Monday, July 2, 2012

What the heck are you doing?

I've been spending a little less time at the metalsmithing bench lately.  I had a great idea for a project - still jewellery, still opulent in the typical "Gracebourne" style - but made out of something softer, something more pliable and delightfully tactile - leather!!

I came to the realization that my style of jewellery, while detailed (sometimes intricately) is fairly one-dimensional.  I spend a lot of time just sawing away at a flat sheet of metal - sometimes I give that metal a bit of a curve, maybe I set a stone in it, give it a nice patina or enamel it all over - but the style remains the same:  negative space sawn out, metal shape left over.  I decided that this particular style would lend itself beautifully to a laser cutter upon leather.  All I had to do was learn some graphic design basics.

Everything starts with a sketch.
One of the most important techniques I learned in art school was project planning.  Before I had this skill set firmly in place, I would start off with a vague idea of what I wanted to do, and I would take a circuitous and often frustrating path to get to the finish line.  The result was rarely what I envisioned.  I have swept this wishy-washy approach to creation out the door!  Now, everything begins with a sketch in the notebook and a clear idea of where I want to go and how to get there.

I cannibalized old notebooks for semi-discarded sketches and I used existing patterns from my metalsmithing, and I photographed everything.  I downloaded an open source graphic design program and set about learning how to use it to trace my drawings.  It took a while for me to get going with the computer program, but it was a lot of fun to learn, and, best of all, I could do it away from my bench - in a coffee shop, the library, or in the park.

Hard to believe this came from my sketch!

Next step was shopping for the leather.  I really had no idea what to look for.  But I had a basic idea of colour, and I didn't go crazy and buy too much because this is a trial run.  I bought two large pieces in basic black and basic white, and a few smaller pieces for accents.  I printed out some paper maquettes of a few of my designs, to check scale and layout.

Laying out paper maquettes on my leather pieces
The next thing to do before sending it to be laser-cut is to make sure all of my electronic files are in order.  They have to be neat and everything has to fit within the leather economically - I don't want to waste anything!  I realized that some pieces needed a redesign because they were either too complex (always my designer's achilles heel) or they contained lines that were too thin and would be too fragile for leather.  What can I say, I'm used to designing for metal!

You'll have to stay tuned to find out how it all turns out.  Give me a few more weeks and this project will be in full swing!  Until then, here is a cute picture of me modelling my "parentica aspasia" headband maquette!

My biceps are huge.  Yoga, people.  Do it.

I'm not the only one with new and exciting stuff going on.  Please check out my fellow etsymetal team members' blogs to find out what's happening with them, too!

 Laney Clark of Silentgoddess
 Evelyn Markasky
 Victoria Takahashi of Experimetal
 Beth Cyr
 Rebecca Bogan of Adobe Sol Designs
 Ann Walker
 Erin Austin
 Danielle Miller


  1. oooooOOh! fantastic new venture, I cant wait to see the launch of your new leather pieces. They look like they will stay true to your style and be beautiful! keep us posted!

  2. Leather ROCKS! Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing!!