Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halo Designs Cuff Bracelets Grace the Cover of Improper Bostonian

Totally Tubular Construction

A few years ago, I started experimenting with white gold cylinders in my designs. I made several celestial pieces that were quite popular.

Constellation rings
Recently, a wonderful customer of mine was looking for something different and after discussing and sketching several ideas, we decided to “push the envelope”- I’d use a similar approach as I did with the rings, but apply it to a cuff bracelet.
Throughout the creation of this fun and unusual piece, I documented the process so that I could share the many stages, hours of labor, passion and skilled artistry that go into making something like this.
Unlike the Constellation Rings, the major challenge in creating the Cylinder Cuff was to bend the tubing. Imagine trying to wrap a drinking straw around a soda bottle without getting any flat spots or kinks in it; working with silver tubing has the same issues.
The solution to this problem was to fill heavy-gauge silver tubing with sand, solder the ends shut (2) and then very carefully wrap the annealed[1] tube around a bracelet mandrel (3).
The objective was to create three matching ovals that would then be stacked (4). The ends of the tubes were carefully cut to match and the sand was released (5). One of the issues was getting the rings perfectly symmetrical so that when stacked, they would lay flat against one another with out any gaps. I had to be extremely careful so as to not mar the now hollow tubing (6).

The next step was to cap the ends of the open tubes at an angle that would align to create a modern look and a hinge-clasp (7). When one seals a hollow metal form there is a risk that the heat from the torch will cause the air inside to expand rapidly and explode the piece. To prevent this, I drilled a few tiny holes to allow the air to escape (8). The new end-caps will then get filed into shape (9).
Once I had three matching ovals that lined up precisely (10), I could bind and solder them together (11).  The resulting bangle is quite attractive, but now requires a hinge-clasp (12).

Carefully, I sawed out the section of the bracelet that would become the hinge. The hinge-clasp will allow the wearer to easily put on and take off the bracelet and will fit snugly and securely (13). Much like a hinge on a door, I created an exterior cylinder that will have an interior pin nested inside that will secure the “knuckles” (14). This allows for the fluid swinging motion (15).
The locking “snap” of the hinge was made with white gold for durability (16).  As you can imagine, the precision for this whole mechanism must be exact or the closure will not be secure. There is no snap if the length is off! When everything fit perfectly I hammered the outside of the tubing. By doing this, I work-hardened the silver, which gave it strength and resistance to denting.
After sanding and polishing the piece it looked amazing and the wearer can appreciate a precise work of art that they can cherish for years (17 & 18). Check out the finished piece on my website. 

[1] * Annealing is a process of heating the metal so that it can be manipulated and then hardened again.

Hot Connections

Halo Designs is featured prominently throughout Jennifer Chin's great new book,
Hot Connections Jewelry: The Complete Sourcebook of Soldering Techniques.

Get yourself a copy at Amazon.

Arts & Crafts Festivals

181 Boston Post Road West
Marlborough, MA
November 18-20

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Plastic Fantastic

My love for plastics began before the age of 10, when I used to take yogurt cups, color them with crayons and then “slump” them in the oven. They became these cool, colorful disks that I would then turn into mobiles and hang all over the house.

The fascination continued through my youth as I experimented with Timaplast plastic crystals, which is similar to Makit and Bakit sun catchers in America. I created hundreds of little plastic stained-glass-like creatures baking them in our oven on a cookie sheet.

In the 80s, I went to the School for Glass and Jewelry at Neugablonz in Germany. Neugalblonz is a small town known for manufacturing gorgeous glass beads and buttons. As part of our first year curriculum, we had a class in lampworking glass beads.

In response to the color trends of the time, students played with vibrant anodized metals, discarded glass beads from the factory and other bold materials. However, after much materials exploration I found my way back to colored plastics, which are more forgiving to work with than glass.

Plexiglas bangles with sterling clasp; Green plexi earrings, sterling; Puzzle rings, Plexi and sterling

After graduation, in my jewelry studio I set up a simple plastics workshop complete with toaster oven and other rudimentary heating equipment. It took some trial and error, a lot of patience and some luck, but I was able to create a line of jewelry pieces that incorporated both my trademark industrial-looking metals with playful plastics and even interchangeable parts. The plexi-bracelets became very popular and I still sell them to this day.
Flower rings, plexiglas and sterling; Layered plexiglas cuffs; Puzzle rings can be worn separate or as a set.

