Muse Monday #11 – Jeweler Sevan Biçakçi

Welcome to my artistic jewelry inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own artist muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study, but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is Turkish jeweler Sevan Bicakci.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. – Maya Angelou

Seven Bicakci rings

Sevan Biçakçi rings

Seven Biçakçi

With a legion of devoted fans, Sevan Bicakci is a celebrity jeweler who specializes in utilizing the imagery of his Istanbul home to inspire over-the-top creations. His statement rings are eye-catching at every level, from the carved and painted center stones to the micromosaic or pave encrusted shanks.

Konya ring by Seven Biçakçi

Konya ring by Seven Biçakçi

Each piece is envisioned as something that an Ottoman Empire king or queen might wear. Taking several months to make, the masterpiece is first conceptualized and sketched, then fabricated entirely by hand in a workshop filled with stone carvers, painters, enamelists, engravers, micro-mosaicists and gem setters.

Hajia Sophia ring by Seven Biçakçi

Hajia Sophia ring by Seven Biçakçi

Intaglio Rings

Seven is particularly known for his intaglio stones, which are reverse carved and intricately painted to reveal three-dimensional scenes floating within the stone. The stones are then mounted within detailed complimentary settings, often featuring painted enamel or micro-mosaic scenes, heavy engraving, pave stones, or bold strokes of 24k gold.

Seagull Ring by Sevan Biçakçi

Seagull Ring by Sevan Biçakçi


Blue Mosque ring by Seven Biçakçi

Blue Mosque ring by Seven Biçakçi


Seven also offers a broad range of padlock pendants, which have been very popular in recent years.

Blue Mosque ring by Seven Biçakçi

Lapiz and Turquoise Micromosaic Butterfly Padlock Pendant by Seven BiçakçiP

Lantern Padlock by Sevan Biçakçi

Lantern Padlock by Sevan Biçakçi


Since the name Biçakçi means “blade maker,” it’s unsurprising that the artist uses a dagger as his personal symbol. It’s used for everything from the maker’s mark stamped onto the jewelry to  the doorhandles on his boutiques. It also appears frequently as a closure on jewelry.

Dagger Bracelet by Sevan Biçakçi

Dagger Bracelet by Sevan Biçakçi


Of course, there are other designs – pendants and earrings – that are very related. My favorites (always) are earrings.


Owl Intaglio Earrings with carved lemon topaz by Sevan Biçakçi

Owl Intaglio Earrings with carved lemon topaz by Sevan Biçakçi

Istanbul Drop Earrings by Sevan Biçakçi

Istanbul Drop Earrings by Sevan Biçakçi

Pegasus Earrings by Sevan Biçakçi

Pegasus Earrings by Sevan Biçakçi


Sevan Bicakci was apprenticed to be a goldsmith at the age of twelve! When he began his own workshop and presented his original work, it was thought to be a bit TOO unusual. Now he does nothing except these original concepts, not having time to develop custom designs. Each piece from his shop is one-of-a-kind, with a fitting price tag of five figures for work that takes months of work to complete.

Dove Ring by Seven Biçakçi

Dove Ring by Seven Biçakçi

His reputation is based upon both the unusual techniques employed and the high craftsmanship of the work presented. There is no substitution of technology; just old-fashioned talent and skill is at work.

Unusual and often ancient techniques practiced by his fine craftsmen include:

  • intaglio
  • reverse painting
  • micro-mosaic
  • enamel painting
  • calligraphy
  • chasing
  • engraving
  • foil-lining for rose-cut diamonds


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Sevan Biçakçi’s images, seeking enlightenment and jewelry inspiration. Are there elements here that can inform my future work?  Or reminders of experiments abandoned that need to be resurrected?

I featured a lot of rings in this collection, because rings have been very much speaking to me. I admire his willingness to make dream treasures, which took time to achieve recognition. I admire that they are unabashedly ornate and detailed, especially in a world currently dominated by minimalist fashion jewelry. Maybe only celebrities and the extreme wealthy can afford to own these, but there’s no capitulation to making work for marketing purposes. The artist pursues his vision, and it’s so spectacular that collectors can’t resist. There’s a good message there for all makers. Believe.

As I’ve done a fair bit of reverse painting on glass, I’m really captivated by the intaglios. While I don’t envision trying to carve stones, I do want to go back to playing with my paintings. I purchased a lapidary machine so that I could cut custom high dome glass cabochons for those paintings, and I need to revisit those.

I’m intrigued by the fact that many of the rings are marked as sterling 925. It’s a bit unusual to do all that stonesetting into silver. Even when there’s gold, in many of the pieces it appears to be keum boo since it’s recessed and 24k. This is a technique using pure gold foil that I’ve experimented with before. I’m being tempted now to use it on some pieces in progress to see if I can fill the background with that luscious golden glow instead of dark patina. And since I’ve been wanting more gold, but afraid of the expense, this is a smart step in that direction.

I love the inverted faceted stones, and I’ve been tempted to do this myself in the past.   I admit that I was concerned that it was an improper mounting, but if Sevan can do it, so can I. Stone setting in general, pave in particular, is on my list of skills to upgrade soon.

Overall, this artist just reassures me that I should follow my passion, listen to my muse, strive for technical excellence and trust that fine original work will find a home eventually.


Seven Bıçakçı website

Seven Bıçakçı instagram

Seven Bıçakçı video by The Jewellery Editor

Seven Bıçakçı video for 2016 GEM Award for Jewelry Design Nominee

Seven Bıçakçı documentary



Muse Monday #10 – Jeweler Melinda Risk

Welcome to my artistic jewelry inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own artist muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study, but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is sculptural jeweler Melinda Risk.

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will. – George Bernard Shaw

Melinda Risk jewelry

Melinda Risk jewelry

Melinda Risk

With my recent forays into ceramic sculpture, I’m very intrigued by sculptural jewelry, such as that of artist Melinda Risk. Working in a range of media, including fine and base metals, gemstones, porcelain, enamel, wood, resin and bone, she brings a whimsical and intriguing approach to her jewelry.

