September 13, 2012

turning images into jewelry

rearing wild pony necklace
My jewelry features my own designs, so you won't find it anywhere else! For years I wanted to create jewelry with my own horse designs, and then I couldn't resist expanding into some of my other favorite nature motifs. Today I thought I'd share the process of creating the images that I use.

I often do drawings by hand first, either from my mind (such as the pen and ink drawing of a prancing Arabian horse that I call "Joy", seen in the center of the photo below), or inspired by photos (such as many of my more realistic horse designs like the Andalusian in piaffe, and cantering Friesian). Then I scan them into the computer for cleaning up and sizing. Other images I create from my own photographs (most of my autumn leaf designs were made this way, as well as my plumeria flower). I do this in Photoshop by "drawing" the outlines or silhouettes I want on a separate layer on top of my photo, and then deleting my photo.

some of my illustrations that have been turned into jewelry designs

The next step is to determine the size(s) I want for each image. Then I send the digital files to have them made into clear rubber (photopolymer) stamps. I usually have two or more sizes made of each image for different uses.

I use these custom stamps (stuck to an acrylic block) to impress my images into the metal clay. It sounds simple, but images don't often turn out right the first time. Once I like how the image is in the clay, I use a template to cut the clay into its final shape. For pieces such as the leaves that are shaped like leaves (no background shape), I carefully use an X-acto knife to cut along the outer line of the design.

custom image stamps ready to use with metal clay

My woodgrain textured pieces are created without an image stamp, but rather I carve the texture by hand with a simple sculpting tool in the wet clay, then cut out the shape of the piece. Each one has a one-of-a-kind texture.

So that's how I turn my images into jewelry, up to the point of getting the image in the metal clay. (There are many more steps before a piece is finished.) Due to this process, I am able to use my own unique designs over and over, and reinvent them with different background shapes, use them in different sizes, and so on.

What's next in new designs? I would like to add a jumping horse with rider. I would also like to figure out how to capture some of my favorite places/views in simple line drawings that will translate well to small stamps, but that is quite a challenge. I have some sea creature ideas as well. I also would love to hear what horse images or other nature-theme images you wish you could find in jewelry.

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