Friday, February 15, 2008

Jewelry Art: "Ivory Tower" pendant

"Ivory Tower"
click image to enlarge

This piece from my archives, completed many years ago, was almost 5 inches tall. I don't know what originally gave me the idea that hanging a building around your neck would be good jewelry design, but this was the second successful effort in that vein. The first one, titled "the Castle", was one of the very first large-scale ambitious pieces I ever made. This variation is more refined than the first, because I developed wax-carving skills by the time I designed the Ivory Tower - the Castle was handwrought, using different techniques.

This piece is done in sterling silver with 14K gold accents. The towers are made of old ivory, inlaid with fossil walrus ivory bricks. The large lower stones are Fire Agates - these are a form of chalcedony with an interior color-play similar to opal ... but fire agates are found only in Mexico and Arizona! They are tricky stones to cut, to reveal the fire within. The "moat" is inlaid with Afghani Lapis Lazuli, and the leaves on the side are made of malachite and faustite laminated together.

The tiny little door is hinged on the bottom like a drawbridge, and when it is open, it reveals a miniature painting on a tiny linen canvas stretched over wood. The door itself is made from Brazilian Cocobolo, a variety of rosewood, and is framed in gold, with a tiny clasp to keep it closed and a little chain to support it when open. The painting is of a little knight in armor, with a heart on his shield - the Guardian of the wearer's heart!

A third piece on this theme was also designed, with predominantly turquoise inlaid towers, called Fortress of the Heart, that was sold to Lilly Lawrence, the People's Princess. It featured the same tower layout, with even more complex inlay in the bottom stones, and another painting of the courtyard scene behind the door.

A piece of this complexity would be $25,000 - 30,000 today .... much more if it were solid gold. Call me at the studio (505) 296-1400) if you would like me to make a fortress for your heart!


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jewelry Art: Bird in Flight torque ~ Fancy version

Some pieces of jewelry are actually miniature sculptures, and can even stand alone. In the past, these were often called "cabinet jewelry", and while it was meant to be a somewhat derogatory term that implied it was hard to wear, I have enjoyed making a few pieces like that in the past. But then once in a while, on the other hand, a truly successful artwork in the medium of jewelry surfaces - one that forms a symbiosis with its wearer. Such a piece is actually not complete until it is WORN. Seen by itself, it just sits there - but once it is put on, it literally comes to life. This necklace, titled "Bird in Flight" is just such a piece!
"Bird in Flight" (fancy)
click image to enlarge

It is called a "torque" necklace, because it relies on the torque or springiness of the silver neckwire to hold its shape. The silver is hand-hammered on a polished anvil with polished hammers, not only to shape it, but to impart the "memory" of its graceful shape that clings to the nape of the neck. The position that it naturally comes to rest is actually on the SHOULDERS, not the back of the neck! Thus, its wearer is allowed total freedom of movement without feeling any sort of binding on the neck.

This position results in something remarkable happening that makes it an incredibly flattering piece to wear: First, it exposes the beautiful curve at the base of the neck, where the neck swoops into the shoulders (one of the most beautiful lines on a woman's body).... and, secondly, because the necklace is open on the front, there are no horizontal lines across the front of her throat, so the full sweep of the neck is visible in the front! Perhaps my most flattering piece when worn. The neat thing, though, is that the neckwire is wide enough so that it can be worn on a turtleneck, too.

Although the overall design remains the same, each one is handmade in different combinations of amethysts, freshwater pearls and decorative accents that makes it unique. Yours will be different in details than the one pictured here, but the overall "look" will be the same.

The "wing" surface is cast from a torch-textured silver piece (in a process called "reticulation"), that emphasizes a rich, furrowed texture that contrasts nicely with the polished silver framework. This textured surface is patinated by a process that involves careful application of a chemical oxidizer that colors the metal dark grey, and then selectively removing it on the high spots so the bright silver shows through.

This piece currently goes for $1600 in the fancy version shown here, with amethyst and freshwater pearls...but I also make it as a plain silver version (here, and photo above). Check out the earrings I designed to go with it (also to be posted soon!)