Inspired by small and precious things, she makes tiny wearable sculptures in striking categories such as doll rings and skull jewelry.

Melinda Risk Dollhead Rings

Melinda Risk Dollhead Rings

Doll Jewelry

Although Melinda studied Jewelry Metals at Kent University, she is self taught in ceramics. She creates tiny porcelain dolls, painting them individually, for her Kewpie Doll series. Each one is different, with personalities and narratives ranging from Mermaid Rider to Butterfly Rider to Wolf Boy to Fortune Teller.

Doll Rings by Melinda Risk

Doll Rings by Melinda Risk

Doll Rings by Melinda Risk

Fortune Teller Ring by Melinda Risk

Fortune Teller Ring by Melinda Risk

Kewpie Doll rings by Melinda Risk

Kewpie Doll rings by Melinda Risk, each with their own personality

Skull Jewelry

Skull rings by Melinda Risk

Skull rings by Melinda Risk

Similarly, each of the skull rings is one-of-a-kind, with its own decorative details and personality.

More skull rings by Melinda Risk

More skull rings by Melinda Risk

They range from simpler to more ornate and detailed.

Forget Me Not ring by Melinda Risk

Forget Me Not ring by Melinda Risk

Other Rings

There are other rings as well, stunning in concept and detail. Each is a small treasure which tells an individual story, but fits into the larger overall story of the artist’s work.

Mermaid with 2 Birds ring by Melinda Risk

Mermaid with 2 Birds ring by Melinda Risk

Hearts feature in a number of pieces, along with angels, fantastic creatures like mermaids and valkyries, and woodland animals.

Mermaid with 2 Birds ring by Melinda Risk

Angel Heart Ring by Melinda Riska

Animal Rings by Melinda Risk

Animal Rings by Melinda Risk

Other Jewelry

Although the rings are standouts, there is of course other jewelry as well.

Pendants by Melinda Risk

Pendants by Melinda Risk

Angel Earrings by Melinda Risk

Angel Earrings by Melinda Risk


Melinda’s jewelry is an artist’s dream combination of media. With a degree in jewelry metals and  self-taught in ceramics, the combination of porcelain and metal allows a beautiful range of dimension and surface. Strong, translucent porcelain is often used to sculpt fairly simple silhouettes, such as the kewpie doll heads, which are then painted with fine details. These are mounted inside tubular rings that provide further decoration and protection.

Cupid Ring by Melinda Risk

Cupid Ring by Melinda Risk

Hand carving waxes to cast is one way that the artist produces heavily detailed and original surface designs. She also incorporates fine granulation and occasionally enamel for color. Stones are set as both main and supporting features, in a range of styles including flush settings, bezels, and tube settings.

Most pieces combine metals, often silver with high karat gold, but also bronze or copper for color, and sometimes unusual materials such as wood and resin. This gives the work a wide range of color, even before the addition of alternative materials. Stones appear in both starring and supporting roles, flush set or bezel set.

Luna Moth Ring by Melinda Risk

Luna Moth Ring by Melinda Risk

The artist seems to have a huge repertoire of technical skills upon which to draw to construct whatever narrative she chooses to pursue. Thus the work emphasizes story, and the technical details are subordinate to the artistic concept. However, the work is constructed meticulously, as befits heirloom jewelry.


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Melinda Risk’s images, seeking enlightenment and jewelry inspiration. What ideas can I use to jump off into my future work?

First off, it’s very unusual, original, unlike other jewelry. It’s definitely art to wear. Each piece tells a story, so you are drawn into exploring all the tiny details. I want to pick each one up, turn it over and over and find all its hidden secrets. The work is playful, not too perfect, but beautifully and artistically crafted. I can tell that the artist made each piece what it needed to be, with no thought to how many hours of labor were required. I get too concerned about the price of work, and I need to let those worries go.

Technically, I love this jewelry because I, too, love many media and have grand ideas about mixing them together. This artist has done that so very well, and inspires me to revisit those ideas of my own. I am very drawn to tiny and to loads of detail, so these pieces also speak to that attraction.

My recent week of wax carving was really exciting, but I haven’t picked it up yet in my home studio. This work is telling me again to get those tools out and begin. I don’t know where it’s all going, but I need to explore that direction more seriously.

Over and over, the gold calls to me. I did use some 22k gold in my studio work this week, so I’m slowly moving past my hesitation. I have to learn to use it well, and there’s really no way to do that besides to proceed ahead. I have to remind myself that mistakes can always be reclaimed!

Since discovering Melinda’s work, I’ve been thinking very hard about my ceramics sculpture and how I can pull elements of it into my jewelry. I always knew that was part of my desire in beginning the ceramics explorations, and now I need to actually try it. I also want to revisit my small enamel on glass cabochons. And of course, RINGS are calling me hard, after never being interesting in the past.

I have this voice in my head that says I need to work more with narrative. That has been a good outcome of the ceramics work, as well, where I’ve learned build a story as the piece unfolds. Complexity helps me with that, as I don’t start with a story, but create it as I go. I need to make more complex jewelry to allow more time for the story in each piece to speak its story to me.


My Melinda Risk Pinterest board

Melinda Risk website

Melinda Risk Instagram


Muse Monday #9 – Jeweler Sydney Lynch

Welcome to my artistic jewelry inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own artist muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study, but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is jeweler Sydney Lynch.

Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while one is working. – Henri Matisse

Tropica cluster necklace by Sydney Lynch

Tropica cluster necklace by Sydney Lynch

Sydney Lynch

Sydney Lynch has long been a source of jewelry inspiration for me. It’s bittersweet to see that she has just retired, after 35 years of making jewelry. Literally within the past few days, she sold her last inventory and only that work still remaining in shops is available.

Labradorite frame pin by Sydney Lynch

One-of-a-kind Jewelry

Working within a framework of styles, Sydney was ever able to create stunning one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces by relying on variations and inspirations from gorgeous stones. It’s actually really interesting to analyze the recurring elements in her work.

