Saturday, November 20, 2010

Love of the Ah Ha! Moment

Well, it has been a long time it seems since my last posting... I am still alive, barely. Jewelry is not an easy craft to learn. We are given new projects every other day, regardless of how much of the last project we have finished. At the moment I am trying to complete 4 or 5 projects. Most of the class is in the same boat, and I have been told it is normal for people to be behind in the first two months. Essentially we are learning to solve the problems that Master Jewelers encounter all the time i.e. - weak solder joints (one of my rings fell apart last week because of my own poor soldering), and pits in silver caused by poor castings or improperly poured ingots. In all of our frustrations and with all of our mistakes, we are constantly learning. We have been learning all the possibilities of Repair including re-sizing rings, changing heads in and out of ring shanks, half-shanking, re-tipping prongs, etc.etc. This past week we were making silver chain. I was especially excited for this since I have always wanted to design and make my own's what sets jewelers apart. Soldering is a rather difficult process for me I confess, having been blessed with tremors in my hands. Actually sitting at the bench all day is also difficult, having been blessed with lower back pain. What an odd business for me to get into considering. Chain making is good practice for soldering though, it becomes methodically Zen; the step-by-step and repeat process of heating the jewelry, fluxing the jewelry, heating the solder into a .5mm ball, getting said ball onto the tip of a pick, and then placing and heating the solder simultaneously in just the right spot. All this while holding a scorching torch in my left hand, the pick in my right, and keeping the piece of jewelry steady in a third -hand cross locking tweezers. All this with the constant noise and commotion of the shop around me - the sounds of flex shafts grinding away metals, polishing machines humming in the back, the ultrasonic buzzing, the steam cleaner steaming, heavy hammers hitting anvils; not to mention the annoyances of my peers: slamming drawers, laughing to stupid jokes, singing with their headphones on, and asking stupid questions. So...basically, I have to take a Deep, Deep, Deep Breath, zone out all of the above, ignore reality, and get it all done. The challenges are intense, but when you see that solder flow cleanly and completely in a moment of somewhat chaos; it is like an orgasmic millisecond of enlightenment. It is the Ah Ha! Moment. The way I figure it is, my hands will stop shaking when they know what they're doing. When the Ah Ha! Moment becomes an Ah Ha! Existence.

I have now signed up for Applied Jewelry Arts program. My current program ends on Apirl 1st, and the AJA will begin on April 14th. I have met many people from the current AJA program, and I know that I can do better than them. The program will begin with Design - using pencils and paints to render metals and gemstones in jewelry designs. The Design portion lasts six weeks and concludes with a student choice award, which I plan on winning. After Design, six weeks of Wax Carving and Casting will begin, which with my skills of filing metals, I think will be easier to succeed in. After Wax will come Cad/Cam design software, which will be interesting as well, though I feel it is slightly "cheating". ~ Yes, cheating....the way I see it, goldsmiths were making fine jewelry hundreds of years ago without the use of electric tools like flex shafts and polishing machines. Hell, they were heating metals with blow pipes, not mini-torches. Sometimes, I feel like I'm cheating when I do something in 5 minutes that should take hours by hand, but I guess it's just a different time.