This tsuba is inspired by of one of the most well-known mokume gane tsubas in history - the Yoshino River Tsuba made by Takahashi Okitsugu in the mid-late Edo period in Japan. I used different metals (copper, brass and nickel silver), and a silhouette of my own design; five-lobed rather than 8-lobed. It took me about two years to create, and is just a first draft. Next one will be made with silver, shakudo and shibuichi.
From my very first billets, I always wanted to create crisp, unique mokume patterns with great control. This was different from a lot of the fairly random, all-over stuff I was seeing. It was in Masaki Takahashi's "Textbook of Mokume Gane" book that I was first introduced to the historical work of Takahashi Okitsugu - I saw it was possible to create such patterns, so I had a goal. I did a lot of experimentation, and came up with two ways to do the cherry blossom pattern, one easier than the other. I teach the easier way in my in-person mokume gane workshops, but here I'm using the more difficult chisel method (see the photo captions for copious technical notes). Creating the pattern once on a test piece was one thing, but to do it on the scale of a tsuba was another thing entirely. It took a lot of math to figure out how many layers, what thickness/size, what thickness to start patterning so the pattern would be flat and finished at 3mm on a piece of metal large enough for a tsuba.
Making the actual tsuba was a change of pace, with patient sawing, filing and finishing taking the place of all the chiseling. It is only my second tsuba, and I owe many thanks to Ford Hallam for his expert training and advice, both in person and on his invaluable patreon channel. I'm not sure where I'm going next; but I know it is not making swords! People keep suggesting that, and I think it is hilarious. It took me so long to get good at what I do; bladesmithing is a completely different field. I know many bladesmiths out there who have worked hard to be top of their craft - I'll let them do that, and I'll continue to refine my skills in my own little corner of the craft world.
Check out the photo captions if you're interested in the process, and please feel free to comment/ask questions.
I know I've been a bit quiet lately on the teaching front - that's because I've finally set aside some time to make progress on an artistic goal. I've been wanting to raise mokume vessels for a long time. I learned raising wayy back in school (er like the 90s), and of course I've been doing mokume since 2007. But it takes time and effort to put those two processes together. First, you have to fuse and pattern a fairly large piece of mokume, and it needs to be minimum 18 gauge (1mm) in thickness. And second, you have to have the stakes/hammers and a place to make a lot of noise for raising. Back in May, I signed up for David Huang's October 3-day raising class - this gave me a deadline to get mokume discs ready. And of course David posted enticing pics of the stakes he made for the class that would be for sale afterwards - that was a strong motivation too. I also wanted to get faster at raising, and more precise. I knew David could help with that.
So, now I'm back from the class! I had a fabulous time, and made great progress on two mokume vessels. I also discovered I needed (really!) to buy the fancy Saign/David raising hammer - not pictured here, it's in the mail. David very kindly let me borrow his for a lot of the workshop - it improved my raising speed by 30% at least. Worth it! See the photo captions for lots of process information. And stay tuned - I hope to finish both these vessels by the end of the year.
Great Jewelry/Metals Class Resource - West City!
I don't teach general jewelry/metals classes anymore, since I'm focusing on the specialized technique of mokume gane. I get a lot of inquiries from people wanting to learn or improve their jewelry skills, so I want to recommend West City, where I taught from 2012-2018 (work at right made by my students at the time, Karen R. and Yoko R.). West City is part of the San Diego Community College District; these are non-credit, semester length classes. They are fairly low cost, and taught by a highly skilled and experienced instructor (Leslie Shershow). It is a very well equipped facility. The fall intermediate/advanced class is full, but here is a link to the next beginning class, starting Sept 13.
When I first began making custom mokume gane wedding rings back in 2008, my clients were all based here in San Diego. They would visit the studio first to see ring samples, find out their size, try on different styles and widths etc. After a good design session, I'd give them a price, take their 50% deposit and get started on their rings. When the rings were finished, the clients would come back to pick up their rings and pay.