Andromeda Cuff by Sydney Lynch

Andromeda Cuff by Sydney Lynch – labradorite, black diamonds, blue tourmaline, 18k & 22k gold, oxidized silver

Cluster Necklaces

The cluster necklaces rely on a grouping of color-themed stones, combined with intriguing shapes and details, repetition and variation.

Cluster Necklaces by Sydney Lynch

Cluster Necklaces by Sydney Lynch

Each stone is beautifully bezel set on a long stem, accented with a combination bright gold and dark or bright silver.  There’s a variety of textures – faceted stones, cabochons, rough cut, stone beads and pearls.

White Cluster Necklace by Sydney Lynch

White Cluster Necklace by Sydney Lynch

A cluster of stone stems hangs from a ring, with spacers to make everything fall just right. That ring then attaches to a dark-oxidized silver chain, usually with a gold or stone accent attached somewhere asymmetrically. The combinations are endless, but follow that prescribed format.

Winter Forest Necklace by Sydney Lynch

Winter Forest Necklace by Sydney Lynch

Simple  Pendants

Consistency of design elements carries across all the collections. For simpler pendants, the artist still uses the chain formats seen on the cluster necklaces, and repeats wire and dot accents around the bezels.

Simple pendants by Sydney Lynch

Simple pendants by Sydney Lynch

These can range from statement pendants with large, important stones, to more modest miniature beauties.

Opal Twig Cuff by Sydney Lynch

Opal Twig Cuff by Sydney Lynch

Twig Cuffs

The same generalized formula works well for bracelets as well. The twig cuffs use a framework of  twigs made of dark-oxidized silver with bezel set stones suspended between. Accents of gold dots and small faceted stones add a sprinkling of detail.

Sea Glass Twig cuff by Sydney Lynch

Sea Glass Twig cuff by Sydney Lynch – Umba sapphires in the colors of sea glass, 22k gold and oxidized silver

Faceted turquoise earrings by Sydney Lynch

Faceted turquoise earrings by Sydney Lynch – with tourmaline, 22k gold and oxidized silver


The same elements are used repeated in the earrings, with easy one-of-a-kind results. Wire “twigs,”  gold stone bezels, small tube-set faceted accent stones, intriguingly bold but simple and not necessarily perfectly matched shapes, gold dots, etc.

Orange Opal Earrings by Sydney Lynch

Orange Opal Earrings by Sydney Lynch

Russian Emerald earrings by Sydney Lynch

Russian Emerald earrings by Sydney Lynch


Of course, my recent ring fetish forces me to peruse the ways these elements can be translated into finger fun.

Rings by Sydney Lynch

Rings by Sydney Lynch

While most are statement cocktail rings with bold stones, there are a few stacking rings with smaller stones in that grouping.

Tourmaline Rhodolite Garnet Ring by Sydney Lynch

Tourmaline Rhodolite Garnet Ring by Sydney Lynch


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Sydney Lynch’ images, seeking enlightenment. What is the take home from this jewelry inspiration? Why am I so drawn to this work?

I admire Sydney Lynch’s jewelry highly. She has a talent for abstracting from nature to very simple, stylized elements that can be combined endlessly in statement jewelry. Her way of working with those elements is totally aligned with my own process, so she has much to teach me.

It’s pretty easy to draw up her design language that she uses repeatedly in her designs:

  • wire “twigs”
  • gold dots
  • tube set faceted stones
  • bezel set large stones – cabochons, faceted or smooth
  • cap or collar set beads or pearls
  • gold/silver bimetal or gold foil on silver
  • personalized textures – rolled or filed
  • a set of simple chain styles – coin, rectangle, oval short & long, round
  • dark-oxidized silver (which I also love!)
  • gold links in the midst of blackened chain
  • pearl or stone bead drop on the chain
  • bold freeform shapes in gold or dark silver
  • balanced but asymmetrical designs
  • collections of stones themed by color
  • long stems for bezel set stones
  • filed zig-zag borders
  • clusters on rings, with spacers

That leads me to want to sit down and enumerate my own design language elements. I have the feeling that perhaps I need to add a few more to expand my work. Perhaps I can find analogs from Sydney’s language?

I’m noticing again the use of negative space – openings – in many of these designs, that I’ve become recently very cognizant of craving for my own work. I’ll be exploring that more going forward.

Whereas I work sculpturally with clay and then add that to sheet and wire, Sydney works exclusively with milled metal. It’s simpler and faster. I’d like to explore ways to reduce my hand-sculpted components, both for labor reasons and because it might lead to more refinement in the finished piece. I tend to get sucked into detail and realism, and I’d like to experiment with more abstraction.

And of course, this artist uses a huge amount of high karat gold. I love the black & gold combination, and I just have to find a way to incorporate more gold into my work. She uses bimetal, which puts gold on only one side of a sheet of silver. That would be an option for me to explore. I have gold foil and have done some keum boo in the past. This is a less expensive option for me to add gold, and I should try it. I’ve already been using gold flattened dots and round granules, so maybe just more of those would also be worthwhile.

Her brilliant use of color inspires me to add more to my own jewelry. I tend to use just one stone as an accent. I’d like to explore using some small accent stones in addition.


My Pinterest Board for Sydney Lynch

Sydney Lynch website

Sydney Lynch Instagram




Muse Monday #8 – Jeweler Rebecca Myers

Welcome to my artistic jewelry inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own artist muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study, but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is jeweler Rebecca Myers.

‎Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. ~Thomas A. Edison

Bee & Star Anise necklace by Rebecca Myers

Rebecca Myers

“Where do you get your inspiration?” is a common question for any artist. Nature is such a frequent answer as to feel totally unoriginal. But of course, every interpretation of nature is different, and some stand above the rest in artistic quality. Such is the beautifully nature inspired jewelry of Baltimore-based jeweler, Rebecca Myers, who presents an elegant and chic perspective of classic motifs.

diamond slice earrings by Rebecca Myers

Her collections bear names like Bee & Flower, Animal Print, and Bark & Branch. Within each collection she utilizes repeated references to the inspiration of choice, combined in ever varying ways.