I'll have a shopping cart set up soon, but meanwhile just call me personally at the studio to order one: (505) 296-1400, or Email me at: - I'll be in touch!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jewelry Art: "Mokume Necklace"

"Mokume Pendant"
click image to enlarge
Here's another one from my archives. The term Mokume-Gane is Japanese for wood grain, and it refers to the pattern in the metal "wings" on this piece, which sort of look like the swirls in burled wood. It's a meticulous process that involves layering different metals like copper, brass, silver & gold in many alternating layers. When the back is hammered, and then the rough spots filed off on the front, the pattern is revealed.

Mokume detail
The central part of the pendant is carved ebony, inlaid with a piece of old ivory. The main stone on top of the ivory is a Fire Agate, set in a bezel encrusted with gold chunks. The smaller stone is a piece of sugilite, accented with a gold drop. The little green stone on the one wing is Faustite. The wings on the side are set on forged silver wire, connected to a woven black leather cord with silver sleeves accenting it.

This was a one-of-a-kind piece that went to one of my collectors in San Diego. Something with a similar "feel" could be done for you - call me at the studio, (505) 296-1400, to discuss the details and price (somewhere around $3600).


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jewelry Art: "Wind Spirit" pendant

This Sterling Silver pendant is titled, "Wind Spirit". The inspiration, of course, is a feather which presents unlimited opportunity for drama in design, but I personified the theme by adding a little face to the piece in carved bamboo coral inlaid with 18K gold eyes. What better to represent the spirit of the wind than a feather?
click image to enlarge
The stones I used in the body are: (starting at the top right and going clockwise),
-gold-lipped clam shell, inlaid with a faceted amethyst set in a gold bezel
-simulated lab-grown opal
-black onyx
-gold-lipped clam shell
-blue simulated opal
-Wyoming black jade
-black onyx
-chatoyant obsidian
-Russian charoite
-simulated opal
-black-lipped clam shell
-pink mussel shell
-spiderweb chalcosiderite

I handmade the bail in back of the piece as a hinged "enhancer" bail that opens and snaps closed (see my bursting pearls pendant for an example). This enables you to wear the pendant on pearls or beads, as well as a chain or neckwire. (The Byzantine chain shown is available for an additional charge). The pendant measures 4 3/4 inches tall from top to bottom, and makes quite a statement when worn. UPDATE: Wind Spirit has been SOLD... A similar piece can be made just for you, with a slightly different stone arrangement (Each one in inlaid by hand, as a separate composition, so the colors will vary considerably). Currently priced at $2800, but in today's volatile market, I might have to adjust it slightly when I make yours!
Call me at the studio (505) 296-1400 to arrange that, or email me at David @ StewartArt. com to order one custom-made for yourself or someone you love.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Artist's Choice Award

A kudos I forgot to mention last year - I was lucky enough to get the Artist's Choice Award at the New Mexico Arts & Crafts Fair in June last year. Winning awards is always fun - nice to get validation for your work from the powers-that-be, but Artist's Choice awards are especially meaningful. That's validation from my fellow artists!

The entry date for the 2008 NMACF is fast approaching (Jan 26): most people don't realize that the fair is juried so far in advance. Some fairs are juried 9 - 11 months ahead of the actual event! When I was doing 20+ fairs a year, the jury fees alone were a serious outlay of cash ... let alone the booth fees, usually several hundred dollars each, paid well in advance of the fairs. When you add travel expenses, motel, meals, etc., you can probably see why I don't travel as far & wide as I used to!

Another honor: I also discovered that they used a photo of one of my pieces on the fair's homepage .... check it out!


Jewelry Art: Bursting Pearls Pin/ Pendant

This combination pin/ pendant is titled Bursting Pearls, because I made it so that the pearls appear to be bursting out of the background, as if emerging from volcanic fields. I generally use baroque freshwater pearls with a sort of pinkish hue, to contrast nicely with the frosty silver textured background.
click image to enlarge
The texture was achieved in the original handwrought master by a process called reticulation - a meticulous process using the torch to wrinkle the surface by bringing it close to the melting point. This cast silver piece was then treated by heating it red-hot and quenching it in acid over & over again - this dissolves the copper out of the sterling alloy, leaving pristine pure silver on the surface. The effect achieved is unlike any other process I know of, and forms a pearlescent beautiful white silver color that contrasts wonderfully with the polished "rails" that run along the sides.

