Love, Life, and Diamonds for 2015

Ron Finch has been in the jewelry business for over 40 years. We first featured his work back in 2009, and he continues to create and share beautiful pieces — and is starting to include some basic hand engraving.

The piece is a great metaphor for bringing in a new year, where so many people plan for better things in the days to come — all while looking back on the successes (and failures) of the last 365 days.

The asymmetrical stone layout of this heart locket is quite fun, especially combined with the deep-hued stones set with random placement. The opposite side of the locket includes simple scrolls with the word LIFE engraved in large, block lettering style.

After Finch got his start in 1969, he attended Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There he learned jewelry repair, hand engraving, and watch making. In the late 1990s he achieved his Graduate Gemologist certificate from GIA and his Master Bench Jeweler certificate from the Jewelers of America. In 2001 he bought The Jewelers Workshop in Lancaster, now named Finch Jewelers. You can visit Finch Jewelers online and see some of the stunning custom work they create in Lancaster.

Thanks for sharing, Ron!

Gorgeous Gorget

This crescent-shaped piece of jewelry, known as a gorget, has a long history behind its form. Originally, the gorget was a piece of fabric worn around a woman’s neck. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the term was used to describe a piece of armor that protected the neck. As suits of armor fell by the wayside, the gorget became unnecessary, evolving into a decorative item. As a decorative item, the term gorget has been used to describe crescent-shaped medallions worn around the neck or affixed to the front of a military cap. Currently, the gorget can also seen in the form of a patch. The decorative versions of the gorget are often used as status symbols or awards.

This gorgeous sterling silver gorget, hand engraved by Doug Elder, would definitely fall into the decorative category. Doug liked that there is a history of these decorative pieces in his home state. Gorgets were worn on South Carolina soldiers’ hats during the Civil War, and many historians tie the crescent on the state flag to these gorgets. “The significance of the gorget in the history of South Carolina made it a perfect canvas for my Western style engraving,” he said.

Catching the light at every angle, bright cut scrolls spread symmetrically from the center of the gorget. A single flower nestles in the middle, serving as an origin for the scrolls. With the beauty that Doug’s bright cut adds to this gorget, it is easy to see why such a piece could be used as a status symbol or award.

Has a historical piece ever inspired your engraving? We’d love to hear about it! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

The Right Kind of Relief

Gold is a beautiful metal. With its warm hues and forever-fair complexion, gold is a perfect choice for hand engraving and jewelry.

Sam Alfano, a master of design, lettering, and (of course) hand engraving, recently completed this heavy gold ring. This piece features hammered relief work, which can be accomplished with tools from GRS. Alfano uses a GraverMach AT for his hand engraving work, and this piece called for the Maestro EX for texturing the final design.

While he used an NSK micromotor tool for the background removal, Alfano chose a GRS 901 Handpiece to start the outline of the design before sculpting the scrolls and leaves with the Maestro. “The Maestro EX is a superb handpiece for punch work,” noted Sam.

Although more than half of our courses are full for 2015, you still have a chance to learn hand engraving from Sam and many of the other master engravers who teach at the GRS Training Center. Give us a call at 800-835-3519 or +1-620-343-1084 anytime Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM CST to save your seat in 2015.

Imperfection and Beauty of Chaos

College students often find that it is a good practice to take notes in class, but when you’re an art student with a pencil in hand, notes often turn to doodles. A wild variety of subject matter begins to fill the margins of the page as one sketch leads into the next and then another. Page margins and sketchbooks foster a certain loose, meandering quality in drawings, but it isn’t a quality that one often sees in a medium like engraving.

Molly Day, an Engraving Arts student at Emporia State University and intern in Glendo’s Artisan Alley, had been challenged to base an engraving on a phrase for her internship. She chose the phrase, ‘Attracted to the imperfection and beauty of chaos’ and decided that a sketchbook cover would be the right use for her engraving. “I needed a new sketchbook and wanted to bind my own,” she explained.

Looking at the sketchbook cover, the eye is immediately drawn to the bright contrast of the inlaid crescent shape, which Molly added as a project for her metals class. She inlaid a thin line of copper around the edges of the crescent, adding another layer to the finished project. To bring the two pieces together, she cut a recess in the copper plate and hand soldered the crescent into it.