Bee ring by Rebecca Myers

Bees are a favorite, either solo or paired with flowers.

Zebra and cheetah cuffs by Rebecca Myers

Zebra and cheetah prints abound, often with diamonds nestled within.

pendant by Rebecca Myers


Hand-crafted in her Baltimore showroom studio, each one-of-a-kind piece is fashioned in gold with oxidized silver or palladium and natural gemstones. The gold and black combination is bold and striking, and one of my favorites.

hoop earrings by Rebecca Myers

Many of the elements used in the jewelry are carved and cast elements such as anise pods, bees, and small hydrangea flowers, used repeatedly to give cohesion to the collections.

flower cuff by Rebecca Myers

Carved branches are used structurally, as connectors and rings and bracelet frameworks.

monarch collar by Rebecca Myers

Striking gold keum boo appears regularly, as do pave and flush set diamonds.

ring by Rebecca Myers

ring by Rebecca Myers

Increasingly, more colorful semiprecious stones are included, especially in rings.

Cheetah stack rings by Rebecca Myers

The animal print pieces are made differently. Two layers of contrasting metal with spot-shaped holes in the top layer are filled with a dusting of diamonds, often raw.

long earrings by Rebecca Myers


Rebecca Myers attended Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where she began working in jewelry due to a craft requirement. As a studio jeweler, she promotes her work as boutique fine jewelry, and it carries the originality and uniqueness of an artist’s output.

flower cluster pendant by Rebecca Myers

Producing jewelry for more than twenty years now, she has recently opened a new gallery in Baltimore. Having grown to include a small team of jewelers for casting and fabricating, the artist herself touches each piece along its journey from concept to finished treasure.


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Rebecca Myers’ images, seeking enlightenment. What is the take home from this jewelry inspiration? Why am I so drawn to this work?

The way that Rebecca Myers designs, with smaller components collaged into larger vignettes, is comfortable to me, as I use it in my own style of work. Her design elements, inspired by nature, also have a lot in common with mine.  She uses much finer materials than I do, with lots of gold and diamonds. This is a direction that I know I need to attempt.

One difference that is only apparent to me on a second review is that she has a much more delicate feeling in some of her work, coming I think from the open spaces between the cast forms. I typically lay down a base structure and then build my vignettes upon it, but perhaps I should explore working without the base.

Her cast elements are something I’m drawn to because of my interest in sculptural forms. I’ve just been retaking a wax-carving class, and I have new (to me, at least) casting equipment for my studio so that I can explore this concept further. So far, I find carving wax to be more time consuming and less direct than working in metal clay for these components. However, the ability to make molds and multiples of these tiny components – birds, bees, flowers and leaves, whether originally made in wax or clay – could eventually speed up my process.

Again, I’m feeling very called to rings for the first time ever, so that’s another area of experimentation coming up soon.


My Pinterest Board for Rebecca Myers

Rebecca Myers website

Rebecca Myers on Instagram

Rebecca Myers jewelry video




Muse Monday #7 – Jeweler Ann Marie Cianciolo

Welcome to my artistic inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own artist muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study, but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is jeweler Ann Marie Cianciolo, who specializes in sculptural and stacking rings.

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. ~ Zig Ziglar

Stacking rings by Ann Marie Cianciolo

Ann Marie Cianciolo

Returning back to jewelry artists this week, I’ve chosen the talented Ann Marie Cianciolo, who is known for rings, rings and more rings.

sculptural rings by Ann Marie Cianciolo

I was first exposed to her work at SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Art) in Chicago a few years ago, where she was showing her sculptural rings. I’ve since noticed her booth mobbed by ring collectors at various high end craft shows.

round stacking rings by Ann Marie Cianciolo

Collectible Jewelry

Going into the new two-artist gallery, Gallery Two, that she shares with sculptor Betsy Youngquist in New Orleans is a tempting experiment. Multiple cases line the room, one filled with rings in dark silver with bright gold details, another filled with rose gold and bright silver or white gold, and even more combinations. A zillion round rings and another zillion square. It’s just too fun to stand there trying on various combinations. I’m partial to the dark-oxidized square rings and had to pry myself away from a stack featuring plenty of gold accents and a luscious rose cut aquamarine.

Rose, white, and yellow gold stacking rings by Ann Marie Cianciolo

earrings by Ann Marie Cianciolo

Of course, there are also earrings and necklaces to coordinate or if you aren’t a ring collector. The work is detailed but not too refined, obviously precious with its glints of gold or stones, humorous and fun!

stacking rings by Ann Marie Cianciolo


Rings are difficult for makers because they must be sized to fit. Square rings in particular are unusual and tricky to fabricate. My best guess is that these are carved in wax to the size ordered and then cast. However, Ann Marie says on her website that they are fabricated, with the birds and legs cast. I can’t say for sure that the rings themselves are cast, but it would seem to be a fast way to produce these forms. The artist has accumulated a repertoire of forms and uses different combinations of those elements to offer many coordinating rings.  Add on the collection aspect, and each wearer is insured a one-of-a-kind statement.

stacking rings with rose cut stones by Ann Marie Cianciolo

As opposed to the more commercial jewelry houses, artist designers tend to leave the obvious mark of their hand. These rings are far from perfectly round or square, with ripples and ridges lending charming imperfection. Decorative details are added with a loose hand: dots, swirls, stones set asymmetrically to stagger when stacked, as well as flowers and birds.

sculpture rings by Ann Marie Cianciolo

For the sculpture rings, the artist combines elements to tell a story. These are always really special, with a quirky theme and a punny name, as well as special mountings.


sculptural brooch by Ann Marie Cianciolo – running legs with clock


Ann Marie Cianciolo hasn’t always focused on rings. However, the sculptural quality of her work, as well as the humor seem to go far back. The earliest work I could find took the form of sculptural brooches.

