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Flexing my creative muscle- the experiment of newness

A couple of weeks ago I had that experience- I met up with several friends and colleagues in Charlottesville, Virginia for a jewelry workshop at Taviametals. (Owned by our friend Tavia Brown who has a beautiful studio and is opening her doors to start teaching jewelry classes. She invited us to be her first cohort.)

How often do you get the chance to learn something new and create with no limits?

Creating Jewelry in Charlottesville. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
I met these amazing women through a high level coaching program I joined last year called Flourish and Thrive Academy. We live all over the country and have created a strong bond of support and friendship. So much so that we have a standing conference call every Friday morning. Only five of eight of us were able to make the trip and we rented a house for the long weekend. While we feel like we “know” each other, we have really only met once or twice in person. So, being in a house together for four days was going to be another new and uncertain experience.
I was simultaneously excited and unsure about what the whole retreat would would be like. I haven’t actually done carving and casting in many years and I looked at this as the chance to reconnect with the process and use it to make me a better designer.
Charlottesville, Virginia for a jewelry workshop at Taviametals. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
On the first day in the beautiful studio space, we learned lost wax carving and were given all the materials needed to be off and running - what we created was entirely up to us. We started creating pieces in varying degree of difficulty. I was amazed we were all being taught the same things and putting them to very different uses- so fun being in a room full of creative minds!
Creating Jewelry in Charlottesville. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
I designed two rings. One was a design I had in my head for over a year and had no idea how to bring it to fruition. Using beautiful cuprian opals I bought last year at the Chicago Responsible Jewelers Conference, I knew from the moment I saw them what I wanted it to look like. I just didn’t know how to make it happen. The other ring is a gold band using the cast-in-place technique of stone setting.
Hard at work Creating Jewelry in Charlottesville. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
Both were adventurous examples of me going completely rogue with new techniques. And I could hardly wait! For the opal ring, I measured, drew, carved and fit bezel settings in wax for each of the five stones. Then I attached a piece of wax to be used as the shank so that it would slip on my finger. For the other ring I decided I wanted a thumb ring so I carved a simple band and then I set 14 tiny diamonds in the wax (crossing my fingers) that this technique would work for me.
Wax molds of two new rings created by Susane Siegel Custom Jewerly
These wax carvings were then placed on a sprue and in a cylinder. We mixed up a silica compound called investment to fill the cylinder before it is vacuum packed and let sit for two hours. The investment fills up the space so when the cylinder goes into the kiln for 14 hours the wax melts away and leaves a hollow cutout or cavity which is then filled with liquid hot metal during the casting process.
Creating Jewelry in Charlottesville. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
While the pieces were in the kiln, we enjoyed a fun dinner out with plenty of stories and even more wine! How lucky I am to have made such wonderful friends doing what I love to do?!
The next day we returned for the really exciting part! The day we would actually see what we made and how it turned out.
Creating Jewelry in Charlottesville. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
One by one we heated up the metal we were using- for me, a mix of 18k and 14k gold- the gold was the perfect color to highlight the azure blue of the opals. My excitement started as soon as the torch was lit. My heart was racing - it was time to create hot liquid metal...And it was awesome!
Gold casting of ring before adding stones. Creating Jewelry in Charlottesville. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
To say I was nervous was an understatement. There is a pretty exact chain of events that need to happen and there is also the large flame shooting out of the torch, (not to mention I was learning on some pretty gorgeous and expensive materials!) but I took a deep breath and knew I could do it. Go big or go home, I always say!
The cylinder was taken out of the kiln, I carefully poured the liquid gold into the mold, where it is left to solidify. Once the metal hardens, the cylinder is quenched in liquid and the metal form is removed from the mold revealing the piece of jewelry. It was crazy cool!
This whole part was so incredible! I felt like a little kid brimming with the thrill of it all. I cleaned the pieces off- filed, sanded, re-filed and re-sanded ... until I got it looking the way I wanted it. The opals were then set in the bezels and the ring turned out even better than I imagined. The gold thumb ring was a bit more of an experiment and the tiny diamonds didn’t all show the way I had anticipated. I learned that the wax had to be touching both the top and bottom of the diamond to keep it in place. Now, it’s my little secret that 14 sparkly diamonds lie hidden in my special band of gold.
Final product of opal ring Creating Jewelry in Charlottesville. Susanne Siegel Custom Jewelry Design
What I learned even more than the art of lost wax carving and metal casting is that taking a chance on yourself, on what you love will only make you better and more confident in your choices. It was by far one of my favorite memories from this summer! I can’t wait to do it again!
What exciting piece would you like to create? You can love your memory and wear it every day! Fill out my custom commission form and let’s chat!




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