Seemingly disparate elements spread across the plate, but further discussion with the artist revealed the reasoning behind each. The crescent serves as a barrier, separating the woman from the chaos along the edges and top of the copper plate. The imagery in those areas are representative of things that Molly finds to be stressful, scary, or chaotic. Two snakes spar, one with heads on both ends and the other with a decidedly human mouth but no face. A clock, a spider, fire, and lightning swirl around the crescent barrier. The two lions at the bottom are also worthy of respect and fear, but beautiful at the same time. Molly chose to place a woman calmly sitting between the two dangerous creatures, bringing a moment of peace amidst the chaos. The usage of patterns and a broad assortment of subject matter infuse this engraving with the same informal qualities of a quick drawing, making it perfect for the cover of a sketchbook. Thanks for sharing, Molly!

Artistic Transitions

Evgeni Dimov, a Bulgarian master of carving and engraving, shared these photos of his recent work with us. He has always been interested in the arts, committing time to drawing and graphic design. During the early 1990’s, he began to try miniature wood carving and was able to study the trade with renowned craftsman Svetlozar Raychanov. “It seemed as if the transition to miniature wood carving and metal engraving came naturally to me,” Dimov explains on his website.

Dimov’s work could also be an example of an easy transition. Three-dimensional scrollwork takes a cue from art nouveau style as it curves around both sides of this Blaser R93 gun stock, drawing the eye to animal figures carved from boxwood. The light color of the animals creates a striking contrast against the darker wood of the stock. Thin lines of silver race around the edges of the scrolls and blossom in the background behind the animals. These fine lines end in clusters of leaves, which are inlaid with iridescent mother-of-pearl. The animals are sculpted and highly detailed; cuts define the texture and volume of the fur on both the lion and the bear. Each element flows beautifully into the next, making this gun an absolute treat to admire. Thanks for sharing, Evgeni!

Have you ever used GRS equipment to carve wooden pieces? We’d love to hear about it! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

When You Are No Longer a Student

As artists, do we ever stop learning? Do we ever stop being “the student” and move on to just being a teacher or just an artist? The answer should always be a firm, resounding no — we can always learn something new about our craft.

Anneliese Narcisi, who has been a part of the Artisan Alley for more than three years, will soon be graduating with her degree in the Engraving Arts — a fantastic accomplishment. Narcisi has put in a solid effort during her time as an intern and as a student of the engraving program at Emporia State University.

Her projects have ranged from jewelry to dioramas to large plates for printmaking. Most recently, she delved into a niche of engraving that includes fine-line portraiture, banknote engraving, and Italian bulino. This plate, which we have revealed in progress over the last few weeks, shows off Narcisi’s final touches to the portrait.

Over the years, her projects each show improvements in her skill and a wonderful means of expressing her own talents as an artist. Although we are sure each student who makes it into the Artisan Alley intern program feels privileged to have such an opportunity, we feel the same way getting to see every one of these artists grow as an engraver. Thanks for always sharing your work with us, Anneliese!

Dramatic Dimension

Hand engraving can add elegance to any piece of jewelry. Scrollwork is inherently beautiful, adding graceful curves and intricate detail to a piece. When an engraver trades fine lines for sculpted scrolls, things take on a more dramatic dimension.

This man’s ring, dubbed “Vincent”, was created by Mitchell Lurth for the Phillip’s Collection at Philip’s Diamond Shop in Marion, Iowa. Mitchell hand engraved the 10K white gold ring, sculpting the curves and leaves into softly rounded surfaces. At the edge of the sculpted design, steep walls plunge into the surface of the ring. The excavated negative space bottoms out at uniform depth. A smoothly inlaid bed of 24K gold brings color contrast to the empty spaces and emphasizes the depth of the background. Thanks for sharing, Mitchell!

Have you ever used sculpting to add dimension to your work? We’d love to hear about it!Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

Doing Everything You Love

Faced with a choice between devoting her time to jewelry making or botanical painting and drawing, Pat Robinson Schmidt chose to make jewelry. In the end, the tough choice became unnecessary; she found a way to incorporate botanical art into her work. “With hand engraving I am able to do my botanical drawing in metal. GRS has opened up creative doors for me with the air assist equipment. I’m now doing everything I love.”

