I approach metalsmithing with wild abandon. Meaning, I will wildly abandon any household chore in favor of fiddling with metal. Just yesterday, I put a load of laundry in, and headed upstairs to the studio, to start my workday. Fourteen hours later, on my way to bed, the still-full washing machine whispered, “Pssst! Hey - remember me? From this morning?”
“Dangit!” I said, glaring at the washer, “I did it again.” My husband Eric chuckled, “Saw something shiny, eh?” This scenario repeats itself weekly.
How did I fall sooo in love with metalsmithing and jewelry making? We’re gonna have to back up a bit. Like, say...40 years. I clearly remember a 4-year-old me learning to make hanging mobiles out of "valuable trash" from my childhood mentor, Oscar the Grouch. That's right, OTG was recycling before it was cool, and he taught me to think outside the can.
I’d spend hours rummaging through the kitchen trash, looking for bits of things to dangle from wire coat hangers. It’s occurred to me since then, that I still do much the same thing, spending hours rummaging through the Instagram feeds of my favorite stonecutters, looking for bits of things to dangle from silver.
I fell in love with silver when a friend of mine, whom I'll call Jane (name unchanged to expose the guilty), convinced me to take a local beginner silversmithing class with her. Now, Jane already had a real job. I, on the other hand, had recently gotten married, moved 8 hours from my hometown, and was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. So, I signed up.
In that $300 class (now listed at the low-low price of $415), I learned all of the following vital skills:
- How to light a torch, and
- How to melt most things.
I was hooked, and immediately ordered all the supplies I'd need to melt most things at home. Eric was wary, but encouraging. I took to metalsmithing like Forrest Gump took to ping pong, practicing all day, every day, at the dining room table, in the garage, on the deck. I googled every question I had, found tutorials, and learned techniques. I loved the way the smooth, cool silver felt in my hands, how it formed beautiful curves around my pliers, and how easy it was to achieve interesting textures, with just a small hammer.
My first spinner ring May 3, 2013
My little crème brûlée torch glowed, solder flowed, and somewhere in those first few weeks, I made my first spinner ring. I posted it on Facebook, the same way a younger me might've stuck a crayon masterpiece to the fridge. "I made dis!" To my surprise, two friends said, “I want one!” Positive I wasn't ready to take orders, and not at all sure I'd be able to do the same thing twice in a row, I said, "Sure!" Sometimes, you've just gotta jump. Three months later, I had an Etsy store.
Since 2013, Mountain Metalcraft has been my only full-time job, and it's been more challenging, and more rewarding than I could've imagined. One of my favorite things about working from home is that I can get up and play with my dog Toby, in the middle of just about anythi...
Sorry 'bout that, I'm back. Where were we? Oh yes...I was rambling on about how much I love my job. With all its technical challenges, creative possibilities, and that feeling of accomplishment when a complicated piece is polished and complete, metalsmithing brings my passion and skills together beautifully.
But more valuable than that is the little moments - those tiny, shimmering gems that appear every so often, in the course of an otherwise average workday - those moments that connect a piece with a person, and breathe purpose into profession. I remember the nervous, soon-to-be fianceé who purchased an engagement ring, then got back in touch a year later, excited to order wedding bands; the daughter who needed a necklace for her terminally ill father to give to her mother on what would be their final wedding anniversary together; the mother who ordered a ring I'd made, because it happened to exactly match a tattoo she had...in remembrance of her stillborn son. These moments, and so many others like them, are more beautiful to me than anything these hands will ever make, and I embrace them with wild abandon.