But of course, this was also the first time they would see the rings that had been custom made for them. I came to realize what a special moment this was. I enjoyed stepping back and watching it unfold as the customer cautiously approached the box, lifting the lid, peeking inside. What a joy it always is, to hear the gasp or squeal as they extract it and slip it on their finger, admiring and smiling excitedly, showing it to their partner, eyes shining.
I don't always get to see that part now - my business is much larger, and the majority of my clients are out of town or even overseas. But I know what an important moment it is, and that's why I'm hesitant to replace it, well really to ruin it, by sending photos of finished rings to clients before they see the actual ring. Rings are a symbol of love and commitment, meant to be worn with any luck for decades. I know how casual I am about opening emails - I could be at a stoplight, in line for coffee, blearily first thing in the morning. It's the opposite of an occasion. I want folks to have that 'reveal' moment together, maybe over a toast (fireplace? snacks?), or at least deliberate, and noted in some way.
There's another reason too, and it has to do with the fact that I'm a better jeweler than I am a photographer! I do the best I can with my photos, but there are often artifacts in them that have no relation to the ring. Seeing a photo of the ring first is such a pale comparison to the real thing. I recall some clients that wanted the photo first, before final payment and shipping. I took the best photo I could with the time I had available, and emailed it off. I got it back with an area circled in red. "What's that scratch?" they said. Hmm. It turned out to be a fragment from the polishing cloth. Another client was concerned that the rose gold in their photo wasn't the same shade as in the sample photo. (The lighting was a bit different, so the white balance was off.) Neither of these things were a concern once the clients saw the rings in real life, but it caused us all needless angst, delay, and worry.
I don't get to be part of that 'reveal' moment as often as I used to, but still my hope is that clients will want to see their rings in real life for the first time, and make it an occasion to remember.
I recently returned from 6 days of teaching at Mendocino Arts Center - what a joy to be in a real classroom again, with live 3D students! It was a huge amount of work getting ready, from tailoring the fusing process to the specific school equipment, to packing up everything from Simple Green to a bandsaw into my car and driving 650 miles each way. But it was all worth it. Couldn't have asked for nicer students, and we had great weather too.
In the Fuse, Forge, Roll workshop we had 8 students, coming from all over the US (Boston, Texas, Arizona, etc.). I loved the mix of backgrounds - about half were blacksmiths, half were jewelers/silversmiths. Some were both!
I was pleased to see the set up we used worked perfectly (manual press, hand-forging the billets). So, an electric press is really not necessary for solid-state diffusion bonding, yay.
This was my fourth live Mokume Q & A - I had a great time chatting with fellow mokume artists, including some new faces! I did about a 35 minute recorded presentation on the history of mokume and what it is, and showed the work of many different mokume gane makers and their contributions to the field. Work shown by Norio Tamagawa, Hiroko Sato-Pijanowski, Eugene Pijanowski, James Binnion, Phillip Baldwin, Steve Midgett, Francesca Urciuoli, Kevin Klein, David Huang and David Barnhill, Wayne Meeten, Susa Makoto, Ryuhei Sako, Earl Bushey, James Viste, and more! I finished with an overview of my own work, mostly vessels but a few rings too. The Q&A part was unrecorded this time, but some great questions were asked and answered; billet design, the expense of palladium, details of refining, etc.
This video will appeal to both seasoned mokume artists, and those that know nothing about the technical aspects but love looking at beautiful mokume gane work.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed doing this series, I'm going to take a break for a while. Catch the ones you missed on my youtube channel!
Had a really great time here, chatting with about 20 participants about mokume gane and patinas in my third live mokume Q&A, held May 14, 2022 via Zoom.