This double-sided sterling silver pendant is a wonderful example of how easily Pat brought two of her favorite arts together. One side is hand engraved, an original design featuring a pair of lotus flowers. Variation in line width accentuates the forms and emphasizes the graphic quality of the design. The other side is set with an amethyst sage agate, which looks quite dignified in deep purple and gold. Each side offers an equally lovely way to wear this piece, dependent on the owner’s mood.

If you would like to see more of Pat’s jewelry, visit her on Facebook or silverleafdesignjewelry.com.

Have you found ways to incorporate other interests into your engraving? We’d love to hear about it! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

How Can You Advance in 2015?

We recently released the 2015 Course Schedule for the GRS Training Center — and several courses have are filled already! With so many new and returning students claiming a seat at this time of the year, are you ready to advance your skills in 2015?

Whether you have never cut metal with a graver or are spending more time at your bench than ever, 2015 is the year to add on to your skill set. Sam Alfano, who recently engraved this gorgeous 18K gold ring, teaches several classes throughout the year. From Basic Metal Engraving to the new Advanced Engraving course featuring an actual floor plate project, Alfano uses his mastery of scroll design and exquisite cutting style to continue the education of dozens each year.

So what is your goal for the upcoming season? Do you plan to ho-hum along, doing the same techniques year after year…or are you ready for the next challenge at your bench? Call us at 800-835-3519 or +1-620-343-1084 anytime Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM CST to save your seat and get started on advancing in 2015.

The 2015 Learn Project: A Hand Engraved Magrette Timepiece

With the 2015 Course Schedule release just a few days away, it’s time to see the Learn Project for the upcoming year!

Previously, the Learn Project has been a plate or simple geometric shape. This year brings about the first completely assembled, finished piece. With a different artist featured every year (and sometimes two), the Learn Project has featured line engraving, stone setting, bright cutting, and lettering.

We asked Andrew Biggs of New Zealand to complete the 2015 project. Biggs, who engraves exclusive designs for Magrette throughout the year, thought a timepiece would be the natural next step in the evolution of this project. Biggs used inlay and engraving techniques to embellish this piece with scrolls and the word learn in many languages. The languages represented are as diverse as the students who travel from all over the world to come learn at the GRS Training Center. We love your concept, Andrew, and thanks for sharing your skills for this project!

Classes will be announced on the GRSTC.com website on Monday, December 1, at approximately 8 AM CST. If you’d like to enroll in a course and receive your free copy of the 2015 Course Calendar, call 800-835-3519 to request yours today!

Keep Your Graver in the Clouds (and Mountains)

L Todd Blaksley, a student of the Engraving Arts Program at Emporia State University, is not a newcomer to the field of engraving.

Blaksley already has a degree in printmaking. A major area in the art of engraving, printmaking focuses more on the resulting prints as a final work, whereas ornamental or decorative engraving focuses on the metal canvas itself. Blaksley’s prior education comes through clearly in this hand-engraved brass plate. He has cut a scene of mountains and clouds here, saying he referenced Albrecht Dürer during the construction of the clouds in particular.

While this plate may look complete, Blaksley will first print a proof — a test printing — to make sure everything looks as he planned. If not, the artist will go back and make changes before the final printing process. Want to see how it turns out? Make sure to check back for the final version with a print.

Dia de los Engraving

If you have somehow missed out on the sugar skull craze from the last year or so, let us introduce you to this trendy take on a Mexican tradition.

While most modern graphic representations, like this one here, feature a woman’s face with intricate black lines, flowers, and other symbolic elements on makeup-white skin, the sugar skull itself dates back a couple of centuries at least. The Mexican tradition of celebrating the next step in life through the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in November comes complete with clay-molded skulls made of sugar. These fun, decorated skulls have been adapted from the sugary world of candies and placed into the world of digital art, tattoos, and hand engraving.

Hand engraving artist and scrimshander Ron Luebke, Jr. recently engraved this sugar skull rendition. For the canvas, Luebke used an American nickel coin, wiped clean of all original form to reveal a smooth, metal surface. Luebke noted he inked this engraving, using archival-grade, oil-based ink to increase the contrast between the tiny engraved dots and the metal surface.

“I’ve found with the artwork being so small on these nickels that inking really makes them pop,” commented Luebke. To engrave these small cuts, he uses a graver with no heel and a 50° face. While cutting, he holds the graver and handpiece as he would a pencil.

