gallery page and I couldn't wait to get my hands on some felt (for good results do invest in high quality wool).It's incredibly simple and quick to learn but don't expect your creations to sell like more traditional creations. Felt jewellery appeals to buyers who really do appreciate a wide variety of accessories to dress an outfit or look. My buyers are very fashion aware and style creative. Felt jewellery is perfect for winter fashion. Team gorgeous felt lariats draped around a plain but quality jumper or teamed over a single colour wool scarf and drab winter disappears. Wool on wool is a luxurious combination, it's light to wear and compliments the snuggly look and feel of winter clothing. It even looks great peeking out behind a leather jacket.Design can be edgy, contemporary, mixed with all sorts of embelishments from glass focal beads to plastic squiggles and/or dotted with micro beads, pearls, whatever takes your fancy - and the colours of wool available is wonderful. If you can't find the colour you want buy neutral and dye it yourself with food colouring. It works, I've tried it but if you can buy the colour you want all the better.
What can I say about Polymer Clay? There is a wealth of information on the web about this fabulous artist material. When it comes to mixed mediums Polymer offers exciting opportunities. In this photo (right) I have combined copper punctuated with brass rivets and polymer centre to create a wrist cuff that stands out in the crowd. For me Polymer is paint that I can mix and blend like one would on a canvas but with a fabulous twist - I can cook it into any 3D shape. Alone or combined with other materials it is still one of my favourite materials.Designs can be edgy and dramatic or delicate and soft, it's all a matter of the mood one is in on any given day. The current line up of Polymers, now available in a good number of brands, strengths and colours, makes it possible to create wearable art that will endure normal wear and tear that all jewellery copes with but unlike Diamonds it would suffer if put through a washing cycle and spin dry! Some consideration to surface treatments has to be taken into account but in general many of my clients are still wearing pieces created up to eight years ago with no signs of damage.