I go over the most common and useful patinas for mokume gane (liver of sulfur, Baldwin's patina, and of course rokusho / niage), with recipes and video of how to apply them. I also share some new patina experiments I've been doing, all with lots of visuals and recommendations of which patinas work best for which metal combinations. A lot of time is devoted to how to get the perfect copper red, the best sealants to use, and resources to learn more. Near the end I share my secret for getting clear, clean, consistent color with any patina. Although you mostly don't see the other mokume gane artists, they chime in intermittently with some really useful tips and tricks and insights too.
Next time (mid-June 2022, watch my website or Instagram for exact day/time) I'll be doing a 'who's who' in mokume - sharing images and discussing the work of mokume gane artists from around the world.
Thanks for watching!
The focus was on patterning here at my second live mokume gane Q and A session, held on April 2, 11am pacific time via Zoom. If you missed it, check out the video. Topics discussed include a general overview of the types of mokume gane patterning, annealing times and temps, chisel shapes, when to forge versus when to roll, etc. Includes a free direct hammer patterning lesson too. I'll be doing this monthly; next month the focus will be on finishing and patinas. My live viewers really enjoyed the bonus content - next one should be May 7th, same time, so keep an eye on my website and/or social media for it. Enjoy the recording, and please comment below for any questions you'd like answered next month. :-)
Well the video recording and uploading was definitely a learning curve on my part, but the value of the mokume gane info makes up for it for sure. I had a great time answering everyone's mokume questions. I covered everything from seamless vs. seamed rings, to patinas, fusing temps and troubleshooting, and lots more. Thanks to everyone who wrote in with questions. Really the most fun part was after we turned off the recording - then we got a lot of live questions and comments, even some sharing of studios and mokume gane work. It was so much fun I'll definitely be doing it again, probably every month. Keep an eye on my instagram or the facebook group 'mokume gane for all' for the announcement for the next one. Join us live for the full experience. ;-)
Sometimes things start simply, then just keep growing .... this piece actually started life as a patterning sample. I liked it so much I started messing with it - cut a circle, domed it, did some chasing detail in the center. Soon I had ... a lid! Hmm, what next. Tried a few different simple bases, trying to finish it without it taking over my life, but you know it told me it needed a substantial base, not just a simple quick thing. Three billets, many hours, and quite a few ounces of silver later, this tea container with a secret was born.
Creating matching mokume patterns isn't easy - I used three different billets to create all of the silver/copper mokume you see here. It's all chisel and drill patterned. Patterning was done first, then the sheet cut and curved, soldered and fabricated just as if it were one metal - except great care must be taken not to overheat the mokume. The silver sections are 1mm thick sterling silver, some of it with a heavy cross-hatch texture to complement the mokume pattern. I do a lot of modeling in paper first, to test out different proportions, understand how much mokume I'll need and how the patterns will match up, etc. It is patinated with rokusho, the most traditional Japanese patina for mokume. It is easy to use, really quite functional. Pictured with a lovely gunpowder green tea (not included). There is also a secret (shh!) compartment accessed from underneath, great for hiding special things. Does include the matching tea scoop. I am considering making additional tea scoops for sale, let me know if you're interested.
See below for many photos of the piece in progress - enjoy! And please feel free to comment with any questions about the process, I'm happy to share.
I know I've been pretty quiet online lately - no classes since October, not many social media posts. Well, that is because I've been deeply involved in a new project -- buying a house! It pretty much ate up 6 months and was quite an odyssey. After selling the old house in September, Ame and I lived in Airbnbs while researching cities and towns all over the west coast. We weren't sure if we wanted or would be able to buy in San Diego. Well, long story short - after much soul-searching and almost moving to inland Oregon (where it snows! omg what were we thinking), we found the perfect house here in San Diego. It is just 2 miles east of our old house, but in a more affordable neighborhood - which we are already starting to love. (Azalea Park, for those familiar with San Diego.) Photo shows the house being tented for termites (common practice when buying/selling here in Southern California) - tent came off December 20, so technically we unwrapped that present just a bit early!