Whether you have seen the sugar skull trends in tattoos and other art, you can still appreciate the workmanship and skill that went into this engraving. Thanks for sharing, Ron!

Have you engraved a sugar skull or other trendy item? We would love to see what you have done! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com and your work could be featured on the GRS website.

Where’s Your Flare, Darling?

Beginners often hear a variation of this nugget of advice: flare your cuts a little. Some call it beveling, others call it giving your cuts more character — and when you get to the point of using this advice, what do you do?

Well, you take the next step in bringing more style into your cuts. A more three-dimensional take on simpler cuts creates a beautiful look. Adil Sefraoui, who recently completed a class with Diane Scalese, learned how to take his engraving to the next level with Diane’s take for jewelry called Lux Cutting.

While the name of the style may vary from one instructor to another, these cuts break down to more than line engraving and less than sculpting and carving. Where sculpting may require several tools to complete the look, a flare cut style like this may only require a couple different gravers. Regardless of what you call it, this style looks great in photos and in hand. Thanks for sharing, Adil!

The Portrait in Progress: Hair and Fabric

Anneliese Narcisi has been advancing her engraving skills with a study in portraiture, with her first realistic engraving shared just a few weeks ago. Before the self portrait, Narcisi had engraved the likeness of animals and worked on stylized portraits, so engraving realistic portraits was a logical next step. For her second portrait, she chose to engrave her boyfriend’s visage in copper.

We showed the earliest stages of her “Dakota” project last week, when just a few outlines and a soft haze of bulino stippling across the face defined the form. Since then, the portrait has progressed with fine, dark strokes to create the beard, mustache, and shorter hair on the head. Longer cuts define the hair on top of the head.

Instead of continuing with the dot technique she used on the face, Narcisi began experimenting with contour lines for the shading of the coat, creating stylistic contrast between the face and the coat. Contour lines are a good way to define form, curving around each shape to add volume. Variance in the lines’ width creates areas of deep shadow and highlight, increasing the illusion of depth.

The engraving arts have a rich history when it comes to the application of styles. Certain scrollwork and ornamentation is more acceptable on one firearm than another, in part because of origin and in part because of expectations. Historically, an apprentice engraver who learned directly from a master was heavily influenced by one person.

As a student in the Emporia State University Engraving Arts Program, however, Narcisi has the work of hundreds of engravers readily available for observation as opposed to only one master. Her internship in Glendo’s Artisan Alley also provides more time to create, as well as encouragement to push her engraving in new directions. Thanks for sharing, Anneliese!

Have you ever created a project that strayed from or bent the rules of traditional engraving? We’d love to see them! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

Sneak Peek: The 2015 Learn Project

It’s already that time of year again! Have you started to think about the classes you’ll take at GRSTC next year? Maybe you’ve begun to dream about techniques you’ll learn and be able to apply to your work? Enrollment for 2015 courses will begin in just a few short weeks, and as usual, we have a special tradition to keep.

Today we share a sneak peek at the 2015 Learn Project. Every year, GRS commissions an engraving artist to create a piece with the word “Learn” as a prominent part of the design. Providing an environment for people to learn is the main focus at GRSTC, so this annual project has been a big part of the course calendar for several years. This year, Andrew Biggs has engraved the project with fine-line scrollwork and relief lettering on a dark, rich background. This “Learn” project is a bit of a departure from past projects, so be sure to come back for the full reveal in the near future.

If you’d like a copy of the 2015 Course Calendar, call 800-835-3519 to request yours today!

A Heart Set Apart

Engraved jewelry makes a wonderful gift for loved ones. With hand engraving, a gift can be given a personal touch that reflects the recipient. Rex Crawford took this truth to heart and applied it to a birthday gift for his wife.

Rex crafted this sterling silver heart pendant a bit differently than the average heart necklace. Many hearts would dangle from the center, but this asymmetrical heart hangs at an angle. The heart is an outline of the shape; flared lines provide wide areas for engraved details. Flowers and leaves nestle within the curves. Three larger sculpted flowers break the border, adding depth and interest to the piece. Each large flower is set with a Swiss blue topaz.

This beautiful handmade necklace is sure to be a gift she keeps close to her heart. Thanks for sharing, Rex!

Have you ever engraved a gift for someone you care about? Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.