Hello readers, thanks for joining me today. It is unusual for me to write a mid week post, but this is an unusual subject for the Caprilicious blog to talk about.
A short while ago, I saw a colleague of mine at the day job write up his operation notes with the most beautiful fountain pen. When I complimented him on it, he let slip that he had made it himself.
My interest was piqued as I hadn't expected that answer - after all, the last hand-made writing implement I have heard of was probably the quill! I spent some time with him chatting about it and was invited to his house to take a look at his workshop.
The idea of making something beautiful out of the most unprepossessing beginnings really appeals to me. And, very much like what goes on at Chez Caprilicious, my friend's house is full of his stash and detritus relating to his hobby. Various corners of the house are taken over by woodworking implements and the double garage is full of lathes and work benches - the poor cars are relegated to the drive.
There are shelves full of bowls and boxes that he has made himself, and a longbow that was made a few years ago as a limited item sits in the bay window. Mike, who loves wood items went quite cross eyed from the effort of restraining himself to his usual nonchalance (he didn't make it) , a bit like me in a contemporary jewellery store.
When he talked about his hobby, Shekhar's eyes gleamed with a fanatical fervour, he became animated, and once he found he had an appreciative audience in Mike and me, he brought out everything he had made. I can tell you now, some of the stuff just took my breath away. He brought out a little bowl, and I took a nice photograph - then out came another, and I had to have that on film too, and then a third, and a fourth - you get the picture. My camera's battery started to flash and I began to panic that I would soon run out of juice, forgetting that I had a spare battery in my camera case in my excitement and awe at all the treasure before my eyes. I realised the trick was to wait until all the pieces of a similar genre had been brought out and then take the picture - but how was I to know when the end was in sight?? There just seemed to be an endless supply of beautifully made bowls and boxes.
Shekhar is a plastic surgeon, a hand surgeon no less, and the finesse he uses to reconstruct and repair parts of the body has been utilised to good effect in his avocation. Some of the pieces I am about to show you are made of a single piece of wood, and others are made of layered wood, hundreds of pieces glued together and then turned on the lathe - I am totally in awe. And although he hasn't quite got to the point where he can make gold from wood, what he can make is probably more interesting, precious and one of a kind - all adjectives that are very close to my heart.
Part of a personal collection
I was amused to hear that just as I bring beads back from my travels, Shekhar brings home lumps of wood in his suitcase, which he then turns into beautiful objects. The lump of eucalyptus wood in an earlier photograph came back with him from a holiday in Australia. Yes, he is happily married, and his wife doesn't seem to mind that the house is full of wood, she loves the objects he makes too and encourages him in his hobby.
I enquired about the beautiful pen that had first caught my eye. I was told that it was actually made of metal Mokume Gane - this is a Japanese metal working procedure, which produces a mixed-metal laminate with distinctive layered patterns using pressure and heat. Mokume gane translates closely to "wood grain metal", describing the way the metal takes on the appearance of natural wood grain. Though the technique was first created to decorate swords, the art survives today mostly in the form of jewelry and hollowware.
Polymeristas learn this technique too - but we use multiple colours of clay sliced from a stripy stack impressed with a texture plate, to make beautifully coloured and patterned mokume gane pieces of jewellery.
The fountain pens, however, are hollowed out from blanks that can be bought ready made - the patterning is extremely tight in order to ensure that there are plenty of markings in the smaller pieces. Though the blank or billet is a metal composite, it cannot be forged, soldered, rolled or bent around a mandrel. Instead it is turned on a lathe or cut from flat stock using standard woodworking tools, which, of course is where Shekhar comes in.
Anyway, the outcome of all this, to cut a long story short, was that I offered to place a couple of items on a separate page on the Caprilicious website. I know they are not jewellery related, but the bowls we are testing the water with have been made out of single pieces of wood, and are beautifully made works of art. He has even consented to have one of his pens on the page.
I brought the items home, took some photographs and returned them to him. If some discerning person decides that they too, are in love, and one of the bowls is a 'must have' item, Shekhar will courier them out himself, so that I don't have to get involved with that side of things. If someone wants an inlaid bowl, do let me know and I can put you in touch with him.
Now on the 'WoodCraft' page
And since this appears to be a wood related post on a jewellery website, let me show you what I've been up to. I love masks and look for them when I travel. I have a couple of wooden ones - a fierce warrior from China we call Ghenghis, and a Nubian mask from Egypt. Mike hung them in the conservatory for a while, and then moved them onto a wall on the back of the house where they are quite sheltered from the elements by the deep eaves on the roof of our little bungalow. In spite of this, the pigments on the Nubian mask faded and I took it down, intending to repaint it.
It took me a couple of years to actually get around to doing this and I spent an evening happily putting the dots and dashes on this chappies face. I don't really work with paints and was terrified lest my hands became unsteady or a large glob of paint landed on the poor thing's nose like an unsightly wart - but it all worked out in the end.
I have varnished his newly lovely face with floor wax and he will go outside, back to his original spot next to his Chinese mate, guarding our back door.
Thanks for joining me today, folks. I hope you have enjoyed reading about something a bit different from what I usually put on for you. I have had a couple of days off from the day job and have been playing with beads and baubles and will be back this Friday, at the usual time, same place - see you then
I'm Neena Shilvock, and I'm crazily addicted to jewellery. I've been designing and making quirky and interesting statement necklaces for the last five years and my passion hasn't cooled off one little bit - in fact it has got worse, such that I'm even dreaming jewellery.
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I would love to hear from you - please leave a comment on the blog or send an email to jewellerybycaprilicious(at)gmail.com
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