Ann Marie Cianciolo’s booth at Cherry Creek Arts Festival 2017

Doing fine craft fairs since 1998 from her home base in Milwaukee, Ann Marie has amassed many awards for her innovative work. Here’s a photo of her booth last year at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival – look at the legs on those cases!!


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Ann Marie Cianciolo’s images, seeking enlightenment.

Why am I so drawn to this jewelry? I love the sculptural quality of it. With my recent experiments in ceramic sculpture, I’ve been searching for ways to bring that sculptural quality more into my jewelry as well. These sculpture rings show that it can be done. Once again, I’m drawn to presentation – those stands allow the rings to function as sculpture even when they aren’t being worn. I must give more thought to how to present my work off body.

The way that Ann Marie works is very similar to mine, in that she has an array of elements that she puts together in endless combinations to generate a cohesive body of work. She is using more range of color with the multiple colors of gold in her work. That gives her a lot more range. I’ve played a little bit with rose, green and yellow gold, and I need to go back to that for some more experiments.

Having never been drawn to rings in the past, and fearing the sizing issues when selling them, I’m really drawn to these. I’ve been pinning more and more rings, so the universe is sending me a message to explore this direction. After a week long intensive with wax-carving maestro, Kate Wolf, several years ago, I have yet to put those skills to real use. With the acquisition of some used casting equipment recently, I’m ready to sit down and experiment with wax as another way to work sculpturally. I’ve been having trouble envisioning my particular elements translating into rings, but I think I just have to go there. A new ring mandrel bench pin came to my studio this week, so maybe the time has come.


My Ann Marie Cianciolo Pinterest Board

Ann Marie Cianciolo website

Gallery Two website

Gallery Two on Instagram

Muse Monday #6 – Fiber Artist Chris Roberts-Antieau

Welcome to my artistic nspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own artist muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study,  but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s inspiration is from fiber artist, Chris Roberts Antieau.

As the first non-jeweler in my inspiration series, you might be wondering how I expect to find ideas from such a different medium. My personal art history includes fiber, so I follow a number of artists in that field. Sometimes, the overlap between fields as disparate as hard metal and soft fiber can yield some interesting insights. Whenever I find myself standing in front of a piece in awe, I know there’s something to learn.

It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to. – Jean-Luc Godard

Chris Roberts-Antieau – Albino

Chris Roberts-Antieau

My first exposure to the work of Chris Roberts-Antieau was during her exhibition at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore (during a field trip with artist friends after my exhausting participation in the ACC Wholesale Show that year). The above Albino piece literally stopped me in my tracks. I participated in the art quilt world for many years (and have artwork in museum collections across the country from those efforts), but I’d never heard of this artist! Who was she? Where did she live and work?

Detail from Albino by Chris Roberts-Antieau

True, these aren’t strictly quilts. They look more like fabric and thread paintings, totally flat with no batting loft, carefully framed and protected with glass. But the use of fabric and thread and a sewing machine to “draw” was totally familiar to me, and these pieces were just jaw-dropping in their detail and complexity.

Ascension – Chris Roberts-Antieau

Folk Art

The AVAM defines visionary artwork to be “produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” More typically, the art world calls this folk art.

Table Manners by Chris Roberts-Antieau

When I got home and researched Chris Roberts-Antieau’s work, I found that I DID recognize her older work, which is more folk art. These works felt more akin to the other work at AVAM, and were probably responsible for the exhibition there.

Count Your Blessings by Chris Roberts-Antieau

The colors on those earlier designs are bright and cheery. The human faces are folksy and usually seen in profile. The themes have a sense of whimsy and humor.


Antieau Gallery New Orleans


Interestingly enough, despite the labor-intensive nature of the fiber work, the pieces are mostly reproduced to order. Only a few of the biggest and most complex works seem to be one of a kind. Although the artist resides in Michigan, she owns two galleries in New Orleans (on Royal Street and on Magazine Street) for marketing her work. Unsurprisingly, there is a series called The Blues that offers folksy portraits of legendary musicians to NOLA tourists. And there is a new gallery now in Santa Fe, which prompts me to wonder about a more Southwestern inspiration perhaps to appear.

Birds of Prey dress by Chris Roberts-Antieau

The front rooms of the galleries show a rotating collection of available work, as well as occasional special openings, complete with music and readings. The back rooms are reserved for framing and shipping. It’s clear that a special artist resides here, as every vista is filled with delight.

Albino Taxidermy Deer by Chris Roberts-Antieau

There are often other creative elements on display, like the amazing Birds of Prey dresses (there are two different ones), embroidered gloves, snow globes, or taxidermy with embroidered masks. The artist is obviously unafraid to take chances.


The pieces that mesmerized me at AVAM were different – more sophisticated, less folksy, more painterly. The humans and animals present were more lifelike, and they have gotten even more so in the last few years. There was definitely an overriding sense of “vision.” 


Gathering Stars by Chris Roberts-Antieau

I was immediately drawn to the pictorial nature,  but the embroidery details are the real eye-catchers on close inspection.

sketchbook of Chris Roberts-Antieau

The artist begins with her sketchbook, drawing page after page of simple designs based on a germ of an idea, often a saying or theme. There may be hints of embroidery details, but much of that is fleshed out later.

Deer by Chris Roberts-Antieau

The artist calls her technique fabric appliqué, and it seems as if she sat down with a pile of fabric and scissors to cut out the major blocks of color/pattern to fit her sketch. Where in the drawing pieces may overlap, in the finished work transparency reveals those overlaps. Clothing is often suggested entirely in thread, while hands and heads are more substantial fabric. The embroidery serves its purpose in making those overlays more interesting and substantial without making them heavy. From a distance they are less distinct, but they offer interest up close. As a person with machine embroidery skill, I can say that those elements are super time-consuming!!

Reflections by Chris Roberts-Antieau

The newer work uses heavier and heavier embroidery and ever lessening fabric detail. In fact, some of the taxidermy pieces even trim the excess fabric away from the embroidery to leave the fur as background.