It is a small house at 792 sq feet, but an upgrade for us with a fancier kitchen than we've ever had, a spare room for Ame's atelier, and a converted garage for my home studio! I'll still have my Liberty Station studio for making rings, meeting clients and possibly holding small workshops, but my home studio will be my place to do the larger vessel work. Art will be made here! Our first night in the new house was December 21, Winter Solstice. We already love the place, especially Mochi. She was getting pretty tired of the monthly, weekly, or even daily packing up and moving.
I know a lot of you have been asking when/where my next classes/workshops will be. If you're one of those, thanks so much for reading all this. And now I hope you understand why the silence on that front. I'm still getting unpacked and settled, but I plan to get my act in gear very soon about teaching. I know I'll be doing some online classes, and organizing some workshops around the US too. Farthest away still is any return of classes at Liberty Station - first I'll need to clean and re-organize, figure out what is feasible. Honestly I don't think I'll ever do ongoing classes or classes not related to mokume. Most likely it'll be small mokume workshops every few months. I love teaching, and remain committed to spending some of my time and energy passing along my love of mokume. More soon on that front - right now I've got some boxes to unpack...
Looking back at my photos and remembering what a great workshop we all had in October in Long Beach at Diane Weimer's studio. October 22-24, 2021. This was a 3-day general mokume gane patterning class ("The Art of Mokume Gane"), the first in-person class I'd taught since Covid. What great students! Serious learners with talent, and fun to hang out with, too. Many were complete mokume beginners, and I was thrilled with the quality of patterns and finished pieces they were able to produce. On day one I shared a patterning technique I've been developing but hadn't ever taught before - it went great; students were able to follow and reproduce the steps, but everyone's patterns were unique. On day two I showed the classic twist patterning method, the exact one I use to make my rings, but we made bracelets out of copper and brass. On the third day students were free to finish up in-progress samples, create finished work, or start new projects with the available (for purchase) silver-bearing mokume. It was a blast to be back in the thick of teaching - 12 students, each working on something different, my job to respond and help as needed. Teachers know what a fun atmosphere that is - such energy, intensity, and creativity. The day went so quickly, soon it was time for the raffle. Many of the folks asked for a return visit, so I'll see what I can do to make it up there in 2022.
Thanks so much to Diane for hosting!
I'm so pleased to announce I'll be speaking about mokume gane and doing patterning demonstrations at SNAG's fall virtual symposium "Tides & Waves: 2021, Eastern Asia" on October 22, 2021.
When I found out about the opportunity to present, I could not believe it happened to fall on the first day of a mokume gane workshop I'm teaching in Long Beach! Why do all the good things happen at once?! Thankfully we figured out a way - I'll be joining SNAG from Diane Weimer's studio. After presenting I'll go straight into my workshop there.
I'll start with some historical background (lots of juicy mokume gane images), then show both simple and complex patterning techniques. The demos will be short and to the point; chock-full of real info on how to try the techniques yourself. There will be a short Q&A time after the demo too.
The rest of the symposium looks great - the keynote speaker is Bifei Cao, who I met 10 years ago at a workshop with Helen Shirk at Haystack. He impressed me then with his encyclopedic knowledge of the metals world, from trends and galleries to teachers and schools. Since then, he's been doing amazing things - I can't wait to hear his talk!
If you'd like to attend my talk/demo and of course the rest of the 2-day symposium too, the cost is very reasonable ($55-75) and includes access to recordings. I know I'll be checking out the recordings after my workshop is over. Hope to see you there! Register.