If you look at the back of the piece, you can see the secret to its versatility: it's not just a pin, but it also has a hand-crafted "enhancer" bail that opens & snaps closed. It's pictured on a snake chain here (not included), but that bail enables you to wear it on liquid silver necklaces, pearl strands, beads, or neckwires as well! Really versatile. The current price on this pin/ pendant is $355, but with the price of precious metals being so volatile, check with me to see if any price adjustments have to be made. Shipping generally runs about $10, unless you have a special request like overnight or out-of-country.
Call me at the studio at (505) 296-1400 to place your order.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jewelry Art: "Lavender Equinox"

"Lavender Equinox"
click to enlarge
This ring, titled "Lavender Equinox", is one from my archives done many years ago. It's one of my "Layback" rings, in that it lays back over the hand when worn. In doing so, it creates the optical illusion of elongating the fingers - it puts the design further back on the hand than the eye is used to seeing it. This one is handcrafted in sterling silver as a hollow structure, with a 14K gold Spoon shape underneath the amethyst, reflecting light in a really different way. Surrounding the concave area are gold chunks radiating outwards like a sunburst. Across the top of the ring, I inlaid coral pieces as an interesting color combination.

The "Layback" theme is one I have played with for many years, and I can certainly make a variation on this design custom for you - just call me at the studio (505) 296-1400 to discuss the particulars, like stone colors, size, delivery time, etc.

American Style Magazine cover

Last year, I received a nice kudo I forgot to mention: One of my pieces was featured on the cover of the February 2007 issue of American Style Magazine! The cover story was about the art collection of the late great actor, artist & collector Anthony Quinn, and how Katherine Quinn, his wife, intends to share that collection with the world. I made several pieces for the Quinns before Anthony passed away, and they chose this one for the cover of the magazine - very flattering. click image to enlarge
While I wasn't mentioned in the article itself, (not surprising - it was mostly about Rodins and Picassos!) , I was mentioned inside, on page 6 about the cover:
The piece featured on the cover was commissioned by Katherine, after Anthony admired a similar piece in my booth when he was our very first featured celebrity artist at Weems Artfest. This was in November, and I finished it just before Christmas, and shipped it to them in Hawaii, where they were staying with dear friends for the Holiday season. Katherine later told me that he liked the piece so well, that he insisted on taking it with them when they traveled, so he could set it up wherever they were staying and view it there! He was such a monumental talent, that I was very flattered by his validation. I wish we had had more time to develop a friendship.

One of the other pieces I made for his birthday at Katherine's direction was the Spirit Egg featured here on this blog. It was his central piece in the cabinet where he displayed his egg collection.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sculpture: "Prize"

click to enlarge
I may add some close-ups of this piece at some time in the future, but in my effort to update this blog daily if possible, I wanted to post this sculpture I completed some time ago, titled "Prize". I love fishing ... I've spent many a fruitless afternoon in high hopes on lakes and streams, contemplating the uncanny parallels between this sport and life itself. The spirit that keeps me going is a spirit of PLAY ... a sense of unbridled optimism keeps this game of life forever fascinating, despite the occasional empty creel or the unsuccessful art fair.

Many years ago, my Dad took me fishing in Alaska. It was a fabulous father-son bonding experience, and beyond that, an opportunity to fish for larger prey than I had ever tackled before - Steelhead Salmon. At one of the fishing spots our small group stumbled upon, we each took turns on a small boulder jutting up in the middle of the bay - kind of a scary perch, but right in the path of the salmon. The thing wasn't flat, and on 3 sides, it went straight down - God only knows how deep. I rehearsed in my mind how to get my waders off if I fell in, so they wouldn't drag me down into the abyss! The fourth side slanted into the water for some distance before dropping off.

