Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists and today marks the first weekly artist feature on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!
I spent a good hour on this next artist's Facebook page - I'm going to call it "researching" but in all reality - it was shopping! Robin Callahan decided to risk a new career and pursue her passion of making jewelry at 55. To say it was a success is an understatement, just look at the photos in the gallery! Robin is extremely passionate about what she does, and treats each piece so reverently (you can tell by reading about her answers below).
Seattle Refined: Can you tell me about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Robin Callahan: My artistic process usually starts with choosing a gemstone. I have to say I have acquired an impressive collection for my clients to choose from and design around the stone to showcase its beauty and sparkle. The shape and color of the gemstone affect what metals I choose. A green Amethyst is so rich hugged in 18k yellow gold and a dreamy peachy pink Morganite screams for Rose Gold. I love mixing metals as well and most of my pieces are a mix of gold and Sterling Silver.
Once a stone or stones are selected for a ring, cuff, pendant or earrings the process varies. If I am making a piece because I just want to I either have a drawing of a design concept or I will do a mock up since I always have many samples of my varied band styles on hand. I draw designs all the time too! Working with clients via Facebook and email I always do a few mock-ups; I love how easy the process is for my clients to choose their favorite. When presenting mockups to a client whether via images or in person I have already given a lot of thought to what showcases the chosen gemstone as well as their input from my many designs on Facebook and Instagram or their special requests.
While I am creating I am sending images and videos to the client so they can see their piece evolving. My clients say they love this part. Sometimes it's a video of me soldering or images of different stages. I feel there is a greater respect for the craft this way too. It is a ritual for me to take my photos before I send off a commission or finish a piece. Capturing the facets shimmering against the different metals and sharing their perfect balance of textures is what I'm striving for in each shot. I take great pride in this process - it's like I am capturing it to not forget it after it's gone.
As far as the specific process let's take a ring as an example. A beautiful Morganite Cushion Cut Gem is selected and the client has chosen Rose Gold and my custom double band. The first choice is what gauge Sterling I will use for the double band that balances well with the size of the stone. Then I will saw two pieces and solder them together, file and erase any seam, shape by hammering on my ring mandrel to the client's size. Next measure the stone and shape the Rose Gold around the stone for a perfect fit, cut, file, and solder, clean, shape again, solder to a base, more cutting, filing, and sanding so there's no seam visible. I am a perfectionist on each of these steps.
Next cut out the back to open it up and allow light to flow and the energy of the stone to touch its wearer. This design process depends on many factors. My client may have already expressed the desire for a cross, heart, flower or other design with sentimental meaning or like my open-backs that mimic the shape of the gemstone. Like a Marquise shape cut out to balance the Marquise gemstone. I am also known for my paw print cutout due to my volunteer work with the Kitsap Humane Society and donate a percentage to them from every sale.
Next soldering the band to the base and a ton of detail work before and after setting the stone. A final polish until I know it ready to be delivered. Each piece has its own process and each piece is completing created by me from concept to completion. Every part of the design process has to balance like the choice of texture hammered on a forged cuff has to compliment the facets of the gemstone. A pendant design being unique and balanced as well as the custom chain I weave for it.
Do you have one piece that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
This made me chuckle. Although I am always working on several commissions there are stones I have purchased knowing I just had to make something so I could enjoy this stone for a bit before someone fell in love with it. My current favorites are some pretty big and unbelievably spectacular Ethiopian Opals; white, black and honeycomb varieties! The rainbow in each is a constant treat! I also love a 32 CTW Morganite Ring I made and I wear it with a Morganite Cuff. Love! My other favorites include London Blue Topaz and Green Amethyst! Ok this is a hard question - I love so many! Probably why I love what I do so much. I will also never sell my first ring as it lit this fire.
What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
I have an education in film, owned an art gallery in Pioneer Square for many years and then Adam and Eve Clothing Company on Bainbridge Island. All of these filled my created senses, but in the back of my mind I remembered making jewelry in high school and had wished I pursued that. I said this enough that my adult kids signed me up for my first metal class two years ago for Mothers Day. To start something new at 55 was exciting, but I think because of my age at that time I felt the need to learn at record speed. Two years later, a ton of classes, private lessons and bravery to just do it even if I ruin it has me at a level that should have taken many more years. My family is not surprised by this because it's how I attack anything I'm passionate about. So I'd say it's life in general that affects my work. I wake up every day so excited to go into my beautiful studio and create. I am so thankful so many have chosen to commission a piece from me or I'd have hundreds of pieces as I am totally hooked!
What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
What's next? I just started wax carving and casting and am super excited how this will affect my creations. I am working on a very cool pendant and creating a custom prong setting for a large princess cut stone that will be a custom wedding ring soon.
Lastly, how do you take your coffee?
At home it's a sugar-free Hazelnut Creamer and half of a Stevia packet. Out and about, it's a Double Short Nonfat Mocha (a bit light on the chocolate)!