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  • Ellen Hunt

More Casting About

More Casting About

Since I rented a jewelry studio this summer, I've spent a few days every week casting jewelry, getting ready for two big retail shows in DC and LA this fall. Casting is a two day process for me, one day getting the waxes ready, and casting the next day. If I had more patience and trusted the elements more, I'd cast all in one long day, but for right now it's split. And this two step process gives me a lot of time to think, about the process of casting as well as the role it plays in jewelry making and everything in our lives. Who was it in the Graduate that saw the future in plastics? They might have said the future was in casting. But can you call casted work handmade?

I use the lost wax process, which is really old, maybe thousands of years old. When I started school the teachers would tell us stories of jewelers swinging molds over their heads with molten metal inside, before the advent of the centrifugal casting machine. Having had a few mechanical mishaps with the machine I use, I'd guess that out of control fires and burns were a common professional experience. And with the process I use, even with waxes made in a mold, not every piece turns out the same, which is fine with me. Casting, let's face it, makes life easier for me. It would be impossible to hand forge matching complex chain links, or mimic nature the way I can when I mold and cast a budding tree branch. The debate arises when the title "handmade" is applied. Some juried shows don't allow any casted components, even if you make them yourself. Other shows don't allow commercially available components. I always argue that since I make my own molds and do my own casting, then it is handmade. Everyone uses tools, the goal of using them is to accomplish work that would be too difficult or even impossible to accomplish without the tool. There is a line between art jewelry, which is often seen as unique or limited run, and a commercial jewelry line that can be scaled up and sold by the thousands if the market demanded. The art jewelry shows that I participate in demand everything be handmade, but would also love to be the sponsors of the next wildly successful "it" jeweler. It's a daily tension that keeps me busy thinking while working on my casting two step.

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