Phantom Limb by Chris Roberts-Antieau


After a traumatic high school art class experience, Chris Roberts-Antieau eventually returned to art after the birth of her son. Creating fabric sculptures for the Ann Arbor Arts Fair led to designing wearables and a wholesale show which resulted in hundreds of orders, fifteen employees and eventual burnout. Turning to art for the wall, Chris began the fabric paintings, framed and hung behind glass, continuing to sell to galleries through wholesale shows.When her son moved to New Orleans after college, she fell in love with the city and started showing her work there at Jazz Fest. In 2010, she rented a gallery on Royal Street for a 30 day pop up gallery, and has been there ever since. Her work is collected by major celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Ryan Reynolds, and Mindy Kaling (who purchased Ascension, the piece with the swan, for $38,000).


I reiterate that the point of these Muse Monday postings is to give me a chance to seek out inspiration and conversation with my muse for my own work. Obviously, I can’t copy anything from fiber directly into metal, but there are possibilities for me to break down elements that could translate. What am I drawn to? What can I use?

I can’t help but get sucked into these pieces and wonder about the story behind them. There is so much to see! I think that story is told in details and complexity. How do I convey more meaning and tell more stories through my work?  I keep coming back to the idea of adding more, not subtracting.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time studying the embroidered details on these fabric paintings. I feel like the sculptural detail that I get with my metal clay components is the analogue of embroidery detail in fiber. Can I use ideas from her repetition of these motifs in my own work? I need a box full of bits to play with to explore this further. I would like to extend my critter repertoire to include more than birds and bees to include rabbits and deer and more.

In my own fiber work, I frequently played games with transparency and layering. One of my recurring reservations with my current jewelry is that it is too flat, despite the sculptural parts and adding curvature. I’ve been considering layering, stacking, combining intermediate parts into something larger.

Color is one thing that is really at play in fiber that is much harder to address in metal. I do again reflect back to my back burner ideas about more glass paintings as “stones.”

If you’ve read all six installments of this artistic inspiration series, you’ll be able to tell that the same themes are coming up over and over in the analysis.t’s obvious that the muse is speaking loudly to me. I hear! Now, can I act?


My Chris Roberts-Antieau pinterest board

Antieau Gallery website

Chris Roberts-Antieau profile

Chris Roberts-Antieau Phantom Limb Series video, part 1

Chris Roberts-Antieau Art Retreat video


Muse Monday #5 – Jeweler Linda Kindler Priest

Welcome to my inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own artist muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study,  but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is jeweler Linda Kindler Priest.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. -Pablo Picasso

Linda Kindler Priest – dragonfly double brooch

Linda Kindler Priest

I am obviously drawn to artists who make one-of-a-kind work. Linda Kindler Priest’s double brooches are instantly recognizable. Nobody else uses that double brooch structure. They are identifiable also for their elegant gold nature imagery as well as their unusually shaped stones.

Hummingbird double brooch by Linda Kindler Priest

Once again, I’m perusing my collection of images from a single artist in search of ideas to move my own work forward. Not that I’m interested in copying in the most distant imaginable version! But it is smart to assess elements of the work that might spark a new direction for my own creations. How are these made? What common themes recur? What makes them unique and different from other jewelry? How do I use that knowledge to amass a repertoire of my own unique elements? Learning from the masters is a long-venerated method for training.

Aspirational Jewelry

Quail earrings by Linda Kindler Priest

Each piece of jewelry – from brooches to earrings – is delicately individual.

Young Lily – Trotter Locket/Brooch by Linda Kindler Priest

Inspired by fauna and flora, the imagery is executed in low relief accented by bright sparkles of stones.

Bee bracelet by Linda Kindler Priest

Typically embracing  luscious gold, occasionally work appears in oxidized sterling silver.

Mayflower brooch by Linda Kindler Priest

Graced with many beautifully details, each piece beckons close inspection. Masterful execution of both metal and stone work, assure that the work is heirloom quality.

bracelet by Linda Kindler Priest


The metal technique epitomized in these pieces is the ancient form of repousse.  Finely shaped punches (often made by the artist) and a hammer are used to raise the sculptural design from the back side. Then the metal is flipped over, where the similar technique of chasing is used to refine and add details to the front surface. Every bit of the metal surface is meticulously textured by the artist.

When it comes to matching these miniature sculptures with stones, meaning wins. Color, pattern, and texture are carefully selected and shaped with lapidary techniques. The goal is to integrate the mineral or crystal seamlessly with the metal.  More than just a flash of color, the stones are meant to evoke a feeling. Often there is an environmental commentary subtly at play.

Other details are delicately executed: unusually shaped bezels, tube settings for small accent stones, finely cut foliage or scrollwork.  Each piece is heavily detailed, consuming up to fifty hours of labor.

rose and pearl earrings by Linda Kindler Priest


Linda studied at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she still teaches jewelry making. Her signature style is the culmination of  more than thirty years of jewelry craft.  She begins with sketches and often incorporates stones provided by commission clients.

Keeping a grueling schedule of fine craft shows and supplying a handful of top galleries that carry her work, she also collaborates extensively with collectors to craft commission pieces. She begins with sketches and often incorporates stones provided by the clients.

baby egret earrings with their eggs by Linda Kindler Priest


So the point of all these Muse Monday studies is to analyze the art that I’m drawn to, to break down designs and techniques, and to devise ways to expand my own toolbox to include key concepts. It’s nice to look at pretty pictures, but I’m really trying to learn something here and develop my own work further. I’m viewing this new year of 2018 as the year that I commit to some very intensive, laborious jewelry designs rather than focusing on more affordable pieces.