From November 2018 to March 2020, San Diego Jewelry Lab was known as Anneville Jewelry Lab because it was a brick & mortar jewelry metal arts school and co-work space located next to Anne Wolf's studio in Liberty Station - a part of the NTC Arts District. We offered multi-week classes, independent study and 1-5 day workshops. Topics covered a wide range of the jewelry/metals field, from absolute beginner basics taught by Jessica Andersen and Julie Monroe to advanced specialty techniques such as Japanese metalsmithing taught by Ford Hallam, stone setting by Alexandra Hart, keum boo taught by Bette Barnett and mokume gane taught by Anne Wolf. Many of our students took classes multiple times to perfect their techniques and gain inspiration from each other. Our workshops drew students from around the U.S. and internationally. In addition to classes we had Open Lab time where jewelry metal arts makers worked together, enjoyed our little "Broken Sawblade Cafe" (which became the Peg and Pickle Pub after hours) and shopped for tools and supplies in our small General Store. We also hosted a monthly First Friday Open Studio where makers and the public nibbled tasty snacks, watched live demos and shopped our Gallery Case featuring work by our teachers and students. All of that changed on March 19th, 2020.
As we ended the year and the news of the new and more contagious covid variant came out, we really started to feel like we were in a crazy video game so, here we share with you our 2020 Game Recap.
Congratulations, it looks like you’ve made it with us to Level 12 of this awful Game of 2020. We’d give it no stars if possible; at this point all we can do is hold on to a sense of humor and keep going. Level 1 began well, we had a year of trips planned and classes scheduled for our Jewelry Lab business. The worst demon in our land, Orange Windbag, was slashed with the Sword of Impeachment and things were looking good! But then the Land of Koalas caught fire and rumors surfaced of a mysterious new foe in a distant land. Nevertheless, by Level 2 Ame had saved up enough Coin for a trip to visit her father, Vance of La Playa, in the Land of Mariachis and Anne made a foray to the nearby Land of Saguaro to learn patina alchemy.
At our online Holiday Party we looked back at some 2020 highlights (we did find some!) and shared our plans for 2021. The recipe exchange was a hoot with concoctions for tasty treats as well as Mokume Goo from Earl, DIY Solder from Sky and Niello from Anne (note: don't eat!). We also had fun enjoying everyone's home decor and festive apparel. The winners of our holiday cheer prize drawing were Patty (congrats on the agate burnisher!) and Joanne (edible gemstones!). After that we heard from several people about their own 2020 - good and bad - along with hopes and dreams for 2021. We capped it all off with our Holiday Raffle. Many thanks to everyone who decorated, dressed up and shared goodies. Read on to download the recipes and get some cool free coloring pages and a handy circle divider tool.
Cyberweek 2020 sale! I've got 26 listings on sale - 25% off, one week only - Nov 30-Dec 7! These are all in-stock items, ready to ship in time for the holidays - there are even a few gold mokume rings. Treat yourself to the best quality custom mokume gane rings available on etsy. I use only precious metals, so my rings are built to last a lifetime. I fuse my own mokume gane billets and create my rings from scratch at my San Diego studio (customer visits welcomed by appointment). Please enjoy browsing the bracelets, earrings, cufflinks, pendants, boxes and RINGS! Feel free to contact me (619) 488-7540 with any questions. Shop my Etsy sale.
Thursday, December 17th from 5-6pm Pacific Time
Meet & Greet starts at 4:45pm.
Online via Zoom - link on our home page.
Join us online for an hour of glad tidings and merriment. We'll take a look back at some 2020 highlights (you know Ame, she'll find something good) and share our plans for 2021, hold our recipe exchange (be sure to send in your favorite recipes for brownies, cookies, patinas, billet stacks, etc.), see who has the most festive decor and apparel (winner gets an agate burnisher!) AND we'll raffle off some goodies including a couple of great jewelry books and some GOLD (seriously!!). Totally free, just tune in by clicking the link on our home page. Save the date and don't forget to decorate your space, don some gay apparel and send in your recipe.
Click images to view larger.
Anne Wolf is our guide this month for a fascinating photo journey into the gorgeous niello work of southeastern Turkey. This time she'll discuss several striking pieces from her collection, all purchased during her trip to the region in 2005. After that, we take a deep dive into a topic many of you have burning questions about... working with torches in your home studio - specifically working with gas. Which type is best? Where do you buy tanks? How do you safely store them? What about insurance? What about oxygen concentrators?!? Read more for resource links and photos!
