Lost in the Details


I spent the first days of 2022 at my bench, lost in the details of chasing and repousse.

As I lounged under a canopy of leaves last August, I sketched a design for a large cuff bracelet. Time was slow in the heat of the second summer of the pandemic. Titmice and chickadees darted in and out of the wooded shade and paused to drink from a glittering fountain. I wondered what would come next in this modern-day plague, and the birds – and my work – were my only respite from the incessant cycle of anxiety and bad news.

Now, as an Ohio blizzard blows snow up to the door handles, I retreat to my cozy studio to begin forming that summer sketch in metal– to lose myself in the technique of chasing and repousse.  


The technique of chasing and repousse is an ancient metalworking method where flat metal is hammered with special tools, working from the back to the front over and over again until dimension is achieved. Working on a bowl of pine rosin called "pitch," the metal is hammered for many hours, annealing in between rounds. 

It is satisfying to raise dimension at the edge of a hammer and tool– it's almost magic. 


It is satisfying to raise dimension at the edge of a hammer and tool– it's almost magic. The tail of the small bird in the bottom left of the piece is my favorite element; a little less than 1/4" long, it is a tiny detail in this large 2x6” bracelet, but it lifted itself almost on its own, and for the first time, I felt the technique was coming more naturally to me. I learned a lot about moving metal in that tiny spot. These are the meditative moments when working in chasing and repousse that make the dozens of hours of work worthwhile to me. 

 I often incorporate original poetry in my work. Here, I etched a condensed version of Where Bluebirds Brood, a poem I wrote about the pain that recurs in everyday moments as we move through life after the loss of a loved one. It reads

Bluebirds brood and vie
to nest where a moment stayed your cheek–
to sing the air where scent of your hair fades
and bathe in light that falls
where you cannot sleep–

I highlighted the birds in 23.5k gold using the gilding technique of keumboo– another ancient method of metalworking where heat and pressure are applied by hand to permanently fuse a thin layer of pure gold to fine silver. The last step – applying patination (chemically induced oxidation) brought a rich contrast of deep blacks which gave the piece an aged look. See more photos of the finished piece here.

I'm excited to create more of these big cuffs for my upcoming collection which I hope to make available for purchase in late Spring. 


To get real time updates and go behind the scenes in my studio daily, join me on Instagram.

Special thanks to my friend Liza Nechamkin for her ready guidance and wonderful line of handmade chasing tools that I use in my work.

 


6 comments


  • Stefanie(EL Wray Records)

    This piece and meaning behind it just took my breath away! I mean I think its one of the most beautiful pieces of jewelry I’ve ever seen. You have grown as an artist soo much in the last two years! Its just been simply amazing to watch. I only wish I could finally afford to buy one of your deeply inspired pieces of art!


  • Mitzi

    Some things are so beautiful that they break your heart. This is one of those things.


  • Sheree Wolfe

    Oh my goodness. That is fabulous.


  • Nina

    This is one of the most beautiful pieces of adornment that I have ever seen! Each detail is a combination of mystery and celebration of life. Poignant, plaintive birds and tender words. Incredible.


  • Teresa

    Ilene, Yes! I will make sure to include some pieces that are designed for larger wrists. Thank you!


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