Of course I would be drawn to this nature inspired work. What’s distinctive about this particular jewelry? The repousse technique is unusual, rather classical and not often employed. Despite the reference to ancient jewelry, this work is thoroughly modern. There’s a pared down aesthetic to the designs – for example, a bee or bird is totally recognizable, but not completely lifelike.  The rabbit earrings above don’t even have eyes! The size limits details, so just the essence is extracted. Definitely emotion over science.

rabbit earrings by Linda Kindler Priest

I also love that the designs aren’t necessarily centered, but often “break” the edge of piece, giving an usual shape. Negative space rules again. That Mayflower brooch above wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if the flower were simply centered in a regular square. Those rabbit tails bumping out at the corner are very endearing. And the egret chick legs dropping down to clutch their pearl eggs totally make those earrings! Even when the designs don’t break the edge, the edge is cut in an interesting fashion to suit the design. This is opposite to my regular working style where I lay down the rims first, before adding the sculptural components. I need to think about changing that order and how that might shift my thinking. I tend to symmetrical designs (maybe because I’m a Libra?), but the asymmetry of many of these pieces is very intriguing.

Once again, gold really speaks to me. The value of the work is obvious just by that golden glow, without even assessing the work involved. I must, I must, I must just do it. It’s interesting that she’s doing repousse with 14k gold, which is stronger, but she wants to be sure her pieces are strong and wearable.

I love the “brooches in two parts,” although this seems like such a trademark that copying the concept is impossible. But it does return me to the idea of building pieces out of multiple parts, which has come up in previous analyses.

Color is important to this work, but its used to evoke a mood or meaning, which an interesting consideration to explore. I love the fact that the stones are cut to suit the design, with unusual shapes and edges. My lapidary equipment calls to me, and it’s Tucson Gem Show time (in fact I’m there when this post goes live). Perhaps I can look anew at rough stone this time, when hopefully my trip won’t be cut short by the flu. I also like the combination of smaller faceted gems combined with the larger minerals. There is a very painterly look to these designs.

Bee ring by Linda Kindler Priest

Rings…something that I’ve sketched and brainstormed, but not really pursued yet. I don’t have a good vision of where I want them to go. I’ve never been much of a ring person, but they are calling to me recently, so I need to go down this path. This bee ring is amazing to me – simple in some ways, but a total statement piece. I love the sculptural quality of it, the surprise of the crystal, the simple texture on that wide band. How would I extend my techniques to ring making? That’s a big question.


my Linda Kindler Priest jewelry Pinterest board

Linda Kindler Priest website




Process #3 – Organizing Metal Components

Jewelry metal organization is an issue for every jewelry artist. Because my way of working includes metal clay components as well as milled sheet, wire, and tubing, I have a big job to keep everything easily accessible.

metal clay components (box 1 of 3)

Metal Clay Components

Organizing metal clay components is the first step between the metal clay bench and the jewelry bench. As I showed in my post on producing MC components, I tend to get into a bit of flow and produce a shelf full of bits.  I use regularly various leaves, flowers, birds, etc.

metal clay components – a box of tiny boxes

After the metal clay components are completely fired and cooled, I sit down with the kiln shelf and a small plastic organizer box to sort the similar leaves or flowers into different receptacles. The number of styles of leaves, for example, is steadily increasing as I add more and more complexity to the designs. It’s nice to have all the smooth leaves together here and all the serrated leaves together there. My new favorite organizer for metal storage is this tiny box of boxes, which provides a total of 28 containers with nice snap-lock lids. Yes, pieces do sometimes darken when they’ve hung around for an extended time, but the sulfur that causes that will burn right off once the pieces are reheated. The bright white components are fresh from the kiln.

organizing unfired metal clay components

Of course, I also have boxes of unfired metal clay components for when I’m combining dry clay parts before firing. I have several of these larger 14-compartment snap compartment boxes for those.

storage for small Argentium parts – jump rings, granules, bezel cups, etc.

Small Argentium Components

A larger box of boxes has historically held my small Argentium parts, I like the larger boxes because they can hold accessories, like the 1mm drill bits that I use as mandrels for tiny jump rings or the washers and pipe fittings that I use to cut even snippets for forming granules.

After years of having a cup of random jump rings left over after projects, I’ve finally gone to organizing them as well. I simply cut a large quantity at once with my Pepe jump ring maker and then place them into labeled boxes so that I can easily know which mandrel to grab when I need to make more.

organization of silver wire and sheet in a hanging file box

Wire, Sheet and Tubing

Finally, as many jewelers do, I organize my wire and sheet in a hanging file system, organized by gauge. Square and round wire in each gauge is stored in its own plastic bag for tarnish control, but filed together in the slot for the appropriate thickness.  I also have slots for tubing and less commonly used solders.

All these containers are easily at arm’s reach when I’m working at the jeweler’s bench. I want it to be easy to reach over and grab the needed part when an idea strikes.




Muse Monday #4 – Jeweler Carolyn Morris Bach

Today is the fourth installment of my new inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study, but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is my longtime idol, jeweler Carolyn Morris Bach.

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. -Albert Einstein

Carolyn Morris Bach brooch

Carolyn Morris Bach

For many years, I’ve coveted the iconic jewelry of Carolyn Morris Bach. Her Woodland series carries the feel of talismans, objects that convey magic powers, good fortune, and protection. All are one-of-a-kind pieces, with stones and found objects carved by hand and mounted within narrative frameworks of precious metal. Her use of woodland creatures – birds, bears, foxes, deer, and rabbits – conveys mystical unity with nature and insight into Mother Nature’s special purview.

brooch by Carolyn Morris Bach

Aspirational Jewelry

It’s hard NOT to construct stories around each delicate but strong vignette. Don’t you wonder what the dear and bird are whispering into the ear of this haloed woman? The handcarved stone faces were  originally inspired by Inuit Eskimo art, but Carolyn extended and personalized that concept. While each element is somewhat primitive, the combination of multiple figures with frameworks and stones builds visual complexity and adds to the story of the piece.

Angel brooch by Carolyn Morris Bach

Another angel brooch by Carolyn Morris Bach

While the artist revisits various themes (for example, the angel concept reappears again and again), each one is beautifully original. With such a broad theme and so many original parts, each meticulously cut and set, it’s easy to see how each piece leads to the next. This is a clear body of work, where the full range of the idea is explored with ever increasing skill.