A friendly group of about 10 of us chit-chatted away while working in our home studios at the November Sawing Circle on the 19th ... actual sawing transpired even! Along with filing, hammering and all sorts of comparing notes and discussing tools, torches, tanks and the finer points of patinas. Our shared project was fold-formed copper leaves and there were some fantastic pieces completed (Go Kathy and Karen!). Anne filmed (and I edited) a a great video tutorial about the project so it was fun to see it put into use. Anne also gave us all a sneak peek of a new mokume pattern she's working on from an ancient Japanese tsuba - the pattern is sakura leaves on water. Wow! We also heard about new projects from Jan (cool essential oil pendants), Earl (mokume billet fusing), and Carol (amazing piercing work). See, these are the cool things that make Sawing Circle fun! For photos and a link to the view click Read More.
Thursday, November 19th 5-6pm PDT : Meet & Greet starts at 4:45pm
Anne Wolf is our guide this month for a fascinating photo journey into the gorgeous niello work of southeastern Turkey - this time she'll discuss a gorgeous silver belt from her collection. After that, we're taking a deep dive into a topic many of you have burning questions about... working with torches in your home studio - specifically working with gas. Which type is best? Where do you buy tanks? How do you safely store them? What about insurance? What about oxygen concentrators?!? Tune in and bring your questions. MAAA is a FREE weekly online metal arts live show. In this fun, interactive gathering we offer demos, share tips & tricks, feature work by artists and students from around the world, go on virtual studio tours, discuss historical metal arts traditions and share resources. You're invited to join in! Send in your questions and ideas for the next Metal Arts Adventure. Need help with a tricky soldering job? Wondering if a tip you saw really works? Submit a question or segment idea any time and we'll follow up. Send it in! Want to give us a tour of your studio? Care to recommend a tool or instructor? Get free feedback from professional metal arts instructors! Join the live Zoom show.
It took a lot of work on the part of our hand medal creators (and a few late nights for us making envelopes and sewing on ribbons) but we did it! Thank you so much to everyone who participated and shared extra pins and ribbons - we used every last bit and finished with 152! The medals will be presented soon and we’ll share any additional details as we get them. Of course Anne had to make a mokume gane one! The diversity of designs, details and ribbons made them all so fun and different! Congratulations to our Hand Medal Project winners too! Karen won the award for “Most Prolific” with 20 medals completed while Nancy won the prize for “Most Intricate” for her addition of a teeny tiny bracelet to all 11 hands she made. Since we started the project in the summer time, their prizes are tiki face masks - going out in the mail today. Thanks again to everyone who participated. Get involved with our next project: we’re making fold-formed copper leaves in November at our free online Sawing Circle. Click Read More to see photos.
While we wait for that other result🗳, we can announce our #HandMedalProject winners! Karen won the award for “Most Prolific” with 20 medals completed 🏆 while Nancy won the prize for “Most Intricate” for her addition of a teeny tiny bracelet to all 11 hands she made🏅. Since we started the project in the summer time, their prizes are tiki face masks😷🦜🍹🗿- going out in the mail today. Thanks again to everyone who participated.
🍁🍂 Get involved with our next project: we’re making fold-formed copper leaves this month at our free online #SawingCircle. See our website for a free video demo and the date & time.
Thursday, November 12th 5-7pm Pacific Time : Meet & Greet starts at 4:45pm
Mark your calendar for our next Sawing Circle on November 12th from 5-7pm Pacific Time. This month's shared project is fold-formed copper leaves! If you're new to leaf making, watch our free video demo by Anne Wolf and then join us from your studio to work in the good conversation and company of like-minded friends. Totally free, no need to RSVP, simply join by clicking the link that will be posted here on our home page. Tell a friend or make one there, either way we hope you'll join us right here on November 12th.
Educator, metalsmith, jeweler, maker of custom mokume gane jewelry and wedding rings.