Shortly after the boat dropped me off for my turn on the Rock, I hooked a big one. It was such a thrill playing that big boy around & around the rock with light spinning gear. This thing was huge, and right at the limit of what my equipment could handle. Finally, I worked him around to the sloped side of the rock, intending to drag him as close to the surface as possible before I made a grab for him. In a last-ditch effort to break free from his line, he thrashed in the shallow water, and ZIP! My line broke as it scraped across a sharp barnacle on the rock. And then I realized - he didn't know he was free! For a split-second, he and I looked at each other ... me on the rock, him in the water .... and I knew if I wanted him, I'd have to go in after him. I dived for him, waders and all, and landed belly-first on his long thick body. He began thrashing underneath me, and I had to hold on for dear life - I had no idea how strong he was until then. After our wrestling match, I managed to bring him ashore.

I had always felt elated when I actually caught something in my past fishing trips - but this was different. That victorious feeling was part of what I wanted to convey with this piece. The fish is not a salmon, but a combination of salmon, trout, bass and...whatever! I called it an "Everyfish". It is carved in basswood (yes, really) and painted with acrylic artist's colors. The rest of the piece is carved wood, decorated with brass accents, turquoise eyes, and composite gold leaf.
This piece is still available at $3,800, shipping included to the US. Call me at the studio - (505) 296-1400 - to discuss how I can get him to you!

Monday, January 7, 2008

My First Published Poem!

As many of you know, my forte is in the field of visual arts, not performance or written words. Despite that, I have had a growing interest in those other fields, and was honored when one of my poems, "Lucky Boy" was included in a collection of poems by global poets MUCH better than me titled Spirit of Humanity - poetic visions of a better world, published by Artists for a Better World International. Clicking on the book cover to the right will take you to the Caf├ępress page where you can order a copy if you like:

Okay, So.... here's the poem (short & sweet!)
Lucky Boy

This is my favorite lifetime
of all that came before
Of all the times I've donned this flesh,
I have not loved it more.

No, I am not handsome,
Nor tall or debonaire,
Nor rich beyond my wildest dreams
with thick and rugged hair!

No, I was given other gifts
- I'm such a lucky boy -
For I can wield an artist's tools
and bring to others joy.

David Lloyd Stewart


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Weddings 505 TV Show Guest Appearance

WOW, so much news to catch up on! Look for more posts in the very near future. Let's start with this:

My good friend, Marcy Sargeant, is the host of a new TV show to make its debut in February 2008 called Weddings 505 ..." A Bride's TV & Internet Connection to the 505 Area"! It's a show about all the accoutrements and accessories of weddings here in New Mexico - the gowns, the cakes, and of course, the JEWELRY! I show a few of the wedding ring designs I've done in the past, and answer a few questions about wedding ring design.

Please click the image above, or this link HERE, to be taken to the website for the show, where you can watch the first episode online! When you've watched it, and looked around the site, click the "back" button on your browser to come back here, where I'll have new posts to detail each of the wedding rings shown on the show. ENJOY!

Wedding Set: the Claddagh

The Claddagh (pronounced "claw-daw") design has been popular for 400 years, since its origins in a small fishing community near Galway Bay in Ireland. It traditionally depicts a heart, cradled by two hands, and topped with a crown. The two hands represent friendship, the crown signifies their loyalty and lasting fidelity, and the Heart, of course, symbolizes their eternal love for each other.
Click image to enlarge

Worn on the right hand, crown turned inwards, your heart is yet unoccupied.
Worn on the right hand, crown turned outwards, shows a special commitment to someone.
Worn on the left hand, crown outwards, let our love and friendship reign forever - never to be separated.
Click image to enlarge

In this case, the bride wanted to have the engagement and wedding rings to be separate - so I designed the claddagh as a set: The two hands cradling the heart is the engagement ring, and consists of an amethyst stone set in white gold. The wedding band provides the crown element, which nests neatly against the top of the heart, which I crafted in white gold with an accent of three diamonds.
Click image to enlarge
The groom didn't want the frilly diamond and amethyst combo in his ring, so I designed his version as a solid white gold ring with a dramatic black background behind the elements - a traditional Claddagh, surrounded on both sides with a celtic knot pattern.
Click image to enlarge

This is a design I can reproduce - a version of it can be made for you in either white or yellow gold, and with a variety of stones. Contact me directly for prices - gold prices are in such a state of flux, that I'll have to figure the price at the time of your order.
Be sure to give me 6 to 8 weeks to build them before your wedding!
Call me at the studio to discuss the particulars - (505) 296-1400.