Two versions of owl earrings by Carolyn Morris Bach


The artist uses high karat gold, silver, copper combined with a range of carved stone, bone, and wood. She has a one-person studio, where she carves and forms each component entirely by her own hand.  There is again that sense of building components, then arranging them into collages that are held in place by wire frameworks bundled like grass or branches. It’s easy to envision days of carving small faces for future projects, then days of carving bodies for a variety of humans or creatures, and then even more days of pushing combinations around on the bench until the proper story unfolds.

owl pin/pendant by Carolyn Morris BachA

These complex constructions are typically articulated so that the pieces can move with the body.   And pins are usually convertible to be worn as pendants, on simple collars or on the artists more stylized neckpieces.

neckpiece by Carolyn Morris Bach

While the bezels for stones look perfect, the wrapped and soldered connections of the wire frameworks are very spontaneous and imperfect. Texture on the metal, whether rolled or hammered or soldered into place, has the appearance of deliberate, handmade artist marks.

rabbit earrings by Carolyn Morris Bach

Carolyn rarely brings bright color to her creatures, instead sticking to a neutral palette that makes the work very cohesive. Black ebody and white bone coordinate beautifully with rutilated quartz, pearls, and dendritic agate.

statement neckpiece by Carolyn Morris Bach

These are all clearly statement pieces, from the over-the-top neckpieces to the more affordable, simplified pieces. They are built for those who appreciate art and beauty by an artist that I imagine sitting at her bench building from the heart with no regard for time and labor.

brush by Carolyn Morris Bach

Carolyn Morris Bach brush

Beyond jewelry to be worn, they also read as art to be displayed when not on the body. I’m particularly in love with the non-jewelry pieces – the cosmetic brushes that are totally original (and I have the honor of owning one myself, which I display as art).


Trained as a jeweler and metalsmith at RISD, Carolyn Morris Bach lives in southern Rhode Island amongst the woodlands that inspire her work. Working for thirty years, she has made a following of corporate women looking for power amulets to wear into the workday battle.

A master of the high end fine craft show, where her booth reads like a gallery with white hard walls and shadow-boxed displays, she has developed a huge following over time. And her work has been collected by many museums around the country: Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Arts and Design in New York, Fuller Craft Museum outside Boston, and Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin.

Carolyn Morris Bach booth – ACC Show

shadow box display – Carolyn Morris Bach


As a fellow artist inspired by the garden and nature forms, I find these pieces compelling. When I try to analyze why they are so powerful, I struggle to define the source. What I can tell immediately is that they are imbued with a sense of spirit. I sometimes think that comes from work that takes much time and hand contact, where a bit of soul transfers from the artist to the object through the long dialogue. These pieces call for exploration. I want to move their hinged parts, flip them over to see the reverse, and find their hidden secrets. I do believe that some of my more intricate pieces carry this sense of spirit. There’s a lot of detail, front and back, that takes time but carries meaning. Once again, I must “go for it” and begin anew on a series of statement pieces.

I find the variety of materials inspiring and feel yet again that I need to bring more gold into my personal constructions. By carving the stones into creatures, this artist has distinguished her use of stones from that of others, adding personality along with perceived value. While I don’t envision copying her approach, perhaps I should review how I use stones in my own work. I’ve played repeatedly with reverse painted enamel on glass, including buying lapidary equipment to shape and facet these “stones.” I just haven’t put enough time into moving that forward, and this reminds me that it’s a way to individualize my work further. So that’s something to put back on the experiment schedule.

I’m also drawn to the use of negative space, with the open areas, freeform borders, and three-dimensional stacks of components. I tend to use a fairly restrictive border construction on my designs, just as a matter of history.  I like to let my small components peek up and over that border, but maybe I need to break the border more deliberately as an experiment. Or add a wire framework in some way to bring more movement. Just doing a few sketches of ideas for this has brought a lot of life to the work, so this is something important to explore further. The idea of articulation is also something to incorporate.


My pinterest board for Carolyn Morris Bach

Carolyn Morris Bach website


Carolyn Morris Bach’s home & studio

Process #2 – Variations on a Theme

Vickie Hallmark – Wedge Earrings Worshop – fusing PMC3 and Argentium sheet

I’m preparing for upcoming workshops at the Tucson Gem Show in a couple of weeks. When I wrote the class proposals on short notice, I only attached photos that I already had available, such as the floral wedge earrings. Now that I have a little more time, I’m exploring variations on a theme.

Vickie Hallmark JOGS class sample variation – domed Argentium discs with silver clay floral designs

I try to encourage my students to be original in class. I prefer when all the student work looks at least slightly different than mine (more is good!). After all, the point of making jewelry for yourself ought to be to put your own personal stamp onto it. As a teacher, I strive to teach students artistic thinking as well as technical skills. So I’m trying to break down the process for students to show them how discreet decisions at each step of the process can lead to a lot of possible variations on a theme.

JOGS workshop sample variation-curved Argentium oblong earrings with granulation and fine silver clay decoration – Vickie Hallmark

For the sheet metal class, I’m exploring the ideas of shape, texture, and dimension. There are plenty of simple-to-cut shape options such as discs, squares or rectangles, in addition to the wedges shown. For texture, I can use a hammer or punches or a rolling mill (not that I’ll be taking one of those with me!). For dimension, I can leave the sheet flat, or I can curve or dome it with  a dapping or swage block. My metal clay components that get fused on top are individual as well. All those decisions at each stage of the process lead to many different looks. The only limit is imagination!

Vickie Hallmark – JOGS class project – double ring earrings featuring Argentium wire and fine silver metal clay floral components

For the workshop that combines wire and metal clay, I also explore variations. My original project for this class was the double ring earrings shown above, with the metal clay components bridging the two rings.

Workshop samples – Argentium wire fused with fine silver clay decorative components – Vickie Hallmark at JOGS 2018

These can be easily altered by using single rings with fitted components inside. Another variation is to stretch a large ring into an oval and have the metal clay component fit over the ring. Of course, much more complex shapes are readily available with a little fussy cutting and fusing.