Rachel Wilder Jewelry
My very first introduction to working in metals was in the form of an enameling on metal course. I was about 13 and probably a third of the age of the other students. While the focus of the class was not metal smithing or jewelry making, it served as my first exposure to some of the tools and techniques I would come to use on a daily basis in my work today. I remember learning some of the properties of metal, the differences in alloys and the way they reacted when you did certain things to them. I also remember using a file for the first time and many, many grits of sandpaper to form, define and polish my work. After this initial week long course I figured out a few things, I love metal, I love tiny things and I want to make them wearable!
But what about the other element in my work today…gemstones? Ahh! My other love! From a pretty early age my grandmother would take me gem mining. We lived in the South and in the tiny rural towns of Western North Carolina there are these shops that sell rocks but also have a sluice out back with a stream of water running through it. The idea is that you purchase a bucket of sand and gravel that is also promised to contain rough nuggets of bright, colorful very genuine gemstones! You then take your bucket to the sluice and scoop out small shovelfuls into a screen and pick though it until you discover all the shiny bits. The sand is washed away and you are left with a precious treasure trove of colored chunks that the shop proprietor will then describe to you the name, origin and of course value of. As a child it was magical. I now see it for the business opportunity that it is but at that time it was such an adventure with so much to discover.
Since then I have taken many metal smithing courses and studied under other jewelers. I have learned to saw, file, sand, solder and polish until it has become second nature. I have set stones, cracked stones, lost stones on the floor and cried about it. I have cut and sliced my fingers in a network of patterns. I have burned and blistered my hands way too many times to count. I have also studied the names and origins of many gemstones. Learned about there many properties and even their symbolic meaning. Sometimes even what element gives them their exciting colors.
All of these things have served as the primordial elements of the work I make today. My love for two materials (metal and stone) have stood the test of time. In college I strayed away from the creating on a tiny scale and experimented with large work. After finding this cumbersome and realizing I was simply out of my element I retreated. With my ego bruised I willingly and lovingly dove back in to the realm of the tiny.
So here I dwell…in my tiny studio with my little tools and precious materials and with tiny elements from nature to serve as inspiration. A leaf here, a bud there, the profile of a river stone traced in gold. All is a whole wide world ready to capture in a tiny jewel.