In the 90s when I came to the United States, I was influenced by the grand size and scope of the buildings and spaces; it made me want to create larger pieces. I took classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, which encouraged mixing medias. I played with stone carving, photography, computers and applied my sculptural approach and my adoration for plastics to lamp-making.
Green plexiglas strip lamp, brass; Triangle plexiglas lamp, brass with frosted plexi rods; Pink plexiglas strip lamp

While I was enchanted by light, color and design, I later concluded that producing lamps on a larger scale was cost-prohibitive. Although, I still enjoy an occasional one-of-a-kind commission. 

Today, my love affair with plastics is still strong, but I have found new influence in organic materials and have replaced a lot of the pop color with a slightly more subdued palate rich with textures. However, I still find myself drawn to “old” glass beads and gemstones that are reminiscent of the colorful influences in my past.
Red stingray bracelet with sterling clasp; Rare elbow millefiori beads and sterling; Moth necklace, handmade sterling chain
Old bohemian glass beads with 18K gold; Two stingray bracelets with gemstones; Colorful vintage czech glass beads sterling.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Creative Process

Julia shares a little insight into her creative process. Here are some of the ways that she keeps her creative energy flowing to produce her ever-exciting jewelry designs. Explore what materials engage her and how she surrounds herself with interesting objects to inspire new patterns and textures in her jewelry designs.

Left: One of a kind, aquamarine bead and sterling silver necklace, SOLD. 
Right: Marble sculpture by Julia Groos

1. Work in a different medium.
In general, I really enjoy metals, but I also like stone. Carving marble  is a slow process, but there is a delightful mystery to working in stone that you don’t have in metal. As you chip away here and there stone reveals something that you didn’t know would come out. The first time I worked with stone, I was surprised by how much I loved it. Inspired by this medium, I have been approaching some of my lost wax designs as if I were working in stone. Many jewelers work with wax in an additive fashion (adding wax materials together like working with metal), however I enjoy a subtractive process of carving that mirrors the approach I take with stone. I try to imagine the form “trapped” within the block of wax and then work to unveil the magic. Then this minature sculture is molded and cast in metal, such as silver or gold.

Left: Collectibles, hand-crafted silver rings and beads, miscellaneous.
Right: African blue glass beads and hand crafted sterling silver beads and clasp.

2. Collect things that bring you visual joy.
I’m a collector. I think many artists are collectors. Ever since I was a kid I would lag behind my family, because I was busy picking up special pebbles on the gravel or in the park. I also enjoy collecting driftwood. I have lots of pieces of it in my home. I enjoy the organic shapes and the smooth textures. The influence of these objects is more subconscious than deliberate, but they definitely affect the way I design.

Left: Rusty chain
Middle: Pearl, silver, gold, steal and diamond brooch
Right: Collectibles, bones, nails, miscellaneous found objects.

3. Use a little force – or lighten your touch.
I love the process of moving materials- especially metals. Forging is really exciting because with heat and some brute force you can bend and move metal into amazing shapes. I love to work with iron. Even though it’s hard to solder, you can magnetize it, make it rust and even heat patina it to a beautiful color of blue.  

On the flip side, I definitely want to work in aluminum more. Where iron is heavy, aluminum has  ”lightness” to it. It’s a fun material to experiment with. I guess that is where most of my creativity comes from experimentation and allowing the space for magical connections to occur.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2010 Menswear Runway Influences Jewelry

The popularity in men’s jewelry has been steadily increasing over the past few years and Halo Designs has been responding by crafting a few refreshing takes on current men’s style trends.

Skull motifs are cropping up everywhere from Hello Kitty to high fashion runway. Halo Designs has taken a really elegant (and anatomical correct) approach to this theme by creating a gorgeous Skull Keychain out of sterling silver. You won’t want to hide this gorgeous piece in your pocket.

Suit dressing and gentlemanly style are making a come back. Add the finishing touches to your French dress shirt with a classy pair of silver cufflinks as seen on the runways in Milan.

This fall, the menswear fashion definitely has some shine and drama. DSquared paid homage to their national sport, hockey, while simultaneously conjuring Rocky Horror.  Halo Designs’ fantastical sterling and white gold snake necklace will certainly add extravagance to your wardrobe.

Halo Designs, Black Stingray Leather with Sterling Clasp, Black Patina and Onyx, $1050

Both men and women’s runways are featuring animal prints and exotic skins for fall 2010. Take a look at what Missoni, Burberry and Armani have added to this wild scene, then visit Julia Groos at Halo Designs to order one of her amazing limited-edition stingray skin cuffs.


Google Analytics Code