Wedding Set with Turquoise and Diamonds

Click images to enlarge

Laurie Fernandez
was the director of Weems Artfest for many, many years... in fact, she just retired. But a few years ago, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, Laurie commissioned me to make new matching wedding rings for herself and her husband, Bernie. She wanted to use 2 large diamonds she had, plus a number of smaller ones to accent, and she wanted to incorporate turquoise in the designs, as well. I came up with a page of sketches for her to choose from. After a couple of alterations to zero in on the design, these are the ones I came up with.

I can use your stones, perhaps some that you inherited in other jewelry, or provide brand-new diamonds in whatever quality and size is required. These designs are one-of-a-kind, but they illustrate what I can do to accommodate your desires - there's almost no limit on what we can come up with together! Call me at the studio at (505) 296-1400 to discuss your preferences, or Email me at David (at) StewartArt (dot) com. Be sure to give me at least a couple of months to complete your design before the wedding! Custom designs take a little more time.

Click images to enlarge

Windswept Wedding Ring Set

Click to enlarge image
These rings were actually designed specifically for my sister, Gogi, and her husband Rick. They are characterized by a sweeping contemporary look, utilizing diamonds as the focal point and 2 interesting design elements: 1) reverse concave curves in the polished gold rails, form "light traps" that catch and play with light in an unusual way... and 2) Contrasting areas of texture & smooth gold. The sparkley, crusty texture is achieved by meticulously stippling the entire area by hand, with special tools I make myself. The result is and eye-catching contrast of light & color.

These rings were done exclusively for them, and are one-of-a-kind.... But I can apply the same design principles to rings for you, creating rings that have a similar flavor and flair. Call me direct at the studio at (505) 296-1400, to discuss your ideas for the perfect wedding ring... or drop me an Email at to get the ball rolling. Remember - especially on one-of-a-kind designs - I need at least six to eight weeks to complete your design in time for the wedding!

Straw Flowers Wedding Ring

Click image to enlarge

This design was a custom remake for the customer, meaning an old ring made into a new design. She was very fond of vines and leaves as a theme. I had to keep in mind the wearability of the design, as well as the look - with wedding rings, comfort is just as important as the look - after all, these rings will be worn every day! In fact, they may never be removed except for cleaning. So this design was kept fairly low to the finger, and open in the background to allow air to circulate under the ring - this makes sure that soap and hand lotions don't get trapped under the ring where they might irritate skin.

Click image to enlarge

This is a design I can reproduce - it can be made in either 14K yellow or white gold for you, as well as in silver if desired. It was created to set a 4 mm stone of your choice, so there's lots of flexibility to make it just what you want. Contact me directly for prices - gold prices are in such a state of flux, that I'll have to figure the price at the time of your order.

Be sure to give me 6 to 8 weeks to build them before your wedding! Call me at the studio to discuss the particulars -
(505) 296-1400.


Shooting Star Wedding Ring

Click image to enlarge

This is a One-of-a-kind 2-piece engagement/ wedding ring set with a 1/2 carat oval diamond. This is one of my most bold designs. The engagement ring can be worn alone before the marriage, and the wedding band nests into place behind it after the ceremony.

Click image to enlarge

The small depression in the front of the engagement ring is a sparkley, textured area that contrasts nicely with the polished convex surface of the ring, but I could also mount some smaller diamonds in an area like that. As I said, this one is one-of-a-kind, but something similar can be done for you.

Click image to enlarge

Call me at the studio at (505) 296-1400 to discuss your preferrences, or Email me at David (at) StewartArt (dot) com. Be sure to give me at least a couple of months to complete your design before the wedding! Custom designs take a little more time.